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Friday, May 10, 2013, 02:55 pm PT (05:55 pm ET)

Big changes coming to AppleCare this fall: warranty subscriptions, in-store iOS device repairs, more [u]

In a town hall session held on Thursday, Apple informed tech staff that major changes to the AppleCare and AppleCare+ service programs will be enacted starting this fall, with a broadening of current policies likely to cut costs and make the service more attractive to consumers.

AppleCare


The town hall session was led by Apple Vice President Tara Bunch, who revealed a set of after sales policy shifts would soon be rolling out across the U.S., and eventually the world, with many of the changes referred to under the "One Apple" brand, said a person familiar with the matter. While Bunch was referred to as Vice President of AppleCare, AppleInsider cannot confirm this assertion. On her LinkedIn page, Bunch lists her current job as simply "Vice President at Apple," but it is known that she was previously vice president of Global Customer Support Operations at Hewlett-Packard prior to joining Apple in 2012.

As for the "One Apple" moniker, it is unclear if the term is an internal designation for the vast restructuring about to take place, or is intended to become a consumer mark once the new changes are in place.

"The biggest announcement, was the way repairs for iPhones will be handled soon," the person, who asked not to be identified due to their active status as an Apple employee, told AppleInsider. "The way it is now, if almost anything is wrong with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, the entire device is exchanged for a like-new re manufactured (sic) device, whether brought into an apple store or sent in for mail in repair. Now we are starting to actually repair the products and return the same device to the customer."

Currently, Apple Stores have the tools to replace speakers, receivers, home buttons, the vibrator motor and battery. Come June, capabilities will be expanded to display replacement, and by July cameras, sleep/wake buttons and logic boards will be dealt with in-store. In addition, employees will have access to advanced diagnostics tools that can remotely assess hardware issues and relay the data directly to technicians, allowing for quicker turnaround times.

The new in-house repairs are to be rolled out across the U.S., with international support coming online soon thereafter. Bunch reportedly said Apple expects to save nearly $1 billion per year with the change in policy.

In another huge departure, Apple will reportedly reconfigure its paid AppleCare service as a subscription model, or introduce a new tier, which will be attached to a customer rather than a specific product. Under the proposed system, a customer is entitled to in-store training similar to the One to One program available to new Mac buyers, with each device owned being covered by the warranty. The new AppleCare may also include "exclusive" 24/7 support, though that has not been confirmed as a full set of features and pricing is not yet etched in stone.

Gratis after sales coverage is also slated for an update, and will move over to a new system where phone support will persist for at least an entire year, with possible two-year support offered in the future. Apple currently offers 90 days of free phone support without buying the add-on AppleCare plan. Online support, knowledge base articles, online live chats and Genius Bar visits will continue to be free.

AppleCare Terms

Apple's current term limitations for after sales coverage and service for AppleCare+ for iPhone.


Apple is also looking to grow its home advisor team, which currently consists of over 4,200 technical advisors who work from home instead of an office, approximately double the number from one year ago. The program is meant to cut overhead costs and provide for a larger pool of potential employees.

Finally, the person said Apple's online resources will see an overhaul in the coming months as the company is working to expand its current offerings to include support over iMessage and a revamp of the Support Pages website, which is expected to focus on interactive tutorials and video content. Unsurprisingly, the Web-based enhancements will be optimized for both computer and iOS device perusal.

In addition, Apple personnel will begin to take a more active role in the discussion boards, helping to answer questions, consolidating threads and performing general maintenance.

Most of the changes mentioned above will roll out by fall if all goes according to plan. AppleInsider has reached out to Apple for comment and will update this article upon receiving a response.

Update: In a follow-up correspondence, the person briefed on Apple's upcoming changes pointed out that in-store repairs would also be a plus for those customers whose products are no longer under warranty. Instead of paying a universal "swap out" fee, out of warranty hardware issues will be fixed on a per device basis. Apple has reportedly deployed advanced in-store repairs at select locations, with customer response being largely positive.