Apple's new program makes indies right for iPhone repair

iPhone XR
iPhone XR (Image credit: iMore)

Apple is expanding repair support for out-of-warranty iPhones beyond AppleCare, beyond Apple Stores, beyond even Apple Authorized Service Providers. Right now, today, they're launching a brand new program for Independent Repair Providers (opens in new tab) and here's what it covers.

Apple's had the Authorized Service Provider program, or ASP, for a long time now, and it's grown to support 1,800 locations in the U.S. and over 5,000 internationally.

But, even when you factor in Apple retail, that's still not everywhere and certainly still not everyone. So, in typical measure 1000 times, cut once, Apple has realized they have to do more. And so, they're announcing an additional program for Independent Repair Providers. IRP.

Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer:

"To better meet our customers' needs, we're making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorized Service Provider network. 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."

My understanding is, it's been specifically designed so that indy repair shops can gain access to the same genuine parts, training, guides, diagnostics, and tools that Apple and ASPs have had access to, so they can handle the same out-of-warranty repairs that Apple and ASPs have been handling.

Apple has been piloting it with 20 shops, internationally, for what sounds like almost a year already, to make sure it works and is ready to go.

Now, if you're wondering what the catch is or what the limitations are, well, there are some.

  • It's U.S. only to start.
  • It's iPhone only to start.
  • It's out-of-warranty only.

It's a legit bummer that's it's U.S. only, because it's people outside the U.S. that have the least access to Apple and ASPs right now, but it does sound like Apple wants to roll the program out internationally as soon as they can.

If you think there must be other catches or limitations, though. Well… not many.

  • It's free to join.
  • All an indy shop needs to join is at least one person who's completed certification.
  • Certification requires 40 hours of training, it's already live, and it's also free.
  • Parts and tools will be available to IRP at the same cost as they are to ASP. Total parity there.
  • Under the program, IRPs will be able to offer all the same iPhone repairs as ASPs, for all the same iPhones, which currently means 6s and up.

What about some of the catches or limitations the more cynical among us might imagine? Well….

  • Under IRP, shops can offer both the genuine Apple parts and third-party parts that might be less expensive.
  • Under IRP, shops can also offer services beyond those offered by Apple and ASP, including data recovery and the servicing of older or other devices not currently included in the program.

Of course, Apple would prefer everyone use genuine parts for safety and quality reasons, but they also realize consumer choice is something really important to maintain.

Likewise, personally, I still have a lot of privacy and security concerns over how data access is protected, because nothing has more personal content on it than our phones. But, everyone will have to figure out what they want to protect and what they want to recover depending on what's most important to them at the time.

There's one requirement as well:

  • When a part is replaced, Apple asks for it back so they can either refurbish it or recycle it.

As part of Apple's closed-loop initiative, Apple wants to be able to reduce demand for new resources by re-using existing ones. See the recycled iOS device aluminum being re-used for new Macs as an example.

And again, it's open to any person, any shop.

But… it's also brand new. There could well be growing pains or unforeseen issues, other factors I've failed to consider, and it might well not be all things to all Indies. Imagine that?

Since repair isn't my industry like not at all, I'm also super eager to hear what the Kyle Wiens, Jessa Joneses, and Louis Rossmann type repair experts of the world have to say about IRP.

Also, the ASPs. Hell, Geniuses too. Right to repair supporters. How, if at all, does this factor into ongoing legislative efforts. Consumer safety and privacy advocates. Same thing from batteries to data. Everyone.

Again, this is breaking news. And it's going to take me a while to digest it and think through all the benefits and any possible repercussions.

So, in the meantime, I want to ask you your thoughts on Apple's new Independent Repair Program (opens in new tab): Finally, more than you expected, less than you hoped for, political maneuver, customer care, anything and everything. Put your opinion on blast.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Great step in the right direction! Only thing I think it's missing is that they can't preorder parts. I get they don't want them out of the supply chain, but they could do a "wellness check" on the preordered parts every X days or something. Or only allow Y number of parts to be reserved at a time. I also hope they have a way for them to pair the batteries back to the phone.
  • Let's not forget to thank people like Louis Rossman for holding Apple's feet to the fire on the right-to-repair issue. Were it not for people like Rossman you can bet **** sure Apple would never have done a 180 on this issue. "And it's going to take me a while to digest it and think through all the benefits and any possible repercussions." I can't wait to hear Rene's excuses for Apple's booboo on this one.
  • Honestly I am surprised he can even speak with how far his lips are wrapped around apple's.... Crazy how he will defend everything and anything apple does.
  • He doesn't defend everything, but often delivers an alternative viewpoint
  • Still very limited from the data added since the announcement. First the direction is strictly sub-assembly replacement for what Apple permits its ISP's to do. The part costs are still on the high side on the older products. While many people will go with the Apple part a lot will forgo the added cost and go with the 3rd party part. So Apple will need to rethink its parts pricing so its more competitive with the above-mean average cost of competing options and scale it down over time. Apple will need to offer exceptions where the population is very low. Many locations in North America just don't have major cities where one can get their devices fixed (75 ~ 100 miles). If there are shops in these more desolate areas that want to service Apple products they may not have a proper store front or even have any business district to even be located within. Population density and geography needs to be added to the equation. In the dense cities you also find people like me who are a contract worker servicing a group of companies. Spending a day or more at one location, then moving to a second location and onwards. While I will likely use their business address for the parts they need, it will be confusing for Apple! As I'll have many shops! As I'm a nomad servicer. In my case it's Mac systems not iPhones or iPads. I wish Apple would roll back the serialization of the batteries and other parts as it really is not the issue for safety. Having a repair feedback option on independent servicer and listing geographically all of the repair options near the person. I think would be more useful with a score and which ones are authorized for warranty repairs. As a servicer I also think we need to do better in our documentation of each repair as well. Documenting what we find within diagnostics and with pics as well as what we did to fix the problem and lastly running diagnostics again and pics of the finished job all posted within Apple by systems S/N. So if there is any questions the person reviewing gets a better idea on what was done and why. If one looks at the auto industry they are doing this now! Each car dealer is reporting to their manufacture the given cars service history. Even some independent shops do this as well! I can even trace my meat or fish from the cattleman or fisherman to the table now! There is no reason a devices birth to death is not traceable too! Its a good start! But it's still only covering iPhone's. How far will Apple go? Will they meet the mandate of the 'Right to Repair' fully? Time will tell!