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Apple May Be Getting 'Repair, Don't Replace' Religion

Apple May Be Getting 'Repair, Don't Replace' Religion

Apple's broadening of its repair horizons may seem to threaten independent repair shops, but that's not likely, especially since many Apple users aren't in close proximity to an Apple Store. "There's only 300 or so Apple stores in the U.S., and Apple Stores are tremendously busy," noted Kyle Wiens, cofounder of iFixit. "If anything, the repair world is thrilled that Apple is joining us."

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
11/08/13 5:00 AM PT

Common repairs for its latest iPhone models, including display replacement, will be performed in Apple's retail stores, 9to5Mac reported Thursday.

Apple already performs some iPhone repairs at its stores, but the new program would cover a host of components, including displays, volume buttons, vibrating motors, speaker systems, rear-facing camera and home buttons.

Repairs will be free for iPhone 5s and 5c models still under Apple Care protection, according to the report, while fees will be charged for out-of-warranty repairs -- for example, US$149 for a screen replacement, $79 for swapping out a battery and $29 for replacing a home button.

Replacement of the home button in the iPhone 5s is not expected to be among the new services. That component in the 5s also contains a fingerprint scanner, although that would not necessarily add to the complexity of the repair.

"It's simple to change that part out," Taylor Huddleston, a senior technician with Fix-iPhones.com, told MacNewsWorld.

Apple has begun shipping replacement parts, training manuals and machines to calibrate replacement screens to its stores in preparation for the program's imminent launch, 9to5Mac reported, citing unnamed sources.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Customer Satisfaction Move

The new repair program should be beneficial to consumers, especially those who need to swap out a cracked or malfunctioning display.

It's estimated that it can take from 30 minutes to an hour to swap out a screen. It can take longer than that to transfer data from a damaged phone to a replacement model.

"This is mostly a customer satisfaction move," Gartner Research Vice President for Mobility Van L. Baker told MacNewsWorld. "I don't see this as being a big revenue opportunity for them."

Thrilled Apple's Joining the Party

However, repairs have been a revenue opportunity for many others. A large cottage industry has mushroomed around repairing Apple devices.

"There have been some reports questioning the quality of replacement parts," Baker said.

"This could be Apple saying, 'If you want to make sure your device gets genuine Apple components and is done the right way, the Apple Store is the right place to go,'" he surmised.

"They're giving people the assurance that they don't have to go to some fly-by-night repair shop down the street and worry about it breaking their phone or using crummy parts," Baker added.

While Apple's broadening of its repair horizons could threaten independent repair shops, it may not have that effect at all, especially since many Apple users aren't in close proximity to an Apple Store.

"There's only 300 or so Apple stores in the U.S., and Apple Stores are tremendously busy," Kyle Wiens, cofounder of iFixit, told MacNewsWorld. "So convenience of local repair shops is a big advantage for them."

"If anything, the repair world is thrilled that Apple is joining us," he added.

Road to Repairable Designs

Independent repair shops also can offer consumers solutions not available from Apple. For example, if the glass covering an iPhone's display is cracked, Apple replaces the whole display.

"We can just change the glass, which is why some of our prices can be cheaper than Apple," Fix-iPhones' Huddleston said.

"We repair water damage, too, which Apple doesn't do," he added.

One of the complaints about Apple devices is that they're notoriously hard to repair. The iPad Air, for instance, earned a rating of two out of 10 for repairability by iFixit.

Although the iPhone 5s' rating is a lot better -- six out of 10 -- it still lags behind something like the Samsung Galaxy S4, which scores eight out of 10.

That could change, though, if Apple's repair business gets some traction," iFixit's Wiens said. "Hopefully, the amount of money they make off repairs will influence their product design so they'll make these things more repairable."


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