Huaqiangbei may no longer be able to produce bulk iPhones

My friend Xiao Jia started with a custom MacBook Pro 13 with 16GB RAM in 2016. At that time, the MacBook Pro 13 had a new mold, equipped with Touch Bar, Touch ID, and butterfly keyboard.

In the past four years, for the 2016 model, or the original Touch Bar MacBook Pro 13, Apple has successively given the "Butterfly Keyboard Replacement Plan", the "Screen Coating Replacement Plan", and the "Screen Backlight Repair Plan". In other words, the screen and keyboard of the MacBook Pro 2016 are defective.

Unfortunately, Xiaojia’s MBP battery was the first to be in trouble, and it was convenient to replace the battery in a third-party organization. However, half a year later, there was a problem with the screen backlight, which happened to be part of the "Screen Backlight Repair Plan". With a nervous mood, I had to go to the Apple Store to try my luck.

Fortunately, the geniuses of the Apple Store found no abnormalities by checking the "hardware code" of the MacBook Pro 13. Finally, Xiao Jia replaced the entire A side containing the screen.

The purpose of saying this is not to emphasize how poor the quality of the 2016 MacBook Pro 13 is, nor to emphasize how good Apple is after sales. I just want to simply say that fortunately, the 2016 MacBook Pro 13 is equipped with a T1 security chip. If it is two years later, the MacBook Pro with T2 will not be so lucky.

The T2 security chip on Macs after 2018 can record the characteristic information of each component in the computer, and will "identify" all hardware before booting to prevent hardware breakthroughs.

MacRumors reported in 2018 that due to the T2 chip's control of Mac computer hardware, if users or third-party official repairers use accessories that have not been officially verified, or dismantle and repair privately, they will not be able to pass the T2 chip repair Detection, even the system will automatically lock the computer.

▲ Apple T2 security chip that can record hardware information. Picture from: iFixit

Compared with the T series security chip of Mac, the iPhone (iPad) has long used chip-level protection for security. The TouchID and FaceID modules are directly bound to the A series chip. If they are replaced, the corresponding biometrics cannot be used, so they cannot pass " Change the lock to enter the system to prevent malicious cracking.

▲ Kindly reminder from iOS. Picture from: Twitter

In addition to making a fuss on the hardware, Apple has successively begun to do hardware recognition in iOS. When leaving the factory, Apple will write the serial numbers of some components on the motherboard, and will perform verification and comparison during use. If the user replaces an uncertified component, iOS will pop up and notify the system. Fortunately, normal use will not be affected for the time being.

For now, the identification and verification of iOS is mainly focused on the battery and screen. If you replace a non-certified battery or screen, you will receive a notification from the iPhone.

▲ The camera part of iPhone 12 Pro. Picture from: iFixit

But in the latest iOS 14.4 Developer Beta 2 system, the developer Steve Moser found some code about "third-party camera certification". This means that Apple will warn those iPhones that replace non-certified third-party cameras. Similar to the previous battery and screen, it only reminds but works.

Repairing iPhone is getting harder and more expensive

In fact, as early as last year (2020), the iFixit website tested the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 12 using a third-party camera could not call the "portrait light effect" and could not switch to the ultra-wide-angle lens.

▲ After replacing the third-party camera, the ultra-wide-angle lens call fails. Picture from: iFixit

Moreover, Apple’s internal documents show that authorized technicians must run Apple’s proprietary cloud-based system configuration application to complete the iPhone 12 series screen and camera repairs. In short, on the iPhone 12 series, the screen, camera and other components are more stringent, which may affect normal use.

This obviously increases the difficulty of repairing the iPhone 12 series and reduces the scope of our mobile phone repairs.

I vaguely remember that until now the maintenance of Touch ID and Face ID still needs to go through official channels. Unauthorized third parties can only replace parts, but cannot "hardware binding", and naturally lose the "biometric identification of Touch ID and Face ID" "effect.

▲ Face ID module bound to A series chips. Picture from: iFixit

Components such as batteries, screens, and cameras are still in the "reminder" stage, and do not affect the function of the hardware, and naturally they have little effect on us. But in Apple's habit, it will not just stop at "reminders", it seems that it is just a layout for the time being, and then the network will be closed later. Maybe in a certain iOS version, the non-certified hardware is directly blocked, then we can only go to the official/authorized repairer.

"Safety" is a universal excuse

Limiting unauthorized hardware, the most basic is "security", including equipment security and personal information security.

