Apple launched its Self Service Repair program in April in what appeared to be a major win for the right to repair movement. Folks who want to buy a replacement screen, battery, or other components without taking their phone to a repair shop can now do that.

But actually fixing a phone by yourself? That’s a lot trickier. Apple’s repair guides assume you’re using Apple’s official tools, which you probably don’t have lying around. They’re available for rental from Apple, but as The Verge discovered, that means the company will ship you 79 pounds of tools to replace a 1.1 ounce battery. It’s surprisingly affordable (Apple foots the bill for shipping), but it’s not convenient (not only are the tools difficult to lug around, but if you don’t return them within 7 days, Apple will charge you as much as $1,200).

Apple’s battery replacement kit for an iPhone mini (Sean Hollister / The Verge)

All told, it really seems like Apple is making it possible for people to perform their own repairs, but they’re not necessarily making it easy. And that might be the point. As lawmakers across the country are considering regulations that would require companies to make their products repairable, Apple might be able to point to its Self Service Repair program and say it’s technically possible for users to do that… but that it’s not a popular option (because why would you jump through those hoops that Apple set up when you could just take your phone to a repair shop?).

Meanwhile, other companies are taking different approaches. Google and Samsung have announced partnerships with iFixit to offer spare parts, repair manuals, and affordable tools. So has Valve, maker of the Steam Deck handheld gaming PC. And it looks like iFixit will sell almost every Steam Deck part soon, including the mainboard with an AMD Aerith processor. Unfortunately replacement batteries won’t be available until a later time.

Here’s a roundup of recent tech news from around the web.

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8 replies on “Lilbits: Apple’s Self Service Repair isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”

  1. Hilarious — that no one questions the assumption that companies working to turn operating systems into sales tools, take control of users’ computers, and make hardware irreparable represents the best of all possible worlds is considerably less so. Imagine for a moment that a fraction of the resources being devoted to make computers less usable were instead used to create secure, efficient systems designed solely for users’ benefit; we’d soon have the last phone and computer we’d ever need.

  2. This was always going to be the way, wasn’t it?

    The right to repair should also mean that you can go into your local repairs shop and get it done by the nerdy young man behind the counter. Forcing us all to unglue our own screens was never the point. Allowing anyone, including local traders, to do so was the point.

    1. That’s what I thought too. This seems like a passive aggressive move by Apple.

  3. And meanwhile every phone I’ve ever bought could be repaired by taking the back cover off and using a precision screwdriver set.
    Man, it just dawned on me how weird that is. It’s not like I was TRYING to end up with that kind of history, I care a lot more about using operating systems not so centered around google.

    1. What were your last two phones? It seems pretty hard these days to find any phone that doesn’t require the screen to be removed (with heat, spudgers and suction cup) to get to the battery…

      1. A galaxy s5 sport killed by dying alongside Sprint, followed by an attempt at using a pinephone, followed swiftly by an LGv20, killed by AT&T ending 3g (and me refusing to use the stock rom). Now I’m using a Teracube 2e. Before all that it was a kyocera rise.

        1. No, that’s not quite it. I just remembered. The s5 sport, which is still the best-designed phone I’ve ever had, was killed because I ended up causing some stupid problems trying to uninstall the default email client, so I factory reset it, realized I forgot the password to my Samsung account that you have to have in order to use the phone, and only after getting the V20 did I remember the password. Then it got stolen.
          3G would have killed it anyway.

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