Have you ever been to the back room of an Apple Store? That's a trick question, because the back room at the Apple Store is a mythical place, filled with elves, warlocks, and a magical machine that fixes iPhone screens. At least, it was until this week.
Photo: Flickr / Faris Algosaibi
Apple just revealed that it's going to start shipping its magical iPhone-repair device -- it's called a "Horizon Machine" -- to other Earthly places, such as Best Buy in the US. A company executive told Reuters that it would install about 400 of these microwave-sized gadgets at third party retailers' repair shops in 25 countries by the end of the year. It should be highlighted that this news represents the first time Apple has ever confirmed the existence of the mysterious device. The famously secretive company even let Reuters snap a few photos of the thing. (You see the photos here.)
At this point you're probably wondering what the enchanted Horizon Machine actually does. You might assume that you slide a broken phone into a slot, press a button, hear a ding, and a good-as-new phone pops back out the slot, the kind of process we were promised in endless episodes of The Jetsons. You may think that we finally deserve such a marvel and that, if anybody were to build something so miraculous, it would be Apple. You could believe this. But you'd be wrong.
In fact, all the Horizon Machine does is calibrate the new screen after a human being does the actual replacement. Here's Reuters' description of the disappointingly mortal play-by-play:
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 colours and calibration of the original.
Kind of lame, right? Well, the real bright side is that Apple's getting more comfortable with letting third parties repair its precious devices. The Cupertino company now says that it won't even void your warranty when you get your phone fixed at an unauthorised repair shop "as long as the technician caused no damage". Good luck with that.
The move comes on the heels of increasingly long wait times for repairs at Apple Stores, as well as the movement for the right to repair. Reuters' report also landed just two days after news emerged that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was suing Apple over misleading customers about their rights. Obviously, pulling back the curtain on its once ultra-top secret (and ultimately disappointing!) Horizon Machine doesn't undo years of Apple punishing customers for repairing their own gadgets by voiding warranties and causing headaches. It's kind of cool to see at least one of the machines Apple keeps in its chimerical workshop of miracles, though.
Makes you wonder what else is in the back room. Is it goblins? It's definitely goblins.