Right to repair has no cannier, more dedicated adversary than Apple, a company whose most innovative work is dreaming up new ways to sneakily sabotage electronics repair while claiming to be a caring environmental steward, a lie that covers up the mountains of e-waste that Apple dooms our descendants to wade through.
Why does Apple hate repair so much? It’s not that they want to poison our water and bodies with microplastics; it’s not that they want to hasten the day our coastal cities drown; it’s not that they relish the human misery that accompanies every gram of conflict mineral. They aren’t sadists. They’re merely sociopathically greedy.
Tim Cook laid it out for his investors: when people can repair their devices, they don’t buy new ones. When people don’t buy new devices, Apple doesn’t sell them new devices.
A few weeks ago, when news broke that Apple had changed from opposing California’s right to repair bill to supporting it, and the entire tech media was falling over itself to uncritically report on it, I instinctively knew something was up. Supporting right to repair was so uncharacteristic of Apple and Tim Cook, I just knew something was off. It turns out I was right.
Instead of relying on the lack of right to repair laws, Apple is simply making it so that using any parts not approved by Apple in a repair would make your Apple device not function properly. They do so by VIN-locking, or parts-pairing as it’s called in the tech industry, parts, and if the device’s SoC detects that an unapproved repair is taking place, the device simply won’t accept it, even if genuine Apple parts are being used. Trying to circumvent this parts-pairing violates the DMCA – and the DMCA is federal law, while California’s right to repair bill it state law, meaning the DMCA overrules it.
Doctorow lists various other things Apple does to limit your ability to repair devices, such as claiming to “recycle” devices when you return them to Apple, only for the company to shred them instead to prevent their parts from making it into the repair circuit. Apple also puts tiny serial numbers on every single part, so that even when devices are scrapped for parts, usually in Asia, Apple can work together with US Customs to intercept and destroy these fully working parts when they enter the US.
So, Apple supporting California’s right to repair bill is entirely and utterly meaningless and hollow. It’s all for show, for the optics, to mislead the gullible 20-somethings in the tech media.
I knew something was up, and I was right.