Rotten Apple: Right to Repair Roundup

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Last week, iFixit reported on Apple’s latest salvo against the right to repair:

By activating a dormant software lock on their newest iPhones, Apple is effectively announcing a drastic new policy: only Apple batteries can go in iPhones, and only they can install them.

If you replace the battery in the newest iPhones, a message indicating you need to service your battery appears in Settings > Battery, next to Battery Health. The “Service” message is normally an indication that the battery is degraded and needs to be replaced. The message still shows up when you put in a brand new battery, however. Here’s the bigger problem: our lab tests confirmed that even when you swap in a genuine Apple battery, the phone will still display the “Service” message.

It’s not a bug; it’s a feature Apple wants. Unless an Apple Genius or an Apple Authorized Service Provider authenticates a battery to the phone, that phone will never show its battery health and always report a vague, ominous problem.

There are many concerns the Apple policy raises – some of which I have discussed before (see Design Genius Jony Ive Leaves Apple, Leaving Behind Crapified Products That Cannot Be Repaired).

I want to focus on one practical problem here: the dearth of Apple stores to conduct these repairs. This is a problem outside major US cities, as I understand there are big chunks of the US that lack Apple stores. This means people who live in these areas must now either schlep to an Apple store – or ship their iPhone – when they need a simple battery change (unless they are prepared to ignore bogus error messages). Uh huh.

The problem extends outside the US, too, as some astute commentators on the iFixit post have noted:

You don’t understand problem broadly enough. There are only few Apple Stores in the world. Apple is officially selling iPhones in European countries where they don’t have official service points. Support is only available as mail-in where even battery change can take from 1 to 4 weeks. You cannot even have loan phone from Apple.

Niko Salonen

Hahahahaha! So if 10% of people want to repair their 1500 dollar phone themselves, screw them? How about if it’s 15% of owners? 20%? Where do you draw the line? This doesn’t even mention the areas where Apple doesn’t have any physical stores. Would you want to wait WEEKS for your insanely high prices supposedly premium device to come back damaged from shipping because some teen in a woefully underpaid job didn’t pack it correctly?

Why not go write some Apple propaganda for them? I’m sure you’d be good at it.

Devon Lasher

And the phenomenon isn’t confined to Europe, but also affects Asia  – as I once discovered when the keyboard on my MacBook Pro stopped working. I happened to be passing through Sri Lanka – which, IIRC, had an official Mac repair facility. Alas, repairing my device required a replacement part, which had to be ordered and shipped from Singapore, and I didn’t want to linger in Colombo to await its arrival.

So I continued on my itinerary, and travelled to Kolkata. At that time, there were no official Mac stores in India, and the basic repair was going to take weeks – and leave me without the use of my computer. I coped by rigging up an external keyboard. But in other situations where I’ve needed to have my MacBook attended to whilst in India, I’ve relied on third-party repair services.

Sayonara MacBook Pro

Apple seems to be doubling down on its hostile policy toward third-party or DIY repair. As Vice reports:

…this move by Apple is the latest in a long string of actions that have made it more difficult for independent repair companies to work on its products. For example, the latest line of MacBook Pros has a software kill switch that has the ability to essentially end third-party repair.

Now, I’m not sure that Apple has thus far triggered that kill switch. But they can do so at any time. I’m mulling replacing my MacBook Pro. The crapification of Apple laptops – including the elimination of the MagSafe and the problematic butterfly keyboard – means that I cannot see my way to paying up to replace my MacBook with another MacBook. Knowing Apple has incorporated such a software kill switch combined with the company’s latest action on iPhone battery replacements adds up to a dealbreaker for me, especially as I spend much of my time far away from places that have a local Apple store.

Other Right to Repair Developments

I don’t want to close with my musings on Apple, so instead will note in passing some recent positive developments on the right to repair front.

First, the Federal Trade Commission last month conducted  a workshop, Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions. I wanted to write up this event at the time, but didn’t, as I was travelling  and had some computer issues that made it impossible to listen to a livestream of the event and to check in with the subsequent conference call arranged by right to repair advocates.

The issue is clearly on the FTC’s agenda- and the skeptic in me worries that opponents may exploit this interest either to thwart a right to repair – or to co-opt the issue and enshrine a “right” that hurts rather than helps consumers. So far, right to repair initiatives have arisen at the state level; this is the first time the federal government has taken up this issue, according to Wired:

At the heart of the issue lies the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, passed by Congress in 1975. The act was written in response to “widespread consumer dissatisfaction with both the content and performance of warranty obligations,” according to Fordham Law Review.

In short, it’s the law that governs consumer product warranties, and it prevents manufacturers — from automakers to tablet makers — from denying warranty coverage on a conditional basis. Manufacturers can’t void the warranty on a product just because the consumer went and repaired it themself, swapped parts, or had it fixed by a third party.

