Apple got into the screen-fixing business just three years ago with the introduction of the iPhone 5. Up until then, customers whose phones were out of warranty paid a "repair" fee, but Apple simply replaced the entire phone.
Lanigan said customers have been requesting repair service since shortly after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, but the company waited until it could perfect the process.
"We view the service aspect of this as all part of the overall Apple experience," Lanigan said.
Apple doesn't break out repair revenue in its financial statements. Analysts estimate it at $1 billion to $2 billion annually for all products.
As Apple's screen mending has matured, its prices have dropped to $129 to $149, depending on screen size, from $229. That's competitive with many independent shops for newer iPhones. Still, some technicians charge as little as $60 to fix older models.
Apple says its process aims to make the display look like it just came out of the box. To demonstrate, the company allowed Reuters to observe the Horizon Machine at a repair lab in Sunnyvale, California.
In the cavernous, brightly lit lab painted in Apple's signature sparkling white, two lab technicians clad in T-shirts, shorts and tennis shoes scurried between rows of long white metal tables stuffed with test equipment.
Dozens of Horizon Machines lined the tables. The contraptions, gray metal boxes the size of a microwave with a swing-out windowed door, vary slightly in shape depending on the model of iPhone they repair. Apple would not say where the machines were made or by whom.
In a smaller training room, a technician laid out the tools Apple uses to fix iPhone screens: special screwdrivers for the iPhone's five- and three-lobed screws, a custom suction-cup for loosening the screen without tearing the delicate ribbon cables behind it, and a press to squeeze iPhone 7s to ensure waterproofing.
Once the new screen is mounted, the iPhone goes into the Horizon Machine, which allows Apple's software to communicate with the fresh hardware. Over the course of 10 to 12 minutes, the machine talks to the phone's operating system to pair the fingerprint sensor to the phone's brain.
While that unfolds, a mechanical finger jabs the screen in multiple places to test the touch-sensitive surface. The machine also fine tunes the display and software to match the precise colors and calibration of the original.
"We design for a customer experience that exceeds anything our competitors try to do," said Naumann, Apple's service chief. "We endeavor to make it right at the same standard as when the customer bought the product." (Editing by Jonathan Weber and Marla Dickerson)