One every time When the new iPhone launches, a team of technicians in the French city of Toulouse begin to take it apart. In the three years they’ve been doing this, they’ve found a device that gradually turns into a fortress. Today’s iPhones are packed with parts that can only be repaired or replaced by an expensive Apple-accredited repair facility. And France doesn’t like that at all.
“It’s a problem that’s only getting worse,” says Alexandre Isaac, CEO of The Repair Academy, the prestigious research and training group that runs the Toulouse workshop. Every time a new iPhone launches, his team finds a different part locked for use only with a specific Apple device. At first it was just a chip on the motherboard, he says. Then the list of parts with repair restrictions extended to Touch ID, Face ID, and finally the battery, screen, and camera.
By forcing people to pay an accredited technician more than the value of a used iPhone for a simple repair, Apple creates an incentive for people to throw out their devices rather than repair them, Isaac says. The Repair Academy estimates that an Apple-accredited technician charges customers twice as much as an independent repairer. “A lot of people think of Apple as super green,” Isaac says, referring to the solar panels at the company’s California headquarters and the recycled aluminum used to build MacBooks. The Repair Academy has gathered evidence to prove that is not the case. Instead, Apple’s engineers are proactively trying to make iPhones more difficult to repair, he argues.
It’s a problem that has haunted Isaac for years. And now a Paris prosecutor has decided to take action. On May 15, prosecutors announced that there would be an official investigation into allegations that Apple was pursuing a business model planned obsolescence– a term that refers to designing a product to intentionally limit its lifespan.
The prosecutor, who has delegated the investigation to France’s Department of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF), will have the power to fine the company and also examine whether Apple’s iPhone repair restrictions violate French law, activists claim . France has been at the forefront of the Right to Repair movement for years and launched Europe’s first company Repairability rating system. But this case underscores the country’s willingness to take on Apple and the way the company makes its products.
“France is pushing the right to repair in a way no one else has,” said Elizabeth Chamberlain, director of sustainability at iFixit, a US right-to-repair group. “This is the first time we’ve seen a national movement against planned obsolescence through part pairing.” Apple didn’t respond to WIRED’s request for comment. The company recently released its Environmental Progress Report 2023.
Part pairing, also known as “serialization,” links a phone’s serial number to the serial number of an internal part, allowing the phone to recognize if its screen, battery, or a sensor has been replaced. “With the iPhone, the most detrimental result is when trying to swap out two screens from two working iPhones,” Chamberlain says, adding that either the swap doesn’t work because the serial numbers don’t match, or because customers don’t You will be bombarded with alerts from your iPhone telling you that your screen is unverified.