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Repair People are amazing! Despite the efforts of big tech companies (OEMs) to make fixing our tech harder and harder independent repair people have shown what they are capable of time and time again. To suggest otherwise is silly.

Next time you go into a big tech store (apple, Best Buy, AT&T, Verizon, etc.) and one of their salespeople tell you to just buy a new device, ignore them and take it to a repair expert at a local tech repair shop (www.WhereToRepair.org). Because I’m here to tell you that EVERYTHING can be fixed and, just like a car, you won’t know the cost of repair until a professional technician has a look under the hood. A sales rep at the Apple store, BestBuy, AT&T, or Verizon has no clue!

Listen the people who build cars or sell cars don’t fix cars. So why would people assume that the people who make tech or sell tech can fix it? Your best bet when your tech is broken is to always get advice from the people with the most experience fixing it.

CAN IT BE FIXED?

The simple truth is EVERYTHING tech can be fixed, and the final cost is in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, I know saying that everything tech can be repaired is complicated. Allow me to expand that thought by keeping in mind that I ran a successful tech repair operation for more than 10 years and we came across almost every repair scenario possible while repairing tens of thousands of devices. We always had a repair option for our customers. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Why? Because we had amazing technicians that refused to back down from a challenge. That was the culture of our shops. EVERYTHING TECH CAN BE REPAIRED!

Allow me to expand on the philosophy that everything tech can be repaired.

When a customer has a broken piece of tech the most important question for them is, “can it be fixed?’ In my shops the answer was ALWAYS YES*. Why always yes you ask? Because it’s true. Everything can be fixed. The only limitation to whether the customer will or should proceed is going to be the final cost and what their individual goal is going into the repair. Those are the variables that no one is qualified to answer expect for the customer.

Now here’s the complicated part – the asterisk if you like. Sometimes the cost is too high. Not necessarily the price but the cost of the final repair. Sure, sometimes its price. But sometimes its data or sometimes its time. Those are the main variables that may cause the customer to decline the repair, but it is rarely a situation where a piece of tech cannot be repaired by someone. The cost may be too high, the data may not be recoverable, and it make take a lot more time than the customer will allow. These are things you don’t know until you have properly evaluated the repair.

TECH REPAIR PEOPLE ARE TRULY AMAZING

Since the dawn of the modern tech repair industry, which I estimate to be around 2004, tech repair people have always risen to meet any challenge they have faced. These are amazing people whose skills (and industry) is often overlooked even to this day. I know this industry well because I was a part of it from the beginning and I have seen the amazing work that the industry has done firsthand.

First of all, the tech repair (or what started as cellphone repair) industry wrote the book on fixing tech. You see the main cellphone repair players of that day were Nokia and Motorola who were actually shutting down their repair operations nationwide because phones had become disposable. Newer smartphones (Blackberry, Palm, Windows, Symbian) had just entered the market and were complicating things. Nobody saw the iPhone on the horizon yet – it would change the industry forever.

The biggest repair challenge in that day was… trackballs on Blackberry’s. Yea, for real. The tiny little ball that gave you navigation capabilities would get gunked up and fail. Enter a brilliant entrepreneur who started selling trackballs online and made millions. Then it was charge ports which ushered in the soldering iron in tech repair shops. Soon after it was keyboards and flax cables with some of the early plastic touchscreens also finding repair shops. Then, in 2007, the first iPhone hit the market and just like Steve Jobs would later say, “Every once and a while, a revolutionary product enters the market and changes everything.” This was certainly true for the tech repair industry. iPhone changed it all!

Smartphone OEMs Were/Are Clueless About Repair

I’ll give credit where credit is due. At least Apple figured something out when their flagship device started coming into their stores on a massive scale – that little glass screen broke a lot! Unlike their smartphone competitors Apple offered a device swap when customers came to them with busted screens, which was an immediate, yet costly solution. There competitors (Palm, Blackberry, Nokia, HTC, etc.) would require you to ship off the device for repair/replacement which would often take weeks. Both solutions had serious downsides.

Immediate onsite repair was only available from independent tech repair shops. In fact, It took Apple more than 5+ years to finally offer limited onsite repair in the Apple stores. Then, as it is now, their repair offerings are lacking greatly as compared to independent tech repair shops who can do so much more.

Do you know who taught them how to repair the iPhone? You got it. It was the independent tech repair industry.

How do I know? Call it coincidence if you like but I trained techs in my shops who were VERY curious about everything we did while training, took really good notes, asked lots of questions, only worked a month or two, and then we found them working at Apple almost immediately after they left us. We also had recruiters calling my shops on a regular basis who would snag one of my techs from time to time that ended up at Apple as well. I’ve heard similar stories from around the industry.

We know that despite building a sexy device with a wonderful user interface (UI) that Apple didn’t spend a lot of time testing capabilities when they rolled out the first few iPhones. This is well documented with all of the issues the first few iPhones experienced. Obviously, they didn’t test durability either because they had zero plan for repair. By the looks of things, they assumed people would just buy a new device every year.

This lack of planning created tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurially inspired independent tech repair people to fill the gap. One that many brilliant people have filled over the years. No one taught them how to do it. They just seized the opportunity and built businesses around their hard work. Overcoming obstacles along the way.

An industry was built without any formal training as tech repair people have taught themselves how to reverse engineer tech, diagnose issues on a board level, and then use microsoldering techniques to repair the most complex issues you could imagine. These are amazing people who should never be underestimated.

Do OEMs make repair unnecessarily difficult to fix their tech? Yes, and in some cases, it should be criminal in others it’s just sloppy design. Do we need laws to force OEMs to make devices more repairable? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that if an OEM has designed any kind of repair program, then that program needs to have reasonable availability to independent tech repair shops.

