updated 08:30 pm EDT, Fri May 10, 2013
More repairs for damaged iPhones, phone support extended, more
According to leaked reports from an Apple "town hall" meeting, some significant changes are coming to AppleCare and AppleCare+ policies starting this fall -- however, unlike most news of this nature, the changes should benefit consumers while still cutting some costs. Among the bigger changes will be a new policy to repair, rather than replace, damaged iPhones when possible; an extension of telephone support; more remote hardware fault diagnosis, and a change to tie an AppleCare policy to a customer rather than a specific device.
The town hall session was led by Apple Vice President Tara Bunch, an executive in charge of AppleCare, reports AppleInsider. Also discussed was a possible change in branding under a new "One Apple" moniker, however it was not clear from reports whether this is an internal codename or a possible rebranding. The company is also planning a move to a subscription service that covers all the Apple devices a customer owns and is attached to that customer rather than to the device.
It is said that Apple is still deciding on the full feature set and pricing of such a plan, but such a move would likely save money for those owning multiple Apple devices compared to the current policy. The company currently allows a purchased AppleCare policy to cover more than one device only if all the covered items are purchased, along with the AppleCare policy, on the same invoice.
The other big change in policy is that over time and becoming fully effective this fall, Apple tech will repair -- rather than just automatically replace -- damaged iPhones. Employees are being trained to replace batteries, home buttons, vibrator motors, cameras, sleep/wake buttons, logic boards and speakers -- and thus return the original item back to the customer rather than give them a refurbished replacement (depending on the level of damage). The move actually brings Apple's US policies in line with the standard practice in China, and is also likely to be seen as more environmentally friendly.
Alongside the repair program, more advanced diagnostic tools are being prepared that can assist employees with remote hardware access diagnosis, which should significantly reduce having to send damaged units "out" for repair, resulting in faster turnaround times. AppleCare telephone support is said to be expanded to include the entire first year, unlike the current policy where it runs out after 90 days unless a full AppleCare policy is added before the 90th day after the original equipment purchase.
The changes do not affect most of Apple's front-facing after-sale support features, such as visits to the Genius Bar or in-store training, however the change in the telephone support policy (along with other initiatives like offering support via iMessage and a revamped Support Pages website that would feature more video tutorials and interactive features) will result in the company hiring more telephone support advisers. Apple has already doubled the size of its phone support teams in the past year, and now employs over 4,200 phone support providers.
The changes in the program are mostly expected to be rolled out in stages over the summer rather than implemented all at once, though some adjustments will be more widely publicized. Overall, the revamp is expected to save the company around $1 billion per year. The current plan is for the AppleCare overhaul to be finished sometime in the fall of this year.