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Restart Podcast Ep. 65: Saving memories and exposing ‘branded’ repair with Jessa Jones

Jessa Jones (pictured far right) and the iPad Rehab team

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This month, we had the pleasure of talking to repairer and activist, Jessa Jones. Jones is the founder of iPad Rehab and has carved out her own space in the repair world as a self-taught microsolderer and logic board repair teacher. We found out what makes her approach to repair and teaching unique, why she is so impassioned in her work, and what tools repairers in the US have to advocate for themselves. 

From the toilet phone to teaching repair

It is clear that Jones has the drive to repair, as she recounts how a two-year-long effort to fix her waterlogged phone catapulted her into becoming the technician that she is today. Part of what makes Jones so strong is the combination of her experience in molecular biology and as a stay-at-home mum. She describes her approach to repair as from a physician’s perspective. As such, she uses her problem-solving skills to diagnose a device, almost as you would a human body. 

The team at iPad Rehab is also predominantly made up of former stay-at-home parents, and mostly women too. They also recruit students from the local high school robotics team. Jones points out that Anna and Ryan — both teenagers — routinely perform repairs that Apple themselves will not do, such as replacing charging chips. Companies like Apple’s refusal to repair is part of what motivates Jones in her work. A major factor though is the emotional element of succeeding in rescuing people’s memories that would otherwise be lost. 

Repair barriers and the “branded repair” lie

With a fascinating analogy between logic boards and cities and the human body, Jones explains the importance of schematics. While repair is not impossible without them, schematics make the job much easier and quicker. As time goes on, schematics become even more necessary as manufacturers build barriers to repair into device designs. 

Jones runs us through just some of the numerous barriers to repair in iPhone models over the years. These affect parts from home buttons to batteries to screens. She emphasises the urgent worry that serialisation and pairing of parts — one of the biggest barriers to independent repair — is becoming more commonplace. 

Perhaps the most galvanising point that Jones makes about “branded repair”, is how manufacturers mislead consumers relating to their own “repair” process. She explains how Apple has managed to market its sales of refurbished devices as repair. As a result, customers often lose their data and memories. And additionally, have to pay extortionate prices for something as small as fixing the charging port. Jones uses her voice and platform to inform consumers that this is not — and should not be — the only way.  

Right to Repair in the US

On June 11th, the day before our interview, the New York State Senate passed their first Right to Repair bill. While this is a landmark move for the state legislature, it is not law yet. It must also be passed by the New York State assembly – something that Jones says is unlikely to happen. She is not pessimistic though. While recognising the legislation is difficult to pass, she says it likely hinges on our ability to be vocal enough to gain the spotlight. 

These manufacturers are highly motivated to maintain their pyramid scheme and that means a constant barrage of messaging. There’s a lot of folks that haven’t really thought about Right to Repair and if what they’re hearing is a constant stream of this isn’t safe … then that could be really dangerous.”

There are many wealthier parties interested in keeping Right to Repair quiet, spreading damaging and false messaging to the public. Activists and groups like Louis Rossmann’s Repair Preservation Group — of which Jones is on the board — are working tirelessly to get the real repair message heard. 

Links:

[Photo courtesy of iPad Rehab – Jessa Jones (pictured far right) and the iPad Rehab team]

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