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Apple Said to Have 'Dramatically Reduced' iPhone Repair Fraud in China (macrumors.com)
126 points by drfuchs 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

I used to repair smartphones for a living, with the majority being iPhones. Back in the 3G and 3GS days, popping those cracked screens and fixing them for $80 was my bread and butter.

From what I understand, factories would receive an order from Apple for X units. They would make 10-20% extra, deliver X to Apple, then sell the extra out the back door of the factory.

These parts would make their way onto eBay and I would buy them.

I still get spam LinkedIn messages 7 years later from cell phone repair parts dealers in China.

In my case AFAIK they were legitimate parts, not backwards engineered. Made by the exact same people, just siphoned out of the supply chain.

From my understanding, a lot of that was “slippage” by employees and not the companies intentionally making extra parts. More often than not, they were parts which didn’t pass QC and rather than going through the normal process for those, they just “disappeared”, at least back in those days.

> They would make 10-20% extra, deliver X to Apple, then sell the extra out the back door of the factory.

Very common in outsourced manufacturing, it's called a "ghost shift" (contracted orders are made 9-5 and a "ghost shift" works later to produce extras). Presumably Apple wised up to this eventually.

This happens in the clothing industry as well. I live in Vietnam where a large part of clothes worn in the US are produced. I can buy major name brands anywhere on the street for a fraction of the cost. They even have labels with US price tags on them already.

Repairing electronics is also super cheap here. I went from thinking I needed to buy a new device to just realizing that everything can be repaired since the cost of labor is almost nothing here and the parts come directly from China.

Thats a nice PR piece pushing criminal fraud narrative, forgetting to mention Apple is at war with people providing 3rd party repair service.

The goal? remove alternatives, _any_ small defect = 'genius' telling you to buy new $1-2K device. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2_SZ4tfLns

Considering Apple has been making old hardware even more performant, that doesn't seem to be their goal at all.

I brought my out-of-warranty iPhone to the store last week because its battery was swelling, and they couldn't replace the battery due to employee safety issues. So they simply gave me a brand-new identical phone for the $29 battery replacement price.

In my experience, Apple goes further out of their way to give customers low-cost or even free replacements in far more cases than I've ever seen any other company do.

Not always.

I took a 14 month old iPhone 7 into the store which wouldn't charge or communicate via the lightning port. In the engineer's words it was "in perfect condition".

They couldn't repair it, wouldn't do anything because I didn't have apple care and the only way to get around it was a new device.

Nice paperweight though

14 month falls under a reasonable warranty period, so you could've claimed that. In the EU at least you'd have a very good case and they wouldn't cause trouble.

It could've been something trivial though, lint tends to pile up in the back of the lightning port, eventually causing the problem you described. Poking the back of the port with a needle or something often helps.

I'm pursuing the retailer/credit card company under the consumer rights and consumer credit act in the UK but they're requesting an engineer's report stating this is a manufacturing fault which is very difficult to get.

Tried cleaning it, there's no dirt or anything in there

So you're in the EU, and Apple isn't helping you, nor is the EU bothering to enforce it's own laws.

I must say, I'm still wondering why Apple gets a pass on the "usb charging for all phones" laws.

Couldn't you demonstrate right there that the Lightning port wouldn't charge the iPhone? Seems like a pretty simple way to refute the technician's claim.

Sorry badly worded on my part - he meant in perfect condition apart from the fault (ie: we hadn't drowned it or dropped the phone to cause any issue) but couldn't do anything

To clarify, he said that he couldn't repair the iPhone (with you paying for it)?

yes, even if I paid for it. Only solution is to replace the device.

I've found it's highly variable depending on the person you get. I've had some people that are really great and just help me replace it or figure out options. I've had other people force me to reinstall the OS even though the issue is clearly hardware and then come back in a week showing the same problem.

The subsidized battery replacement program is intended to offset the significant civil liability they have from making these phones poorly in the first place. This is not charity or even a long term business decision, it ends January 1.

I've built my own PCs for a decade, every hardware manufacturer I've dealt with has a better RMA policy than Apple.

It depends. As soon as something happens to the screen, they charge ridiculous money for repair. Went through that with an iPad pro. 3rd party repair with (a different) screen was a small fraction of the cost

Apple's screen prices are actually fair if you care about getting a "good" one. If you don't (and if you're not using it for color-related work it doesn't really matter) then unofficial screens can be a good deal.

My experience: I replaced my laptop screen thru iFixit and the replacement part had a "soft focus" camera. It also has worse backlight bleed+a little bit less contrast than the official part, and a dead pixel.

They had good customer service and when I complained about the camera and they refunded me some money, but next time I will probably (begrudgingly) pay the Apple tax.

What really happened is Apple was forced to replace your device, because they

1 sold defective devices in the first place, hence 'battery replacement' program aka lets do something after ignoring years of public pressure, but just before big lawsuit comes (famous Fight Club recall equation).

