How Apple Decides Which Products Are ‘Vintage’ and ‘Obsolete’

The surprising definitions present serious challenges for repairability

Maddie Stone
OneZero
Published in
7 min readMay 26, 2020

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Apple’s Phil Schiller introduces the 2012 iMac. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For the past eight years, I’ve been working mainly on a late 2012 iMac. I’m no Luddite, but the computer has held up well over the years, and I’ve never felt the need to replace it. Recently, though, my iMac developed its first serious tic: The fan has started to power on loudly every time the computer goes to sleep. While the computer is long past warranty, I decided to call up Apple to see if the company could offer any help. When I did, I learned my iMac is considered “vintage” and was told Apple won’t touch it.

Instead, an Apple Support representative referred me to an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) in my area. When I called the shop, the owner told me he could take a look at the device but would make no guarantees. What’s more, because of the coronavirus pandemic, his shop was experiencing a three-week backlog. I had two choices: Hunt around for a way to fix my iMac faster, or hand off the computer to an Apple-approved repair business and wait several weeks for a diagnosis.

The Apple Support representative I spoke with was quick to offer his opinion: “You only want to go to the guys we recommend,” he told me. I chose to keep shopping around.

As our devices age, they lose manufacturer support. With coronavirus lockdowns placing restrictions on repair businesses, that support is now more limited than ever. But while my iMac’s hyperactive fan is a nuisance I can live with, there are many people whose broken tech needs immediate attention so that they can work and learn remotely or stay in touch with loved ones. The pandemic has, inadvertently, laid bare a truth about our devices: Manufacturers can’t be our only option for fixing them. Especially when they take such a myopic view of what’s worth fixing.

According to Apple, “vintage” devices are those that the company discontinued selling more than five and less than seven years…

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