France Investigating Apple Over Alleged 'Planned Obsolescence' Arising From Serialized Repair Parts

France has been investigating Apple since December after the organization Halte à l'Obsolescence Programmée (HOP) accused the company of "planned obsolescence" over serialized repair parts, according to French news agency AFP.

Apple Self Service Repair Program iPhone
Apple's self-service repair program requires customers to enter a device's serial number when ordering parts for devices like iPhones and Macs, and any parts ordered need to be paired with the same device after installation. HOP said this policy gives Apple the potential to restrict repairs to approved technicians only, and limit the functionality of devices repaired with uncertified parts. The organization added that Apple's self-service repair program is bad for the environment given that Apple ships large and heavy tools to customers.

Do-it-yourself repair website iFixit also expressed disappointment about the serial number requirement when Apple's program launched last year.

"Integrating a serial number check into their checkout process is a dire omen and could allow Apple the power to block even more repairs in the future," said iFixit's Elizabeth Chamberlain. "Building the technology to provision individual repairs easily sets Apple up as the gateway to approve—or deny—any repairs in the future, with parts from any source."

The Paris Public Prosecutor's office is handling the investigation, and has yet to formally accuse Apple of any wrongdoing in relation to HOP's complaint. The organization previously filed a complaint about Apple throttling the maximum performance of some older iPhone models with aging batteries when necessary in order to prevent the devices from unexpectedly shutting down, leading to a €25 million fine in France.

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Top Rated Comments

vertsix Avatar
14 months ago
Good.

While serialized parts allows a record of the repairs and replacement parts on a device, which is especially nice when buying used and refurbished, the hijacking of functionality is the real crime. Screen replacements, for example, on the iPhone 14 series, even when using genuine Apple parts and without "re-pairing" by a certified technician or through SSR, results in the loss of True Tone, auto-brightness, and other critical functionality.

Here's an (incomplete) list of some of the functionality lost when doing a replacement of said part, even when parts are genuine, off of the top of my head:

1. Battery -> loss of battery health metrics
2. Display -> loss of auto-brightness, True Tone, and Face ID
3. Camera -> loss of portrait mode, buggy Camera app functionality, and loss of optical zoom

There is no technical reason why this should be the case - based on teardowns and hardware analysis even -
other than to make non-genuine parts so crippled to discourage self repair, third party repair or to encourage a device upgrade.

EDIT: Some posts below mention the "theft deterrence" argument, where serialized parts may discourage iPhone thefts by making their parts less valuable by inhibiting functionality. There is no evidence to suggest that this is an effective theft "deterrent". In fact, iPhone thefts are up and parts are still being sent to China in record numbers, even with these "deterrents".
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CWallace Avatar
14 months ago
The issue at hand is not "planned obsolescence ", which is defined as the practice of designing products to break quickly or become obsolete in the short to mid-term. Considering how long most Apple products last and are supported, the company arguably does the exact opposite.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
14 months ago

The organization added that Apple's self-service repair program is bad for the environment given that Apple ships large and heavy tools to customers.
I'm not happy about the serial number requirement, but this part is crazy. Apple has been criticized for years for not giving customers the ability to repair their own phones, but now they're being criticized for giving customers the tools they need to repair them? They can't win.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PJWilkin Avatar
14 months ago
The serialisation of the parts helps prevent device theft for parts
if any checks are removed, the only real benefits will be to those selling stolen phones for parts

apples solution may not be ideal, but I’d rather live with it than having the hell it was before
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deebinem Avatar
14 months ago

So you are ok with your phones being stolen and shipped to China to be parted out?
I only have one phone and it is old enough that I'd feel honored if China wanted to part it out. ;)
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spazzcat Avatar
14 months ago
So you are ok with your phones being stolen and shipped to China to be parted out?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)