iFixit was forced to do this retroactively reduce the rating iPhone 14 repairability is limited as Apple has used software methods to complicate the device repair process. Reports that replacing smartphone components such as the camera or battery now requires authorization from the manufacturer, otherwise these components will not function properly and the user of the device will see intrusive notifications.
When analyzing the repairability of devices, iFixit traditionally judges them according to obvious criteria: screws, glue, difficulty of disassembly, difficulty of replacing the battery. However, the company did not take into account another “innovation” from Apple – the authorization required to install each individual component. Independent repair shops prefer to save money by purchasing defective devices and using third-party components rather than ordering parts directly from Apple. At the “hardware” level, the repair does not require anything else and Apple is no longer happy with this state of affairs.
To complete the iPhone 14 repair process, software confirmation with Apple’s system setup tool is required. The tool contacts Apple’s servers to “authenticate” the repair and only then does the new component “plug in” to the system. To pass authentication, you must notify Apple in advance of your intention to repair your device, provide the manufacturer with the iPhone serial number, and also purchase the required replacement part – a display or battery – directly from Apple. The serial number of this component is entered into the database in advance by the manufacturer, which allows the repaired device to successfully pass authorization.
iFixit engineers noticed changes a long time ago. When replacing the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S, the question of authorized connection of components arose for the first time. Experts have taken into account that such a decision could be necessary for security reasons, although smartphone owners are already sounding the alarm. In addition, after replacing the display, the iPhone lost the True Tone function, which adjusts the white balance depending on the ambient light. As a result, some screens no longer worked at all after the replacement, even though the entire system could not be installed.
In 2017, Apple admitted to deliberately slowing down older iPhones, but it appears they have drawn unexpected conclusions from the scandal and tied batteries to iPhone motherboards in the next iOS update. A hardware link was also found in the Face ID scanner, which debuted on the iPhone X. A hard connection to the camera appeared in the iPhone 12. iFixit even compiled a summary table of complete or partial failures of unauthorized components after repair.
Apple cannot be blamed for not allowing devices to be repaired at all. At the “hardware” level, the company has done a really great job of improving the maintainability of its products. For example, on iPhone 14 models outside of the Pro series, the company changed the case design, dropping the back glass replacement from $549 to $169 – a design the company promised to expand to the entire iPhone 15 lineup. But all these efforts seem to be undermined by the software authorization mechanism. This doesn’t just apply to the iPhone: iPad and MacBook follow a similar pattern when it comes to replacing screens, buttons and other components.
As a result, iFixit has decided to retroactively lower the iPhone 14’s repairability rating from 7 out of 10 (“recommended”) to 4 out of 10 (“not recommended”). It is possible that Apple will remove these claims with the next iOS update, but in practice this is unlikely to happen. If there is a reaction from manufacturers, they will likely link their decision to concern for customers.