Hospitals That Mend The Apple Set–In This ER, Doctors Operate on Pocket-Size Patients


By Ian Sherr

The patient might have been under water too long. Only a few months old, the victim wasn’t responding.

A doctor, in green surgical scrubs, rushed to his sparkling clean operating room, hopeful the patient could be saved.

After thoroughly scrubbing and putting in some new parts, he tightened the last screw and pushed the power button. The familiar Apple Inc. logo filled the screen of the phone.

This doctor works at the iHospital.

 The chain of repair shops is one of many firms that have sprung up and build their business largely by repairing Apple devices. Far from the dingy, box-and-cord littered shops of the past, these businesses have taken on the Apple ethos with slick presentation and savvy brand building. Their customers come hoping to pay less for repairs than at Apple’s own stores.

“There are about 250 Apple Stores in the U.S., but there are millions of customers,” says Ross Newman, the 27-year-old founder of iHospital, based in Tampa, Fla. “They need somewhere to go to fix their products.”

Other repair shops range from iHospital to Cupertino iPhone Repair in the San Francisco Bay area, to Orlando, Fla.-based uBreakiFix Co. which has stores around the country including in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Apple’s own warranties are considered among the best by Consumer Reports. But until recently the company charged a hefty premium to fix broken screens or water damage—all too common problems as people take their beloved devices almost everywhere, even to the bathroom. The independent stores say they can fix devices for roughly half the cost as Apple.

Apple doesn’t have any ties to the stores. An Apple spokeswoman said Apple’s new AppleCare Plus policy for the iPhone costs $99 and will cover up to two incidents of accidental damage at a cost of $49 each time. The service, which lasts for two years from the date of purchase, also includes technical support in Apple’s stores and over the phone.

Mr. Newman says he can compete. A new front screen for an iPhone would cost about $150, including the cost of signing up for AppleCare Plus and the incident charge. The iHospital charges roughly between $79 and $100 for that same repair, depending on the model. And, Mr. Newman added, his doctors offer tech support and a one-year warranty on repairs. Other repair shops offer similar prices and services.

Keith Fredrickson, 34, and his wife Margaret, 35, of Jersey City, N.J., each bought a brand new iPhone 4S a couple of months ago. A few days after Ms. Fredrickson got her phone, it slipped out of her back pocket in the bathroom. “She had already flushed the toilet, thankfully,” Mr. Fredrickson says.

To read the rest of the story, either contact me directly or read more online at the WSJ: here. (subscription required)

(Published March 22, 2012, in The Wall Street Journal.)

Apple Offered Licensing Deals to Patent Foes


By Ian Sherr

Apple Inc. is fighting a multi-front patent war against competing makers of mobile devices, demanding injunctions that would block sales of their products. But the company has also indicated a willingness to cut deals with competitors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The consumer-electronics company has put forth proposals to Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. to settle some pending litigation in exchange for royalty payments to license its patents, among other terms, these people said.

This is not a new tactic; Apple had some discussions with companies such as Samsung before initiating litigation, according to statements made to a court in at least one suit.

Apple isn’t attempting to offer patent licenses to all its competitors or create a royalty business, one person familiar with the matter said.

However, some people familiar with the situation see more reason for Apple to consider legal settlements, following a mix of legal victories and setbacks against smartphone makers that use Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system. Apple has targeted these hardware makers rather than sue Google directly, and they have responded with their own patent suits against Apple.

One factor is that Android has proliferated so widely that shutting the software out of the market using injunctions is no longer practical, one of the people said. Licensing is an alternative that could add cost to Android development and make it less appealing for manufacturers.

Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., has asked for between $5 and $15 per handset for some of its patents in one negotiation with Motorola, or roughly 1% to 2.5% of net sales per device, another person familiar with the matter said. Motorola, for its part, has been criticized for asking for 2.25% of net sales per device from Apple for its patents, which are considered essential for creating wireless devices.

None of the people could confirm if settlement talks are currently taking place, but say this is part of an ongoing process.


To read the rest of the story, either contact me directly or read more online at the WSJ: here. (subscription required)


(Published Mar. 6, 2012, in The Wall Street Journal.)