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  • Writer's pictureJohn O'Rangers

Apple To Open Up "Self Service Repair" In 2022

I admit to being a day late and a dollar short on the much ballyhooed announcement from Apple on November 17, 2021 of a new "Self Service Repair" program for the general public. To be honest, I wanted to take some time to digest the announcement before speaking about it. As we know, it's somewhat stylish these days to speak before thinking, but I'm not a very stylish man I'm afraid.

As far as the nuances of the program, that all remains to be seen. As I understand it, Apple will initially make screens and batteries available for purchase, and include instructions on how to install these parts. That's all I know at this time, so as far as the details beyond that? To early to tell how it will all work. I will say it is interesting to say the least.

What I have read is that the decision in part had to do with pressure from shareholders along with the prevailing politics of repair. The Biden Administration has already signed an executive order that focuses on repair, so right now the general public attitude is supportive, which is something Apple historically either opposed or greatly limited. We all know the various techniques they've used over the years, from Error 53, solid state paired home buttons, Face ID, SMC chip embargos and so forth. They've also typically resisted working with independent repair shops like CDC, and made their Foxconn-built parts available only to their corporate stores, AASP providers, and some IRP shops. They've also heavily restricted access to their systems and tools as well.

Right now I am seeing a lot of the online Right To Repair advocates taking a victory lap on this latest development. Indeed some have been persistent, however I have kept arms-length from them due to their methods. I cannot disagree that they make valid points; I simply come from the old school where good marketing and salesmanship is how business is won and lost. Right To Repair seeks to use the iron fist of government regulation to get what they want, and I just flat out disagree with this approach. Not personal; I just believe that approach is adversarial and leads to a lack of trust between interested parties. No one ultimately likes government regulation.

Now don't get me wrong, I have my differences of opinion with Apple. But at the end of the day I always keep in mind that if they didn't exist or create the iPhone, CDC wouldn't exist. So I am grateful to them and want to see them succeed, but would like to have good relations with them. Perhaps I'm a dreamer and unrealistic, and maybe the Right To Repair people are correct. But that's what I believe, and a successful Apple means a successful CDC Cellular Repair. As the saying goes, "don't bite the hand that feeds you".

Now as far as the idea of "Self Service Repair" goes, oh man, what are my opinions on it? Very mixed, that much I can tell you. On the one hand, the potential of having access to Apple like I desire is more of a possibility now. But on the other hand, I cannot see end-users trying to repair their phones and tablets as a great idea. I've been here more than 8 years now, and I've seen many botched attempts at self repair. I cannot believe that somehow things will be any different with this development. There are so many things that can go wrong, believe me.

The battery issue scares me a bit. First, disposal of Lithium Ion batteries is a big pain in the butt, believe me. I have thousands of old batteries at this time that I have to get rid of. But more importantly, safety is what concerns me. I've had my moments where a swollen or unstable battery has exploded, and believe me they will burn your house down. Very violent, very toxic, and the fumes are something you don't want to experience, it's dreadful. So we'll see how all of that develops over time.

Probably the biggest factor I am interested in seeing is what these service packs will cost? My bet is that they'll be quite expensive. Apple, like any business, is not and should not pursue this as a non-profit venture. But if my experiences with Samsung are any indication of what might occur, I'm nervous. Samsung has never restricted access to their service packs, however what they have done is restrict wholesale pricing. It's to a point now where I can service smaller repairs on Samsung devices, like batteries and ports, but screens? The A and J series perhaps, but the flagships I am not doing, and haven't been in a while.

Why have I avoided Samsung screen repair on their flagship models? Two reasons. Limited warranties on the parts and sky high wholesale prices; the screens cost full-retail for me to buy. So simply put, Samsung, or one of their contracted agents like the chain stores, will typically charge around $229 for a screen job on an S21. What do the parts cost me from my suppliers? About $229. So how do you justify charging $300-$350, which is reality by the way, when the Best Buy or UBIF up the street charges Samsung's price schedule? You don't justify it. You're out of that business, that's just a fact, and anyone who tries to do otherwise is not very ethical in my opinion. I have always accepted that I'm not always the right shop for some people.

That's probably my biggest concern about this program. What will it cost compared to refurbished or high quality aftermarket parts? They will be higher, no question, but if we're talking parts prices equal to or higher than the Apple Store charges for an entire repair? Hard to navigate as an independent. Maybe if your shop is located way out in a rural area with no competition you can get away with that. But in a competitive market, no way. That's what I experience with Samsung devices now, and it could be the case with Apple as well. And as I alluded to already, CDC is a for-profit business, but I'm not interested in ripping anyone off.

But all of that is conjecture at this moment. For now I'll give Apple the benefit of the doubt and see what they want to do. Above all, I emphasize again that CDC Cellular Repair seeks normalized, mutually beneficial relationships with Apple and any other manufacturer or developer. I do not wish to engage in adversarial actions, nor do I have any personal animosity towards Apple or anyone other company. To me this is simply business, not personal, and I am optimistic that over time things will work out to the benefit of Apple, its customers, and independent repair shops like CDC.

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