Right now, you don’t have the right to repair your iPhone. But it doesn’t say so on the fine print.
How do we know? Three hints: 1) your device has increasingly complex, irreplaceable parts that need specific instructions with regard to repair; 2) you can’t find those complex, irreplaceable parts anywhere except an Apple Store; and 3) your device never came with a repair manual.
To add insult to injury – and to confirm our suspicions – Apple made sure that you don’t get to have your phone repaired outside of an Apple Store by adding a “failsafe” that will disable the device if an unauthorized technician tried to repair it. This very issue was under the spotlight last year when iPhones unofficially repaired displayed the infamous “Error 53” message, which bricked the phone completely. Apple, trying to do damage control, stated that this was a security feature designed to “protect users.”
Samsung isn’t all that different either, although they’re not at the front and center of the issue. But they’re not any less guilty: for a good while now, they’ve been using special screws called pentalobe that can only be opened with a special screwdriver set – same as Apple and Huawei. And as Tristan Rayner from Android Authority notes, they’re “not even better screws… [they’re] mechanically shallow, with rounded edges that don’t allow for a strong bite… they were only designed to keep you out.”
In fact, most smartphone OEMs use the same strategy; they just get creative with the whats and hows of it. Apple finds itself at the center of attention because it is the largest, and it’s also pushing the hardest against right-to-repair.
But things aren’t turning out as these OEMs hoped. The growth of right-to-repair movements like iFixit.com is the greatest wrench thrown into their plans as of late. iFixit, along with other grassroots fair repair movements, empower users by furnishing them with the knowledge, the tools, and the materials to do the repair jobs on their own phones at their own risk. And while the number of users capable of actually fixing their devices is decidedly not 100%, these movements help them have more than one option when it comes to having their gadgets fixed.
At present, similar movements have been popping up worldwide. In the US, at least 18 states have some form of right-to-repair legislation pending in congress. These bills, when enacted, will force OEMs like Apple to provide public repair manuals alongside their products, and to make their parts available to the market at large.
More than that, they will also create standards that make repair an appealing and manageable option for users, mainly by fostering for the inclusion of features like standardized screws, modular components, and replaceable batteries.
It’s important that you show support for fair repair movements and legislation in your area. Then maybe someday, you get to say “you bought it, you own it” – and it won’t feel ironic.