Apple to Allow Indie iPhone Repair Shops to Buy Tools and Parts

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Apple has announced that it will sell more repair tools and supplies to independent third-party repair shops, allowing them to make a wider variety of repairs. According to the company:

Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

The program is free to join and only requires that a repair-person complete an Apple course for certification. This would be a significant change to Apple’s existing repair programs. In the past, as Motherboard has detailed, Apple’s “authorized” repair program was barely a repair program at all. Back in 2017, Apple only allowed authorized shops to complete a few simple fixes. Everything else had to be shipped to Apple for repair, which is part of what drove people away from using these services in the first place.

And, as Kyle Wiens of iFixit points out, there are still some hurdles in place that Apple can use to lock companies out of the program. Apple’s own documentation states that “Meeting program requirements does not guarantee acceptance,” and “Apple reserves the right to reject any application without comment.”

iFixit’s Kevin Purdy points out another concern about Apple’s program — its pricing. When pricing data leaked for a Genius Parts Repair program that Apple was supposedly considering last March, some of the repair costs were significantly higher than Apple charges. iFixit writes:

In those documents, batteries ranged from $ 16-$ 33 for the iPhone 6s through the XS Max, which is modest and normal. Screens, however, cost up to $ 350 for an XS Max, which is $ 20 more than Apple’s own out-of-warranty repair cost, before the independent shop even factors in their own labor costs and margins.

It’s unclear from today’s release whether offering genuine parts for sale to this larger network will increase the range of repairs that shops can provide. In those leaked documents, we saw parts for screens, batteries, cameras, speakers, receivers, and vibration (aka the Taptic Engine). Some of those related repairs would typically require a phone to be sent into Apple, rather than repaired on-premises in a store or Authorized Service Provider.

There’s also the question of whether Apple is taking these steps in an attempt to decrease user interest in robust Right to Repair legislation programs. Many companies have strenuously lobbied against allowing customers to repair their own hardware, claiming variously that disallowing customers from fixing their own equipment is either a security issue or a product quality problem. Manufacturers have always made such claims to lock up valuable after-market repair services, and Apple is no different. Even as the company has supposedly been working on expanding its authorized repair program, it’s also been working to make it more difficult for people to fix iPhones by locking out third-party batteries so they refuse to report their own health.

We’ll wait and see what actual prices and services look like before drawing a conclusion, but Apple hasn’t exactly earned a reputation for looking out for the best interests of its customers as far as repairs are concerned. Issues like ‘Error 53‘ and the iPhone 6 Plus’ bending problem — which Apple knew about in advance and simply lied about — have harmed the company’s reputation.

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