About once a month, someone who’s cracked their iPhone’s screen asks me what to do. And sadly, I have to tell them that repair will be costly; so costly, in fact, that they might be better off selling the broken phone for parts and getting a new one.
But this will soon change. According to a detailed Reuters report, by the end of 2017 Apple will make its iPhone screen repair machine available to around 400 authorized third-party retailers in 25 countries. The price at which Apple will sell the machine wasn’t disclosed.
Previously, Apple kept the machine — which of course has a name, Horizon Machine — to itself, only making it available to employees of its 500 retail stores. The company guarded the machine’s design, making it harder for third-party stores to fix broken iPhone screens. In fact, this is the first time Apple even publicly admitted such a machine existed.
The Horizon Machine isn’t necessary for some types of repairs, but when the fingerprint sensor is damaged, it’s a must.
Reuters’ reporters had a chance to see the machine in action. The process of repairing an iPhone sounds quite mundane and similar to what you’d see at third-party repair shops, and involves screwdrivers and suction cups. But then, after the new screen is properly fitted, the phone is placed into the microwave-like Horizon Machine, which re-pairs the fingerprint sensor to the phone’s CPU. The Horizon Machine also tests the new screen’s fit and allows for precise image calibration.
So why the change? Apple wouldn’t tell, but Reuters speculates it might have to do with eight U.S. states passing “right to repair” legislation which requires consumer tech giants such as Apple to make repairing their wares easier.
Apple has been pilot-testing the idea for a year, with some machines already operating in the Bay Area, London, Shanghai, and Singapore. It will gradually roll out the Horizon Machine to third-party retailers. In practice, you can expect retailers such as Best Buy to get one, ideally resulting in shorter repair queues everywhere. Of course, lower prices aren’t guaranteed, but it’s quite likely some third-party retailers will give you a better deal than Apple.