Apple may soon have to sell the machine on the open market.
In the back room of every Apple Store in the US is something called an iPhone Calibration Machine. No images of this machine have ever been made public, it is kept under constant video surveillance, and its full functionality is unknown outside of Apple.
Update: We got photos of the device.
I learned about the existence of the calibration machine from two former Apple Geniuses and one current Apple Genius. According to those people, the calibration machine is a microwave-sized device that costs tens of thousands of dollars and has a mechanical arm that can run the iPhone through a battery of tests to make sure it's working properly. More interestingly, the calibration machine can change the settings on the iPhone to allow Apple to replace broken Touch ID buttons, which is impossible outside of Apple.
This functionality gives Apple the exclusive ability to put new front panels on iPhones without swapping out the old Touch ID button from the original device, an example of an artificial "software lock" that prevents aftermarket repair. Thus, the machine is central to an ongoing legislative battle between Apple and independent repair shops. In fact, the machine is not even sold to "authorized" Apple repair shops. "Right to repair" legislation in eight states would require Apple to sell the calibration machine on the open market. Apple did not respond to my request for comment.
I would like to know more about this machine: How it functions, what its capabilities are, a photo or video of it in action. Here is my secure contact information.
Here's how the machine was described to me by a former employee:
"The calibration machine was a rather big device (imagine something roughly the size of a fairly large microwave) that phones had to be inserted into after replacing the display. It took about ten minutes per phone to calibrate them, and the device would run a battery of pressure-sensitive tests in addition to, supposedly, registering the display with the secure enclave.
An iPhone had to be secured in the device, naturally, and a mechanical arm would perform the necessary functions. Sometimes—and always completely at random—the calibration machine would just 'fail' a phone. This would result in the 'bricking' of said phone. The infuriating part of this is that when OUR machine ruined a customer's phone, managers would force the customer to pay full price to replace their phone instead of just the cost of replacing their display. No explanation was ever given regarding why the customer suddenly had to pay more when our calibration machine was at fault, and managers were extremely combative about discounting the replacement cost when this happened."
A current Apple Genius said that the machine "is like a cross between a microwave and a 3D printer. It is connected to a computer, but also connected to its own network and server."
Have you seen this machine? Tell me about it.