Apple makes iPhone screen fixes easier as states mull repair laws

Apple makes iPhone screen fixes easier as states mull repair laws.(AFP)
Updated 07 June 2017
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Apple makes iPhone screen fixes easier as states mull repair laws

SAN FRANCISCO: Hey Siri, where can I get my cracked iPhone screen fixed?
Apple Inc. customers will soon have more choices as the company looks to reduce long wait times for iPhone repairs at its retail stores.
By the end of 2017, Apple will to put its proprietary machines for mending cracked iPhone glass in about 400 authorized third-party repair centers in 25 countries, company executives told Reuters.
Among the first recipients is Minneapolis-based Best Buy, which has long sold and serviced Apple products. The electronics retailer already has one of the screen-repair machines at a Miami-area store and one coming soon to an outlet in Sunnyvale, California.
Fixing cracked screens may seem like small potatoes, but it’s a multi-billion-dollar global business. The move is also a major shift for Apple. The company had previously restricted use of its so-called Horizon Machine to its nearly 500 retail stores and mail-in repair centers; and it has guarded its design closely.
The change also comes as eight US states have launched “right to repair” bills aimed at prying open the tightly controlled repair networks of Apple and other high-tech manufacturers.
Apple said legislative pressure was not a factor in its decision to share its technology. It allowed Reuters to view and photograph the machines in action at a lab near its Cupertino, California headquarters. Until now, Apple had never formally acknowledged the Horizon Machine’s existence.
The initial rollout aims to put machines in 200, or about 4 percent, of Apple’s 4,800 authorized service providers worldwide over the next few months. The company plans to double that figure by the end of the year.
“We’ve been on a quest to expand our reach,” said Brian Naumann, senior director of service operations at Apple. He said repair wait times have grown at some of the company’s busiest retail stores.
Pilot testing started a year ago. In addition to Miami, a few machines already are operating at third-party repair centers in the Bay Area, London, Shanghai and Singapore. Shops in some countries where Apple has no retail presence will also be early recipients, including locations in Colombia, Norway and South Korea. Apple would not say how much its partners are paying for the equipment.
To be sure, any mall repair kiosk can replace a cracked iPhone screen. Apple says its customers can get their devices fixed at non-authorized shops without voiding their warranties as long as the technician caused no damage.
But the Horizon Machine is needed to remedy the trickiest mishaps, such as when the fingerprint sensor attached to the back of the glass gets damaged when a phone is dropped.
For security, only Apple’s fix-it machine can tell the iPhone’s processor, its silicon brain, to recognize a replacement sensor. Without it, the iPhone won’t unlock with the touch of a finger. Banking apps that require a fingerprint won’t work either, including the Apple Pay digital wallet.

“RIGHT TO REPAIR” GAINING STEAM
Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones worldwide, many to customers who don’t live near an Apple Store or an authorized third-party repair center.
For fixes, many have turned to mom-and-pop shops and independent technicians that now dominate the trade. Research firm IBISWorld estimates the global cell phone repair business generates about $4 billion in revenue per year.
Many of these entrepreneurs do good work. Some don’t. All use copycat parts because Apple, like other major manufacturers, doesn’t supply original parts or repair manuals to anyone but authorized service partners.
Big companies defend this arrangement as the only way they can guarantee high-quality repair work and keep hackers away from the proprietary software that makes their products tick.
Consumer advocates, however, say their aim is to wring outsized profits from repairs. Independent technicians often charge less than the cost of a factory fix.
Enter right-to-repair bills. New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas and Wyoming have introduced legislation looking to aid small shops and do-it-yourself tinkerers.
These proposed measures would require manufacturers to supply repair manuals, diagnostic tools and authentic replacement parts at fair prices to independent technicians and the general public. Apple, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. and medical device maker Medtronic Plc have lobbied against New York’s bill. In Nebraska, Apple sent its state and local lobbying chief Steve Kester to visit the Republican lawmaker sponsoring that state’s measure.
“Apple is telling me this is a bad thing because you’re going to have a mecca for hackers in Nebraska,” State Sen. Lydia Brasch said of Kester’s February visit.
Apple hasn’t commented on the bills, but a trade group it belongs to contends the Nebraska measure would force the company to divulge how it secures sensitive data on the iPhone.
“Think about how much of our personal lives are in this device,” said Mike Lanigan, head engineer for Apple’s service efforts.

