Apple Pushes Back On Right To Repair Bill Due To Parts Pairing

After previously supporting one in California, Apple has made an about-face and is now pushing back against a “Right to Repair” bill (Senate Bill 1596) currently under consideration in Oregon. The reason for this appears to be due to this new bill making parts pairing illegal, as reported by [404media] and [PCMag].

The practice of parts pairing is becoming ever more prevalent with Apple devices, which links specific parts of a system such as cameras, displays, batteries, and fingerprint sensors to the mainboard. During the open hearing on the newly proposed Oregonian bill, Apple’s [John Perry] insisted that this parts pairing is done for user security, safety and privacy.

Even in we take that claim at face value, the fact remains that with parts pairing in place, only authorized Apple repair centers can routinely replace components — while user repairs are limited to specific devices with limited part availability. Even in the latter case the user still has to contact Apple to have them reauthorize the replaced part. This is becoming an issue with Apple’s MacBooks as well, where the lid angle sensor requires calibration using a proprietary tool.

During the same hearing, the director of an Oregon nonprofit organization noted that of the 15,000 iPhones which they had donated to them last year, only 300 could be refurbished due to parts pairing. The remainder of otherwise perfectly fine phones are discarded for recycling, which is terrible for everyone but Apple. Whether the parts pairing element of the bill survives it to the final form remains to be seen, but if it passes it’d set the trend for future bills in other states as well as amendments to existing ones.

Thanks to [paulvdh] for the tip.

64 thoughts on “Apple Pushes Back On Right To Repair Bill Due To Parts Pairing

  1. For those interested, via first Google result.
    “The parts pairing system allows Apple to maintain its monopoly by ensuring replacement parts are linked to a specific device and can only be unlocked by Apple or an authorized Apple repair shop. Authorized repair providers have to pay to join the program, which limits the types of repair companies can do”

      1. Think about the other way: iPhone reports part ids to an Apple database. If an iPhone is stolen, all his parts are marked as stolen. If an iPhone with a stolen part (or parts) reports to Apple database, Apple can inform the user that this phone has stolen parts. Or can report the phone to the authorities, so the ring of thieves/resellers of stolen goods is closed.

        This would deter theft, and wouldn’t impede the right to repair with part pairing. It could also report to user if unauthorized third party part was used in the phone.

      2. This is one of the few advantages to “parts paring.” For phones and the like, you can get back some of that advantage by having each part have a unique serial number readable by the main device. Combine that with a stolen-parts registry and code within the OS that will disable the stolen part (or at least nag the person using the stolen part in a very visible, annoying way), and suddenly stolen parts become a lot less valuable.

          1. I’ve dropped every single phone I’ve ever owned, and had to repair them. That’s why I use screen protectors – modern phones are just too slippery, especially when used with gloves – and recently they’ve become too big to grab well by one hand anyways.

        1. If the part has a write-once memory, it can be branded to belong to a particular phone when inserted. That way you don’t have to register each part (for $$$ to Apple) prior to use. Multiple memory slots can be used to track subsequent ownership, so only if someone reports a stolen phone, the parts can be listed as stolen using the phone’s master key.

          1. There’s additional costs that come from dealing with retail customers, then there’s “jack up the prices and take the customer for everything he’s got.” Apple is definitely in that second group.

          2. There’s also inventory cost – you have to keep it somewhere and pay for that as well. Then there’s the lost opportunity cost – any item in the inventory is money sitting on a shelf that you can’t use to make more money, and its value is getting eaten up by inflation.

            Keeping spare parts available as such is like putting money in a bank account with a negative interest rate.

          3. Plus, the fact that you have to keep the spare parts available long after you’ve stopped making the product and re-tooled your factories for a different product – at least until the warranty of the last item sold expires – so you have to predict how many spare parts you’ll eventually need and gamble that you’ll sell enough to make the cost back.

            Or you can jack up the price to make sure you don’t end up losing money over it.