Just because the law prevents manufacturers from voiding a warranty on the grounds that a consumer used a third party to make a repair doesn’t prevent manufacturers from attempting to do just that. According to Wired:

But some manufacturers still use language suggesting that your warranty will be voided. Last April the FTC sent warning letters to six major companies: Asus, Hyundai, HTC, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. (Vice first obtained the list of manufacturers by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act.) In some cases, as with Microsoft’s Xbox One warranty, the language is just iffy enough to butt up against the law. Others are more explicit, like HTC, which applies stickers stating, “The limited warranty shall not apply if the warranty seal (void label) has been removed.”

Then, in October of last year, the nonprofit US Public Interest Research Group published a report that said 45 out of 50 companies surveyed still void warranty coverage in the case of independent repair. These companies, all members of the Association of Home Appliances Manufacturers, include Breville, Dyson, Haier, Hisense, LG Electronics, Philips Electronics, and Samsung Electronics America….

Both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have championed a right to repair for farm equipment, and the NYT editorial board is also on-board. So, depending on how 2020 plays out, a right to repair may pop up on the federal agenda – although at present, activity remains concentrated at the state level, where about 20 states have introduced relevant legislation.

Take Massachusetts, for example – a right to repair bellwether. After voters approved an auto right to repair ballot question in the 2012 general election, the state adopted a statute mandating that vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts would enjoy access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information provided to the manufacturers’ Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities. Once the cat was out of the bag in Massachusetts, manufacturers disseminated the information nationwide.

According to an op-ed in the Watertown Wicked Local, discussing a new MASSPIRG report:

Massachusetts residents are, in fact, very interested in repairing their broken devices. The report calculates that, in 2018, 1.6 million Bay Staters – nearly 1 in 4 Massachusetts residents – used the website iFixit.com as a free guide to fix their broken electronic devices. Evidently, consumer repair is in high demand.

Two pieces of right to repair legislation are pending in Massachusetts. Perhaps the state will lead the way on enacting a broad right to repair, as it did before with respect to auto repairs.

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77 comments

  1. EMtz

    There is one authorized Apple store in all of Mexico. One. In Mexico City four hours away from where I live. My next phone will be a Huawei. I’m done with Apple’s attutude.

    Reply
    1. flora

      The are ~270 Apple stores in the US. They’re all in metro areas. If you’re in western Nebraska or Oklahoma you’re out of luck. I used to be a fan of Apple products. Not any more.

      Reply
  2. Inode_buddha

    This has been going on for decades in most industries. Its the reason why I kept my 30-year old Jeep instead of trading…. I refuse to own something that I don’t really own. At one time (when I was a child, dinosaurs roamed the earth…) vendor lock-in and planned obsolescence tactics were ostracized as “shady business tactics ” but they were not outright illegal.

    Reply
  3. Tinky

    Though unsurprising, this is very sad.

    I co-authored and edited some books on the very first Mac (1980s), and have used Apple computers ever since. For some of the reasons touched on by Jerri-Lynn, I currently use a 2012 MacBook Air, and Mac Mini for my desktop from the same year.

    When those excellent, older machines inevitably break down, or become unviable, I’m not sure if I will be able to remain loyal. Such a shame.

    Reply
    1. Abi

      I agree.

      My MacBook from uni (2011) is what I still use, it recently developed a power button issue and I had to change the whole keyboard. Dreading the day it finally gives up.

      My iPhone 6 on the other hand hasn’t even lasted two years, already thinking of an upgrade.

      I wonder though, what’s driving this policy? Does Apple not see itself as a sustainable company? Why the push for short term cash over long term customer loyalty? #confused

      Reply
    2. Geo

      Same here. Been using Apple since the Apple 2GS and currently have a 2012 MacBook Pro and Mac Pro tower. It’s a constant chore to keep them working as software and OS make older hardware obsolete.

      Just last week had a total meltdown due to some hidden OS “kernel” (whatever that is) which turned my NVidia graphics card into brick. Still trying to sort out how to solve that problem and it’s seriously delayed post-production on my nearly competed indie feature film I’ve been working on for almost three years. It’s supposed to be ready for preview screenings at the end of this month but right now I can’t even work on it. Spent two days with a adobe tech support (surprisingly helpful!) and they narrowed it down to that OS issue. In the midst of wiping the whole system and trying to rebuild a backdated system with older versions of the OS and software to see if that allows the system to work again. If it does that will mean any recent project files will be unusable so the past two months of editing will be wasted.

      Good times! If it does work I will unplug this machine from the internet completely so no hidden updates will ever be made to it.

      Reply
      1. obes

        If you have an optical drive in your MBP, you can replace it with another hard drive (via an adapter from ifixit), then install a recent OS on it. Just press the alt-option key when you boot up to select which drive you want. I have no doubt you can do the same thing with the Pro tower.

        I have cherished photography software (that is now unsupported by Nikon) that I refuse to give up, and now have 2 HDs in my 2012 MBP … one running the original 10.7.5 Lion OS, and one that’s running Sierra. I was getting all manner of ‘no longer supported’ messages from my bank, from Chrome, from Netflix, so now I boot into the new drive to do those things, and use the original drive for the now unsupported things.

