Apple's New iPhone 14 Is Easier to Fix

Is the company listening to those who demand a right to repair?

Iphone 14
Opening an iPhone 14 is not a bloody mess.

iFixit / Creative Commons License

A lot of reviewers say Apple's iPhone 14 is not much different than the model it replaced. But there is one key difference: Kyle Wiens, the founder of iFixit, says the device is easier to repair than past models. "Apple has completely redesigned the internals of the iPhone 14 to make it easier to repair," wrote Wiens. "It is not at all visible from the outside, but this is a big deal. It’s the most significant design change to the iPhone in a long time."

This is a big deal for Treehugger too. As Katherine Martinko wrote, "Repair is a deeply environmental act. It prolongs the lifespan of an item and reduces demand for new, conserving resources and saving money. It keeps items out of landfill, which decreases the risk of leaching chemicals and heavy metals, and spares developing nations from having to deal with a surplus of unwanted goods in unsafe conditions. It incentivizes quality production, decreases toxic mining, and creates jobs in independent repair shops."

For years we have written, usually on our MacBooks and iMacs, that Apple can and should do better. In 2021 when Apple finally released manuals and parts, giving users the right to repair, Wiens told Treehugger that phones should follow.

"Apple leads the electronics industry. They pioneered glued-in batteries and proprietary screws, and now they are taking the first steps on a path back to long-lasting, repairable products," said WiensiFixit believes that a sustainable, repairable world of technology is possible, and hope that Apple follows up on this commitment to improve their repairability."

front and back halves of the iphone
front and back halves of the iphone.

iFixit / Creative Commons License

According to Wiens, Apple apparently has: "This is the iPhone 14 reborn as a beautiful butterfly—a midframe in the middle, accessible screen on the left, and removable rear glass on the right."

Wiens wrote a long and interesting history of the repair process for phones, where the screen often has to be replaced. At first, you could open them from the front, which made screen replacement easy. Then, with the iPhone 8, Apple introduced "an era of pain" by gluing the back on. But now, with the iPhone 14, both the back and the front open with just two screws.

He noted this introduces major engineering challenges; it is easier to seal things up and make them thinner if you use glue. Wiens wrote: "We’ve long said that designers could get all of the design features and functionality they’re looking for, as well as repairability, if they just put in a little more effort to avoid the glue. Well, this time, Apple put in the effort."

The iPhone 14 is no Fairphone—the openable, repairable, upgradable, and totally remarkable phone that isn't sold in North America. Apple still controls the parts and uses software to prevent the use of aftermarket or recycled parts. But it is a big step in the right direction; iFixit gives it a repairability score of 7 out of 10. It claims it is the "best score" they have given an iPhone since the iPhone 7, adding that "this is the most repairable iPhone in years."

Top of repair manifexto

iFixit / Creative Commons License

A few years ago, iFixit issued a Repair Manifesto, leading with "if you can't fix it, you don't own it."

bottom half of repair manifesto

iFixit / Creative Commons License

Wiens and iFixit deal with electronics, and their work has resulted in significant progress over the years. Wiens concluded: "All of our—and your—work has paid off. Our advocating, lobbying, yelling in the streets. We’ve convinced Apple’s design team that repairability matters."

We all have to keep advocating and yelling in the streets and apply the message in that poster to everything, not just electronics. As Martinko concluded: "We all need to consume less, and a big part of that is relearning how to fix the things we own. A simple accident should be a simple fix, and it's time we demanded that."