2 designed products and procedures in such a way as to minimize the ability of repair by non specialized technical personnel. Glued parts, sneaky short holes and different length screws, LCD screens blowing backlight circuit if you unplug them without unplugging battery first, etc.

If I get a new device for $29 then why exactly should I care?

The only reason you are getting new device is because Apple was caught yet again with factory defect. It isnt a charitable gift, its their obligation.

Consumers like you are why Apple will continue to rip people off and only respond when their is a threat of a Class Action lawsuit like they did with the batteries

You should care because one day the issue you have will not impact thousands of customers and.or will not raise to the level that a class action lawsuit would be possible and you will be one of the thousands of people that have been screwed over by Apple's business practices...

I am sure this will fall of deaf ears though hopefully you will remember your attitude on this day when you are standing in front of a "Genius" refusing to help you

The diagnosis of the first repair case is a Macbook Pro that has had liquid spilled in its internals. [0]

From a business and service perspective, Apple repair must first fix the liquid damage that may be causing the dim screen. Replacing the screen without first fixing the liquid damage may simply reproduce the issue and/or damage a new screen.

The customer balks at the quoted price asks the Apple Genius Bar rep if there are other options.

The Genius Bar rep hesitates and informs the customer there are no other options under Apple repair.

Of course there are other options outside of Apple authorized repair, but it is likely against Apple policy to recommend an alternative (i.e. assuming indirect liability for poorly executed 3rd-party repairs).

That said, in this case it seems entirely reasonable for Apple repair to proceed by first fixing the most obvious damage that may be causing the issue. While this approach may be more expensive than is necessary, it's also more likely to produce the desired result if the issue were not caused by the screen itself.

Paying money for premium service is anathema to many consumer advocates, but Apple is well known to meet their obligations for devices protected by AppleCare while only doing the bare minimum for devices outside of warranty. From a practical standpoint, buying AppleCare is highly advisable given the likelihood of device failure inside of 3 years, the cost of repairing such failures, and (most importantly in my opinion) the extraordinarily high level of service Apple provides should something go wrong inside the warranty window.

I apologize if all the above seems like bias toward Apple, which I readily admit. I have been a customer of Apple for nearly 40 years and while I have sometimes been disappointed with some of Apple's polices and products, I have almost always felt well-treated by Apple repair.

[0] https://youtu.be/o2_SZ4tfLns?t=128

EDIT: Changes to penultimate paragraph to better highlight the value of AppleCare as a contractual service. Change "extraordinary" to "extraordinarily".

If you were paying attention, it's the same repair.

Apple's humidity sensors are known to go red in humid environments (like your pants pockets or your backpack on a hot day) whether there's liquid damage or not.

All Louis had to do was look at the motherboard to see the bent connector.

The liquid stickers changing color didn't mean that the customer spilled liquid on it, just that the sticker changed color. It can be caused by something as normal as a humid day (as Louis said).

>>Apple repair must first fix the liquid damage

There was no liquid damage and the Apple "liquid damage" stickers should never be used as an actual indicator liquid damage, Apple put them on devices for legal cover when they wanted to deny warranty repairs not as a actual gauge for when a product was actually damaged by liquid. They are known to have a hair trigger and "activate" i.e change color in the presence of water vapor in the air (i.e high humidity common in some places where one would use a apple device)

The Apple "liquid damage" stickers is one in a LONG LONG LONG line of anti-consumer business practices

I disagree. Apple supports older products for longer and repairs them unlike their competition. I still have an iPhone 6 and had its camera fixed at an Apple store recently for like $60. I also had them fix an issue with a 6 year old MacBook Pro. Thats pretty reasonable in my opinion. I think people get hyperbolic over this stuff and lose credibility. I can’t imagine Dell, HP, or anyone supporting a laptop for 6+ years and if I break an Android there’s no where to get it repaired officially. Apple has its problems, but let’s not be hysterical about the issue and distort the reality.

Dell still supports the Latitude I bought for law school 12 years ago. HP still supports the laptop I bought right after law school, though I must now pay for shipping to a repair facility.

As for Android, there are a great many official repair locations. They simply aren't run by the phonemakers. As with cars, most repairs are done by licensed and trained repair shops (like UBreakIFix, for Samsungs).

Let's not give Apple false credit and distort the reality of how consumer electronics are repaired.

That's not the point of the video. The video shows Apple charging 1200$ for what is effectively fixing a bent pin. According to Rossman cases like this show up several times a week in his shop alone. Disclaimer: I'm an Macbook and iphone user and find apples behaviour plainly wrong.

They've fixed a conduit, they haven't fixed the cause of demand.

This scam was a natural side effect of Apple completely locking down their parts supply chain. We've seen from Linus Tech Tips and Louis Rossmann that it's nigh-on-impossible to legitimately purchase parts without becoming a Apple Authorized Service Provider. Even when you've gone that far, some parts are on a one-in-one-out policy. Running a repair shop where you can't keep spares on site is crippling. And becoming and remaining an AASP is an lengthy and recurrently expensive process. None of this is compatible with those generic stalls that can replace your screen for £20, or the DIY market on eBay and beyond.