        You can do this yourself, or have a local repair tech do it. The 2012 models are still accessible for repair or tweaking.

        Reply
      2. Lambert Strether

        > it’s seriously delayed post-production on my nearly competed indie feature film I’ve been working on for almost three years.

        You are exactly the kind of user Apple doesn’t want and is trying to drive away so they can finally kill the product line.

        Reply
      3. Ian Perkins

        My Windows machine has stopped updating – “We couldn’t check for updates, because you aren’t connected to the Internet. Make sure you have a cellular data or Wi-Fi connection and try again.”
        Absolute rubbish – I wouldn’t be commenting without an internet connection! – but I’m mercifully free of the monthly reshuffle and deluge of silly new apps I’ve no interest in. And (I think) I still get security updates via my anti-virus program.

        Reply
      4. Mike

        Geo, I would advise to have a backup of the entire system in the future, with another piece of hardware ready to take over. That way, if hardware tanks, there is an alternative. Software backups are no longer the only ones you need. Hardware falls in that category, unfortunately. Unless you have cash aplenty, shop the repair shops and online used systems deals. Caveat emptor, of course.

        Reply
  4. Mike

    Methinks it is far worse than this – software issues abound, with Apple trying to shut down the ability to download software from any other source than the Apple Store, or one of its favored commerical sources. They will be given Developer status (“keys to the kingdom”) so that any other developer not approved by Apple (i.e., not willing to pay entrance fees and homage via code) will be shut out.

    This is already happening in the beta versions of Catalina*, the upcoming OS version, and may soon get locked in when final release comes. My guess is this will be the last MacOs when iOS, the iPhone/iPad platform, gets integrated and software truly is tanked.

    Profit margins at Apple have shrunk, the rate of profit there continues to decline, and few hardware items make money at all. The ad sources and sale of music and videos may allow some profit, but not much, and competition will undermine their desperately needed price points.

    * – I moved to Linux as of last year, and have used my old MacBook to test Catalina in the public beta. The last 4 iterations of MacOS have slowly gained hatred among the cult followers, and they are the demanders of quality that Apple will jettison.

    Reply
      1. TheMog

        I’ve got pretty decent success running Linux on slightly older, business class Lenovo laptops. They’re usually well supported by Linux and the business laptops (T- and X-series) are pretty well built with decent keyboards.

        I’m currently using a Lenovo T440s for personal use when traveling and a MacBook Pro (2015, before they went to the butterfly keyboard) for work. Next time I’m due a new work laptop it’ll likely be a Lenovo running Linux as well.

        I’ve been using Macs for well over a decade, but if my often-upgraded 2010 Mac Pro stops being supported at all I’ll go back to living in the Windows and Linux world.

        Reply
        1. Mark Alexander

          Just to be clear, I think the laptops you are talking about are the ThinkPad models.

          Lenovo does make other laptops, but in my limited experience, they’re not nearly as well made as the ThinkPads.

          Lots of information about running Linux on ThinkPads here: ThinkWiki.

          Reply
          1. TheMog

            Thanks for pointing that out, I keep forgetting that Lenovo makes consumer laptops as well and I always automatically assume Lenovo = Thinkpad.

            Very much agree that their consumer stuff isn’t nearly as well made as the ThinkPads, which are about the only time I’d even suggest buying a used laptop.

            Reply
        2. JohnnySacks

          The Thinkpad T440 line is a typical function over form business class workhorse. Does what it says it does, does what you need it to do, just like it should. Given that laptops aren’t really a repairable thing to begin with, what’s important is the need to not have to repair them from the get-go. Hard drives are typical commodity items, but replacement batteries and keyboards should be available for a while, all of which are relatively simple to do in most brands, other than seems Apple. I’ve never owned an Apple product and never will because their PC builds have always been form over function proprietary and way more expensive than generic PCs built by the likes of now defunct Gateway.

          I’ve got an engine light on in my 11 year old car, pushing 50,000 miles, and I’m wondering how soon it’s going to be before I have to junk a good looking fine running vehicle because it’s un-repairable. How environmentally friendly is that? We need the black market firmware hacks to override all the nonsense sensors, yesterday. The Czechs are hacking our farm equipment to override the need to use proprietary parts, why not our cars too?

          Reply
            1. stan6565

              Same here.

              When something similar happened to me, I took my car to the Authorized Dealer, where they changed all the filters and oil and washed the car and made it smell nice too, all at Beverly Hills rates, but they did not fix the engine light error.

              Then I took the car to a private 2-men garage three blocks away, and they fixed the light, sensor, engine, everything. For about 1/4 of money the Authorized Dealer squeezed out of me.

              I gather, apart from obvious corporations’ extortion endeavours; crapification is closely related to stupidification. Fellas in Authorized Dealer’s gaff had no idea what they were talking about, as far as cars were concerned. They did look like auditioning for Love Island or some such mind numbing endeavour.

