The Biggest Repair News From 2023
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The Biggest Repair News From 2023

iFixit Wrapped 2023: Tech News

Repair news has been a bit of a mixed bag in 2023. We’ve seen some amazing steps forward in Right to Repair laws around the world, but at the same time, some huge manufacturers seem to be regressing. So let’s dig in.

Bad Apples

Apple managed to be on both sides of the news. On the plus side, it officially endorsed Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman’s Right to Repair Bill in California this summer, which not only signals a massive turnaround from Apple’s seemingly everlasting resistance to self-repair but also a rare public show of political will. 

On the other hand, Apple continues to threaten repairability with parts pairing. It might be publishing repair manuals and making spare parts available to buy, but those parts increasingly require a software handshake to allow them to work inside the device. 

That’s no problem if you are buying new parts from Apple to repair your own iPhone, for example. But it makes harvesting spare parts from broken devices much harder. Swap in a battery from an identical-model iPhone and you’ll have to put up with an incessant “Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple battery” notification. Worse—if you can’t pair a screen with a phone, you may lose features like the ambient-light-sensing True Tone.

The initial “Important Battery Message” that greets you after a battery replacement.

This makes it way harder for repair shops to cannibalize old, broken computers for parts. Parts pairing is such an obstacle to repair that iFixit retroactively dropped the iPhone’s repairability score from a pretty-good 7/10 to a do-not-recommend 4/10. 

And parts pairing isn’t the only software-based threat to repairability. The Activation Lock used by Apple to prevent thieves from being able to use or reset your Mac is also a barrier to repair. I ran into exactly this problem a few weeks back. I have a friend who visits a school in Senegal one month a year to teach. She takes a suitcase full of donated computers, tablets, and phones, and it’s my job to get some of them ready for their new users.

Thanks to Activation Lock, I couldn’t easily wipe a MacBook Air for reinstall. It was an old enough model that it’s possible to work around, but modern Macs are as useless as iPhones when locked. Of course, if you’ve had your MacBook stolen, then this is great news, but it hurts repairability. Perfectly-functional devices cannot be restored or resold, and end up being broken down for parts. 

Game On

In partially happier news, in July we learned that repair could save vintage video games. A study from the Video Game History Foundation found that almost 90% of classic video games (games released before 2010) are now unavailable, thanks either to lack of hardware, not being on sale, or the vagaries of copyright law, which prevents the sharing of knowledge and tools to jailbreak consoles and keep them going.

With the proliferation of downloadable games, and online gaming, it’s getting ever harder to preserve games, but slowly emerging legislation might help. Meanwhile, DIY repair of old consoles remains the best chance at keeping old games working.

2023 will also go down as the year that Apple finally (kinda, almost) ditched its proprietary Lightning connector. Like Y2K, plenty of folks predicted a disastrous revolt when Apple switched the iPhone’s charging and data connector to USB-C with the iPhone 15. The “ordinary user” would be super annoyed that Apple was forcing them to buy a new charger, or whatever. 

USB-Cs for all.

And just like Y2K, the moment passed with no fuss. Most people already have at least some other gadget that charges via USB-C. The good news is that you will only need one charger for all your gear, and you probably have it already. Accessory makers will also be able to drop Lightning, eventually, leading to fewer wasted units. USB-C in itself might still be a confusing mess, but at least you can be pretty sure that pretty much any USB-C connection can charge your phone, iPhone or Android. Another win for forward-thinking EU legislation. 

Sticker Shock

Speaking of consumer-friendly law, did you know that those warranty-void stickers that cover screws are illegal in the US? If you see a void-if-removed sticker, you can go ahead and rip it off without any worries about getting a defective product fixed under warranty. This has been the case in the US for five years, but manufacturers still love to use those non-enforceable stickers to deter repair. 

This year, iFixit’s own Noah Aragon investigated the legal status of these labels elsewhere in the world and found that, while not explicitly illegal, they are also generally non-enforceable, thanks in large part to the EU’s non-voidable warranties. Even so, we want them gone, because those stickers might scare off folks who aren’t reading up on Right to Repair issues. 

iFixit founders Kyle and Luke circa 2012
Co-founders of iFixit Kyle Wiens CEO, left, and Luke Soules CXO, right, November 20, 2012 (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

And let’s end the year with a double celebration. In 2023, iFixit turned 20, and iFixit Europe celebrated its 10th birthday. iFixit was started back in 2003 by Kyle Wiens and Luke Soules when the co-founders repaired a busted iBook G3. That same iBook, coincidentally, was my first (and most scary) iFixit-related repair, involving a heat gun to reflow the solder on the main chip to stop the computer from freezing every few days.

iFixit’s greatest strength is its community—by making guides and answering questions, you help us help millions of people each year fix their own things. And when you fix something using an iFixit guide, you take one big step toward a less-disposable society.