All these users want parts that Apple won't supply. This demand creates a vacuum that black and grey markets are all too happy to fill. By that point people don't care where the parts came from, as long as they do the job. I'm not defending anything here. They are stealing (and elsewhere, illegally copying products) from Apple to supply a black market demand. I'm just pointing out that leaving a demand unsatisfied causes its own problems.

If Apple just sold parts direct to market, they'd solve 90% of this problem overnight. I'd happily pay more than the Ebay crap because I'd know they were genuine parts.

Edit: Tuned.

No, selling parts for the repair market was a nice extra for these people. This is theft straight up—if you read the article the theives would buy new phones, strip out anything easy to remove (for the repair market you’d assume), and then return the phone for a brand new phone which they’d sell.

This is fraud not a right to repair issue.

I think what he's saying is that there's a consumer demand for these parts because Apple refuses to sell them outside of their walled garden. It's like illegal drugs, the people producing, smuggling, and selling them are all breaking laws and considered criminals and their motivation is consumer demand.

OP isn't justifying the criminal's behavior, just suggesting that the illegal market would evaporate overnight if Apple sold these parts to anyone.

And he would be wrong.

Remember, these criminals essentially get these parts for "free", they can undercut Apple even if Apple sells at cost.

And Apple never sells anything at cost.

Just like reputable shops don't sell stolen goods, reputable repair shops wouldn't use stolen parts.

I mean, yeah, they would be cheaper, but that's the case for anything stolen. Yet we don't have an epidemic of all shops in the USA selling stolen goods they got for cheap.

For the shop if your options are: buy stolen parts or close your business... you're probably going to buy the stolen parts until you get caught.

Would I? If we consider that practically everything available for sale right now is also available illegally, for less, why don't people do all their shopping on the black market?

Western society is pretty conformist. Give us a legitimate way to purchase something and most of us will feel more comfortable using it. Even if that means paying more.

The people selling these boards had the market to themselves.

These guys are stealing parts to supply a black market (which exists because there is a demand that Apple will not sate).

I didn't say anything about "right to repair" but if there were one, I can only imagine that would come with a demand that electronics manufacturers make parts available (which would obsolesce the black market).

What are they expecting when fraud is the only way to get iPhone repair parts short of buying entire phones? They also could have dramatically reduced fraud by creating a legitimate sales channel for the parts rather than making it as difficult as possible for anyone else to fix their devices.

That's not an excuse. Or at least not any better than someone stealing organs because legal ones are so hard to come by.

As long as the law allows Apple to restrict the supply then what they're doing is just immoral, not illegal. What those fraudsters are doing though is both. They're not stealing just to fix their own phones, they're not doing it as a "public service", they're stealing to line their pockets.

Pretty sure that if someone stole from you the excuse above wouldn't be acceptable regardless of the circumstances.

[Later Edit] Had no idea there are so many "Robin Hoods" on HN.

It's more like Apple comes to the court of public opinion for equitable relief, but has unclean hands.

Its history of hostility towards self-repair and independent professional repair basically precludes them from complaining about the grey markets and black markets in Apple device repair parts. Of course the black marketeers are in it to line their own pockets. They wouldn't be able to do that if Apple weren't artificially restricting the supply! It couldn't be a racket without Apple's help.

Apple elected to operate the Apple repair business as a monopoly, restricting supply to raise prices, and parasitic businesses are trying to siphon some of the monopoly profit off. It's illegal, but that's just one factor in the economic analysis of potential [criminal] entrepreneurs.

It isn't that they deserve to be plundered by poor thieves because they are rich, but that they deserve to lose some of their repair revenues because their repair policies are unreasonable in the opinion of some consumers.

Aside from that, I'm glad that they're combating the fraud on their own, rather than pushing the problem onto national criminal justice systems as an externality of their business. But that's mainly because they believe Chinese cops would be uncooperative in prosecuting Chinese citizens on behalf of a foreign-owned company.

> It's more like Apple comes to the court of public opinion for equitable relief, but has unclean hands.

This is not about what Apple is doing, it's about people justifying stealing and suddenly finding it OK because Apple is on the other end. Of course I'm not OK with what Apple is doing but morally you can't justify doing something shitty because "they" do it too.

> Apple elected to operate the Apple repair business as a monopoly

Again, this is trying to justify stealing. The way they choose to run their business does not justify breaking the law. It justifies changing it.

> they deserve to lose some of their repair revenues because their repair policies are unreasonable

And doing that by stealing or justifying this method makes you no better than them or the fraudsters. If you want them to lose revenue buy/repair with someone else, don't steal.

How is this different from someone stealing a phone and saying "it's because Apple made them so unreasonably expensive"?

It reminded me of this parody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51-hepLP8J4

> This is not about what Apple is doing, it's about people justifying stealing and suddenly finding it OK because Apple is on the other end. Of course I'm not OK with what Apple is doing but morally you can't justify doing something shitty because "they" do it too.

