As such, this year’s repairability grades reflect some incremental improvements in the repair process itself, but some scores were downgraded because of the companies’ aggressive politicking behind the scenes. Apple’s iPhones made a leap from last year’s “F” grade up to a “D.” Google’s Pixel phones kept their “D” grade but got a slight boost in score. Samsung remained steadily in the “C” grade range for its phones. Microsoft’s laptops still get a “D” overall, but the edge is much closer to a “C” grade this year. Almost all laptop makers, with the exception of Lenovo, received a higher grade: HP, Dell, Asus, and Acer all got a “B.”
Despite Apple’s upgrade in overall iPhone repairability, though, US PIRG alleges that its parts are still priced too high. And Apple’s Mac laptops still get an “F,” because they are “twice as difficult to open up and repair as Dell laptops.” Samsung phones are still too hard to disassemble, compared to Motorola phones. Motorola phones were determined to be the most physically repairable of the four rated manufacturers, but they lost points because of the poor availability of parts.
US PIRG said Apple lost the greatest number of overall points due to the company’s active lobbying against the right to repair. And while Microsoft isn’t a part of TechNet, one of the big trade groups that participate in such lobbying, Microsoft is a member of the Consumer Technology Association and did lobby against California SB 983.
Those in opposition to right-to-repair legislation often point to concerns that making products easier to repair would compromise the devices’ safety and security, although repair advocates have scoffed at those arguments and accused the tech industry of fearmongering. TechNet, the trade organization that represents a large swath of the industry, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta, HP, AirBnB, Uber, and Lyft, reiterated its stance in a statement to WIRED that right-to-repair legislation as currently proposed would threaten the privacy and security of personal tech devices.
“Current repair bills in states across the country would mandate that manufacturers of digital electronic equipment provide unvetted third parties with sensitive diagnostic information and trade secrets—without requiring any of the critical consumer protections afforded by authorized repair networks,” David Edmonson, TechNet’s vice president for state policy and government relations, said in an email. “Instead of government mandates and a patchwork of one-size-fits-all repair rules that create more issues than answers, let the market continue to respond.”
The market has indeed responded—to a point. A few years ago, Apple began aggressively expanding the footprint of its Independent Repair Provider Program, which lets independent repair shops get certified to fix Apple products using genuine Apple parts. Then in November 2021, under more pressure to improve its repairability, Apple announced a Self-Service Repair program, which started making parts, tools, and manuals for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 directly available to customers. Samsung followed suit: In August 2022, it started giving customers the tools to perform their own repairs on Galaxy S20 and S21 smartphones, as well as the Galaxy Tab S7+.
In April 2022, Google said it was partnering with fix-it-yourself firm iFixit to make Google Pixel phones more repairable. And Microsoft said late last year that it would make Surface laptop parts available to consumers in 2023.
Repair advocates still see these moves as an effort to preempt legislation, as is the case with the recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) that John Deere signed with a national farm group. John Deere agreed in theory to make tractor repairs more accessible to farmers, although the MOU is unenforceable. Part of the agreement asked that the American Farm Bureau Federation “refrain from introducing, promoting, or supporting federal or state Right to Repair legislation.”