In Midst of Right to Repair Battle, Apple Opens Up to Third Party Screen Repairs
According to a report published by Reuters, Apple is making it easier for consumers to get cracked iPhone screens fixed. The current process for screen repairs (done the official, certified-by-Apple way) is to either ship your device back to Apple or schedule an appointment at your local Apple Store location where they will do the repair for you on site.
Recently, news leaked about some mysterious machine that Apple developed that would basically ensure that only Apple could repair an iPhone with a cracked screen. Turns out, that machine—which we now know is called the Horizon Machine—is programmed to correctly fix and replace cracked screens and broken sensors on an iPhone.
However, the major news here is that the Horizon Machine is going to make its way beyond Apple’s walls and into some 400 third-party locations in 25 countries by the end of this year, or slightly more than 8 percent of Apple’s 4,800 authorized service providers worldwide. "We've been on a quest to expand our reach," Brian Naumann, senior director of service operations at Apple, told Reuters.
That’s huge news out of Apple because, until now, the technology behind the Horizon machine has been kept incredibly secret. Reuters was among the first to even get the opportunity to snap a picture of the thing (which, by the way, still looks very much in a beta sort of state. The belief is that these machines will enable the cost of repairs to go way down.
Currently, Apple is testing the Horizon Machine at a few Best Buy locations. Prior to this, Apple barely even acknowledged the existence of the machine and limited its use to the 490 retail stores and its mail-in service centers.
What makes the timing of this announcement even more interesting is that it comes as Apple is in the midst of fighting legislation in eight states that goes after its secretive device repair practices.
The Right to Repair movement, as it’s known, is about a whole lot more than the iPhone and Apple—just ask a farmer—but what it boils down to is this: Right to repair legislation would require electronics manufacturers like Apple to sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops as well as make public diagnostic and service manuals for their devices. The pros of such legislation for the consumer include increased competition for repair services (i.e., lower cost for repair) and more options in general on where to go to get your product fixed, and the ability to fix the product on one’s own. On the flip side, right to repair would create a chaotic device repair market that could lead to scam repair services, shoddy fix jobs, and devices that (in the case of farming equipment, for example) become dangerous to use.
The latter are points of emphasis for Apple. But also at stake—and this is where things start to get a little messy—are things like revenue generated from repair services as well as design and tech specs of their devices.
To the outsider, Apple and other tech companies hold a monopoly over certified device repairs. The outsider wouldn’t be wrong. Until recently, Apple actually went so far as to punish iPhone users who had their devices “fixed” by un-certified third-parties.
I see both sides of the argument here. Apple wants to ensure that devices are fixed in the proper way so the consumer can avoid further ruining their phone. But controlling the market for iPhone repairs (or any other device repair for that matter) allows that company to control the market. Apple was, in fact, recently found to have misled consumers over their right to repair options in a sting operation run by Australian officials.
So, all of this makes the timing of their move to open up repair services to third parties incredibly convenient. They’ve stated that it has nothing to do with their fighting of right to repair laws, but whether it actually impacts the outcome in those cases will be interesting to follow.