Jan Dawson, principal analyst with Jackdaw Research, said he agrees that Apple's expanded use of the Horizon Machines doesn't imply a direct response to the right to repair bills that are appearing, especially since certain repairs can't be done by third-party vendors due to the proprietary fingerprint sensors.
"But I do think that Apple is clearly aware of the risks involved here and wants to broaden access to its screen repair technology, which could help neutralize some of those calls" for legislation, he said. "I still think the right to repair push around Apple devices tends to ignore the security implications of messing with the Touch ID sensor—I haven't seen any proponents of those laws explain how they would deal with that situation."
Bill Menezes, an analyst with Gartner, said Apple's move could also be "tacit recognition that people are holding onto their phones longer instead of paying extra to buy into a carrier's early upgrade program." With buyers spending upward of $800 for new phones nowadays, "if things like the battery and software continue working great, there's probably more interest in holding onto it if the only problem is a spidered screen," he said.
The spread of the official Horizon Machines could hurt third-party vendors, though, if phone owners choose to pass up those shops for repairs made using Apple equipment, he said. "It could bring in more customers who are leery of using the smaller repair chains or the no-name mall kiosk repair outfits," said Menezes. "People may be willing to pay a bit of a premium for the comfort level of going with a big brand name store."
Another analyst, Charles King of Pund-IT, told eWEEK that the new strategy will create new revenue streams for Apple and its partner stores where the machines will be installed. "The company will also argue that the move will ensure that customers will enjoy higher quality repairs as a result, though it's also likely that Apple-sanctioned screen replacements will cost more—perhaps considerably more—than they would through independent shops."
For many consumers, though, this will be a disappointing development, added King. "It's analogous to automakers insisting that repairs be performed by dealership's service departments," rather than through cheaper independent repair shops. "It's also part of a deeper game among product vendors to push unauthorized third parties out of their product ecosystems."