Apple limits access to electronic parts and blueprints required to fix their products to Apple Genius stores and certified third-party repair shops. Independent repair shops and do-it-yourself fixers often must rely on informed guesses and leaked blueprints to offer sometimes cheaper repair options to consumers or to fix phones on their own. Some have criticized the potential environmental effects when consumers are incentivized to toss their broken phones rather than pay for expensive repairs.
Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, an open-repair advocacy group, calls news of the price drop "heartening." "It seems obvious to me that Apple is faced with competition that's driving down their prices," she said, referring to independent repair shops. "[Apple] could charge more, and I'm sure that they'd happily do so. But competition does work, and more will work better."
An Apple spokesperson said that the company made changes to bring additional convenience, accessibility and ease of repair to iPhone customers. He added that pricing shifts for AppleCare have been announced with the release of new products in the past.
For DIY fixers and independent shops, a new iPhone launch typically comes with months of speculation about how product updates will affect repair know-how. The fixer community is gearing up for iPhone 7 "teardowns," in which the product is taken apart and examined to sketch out blueprints not provided by Apple. Much of the anxiety about the latest release is centered on the iPhone 7's integration of the screen and home button into one. "The new screen is a big question right now in the fixer community. Will these new updates make it much harder for us to fix a shattered screen?" asked Kyle Wiens, co-founder and chief executive of iFixit, an online repair community and electronic-parts seller.
The cost of repairing a shattered screen through an independent shop varies, with some charging between $100 to $150. Ordering a DIY kit online can cost $40 to $100, and the tools can be used multiple times, although they require assembly. With both of these options, there's always some risk that repairs could unintentionally destroy the device. There is, however, the added benefit of location if there doesn't happen to be an Apple Genius store or certified repair shop within a close distance or if the person doesn't want to wait 3-5 business days for a mail-in repair. The AppleCare+ plan, in contrast, costs $129 up front for benefits such as 24/7 chat or phone tech support, along with reduced pricing for up to two accidental damage repairs such as a shattered screen, which costs $29. Without an AppleCare+ plan, the price for a cracked screen is $129-$149 through Apple.
But for those not willing to shell out more than $100 for insurance, the independent or DIY market can offer other options. "Regardless of this change, there’s always going to be a place for the independent market," said Kay-Kay Clapp, community manager at iFixit.
But Wiens and Clapp say they are "relieved" by Apple's latest move to lower this particular cost of repair. "It’s interesting to see Apple taking more steps to make repair accessible," Clapp said. "In general, we believe that cheaper repair is a good thing. People should have an incentive to repair their phones."