Apple's new devices won't work if you upgrade them yourself
Planned obsolesce is everywhere, and we're shifting to a world in which the devices you buy are only licensed to you, not owned by you. This is true in every industry, from tractors to your Alexa-enabled microwave, and it's just gone to a new level with Apple's latest hardware.
As part of what's referred to as "advanced security features," Apple's T2 security chip found in the MacBook Pro and iMac Pro will render a machine inoperable if Apple's internal diagnostics are not run.
Because the T2 chipset is so embedded in the computer, this kicks in if you try to repair the display assembly, logic board, keyboard, touchpad, housing or Touch ID board. In other words, almost any type of self-initiated repair will result in a machine that won't work, locked out by proprietary software.
On one hand, Apple's argument that security is top of mind makes a degree of sense in reference to the parts of the hardware that need such features, like Touch ID. The idea of locking a user out for successfully repairing their display, however, is dubious at best, designed to suffocate the entire aftermarket repair industry.
iFixit, a company that built its fame on helping people service their own MacBooks and other hardware, thinks there are few excuses for the change beyond pushing people into Apple's stores:
“There’s two possible explanations: This is a continued campaign of obsolescence and they want to control the ecosystem and bring all repair into the network they control,” Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, told me on the phone. “Another is security, but I don’t see a security model that doesn’t trust the owner of the device making much sense.”
I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist about this, and understand that this may just be a desire to kill off low quality repairs, but the right to repair is an important thing we should be fighting to retain, even if you never expect or want to service it yourself.
Being able to repair our own hardware means devices that last longer, and can be passed down for generations, with many issues being small enough for even the most average person to perform. Losing that right means only the manufacturer is able to service the hardware, and in turn set its own prices on doing so.
Locking this down in software is at odds with this, and further reinforces the industry's push for controlling what you can do after the machine is sold to you. Apple has ferociously fought right to repair laws in the U.S. and is actively lobbying against them today as 19 states try to push them through.
Our devices will always get smaller, more complicated, and riskier to repair. It should, however, be up to the owner to decide if they want to risk that, not the company that sold it to you after the fact.
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