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Independent phone repair shops in Australia will soon be able to repair the newest iPhones, using genuine Apple parts, as long as they are approved by the tech gaint to join its Independent Repair Provider program.
Joining the program will help the shops avoid the problems associated with them using cheaper imitation parts to fix the newer models of the iPhone. However, for many the deal with Apple could come with some strings attached.
The repairers approved for Apple’s program can receive free training to fix all Apple devices, and purchase genuine parts, tools, repair manuals, and diagnostics from the tech giant. But they also need to sign a contract with Apple to keep their tools and techniques confidential, and only let Apple-certified technicians make the repairs.
There are also concerns that the move could let Apple exert excessive control over the independent shops. According to a Motherboard report from last year, contracts in the US version of the program allowed Apple to physically audit businesses’ operations unannounced, impose fines, ban the use of certain parts and continue inspections even if businesses leave the program.
Melbourne repair shop CPRepairsLab’s owner Long, who requested that his full name wasn’t published, said the popularity of iPhones meant there were a lot of refurbished parts available. But Apple’s Home Buttons, camera modules and vibration motors are specially serialised so the phone can detect when they’ve been changed, and restrict access to some device functions.
“Apple has a chip inside the screen now so whenever you replace it, starting from iPhone 11, you get a pop-up saying it’s not an authorised screen,” he said.
“Or for the iPhone X or XR. If you want to replace the front speaker on that phone, you lose the Face ID. To do a proper job you’d have to take it to Apple for repair, because they have a special machine.”
Long said he would be interesting in joining the program, but with Apple currently charging $250 for a screen replacement job he offers for $120, he is worried about how much extra the genuine parts will cost.
The introduction of Apple’s program comes as the company — and other gadget-makers — are under pressure in Australia to support a “right to repair”. The productivity commission is due to release a draft report in June examining whether consumers have access to repair services at fair prices, and whether regulation is required.
Lyndsey Jackson, chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, said Apple’s repair program was a good initial step, but that there was a global demand for Apple and others to design with sustainability, reusability and repairability in mind.
“It’s good they’re bringing it to Australia, but it shows that they could have been doing more for a while and they haven’t been,” she said.
“It’s like a car. When you can only take your car back to the dealer that you bought it from, and you can’t take it to an independent mechanic, then you really have lost your consumer rights.”
Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.