Apple customers can now trade in damaged iPhones toward the purchase of new iPhones under a program that the company is starting this week, replacing Apple's long-standing policy of not accepting damaged iPhones on trade.
Apple will also begin selling aftermarket screen protectors for iPhones in Apple Stores and will install them for customers in hopes that smartphone damage can be prevented in many cases by the protectors, according to a Feb. 4 report by 9to5mac.com.
Under the upcoming rules, Apple will accept late model broken iPhones that have damaged screens, cameras or buttons and will credit customers $50 for an iPhone 5s, $200 for an iPhone 6, and $250 for an iPhone 6 Plus (pictured), the story reported.
Under the previous Apple Store Reuse and Recycle iPhone trade-in program, older iPhones with cracked displays or broken cameras and buttons were not eligible for trade-ins.
The updated trade-in program now allows Apple Stores to credit customers for damaged iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus handsets, the story reported. Damaged older iPhones are not eligible for the trade-ins. "Apple believes that this new program will encourage new iPhone upgrades versus a standard iPhone screen repair," according to the report.
The screen protector installation program for iPhones is starting this week at select Apple Store locations and will roll out to more stores in the coming weeks, the story reported. In the past the stores did not install such protectors for customers in case there were installation problems. Apple will use special machines from screen protector vendors to place the accessories on iPhone screens.
In an email response to an inquiry from eWEEK, Apple said that only damaged iPhones and not damaged iPads are eligible for trade-ins at this time.
Rumors have recently started circulating about Apple's next flagship smartphones, the expected iPhone 7 series, which are slated to debut in September. The latest rumors about the iPhone 7 describe a move to a thinner flush-mounted rear camera, replacing the protruding rear camera that is built into the existing iPhone 6 devices, and the removal of antenna bands that are now on the rear of today's iPhones.
Apple needs a big hit with its next iPhones to generate demand after sales of the devices leveled off in its latest financial quarter.
In January, reports surfaced that Apple is trimming production of its current iPhones by about 30 percent through March due to growing stocks of unsold iPhone 6 smartphones around the world. The production cutbacks are expected to allow remaining iPhone inventories to be reduced in the meantime. A similar iPhone production cut was made by Apple in 2013.
In December, reports circulated that Apple is applying for a patent for a technology that could allow the company to build waterproof iPhones in the future by protecting external headphone ports and charging cords with special self-healing rubber receptacles, an earlier eWEEK article reported. The patent application, which was posted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 10 after originally being filed by Apple on June 9, 2014, could be a hint of a future feature in the company's flagship smartphones.
The application describes the innovation as a "self-healing elastomer applied over one or more external electronic connectors," which would protect internal electronic connectors used to plug in external headphones or charging cords. The special self-healing elastomer, which is essentially rubber, would then be pierced temporarily by an incoming plug on a headphone cord or charging cord to allow the connection to be made, according to the application. When the cord is removed, the self-healing rubber material would regain its original shape to again block the port, making the device safe from water penetrating into the device.
While other smartphones on the market are waterproof, including models from Samsung, iPhones do not yet have the feature.
Earlier in December, reports surfaced that Apple could be looking at dropping the long-established 3.5mm headphone jack on its next iPhones and replacing it with a thinner Lightning connector or Bluetooth to help make the phones even thinner, according to another eWEEK story. Even if Apple does delete the headphone jack, the company's patent application to seal iPhone ports could still be useful.