Independent repair guy on the planned obsolescence of Apple products

Louis Rossmann is an independent service technician in New York City who has repaired Apple products for years.

In this video, Rossman passionately explains how he is able to effect repairs that Apple refuses to do -- notably, he can fix a common faulty sensor problem with $2 worth of parts, a repair that Apple charges $750 for (Rossman charges less than half of that, and in cheaper markets, you can get it done for as little as $75).

The laptop Rossman is fixing has a retail value of $650, meaning that Apple's repair pricing effectively turns an otherwise perfectly good machine into ewaste. Rossman doesn't think Apple has an obligation to fix these older machines in an economical way, but he is furious that Apple has gone to lengths to prevent him from effecting these repairs -- Apple has withdrawn many of the crucial diagnostic tools that independent service techs have relied on, and they've also managed to get third-party diagnostic tools removed by making claims under laws like the DMCA.

Rossman uses this as a jumping off point to talk about repairs to a wide range of Apple products, including phones, and demonstrates, live, how to do them; his Youtube description includes SKUs for the tools and parts needed to do your own repairs.

Rossman speaks passionately in favor of the state-level Right to Repair bills that would safeguard all types of independent service and repair, from cars to laptops to phones. 3-4% of the US GDP comes from repair and repair jobs are good, local, middle-class jobs: recycling a ton of ewaste creates 15 jobs, but repairing it creates 200.

(via Reddit)

Notable Replies

  1. Well if he gets tired of fixing stuff he has a career waiting as a public speaker.

  2. phart says:

    Or a Catholic priest. Christ, that's a long video.

  3. I'm a big Apple fan (for what I do, they are absolutely the best product there is), but I have to agree that they're worse than most other companies in this respect.

  4. They really do, and have for years. The Torx screwdriver example I gave above was where it started -- there was zero reason why they couldn't use standard screws beyond locking things down. That wasn't even about planned obsolescence as a means of staying in business -- Apple is driven more by a control-freak corporate culture, and they'd probably be loath to admit that built-in obsolescence is part of their short-term product strategy given the premium prices they charge.

    I think they decided to take their cue from other luxury brands for product categories that also have a DIY repair culture. For example, in the automobile industry Rolls Royce was notorious for making it extra-difficult for someone outside the company to make even basic repairs. They then overcharged customers for doing the same thing, because they knew the customers could afford it.

    Apple's base product quality is much higher than RR's, of course. And to Apple's credit if you're having a problem with a device from the current or last generation they'll generally just swap it out with a new version of the same device and transfer your data at no cost under Applecare. When friends and family ask me to support their Apple stuff I just advise them to take it to the Apple Store.

    However, it sounds like this guy is repairing and extending the lives of older devices that would continue to work perfectly well for the owner for a few more years with a cheap fix. Not everyone needs the latest and greatest device (especially if they like things like headphone jacks or if they're dependent on software that only runs on legacy systems) and there are likely a lot of secondhand Apple devices out there bought by people who can't afford the product brand-new and the Applecare warranty that comes with it.

  5. What are you basing that on? They go to much greater lengths. Examples:

    • pentalobe / tri-wing security screws (I've never seen on any other make of laptop)
    • tight control over diagnostic tools (this is Rossman's main complaint)
    • epoxied batteries and unsocketed RAM / SSDs (certain other manufacturers use these techniques sometimes)
    • not offering an upgradeable Mac Pro, even when it's quite clear that their professional customer base wants this
    • aggressive water-damage policies (see, e.g., https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-settles-iphone-water-damage-lawsuit-for-53m/)

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