Friday Repair Chat: Are Apple’s New Macbook and iPhone Programs Just “Repairwashing”?

Apple has been making news in recent months for what appears to be an about face on the issue of their customers’ right to repair. Back in April, it unveiled the details of its long-awaited Self Service Repair program for certain (late model) iPhones. And then, this week, the company announced a similar program covering certain models of its popular Macbook laptops, allowing owners to download instructions and replacement parts directly from the company, as opposed to going to third party repair sites and providers such as iFixit.

A change of heart(less)?

But in both cases the details of these programs revealed them to be something less than a change of heart, let alone a concession to right to repair advocates. In the case of the iPhone repairs, Apple limited their program to cover only the most recent iPhone models and included expensive parts and a weird option by which the company ships customers the equivalent of an entire mobile device repair workshop in a box. (See Apple Shipped Me A 79-Pound iPhone Repair Kit to Fix a 1.1 Ounce Battery.)

The company’s new laptop repair program is getting a similar response. Notable among them is iFixit’s write up of the newly unveiled offerings of parts and repair manuals for its Macbooks, which notes that its Apple’s instructions for replacing a Macbook battery stretch to 162 pages because, as Apple sees it, the only way to replace a battery is to replace the entire upper case of the Macbook – an expensive and unnecessary requirement that leads iFixit to describe the process as “an excruciating gauntlet of hurdles” that prompts the question “does Apple even want better repairability?”

‘Repairwashing,’ anyone?

Well, if they don’t then why publish repair instructions and offer parts at all? The answer could be “repairwashing” – which might be described as the repair and ‘circular economy’ equivalent of “greenwashing” – a long-observed trend in marketing and public relations in which everything from automakers to mutual funds attempt to exploit the public’s fondness for environmentally conscious products, in the name of products that aren’t very environmentally sensitive. In Apple’s case, standing up Frankenstein “self service repair” programs is great PR and makes the company look like it has had a change of heart and now supports owner self repair of its products. Dig into the details, however, and the exact opposite impulse seems to be at work: these programs are byzantine, constrained and expensive enough to dissuade any customer with a lick of common sense.

So which is it?

So which is it, Fight to Repair readers? Is Apple in the midst of a good faith effort to make its stuff more repairable and – perhaps -stumbling on execution. OR is Apple in the midst of a bad faith effort to “repair wash” its anti-repair business model and we’re just (rightly) calling them out for their duplicity?

I await your comments!!