              Reply
          1. TheMog

            Thinkpads are actually pretty repairable as laptops go. They’re designed to be easily serviceable (you remove the bottom of the case to get at all the main components and most of the parts that likely need replacement are easily accessible. Plus most components are easily available used.

            Re your car (I fiddle with cars as a hobby) – if anything the more recent changes have actually made it easier to diagnose issues, especially when we’re talking about cars from the early to mid 2000s. Pretty much any decent garage should be able to plug in their code reader and tell you what’s wrong, and usually the repairs can be more targeted.

            When you compare that to trying to diagnose the electronics on a late 80s car with EFI and no diagnostics other than throwing parts at it (one of my current projects), it’s actually easier to diagnose and fix cars from about the mid-90s to sometime around 2008/2010. At least if you know what you’re doing; mechanics these days have to have an understanding of electronics and not just work as pure parts changers.

            Reply
      2. Math is Your Friend

        I am in the process of setting up Linux on a 2015 model Dell laptop. Oddly, all my headaches seem to revolve around windows 10, and one program I run a lot. I am thinking I may just wipe the drive and give it all to Linux, and if I need Windows I will run 7 in a VM.

        I read the whole Windows 10 licence agreement. You pay for the computer, and they control it. And they send whatever data they like, including passwords, to their storage.

        There are privacy settings that can reduce the amount of data exported, but you can’t stop it. Windows will update itself, and you can’t stop that either… and it may do so while you are trying to use the computer.

        When it updates, Windows sets the privacy parameters back to default, send everything to Microsoft.

        So far my policy has been no Windows 10 on my computers. If it does go in a VM, there will be a virtual firewall, preventing it from talking to any external IP address unless I whitelist that address.

        Apple also pulls stuff from your computer, but I haven’t looked at Apple since they basically promised my work one thing, then didn’t allow us to do it. Long story for another day.

        I also have an Asus gaming machine, about three years old. It shipped with Win10, which has never been allowed to execute. I took a backup of the drive, then wiped it and have been running Linux.

        It is surprisingly easy to do once you decide to deep six the spyware claiming to be operating system. Boot from install media, answer about five questions, mostly about time zone, username, and password and let it run.

        Or you can run straight off the install media, without touching anything on the computer, if you want to try it, or take your environment with you.

        I strongly urge anyone not tied to Apple or Microsoft with unbreakable needs to research the privacy aspects of those companies, and decide how much you want them to control your computer and your data.

        Reply
          1. Procopius

            Unless you’re paranoid you can just let Linux do it for you. In the installation process (at least in Ubuntu, Mint, and Fedora) one of the steps asks what you want to do. One of the options is to let the installer delete the partition table, format the disk, and create a new partition table with mount points as you specify. Of course the old data will be on the hard drive, but with no partition table entries the file system sees it just as random noise. You could always use BleachBit to over-write that empty space with truly random bytes after you’ve installed the Linux system.
            ETA: You might want to install a Linux distribution to a “thumb drive” and use it for a few days first. A 64 GB USB 3.0 stick costs around $20. I prefer to burn the installation .iso to a DVD and then install to a thumb drive. Running the “live CD” is pretty limited.

            Reply
          2. Math is Your Friend

            I was thinking in terms of telling Linux to take the whole drive and format it with different partitions and filesystem types.

            Since it is remaining my computer, I don’t feel the need for more.

            If I did, I would do a quick check on the state of wiping software and select something that looked good – either a portable windows program, or more likely a Linux utility that I could install in a few seconds on my live USB distribution.

            Reply
        1. Ian Perkins

          “It is surprisingly easy to do once you decide to deep six the spyware” – you seem to be referring to the installation process, and I’d agree.
          But then I found everything needed me to open command prompt windows and type in computer gibberish, which I found difficult and scary after Windows. Does it get easier? (I did Ubuntu and Tails, the latter on a flash drive.)

          Reply
          1. Math is Your Friend

            Not sure about why you were being forced to a command prompt.

            Try Linux Mint with Cinnamon – one of three desktop environments, and quite well behaved.

            You boot from a USB key – you get a screen with 3 icons – Computer, Home (a per user thing), and Install Linux.

            Unless I want to do an install, I usually drag the Install icon to home and drop it into my personal directory. That way if the cat walks on the keyboard, or plays with the mouse, nothing too exciting is likely to happen. I know that won’t happen here, but it is a safety habit, like fastening your seat belt. You may not need it often, but if you do, you don’t want to have forgotten…

            As they are mounted, you get filesystem icons appearing under that. For example, I currently have one for the hard drive C partition in the computer, making getting any files I want easy, and a plugged in USB external hard drive to which I am backing things up.

            There is a button in the lower left corner of the screen that brings up a menu for all the graphical applications currently installed.

            Next to it is a button that hides all open windows, or brings them back up.

            The next button brings up Firefox, the one after calls up a terminal window, for those who find command lines convenient at times.

            Then a button for opening file manager windows.

