Apple has positioned itself as one such company pushing back on a movement for the right to repair our stuff, going so far as to implement barriers to unauthorized third-party repairs. In the latest example, iFixit reported last week on a “dormant software lock” on newer iPhones that seemingly attempts to thwart third-party battery repairs not authorized by Apple by obscuring information about battery health and displaying an on-screen “service” message—even when the battery is brand new or one of Apple’s own. (According to TheArtofRepair, which first surfaced the issue on YouTube, the lock affects the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max.)
What this means, iFixit reported, is that an Authorized Service Provider or Apple itself must authenticate the battery to the phone—everything reportedly still works as intended, but the user will get that service message and gain less information about his battery’s health. It also means that even if an individual or third-party repair outfit has the know-how to fix a newer iPhone themselves, Apple is effectively forcing repairs to be done on its terms if the user wants their device to work without anything weird happening.
In other words, the whole thing is bullshit. The battery lock doesn’t seem to make doing your repair any safer one could argue that obscuring vital battery-health information increases risks for users who skip Apple’s repair ecosystem. You can reportedly still swap in a new iPhone battery and have the phone work, but you’re going to have to contend with a disconcerting service message that is likely enough to dissuade a lot of people from fixing their phones themselves. And by doing this, Apple is arguably pushing more individuals towards pricey repairs and putting an undue burden on their time by manipulating them into going to an “authorized” repair location.
Seemingly anticipating this criticism, Apple said in a June press release announcing a new repair partnership with Best Buy that, in addition to its hundreds of Apple stores, it has more than 1,800 authorized third-party service providers in the U.S., “meaning eight out of ten Apple customers will be within 20 minutes of an authorized service provider,” according to the company’s calculation. To put that in perspective, there are currently more than 266,000 auto repair shops in the U.S., according to market research firm IBISWorld—an indication of what the gadget repair market could eventually look like without a stranglehold from Apple and other companies.