Apple announced Thursday that it would expand its iPhone maintenance programs to include selling “the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics” to independent repair shops for the most common out-of-warranty fixes.
Previously, a store needed to be part of the network of service providers officially authorized by Apple to purchase authentic materials from the company or to repair iPhones without voiding the devices’ warranties.
Apple has long faced criticisms for an opaque and restrictive repair process that limited customers options to Apple Stores and its authorized service providers, which were scarce in some regions and often charged large markups for their services.
“When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested,” Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said in a company blog post.
Under the new program, an individual repairman at a given business of any size can obtain a certification from Apple at no cost, and his employer can then apply to be able to purchase parts and other repair components from the company. The change will likely extend the business opportunity of repair to smaller stores. Apple’s authorized service providers have tended to be larger players like Best Buy. Apple said in its blog post that it had piloted the new policy with 20 shops in North America, Europe and Asia.
Burdens on Apple Stores have risen as consumers aren’t as quick to upgrade to new iPhones. The need for repairs has increased so much that store staff has complained to the press, an unusual break from the company’s stringent anti-leak policy.
Many consumers simply throw their devices away rather than repairing, recycling, or reselling them, and Apple will often replace a broken device if a consumer brings it into the Apple Store. But the tech giant says it’s taking steps toward more sustainable operations. The company attempted to emphasize its heavy metal conservation efforts at its annual keynote event last fall, and it releases an environmental report each spring.
The policy change is a concession to Apple’s critics, as the tech giant has lobbied against “Right to Repair” legislation that would make it illegal for the company to keep its repair process so close to the chest.
iFixit, a chain of repair shops and one of the most adamant proponents of Right to Repair, wrote in a blog post Thursday, “By offering this program, Apple is in some ways admitting that much of the lobbying it has done against Right to Repair, on loose warnings about ‘safety’ and ‘hacking,’ has been inherently false.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.