Apple Publishes Paper Explaining Its Approach to Repair and Device Longevity


Diagnostics is part of Apple’s ongoing effort to extend the lifespan of Apple products. While Apple is committed to providing safe and affordable repair options, designing and building long-lasting products remains the top priority. The best type of repair for customers and the planet is one that is never needed. Today, Apple published a whitepaper explaining the company’s principles for designing for longevity — a careful balance between product durability and repairability.

The paper is worth a read to understand what role Apple sees repair playing in the lifecycle of a device, and why it is so keen on parts pairing. For example, it says the charging port is part of a more complex module, and separating it would actually create greater carbon emissions if you account for both the total emissions from manufacturing and the likelihood of repair. This is fair though, it should be said, based entirely on an internal case study, the results of which are not readily available, and which appears to be isolated to only carbon emissions — what about other environmental costs? It does sound believable.

Apple also repeats the argument made by John Ternus that building for durability can prevent the need for repair, though sometimes at the cost of its ease. Ternus and this paper explain how the addition of seals and adhesives used to make iPhones far more water resistant thereby eliminating a whole host of repair needs. But, as I pointed out at the time, these goals are not necessarily in conflict, as Apple’s recent iPhones have been easier to repair than their predecessors without sacrificing their water and dust ingress rating.

Ternus’ interview with Marques Brownlee last month and this paper seem to be both Apple’s attempt to explain how it sees repair, and a way to reframe it in more favourable terms. Repairability is important, Apple says, but “when it benefits our customers and the environment”, not in isolation. It should be considered in the context of overall device longevity. That is a reasonable argument and one I do not disagree with in general. It also makes me wonder about Apple’s attitude toward batteries in general. There should be no need to replace the trackpad, keyboard, and a square foot of aluminum in order to install a new battery in a laptop.

You do have to chuckle at Apple’s diagram on page eight highlighting the sole repairable component on the original iPhone: the SIM card tray.

[…] Next year, Canada will become the 34th country in which Apple offers Self Service Repair.

Excellent news. Legislative pressure works.