CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Apple iPhone repair plan doesn’t impress everyone

November 18, 2021, 6:40 PM UTC

As people celebrated Apple’s long-long-long-awaited announcement on Wednesday that it will sell iPhone replacement parts to customers with broken devices, right-to-repair advocate Paul Roberts threw cold water on the party.

“Save your huzzahs, and whatever you do, do not pop the champagne,” Roberts, publisher and editor-in-chief of the online news site Security Ledger, wrote on Substack. “Apple did not just ‘cave’ to the right-to-repair movement, and the fight for an actual, legal right-to-repair is more important now than ever.”

Since the release of the first iPhone 14 years ago, iPhone owners have had to rely almost exclusively on Apple (think Genius Bar) and, to a lesser extent, independent repair shops. Critics of the setup claim customers pay more when there are fewer repair options, and they are at the mercy of Apple’s timeline when their devices break. 

Apple has given several reasons for restricting DIY repairs, arguing, for example, that users will be exposed to privacy violations or damage their iPhones while trying to make fixes. Left unsaid is that Apple benefited financially by controlling the repair market.

Apple relented a bit Wednesday, announcing that it’s unveiling a Self Service Repair program for iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 that will let owners fix their phone displays, batteries, and cameras. The company said it will roll out at-home repair plans for other devices in 2022, possibly including Mac computers with M1 chips, though details were scant. 

Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams said the move “gives our customers even more choice.”

Despite Apple’s about face, right-to-repair advocates struck a tempered tone, partially praising the company while warning that the move marks only a modest concession. By and large, they expressed skepticism toward Apple’s statements about suddenly wanting to help its customers, as well as the lack of details about how the new repair program will work.

Nathan Proctor, who leads the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s right-to-repair campaign, called the development “a huge milestone” for the movement. While many Big Tech companies have fought the right-to-repair movement, opposing dozens of state and federal bills that would force manufacturers to sell necessary repair items to customers, Apple has a reputation for being particularly obstinate.

Still, Gene Munster, a managing partner at Loup Ventures and frequent tech commentator, told The Wall Street Journal that he sees the announcement as “largely for show,” noting that a small percentage of owners will benefit from the initiative. At the Apple-centered news website 9to5Mac, editor Ben Lovejoy noted that Apple’s reversal followed extensive pressure from lawmakers, President Joe Biden’s administration, co-founder Steve Wozniak, and some shareholders.

“Apple has fought tooth and nail against DIY repairs right up until it was clear that it was facing too much opposition—and then made an announcement attempting to portray itself as a generous benefactor to the same consumers it had previously blocked,” Lovejoy wrote.

Meanwhile, Roberts likened Apple to a “slightly friendlier monopoly” with the move, prompting him to call for passage of legislation to expand repair rights.

“It will be up to us to keep the heat on Apple by exposing the contradictions and limitations in its Self Service Repair program—and to push for a true, legal right to repair that holds not just Apple’s feet to the fire, but the feet of every other device, appliance and equipment maker,” Roberts said.

Want to send thoughts or suggestions for Data Sheet? Drop me a line here.

Jacob Carpenter

NEWSWORTHY

Paytm IPO struggles out the gate. India’s largest IPO flopped Thursday as the digital payments company Paytm saw its shares sink 27% below issue price on the Bombay and National stock exchanges. Concerns among investors about Paytm’s long-term profitability weighed on the company, which set its IPO size at $2.44 billion. While Paytm boasts 50 million active users, who use the service to pay for everyday expenses, analysts fret that it has yet to outline a path to profitability. Investors are watching Paytm’s debut closely as more money moves to India from China, where Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has tightened regulation of tech companies.

Alibaba stumble sends stock down. The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba missed its second-quarter revenue and earnings expectations Thursday, prompting a selloff by investors, CNBC reported. Economic headwinds and a government crackdown on tech companies in China held back Alibaba, which reported $31.4 billion in quarterly revenue, below analyst expectations of $32 billion. Alibaba’s U.S.-listed shares fell 11% as of midday trading. 

Apple, outspoken engineer reach detente. An Apple employee who helped lead a protest movement within the tight-lipped company is leaving under a settlement announced Wednesday. Cher Scarlett, who rallied for wage surveys and anti-harassment efforts at the company, agreed as part of the settlement to withdraw a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board about Apple improperly interfering with employee organizing efforts. Additional terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Scarlett and other Apple employees organized under the #AppleToo banner, prompting other staff members to publicly and privately speak out on working conditions.

Staples Center name removed for Crypto. The Los Angeles Lakers’ landlord, Anschutz Entertainment Group, has sold the naming rights to the team’s arena to Crypto.com in a deal reportedly worth more than $700 million over 20 years. The agreement marks the latest move in an aggressive marketing campaign by the cryptocurrency exchange, which is seeking to capture the rapidly-growing and competitive market. The cryptocurrency industry in recent months has dramatically expanded its advertising during sporting events, targeting a young, largely male demographic that makes up the biggest share of its current clientele.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Why Zillow couldn’t flip the switch. Just about everything went wrong during Zillow’s calamitous home-flipping effort, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday after interviewing current and former employees. The short-lived Zillow Offers initiative was beset by imperfect algorithms, human capital mismanagement and an ill-timed venture into a volatile housing and renovation market, among other issues. As Zillow became aware of the issues, the company’s leadership scrambled to salvage the program to no avail, prompting the shutdown in early November and a 43% decline in its share price.

From the article:

Computer-driven analysis has become mainstream in stock and bond markets, but buying and selling single-family homes has proved a trickier proposition. The real-estate market varies widely by city, region and type of property, with a range of aesthetic, social and other factors playing into Americans’ home-buying decisions.

Zillow also overstretched its staff as it tried to catch up to competitors and disregarded internal concerns that it was overpaying for homes, according to former and current employees. It operated in an unpredictable housing market, with the pandemic fallout helping to spark the biggest housing boom in a generation. And Zillow suffered from supply-chain and labor issues that slowed its ability to renovate homes quickly.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Walmart is getting closer to delivering cough drops 50 miles away by drone, by Jessica Mathews

PlayStation CEO criticizes Activision’s response to misconduct and harassment allegations, by Jason Schreier and Bloomberg

Iran-backed hackers are targeting U.S. with ransomware. Here’s how companies can protect themselves, by Jonathan Vanian

Millennials and Gen Z are a growing force in investing. The market needs to catch up, by Jean Case

Tesla pushes back on ‘egregious’ $136.9 million judgment awarded to a former elevator operator who says he endured racist taunts and offensive graffiti, by Felicia Hou

The streaking stocks of the new Big Three—Tesla, Rivian and Lucid—challenge the laws of market physics. Or do they?, by Christiaan Hetzner

BEFORE YOU GO

The Founding Fathers would be very confused. A decentralized cryptocurrency collective has raised more than $40 million to buy a rare original copy of the U.S. Constitution at auction—and it’s not too late to get in on the action. ConstitutionDAO, an autonomous group formed last week by a group of online acquaintances, aims to win Thursday evening’s auction for one of the 13 surviving copies of the founding document using money pooled from investors across the Internet, The New York Times reported. Sotheby’s estimated the piece would sell for $15 million to $20 million. Contributors would not get an ownership stake in the text, but rather a proportional say in where and how the document should be exhibited. E pluribus unum, y’all.

This is the web version of Data Sheet, a daily newsletter on the business of tech. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.