Actually, you can. It is not a criminal defense, but it is an equitable defense, and the court of public opinion is a court of equity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_hands

To be more nuanced, it isn't justifying the stealing so much as ignoring Apple's complaints when they whine about it. Who are we to care if two blackguards are to brawl in the gutter? It's bad that the stealing by fraud is happening. But because it is Apple that is the victim, I am entirely unwilling to help them with this problem that they brought upon themselves with their own avarice.

And that's fine. They're dealing with it alone, apparently. But not with my revenues. I won't willingly enter the garden with the highest walls and the most dongles with proprietary patented connectors and the most secret repair procedures. I can still hate the thieves while expressing zero or negative sympathy to the victim.

The situation is akin to a heroin dealer getting robbed of his cash. The robber is scum for stealing money, but so too is the dealer scum for peddling poison to junkies in lieu of a more ethical product with lower margins. I'd have more sympathy for a marijuana dispensary, and perhaps some actual motivation to punish the robber if the victim were an entirely-lawful pharmacy. If you want a society to help you with your problems, you need to do things that the society likes.

In short, until Apple respects right to repair and starts selling genuine repair parts at reasonable cost (including bureaucratic procedural cost), I won't care one whit that they're being fleeced for billions on repair fraud.

In the court of public opinion you can judge anything any way you like if you have enough people behind it. That seems to work ok with extremism, why wouldn’t it work with stealing, right? Just because you can judge doesn’t mean you’re right.

In the meantime Apple is immoral for profit. You’re immoral out of principle.

As I said before, in the court of public opinion even rape is justifiable by what the victim did (Dressed too provocatively? Got too drunk? Deserved it). “The public said it, must be correct”.

You're tilting at strawmen, I think. I'm rather confident at this point that you either cannot understand my position, by cognitive insufficiency, or will not, by rhetorical malice. Either way, I won't be wasting any more replies.

> cognitive insufficiency

You sure made your point insulting me... Congratulations, following the values of decency and of HN to the letter. You’re definitely perfectly qualified to serve in the court of public opinion.

I completely understand your position. I simply consider it wrong and you brought no argument to support it besides “some random people on the internet agree with me”. This is everything suporting your position at this point. To support my position I have the law and an overwhelming consensus that stealing to line your pockets is wrong.

You have an opinion and an internet connection. And you won’t let something as insignificant as it being illegal stop you from strongly supporting it (insults included).

You will slowly realize why the court of public opinion is worthless when it comes to a moral judgement. Yes, great for a media circus and anonymous pearls of wisdom. Not so great for any judgement of value.

What?! It's criminal fraud, it's illegal and should be illegal period.

Your argument is extremely dangerous, it's no different from "of course you got robbed and beaten, what are you expecting when you walk into a dangerous neighborhood?"

There's a very important line between what's illegal/criminal (robbery, fraud) and what's merely objectionable/distasteful (not selling repair parts), and it's a dangerous game to confuse the two.

It's not black and white.

Apple knows it's increasing the reward of fraud — and therefore its own loss to fraud — by not selling parts. But Apple accepts that cost and chooses only to take enforcement actions, not market actions.

The fact that Apple knows the risk and considers it still makes sense financially to maintain their policy has nothing to do with the situation being "black or white".

The practice described in this article is illegal, plain and simple. It's fraud. It is very much black and white. Finding some "moral" justification for why you may think it's OK to do it doesn't change this.

I know I'm going to get downvoted to hell but you're playing the victim blaming game. And yes, I know it sounds ridiculous to say Apple is a victim but it's still stealing and you're justifying it. Sounds a lot like the people who blame the rape victim for dressing "inappropriately" and "increasing the reward".

Dude, _nobody_ cares about the legality of it. We're looking at it from the market perspective. And in the market perspective Apple can do a lot of things to prevent this rather than whine about the obvious results of its policy.

As a trillion-dollar company, I couldn't give less of a shit about its victimhood.

I do and that’s why I commented. Dude. You seem to think that any opinion different from yours should simply be suppressed. That’s a good label to have attached to your comments to put them in perspective.

If you wanted a venue where everyone has to agree with you or shut up your living room was more appropriate.

And I’ll have to say your definition of “nobody” is extremely narrow based on the dynamic of the votes for those opinion “nobody cares about”.

Although I’ll admit the “I’m OK with stealing if the company is rich and I don’t like ‘em” group is in the lead.

I feel like this is a PR attempt to divert attention away from their intense opposition to right-to-repair, especially given the recent articles such as https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18144489 .

>later developed diagnostic software that allowed retail employees to quickly detect fake parts in iPhones.

agreed. this seems like a very transparent attempt to counter the growing anger over Apple's hostility to right-to-repair

On Sunday CBC's The National aired an episode exposing Apple attempting to charge a customer $1k for a 2 minute repair:


Incidentally, a few days before that the building next to Rossmann's repair shop caught fire...


