Apple’s repair policy is a far cry from its customer-first philosophy
But here, we’re going to focus on two things: Apple’s stance on data recovery from broken products and its attitude towards unauthorized repair shops.
When your Apple device has a problem that needs to be fixed, generally you have three options. One is to give it to Apple for repair, either at a store or by mail. Another is to go to an Apple Authorized Service Provider, which are businesses that follow Apple’s strict rules on what can and cannot be repaired and use original Apple parts. Lastly, you can go to an unauthorized repair shop.
We’ll get to that last option in a minute, but first, let’s talk about what happens to any personal data such as photos and videos that you have on your device.
Apple clearly states that no matter the type of repair, there’s no guarantee that the data on your device will remain intact and you should have it backed up either on iCloud or on your computer via iTunes (here's our guides on how to do it). This policy is not unique to Apple. Some manufacturers even suggest to wipe the data on the device yourself, if possible, before handing it out for repairs.
Even without needing to take your phone for repairs, you back up your data locally or on the cloud regularly. For most users, that’s common sense.
However, with a userbase as vast as that of the iPhone (and a big part of it not tech savvy), it’s bound to be that some individuals won’t back up their data. Whether it’s due to lack of technical skills (as ridiculous as it may sound to some) or plain forgetfulness, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that occasionally, a user will end up with a device that’s not working, and precious personal data on it that can’t be retrieved via conventional methods.
If an iPhone dies, does the data go with it?
About a month ago, CBC News released a report about a couple that was in such a situation and what their experience was. With literally thousands of photos from a trip stuck on an iPhone that took a dive in a pond and stopped working, the couple naturally turned to Apple’s tech support for help. But as we already explained, Apple has no responsibility for personal data on the iPhone, so they got the cold shoulder and got told that the data is lost forever.
The couple didn’t give up, however, and desperate to get back the lost photos reached out to a private business that specializes in Apple products repair. Long story short, thanks to the skills of a woman that taught herself how to do that for a living, all the data was retrieved. The bill was $300 that the couple was more than happy to pay in exchange for the memories of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Now, of course, no one is expecting Apple to promote to its customer third-party services it’s not affiliated with. However, it’s not being passive about them either. Reports from multiple repair shop owners that have dealt with Apple say the company is taking a very aggressive stance against what they do. According to them, on Apple’s official message board, posts that mention services like the one described above are deleted and users persistent with their recommendations are banned. Instead, Apple promotes replies to queries about potential data retrieval that say it’s not possible.
What’s frustrating here is that if willing, Apple can do what these independent repair shops are doing more efficiently than them. The company can afford to have a team specialized in data recovery and charge a hefty premium those desperate enough to use it. Of course, it’s not feasible for Apple to have employees spend hours, if not days, on every phone that hasn’t been backed up just to recover a bunch of cat pictures. But why not have the option for those for which price is no concern?
Why is Apple against letting other people do what it doesn’t want to?
It’s logical to think then that if Apple can’t be bothered with such complex tasks, then it should let others get their hands dirty. But as we mentioned already, that’s not the case. The thing is that Apple doesn’t want any outsiders tаmpering with its devices, period. And no, authorized repair shops aren’t outsiders. They’re tightly in Apple’s grip.
Apple can’t allow anyone, no matter the issue, being sent to an unauthorized shop. There are two main reasons for that. First, going to one and becoming familiar with the services they offer, there’s a good chance that it will become your go-to place for out-of-warranty repairs. And such repairs are notoriously expensive if Apple performs them, so much so that people may prefer to buy a new device altogether. That’s something the company has often received criticism for.
Admittedly, the risk of a shoddy repair job is greater with third-party shops, but it exists even with Apple’s own services. Stories about bad Apple customer support experiences can be found all over the internet.
The other reason Apple wants you to stay away from unauthorized repair shops is that they use unlicensed parts
Right to repair? Only if forced to
Apple, alongside other tech companies like Samsung and Microsoft, is also actively lobbying against the so-called “Right to Repair” bills that many states are trying to pass.
In short, these bills are meant to force companies to provide diagnostic tools and genuine parts at fair prices to third-party repair shops. This will also make it easier for individuals to do the repairs themselves, just by following guides like the ones made by iFixit and other popular websites. One of Apple’s counterarguments is that allowing users to open and repair their devices may lead to injuries — from punctured batteries, for example.
This may sound amusing to some since everyone who’s serious about repairing a phone will surely know the most basic thing about its battery. In general, senior government officials are not expected to have a very in-depth grasp of technology (FCC and similar agencies excluded), so their opinions on such matters can easily be swayed in a certain direction by the right people, i.e. lobbyists.
As a result, so far, the corporations’ efforts to prevent “Right to Repair” bills from becoming laws have been successful. In court, however, the situation is quite the opposite. Apple has lost several lawsuits it filed against independent repair shops for using counterfeit parts. It seems at least some officials think that people deserve the choice of third-party repairs including all the risks involved.
Proponents of the movement have a strong backing as well, however, besides the will of the common man, and it seems that things are slowly moving in the right direction. Recently, a leaked internal Apple presentation showed that the company is considering a new tier of repair partners called Apple Genuine Parts Repair. Participating businesses will have access not only to original parts but to diagnostics tools and even Apple Certified Training as well, without the restrictions on the types of repairs they can perform. There’s no official statement about the program, but experts think it’s part of Apple’s plan to comply with the “Right to Repair” bill if it becomes a law.
If or when that will become a reality is still unclear as efforts vary from state to state. However, it’s suspected that if the bill passes in one state, it will quickly change things as companies will prefer to offer the same services to customers in all states. Hopefully, that means that Apple products’ repairs will soon become not only cheaper but of higher quality as well.