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Apple’s self-repair program is bad for consumers, but might work well for IT

Apple has changed its self-repair program in ways that make a horrible option for consumers, but might make a lot of sense for enterprise IT — especially those wanting to do iOS device repairs, either for company-owned devices or BYOD user devices. 

It’s worth noting that the need for users to always have their phones coupled with the mass-employee distribution of a remote workforce might make this less attractive. Still, for the non-trivial number of users still in large corporate buildings, it’s an attractive option.

Let’s start with the fun part, which is describing how ludicrously bad these changes are for some. MacRumors did a wonderful deep dive into the experience; here are some of my favorite lines.

The repair kit comes in two separate packages, and the two boxes weigh in at a whopping 79 pounds.

For some consumers, dealing with such heavy packages (I want brownie points for resisting the urge to call it a “weighty issue”) is a problem. If Apple wanted to discourage consumers from using this service, this is an excellent start.

You get it for a week before you need to send it back via UPS, or else Apple charges you $1,300.

What if life interferes and the consumer can’t wrap things up in a week? Why not give them a month or, better yet, three months? That would provide far more flexibility.

Also, repackaging almost 80 pounds of gear and getting it to UPS – which might not be nearby — is a major hassle. And why only UPS? We may have a hint on that one. Another Apple-focused site, AppleInsider, did a superb piece looking into a weird agreement between Apple and FedEx

What was so strange? FedEx messaged a customer who had lost an AppleWatch shipped back to Apple, saying “‘we must respectfully decline your claim’ as an addendum was on the contract for the delivery ‘stating you agreed to not file claims resulting from transportation services provided by FedEx.’” The user “eventually discovered the addendum was an agreement by Apple to hold FedEx unaccountable for lost packages heading to Apple.”

And just when was Apple going to tell everyone about that arrangement? It appears that the deal only allowed Apple to dispute FedEx losing a package, not the shipper, which is not the way it works for other packages. All in all, avoiding FedEx for Apple shipments seems best.

Back to the self-repair details. After MacRumors detailed various costs of the program, it did the math.

That means it costs a total of $95.84 to do a battery swap on the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌, and comparatively, it’s $69 to have Apple swap it out, so it’s not really cost effective to do that repair on your own.

Let that sentence sink in a moment. It apparently costs 39% more to use the self-service option than to let Apple do it. How does that pricing make any sense? It’s like a mechanic telling a customer “You have a dead carburetor. You have two choices. You can have a seat in the waiting room and we’ll replace it for $69 or you can do all of the work yourself for $95.84. Your decision.”

The only obvious conclusion is that Apple wants to offer this program due to right-to-repair legislation but doesn’t want anyone to use it.

My favorite: Apple insists that consumers use Apple repair tools that are both proprietary and expensive. Again, from MacRumors:

Note that you can order the parts alone without the tool kit, but Apple’s repair manual instructs users to use tools in the kit that they wouldn’t otherwise have on hand, such as an Apple-designed battery press. You can purchase all of the tools individually so you have them on hand for repairs, but Apple’s components are expensive. A battery press is $115, a torque driver is $99, a heated display removal pocket is $116, and a display press is $216, and all of these are needed for battery removal according to Apple’s repair manual.”

Wait, it gets worse.

As for the actual repair process, Dan found it to be difficult, even with Apple’s instructions and tools. It was frustrating to get into, and there were components missing from the kit that were required by the manual, such as tweezers and heat protective gloves. Dan needed to go to the store on two separate occasions to get more supplies, and because of this, the repair took the better part of the day. Dealing with adhesive was time consuming and almost put a stop to the self repair.” 

Here’s the interesting part. Despite the fact that Apple’s self-repair program is ludicrously bad for consumers, it might be a very cost-effective mechanism for enterprise IT.

Mobile device repair is complicated for IT. There are four categories of users for this purpose. One, office-based users who have a company-owned iOS device/devices. Two, office-based users who have iOS devices that they own (BYOD). Three, remote users who have a company-owned iOS device/devices. Four, remote users who have iOS devices that they own (again, BYOD).

To be explicit, options one and two assume the users work in a building with an IT presence. If there is no meaningful IT presence where they work, they effectively are considered remote for this narrow purpose.

What this Apple self-repair program would do is make it cost-effective for IT to do its own repairs. To be cold and corporate for a moment, it makes the most sense for Option One, but much less so for the others. If the users can simply walk to the IT floor, drop off their phone (presumably, they would have pre-arranged this with IT beforehand so someone has the time to help), it makes sense for everyone. It is a cost-savings for IT, mostly likely.

But the cold and corporate truth is that overwhelmingly most BYOD users will pay out of their own pocket to make any repairs to their phone even when the repair directly enables a corporate function that they don’t need otherwise. For example, their phone might be fighting against the IT-chosen VPN or the enterprise firewall. The most explicit situation is when the user is willing to not have a phone for awhile, but needs to use it to connect with enterprise systems. Even then, those users could tell IT: “You want this function? You pay to have my phone accommodate you.” 

Realistically, most BYOD users won’t bother, especially if they are remote and happen to be fairly close to an Apple Store that does such repairs. It’s the classic BYOD argument. Given that the phone is owned by the user and the user does use it for a lot of personal matters, the question of who should pay for different repairs is open. Either way, corporate is banking on the user needing the phone enough that, if IT makes them wait long enough, they’ll crack and pay for the repairs themselves to get it done.

Although I have argued many times about how few drawbacks come with remote work, getting IT to do repairs on-site is one of those rare drawbacks. Users don’t like to give up their mobile devices for multiple days unless it’s absolutely essential. Of course, if the phone is completely dead, it doesn’t matter that much.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.