If so I hope it works, since "Right To Repair" is itself an attention diverter from what most of the public actually wants/needs and what should really be in law, even if they don't have words for it: a right to have problems dealt with at zero monetary cost for a reasonable period of time in line with the sticker price. "Repairability" is one possible tool in the box to help accomplish this, but for most people it's a tool, not a goal in and of itself. Even on HN where there are a lot of people who want to be able to tinker there are also tons of people who don't want to have to tinker, who appreciate being able to dig in where they like but not need to elsewhere.

And repairability forces tradeoffs of its own in other product qualities that people care a great deal about. The frustration people feel over the USA's crappy warranty and consumer protection policies is real and well deserved, but the repair thing is red herring from actually fixing that. In general legislation should focus on goals not means, means change rapidly and different people will desire different tradeoffs, that's what markets are actually good at figuring out. They don't have goals themselves, but they're good at optimizing towards goals and then dynamically adjusting over time.

I don't think the "right to repair" groups are all astroturfers and PR campaigns themselves, as well as companies that stand to profit I'm sure there are a few tinkerers who genuinely want it and a much bigger group that just hasn't thought deeply about it, but it's still frustrating to see all this energy finally boil up and end up in something that could be actively harmful to some stuff people like and misses the chance to actually internalize another set of costs and make everything work better. "Right to have dealt with for a time proportional to price paid" doesn't at all roll off the tongue as well but it'd be much better law.

Edit: I hope people will not get too bogged down with lack of implementation details here, this post is not a research paper and I could have been more precise (and maybe doing such a thing would genuinely be a worthwhile exercise). Objections have been raised about accidental breakage for example, and I got confused by one reply, while I think the price should remain external for that one but can see an argument that the availability for an extra time period should not. Ie., if you break it then the manufacturer isn't on the hook for the cost (though you can insure) but the manufacturer should still be required to deal with it at cost for an extended time, maybe even after the main coverage period ends. The main take home I wanted to argue was that "repairability" is just one tool in the box, and at least in the legislation attempts I've seen there doesn't seem to be acknowledgement that features like security, worse active matter to dead matter ratios, and durability can all be negatively impacted by "repairability". Implementation details would absolutely have to be carefully examined and argued about, but I stand by the goal being that products "last a reasonable time" and should never be a lottery for the public.

None of us should have to wonder about invisible failure rates and repair/replace costs of any sort when browsing the aisle in a store or pages online, that should be the responsibility of whomever is making it. They're the ones best placed to price it in, and to work and innovate to make that price lower or the value higher in whatever way they deem fit.

It’s not about tinkering. If right to repair was a thing, you wouldn’t tinker, you would take your broken apple product to somewhere that can repair it for you.

What you’re proposing is much more reliant on apple than right to repair would be.

> a right to have problems dealt with at zero monetary cost for a reasonable period of time in line with the sticker price

so If I am clumsy and accidentially break my display of my macbook (entirely my fault), apple should replace it for free?

Dell replaces (or used to anyway) failed-upon-receipt 'new' machines with refurbs. You order a new laptop, it comes and doesn't turn on, you return it, ok so far. Then you get a refurb in the mail as a 'warranty replacement'. Paid for new, got used. How do they get away with it?

Because if they fixed the exact laptop you bought then it's basically a refurb at that point.

How about, they send you a fricking new laptop that works? Like you paid for. And refurb that dead-on-arrival thing to sell to somebody that wants a refurb.

Under UK law, you could demand a refund. You don't have to accept a repair or replacement for something that's DOA.

That's not what the OP was discussing. Does Dell replace a laptop if you drop it and crack its screen?

Huh? How is that a problem with the product? If you want protection against your own usage risks (accident, theft, etc) that's what insurance is for. But if the law required (this is completely as a quick example, there would need to be some real debate over exactly what lines up with reasonable expectations, and maybe it should be non-linear at the high end) 1 month per $35 with a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 5 years, and your $1600 Macbook had a display failure under normal usage 3 years and 2 months after buying it, then yes Apple would be required to deal with it for free.

And again "deal with it", it's up to them how. A replacement would obviously do it, but so would a repair, the whole point is each manufacturer could optimize for what they think is the best approach. Some will in fact go for easy repairability part swapping, so basically making each individual repair as cheap as possible. Others will work to increase their QA to reduce overall incident rate, so despite each individually costing more the overall rate would still be acceptable. There will be efforts to leverage the value offered by more compact systems into higher profit margins which then can help offset repair/replace costs too. Etc, everyone will do their own thing, and consumers will see in the sticker price all of that internalized for each company and know that no matter what they buy they can expect it to be taken care of for a reasonable period of time without any "extended warranty" shenanigans (extended warranties should only be necessary for professional/enterprise customers who really need a support cycle completely divorced from standard consumer usage and they can negotiate that and any SLAs themselves).

it is not a problem with the product, which is my point. The hardware provider is absolutely in their right to say "this isnt our fault, we're not fixing it", or to say "yeah that new screen will be $1000"

So no, we dont need "problems dealt with at zero monetary cost", we need hardware we can fix ourself. If you dont have a right to repair it yourself, you're at the mercy of the hardware provider, even if the screen only costs 1/10th of the quoted price, and you could do it yourself.

