Apple lifts some restrictions on iPhone repairs

Apple on Thursday said it would ease limits on repairing new iPhones with used parts such as screens, batteries and cameras, a reversal from its previous practice of using software to encourage people to work with new, more expensive parts approved by Apple.

The change comes weeks after Oregon passed a law banning Apple's practice of attaching parts to software, known as “part matching.” Similar bills are under consideration in Colorado and more than a dozen other states. Apple had opposed Oregon's legislation before its passage, saying customers could be left vulnerable to safety risks if Apple was forced to allow lower-priced parts made by third-party suppliers.

In the past, if an iPhone owner broke a part, such as a screen, and installed an original, used Apple screen purchased from a supplier such as eBay, the replacement display would not function properly because its serial number did not match the one in the Apple databases. The only way to install a fully functional replacement part was to buy it from Apple, which had the tools to pair the part with the phone.

Apple's new policy will remove such restrictions for the iPhone 15, released last year. Apple said the change will begin this fall and apply to genuine Apple parts, meaning those made by iPhone suppliers. When an original replacement part is installed, your phone will work automatically, without requiring a technician to provide a serial number to Apple. The replacement part will then work perfectly with the iPhone.

The reversal comes about five months after The New York Times published an analysis of Apple's increasing restrictions on iPhone repairs, which have driven up costs for consumers.

In the press release announcing the change, Apple said the change would simplify the process of matching parts on some iPhones for used Apple screens, batteries and other parts to simplify repairs, not for components made by third-party suppliers. These parts are typically less expensive and could save customers money on repairs. Replacing a broken screen at an Apple Store costs about $300, about $100 more than having the job done by an independent shop using a third-party screen.

An Apple spokesperson said that people may install third-party parts but that iPhones will continue to use the software to alert them when this has been done because the company considers it important for the safety and security of customers. He cited an Apple-funded study that showed that most third-party smartphone batteries failed safety tests and that some caused fires.

Nathan Proctor, who has lobbied states for reparations legislation on behalf of US PIRG, a nonprofit funded largely by small donors, said the move was a small step in the right direction. It never made technical sense for Apple to impose restrictions on the installation of genuine Apple parts for repairs, he said.

“It has always been an absurd and ridiculous practice,” Mr. Proctor said.

Starting in January, Oregon law requires Apple and others to start allowing customers to use any parts they want in repairs, even those not approved by the smartphone's original manufacturer. Apple will face a fine of $1,000 per day for failing to comply with the law starting in 2027.

When Oregon's bill passed, Apple said it would support reparations legislation, but added that “the bill does not provide the consumer protections that Oregonians deserve.”

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