Apple to Install Proprietary Screen Replacement Tech in Third Party Repair Centers (Jun 7, 2017)
Apple has been in battles with various states over so-called “right to repair” legislation in recent months, and one of its key arguments against proposed new laws is that its devices have to be repaired in special ways in order to ensure the continued integrity of the Touch ID sensor and the secure enclave attached to it. Replacing an iPhone screen with a damaged Touch ID sensor, it argues, is something that can only be done by official Apple technicians with the ability to certify the integrity of those components. That, in turn, means that not all screen repairs can be conducted by any run of the mill repair center. Predictably, critics have argued that Apple merely wants to preserve what they see as a lucrative repair business given that Apple often charges more for such repairs than mall kiosks. All that is by way of context for this news that Apple is planning to put a couple hundred of its proprietary screen repair machines into third party repair centers in the next little while, with another two hundred coming by the end of the year. This puts some weight behind Apple’s argument that it’s intent on preserving security of devices and not merely its revenue streams, given that it’s now opening up access to those machines, albeit mostly through big partners like Best Buy. Given that there are still states with no Apple Stores at all and other parts of the US where people would have to travel long distances to one, it makes sense to spread availability of the repair technology more broadly, and Best Buy already hosts mini Apple stores within its stores to help meet these needs. But I don’t think any of this is going to neutralize the calls for Apple to open its repair processes more broadly, which is a great illustration of how narratives form around what are at root fairly complex subjects. It’s far easier to claim that Apple is somehow acting against its customers’ interests in this area than to explain the complexities involved in repairing a Touch ID sensor with all the security implications that has.
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