>So no, we dont need "problems dealt with at zero monetary cost", we need hardware we can fix ourself. If you dont have a right to repair it yourself, you're at the mercy of the hardware provider, even if the screen only costs 1/10th of the quoted price, and you could do it yourself.

I made an edit, I think I misunderstood you and I apologize. It may be for example that there should be provisions requiring that accidents are still covered within a time period "at cost" though not for free.

But if you want "hardware you can fix yourself" as a feature in and of itself, then I think you should just be asking that of the market and buying accordingly, I don't think it's a universal. And I want the option to sacrifice that for other values when I deem it appropriate. For example, I use my smartphone for significant amounts of financial transactions, administrative access, and it has an enormous amount of highly personal information as well. I value it being highly sealed off (and would like it to be even more so, I'd be happy with a phone that's not just IP68 but good to 10 or 20 ATM too). How do you propose to legislatively require a "right to repair" there while not having that break the hardware trust chain? How does it interact with value of sealing and form factor? It seems to me that everyone has different needs there, which in turn suggests to me that it's not something to legislatively require but rather leave it up to the market. On the other hand that someone should be able to buy something and have it last a reasonable time period and if broken it should be replaceable/repairable at cost seems like it should be part of the price. Am I totally off on that to you?

FWIW I don't think the same applies to software, in that case I think it should be required by law that owners may load their own private keys in addition to whatever the manufacturer offers. But right now I really think the option to buy into features like a hardware trust chain where I need never worry about anyone but the minimum of the original manufacturer (who is part of that by definition anyway) is desirable. I don't see how to avoid that meaning that 3rd party unauthorized repairs get closed off in turn. It's a tradeoff.

You should check out Linus Sebastian's experience with his broken iMac Pro screen.

He wanted to pay for the repairs, and Apple refused.

He then tried to buy the parts separately, and apparently if you got them from Apple, it would cost more than the computer was worth.

He eventually managed to source the parts through various people at a reasonable cost and repair his broken iMac with Louis Rossman.

Here are some of the videos (I'm sure I missed a couple, but it's a very interesting series of videos)




Apple could offer insurance, knowing full well how often accidents happen and how fragile mostly their phones are.

Insurance is for accidents; warranty is for their failures. And they have had a number of problems with pretty much every generation of product that would fall under warranty - delaminating screens (got it), broken speakers (got it), antennagate, etc.

They do offer insurance. It’s called AppleCare. It covers 2 accidental damages (read: cracked screens) and more.

And if the 2 years of warranty is over and my product breaks should I throw the device?

I had one of those early 2011 Macbook Pros that had the overheating GPU problem.

That overheating problem was well known, and it took a long time for Apple to recognize the problem and issue a repair order. It was long enough that the AppleCare expired for those who got the MBP right after release, like me.

Because the problem was really bad (logic board replacements had the same issue, and the problem would recur within a couple of months) that a lot of people who had bricked MBP's disposed of them, sometimes at a heavy loss.

I was lucky I didn't throw my bricked MBP in the bin, so when the repair order finally arrived months after my MBP bricked, I was able to get it fixed. I had switched to Windows in that time, and I ended up unloading it to a friend of mine (with full disclosures of its lineage).

I own a second hand Macbook, it has an issue with the screen and a slow harddrive, I am not fixing it because I do not use it anymore (I never liked laptops and this was the cheapest way I could test on a Mac at that time).

If Apple had it's way in future in a similar scenario, I could not fix it locally and cheap or the working parts could not be reused to fix other people devices.

I had a laptop that broke before(my fault), I went with it at shop and the motherboard needed to be replaced, I did not want to spend money on that but I could sell to them my remaining working components if I wanted too(screen and RAM) I did that and I still have somewhere the CPU,motherboard and the rest of the components.

It seeems like that’s an intellectually dishonest response. It’s clear that’s not what OP meant. That type of argument is lazy and doesn’t belong on HN. OP was pretty clearly talking about manufacturing defects and other issue, not damage caused by the consumer.

"a right to have problems dealt with at zero monetary cost for a reasonable period of time in line with the sticker price"

isn't this a "guarantee for faulty goods"?

"Under EU rules you always have the right to a minimum 2-year guarantee at no cost, regardless of whether you bought your goods online, in a shop or by mail order." https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/shopping/gua...

"After 6 months, in most EU countries, you need to prove that the defect already existed on receipt of the goods - for example, by showing that it is due to the poor quality of the materials used."

If a hard drive breaks at random, good luck proving it's not built as designed.

If it's within 2-3 years you can take it for warranty, because the EU laws indicate that electronics have a minimum reasonable life time - 3 years for most products.

Hard drives is a bad example though, given how many hard drive manufacturers offer a 5 year factory warranty themselves (or this used to be the case anyway).

And if it's by design, that's a class action lawsuit.

In my experience with HDD warranty you get "refurbished", "recertified" drives that break again within a month.

