A Leaked Document Offers Insight Into Apple's iPhone Repair Process

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images.
For most people who own an iPhone, you know the damage drill: You book it to the Apple store, frantically sign up for a time slot at the Genius Bar, and head to the counter when your name is called, praying that the Apple employee can solve all your device's problems. But if you've ever found the entire Apple repair process a bit confusing — what is and isn't eligible for repair? — a leaked document is providing some useful insight.
Acquired by Business Insider, the document, called the Visual/Mechanical Inspection Guide (or "VMI"), dates to March of this year and covers iPhones 6 through 7 Plus. The guide is a set of tools to help authorized service providers know what to do for different repair issues. It's broken up into three sections: "Eligible for Warranty Service," "Eligible for Out-Of-Warranty Service", and "Ineligible for Service." (You can see images of the document, which includes detailed photos of bent phones and cracked screens, at Business Insider.)
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As a quick refresher: Every iPhone comes with Apple Limited Warranty coverage, which will protect your phone against any "manufacturing defects" for up to one year. According to the leaked VMI, these defects include debris under the display glass or a single hairline crack to the front glass. You're encouraged to also invest in AppleCare+ (you can buy it when you purchase your iPhone or up to 60 days after), which gives you hardware coverage for two years and "up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage." Out-of-warranty service applies to iPhones that have passed their first birthday, or "have an issue that’s not covered under warranty or consumer law, like accidental damage or damage caused by unauthorized modifications." The VMI says this includes a damaged lightning connector or multiple cracks in the glass.
While much of the guide seems like common sense — if you've intentionally messed with your iPhone's hardware, the resulting damage is not eligible for service — there are two parts of the VMI that are especially interesting. First, it says Apple's warranty does not cover cosmetic damage, like chips, scratches, or anything else that can be attributed to "normal wear and tear." So if you accidentally scratch off part of your rose gold finish, don't expect a Genius to offer a fix.
The second is the procedure for dealing with liquid damage: The guide has instructions about what a Genius should do if you deny water contact has taken place, including opening up your phone to look for corrosion. Make no mistake: A Genius can and will find water damage if it's happened, so there's actually no point in lying about it. If you've had the misfortune of dropping your iPhone in a bathtub, it's still eligible for service — it just isn't covered by a warranty. (Hopefully, the water-resistant iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have decreased visits to the Apple Store considerably.)
It is important to note that while the VMI is a general reference manual, it isn't the be all end all answer to iPhone repairs. Every visit to Apple's Genius Bar is judged on a case-by-case basis. For other issues, you can always refer to the iPhone Service Answer Center, which has useful details about cost, how long repairs will take, and battery service (a similar wear-and-tear approach applies here, too).
If you don't intentionally tamper with your iPhone, most issues you might have are likely serviceable, though you may have to deal with a loaner in the meantime.
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