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Apple makes some changes amid 'Right to Repair' push

The company is now designing phones that are easier to open and providing greater level of access to parts and tools. But advocates say their push isn't over.

INDIANAPOLIS — We all know someone who's done it (or done it ourselves): Cracked the glass on our iPhone. Well, in the past few months, Apple has started telling its customers that they can fix their own iPhone with the company's new online Self Service Repair Store. It's all part of a "Right to Repair" movement that's been going on for the past five years. 

"People should be able to fix their stuff, and that's what we're about," said Nathan Proctor, senior director of the Right to Repair campaign, which is working to pass legislation that will prevent companies from blocking consumers' ability to fix their own electronics.

"It is a totally crazy situation that we have these $1,000 supercomputers, and then, we treat them as if they're disposal," Proctor said. "When you can fix something, it saves consumers a lot of money, and it's a lot better for the environment. Companies like Apple have gone out of their way to restrict people's ability to get the parts that they need or to lock the software in the phone, and that makes it harder and harder to fix those products." 

In the past 12 months, it seems Proctor has gotten Apple's ear. Earlier this year, the company started rolling out its "Self Service Repair" program.

“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams in a statement. “In the past three years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own repairs.”

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"I think we've seen a lot of progress from Apple and the other major smartphone makers, Google and Samsung, because of what this 'Right to Repair' movement has produced," Proctor said. "Companies have been pushed around by a combination of legislative and consumer outrage at their unfixable products."

According to Proctor, Apple is now designing phones that are easier to open, and they're providing greater level of access to parts and tools. But he also cautions that we have a ways to go. 

"We still don't have everything we need to fix these products, and that's why we're continuing to run this campaign," Proctor said. 

At MacExperience on Indy's east side, owner Joel Read has been fixing Apple products for more than two decades. We asked Read, "Has Apple made it easier to fix your iPhone in the past few years?" 

"Oh, absolutely," Read said. "[But] the self repairs are really only for those people who have out-of-warranty repairs."

So, can an everyday consumer fix their own iPhone? 

"Well, I mean, that depends: Can you fix your car?" Read asked. "Apple does provide the instructions and the tools to do that repair. However, most people should not be open to their phones or their laptops to do their own repair. You could rip a cable or you could do some sort of damage during the repair that was not part of the original reason that you had to do the repair. So if you damage your phone while you do repair, that's going to be a whole other set of expenses. Parts are not cheap for those kinds of stuff."

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Read isn't kidding. The front display on an iPhone can cost you more than $300 on the Apple website. And you're going to need to spend at least $250 to rent the special equipment and tools to replace that display.

"We tend to be a disposable society," Read said. "A lot of times, it makes more sense to replace the device than to repair it."

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