Tongues were really wagging after a Wednesday report in 9to5Mac that users who need replacements for their cracked iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c screens can get them swapped out in up to an hour in Apple's retail stores -- while they wait.
An in-store servicing option, really?
"According to sources with knowledge of the upcoming initiative,” said the report, Apple will give these stores machinery that can not only replace the touchscreens but also perform other repairs. Other parts of the iPhone 5c and 5s could be exchanged for working units. "In addition to displays, Apple will have the capability to replace the volume buttons, vibrating motor, rear-camera, and speaker system on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. Apple Stores will be able to replace the conventional Home button on the iPhone 5c."
One exception, though, is that it does not appear that Apple will do swaps for the Touch ID-based button on the iPhone 5s.
Special machinery earmarked for the stores will reportedly calibrate the displays on both the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s within one hour. Generally, repairs will take from 30 minutes to one hour.
Repair Versus Replace
The advantage for Apple in training staff and kitting out their stores with special machines may be that the effort still represents cost savings as opposed to having to fully replace damaged iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c units.
However, customers would still have to pay for the repair experience and the amount would depend on the part that's being replaced. Those bringing in their cracked screens would be paying $149 for a repair. Other repair costs, according to reports, would be $79 for a battery replacement and $29 for a new Home button for the iPhone 5c.
Those on Apple's AppleCare scheme would get free repairs for defects that are covered under the AppleCare warranty.
When is this all to happen? Signals are appearing, based on the report, with iPhone screen calibration machines and training manuals for conducting these repairs arriving at some Apple Stores. What is more, Apple Stores, sources said, have already begun to train staff in iPhone repair. Should that be the case, Apple customers could expect to enjoy in-store repair programs sooner than later.
Rhapsody in Repair
However imminent the start date, one can see that the in-store repair visits would feed directly into the Apple strategy of making customers feel -- before and after buyers' credit cards are accepted -- as if they are part of an Apple experience like no other.
Consultants and analysts often single out Apple as a prime example of a business training employees to turn buyers into evangelists, via store employees giving personalized customer attention and hands-on device sessions.
Genius Bars, the in-store support stations, have been key to Apple's strategy in moving products and bolstering customer loyalty toward reaching out for upcoming products.
Liam Hamill, strategy director at Venturethree, a brand consultancy based in London, noted earlier that the stores were not set up to just sell products but to impart Apple's brand aura of a special experience between customer and device. Products are beautifully displayed for people to interact with, he said in a blog post.
If the Apple in-store repair service does pan out, the very experience where customers can walk out with their working devices in 60 minutes or less will be one more band in the Apple rainbow.