User Experience Matters for Repairs

User Experience Matters for Repairs

Every week, we get a roundup of recent developments in Right to Repair news, courtesy of Jack Monahan and Paul Roberts from Fight to Repair, a reader-supported publication. Sign up to receive updates in your inbox. (It’s free!) Or become a premium subscriber for access to exclusive content and live events!

Apple has introduced a new online tool called “Reasons to Upgrade,” aiming to persuade users to switch to the latest iPhone models by comparing them to “older” ones like the iPhone 11 and 12. The tool highlights improved features such as enhanced camera resolution, faster GPU chips, OLED displays, or minor UI improvements like Dynamic Island. While the comparison excludes the iPhone 13 and 14, Apple offers another tool for broader device comparisons.

The move comes amidst reported challenges for Apple, including a drop in iPhone sales in China and legal disputes with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Apple is a master marketer with the ability to create beautiful and remarkably easy-to-use websites, phones, laptops, and other products. But that tradition of excellent and user-focused engineering does not extend to the repair experience of customers, where Apple consistently opts to make the repair and maintenance process clunky (both physically and digitally), constrained, inconvenient, and expensive.

When the Reasons to Upgrade tool is placed side by side with the company’s Self Service Repair tool, the first is so obviously cleaner and more user-friendly. A quick glance at the two tools shows the cliff in their user experiences. The Reasons to Upgrade tool matches the beautiful user experience Apple customers have grown to know and love, while the Self Service Repair process is a maze of links and pages with no visuals until you get to the actual repair guides.

Speaking of those actual repair guides, we know Apple can convey complex things in simple ways, and could easily make simple videos that could help people repair their phones. How do we know this? Well, they make beautiful videos telling people to upgrade their phones. On the Reasons to Upgrade tool, we are prompted to “Watch a guided tour of iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro” where we hear from Von—our trusty Apple employee who walks us through the options we have when it comes to purchasing a new model. On the Self Service Repair tool? We get a long page of text that tells us if we want to repair our iPhone screen, we will need to use a machine that looks like it requires a lead vest to operate.

A stack of pelican cases full of Apple tools with an iFixit toolkit leaning against it
An iFixit iPhone repair kit leaning up against the two Pelican cases full of the repair tools you can rent from Apple to fix an iPhone—great that they’ll rent them, shame that they didn’t take the opportunity to create a more user-friendly repair experience.

Apple’s approach to user experience differs vastly between encouraging upgrades and facilitating repairs. The lack of accessibility and clarity in the experience it is trying to create for repairers is intentional. By neglecting to offer visually impressive and easy-to-follow guides for repairing devices, Apple not so subtly discourages users from attempting repairs themselves.

Given Apple’s track record of creating beautiful and user-friendly content, there is great potential for the company to improve the repair experience for its customers. Bringing the same approach that it uses to sell its products to those wishing to repair them would help; simple instructional videos and clear, step-by-step guides could empower users to take on repairs confidently, reducing the need for their costly professional services and warranties. That would, in turn, contribute to a more sustainable approach to device ownership. This should be light work for a company that has a market cap of $2.3 trillion, part of which stems from Apple’s solid profit on things like Apple Care and authorized repair services.

In short: it’s long past time for Apple to apply its design expertise not only to selling new products but also to supporting the longevity and repairability of its existing ones.

More News

  • Less e-waste requires intentional design: Designing electronics for longevity is crucial in combating the escalating e-waste crisis. With alarming statistics indicating the UK’s significant contribution to global e-waste and the forecasted rise in emissions, urgent action is imperative. Manufacturers must prioritize sustainable design, repairability, and end-of-life measures to mitigate this crisis. Legislation like Right to Repair is a step forward, but more comprehensive circular practices are needed. By integrating recyclable materials, easily repairable modules, and take-back schemes, manufacturers can contribute to reducing e-waste and fostering a more sustainable future. The responsibility lies with manufacturers to drive change and empower consumers to make environmentally conscious choices.
Device Page

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Repair manuals and information for the Microsoft Surface Laptops.

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  • More repairable Surface Pros from Microsoft: The Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 have now have a focus on repairability, targeting schools and businesses initially. This shift towards sustainable hardware aligns with the growing concern over e-waste, encouraging repairability and reducing environmental impact. While skeptics may question Microsoft’s motives, their efforts signal a positive trend in the tech industry towards more eco-friendly practices. Other companies like Lenovo, Acer, and Framework are also joining the movement, but the ultimate impact remains to be seen amidst concerns of greenwashing by tech giants like Apple.
  • iPhone could need redesign after Oregon repair law: Apple may need to reconsider its iPhone design with Oregon’s new right-to-repair law, which dramatically limits parts pairing. The part pairing piece of the law is leading many to question the fate of existing devices with serialized parts and Apple’s response to the new law.