Read Apple’s 2020 Environmental Progress Report

Originally published at: Read Apple’s 2020 Environmental Progress Report - TidBITS

If you’re concerned about the environment and climate change, Adam Engst encourages you to read Apple’s 2020 Environmental Progress Report, which details the numerous ways that the company works to protect and restore the environment. It’s more—probably vastly more—than you realized.

I’d be a lot more impressed if Apple dropped its resistance to Right to Repair. And didn’t have things ike throw-away ear buds.

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Indeed! I was planning to mention the Right to Repair stuff as something Apple needed to improve on, but it was one of those thoughts that occurred to me during a long bike ride and that I forgot about when finalizing the article.

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Yep. The best way to avoid e-waste is to make products that last for a very long time. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Easy and cheap to repair/replace components (for consumers as well as repair shops)
  • User-replaceable batteries
  • User-replaceable and upgradable RAM and storage
  • Software support for as long as the hardware remains viable
  • The ability to use third-party system software when the manufacturer drops their support
  • Standard interfaces that “just work”

You find this all the time with stereo equipment - especially older gear. Audio and video cables are standardized, allowing you to mix and match equipment from different vendors. The signals for analog audio are so standardized that I can take equipment manufactured in the 1930’s from anywhere in the world and it will easily work with anything manufactured today.

It was also common (until the mid-90’s) for equipment manufacturers to include schematics with every unit sold - either in the owner’s manual or on a sticker attached inside the device’s enclosure. Service manuals were also readily available, usually for an extra fee, but available to anyone who wants to pay for them. There’s no real reason why companies can’t go back to doing this other than an active desire to generate e-waste when products break.

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While I agree with you overall, “Right to Repair” definitely has some problems that I saw first hand as a 15-year Apple Retail employee. You simply would not believe how many customers mess up and totally ruin their devices by trying to do repairs themselves. Things like replacing a battery or the touch screen on an iPhone. Then, at that point, they would bring the iPhone (or Mac) to the store and expect Apple to fix it once they’ve clearly damaged it. This is problematic in so many ways because Apple can’t be responsible for either the bad repair job or the quality of the third party parts they used to do the repair. And a lot of the time, we could not undo the damage they’ve done and as a result, the customer wound up having to pay for a complete replacement, incurring much more cost than if they brought it to the store for repair in the first place. These incidents are why Apple doesn’t sell service parts to customers…

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I now know people in Ag twitter who work on farm equipment. They see farmers bringing in brand new disassembled transmissions expecting the dealer to repair them for free after they mucked them up. Many other negative opinions about how farmers abuse their equipment but that’s another story. So yes, there are people who will try self repairs and expect Apple to fix it for free. And sometimes Apple will not want to touch it even for a fee because they might not be able to evaluate the full amount of damaged. That happened to people making a video and took apart their brand new iMac Pro and dropped the screen, breaking it.

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And so this is the fault of the buyers, and not that of Apple for purposely making the devices impossible to open or repair/replace known life-limited components? This seems more like a planned obsolescence move by Apple rather than a cost reduction tact, and clearly anti-consumer.

From bjmajor’s description, the difficulty of opening the case had absolutely nothing to do with the voiding of Apple’s warranty for repairs. The fact that the owner damaged the internals rather than fixing fixing anything, or they tried replacing a part with a substandard non Apple part that wouldn’t function properly, was why they would have to pay for Apple to repair it. It is a “you broke it; you pay for it” scenario.

One of the reasons why I prefer Apple stuff is that their products are more durable, longer lasting and safer on a dollar for dollar comparison than those of competitors. Stuff of this magnitude never happened with Apple hardware:

And none of these flamed out devices had their internals tampered with by their owners.

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If it truly were a planned obsolescence move, Apple would not be replacing batteries, cameras, and broken screens for models that are generations back from the current phone. As of November, we were still repairing models as old as iPhone 5…

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Exactly.

In a case where a customer screws up their device Apple is perfectly within their right to charge for whatever repairs are necessary to restore the device. And nobody would fault them for it.

That said, none of that is an argument in favor of letting Apple be some kind of uber-nanny who gets to decide which risk I as the person who bought the device am willing to take. If I can repair a device safely and without screwing it up, I should be perfectly within my right to do so. Even more so when I can carry out a repair Apple would no longer cary out (with the corresponding environmental impact). They have no business impeding that. I’m a big boy, I don’t need Apple to protect me from my own risk assessment. If I pay full price for an Apple device I want to be able to use it as I like. I’m not a renter or lessee. I own the kit. In my book, that’s where the bucks stops. If I do nothing reckless they have no business interfering with that. In a world where everybody is claiming they are out-greening each other, I can’t believe we are even debating this.

This got the little wheels turning in my brain. Apple is making durable, long lasting, environmentally sustainable hardware, and frequently updating its OSes, software and building out services are great ways to keep buyers locked in to an ecosystem. So is offering extended warranties and comparatively easy to access repair services.

Keeping Macs, iPhones, iPads, Watches, AirPods, Beats alive is what sells services, and we can soon add the upcoming glasses into the picture. It’s a sustainable business and environmental model. Would Samsung, Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc. keep supporting its hardware as long as Apple does, even making a commitment to support Intel Macs for five years after switching to ARM?

