Apple says it will allow old iPhone parts to be used in repairs


Apple's iPhones will soon recognise when someone uses a part from a stolen device during repairs. At the same time, Apple is also taking a new approach that makes it cheaper to repair iPhones. — Photo: Bernd Diekjobst/dpa-tmn/dpa

SAN JOSE: Apple says it will soon allow camera modules, biometric sensors and other old iPhone parts to be used in device repairs.

Apple senior manager John Ternus told dpa that iPhones will be able to recognise when someone tries to use a part from a stolen or lost phone.

It will also be possible to repair iPhones with spare parts, such as displays or batteries, from other manufacturers.

With this new feature, it will be possible to use cameras and the biometric modules for FaceID facial recognition or the fingerprint sensor for TouchID from old devices for repairs.

Apple had to change how iPhones are designed and built, says Ternus, who is responsible for hardware development at the company. When the devices are assembled, the components undergo a calibration process.

Essentially, the optimal parameters for the operation of this specific part are determined. iPhones will now retrieve this data stored in the cloud during repairs if they recognise a previously installed and calibrated original part.

It should generally be possible to recycle spare parts from the iPhone 15 onwards, Ternus says. With the biometric modules, this will only be possible from the upcoming iPhone generation, expected to arrive in late 2024.

So far, Apple has only allowed the sensors to be paired with the main processor once. Ternus says this was for security reasons.

However it can be assumed that used components will only be interchangeable within one generation and model series. There's so much that changes from generation to generation, Ternus says, meaning old parts are "unlikely" to fit newer phones.

Apple has been repeatedly criticised in recent years by commentators advocating for easier device repairs and a more sustainable approach to tech.

Ternus defended the company's approach, telling dpa that users need transparency about which components are used in their hardware. "If a part from a stolen or lost iPhone is recognised, then there's a alert."

However Ternus said that Apple's ultimate goal is not easier repair, but longer-lasting devices.

Repairs are a very important factor for this. "But if you only focus on the fact that everything has to be repairable, you will end up making decisions that are bad for users and the environment," he said.

An unreliable device that can be easily repaired is fundamentally worse than one that doesn't need to be repaired in the first place, Ternus argues.

One option would be to do away with adhesives altogether when assembling devices and use only screws instead. But on the one hand, adhesives are good for joining components together to save space, Ternus says. On the other, they are a good way to make the devices waterproof.

You could also build a mobile phone that could be opened with three screws – but it would be susceptible to water damage, Ternus says, who believe that "fundamentally worse" because phones would fail every day.

Ternus also argues that the trend towards chip systems, which are taking over more and more functions on a single board that were once spread across several components such as graphics cards or memory modules, is ultimately good for sustainability.

On the one hand, the connections between individual components used to be prone to problems. On the other hand, the new chip systems are more efficient in terms of power consumption and also require fewer resources in production. This more than compensates for the fact that sometimes when one part of the chip fails, the rest has to be disposed of. – dpa

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