It’s not often we get to see the inner workings of Apple, but thanks to Motherboard and several of its readers, we got our first good look at one of the company’s mysterious “iPhone Calibration Machines.”
For those that don’t know, the iPhone Calibration Machine is a tool Apple employees use to complete iPhone repairs. For obvious reasons, it’s also a device that few outside of Apple have ever seen before.
After Motherboard put out a call for information, several former Apple Store employees replied, sharing details, as well as photos of the mysterious device.
According to one former Genius, the title the company gives to its repair technicians, Apple started using this device following the launch of the iPhone 5s. It allows, among other things, Apple Store employees to ensure an iPhone repair has been completed properly before returning the device to a customer. The symbols on the left-hand side of the device reportedly allow an employee to calibrate an iPhone’s camera, while the “Flock Paper” above the symbols is used to ensure the screen is functioning properly.
“It was a big clunky machine that honestly looked like someone built it in their backyard,” said the anonymous tipster to Motherboard‘s Jason Koebler.”There were different ‘moulds’ that different iPhone models would go into before going in the machine, and it would take around 30 minutes … there was some weird liquid that needed to be placed in the machine that we would have to wear gloves with to fix it. Lots of gas type valves and whatnot.”
However, one of the most important repairs the device allows Apple’s repair technicians to complete is a pairing of a new TouchID sensor with an old iPhone. This is something that third-party repair shops, the kind that usually complete iPhone repairs for significantly less money than Apple, cannot do; one of the iPhone Calibration Machine’s features is a connection, via an iMac, to an internal Apple TouchID server.
Motherboard details the economic consequences of this in a related article. Essentially, however, should Apple embed a fingerprint sensor inside of the next iPhone — and it’s looking likely that the company will — it will become significantly more expensive for independent repair shops to replace a broken iPhone screen. In fact, as a result of the company’s current replacement policy and technological roadmap, consumers may be forced to go to Apple, and Apple only, should they need to fix their iPhone’s display moving forward.
By way of comparison, this would be like car manufacturers forcing their customers to go to the car dealership anytime they need to do an oil change.