Apple is moving to install its proprietary iPhone screen-repair machines inside some 400 partner retail store locations around the world as it works to reduce repair delays for customers and also eyes legislation that takes aim at device manufacturers that make their products too difficult to fix.
The distribution of the special screen-repair equipment, called Horizon Machines, was revealed in a June 7 story by Reuters, which reported that unnamed people within the company said Apple is working on getting the machines installed by the end of 2017 inside stores such as Best Buy. They will be installed in 25 countries. Previously, Apple has only allowed the repair machines to be installed inside official Apple Stores, according to the report.
Apple aims to install about 200 of the Horizon Machines inside partner locations within the next few months, with the remainder being installed through the rest of the year, the story reported. Best Buy apparently already has one of the screen-repair machines inside a store in Miami, with another one expected to be installed soon in a store in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Apple's move to install the 400 proprietary Horizon Machines in non-Apple stores is intriguing because the company has in the past restricted their use outside of some 500 official Apple Stores and mail-in repair centers, the story reported. Until now, Apple had not publicly acknowledged that such a machine even existed.
In the midst of the strategy change, however, Apple denied the move is due to efforts in some eight U.S. states to launch "right to repair" bills that aim to make it easier for consumers to get broken devices fixed by third-party vendors, rather than through more restrictive processes from device makers.
"We've been on a quest to expand our reach," as repair waiting times have grown longer across the company's stores, Brian Naumann, senior director of service operations at Apple, told Reuters.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment by eWEEK.
Screen repairs on iPhones and other devices can often be done by many other third-party repair providers, but Apple's machine is the only one that can apparently be used when repairs involve the phone's proprietary fingerprint sensor, due to security protocols for the devices.
Several IT analysts interviewed about the pending Horizon Machine installations told eWEEK that the idea is a good move for the company.
"The key is that these machines allow [repair technicians] to do screen repairs well," said Avi Greengart, an analyst with research firm GlobalData. "You can do it manually, but it's hard to be as precise as this machine will allow."
Greengart said he believes Apple's ultimate motivation here is to reduce waiting times for customers whose iPhones are in long repair queues. "I think that's the main driver here. Wait times have increased. This lets them tap into a larger network that can solve this problem."