Apple Stores aren’t the only place where you can buy Apple products and get them serviced. There are tons of other stores that also offer a similar experience, which is great for those who live nowhere near an Apple Store.
You might have seen other places that serve almost as third-party Apple Stores, like Best Buy, B&H Photo, Walmart, and Target. These stores usually have a small dedicated section where they sell Apple products, as well as service them (depending on the store).
However, you can usually also find smaller, locally-owned shops that provide the same service. These are all called Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) and Resellers (AARs), and while they’re not genuine Apple Stores, they’re as close as it gets in certain areas.
It’s important to note the distinction between Authorized Service Providers and Authorized Resellers, though. The latter only sells Apple products. So places like Walmart, Target, and carrier stores are Authorized Resellers that sell Apple products in some capacity, but they don’t offer any repair services. Authorized Service Providers, on the other hand, can sell Apple products, as well as service and repair them (e.g. Best Buy, Simply Mac, etc.). We’ll mostly be discussing Authorized Service Providers in this post.
Apple Stores vs. Apple Authorized Stores
In a nutshell, Apple Authorized stores must meet certain requirements that Apple sets, similar to how they set requirements for third-party accessory makers. This ranges from minor things like location of the store and its business hours, all the way to very specific requirements like how the store is set up inside and even how organized the back room is.
Furthermore, employees at Apple Authorized locations receive the same training and certifications that regular Apple Store employees do. However, according to one Apple-certified technician that we spoke to, the consistency of the training and certifications varies from store to store, as sales representatives in particular aren’t necessarily required to obtain Apple certifications, but are at least encouraged to do so. Every Authorized Service Provider, though, is required to have at least one Apple Certified Mac Technician on staff no matter what.
Apple Authorized stores also have access to Apple resources, including genuine replacement parts, as well as product schematics and documents to help with repairs—no one else has access to this information, so this alone is quite valuable for Authorized Service Providers. However, iFixit offers iPhone replacement parts that are from the same Chinese suppliers that Apple uses, and their guides are about as good as it gets without it being Apple-official.
The biggest benefit of Apple Authorized locations, though, is that you likely have one in your area, whereas the nearest Apple Store could be a few hours away. This means that if you need to get your iPhone or Mac looked at, you don’t necessarily have to ship it off to Apple and be without it for an extended amount of time. Instead, you can just go to your local Authorized Service Providers and possibly score a same-day repair, depending on the issue.
However, depending on the Authorized Service Provider, they might not have the necessary tools to service products as quickly as Apple can, and many repairs end up getting sent off to Apple anyway instead of being done in-house, with battery and screen replacements being the big exceptions.
What About Unauthorized Independent Shops?
With an Apple Authorized shop most likely located in your area anyway, is there a compelling reason to go to an unauthorized, independent shop instead of an Authorized Service Provider? Or should you just stay away from independent shops entirely?
The answer to that is yes and no. Independent shops aren’t necessarily worse by any means, as far as the quality of service is concerned (of course, that can vary). But as mentioned above, these places don’t have access to genuine Apple replacement parts, which means any parts that are replaced on your iPhone might not be as good as the real thing, with the battery being the biggest concern. And don’t forget about all those iPhone users who got their screens replaced by an independent shop, only to receive the infamous Error 53 later on. This has since been fixed, but it proves the volatility of third-party components.
Granted, some independent shops scoop up genuine Apple parts by scrapping old iPhones for the parts that still work, but sometimes they’ll still just order non-Apple parts from various Chinese manufacturers. The good news is that some reputable shops will offer their own in-house warranty or guarantee for repairs, so you’re certainly not taking a humongous risk by going to an independent shop rather than an Authorized Service Provider, especially if you have an older iPhone that’s no longer covered under Apple’s warranty.
Also, independent shops have way more flexibility and freedom when it comes to the kinds of repairs they can do (as well as how much they charge for those repairs). This is because Apple has a strict set of guidelines for repairs that the authorized providers must adhere to.
For example, if the headphone jack goes kaput on your older iPhone, a repair is possible, but as the Apple-certified technician that we talked to puts it, “that puts a risk on the post-repair integrity—it’s more time consuming and has a larger possibility of failure.”
In that case, Apple would likely just scrap your iPhone and give you a replacement, whereas an independent shop would be able to perform the headphone jack repair and even charge you less for it (at the risk of using third-party components and a non-Apple-certified technician).
The same goes doubly for iPads, with our technician saying that “Apple only offers whole unit replacements for iPads no matter what the hardware issue. If you’ve ever seen an iPad that’s had a third-party screen replacement, you’ll know why Apple doesn’t waste time on these repairs.”
In the end, Apple Authorized locations are about as close as it gets to a genuine Apple Store, only you don’t have to drive three hours to it if you don’t live near one. They serve as the next-best option for those needing to get their broken Apple products looked at by an Apple-certified professional.