INSIDE THE LAB
Apple got into the screen-fixing business just three years ago with the introduction of the iPhone 5. Up until then, customers whose phones were out of warranty paid a “repair” fee, but Apple simply replaced the entire phone.
Lanigan said customers have been requesting repair service since shortly after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, but the company waited until it could perfect the process.
“We view the service aspect of this as all part of the overall Apple experience,” Lanigan said.
Apple doesn’t break out repair revenue in its financial statements. Analysts estimate it at $1 billion to $2 billion annually for all products.
As Apple’s screen mending has matured, its prices have dropped to $129 to $149, depending on screen size, from $229. That’s competitive with many independent shops for newer iPhones. Still, some technicians charge as little as $60 to fix older models.
Apple says its process aims to make the display look like it just came out of the box. To demonstrate, the company allowed Reuters to observe the Horizon Machine at a repair lab in Sunnyvale, California.
In the cavernous, brightly lit lab painted in Apple’s signature sparkling white, two lab technicians clad in T-shirts, shorts and tennis shoes scurried between rows of long white metal tables stuffed with test equipment.
Dozens of Horizon Machines lined the tables. The contraptions, gray metal boxes the size of a microwave with a swing-out windowed door, vary slightly in shape depending on the model of iPhone they repair. Apple would not say where the machines were made or by whom.
In a smaller training room, a technician laid out the tools Apple uses to fix iPhone screens: special screwdrivers for the iPhone’s five- and three-lobed screws, a custom suction-cup for loosening the screen without tearing the delicate ribbon cables behind it, and a press to squeeze iPhone 7s to ensure waterproofing.
Once the new screen is mounted, the iPhone goes into the Horizon Machine, which allows Apple’s software to communicate with the fresh hardware. Over the course of 10 to 12 minutes, the machine talks to the phone’s operating system to pair the fingerprint sensor to the phone’s brain.
While that unfolds, a mechanical finger jabs the screen in multiple places to test the touch-sensitive surface. The machine also fine tunes the display and software to match the precise colors and calibration of the original.
“We design for a customer experience that exceeds anything our competitors try to do,” said Naumann, Apple’s service chief. “We endeavor to make it right at the same standard as when the customer bought the product.”


Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash

Updated 25 May 2018
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Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash

  • Heather Lommatzsch, the driver of the vehicle, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.
  • Police say car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone at the time and comparing different routes to her des
SALT LAKE CITY, US: A Tesla that crashed while in Autopilot mode in Utah this month accelerated in the seconds before it smashed into a stopped firetruck, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press Thursday. Two people were injured.
Data from the Model S electric vehicle show it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds shortly before crashing into a stopped firetruck in suburban Salt Lake City, the report said. The driver manually hit the brakes a fraction of a second before impact.
Police suggested that the car was following another vehicle and dropped its speed to 55 mph to match the leading vehicle. They say the leading vehicle then likely changed lanes and the Tesla automatically sped up to its preset of 60 mph (97 kph) without noticing the stopped cars ahead of it.
The police report, which was obtained through an open records request, provides detail about the vehicle’s actions immediately before the May 11 crash and the driver’s familiarity with its system.
The driver of the vehicle, Heather Lommatzsch, 29, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.
She said she had owned the car for two years and used the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature on all sorts of roadways, including on the Utah highway where she crashed, according to the report.
Lommatzsch said the car did not provide any audio or visual warnings before the crash. A witness told police she did not see signs the car illuminate its brake lights or swerve to avoid the truck ahead of it.
Lommatzsch did not return a voicemail Thursday. A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The car company has said it repeatedly warns drivers to stay alert, keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times while using the Autopilot system.
Police say car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone at the time and comparing different routes to her destination.
She broke her foot in the crash and this week was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation. Online court records do not show an attorney listed for her.
The driver of the firetruck told police he had injuries consistent with whiplash but did not go to a hospital.
Tesla’s Autopilot system uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to sense the vehicle’s surrounding environment and perform basic functions automatically.
Among those functions is automatic emergency braking, which the company says on its website is designed “to detect objects that the car may impact and applies the brakes accordingly.” Tesla says the system is not designed to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is investigating the May 11 crash.
Tesla’s Autopilot has been the subject of previous scrutiny following other crashes involving the vehicles.
In March, a driver was killed when a Model X with Autopilot engaged hit a barrier while traveling at “freeway speed” in California. NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case.
This week, Tesla said Autopilot was not engaged when a Model S veered off a road and plunged into a pond outside San Francisco, killing the driver.
Earlier in May, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped and died in the blaze. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus in that investigation.