When Touch ID first boarded the iPhone, Apple stated that the fingerprint information (and later facial information) collected was only stored in a security chip in the SoC and would not be uploaded to the cloud. Restricting this type of hardware fundamentally prevents the device from "breaking defense" from the hardware.

In terms of batteries, it is not ruled out that third-party batteries will have quality problems that will affect the normal operation of the iPhone, at least causing damage to other parts of the iPhone, and at worst, accidents may be caused by the instability of the lithium battery, which seems to be justified.

In fact, there are certain risks associated with replacing the unauthorized devices of the iPhone. This refers to the lack of functionality. I vaguely remember that once the iPhone 7 series replaced a third-party vibration motor, there would be a certain chance of failure.

To say, batteries, biometric devices, which are directly linked to equipment safety, do need to be restricted, but to link the screen, camera, motor, etc. to the motherboard/cloud is a bit redundant, more like an "excus." .

Apple's ultimate goal may still be "profit-seeking"

Frequent expansion of the scope of restrictions on unauthorized components, the ultimate benefit is actually the benefit of Apple itself and the authorized maintenance organization.

Apple has always had a high desire to control its own hardware products and services. Recently, it has gradually moved towards the "maintenance" industry. The IRP Program (Independent Maintenance Service Provider) that just entered China a few days ago is one move.

In November 2019, Cook stated in his reply to the U.S. Congress that "since 2009, the annual maintenance service costs have exceeded the revenue generated by the maintenance business", and Apple's official maintenance business has been losing money for ten years.

The official out-of-warranty repair charges for Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, and MacBook are quite high. Taking the latest iPhone 12 series as an example, the price range for screen repairs outside the warranty is 1699 yuan to 2559 yuan, the battery costs 519 yuan, and other repairs cost up to 4495 yuan.

Such a high out-of-warranty repair price eventually led to two situations. One is to buy AppleCare+ in advance to balance the risks, and the other is to find a third-party unauthorized repair organization.

Apple's repair business is not profitable, but AppleCare+, which is classified as a service category, has nearly 4 billion U.S. dollars in revenue (2017 data). For fear of high out-of-warranty maintenance fees, there should be not a few who purchase AppleCare+ value-added services.

Non-authorized third-party repair agencies have considerable advantages in charging, and they charge meticulously. Screen repairs include internal screens and external screens. Internal screens are also subordinated. If only the external screen is replaced, it is about 100 yuan. Other components such as batteries and cameras also have their own advantages.

The verification code buried in the iOS system can be "activated" at any time as long as Apple wants to shut down the iPhone using unauthorized components. Apple's layout like this is like an invisible big hand controlling the maintenance market, which can be gathered at any time to control the entire market with one hand.

For us, if we did not buy AppleCare+ services, the cost of iPhone repairs would rise. For users in third- and fourth-tier cities where there is no Apple Store, maintenance becomes even more troublesome.

When this invisible big hand falls, it will indeed further stimulate the sales of AppleCare+ services. However, too strict restrictions have caused high maintenance costs, which will also be counterproductive, prompting some consumers to choose manufacturers with simpler maintenance and more portable maintenance. I think Apple should also estimate the consequences of this strict control.

Previously, Apple's repairs (iPhone) mostly adopted "replacement repairs." Such a repair policy eventually gave birth to black productions using "official replacements." Apple had to tighten up. It took only a few years from "replacement repair" to "repair without replacement". However, the "grey production" of Apple equipment maintenance has become a highly profitable industry, and Apple's original intention is also I want to take the opportunity to sort out these "not visible" maintenance industries.

But before tightening the policy and imposing stricter hardware restrictions, whether to consider appropriately lowering the repair price, increasing the number of authorized repairers, and expanding the number of authorized components, instead of blindly pushing users to Apple Care and official Maintenance channels.

Apple's introduction of the IRP program in the country is obviously to rely on it to expand the scope of authorized repairs and absorb more third-party repair shops to increase repair options. Although this is suspected of intending to monopolize repair parts, it is a good start for sorting out the iPhone repair industry compared to the "one size fits all" hardware limitation.

▲ iPhone 6s assembled by Scotty Allen in Huaqiangbei.

Perhaps in the future, Scotty Allen , who assembled a bulk iPhone 6s in Huaqiangbei for only $300 that year, returned to Huaqiangbei again, and wanted to assemble an iPhone 12 in the same way. After several attempts, He may find that perhaps Pinduoduo is the best choice.

The title picture of this article comes from: The Verge

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