Afterall, you owe us. We taught you how to fix your tech in the first place.

The tech repair industry had three big stories rattle its core over the last week. The biggest should come as no surprise, while the other two stories may go unnoticed by many. Either way these three stories will help shape the industry permanently going forward.

The first story should surprise no one as Apple has gone to a place that everyone should have seen coming. The serialization of their repair parts continues with the iPhone 13 rollout this week. Multiple sources have now confirmed that if you replace the iPhone 13 screen then the face id feature will no longer work. In a nutshell, this means you need to go to Apple or an Apple authorized repair location to make the part work with the phone. This is one step closer to Apple simply just disabling any and all parts that someone outside of Apple’s network tries to install during the repair process.

While the right to repair movement enjoyed a recent win the biggest tech giant in the world moved forward with making independent repair much more difficult. As I have mentioned before a right to repair law is years away at best, that’s just the way law making works. I wish it were different and I wish we could have right to repair on the books today. But we don’t. The industry needs to come to terms with it and find ways in which we can all succeed now.

One last word on right to repair, the law as it is designed now is too broad. I’ll address this in a future blog post, but it’s why I think Apple will once again be successful in defeating any attempts at legislation as we move into the new year.

Name Change at the Industries Biggest House of Repair

The second biggest industry story this past week might have slipped by you as not a big deal, but it’s huge. The country’s biggest franchise in the industry is changing its name as uBreakiFix (UBIF) parent company Asurion announced this past week they would rebrand all of their more than 650 locations from UBIF to Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions.

Sound negligible to you, right? It’s not. (WARNING: Feeling’s alert) The tech repair industry (a recent term) has long suffered from some really bad names. It started with cute medical references like; doctor, clinic, hospital, etc. (my first shops used clinic in the name BTW) and then morphed into cutsie names that incorporated; break, fix, smashed, phix, etc. At the same time many shops wanted to add Apple branding to their name with a simple “i” or they boldly added “iPhone” – which often brought nasty letters and legal action from Apple.

The worst mistake most shops made seemed innocent at first and in many ways helped bring in business and raise SEO scores. This is one I used early on too but changed when we rebranded my shops a few years later. That mistake is using the term “Cell Phone Repair” to describe your business. Sure, if that’s all you want to be go for it. But its going to limit your future and the future is now.

The name change at UBIF is brilliant on many levels and will allow them to achieve greater success in the long run. Don’t be surprised to see the CPR (Cell Phone Repair) franchise do the same in the coming year. I love the people over there but that’s a name I never really thought would last very long. You know what through, you guys do you! It’s all good.

Why a Big Announcement in the Automobile Industry Matters

Just this week Ford Motor Company made a huge announcement that they will be making their biggest single manufacturing investment EVER to build electric vehicle factories in the US. An investment of $11.4 billion to build two enormous manufacturing campuses for electric vehicles (EVs), creating more than 10,000 new jobs. You might be saying that’s fabulous. I’m all for creating new jobs – especially in US manufacturing – and I love to see US industry modernizing what it produces but what the heck does it have to do with tech repair???!!!

You might have seen this story and skimmed over it, but I doubt if most of your perked up like I did when I read the last line of this major announcement from Ford. It reads, “Ford also announced it is investing a total of $525 million across the United States over the next five years to train electric vehicle REPAIR TECHNICIANS.” In other words, TECH REPAIR PEOPLE like you!

Please hear me out and follow my logic on this opportunity.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are much, much different than the gas turbine mechanical vehicles in our current world. Repairing EVs takes a much different skillset than that of the current auto mechanic. Ford just said that in not so many words. I remember the first time I sat in a Tesla I said to myself, “Wow, this a really big iPad”. I had also recently repaired my electric lawn mower and I was frustrated how different it was from the gas-powered ones that I had worked on with my dad growing up. Then the wheels in my brain started to turn and I said to myself, “wait a minute…”

THIS IS PART OF THE FUTURE OF TECH REPAIR!

Stay with me for a minute or two. In the last couple of years, I had discovered that there was a major need for people in the appliance repair business. Mainly because many of the “old timers” in the industry had retired rather than trying to learn an almost completely different skillset repairing modern, much more tech driven, appliances. The industry needed/needs younger more tech savvy repair people.

Repairing appliances has quickly become a more tech driven ordeal and the automobile industry is starting to steer in that direction. Allow me to share two incidents in my past make that a great case for our industry to move into EV repair. The first happened by chance while the second was founded out of my own stubbornness to take no for an answer.

While getting coffee at church a bumped into an old friend who shared a story with me about taking his older BMW to the dealership and getting a $5,000 quote to make repairs to his entertainment system that had stopped working. They told him they needed to order a new “motherboard” to complete the repair. He thought it might be time to just buy a new car. I asked him if we could take a look at it in my shop – I had an awesome board repair guy working for me at the time. Long story short. We fixed the board for under $100 bucks, saving him $4,900.

A year later one of our family vehicles failed state inspection because of some issues with the electronic display. My trusted mechanic quoted $2-3K for the repair. It seemed like a simple fix to me so I asked why he couldn’t fix what seemed to be a basic electronic repair and he told me no one in the industry really messes with the electronics they just swap them out. I found an electronic repair guy in NC that specialized in fixing this type of issue. We pulled the console, shipped it, they fixed it, shipped it back, and in less than a week my vehicle passed inspection for only a couple of hundred dollars. He had never heard of this shop. Imagine how much more business is out there.

Friends, there’s gold in them thar hills! Are you ready to keep digging?

These issues highlight the type of work we’re doing for you at the Tech Care Association. We’re working hard everyday to advocate for you and your business to try and keep big tech companies open for business for our industry while we work to bring you new opportunities to expand what you do. This industry is only getting started. Please think about membership today.

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