    1. Exactly! They don’t want people dipping into their Kool-Aid is all. Apple has always been money hungry IMO. Look at how long it took them to go with a generic USB connector over proprietary connections; model 15 I believe finally has USB-C…

      1. I have to disagree with the USB-C on the iPhone. The connector on the iPhone has been used since 2012 (iPhone 5)so more than 10years! And there was only a larger one used in prior iPhones.

        In 2012 the USB-C connector was not in use. So Apple has used the same connector while various connectors have been used on other phones. FWIW, Apple and Intel developed the USC-C connector in 2012. The USB-C spec was published in 2014, and adopted by IEC in 2016.

        Other phones have seen a number of different connectors used, from proprietary, USB-mini, USB-micro, and now USB-C. This has been far more waste than those of us with iPhones. Most of us still have, and use, all our original chargers and cables from 2012 onwards.

        In fact, I am now being forced to throw out all my iPhone chargers and cables, and replace them with USB-C ones as soon as I replace my iPhone XS Max and/or my wife’s iPhone 6S Plus and/or our iPads.

        Forcing Apple to use USB-C before they wanted to has resulted in far more ewaste than would otherwise have happened. I anticipate that the USB-C will be short lived on the iPhone as it will be removed when wireless charging takes over completely.

        So thanks EU, you created more ewaste, not less !!!

        1. Just because someone has an iphone doesn’t mean they’ve been all-in on Apple products since 2012. Also, iphones will continue to be made and sold into the future, many to people who haven’t owned one before. For every person who has to replace their old-style iphone chargers, there’s several more who won’t have to augment their array of USB-C chargers.

          I fully expect Apple to *try* to go to wireless charging only at some point. But that opens up a whole new can of worms that’s suspiciously similar to the old one: competing wireless charging standards.

          1. The latest IPhones do have wireless charging. I have rescued two iphone colleagues on a recent work trip by using my Samsung wireless charger and the power share feature of my Google Pixel phone. Neither of the two IPhones had USBC.

        2. The other phones were almost always micro-usb up until the point they went to usb-c. Even the wider 3.0 version of microusb accepts the regular version for regular speeds so it’s not very different in that regard. Microusb isn’t the most durable, of course, but hey.

          You might still be using your original wall adapter, but so’s anyone else who doesn’t have a problem with the limited charging speed of the older standards. If it’s USB-A like usual, you can just grab one of your existing usb a to c cables to use the old wall adapter.

          You’re not using your very first lightning cable unless unlike everyone else I know, you’ve somehow managed to avoid wearing it out to the point that it only works if you hold it precisely in position and don’t make any noise that might make it lose connection. Maybe if you’re big on wireless charging, or you never take the cable with you, that could be less surprising.

          But in all the time wireless charging has existed, it hasn’t seemed like people wanted to give up the usb port – at minimum, as a way to use power banks, random computers, and open usb jacks. Also, now that 3.5mm is gone, as a way to plug anything in at all including that. It’s not like you can’t have a waterproof phone with a usb port, so hey.

  2. ” Apple’s [John Perry] insisted that this parts pairing is done for user security, safety and privacy.”
    I would like to ear how Apple justify that pairing screen or camera with the device can increase user’s security.

    1. Simple: “user” here refers to Tim Cook. It increases his security and safety by providing him a constant income. It also increases his privacy because the richer he gets, the larger the fences on his property (or his island).

    2. C’mon, You can’t think of a situation where private or state-sponsored parties would like to arbitrarily replace a component with one of their own making? You can’t think of a 3rd-party manufacturer making a compatible component that has a little something extra in there that benefits someone who isn’t the user?

  3. I believe they justify it by saying a bad actor could somehow bypass face recognition/touch ID or steal the relevant data which I guess is in theory possible but really crazily difficult and incredibly unlikely if you’re using recycled but genuine parts.

    Quite how they justify that with parts pairing on the battery is anyone’s guess though.

    1. Previously if you took your iPhone into a random phone repair place they not only replaced the broken screen, they’d swap the battery with a cheap knockoff and then sell the original battery to the next person looking for a battery replacement. Which would be you in a couple weeks if nobody else came in.