In the UK, and I believe this is common in other EU countries as well, that doesn't matter. Durability is an implied term of the contract, and in most cases (buying a hard drive as new) it's hard to see how lasting 6 months would be sufficiently durable.

> The quality of goods is satisfactory if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory [...] The quality of goods includes their state and condition; and the following aspects (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods [...] durability.


My experience: Most brand tech companies (and Amazon EU) replace or fix the devices (hard drive, phone, etc) in cases like this within two years, no "proof" required.

Hard Drives that are included in the product are usually covered under normal warranty. Considering that modern harddrives include G-force sensors including logging drop events, it should be provable if a harddrive failed due to a drop or not (ie, read out G-force events and see if they line up with failed sensors).

Apple waived the cost of replacing the hard drive in my 4 year old iMac, just 2 weeks ago.

You probably encountered an accommodating tech, which is cool, but we shouldn't have to rely on that.

Right to repair is not the right to repair the thing myself, is the right to have someone fix it, why should I send my 6 years old Macbook sent in US to be fixed by Apple (with a cost 2 times more then the money I paid for it) instead of having a third party person in my area use a component from a different Macbook to fix it.

"a right to have problems dealt with at zero monetary cost for a reasonable period of time in line with the sticker price. "

We have words for this - It is called "WARRANTY".

Warranty however does not fix post warranty-period defects and this is where "right to repair" enters. Am I wrong about this?

> The frustration people feel over the USA's crappy warranty and consumer protection policies is real and well deserved,

It also lead to lower or possibly lowest price of electronic products in US compared to rest of the world. Once regulations for better protection is in place and price also will adjust.

Good. Maybe that will reduce the need to throw away perfectly working things just because the new model is a millimeter thinner.

>It also lead to lower or possibly lowest price of electronic products in US compared to rest of the world

That's exactly like saying that letting chemical manufacturers just dump waste products directly into a river "lead to lower or possibly lowest price of chemical products". The whole issue with externalized costs is that they are in fact still real costs, except that it's not reflected in the price people see and thus there is no pressure to work on lowering it. Someone is still paying, often even the same people buying (directly or indirectly), but the signal is diluted.

It's not as if failed electronic products don't impose costs on the US too, it's just that the failure rate isn't included in the price but instead falls arbitrarily and inefficiently on individuals and society. Including it in the price won't necessarily change anything at all for some companies, it will simply reveal what was there all along. Companies that can deal with it cheaply thanks to superior practices will rightly be able to offer better value then those that cannot, and that's exactly what we want!

Not when you consider total cost of ownership. Anything you have to replace frequently, spending time and money, is not cheap by any means

I think you do not understand what Right to Repair is about, what you are talking about, and what Right to Repair is going for are 2 separate issues. Both should be addressed equally.

Manufacturers should stand behind their products, AND I should have the right to myself or hire a 3rd party to repair the devices I own with out facing legal repercussions in the form of IP Limitations, or prohibition on obtaining parts, manuals, schematics, etc. nor be prohibited from disseminating information on how to repair devices, creating tools to repair devices (including circumventing DRM protections), etc.

This is what Right to Repair is for, it is a separate issue from what you are looking to accomplish

> Apple also began dipping batteries in a special dye that could only be seen under a high-frequency light to authenticate them during repairs.

That's marketing speak for "they used invisible ink and a UV lamp"

That's marketing speak for "they used invisible ink and a UV lamp"

Considering that Apple is the biggest company in Silicon Valley, and every bar and night club bouncer from Boston to Bangkok has access to UV ink, it’s pretty safe to say that this isn’t just hand stamp ink.

Is it possible to make inks that are tuned to very specific frequencies? Any UV lamp (that I expect has a pretty broad spectrum still) would be able to see it, but you need a special one tuned to an exact (secret, but probably easily backwards-engineered) frequency to authenticate the specific ink used.

And then they can print a bar or QR code with exact tracking information and history for the part.

Reminds me of the fake Apple stores all over China that were closed a few years ago. Interior design was copied, Geniuses with the shirts, and so on. This article [1] mentions 22 stores in one city:

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-14503724

I can't help but think why did this story get posted now when it started in 2012 / 2013 and has been known for a long time, another PR pieces for the on going trade war? Hong Kong got rid of the 14 days return policy because of the exact same problem mentioned, at the time no body cared to write about it because it wasn't "news worthy" enough.

Why do they not include all the Genius Bar appointment slot has been pre booked and on-sale in Taobao?( At least some point in the past ) Getting Apple to look at their phone in a timely manner would have some help so people don't go to third party repair shop.

From 2010 to 2013, I worked at an Apple Retail store in the East Bay of California and handled phone repairs for the latter two.

The amount of fraud was ridiculous. We would get at least a dozen attempts at replacing phones (and sometimes laptops) that were clearly tampered with. You would have people coming in with up to four appointments at a time, each time with a phone that had the same issue -- it wouldn't power on. Why? Because they short circuited the logic board on purpose.