            The menu has categories – accessories, graphics, internet, office, sound and video, universal access, administration, preferences, places and All, just in case you don’t know where to look.

            If you want codecs go to sound and video and click on ‘install video codecs’ which will appear in a list on the right side of the menu window. Mint does not do proprietary software by default, so you actually have to decide to install the codecs. They bring along a copy of VLC media player as well.

            Preferences contains all the things you want to tweak, like which display is primary.

            I would suggest right clicking on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and choosing ‘install applets’. Scroll to the bottom of the list and select ‘workspace switcher’ and it will be dropped in the right end of the taskbar, with four buttons to select four different virtual desktops. It can be helpful for organizing your windows.

            Administration contains two programs to install software, software manager and synaptic package manager. I use the latter, but the former may be easier for those new to the Linux environment. YMMV. It is fairly easy to install additional programs, although the live portion of the install USB has most of the things you might want – LibreOffice, which handles the usual document, spreadsheet, presentation, database, drawing and math files. I’ve never used that last, perhaps a mathematical document tool? Anyway it can read and write all those Microsoft formats, standard formats, and several other things.

            Accessories contains a USB format program and a USB Creator that will make a bootable Linux USB drive if you point it at a blank fat32 USB key and a Linux bootable DVD iso image.

            I am using exactly that kind of USB key to run the computer I am sitting at now as a live Linux OS, as it is more convenient at the moment. That key can also install Linux to the hard drive.

            Stopping now, as this is an inherently endless topic.

            Reply
            1. Math is Your Friend

              You always forget something you intended to do –

              Current mint is 19.2, and the mint site is

              https://www.linuxmint.com

              If you click on downloads, will take you to a place where you can select a version, and then will take you to a list of mirrors, so you can select one.

              One of my local mirrors will send me four different .iso images in parallel, at 2.5 MB/s each, so I am a happy camper.

              There’s a good chance there is something like that near you… there are a lot of mirrors, all over the world.

              Don’t forget to verify the download – instructions on the Mint site.

              Reply
      3. Mike

        Sorry for the late reply- my post did not show for me until late last night.

        If you mean for Linux, I’m using an iMac 2013. The MacBook I use for Catalina is the oldest hardware allowed for Catalina- 2011 with a Fusion (confusion?) drive. Linux works fine on old hardware (in fact, both MacBooks are “overpowered” for use with ElementaryOS), and I can do most tasks important to me without tweaking the underbelly of Linux (command line stuff), so I’m happy. Internet search and word processing, with a little music editing on the side, do the trick and. It helps not being a power user, and I avoid buying online to keep the wolves at bay.

        Reply
      4. Mel

        As I’ve said before, I’ve had good results with Linux on refurbished HP/Compaq. My latest is a ProBook 6570b. A Linux Users’ Group here recommends that you try to get the enterprise-oriented models of the brand you choose; avoid consumer machines.

        Reply
    1. Inode_buddha

      I want to thank all the other posters in this sub-thread for making me feel so advanced…. I started using Linux in late 1996, when it was all on a dozen floppies and you *had* to learn the command line to get it onto an old 486 with dialup… I had full multimedia and online shopping back then!

      Nowdays running FreeBSD on a surplus bank machine. It has been an education and a journey that has made me much more technologically literate, to the point that I am often the unofficial “help desk” for others.

      Reply
  5. Lynne

    The nearest Apple store is over 400 miles from me. The nearest Apple-approved repair service is over 200 miles. And their software is increasingly hobbling me. They continue to degrade performance and bombard us with “updates” that appear primarily comprised of more and more emojis. I hear that the iPhone 6 is slated for non-support the end of this year — they were unhappy so many of us just got new batteries instead of filling landfills.

    Anyone using a Librem, either the phone or laptop (https://puri.sm)? I will be needing a new phone and laptop in the near future and wondered about these. I debated going without a smartphone at all, but it would be a huge change all at once and I will need a phone in any case.

    Reply
    1. Geo

      Not familiar with Librem but thanks for sharing. Will look into it.

      For anyone living outside the US, check out FairPhone. I’ve been pestering my provider for years to offer their phones (I’m with Credo Mobile) but no luck yet. Wish it was available in the US. They really seem to be doing their best to make a eco-friendly(ish) smartphone with fair trade labor.

      Would love to see their phones succeed and the effort spread into computers too.

      Reply
      1. Geo

        Just did a little look to see if there was any progress in releasing FairPhones in the US. Nothing yet. But for those outside the US it looks like a new model is coming out soon:
        https://www.androidauthority.com/fairphone-3-1014831/

        Aside from being ethically sourced and manufactured, this part falls in line with the above NC article quite nicely:
        “Another point in the Fairphone 2’s favor was its ease of repair, as it scored a ten out of ten rating from iFixit. In fact, it’s still the only phone to receive a perfect score from the repair website.

