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Surprise, Surprise! Apple Is Opening Up It's Secret Repair Machine To Third Party Stores

08 Jun, 2017
Surprise Surprise Apple Is Opening Up It is Secret Repair Machine To Third Party Stores

“Hey Siri, I broke the screen on my iPhone. Where can I get it fixed and how long will it take?”

You may well be able to ask Siri that pertinent question and get a surprisingly pleasing response, soon!

Apple’s customers will soon have more choices, and amenable ones, at that, when getting their broken devices repaired.

Apple, in a surprising move, is loosening its grip on “tricky” iPhone repair and allowing owners to get their devices fixed at a place other than the Apple Store.
Apple is reportedly going to do so by bringing its fabled ‘Horizon‘ machines to about 400 third-party repair centers across 25 countries by the end of 2017.

This will come as a big relief for users in certain areas where the density of Apple Stores is not too high, and thus users have to wait a long time for screen replacements and other iPhone-related issues to be fixed.

Apple has always been secretive about its tech, to a point that until now it had never even formally acknowledged the existence of the ‘Horizon’ machine.

What is the Horizon Machine?

Horizon is a machine that is integral to the repair of a damaged iPhone (or iPad). Even though it does not do any actual repairs itself, it is needed to calibrate iPhone display repairs on complex technologies like 3D Touch and home button malfunctions.

What makes this machine more important is that it is only this machine that is authorised to install and implement a replacement fingerprint sensor, as other repair procedures won’t be able to tell the iPhone’s processor to accept the new hardware. If you remember the infamous “Error 53” that had struck iPhones in January 2016, bricking them with no forewarning.

The machine has the ability to access every part of the iPhone. The machine works to calibrate the phone, meaning that it can also connect to iOS itself and potentially give access to proprietary software. Apple has always stated this, claiming that giving such machines to third-party vendors opened up its phones to hacker attacks. Apple now seems to be softening on that position.

Without this machine, smaller stores had been limited in the extent of repair that they could conduct. Such stores were then just collection points, and had to send the device to centralised centres for more extensive (and intensive) repairs.

Bringing the machine to more stores, third party stores specifically, is a surprising move on Apple’s part, as the tech giant has always kept this tech under strict lock and key.

The Cupertino-based giant has been running this decentralisation with a small number of outlets across the world, as a pilot program for about a year now.
One of the chain of stores that was a part of the pilot program is Best Buy, which has had a Horizon machine secretly installed in one of its Miami stores.

Some stores in London, Shanghai, and Singapore were also amongst the early recipients of the machine, in the pilot program.
Another retail chain, ComputerCare, is expected to get the machine in their stores soon.

We’ve been on a quest to expand our reach“, said Brian Naumann, Senior Director of Service Operations at Apple. He also went on to add that one of the reasons that Apple is taking this step is because repair wait times have grown manifolds at some of the company’s busiest retail stores – and has become a major sore-point for the customers, who, of course, want their devices fixed as soon as possible.

Critics have believed that Apple has been so secretive of their repair technology to maintain the revenue stream from the repair of their devices.
While Apple has never disclosed the amount it earns through repairs, but industry analysts place the amount between USD 1-2 billion a year. Considering that the entire smartphone repair business worldwide is estimated to be in the ballpark of USD 5 billion, that is a significant portion of the pie that Apple has been raking in.

In the defense of Apple, however, they got into the repair business just three years ago with the introduction of the iPhone 5. Before that, they would charge a customer with a severely damaged device a “repair fee” and simply replace their device with a refurbished, or new one.

Apple is starting the roll out with machines in around 200 of Apple’s 4,800 authorized service centers over the next few months, including places like Colombia, Norway and South Korea where it doesn’t have a retail presence. The number is expected to double by next year.

We have our fingers crossed for some stores in India to get it too.