Repair-locked iPhone cameras add urgency to Right to Repair campaign

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BOSTON — Add the camera on Apple’s new iPhone 12 to the list of components which require proprietary software to repair. iFixit, which reviews device repairability and is a leading Right to Repair supporter, has confirmed earlier reports that even an original Apple camera on the company’s latest smartphone model will lose functionality when installed without pairing software. iFixit also reports that Apple’s internal training documents mention that “starting with the 12 and its variants, they will need to run Apple’s proprietary, cloud-linked System Configuration app to fully repair cameras and screens.” 

Previous iPhones also restricted installation for batteries, home buttons and screens. A growing number of parts require restricted software to fix, meaning the only repair options for consumers are increasingly the manufacturers’ selected technicians. When the manufacturer controls repair options, it drives up cost and means the manufacturer can push people to buy upgrades rather than fix their products, leading to a rise in toxic electronic waste. 

In response, U.S. PIRG Right to Repair campaign director Nathan Proctor issued the following statement: 

“If you thought you were getting a fixable treat from Apple with the iPhone 12, unfortunately, you’ve been tricked. 

You shouldn’t need proprietary software to fix something you own. The increasing hostility to repair from manufacturers such as Apple adds urgency to our campaign for the Right to Repair. It’s clear: Unless we win the Right to Repair, we will steadily lose the ability to fix our stuff. That’s bad for consumers and bad for the planet.”