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Upcoming Galaxy Note 8 Design May Offer a Sigh of Relief for Repair Shops

2017 has been a big year for new devices. From the LG G6 to the Pixel XL, things like screen resolution, infinity design, and camera quality have been all the buzz from device to device, each outdoing the other as fast as they can be released. The big ones are yet to be seen though, with Samsung’s late-August launch of the redesigned flagship Note 8, and the much-speculated-but-shrouded-in-mystery Apple iPhone 8, set to be unveiled sometime in September.

It would seem that Samsung has a lot to prove after last year’s Note 7 disaster, and has taken a unique marketing approach with the latest iteration of its flagship brand: transparency. Industry leaks, prototype speculation, and image renderings have been regularly surfacing for months now, hinting at a variety of attractive new features, including true 4K AMOLED display, redesigned S Pen with added functions, and a dual lens camera.

The Galaxy Note 8’s biggest competition, the looming giant iPhone 8, has stayed true to the Apple Way and kept information buttoned up incredibly tight, leaving the majority of the buzz on the new model up to pure speculation. Will the iPhone finally be moving to an OLED display? Will they further shave off the midframe, leaving the new model more susceptible to cracks and breaks? Will the biometric scanner be built directly into the screen, and even worse, be coded directly to the board as the current iPhone 7 home button IC situation would lead us to believe? Will aftermarket manufacturers have the technology ready for OLED replacements, and will they be even close to affordable for independant repair shops? Apple is keeping the answers to these questions meticulously guarded, until the iPhone 8 is scheduled to be released in late September.

On the other hand, Samsung has always taken a friendlier approach when it comes to the repair business. They manufacture and sell replacement parts as soon as devices are released, and offer training and tutorials to the general public and independent technicians looking to do Samsung repairs. They have never been the type to use diversionary tactics like coding IC chips to the logic board, and other hurdles designed to deter repairs by anyone besides their company. Apple has employed everything from chip coding (Horizon Machine), to intentionally flawed design (iPhone 7 home buttons), to software updates (error 53) to keep people coming to the Genius Bar, instead of local repair shops.

According to the most recent image leaks of the Galaxy Note 8, it looks like a fingerprint scanner will not be built into the screen, like previous mockups had indicated. While this is an overall disappointment to consumers looking forward to the breakthrough technology (and those unimpressed with the curious placement of the current fingerprint scanner, seated right next to the back camera), it’s looking like a good sign for the independent device repair industry. By not including the fingerprint scanner on the upcoming Note 8, this may indicate a delay on built-in fingerprint scanners on iPhones, considering Samsung’s history with utilizing new technology more quickly than Apple, and the fact that Samsung manufactures the majority of Apple screens.

How would a built-in fingerprint scanner affect the repair industry? Some worry that Apple will pull another trick from their sleeve, and have the fingerprint sensor coded directly to the board, making it impossible to put a replacement screen on a device without either swapping the chips, or having Apple recode the whole thing. Since 85 percent of the entire independent repair industry is iPhone, this would pose a major threat to repair shops if they could no longer replace screens on these devices. Consumers would be forced to take their broken iPhones directly to Apple or a business with a Horizon Machine, to have replacement screens re-coded to the logic board.

Rumor has it that Apple has struggled with this technology, and it’s comforting to know that if Samsung doesn’t have it, it’s likely Apple doesn’t either. Regardless of the embedded scanner situation, the larger question remains with Apple’s future intentions regarding security in general. While the fingerprint scanner would have been a convenient excuse for Apple to pair the board to the screen as an unfortunate side-effect of stronger “security”, the larger questions of serialized screens, chip firmware, and Apple’s overall approach to aftermarket repair are still largely unknown. Is Apple bold enough to throw such a large wrench into the repair business, regardless of consumer backlash? Is their foothold in the American and European markets strong enough to withstand forcing all repairs through Apple-certified (and extensively authorized) facilities? We are hoping iPhone 8 will hold some kind of clue.

Stay tuned here for more news on Galaxy Note 8, iPhone 8, and what they could mean for your business, as well as industry tips, tricks, teardowns, and more!