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Yesterday, Apple announced a new ‘Independent Repair Provider Program’ which will offer customers additional options for common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. It will also provide independent repair businesses with genuine Apple parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics. Customers can now approach these independent repair shops to fix their devices instead of being restricted to Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is only available in U.S. for now, but will soon be expanded to other countries.

To qualify for the Independent Repair Provider Program, an independent repair business will need to have at least one Apple-certified technician to perform the iPhone repair. In the press release, Apple states that only “qualifying repair businesses will receive Apple-genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics at the same cost as AASPs.” Apple’s certification program is simple and an indie business can enroll in it free of any cost.

Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams says, “When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence that 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”

In the past one year, Apple has launched a “successful pilot” with 20 independent repair businesses which supplies genuine parts to customers in North America, Europe and Asia.

Read Also: Apple announces expanded security bug bounty program up to $1 million; plans to release iOS Security Research Device program in 2020

Is this Apple’s way to avoid the ‘Right To Repair’ bill?

Apple’s sudden shift to a new trajectory comes as a surprise after it was reported that Apple was trying hard to kill the ‘Right To Repair’ bill in California. If passed, the bill would provide customers the right to fix or modify their devices without any effect on their warranty. The Apple representatives tried to protest the bill by stoking fears of battery explosions for the consumers who attempt to repair their iPhones. Currently, the bill has been pushed till 2020, allegedly due to successful lobbying of Californian lawmakers by Apple.

Many people believe that Apple is going to use this ‘Independent Repair Provider Program’ to support their side of the right-to-repair debate.

A user on Hacker News says, “Pretty straightforward attempt to stave off right-to-repair laws… and coming after years of attempts to destroy independent repair businesses. Very hard to see this as a good faith effort by Apple.”

Another user comments, “I feel like this is an end-run attempt to avoid right-to-repair legislation.

While I hope for the best from this program, it seems to little to late and in direct opposition of prior arguments they’ve made concerning third-party repairs and parts distribution.”

Apple’s iPhone sales have declined in the past two fiscal quarters. Kyle Wiens, chief executive of repair guide company iFixit and a longtime advocate for right-to-repair laws, said “This is Apple realizing that the market for repair is larger than Apple could ever handle themselves, and providing independent technicians with genuine parts is a great step,” Wiens said. But, he said, “what this clearly shows is that if right-to-repair legislation passed tomorrow, Apple could instantly comply.”

Another critical point which is not highlighted by Apple in the press release he says is that this program does not provide customers the opportunity to repair their own phones. Apple also reserves the right to reject any application they want, without comment.

Others believe that this a step in the right direction.

A Redditor comments, “Sounds like Apple is choosing a great halfway point between letting anyone access parts and only letting established shops/businesses from offering repairs. Hopefully we’ll see more independent repair stores offering repairs officially if as it sounds it’s free to apply and get certified!”

Another reason Apple probably would have felt the need to change its longstanding policy, is seeing viable and easy to repair alternatives cropping up in the smartphone market. For instance, this week, Fairphone, a Dutch company launched a sustainable smartphone called ‘Fairphone 3’ which aims to minimize electronic waste. Fairphone 3 contains 7 modules, which have been designed to support easy repairs. It also boasts tech specifications of any modern 2019 smartphone.

For more details on the Independent Repair Provider Program, head over to the official press release by Apple. Interested businesses can also check out the Independent Repair Provider Program official website.

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