Getting an iPhone fully repaired, including Touch ID hardware pairing is about to become much more accessible to consumers seeking cracked screen repair services.
Reuters announced earlier this week that Apple’s secure enclave pairing device, dubbed the ‘Horizon Machine’ will first be deployed to about 200 retail repair locations including Best Buy stores in Miami, San Francisco, London, Shanghai and Singapore.
Non big-box retailer ComputerCare will also receive calibration machines at their two retail locations in Santa Clara, CA and Seattle, Washington.
Apple has also said that they intend to expand availability of it’s ‘Horizon Machine’ to over 400 locations by the end of 2017.
From the outside, this is great news for consumers who many times prefer the ease of accessibility third party repair shops provide over the expense of potentially sacrificing security functions that only Apple’s authorized providers can re-establish during some screen repairs jobs.
So, how should third party repair shops feel about this shift in policy?
The most difficult aspect of Apple’s stance on third party repair has always been the unknown. The impossibility of evolving through future planning has proved massively difficult when Apple rarely shows their cards, unless they have to.
So for starters they should feel relieved that some of Apple’s cards are visible.
However, many repair businesses shouldn’t let their guard down just yet.
Just because Apple’s cards are out in the open doesn’t necessary ensure how they will play their hand or improve the cards third party repair shops might be left holding.
Once the new screen is mounted the iPhone goes into the Horizon Machine, which allows Apple’s software to communicate with the fresh hardware. Over the course of 10 to 12 minutes, the machine talks to the phone’s operating system to pair the fingerprint sensor to the phone’s brain.
While that unfolds, a mechanical finger jabs the screen in multiple places to test the touch-sensitive surface. The machine also fine tunes the display and software to match the precise colors and calibration of the original.”
It’s not clear if these repair shops have to pay for the device but reports suggest that these locations will be “provided” Horizon Machines.
Why does all this matter?
In the past few years, third party repair shops have not viewed Apple as their ally in their quest to provide the best possible repair services to consumers.
The reasons are numerous.
- No official channels for purchasing repair parts.
- No official repair manuals, procedures or technology schematics of their products.
- iOS changes that turned some 3rd party repaired devices into bricks (Error 53).
- Apple’s strong stance on opposing Right to Repair legislation.
- No tools to reactivate Touch ID functions for some broken home button repair jobs.
- Changing IC chip compatibility that makes producing copy LCD very difficult.
All of this taking place while Apple shifts their own policies to direct customers to their own programs by several means.
- Include cracked screens into AppleCare+ warranty policies.
- Decrease cost of AppleCare+ policies and deductibles for accidental damage.
- Competitively lower repair costs for non AppleCare+ policy holders.
- Give their own Authorized Service Providers the green light to repair with support.
While it’s perfectly acceptable for Apple to expand and profit into repair,their inability to take a stance on one side of the fence or the other has been seen as frustrating to repair business owners who already have the sizable task of future planning in a rapidly evolving tech industry.
Others including myself see the repair industry simply being affected by Apple’s other top priorities with no direct malicious intent but with the knowledge that third party repair will be affected.
While this may be the case, it always seems to shake things up when there’s never a move on Apple’s part to assist with the negative impacts that result from their constantly evolving repair initiative.
Repair Shop Impact
Apple said legislative pressure was not a factor in its decision to share its technology. – Reuters
That’s exactly true.
However we need to take one step back and realize just exactly who Apple is providing Horizon Machines to.
The two known companies are Best Buy who has ~1,000 stores and ComputerCare with just two locations.
This must mean Apple plans on providing Horizon Devices to all third parties from large Corporations to small mom and pop shops, right?
Both Best Buy and ComputerCare are AASP’s (Apple Authorized Service Providers) and to date Apple is only providing devices to these “sister” affiliated establishments.
So what’s the big deal?
I’m going to estimate that conservatively, well over 75% of repair shops around the US are not AASP certified.
Of these, many would not fit the prerequisites, have the necessary credit line or have a business model that would justify the requirements including certified training that it takes to become an AASP.
Let’s remember, up until late 2016 AASP’s were not even repairing iPhones.
There’s simply no indication that Apple plans on providing Horizon Machines to anyone other than their own AASP affiliated repair shops.
But according to more than 10 people I’ve spoken with, including former Apple employees, as well as employees and owners of unauthorized independent repair shops and authorized repair shops, Apple’s service program is barely a repair program at all.
Independent shops pay Apple a fee in return for “authorized” status, which gets them exclusive access to Apple training and guidebooks and the ability to buy parts directly from Apple. But authorized repair shops are only “authorized” to do a select few repairs; if a customer comes in with other easily fixable problems, the repair shop must ship the phone to Apple. – Quote from Jason Koebler’s article on Motherboard
One of his contacts went on to say the following;
If the program worked well, I would have joined a long time ago,” one independent repair shop owner told me. “The only thing they allow you to repair are screens and batteries. If there’s a broken camera, you have to send it back. Broken charge port, send it back. If it’s an iPad, you have to send it back. These are repairs that take minutes to do, and you have to send it out.
If I became Apple certified, I would lose 75 percent of my opportunities to do repairs on things and would have to send that business to Apple for a small finder’s fee, he added.
From my perspective, Apple is most likely under heavy pressure to alleviate the increase in repair demand at official retail locations. While Genius Bar techs are very capable, AASP locations are much more immersed in day-to-day repair jobs than the cross-trained retail associate at official Apple Stores.
These AASP’s have already built successful business models that don’t rely on iPhone cracked screen repairs and will far more appreciate the additional revenue where non AASP’s would have difficultly adjusting their entire business model to profitably accommodate the restrictions and requirements participants are expected to abide by.
Let’s also remember that the number of AASP’s could number 4X as many locations as official Apple Stores which will surely increase local competition for non AASPs that won’t have access to Horizon Machines.
So, does this really seem like Apple is caving into Right-to-Repair and making a move to level the playing field for all that repair their devices or simply an additional way to profit by expanding their own repair initiative?
You be the Judge.
Latest posts by Dustin Jones (see all)
- Apple’s Horizon Machine & Why Your Repair Shop Wont Receive One - June 12, 2017
- New OLED Touch ID Tech In iPhone 8: Overview, Impact & Opinion - March 28, 2017
- Verizon Partners w/ Repair Franchise to Fix Cracked Screens - February 27, 2017