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Having only Apple to go to for repairs is the very essence of the issues being fought by the right-to-repair movement, and a key part of planned obsolescence with their monopoly on repair price setting.

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Planned obsolescence means discouraging a buyer from holding onto a product too long without replacing it or actively discouraging repairs on said product in favor of getting a new one. I’ve already stated that Apple doesn’t do this as they repair several previous generations of iPhone.

Want to fix it yourself or go to one of many Mall kiosks there are for iPhone repair? Apple’s not stopping you from doing either. But those kiosks don’t have Apple-trained technicians or approved service parts to do the job and in using them, you are taking a risk that is simply not worth it if something goes wrong. The choice is totally up to you.

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I would be unable to buy parts to fix my TV or monitor, microwave or most of my other household devices either, even if I wanted to. And neither my Sony TV and DVD player, my Samsung monitor, or any of my removable hard drives came with an instruction manual or have online repair guides. I probably could not buy replacement parts for them anyway. And Apple does have authorized service providers, including Best Buy. I would have to go there to fix any of the above mentioned products as well.

Other companies build computer models with cases that are hard to crack. Here’s one example:

The only example I could find of possible planned obsolescence of any Apple products was “battery gate,” when Apple slowed down the iPhone 6. Samsung was guilty of it as well. And Apple quickly offered free repairs.

There are, however, very many conspiracy theories about Apple and planned obsolescence out there:

I suggest reading earlier posts in this thread about the longevity of Apple devices.

This is not the case. Apple IS stopping you from using third-party repair shops. They lobby for legislation to make such work illegal, citing irrelevant laws like the DMCA and anything else their lawyers can think of.

They’ve also put encryption codes in batteries and screens so a third-party repair shop can’t replace them without extensive hackery. Even replacement with a genuine Apple part will often fail, simply because Apple deliberately designed the products to prevent this.

They make design changes that serve no purpose other than to make it extra-difficult for third parties to get replacement parts. Go watch Louis Rossmann’s videos and you’ll see plenty of examples where Apple replaced an easily available chip (e.g. which you could buy from DigiKey or Mouser) with a different chip from the same manufacturer that has the exact same functionality (maybe only differs by swapping the signals on two pins), but that the manufacturer is not allowed to sell to anybody else. So the only way a repair shop can get the chip is to pull it from a junked computer.

And then they go to court and claim that third-party repair shops can’t do the work because they use parts pulled from scrap boards. Which they are doing specifically because Apple designed their products in order to eliminate any other possibility.

Apple’s argument against right-to-repair is 100% a business/political decision and has absolutely nothing to do with consumers, products, technology, the environment or anything else. Those are all just excuses.

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One can and I have purchased parts to fix my TVs, Microwave, Refrigerator, and many other consumer items. But by glueing Apple devices shut, using odd screw heads, not selling parts, and many other actions, Apple is completely different and definitely not repair or consumer friendly. You do not understand the right-to-repair movement.

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This program is a PR stunt. It may help Apple expand their network of stores that can perform repairs, but it does absolutely nothing to help consumers or independent repair shops.

  • Shops need to take down all customer contact information including their home addresses and submit it to Apple, who can use it for anything they want. Customer privacy is forbidden.
  • Shops are not allowed to maintain stock of parts. For every repair, the customer needs to drop off the equipment and wait for Apple to ship the replacement part so the shop can install it. So a one-hour job has to take over a week to complete.
  • Shops are forbidden from doing any repair jobs other than battery and screen replacements. Anything else breaks? You have to tell the customer to mail it to Apple. You can’t repair it yourself and you can’t mail it to Apple on the customer’s behalf.
  • Shops are prohibited from selling any products that Apple decides are “prohibited” whether or not they are used to repair Apple products.
  • The prices for replacement parts are the same high prices that Apple charges. And shops can not perform warranty repairs, so those costs have to be passed on to all customers.
  • Shops can be surprise-audited and fined at any time, even up to five years after terminating the agreement

This program doesn’t help the consumer in any way. Consumers get the exact same (or worse) service that they would get by going to an Apple Store and have to pay the full out-of-warranty price for services, no matter what the problem is. And the shops get severely punished if they try to do anything other than what Apple lets them do.

Please go watch Louis Rossmann’s video which explains all this far better than I could: https://youtu.be/rwgpTDluufY

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So Apple should reduce the functionality, safety, quality and integrity of its hardware? Turn its back on its commitment to lightweight, thin, speedy, durable, user friendly, precisely engineered, beautifully designed mobile and desktop devices? They should be using gigundo screws and larger, less reliable, removable batteries that will make devices bigger and heavier? Use less glue so backs of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, might pop off when people would never want them to?

I also think it’s highly unlikely that there is a significant number of people who invested a lot of money for an iPhone, iPad or Mac are willing to risk bricking it to change a battery or replace a screen. And if a shop wants to be certified to repair Apple devices, they should agree to use Apple parts and agree to have certified repair people.

You’re absolutely right. In fact, Josh Centers wrote about this back in Feb right here on TidBITS. He used language such as “the program increasingly seems untenable for repair shops” and “onerous details of the IRP”. I believe he linked to the same Louis Rossmann video you did.