REUTERS: Apple Inc and Best Buy Co Inc said on Wednesday that they have extended a partnership that will allow the Minneapolis-based retailer's technicians fix iPhones at any Best Buy store in the United States.
The deal between the two companies will cover all 992 U.S. Best Buy stores, up from about 225 stores previously. In addition, 7,600 of Best Buy's so-called Geek Squad technicians now certified to carry out the repairs and using parts directly from Apple.
Apple also carries out repairs at its stores, but there are several U.S. states - including Vermont, West Virginia, both Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming - with no Apple Store.
Apple said that it now has 1,800 third-party repair providers in its U.S. network, three times as many as three years ago and enough to put eight out of 10 of its customers in the United States within a 20-minute drive of an authorized repair center.
Apple has faced criticism in the past from groups who say the iPhone maker has made its devices too difficult to repair by refusing to make genuine Apple parts available to independent repair shops.
Apple has also lobbied against attempts to pass so-called right-to-repair laws in several states, which would require the company to provided the necessary parts and information to do so.
Apple executives have told Reuters the company is seeking to ensure the quality of repairs.
"We endeavor to make it right at the same standard as when the customer bought the product," Brian Naumann, senior director of service operations at Apple, told Reuters in 2017, when Apple made Best Buy the first entity outside of Apple to receive a secret machine for repairing cracked iPhone screens.
Keeping the 900 million iPhones worldwide in service has become more important to Apple than ever as it shifts toward a services-based business of trying to persuade its customers to sign up for paid offerings such as Apple Music and iCloud.
The past two years of updates for the iPhone's operating system have focused on making it run faster on older devices. Last February, Chief Executive Tim Cook surprised Wall Street analysts by saying he viewed the booming iPhone resale market as "incredibly positive."
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)