Apple is taking its secret iPhone repair machines to 25 countries

It wants to reduce wait times in its stores by letting authorized partners get in on the action.
Matt Brian
M. Brian|06.07.17

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Media for Medical via Getty Images
Media for Medical via Getty Images

Apple is further loosening its grip on tricky iPhone repairs and allowing owners to get their devices fixed at a place other than the Apple Store, Reuters reports. According to the news agency, the company intends to install its fabled "Horizon" machines in about 400 external repair centers across 25 countries by the end of the year in order to reduce waiting times for screen replacements and other iPhone-related issues.

The pilot has been running for roughly a year, with a small number of outlets across the world installing the machines inside their stores. One of the first big name retailers on board was Best Buy, which has a Horizon machine in one of its Miami stores. It will soon add another to its outlet in Sunnyvale, California, which is just around the corner from Apple's current Cupertino headquarters. The retailer has long sold and offered authorized repairs of Apple products, including iPhones, but hasn't been able to handle more complex issues because it didn't have access to a Horizon machine.

Over the past few years, Apple has outfitted stores with automated machines that can verify successful iPhone display repairs on complex technologies like 3D Touch and home button malfunctions. Only the Horizon machine is capable of telling a repaired iPhone to recognize a new fingerprint sensor. Smaller stores are allowed to handle most repairs, but without this digital handshake, the device can't be unlocked. Apple has strived to keep its tech a secret, mainly due to its unique design, but has confirmed its existence as part of an expanded rollout.

The expansion comes as eight US states push for new "right to repair" bills that will allow mom-and-pop repair stores to get in on the action. Apple has lobbied against the legislation -- as has Verizon, Toyota, Lexmark and the Consumer Technology Association (which represents electronics manufacturers) -- and the company insists that the change hasn't come about as a result of increased political pressure.

Apple says it will put 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. It hopes to have doubled that by the time 2018 rolls around.

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