        Reply
    2. JBird4049

      Non support for my iPhone 6 eh? And there are places in the States that are Apple deprived. It is as if they do not want to stay in business or maybe they think that everywhere is like Palo Alto. That’s not true for most of California. Jobs was a loathsome individual, but somehow I cannot see him doing stuff this boneheaded.

      Reply
    3. TheMog

      I don’t think the phone is out yet; the previews I’ve read suggest that it is very expensive for its specs. It might be easier to get a rootable phone and install a custom ROM to get more control over the phone.

      Reply
    4. Math is Your Friend

      One of the things I do for a living is computer and network security. Another is technology evaluation.

      Smartphones can be ridiculously easy to compromise. Every month or two we hear about another attack. Now a phone with one of two popular Qualcom chipsets can be taken over the air with a stream of WiFi data. That gives the attacker control of the wifi controller (a computer), which is then used to take over the broadband modem (another computer) which can then be used as a base to attack the main operating system.

      At one point, Apple phones could be silently taken over with a carefully designed SMS message.

      Smartphones are just too complex, and run too much dodgy or compromisable software.

      That’s why I prefer to do my real calls and texts on a not-very-bright phone.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        We like our ‘not very bright phone,’ using Boost. Unfortunately, Boost is “upgrading” to 5G around here soon and wants to force us to migrate to a ‘smart phone.’ Boost is not offering a “dumb phone” in the replacement list. We are scrambling, trying to find a reasonably priced “dumb phone” service, but can not so far do so. Now that the local AT&T service has abandoned their copper wires and gone to wifi service, we have few options left. Perhaps a satellite phone if I win the lottery.
        At this point, we are really hoping for a Carrington Event to come along and put a fork in our new, improved, and pricier internet and telephony services.
        Read, while you still can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

        Reply
    5. EMtz

      Thank you for the heads-up on Librem. Very interesting – especially since support for my iPhone 6 will be going away soon.

      Reply
  6. hester

    Very disheartening. The track pad on my 2009 MB pro recently stopped working. Hard and sticky. Had the battery replaced (that was the issue) but have the same concerns.

    Not sure I want to give the company my business any longer. 15 years ago I bought some stock in the company. Sold it 5 years later. Made some $$. but sold also b/c I stopped liking the company. The laptops are lovely, but for me, likely not worth the cost and hassle, once this one goes south…. I might get used / certified, but one w/o butterfly keyboard.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    Why does anyone do business with companies like Apple and John Deere? When I here “I might not buy Apple next time.” I wonder what is that person thinking. If you don’t exercise your right not to purchase from crooked companies they will get more crooked. Make them change or put them out of business. I vowed a long time ago never to purchase Apple’s overpriced products. Once theey get you by the short hairs they will never let go.

    Reply
    1. ChristopherJ

      Agreed, Dave. NC’s ongoing reporting of Amazon has led me to do a personal boycott, even though everyone else seems to like their destructive business approach for employees, suppliers and competitors….

      Tried Apple once, but the ongoing Apple, Apple… was a turn off.

      Used good asus laptop for years, eventually binning Windows for Linux and I’ve never looked back. Still, the asus wasn’t going to last for ever (battery and input ports). But, instead of replacement, I reflected that most of my use is home in office, so went for a simple tower computer, with bits I can replace and improve etc, coupled with old HD teac tv.

      If ever away from home, I seem to be able to cope with most things on my Samsung phone. Hey, I know it tracks and listens to me, but what can you do when you need something that can also tell me how far it is to the pin?

      Those still using Apple stuff? Read the above… they are no longer the best at anything other than extracting dollars from your wallet and exploiting suppliers and employees. All their R and D money has gone back to boosting the share price and that tells you a lot.

      Reply
      1. Chris

        Whoa. A Full Amazon boycott? Including AWS too? I’m not even sure how to do that.

        Also, most stores these days just assume you’ll use Amazon to purchase multiples so they don’t have any kind of stock. They’ve all become what’s termed in the wine industry as 13th bottle stores. You buy something from them, try it, and then buy the case from someone else. I cherish stores that let me try things in person and I support them with my purchases. I go to all the local stores I can.

        But given the time costs and shopping difficulties in a modern, middle class, suburban or near rural life… you can’t do it without Amazon. If you have kids, you will buy a kindle fire or an iSomething too. And then there’s Amazon Video (the music service is crap). They are the everything store. You really can’t avoid them. But I heartily admire those who try!

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        1. ChristopherJ

          Re Amazon and a full boycott (if there is one). It’s more personal than my dislike of corporations that sell at a loss to drive out the competition (that it hasn’t already bought), screw their employees and drive suppliers out of business, particularly bricks and mortar stores. The pursuit of monopolies of course requires state collusion, but that is whole other story.

          The personal bit is that my novels are published through Lightning Source, but Amazon has picked up the ebooks, covers and print versions and has been selling them. And its not that I’ve never received a cent in royalties, although that is a bit deceptive of them to say the least, it is that I have written and called the company telling them they are not authorised to resell my books. Yet they are still there being sold on their websites and I lack the dollars to hire a US attorney to take them on…

          Those stores you cherish, one day they won’t be there, Chris. Thanks for the response

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        2. Mark Alexander

          It’s hard to avoid AWS during web browsing because so many sites are hosted there. But if you’re building your own site, it’s easy to avoid it. I found a very nice Linux-based hosting service that’s been around for over a decade, was cheaper than AWS, and has better features.

