Apple has been under fire for years with regards to its onerous policies regarding "unofficial" hardware repairs. Most recently, Apple began displaying warning messages within iOS for iPhone users that had their batteries replaced with non-genuine hardware.
For some people that live nowhere close to an Apple Store or an Apple authorized service centers, getting repairs performed by indie shops is the only course of action if they want to have their device fixed within a reasonable amount of time. And given that Apple wouldn't provide genuine hardware replacements, tools, or manuals necessary to perform repairs to non-authorized shops, the company was in fact exacerbating the problem.
Apple has now had a change of heart -- likely due to impending legislation that would have eventually forced its hand -- and will expand the availability of genuine replacement hardware and supporting tools to more independent shops. In other words, shops both big and small will have access to the same hardware that Apple provides to its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs).
“To better meet our customers’ needs, we’re making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorized Service Provider network,” said Apple COO Jeff Williams. “When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.”
Apple currently has a global AASP footprint of 5,000 shops, and it is hoping to quickly expand it to provide repair services to its growing customer base. Best Buy is one of the largest AASPs, providing hardware repair services at most of its U.S. retail store locations.
As you might expect, there is an application process for indie shops to gain access to Apple parts, tools, and repair manuals. These companies will have to first apply with Apple using the following link, after which (if the application is accepted) they'll receive the keys to unlock the walled garden.