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Apple to begin do-it-yourself repair program for iPhones, Macs next year

The tech giant says it will publish repair manuals and allow everyday customers to buy the same parts and tools certified technicians and repair shops use.

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Repair advocates have long asked Apple to publish repair manuals and offer access to replacement parts.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you ever broke the screen on your iPhone, you had few options to fix it. You could go to Apple and pay the company to replace the part, which costs hundreds of dollars. You could also choose to go to one of the more than 5,000 authorized repair providers or more than 2,800 independent repair providers who have access to Apple's parts, tools and manuals. Your only other option would be to go to your local mall or alternative repair store

Starting next year, Apple is going to offer you the chance to do some repairs yourself, too.

A new program, called Self Service Repair, will allow customers to buy parts from Apple for their products and perform repairs at home. Apple said it will also publish repair manuals online and offer tools to buy at the same prices authorized repair technicians pay.

"Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed," Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, said in a statement. 

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The iPhone 13 may be water and dust resistant, but it's not shatterproof.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The move marks a significant shift for the tech giant, which has historically restricted access to parts and repair manuals, as well as diagnostic and calibration apps, to its "authorized repair programs." Without Apple-sanctioned ways to repair devices, some users have turned to experts on YouTube and at companies like iFixit to learn how to acquire parts and perform repairs on their own.

Advocates have increasingly pressured Apple and other companies to open their service manuals, parts and tools to the public. More than a dozen states, including Apple's home in California, have considered laws supporting right-to-repair laws. And earlier this year, President Joe Biden issued an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the issue.

In July, the FTC voted to take aim at manufacturer practices "that make it extremely difficult for purchasers to repair their products or shop around for other service providers to do it for them."

Meanwhile, a startup called Framework has drawn attention for offering slickly designed modular laptops, whose parts are designed to be swapped out. That makes the computers easily customizable, upgradable and repairable. "That's a lot of -able, and boy does it deliver," wrote CNET's Lori Grunin in her review of the new laptop this summer.

While Apple's devices by comparison aren't as easy to open and repair, the company said it's hoping to offer service parts, tools and manuals to people who have the technical knowhow to comfortably peek inside their devices. The program will begin next year with more than 200 parts and tools to help customers "complete the most common repairs" on the iPhone 12, released in 2020, and the iPhone 13, released in September. Apple then plans to expand its program to include recently released Mac computers powered by the company's M1 chip. The program is largely aimed at out-of-warranty repairs, since Apple typically covers them otherwise.

Right-to-repair advocates expressed support for Apple's move. "This is huge," wrote iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens on Twitter after Apple's announcement, calling the move "what we've been working towards for nearly 20 years."

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How it'll work

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Repair advocates have praised the seeming easier repairability of Apple's newest MacBook Pro laptops, released in October.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

So say you have an iPhone 13 that's out of warranty that you need to repair. Apple's website will first have you read through the repair manual to ensure you're comfortable performing the repair. You can then place an order for the part through Apple's website. Apple will also sell tools to those who need them.

If the part needs to be calibrated or programmed, Apple's repair service will offer a tool people can download that will handle that task. And following the repair, customers who return their old part for recycling will receive a credit off their purchase, Apple said.

People who begin repairs but aren't sure they can complete them can bring their parts to Apple technicians, who they then can pay to compete the work. People who complete their repairs won't impact their warranty.

"Self Service Repair is intended for individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices," Apple said. "For the vast majority of customers, visiting a professional repair provider with certified technicians who use genuine Apple parts is the safest and most reliable way to get a repair."

Apple said it plans to offer Self Service Repair on products for as long it offers parts to authorized repair technicians, which is typically up to seven years past a device's launch.