Apple's iPhone 'parts pairing' is making the company billions

An Apple repair toolkit

The New York Times reveals that iPhones have built-in code that identifies when repair components are purchased from Apple and intentionally fails if alternative parts are used. Although Apple has shown support for the “right to repair” movement, the publication claims that the company has taken measures to ensure that only its own parts can be used. This strategy not only allows Apple to profit from selling parts but also drives customers to AppleCare+, which reportedly brings in $9 billion annually. The publication explains that new iPhones are programmed to recognize the serial numbers of original components and may malfunction if parts are changed. According to iFixit, a company analyzing iPhone components, seven parts of the iPhone can cause issues during repairs. Out of these parts, five do not work even when swapped with the same working part from another iPhone. The remaining parts, such as the taptic engine, display, battery, and rear camera, can also cause persistent alerts after being swapped. This issue is called “parts pairing” and apparently, only approved parts and sanctioned repairs can avoid these problems.

The New York Times mentions that “parts pairing” has been used by other companies as well. For instance, Hewlett Packard uses it in its ink cartridges, Tesla in its cars, and John Deere in farm equipment. However, it is unclear whether Apple has acknowledged or admitted to this practice. Apple’s spokesperson referred to the company’s new self-repair program, stating that they have been innovating to offer customers the best choices and options for product servicing. Nevertheless, lawmakers in Oregon, including state senator Janeen Sollman, are working to make it illegal for Apple to impose restrictions on repairs. Sollman visited Apple Park and expressed her skepticism, stating that it is not a true right to repair if the company retains ultimate control. Apple launched its Self Service Repair program for iPhones in 2022 and later expanded it to Mac repairs in 2023. Users of the program are required to purchase iPhone components from Apple and acquire the necessary tools for the repair process.