Apple Touch Disease and Right to Repair

What does Touch Disease have to do with Right to Repair? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Touch Disease is a problem of premature aging.  It’s the result of a design decision to make the iPhone 6 and, especially, the 6 Plus more flexible.

The two phone models are simply too flexible—so over time small cracks develop in the soldered connections. The cracks deepen and separate more over time. Each crack disables more and more of the phone’s touch functionality.

Every one of these phones was “born” with Touch Disease. It’s only a matter of time before they all show symptoms and premature death. The only solution is to replace the bad chips, restore the soldered connections, and reinforce the phone’s structure. It’s possible to fix these phones and it is being done— but not by Apple.

Apple won’t make these repairs in house. They won’t provide any schematics or service documentation to independents willing to take on these repairs. They won’t subcontract repairs to techs that have already mastered these repairs. In fact, Apple won’t even acknowledge Touch Disease as an issue. The only solution Apple has for owners of afflicted phones: “Buy a New Phone” or pay $329 for a refurbed unit. 

Here’s where it gets nasty for customers. Apple refurb phones aren’t fixed—they are swapped with diseased units that haven’t yet shown symptoms. But, of course, many replacements start showing symptoms quickly. In fact, some users report that their replacement units showed symptoms of Touch Disease right out of the box. No surprise class action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of users.

Here's the cool part: Only independent repair techs have been able to offer a fix because some of them can have the skills and equipment to microsolder. It was independents that discovered how widespread the issue was on their own, they came up with best practices for fixing it on their own, and they even developed some hardware tweaks to prevent the issue from reoccurring. On their own. 

 That's why we need independents in the repair business. Independents can innovate in different ways than the OEM. Innovations in repair are hindered, intentionally, by companies such as Apple that refuse to provide the basic schematic diagrams that would improve repair success and improve customer satisfaction. Apple goes so far as to fight against Right to Repair legislation to preserve their monopoly on repair—even when they aren’t capable of making the repair themselves.