When your iPhone’s screen shatters, it sucks. You know you’re going to need to shell out money one way or another. How you shell out that money, however, not only influences how much you’ll pay, but whether you’ll have a working iPhone at the end of it all. AppleCare+, as well as Apple as a whole, are at the root of this problem.
To AppleCare+ or not to AppleCare+
AppleCare+’s costs vary based on your iPhone model. AppleCare+ on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini, for example, will run you A$169, while the insurance for iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max costs $US200 (A$274). You can choose to spend more on AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss, but that isn’t particularly pertinent to this discussion.
Those AppleCare+ prices aren’t fun to pay upfront, considering your new iPhone possibly costs more than A$1,400 already. Not only that, but screen repairs aren’t free with the service — they still cost A$45 per incident for up to two incidents every 12 months. In the past, I’ve passed on this service, and told myself I’d be really careful with my new iPhone; after all, if I broke my screen, wouldn’t a repair cost about the same as the service itself?
Not anymore. Take a look at those repair costs. Your iPhone 13 Pro Max (or 12 Pro Max, for that matter) will cost $US329 (A$451) to fix the display. You could almost buy a new iPhone SE for that price. AppleCare+, plus the cost of a screen repair, is $US100 (A$137) cheaper. If your phone suffers from water damage, the $US99 (A$135) you’d pay for a replacement through AppleCare+ will seem like a dream compared to the $US599 (A$820) it costs to repair a 13 Pro Max.
What about going through a third party (or yourself?)
Often, third-party repair shops can fix your stuff cheaper than Apple. Plus, you get the added benefit of helping out a neighbourhood or local business. These repair shops rock, because they’re usually passionate about fixing technology (you don’t hear about too many people getting into the tech repair business for the money), and they also do quite a bit for free — just browse the reviews for a repair shop and you’re likely to see glowing entries about quick fixes done without charge. They really do just want to help.
Another option is to simply repair the iPhone yourself. iFixit runs a fantastic website dedicated to helping you repair your own stuff. You can simply punch in your iPhone make and model, and find guides and supplies to help you on your way. While repairs vary in difficulty, iPhone screen fixes and battery replacements are two repairs that many beginners and intermediate techies find approachable (but please be careful with those batteries).
We love third-party repair shops, just as we stan a do-it-yourself approach to tech. You know who doesn’t feel that way? You guessed it.
Apple hates third-party repairs
Apple pictures a world where everybody comes to them for everything. Want to buy a tablet? Buy an iPad through Apple. Stuck on how to use it? Head to Apple for an information session. Did the iPad break? Bring it to the Geniuses at Apple to fix. Apple, Apple, Apple.
Since Apple wants to be your best friend, they’re jealous of other people you might rather spend time with. Instead of working to make their services better than everyone else’s, they’d rather make using another option simply miserable by comparison.
Apple holds a lot of power here. They make both the hardware and the software for the iPhone (as well as all their other products). That gives them total control over the experience; if they want their devices to behave in a certain way, they can.
We saw this come to a head last week, when iFixit reported Apple designed the iPhone 13 with a chip that would disable Face ID if a screen repair was performed by a non-authorised store. Simply put, the company decided to brick your iPhone’s main security feature if you fixed it at the “wrong” third-party shop. This chip communicated with Apple, as well, so the company could remotely check whether or not the repair was approved.
To be fair, it was possible to successfully perform the screen repair without going through Apple one of its authorised stores. However, the once-simple repair now required thousands of dollars worth of equipment, as well as microsoldering skills, for a repair that should be simple enough for you to do yourself.
Suffice it to say that the tech community found this news displeasing, to say the least. In a positive twist, the backlash inspired Apple to back off of this predatory policy; the company will soon issue an update to iPhone 13 devices, ensuring a screen replacement won’t brick Face ID should you choose not to go through Apple.
However, this won’t be the last time we see Apple pull a trick like this. Apple isn’t sorry for what it did; it’s sorry it got caught.
It’s this type of behaviour that forces me to recommend you buy AppleCare+ for your new iPhone, as it’s simply in your best financial interest to give Apple that insurance money. Not only will it save you cash on future screen replacements, it ensures you can do so without losing functionality on your device.
Third-party and self-repairs are still viable options; after all, Face ID will soon work just fine after one of these fixes. However, Apple has designed a system that works in your favour if you play into it. Other options are, to my frustration, not as reliable. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Right to repair can help
Our best shot at fixing this situation is right to repair. Right to repair is a movement that argues two points: Consumers should be allowed to fix and tinker with the products they purchase however they see fit, and manufactures should make parts and schematics available to businesses in order to offer proper repair services.
And there’s been progress on this front: President Biden signed an executive order this summer directing the FTC to draft up some helpful rules and guidelines. As it stands right now though, there aren’t many laws protecting consumers or third-party businesses from predatory practices by large tech companies.
In a right-to-repair world, Apple’s decision to disable Face ID after an unauthorised fix would be shut down. The company likely wouldn’t have attempted the design in the first place, but if they had, the discovery would have been met with lawsuits, fines, and whatever other punishments the FTC’s rules would have allowed for.
Right to repair is the answer for third-party repair shops, and it’s the answer for repairing your tech yourself. Until then, Apple’s bullshit AppleCare+ is, unfortunately, the “best” investment for your iPhone.