Myth Busted: How Apple and the Media Perpetuates A Lie About Repair

A lot has been written recently on the subject of Error 53, an issue that came to light after The Guardian published an article detailing how this nasty inexplicable error code turns your technological marvel of iPhone ingenuity into a brick. Apple’s response: It’s because of security. However not a lot of attention is being given to Apple’s underlying implication — that third-party repair is a threat to the user-experience and infringes on necessary security measures. The media has indeed scooped this narrative up and continues to perpetuate Apple’s myth that nobody but one of their “Geniuses” is qualified to do a repair.

Rather than focusing on Apple turning a $700+, highly-valuable device into a paperweight, the media is largely focusing on “3rd party” and “non-authorized” repairers being the issue. Let me make one thing clear: Repair shops are not the issue; irresponsible repair practices caused by artificial supply shortages and a rampant black market are the real problem. Apple has done everything in its power to quietly stifle repair. Error 53 has been discussed ad nauseam among repair shops in private forums and on YouTube blogs worldwide.

From the beginning repair shops have desperately tried to source high-quality, true Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts so that they can perform their repairs. Many asked Apple directly for access to said parts and were met with a swift, but legally polite “no”. Aftermarket parts — many of them dubious quality — have flooded the market. Quality has been a constant issue that has plagued the industry but it didn’t have to be like this. Apple has had every opportunity to say: There are millions upon millions of iPhones and we only have a handful of Apple Stores. Here’s how you buy an OEM part: www.apple.com/parts. They didn’t and continue to avoid doing so.

With each new model, Apple introduces new screws and stronger adhesive in an increasingly compact design. This all begs the question of what is Apple’s end game? It is clearly not in their interest to make repairable devices. It’s not in Apple’s best interest to help you extend the lifespan of your old phone. It’s much better for them if you just keep buying new phones. Every phone that you keep beyond year one is eating into Apple’s bottom dollar and makes shareholders anxious. If consumers cared about their iPhones like they cared about their AOL email addresses, we could solve the e-waste problem. Just as importantly, we could put a cell phone into the hands of every person in the United States. And those devices eventually will need to be repaired.

Make no mistake about it, Apple is vilifying independent repair every step of the way. From introducing new (and unnecessary) screws into devices, an artificial and unjustified aftermarket screen supply shortage, to a hidden error code third party repair is becoming harder. Everyone has a different opinion on repair, but here’s the rub. Repair is a noble and uplifting endeavor. It creates jobs, supports the environment, promotes a sense of ownership and inspires creativity. “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, recycled or composted then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production” (Peter Seeger)— because we simply cannot sustain the rate at which we’re creating electronic waste.