          As for avoiding Amazon for consumer-type purchases, I’ve been doing that for a few years now. I use Amazon for product reviews, then buy elsewhere, often for less money. Some vendors seem to sell only on Amazon, but you can often find their stuff on eBay.

          Reply
    2. Procopius

      I decided to avoid Apple products after our school got PCs for our section and Macintoshes for the main “computer lab” which had an internet connection, but the kids using the lab were too young to take advantage of it (too slow, shared connection over telephone, I think supposed to be 1200 baud but normally no more than 600). I had to take our section to the lab and use some of their facilities, a scanner and laser printer. I had to use Macs and hated the interface, compared to Windows 3.1. I hate Microsoft, too, so I’ve had to pay for the operating system (starting with DOS 3.1), but have always searched for free software. There’s a surprising amount of it out there.

      Reply
    3. jrs

      yea I’ve never bought them before, but this makes me certain I never ever will. It will be a cold day in heck before I’ll buy apple anything.

      Reply
  8. beth

    This article taught me why my Brother printer that I love gives me error messages since I put a non-Brother ink cartridge in.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  9. DHG

    A good reason I have never ever bought a single thing from Apple and never will, they have always been about control.

    Reply
  10. XXYY

    No offense to anyone, but why in the world would anyone buy any Apple product at this point? The combination of insanely high prices, crapified and unrepairable products, and extremely user-hostile (and perhaps completely unavailable) customer support makes it a perfect time to seek greener pastures.

    Believe it or not, there are extremely good products available in the world not made by Apple.

    Reply
    1. TheMog

      Sunk cost in the ecosystem is a big one. If you’ve run your independent movie productions on Apple hard- and software for the past 20 years then it might not make business sense to switch.

      I used to work for a company where we exclusively used Mac Pros for development machines because we could validate that they broke less often and were quicker to repair than the major PC manufacturers’ machines.

      Up front pricing of hardware is almost irrelevant when the alternative is to have your expensive employees sitting around twiddling their thumbs or spending three days to set up the machine the IT department found in the basement before they’re productive again.

      None of this means that a consumer should not look at alternatives, especially with the recent issues that have been coming up.

      But for those of us who rely on their computers to make their mortgage payments, it might not make sense to spend weeks relearning things to switch OSs. Unless you, well, get paid to know that stuff.

      Reply
        1. Lynne

          I’ve been running my business on macs for over 20 years. Started it on OS/2 and switched to macs because they were better than Microsoft at that stage. Switching is daunting. But I’m selling out, so I may have the time to make the switch and retrain some muscles. This month, so this post was perfectly timed for me.

          Reply
  11. Carolinian

    I recently had to replace the battery on my Samsung netbook and it took about fifteen minutes. You do have to unscrew the back and unscrew the battery but anyone could do it. There’s utterly no reason why this couldn’t be just as easy on an Apple computer except for the obvious reason. If Apple made cars they would glue in their engines.

    Clearly Apple sees itself has having unique, almost monopoly status among certain buyers and that they can get away with this. One wonders for how much longer that will be true as hardware is becoming increasingly generic.

    Reply
    1. J7915

      It was said that an APPLE sedan would have the hood welded shut.
      Of course MS would be cursed by the blue screen of death.

      Her British Majesty’s missile subs were said to have convertedd to some MS version to operate. Again blue screen of death?:)

      Reply
  12. Crestwing

    If any of you folks are not aware of Louis Rossmann, check out his YouTube channel.

    He repairs Apple computers, including soldering motherboards. He is an awesome technician.

    He also is a huge proponent of the right to repair. Fair warning: his language can be salty.

    P.S. He has a mail-order service for repairing MacBooks.

    Reply
  13. lordkoos

    As far as Apple goes, I’ve never been a Mac guy, but many musicians I know like to use them with recording software. Lately I’m seeing a lot of complaining from these people about Apple focusing so much on the iphones and neglecting loyal computer users.

    If I was shopping for a laptop I’d buy a Lenovo Thinkpad T460s, or the latest version thereof. I’ve had mine for some years now running Windows 10 and it’s been extremely reliable and they are easy to find parts for, as they are bought in bulk by corporations all over the world and anyone with experience can work on them. You just have to turn off all of the Microsoft spyware (there are a lot of guides online for this) and then it’s all good.

    As far as iphones, I love them, but I always buy them a few generations back, I would never spend $800 on a new iphone, especially since the older models work just fine for my purposes. I just this month moved from an old 5S to a 6S. The 5 still works great but I wanted more storage space. You can get a 6S with 128 GB for under $200 if you look around. In fact I’ve never spent more than $200 for cell phone in my life.

