Soon you’ll be able to fix your own iPhone. But should you?

When you discover to your horror that your smartphone’s screen is cracked, what’s the first thing you do?

A. Google for the location of the nearest repair shop.

B. Grab the smallest screwdriver you own and shout, “I got this!”

C. Figure you’ll live with occasional glass splinters in the index finger.

Chances are most of you opted for A., even if you consider yourself moderately tech savvy. I’m in that category, even though I once dared to open an iMac to swap out the hard drive. Opening up a modern smartphone is not for the faint of heart.

Which is why I was amused at the joy-filled reaction to news last week that Apple was going to offer documentation and sell parts and tools for doing some repairs on the newest iPhone models.

Later, Apple plans to do the same thing for its new Mac computers that use the company’s homegrown M1 processors. Traditional computers are somewhat less intimidating for users to repair, but Apple’s penchant for super-thin laptops and desktops make them almost as daunting to open as iPhones.

The announcement prompted a lot of breathless reporting from the tech press. But the bottom line is that the universe of Apple product owners who would consider making their own repairs is likely small, and Apple’s motivation may stem more from trying to get in front of looming regulation and legislation for the “right to repair” consumer products.

“I think regulator threats may have played a pressuring factor in accelerating this program’s creation,” said Anshel Sag, a consumer tech analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, a technology consulting, analysis and advisory firm. “But I’m not sure how much since I don’t think Apple would ever admit it did.”

In July, President Joe Biden issued an executive order calling for the Federal Trade Commission to write new rules that would keep device manufacturers from restricting consumer repairs of their products. State and congressional legislators also have called for this. In March, the European Union began requiring the makers of some appliances and tech products – including TVs and electronic displays – to make parts and documentation available to third-party repair shops.

Apple’s announcement last week was limited in scope. The company will start early in 2022 with iPhone 12 and 13 models, selling about 200 parts and tools available for the most commonly serviced components, including screens, cameras and batteries. Apple also will post manuals for these repairs.

That will be followed later with documentation, parts and tools for repairing Macintosh computers powered by its M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Apple didn’t specify desktop or laptop systems, so this could include its new 24-inch iMac, the M1-powered Mac mini desktop and its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air portables.

Apple also said that people will be able to buy the parts and then bring them to an Apple Store or authorized repair shop for a fix. Either way, customers who do this will be able to get a rebate for returning the defective part.

But Apple did not say whether the program would be expanded to older devices, and company representatives did not respond to a request for details. This means that, at the outset, the program will apply to products that are likely to be under warranty or have AppleCare coverage, and would be better served with a repair by Apple itself or one of its authorized repair centers. Whether you’d eventually be able to repair your own iPhone X is unclear.

Regardless of the motivation, or the small number of people who’d actually take advantage of it, the move is a big change in direction for Apple, which in the past has aggressively lobbied against various right-to-repair measures, including helping defeat proposed legislation in its home state of California.

It appears that Apple may have planned this for a while. In his latest Advisorator newsletter, tech journalist Jared Newman pointed out that a teardown of the just-released 14-inch MacBook Pro revealed pull tabs that make it easier to remove the battery in that laptop. Previous models had the battery glued to the case, making it difficult for mere mortals to replace it.

Nirav Patel, the founder and chief executive officer of Framework – which makes and sells a fully modular notebook computer – said that Apple’s products are on a two-year production cycle. While the presence of the battery tabs is no guarantee that Apple designed the new MacBook Pro with its self-service repair program in mind, Patel said, “A company like Apple will almost never do something on a whim.”

Framework has become something of a poster child for right-to-repair. It began selling its 13-inch notebook in the summer, and Patel says demand is far outstripping supply. Thin and light, the computer looks a lot like a MacBook Pro, but nearly every part is replaceable. In addition, the laptop has modules that can be swapped out. For example, a component that starts out as a USB port can be quickly converted to an Ethernet port. A version that’s pre-built starts at $999, but if you’re up for assembling it yourself, it starts at $749.

Patel said that, surprisingly, the DIY version is by far the best seller. And that gives his company some insights into customers who are up for the challenge of doing their own repairs and upgrades.

“We do expect that most of the people buying Framework laptops today are doing it because they’re enthusiastic about the idea of being able to own their device and be more fully able to do what they’d like with it,” he said.

But the product also is attracting people who aren’t as savvy, including “people who have never been inside a PC before.”

Patel talked about a “mental barrier” a lot of people have about trying to repair a computer themselves. And that hesitancy is amplified with a smartphone, which is smaller with many more delicate components.

“For something like an iPhone, it’s kind of justifiable,” he said. “It’s a busy, challenging repair, even if you are pretty handy. It’s easy to accidentally just tear something or break something that makes your iPhone broken even further.”

We probably won’t know for some time how successful Apple’s program is, and it won’t really become relevant until products it includes come out of warranty. Then we’ll know if it’s all for show, or if this is something a lot of people really do want.

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