If we rejected a claim for tampering, they would pretty much go right out the store and (this is what one of the loss prevention people told me at the time) someone would swap out the internal serial number sticker for one that was more likely to be not blacklisted, and try again at another store in the region the next day.

This happened every single day I worked there. I vividly remember one extra aggressive person trying to bully us into a replacement for half an hour after the store had already closed who had already been refused on six separate occasions from different stores in the market.

This fraud doesn't just happen in China, it's everywhere.

Incredible effort on behalf of the fraudsters.

Be nice if someone could run the numbers though. After the time and monetary cost spent buying fake components, switching them, planning the deceit, managing 'actors' and adapting to Apple's countermeasures strategy, what's the margin on the stolen components?

I guess these are mostly labour costs though, so - if you're a gang - you outsource it to your minions.

As an Apple user I find it sad to see this on the frontpage rather than Apples recent Anti-repair and anti-refurbish stories.

I've never heard Shenzhen be described as a hotbed for criminal activity before.

I mean NYC is also a hotbed for criminal activity, compared to Podunk, so it's true?

The waterproof sealant is just a conformal coating, it glows under a blacklight normally.

"Multi-Billion-Dollar iPhone Repair Fraud in China"

"But as the problem started to have a material impact on Apple's financial sheet, to the tune of billions, the company began to take further action."

Multi-billion seems implausible. Really? Apple achieves its financial performance despite absorbing multiple billions of dollars in repair costs? And Apple took no action until billions were lost? I don't doubt this was an expensive scam, but extraordinary claims need to be better substantiated.

Good point, let's check plausibility:

The report notes 2000 cases per week in the Shenzhen store. With 50 weeks per year, 500$ damage per phone, you need 20 store-years to reach a billion.

A quick check [1] shows that Apple has 40 stores in China (and that's not counting authorised repair centres), and the problem began 6 years ago.

So even assuming the other stores are not as problematic as the Shenzhen ones, the figure could be in the right ballpark.

Next, Apple has about USD 250 bn revenue, and 50 bn net income annually [2], so absorbing a billion here and there is not implausible.

[1] https://www.apple.com/retail/storelist/ [2] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/AAPL/key-statistics?p=AAPL

EDIT for clarity.

They probably count each repair as a "lost sale". If someone repairs an iPhone for $100 apple sells one less iPhone for $800. In other words on their theoretical balance sheets each repair is a $700 loss of revenue. Of course this is bullshit but that doesn't change the fact that lawmakers let themselves be influenced by it.

I am sure they are using "Hollywood" or entertainment industry math to come up with that.

Tech Companies are Learning from Hollywood on how to make up damage claims, RIAA started it by claiming every Download off Napster was a "lost sale" so they quickly got to millions and millions of lost sales...

Microsoft recently used similar "math" in the Recovery CD case to inflate the damages to send a man to prison for redistributing OEM Restore CD's instead of buying Microsoft's over priced "refurbished PC" license on computers that already had a valid OEM License

Companies like Apple are very very very good at inflating their losses especially when it comes to Courts and Taxes

Uhh... they're mentioning that the A-series CPUs are being specially coated. Why? This should only be needed in case that there are fake CPUs or fake motherboards in circulation, in which case Apple has a larger problem than fake batteries.

After all customers should immediately notice that their iPhone has no iOS any more after they get it back from the fraudulent repair shop.

That’s not the way the fraud is alleged to have worked. The article claims that fraudsters swapped fake parts into legitimate iPhones and then took them to Apple for repair. Apple would then put legitimate parts into the “broken” iPhone.

I think the article was suggesting that they would just give the customer a new phone and trash/send the broken one out for repairs.

> Apple has a larger problem than fake batteries

I bet they do.

The fraudsters apparently have ways to prevent their helpers from walking away with a free IPhone.

Given that we're talking about organized crime here I would assume that these ways include very credible threats of violence.

Which may sound easier than it is, considering that the fraudsters need a good quantity of fake customers and want to avoid tipping off the "geniuses" by having enforcers hover in the vicinity.

The fraudsters could simply sell the fake iPhones to the fake customers for a bit less than the market price of a refurbished iPhone, and then buy the illegally obtained replacement at price.

The fake customer gets to keep the difference as a commission, or keep the iPhone if he prefers to. If the swapping fraud works, that's win/win in any case, except for Apple.

That would mean the fake customers would have to invest the price of an IPhone, and risk losing that amount of money because either the Apple shop is onto the fraud or the fraudsters just rip THEM off, too.

Not that simple.

Yeah, let's make sure no one can repair anything ever, and they need to buy a new one every time we pull the kill switch! Now, 0% repair fraud, hooray...

I have a suspicion that, if this is true, sales will also drop dramatically in China after this.

Why would it drop?

Interesting how he used the illustration of a “chop shop”. You would think a multi billion dollar company would have security measures in place for this kind of stuff but it just shows that we will never be able to stop criminal acts, only mitigate them to an extent.

oh good, now they can do the same in the USA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2_SZ4tfLns

It never was fraudulent, first planned obsolesence and now they're trying to control who can repair. Honestly disgusting.

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