Why the iPhone 15 is not as repairable as Apple wants you to believe

Estimated read time 4 min read

Why the iPhone 15 is not as repairable as Apple wants you to believe

The USB-C port is one of the few parts that can be replaced on the iPhone without the “parts pairing” DRM causing problems for the user. iFixit/ZDNET

Apple may have talked about repairability when launching the iPhone 15, but according to iFixit repair specialists, this repairability is hampered by the fact that Apple wants to integrate digital rights management (DRM) into parts, which makes the exchange of parts very complicated.

It is very strange that Apple is talking about repairability. But the modification of the iPhone 15 chassis design was mentioned during the keynote.

There is also a new internal architecture of the chassis that makes the iPhone more repairable, thanks to a new frame that makes it easy to replace the rear glass.

So, Apple wants you to fix your iPhone, right?


iFixit reviewed the new iPhone and found out a few things.

Replacing the battery is risky

First of all, this new design of the chassis architecture could make the rear window more repairable, it’s true. But according to iFixit, this new design has a significant cost: it makes replacing the battery more risky.

“This inverted arrangement of the chassis makes critical repairs, such as replacing the battery, slightly riskier than on the iPhone 14”, writes Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, “because you remove the fragile and expensive screen rather than an inert sheet of glass”.

The problem comes from the way the repairs are carried out: To break the adhesive that holds the iPhone together in one piece – and makes it water resistant – you have to apply heat and then pry. Prying on a piece of inert glass is much safer than prying on the screen.

DRM on physical components

And there is an even more important problem: the DRM used by Apple for the “matching of parts”.

Last year, the iFixit team discovered that it was impossible to exchange the front camera between two iPhones because the camera module was “paired” with the iPhone’s motherboard, which means that it could not be exchanged by anyone outside Apple or its network of authorized repairers. iFixit assumed that this was a bug and that Apple would fix this problem to facilitate repairs.

Since then, iFixit has been buying iPhones, disassembling them and exchanging parts to see what works and what doesn’t.

The company has come to the conclusion that this restriction regarding the exchange of the camera is actually not a bug. Rather than solving the problem, Apple has added the “parts pairing” DRM to a whole series of other coins.

Only four components can be replaced on the iPhone 15

On the iPhone 15, the majority of replaceable components are also paired to the motherboard. While some parts – such as the wireless charging coil or the front camera – refuse to work when replaced, other parts – for example the battery or the main camera – can be replaced, but the owner is left with a warning displayed in the “Settings” application of the iPhone.

If you have to replace the motherboard of an iPhone, all the other parts related to the old motherboard will suffer the same fate.

In fact, the only four components that can be replaced on the iPhone 15 without any impact on functionality are the touch vibration motor, the earpiece speaker, the main speaker and the USB-C port assembly.

Wiens believes that this is ugly: “A part installed in a phone should simply work. The software should not be an obstacle to the collection of parts, nor to the use of spare parts. The whole economy of reuse depends on interoperability.”

Source: “ZDNet.com “

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