      The amount of fraud in the phone repair business is astronomical. But yeah, it’s all about Apples monopoly. 🤷‍♂️

      1. It’s more of a general rule thing. If one company is allowed to do it, then everyone is, and if it’s more profitable than not, eventually everyone will do it.

        This is because being open to repairs or not becomes a feature in itself rather than the default, and in a particular price class one feature can substitute another. To have a phone that you can repair then either costs you extra, or has fewer other features to push people into buying the phones that are locked up.

        1. Not to mention a company like Apple and Samsung have the money to take a loss even on handsets for a while to undersell the repairable user respecting company into bankruptcy, at which point they can jack the prices back up AND not have to worry about 3rd party repairs cutting into their new sales or overpriced monopolistic repair service profits…

          1. Having a phone you can repair actually is slightly more expensive, so by default the company that makes throw-away phones is going to be cheaper for a phone with equal features otherwise. The fact that those phones are more expensive for the consumers in the long run is a secondary point, because most people just won’t make that cost-benefit calculation – they’d rather have the newer fancier phone.

          2. Then there’s compatibility.

            I had to replace my perfectly functional Samsung phone, because even though it was 4G/LTE it didn’t support ALL the 4G specs (which weren’t fully finalized at the time), and so when 4G finally rolled around and 3G shut down, it would fall back to 2G and become useless. If I had known that, I would not have bought the replacement battery.

            Then again, with the new battery, it now works as a perfectly fine offline navigator in my car.

          3. Slightly more expensive is however Dude the sort of price people will pay for repairability, reliability and certainty they can at least get their data off. Not everyone, but enough to cut into Apple’s we own all your money, you just haven’t given it all to us yet business model.

            Massively more expensive on the other hand…

          4. Or like me, keeping all my important stuff on a memory card. Much easier and faster to transfer it between phones, and you can keep buying phones with less internal memory to pay less.

          5. Dude there are lots of weird folks out there that use their phone for capturing videos and photos and other large data volume tasks, which would keep cloud, especially cloud over a mobile WWAN impractical and expensive, not every phone has SD card, and for those folks that live off their phone but happen to live in poor reception zones the cloud can’t be relied upon that much anyway…

            I’d not worry about it myself, as my phone is virtually unused, and all the data on it came from my well backed up NAS (at worst I’d have to run my script to turn all the high quality music files into something a little more practical and less overkill in quality and filesize to cart around) – for all the use I put it to these days that old nokia brick would be fine (at least as long as the cell services still actually work to it).

      2. “Voting with your wallet” is about as effective as regular voting. There are companies doing twisted stuff that have literally never ever made a profit and have no roadmap towards profitability, they are propped up by finance anyway because they are useful to them. There’s a reason why the most important voice in the formation of regulatory legislation is the company being regulated.

  4. “of the 15,000 iPhones which they had donated to them last year, only 300 could be refurbished due to parts pairing”. So charge Apple a feafty fee for each one that has to be recycled because of pairing and watch them drop it. Followed shortly by a marketing exec out to explain how good the removal of this feature is for their green credentials.

        1. If you want an Apple phone, you pay the price.

          If the fee was hefty enough to cause people to switch over, one might ask, why didn’t they already switch to other brands with equal features that are already hundreds of dollars cheaper.

  5. I will never own an apple product if I can avoid it.

    I continue to own apple stock. It does mighty well.

    Even so, I do not support the parts pairing concept. I have long had issues with licensing keys on the systems I maintain that require that the motherboard be the exact one that was sent with the device in order for the software key to work. I’m talking about proprietary systems. This type of keying of equipment that blocks operation costs businesses thousands of dollars in man hours and loss of revenue. One of the first things we now ask manufacturers we’re considering is “how are licenses generated, handled, and renewed in case of hardware repair/replacement?”

    I agree with the above where planned obsolescence like this should be fined on a per recycled item basis.

  6. “I agree with the above where planned obsolescence like this should be fined on a per recycled item basis.”

