Apple is no fan of third-party repairs. This attitude is partly the result of a corporate culture that prioritizes total control of the iDevice ecosystem and partly economic. The more Apple services you pay for, the more revenue Apple makes. Service revenue has become a critical part of the company’s business and overall revenue from the segment has been growing at a brisk pace.
According to a recent article by Kevin Purdy of iFixit, Apple’s hostility to the right of repair has hit new heights with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Purdy writes that repeated iFixit testing of the iPhone 12 has revealed that the camera assembly of one phone cannot be swapped into a different, identical device.
Initially, iFixit gave the iPhone 12a 6/10 for repairability, but further testing of the camera gave it reason to dig deeper. Purdy describes it as: “It refuses to switch to the ultrawide camera, responds only to certain camera modes, and occasionally hangs and becomes completely unresponsive.” This problem seems to be unique to the iPhone 12; the iPhone 12 Pro doesn’t appear to have a problem. But given that iFixit is not the only site to encounter this issue, it’s clearly more than just a one-off bug.
The reason iFixit suspects this may be more than a simple mistake is because Apple has updated the training guides for iPhone 12 repair to require its System Configuration app in order to make repairs to the battery, display, or camera. Previous iPhones only required this software for battery swaps:
Purdy then steps through Apple’s long history of throwing up roadblocks to make life more difficult for DIYers and small shops and notes that unlike Face ID or Touch ID, putting a lockout on the camera serves no useful security purpose whatsoever. “Putting an authentication check on a simple camera swap poisons the iPhone repair and resale market,” Purdy writes. “With no obvious benefit for iPhone buyers, it reeks of greed. Or worse: planned obsolescence.”
Apple has switched from trying to grow the iPhone addressable market to focus on extracting the maximum amount of revenue per customer. This isn’t unusual — it’s what every successful company pivots towards in one way or another over time. Eventually, everyone who is going to buy your stuff already has, and it’s time to shift business models. But Apple isn’t just looking to generate revenue by improving its services or making better TV shows — it’s locking out the ability of individuals to repair their own devices without paying Apple to do it.
Time and time again, we see concrete, specific reasons why Right to Repair legislation is necessary. It’s possible that this is just a mistake on Apple’s part, but whether it is or it isn’t, Apple is currently under no obligation to fix it. The company has been playing both sides of the field for years, protesting to DIYers that no, it really cares, while pushing at every opportunity to limit the right of end-users to repair their devices without being fed FUD at every opportunity.
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