Apple has quietly implemented a new change that provides ~4X as many retail repair locations for consumers to fix their devices.
While Google choose to partner with “unofficial” repair franchise uBreakiFix last month, Apple simply gave the go-ahead for their already existing 3rd Party Authorized Service Providers to conduct qualifying repairs.
“Happy” would be a great way to describe how consumers ought to react to this news.
It’s quite the opposite way to describe how the 8,000+ non-authorized cellphone repair companies around the US are probably feeling.
Just how much might this impact small repair shops and what other effects might result from this announcement?
Let’s take a look at the “why now”, how this program works (and Apple’s marketing strategy) and the likely impact on the cellphone repair industry.
AASP Program Overview
Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASP) are simply 3rd parties authorized to provide repair and sales services to Apple customers.
They don’t exclusively sell and/or fix Apple products but they will carry Apple branded products and are certified to support Apple’s products and customers.
Apple drives customers to these businesses which are required to follow Apple’s protocol as far as service costs, parts sourcing and repair techniques and even down to how their store looks inside.
The program stopped accepting applications years ago after two main influences; fraudulent warranty claims from AASP’s and after Apple created hundreds of it’s own branded retail locations.
Existing AASP’s kept their partnerships intact but Apple has held back from heavily sending them repair jobs for iPhones ever since they’ve been released, opting to use the Genius Bar and Wireless Carriers as their main “repair” channels.
Macbook repairs, training & consulting and product sales have been the day-to-day for AASP’s in the past.
New AASP Options
Previously, customers on Apple’s website who selected “Bring in for repair” were only provided with official Apple retail locations.
From a technical standpoint, not much has changed except that certain repair jobs (cracked screens included) now result in displaying Apple Stores + AASP’s where the customer can then schedule an appointment with the provider.
Apple could be trying to follow in the footsteps of Google and offer additional repair options that don’t involve going to Apple directly.
This is more likely just a by-product of why they’ve implemented this now.
Touch Disease and known battery flaws in the iPhone 6s are surely the main reason Apple chose to do this now.
Apple loves the PR exposure when customers create huge lines to ensure they get a newly released product but lines of customers trying to resolve two major manufacture defects are the last thing they want in the news.
Outside of PR, a lack of technicians at Apple Stores typically results in an over-the-counter exchange instead of an actual repair to the customers device itself. This is likely to have put a lot of strain on Apple’s supply chain.
Even if they can supply all these locations with enough replacement units it would still be very costly and could pinch supply for new device sales.
Giving AASP’s the ability to repair will elevate all of the above and provide faster turnaround times at more convenient locations to consumers.
Impact to Repair Industry
The impact is obvious.
For as long as Apple plans to forward common repair jobs to AASP’s, consumers won’t be as likely to look for other local options.
Subsequent improvements to AppleCare+ have really been in consumers favor but weak marketing has minimized the impact.
The difference this time is that consumers don’t have to understand the change. They simply follow the same process on Apple’s website as they’ve done in the past and just get more local options than they’ve seen in the past (shown below).
Retail Repair Locations (Before)
Retail Repair Locations (Now)
Shown above, 18 locations are now displayed through Apple’s website compared to just 5 that were shown previously.
There’s enough AASP’s to impact non-official providers given that Apple is allowing them to repair cracked screens, batteries and other common repair jobs.
It’s like the largest repair franchise (by far) sprung up overnight. More cost effective AppleCare+ and out-of-warranty screen replacement costs (from Apple) now have the retail presence to actually make an impact.
I’m a little surprised that Apple is granting so many types of repair jobs to AASP’s so soon but they probably needed to throw them a bone after avoiding their abilities for so many years.
At least it gives Apple a chance to rediscover AASP’s potential to keep the entire life-cycle of a customer in a “closed-loop”.
As always, any sufficient amount of repairs outside of 3rd party will result in less cracked LCD assemblies in the supply chain that make refurbished LCD replacements possible and cost-effective.
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