    No problem, just make the phone the same amount more costly as the cost of the fine. The only one really paying would be the end user…

      1. When you increase the fee to the point that brand loyalty and status/marketing cults like Apple weigh less, the fee would be so large that it would effectively be the same thing as simply banning the practice, and people would complain bitterly and probably vote you down on the matter.

  7. Parts pairing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if implemented ethically. If the device detects a non-genuine part it should inform the user of this, but it should still function. Perhaps with fewer features/lower performance if the part limits the device. The manufacturer isn’t liable for any damage done by the replacement part. Example: replace the battery by an non-genuine one and it might not support the fastest charging mode to reduce change of explosion, but it still works. If the non-genuine battery explodes the manufacturer isn’t liable. In such a case parts pairing can protect both the consumer and the manufacturer.
    Parts pairing to prevent easy and affordable replacing of common parts such as battery, camera, screen or connector is just wrong. A worn out device will be a total loss and become a paper weight.

        1. But it wouldn’t function to the specs, because the “non-genuine” part would be limited by the device as described.

          The OEM already isn’t liable for non-OEM parts causing trouble, so there’s no need to do that.

    1. This is a great idea. If it’s purely informational, then everyone can do what they want and with more complete knowledge.

      Trick is, something like this would be implemented at the operating system level. And guess who writes the operating system?

  8. It’s disposable tech posing as a “life-essential”.

    It’s all just a rehash of the same methods from the IBM PC and the (in)compatibles saga from the 1980s and 1990s.

    Manufacturers want you hooked into their ecosystem. A single payment does nothing but a constant trickle equals revenue.

    Greed is good. Ignorance is bliss.

  9. You realise that sending it to Apple to repair is sending it to some random person in a corporate machine, who can do anything they like to your device exactly the same as an independent repair shop worker. And if you could repair it yourself you wouldn’t have to send it to anybody…

    Plus almost all these parts that have this paired locking feature to stop repair have absolutely nothing to do with your data security anyway… You want to bake an encryption TPM type module right into the CPU on the mainboard that makes the data storage both onboard and the SD card (if any) ‘unreadable and unrecoverable’ (ish anyway) by encryption when enabled that is fine. But the battery, display etc have no reason to be paired – they might want calibration after a replacement but that is about it.

  10. What security is Apple claiming to protect? Their lawyer is currently arguing that Apple users shouldn’t expect that their actions on an iPhone are private.

    Quote: “Given Apple’s extensive privacy disclosures, no reasonable user would expect that their actions in Apple’s apps would be private from Apple.” (from page 19 — page 29 of the pdf)

    So which is it?

  11. Yeah… people don’t reason so good when it comes to Apple. In the mainstream media it’s just because they’re a lazy stand-in for tech generally. But a section of the nerd community has had a dark fixation with Apple since before Fatal Attraction was even in theaters. AFAICT the heart of it is “I didn’t buy their stuff, therefore anyone who does so is personally attacking me and my expert knowledge of what is best for them”.

    It’s the part about how “they just have good marketing” that gets me. I mean, if only Microsoft, Dell, Nokia, RIM, IBM etc. had thought of that. Still, at least no one has to worry about competing with Apple on product quality, since they definitely aren’t getting anything right.

  12. Nice try, Apple haters, but I wrote this short sci-fi story that disproves all of your points! If the screen is able to exfiltrate personal data that’s a huge problem with Apple’s design, and it’s not cost effective to make extensive, secret modifications to somebody’s phone to make some purchases that the bank will reverse within half an hour. There are better ways, with less of a paper trail. Computer repair shops have existed for quite a while, and some people who work at them are nosy scumbags. I’d bet the exact same is true of Apple’s technicians.

    And nobody’s asking for Apple to give away their “technology” (commodity parts with fancy black ribbon cables) for free–they’re asking for the privilege to pay Apple for OEM parts, to subject replacement parts to market pressure rather than Apple’s monopoly pricing.

    If somebody wants to photograph the die of an iPhone CPU (or whatever secret technology you’re referring to), they’ll figure out how with or without right to repair. We’ve managed to modchip every game console ever, no matter how much technology the manufacturers try to safeguard.

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