Apple Will Brick Devices Not Repaired By Apple
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Friday, 05 October 2018

We don't normally cover this sort of hardware, but so many programmers use Apple machines it is important to point out that things are about to change. Devices with the T2 security chip will no longer be repairable by anyone but Apple and if you do tinker then the device will be disabled - aka "bricked".

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Cryptography is wonderful. Its use means we can communicate securely and privately, spend money on websites and so on. More controversial are its use in DRM and the even more controversial extension of DRM to hardware. When encryption is used to restrict what you can do with software it is often a nuisance. When encryption is used to stop you doing something with hardware it can be much more serious. In general you pay much more for hardware and there is a reasonable expectation that after such an expenditure you own it. This is not how Apple sees it and it isn't alone in its view.

Recently the right to repair movement has highlighted the way companies are controlling what we can do with the hardware they make. In particular the struggle of farmers who "own" John Deere tractors who are forbidden to do a DIY repair. Can you imagine the wroth of a farmer not allowed to mess with their own farm machinery?

This behavior is represented by the companies as a desire to make sure that what you have bought from them is treated correctly and not poorly repaired or upgraded. There is also the issue of protecting their intellectual property, but this reason isn't usually as high on the list because it isn't a plus point for the consumer. Neither is the obvious commercial advantage to be had of being a monopoly for spare parts and service. It might be an open market when you are buying a device but with this sort of control there is no open market on repairing or modifying it.

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Apple I where it all started - no problem with right to repair!

Now MacRumors reports that an Apple internal document explains how machines that have the T2 security chip have to pass a diagnostic test before some repairs are regarded as completed. Specifically for the MacBook Pro and iMacPro repairs to the display, logic board, touch ID and top case including keyboard, battery, track pad and speakers, need to be verified. If the repair isn't verified then the machine becomes "inoperative", i.e. bricked. This is only a problem because the diagnostic used is only available internally at Apple and at Apple Authorized Service Providers, who pay Apple a lot of money to be allowed to do a limited range of repairs.

MacRumors also points out that when the machines are classified as "vintage" they will no longer be eligible for service from Apple, and presumably not from a third party either. In other words, Apple now has another way to force you to buy new hardware.

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It seems to get more like 1984 as time ticks on.

If I were planning to restrict access to hardware in this way I think I'd leave farmers and programmers out of my plans. While it is true that not all programmers are happy messing with hardware, many are and many see it as natural and right - if not a right.

So if you are using Apple hardware to program keep in mind that the large sum of money you paid over the odds for the Apple logo isn't 100% yours to do with as you will and Apple will tell you when its days are numbered.

To strike a more neutral tone it is also true that not as many upgrade RAM and drives any more and more components are soldered into place but I'm not sure I'm happy to give up my ability to change a battery to keep a device going.

I suppose how you respond to the news depends on how helpless you feel without Apple, or some other corporation to fix or upgrade your device. However, even if you are willing to hand back your right to repair, you have to understand that without a free market for repair services the result has to be higher costs - in fact, any cost that Apple cares to impose.

More Information

iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pro Systems Must Pass Apple Diagnostics to Function After Certain Repairs

Open Hardware

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Last Updated ( Friday, 05 October 2018 )