    I will say that digital tech seems to be getting more fascistic as time goes by – less ability to customize an OS to your liking. It’s pretty much do it their way or forget it…

    Reply
    1. Conrad

      Music youtuber Rick Beato gave a terrific rant about Apple’s crapification a year or so ago. Judging by the boxes he went through he had bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of Apple products over the years.

      Reply
  14. Pavel

    My first Mac (my 2nd computer) was a Mac Plus, and I have probably bought at least 30 Macs (mainly Macbooks) since then. I was a complete Apple fanboy. But after Steve Jobs’s death the soul has left the company and under Tim Cook it seems that now — as they say — “it’s all about the Benjamins”.

    It’s obscenely greedy enough to charge $1000+ for iPhones while paying miserable wages to the Chinese workers who put them together. It’s absolutely disgraceful for a company which claims to care so much about the environment to make their products so hard to upgrade or repair or even change a battery.

    I was using a Nokia dumbphone recently until my bank insisted that I have a smartphone for online authentication. So I dug out my dormant (dead battery) iPhone 5s and found a little shop in Montréal which installed a new battery in 10 minutes and for CAD 30. I was thrilled, not least because the 5s is IMHO the pinnacle of iPhone design.

    Now it sounds as though it will be much harder to change batteries in the future, and I suspect Apple won’t support the older models. Perhaps I’ll just have to switch banks as well. I did love the feeling of smartphone tracking/spying liberation I had with that Nokia.

    Reply
  15. Savita

    This means people who live in these areas must now either schlep to an Apple store

    Respectfully. Can you use English please? In Australia, which would include the audience you are writing for – no one uses ‘schlep’ and very few would know what it means. I mention it because you are articulate and intelligent, and clearly know better ( in a good way ) so I’m sorry to see you fall into a dilemna so common to writers of North America that doesn’t exactly enhance the international reputation of North Americans. That is, using very specific jargon, slang, or other phrases exclusive to a culture, with the assumption such words are international and universal simply because they are familiar to the author in their experience of North America. Good, cohesive inclusive communication means there’s a general bandwith that all English speakers, within reason, will be able to understand. Quality writing will reflect this, and thereby enhance the quality of the forum. Naked Capitalism is worthy of this, too.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether

      Personally, I prefer vivid and spicy language to bland globalist homogeneity. It’s really not hard to learn new words, and leveling up vocabulary skills is one reason to read NC.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Lambert’s Lexicon, available at fine blog sites world wide.
        Savita, have you been paying attention to the world wide slump in the reputation of North America’s political elites lately?
        Of note would be the quantity of English dialects spoken around the world.

        Reply
    2. Clive

      You are asking the impossible.

      I write for, not an exhaustive list, a U.K. English audience, a US English audience, other English-speaking counties such as Australia (Naked Capitalism’s reach has a wide international footprint) plus several European readers who have English as a second language. I also have to on occasion translate Japanese into English.

      I try as far as it is practicable to use an “international English” style and vocabulary but there is no way I can avoid the occasional colloquialisms. Sometimes they are simply an intrinsic part of the copy I’ve submitted. At others, if I remove contractions and linguistic nuances which serve a grammatical or communicative purpose, the entire piece ends up far too dry and impenetrable for a time and mental-bandwidth-stretched reader.

      There are also unavoidable genuine accidents — you can’t know how certain metaphors and similes vary slightly even between very similar terms. I believe US readers would use “laundry list” for a long random detailing of various unrelated items but in British English we say “shopping list”. Both are equally correct and, I imagine, comprehensible to a reader. But then again, both are informal conversational terms. Should they be omitted? Definitely not, it is these kinds of shorthand and vocabulary crutches which make a writer’s (and reader’s) life tolerable.

      And frankly, most PCs, tablets and phone browsers have a “highlight and click for a look up” feature so it’s not a hardship to check your understanding of a phrase or word. Plus, you’ll have learned something and expanded your vocabulary in the process. This is never a bad thing.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether

        I suppose another way to say what I said is that if a good writer thinks their readership should learn a new word, that is the word they will consciously choose to use, and rightly. Of course, one doesn’t want to fall into Euphuism, sometimes a problem for me, I grant.

        Reply
        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          Definition of euphuism

          1 : an elegant Elizabethan literary style marked by excessive use of balance, antithesis, and alliteration and by frequent use of similes drawn from mythology and nature
          2 : artificial elegance of language

          thanks, Lambert, love learning new words (funny that this one spoken aloud sounds like a sneeze!)

          nb Savita

          Reply
    3. Ian Perkins

      My pet gripe would be as much with all the IMHO, IIRR, OTOH, etc. But Google quickly tells me what they mean.

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    4. KFritz

      In the long-run (or perhaps shorter-run) Apple is headed toward a stagnation analogous to its years after Wozniak and Jobs stepped down. Jobs stepped in and revitalized it. There won’t be a white knight this time, and it may implode more quickly than most analysts will predict.

      Reply

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