Apple Announces Support for Used Parts in iPhone Repairs

Apple Newsroom:

Today Apple announced an upcoming enhancement to existing repair processes that will enable customers and independent repair providers to utilize used Apple parts in repairs. Beginning with select iPhone models this fall, the new process is designed to maintain an iPhone user’s privacy, security, and safety, while offering consumers more options, increasing product longevity, and minimizing the environmental impact of a repair. Used genuine Apple parts will now benefit from the full functionality and security afforded by the original factory calibration, just like new genuine Apple parts.

The process of confirming whether or not a repair part is genuine and gathering information about the part — often referred to as “pairing” — is critical to preserving the privacy, security, and safety of iPhone. Apple teams have been hard at work over the last two years to enable the reuse of parts such as biometric sensors used for Face ID or Touch ID, and beginning this fall, calibration for genuine Apple parts, new or used, will happen on device after the part is installed. In addition, future iPhone releases will have support for used biometric sensors. And in order to simplify the repair process, customers and service providers will no longer need to provide a device’s serial number when ordering parts from the Self Service Repair Store for repairs not involving replacement of the logic board.

Locking repair shops out of utilizing used parts has been at the heart of many right to repair conversations in recent months. In fact, Apple’s news comes just a couple of weeks after the governor of Oregon signed a right to repair bill into law, designed to take aim at the practice of part pairing. Kevin Purdy at Ars covered the news:

The law, like those passed in New York, California, and Minnesota, will require many manufacturers to provide the same parts, tools, and documentation to individuals and repair shops that they provide to their own repair teams.

But Oregon’s bill goes further, preventing companies from implementing schemes that require parts to be verified through encrypted software checks before they will function. Known as parts pairing or serialization, Oregon’s bill, SB 1596, is the first in the nation to target that practice. Oregon State Senator Janeen Sollman (D) and Representative Courtney Neron (D) sponsored and pushed the bill in the state senate and legislature.

“By eliminating manufacturer restrictions, the Right to Repair will make it easier for Oregonians to keep their personal electronics running,” said Charlie Fisher, director of Oregon’s chapter of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), in a statement. “That will conserve precious natural resources and prevent waste. It’s a refreshing alternative to a ‘throwaway’ system that treats everything as disposable.”

Apple lobbied against the Oregon law, but in its press release, John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering says:

For the last two years, teams across Apple have been innovating on product design and manufacturing to support repairs with used Apple parts that won’t compromise users’ safety, security, or privacy. With this latest expansion to our repair program, we’re excited to be adding even more choice and convenience for our customers, while helping to extend the life of our products and their parts.

According to The Washington Post, this new system will start with screens, batteries, and cameras for the iPhone 15 line and will expand in the future.

In addition to the changes around parts pairing, Apple’s press release includes two other announcements, as John Voorhees writes at MacStories:

The iPhone’s Activation Lock and Lost Mode are being extended to used parts as a deterrent to thieves pulling apart iPhones for their parts. If a lost or stolen part is detected, Apple says its calibration capabilities will be restricted. Also, Apple says it will expand the Parts and Service History section of its Settings app to include information about whether parts used in an iPhone are new or used.

I suspect those two items will be the next chapters in this on-going story.