Update: iPhone 14 is easier to repair — but we have bad news, too.
In what might be one of the most unexpected twists of fate, Apple is now selling official iPhone Self Service Repair kits in the U.S.
Apple announced this repair program late last year, which was surprising given Apple’s use of non-standard parts, screws and a healthy dose of adhesive. That's made DIY repairs rather difficult up until now. But Cupertino appears to now be committed to letting users repair their iPhones — well, iPhone 12, iPhone 13 and iPhone SE 2022 models at least — which is a positive move for supporters of the Right to Repair movement.
Late in the year, the program will extend to “include manuals, parts, and tools to perform repairs on Mac computers with Apple silicon.”
How Apple's Self Service Repair kits work
To get started with such a DIY repair process, you’ll need to visit the Apple Self Service Repair website. From there, you can select the model of device and damaged iPhone part that you want to repair. The site will then serve up a whole suite of parts, along with the tools needed to take repairs into your own hands; just be prepared to see some rather expensive options.
Fortunately, if you don’t fancy dropping a cool $216 on an official Apple-approved Display Press, then you can rent the whole tool kit for seven days for $49; that’ll make sense for people looking to just do a one-off DIY fix.
You’ll also need to be fairly confident in what you’re doing, with Apple having previously advised that such repairs are for “individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices.” Nevertheless, if you’re happy to give it a go, Apple is offering repair manuals that can follow, or at least view beforehand to get a feel for level of the repair task you plan to undertake,
For most people, Apple Care and professional repair services might be the most cost-efficient and risk-free way to get a damaged iPhone fixed. But it is at least gratifying to see Apple starting to be more open with letting people take repairs into their own hands, literally.
Right to Repair... sort of
It’s not all plain sailing however, as teardown and repair gurus iFixit have noticed that Apple requires would-be repairers to enter a device's IMEI or serial number when buying parts. That means any parts bought from Apple need to be paired with the device that has the same serial number, which is a problem as it can hamstring where and how one uses spare parts, especially from any third-party parts suppliers.
“Requiring parts pairing essentially puts an expiration date on iPhones. When a refurbisher gets a functioning phone with no parts support, there will be no way for them to fully restore a product that needs a display replacement — even if they have an original Apple display from another phone,” said iFixit's director of sustainability Elizabeth Chamberlain.
"Integrating a serial number check into their checkout process is a dire omen and could allow Apple the power to block even more repairs in the future. Building the technology to provision individual repairs easily sets Apple up as the gateway to approve — or deny — any repairs in the future, with parts from any source.
“We’d love to be able to champion Apple’s DIY repair program unequivocally," Chamberlain continued. "It’s surely better than not having a DIY repair option at all. But it’s not the unqualified win for repair enthusiasts that Apple’s marketers would have you believe.”
Chamberlain championed how iFixit’s work with Valve and Google mean official spare parts sold through its site don’t require any serial numbers or a software process to pair devices with spare parts.
So it would seem Apple still has some way to go here. But it’s still a notable step for a famously closed company that keeps many of its products locked down.
Read next: Judging from the cost of out of warranty iPhone 14 repairs, you may want to invest in AppleCare Plus