Apple's VMI Guide shows what is and what isn't covered by the iPhone's warranty
Remember the day that the Apple iPhone 6 was released and a beaming young man from Perth appeared on live television to show off his new phone? In the rush of excitement, he opened his box only to see his brand new iPhone slide to the ground. Luckily, the phone apparently didn't suffer any damage. But had things gone differently, would the young man's new iPhone 6 been covered by the warranty?
Apple's warranty generally covers the repair of certain damage that takes place during the first year of ownership. But when it comes to warranty coverage, nothing is ever so clear cut. Suppose (hypothetically) Apple claimed that the young man was just opening up the box when the phone fell to the ground, and that he never actually had possession of the phone. Sure, it sounds like a challenge you might hear while watching an NFL game on any given Sunday. But as preposterous as this sounds, anything can happen when you are trying to decide who is financially responsible to pay for a repair.
You might find it interesting to know that Apple has a 22-page document that it calls a VMI Guide, which is an abbreviation for Visual/Mechanical Inspection. The booklet helps mechanics at Apple Stores and authorized repair centers determine if a repair is covered under the manufacturer's warranty, not covered under the warranty, or if a repair cannot be done at all. The discovered document, dated March 3, 2017, covers the Apple iPhone 6, Apple iPhone 6 Plus, Apple iPhone 6s, Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Apple iPhone 7 and Apple iPhone 7 Plus.
One Apple technician spilled the beans, noting that each Apple product has its own VMI Guide. Another technician downplayed the importance of the document and said the "VMI is something we use but we don't refer to it all that often, unless we get some oddball issue."
Damage found listed inside the green section of the VMI Guide can be repaired under warranty. This would include debris found under an iPhone display, or a hairline crack on the front glass without a point of impact found. Damage listed in the "yellow" section can be repaired out of warranty. This would include liquid damage confirmed by the user, damage to the speaker or microphone grille a damaged Lightning connector and more. If the damage on a device cannot be repaired because it is listed in the "red" section, the device is returned to the owner. This would include signs of tampering, mismatch between the phone's configuration code and the color, size or model of the product, the use of non-authorized batteries, dis-assembled or missing parts, or catastrophic damage. Cosmetic changes like brightening, gouges, pitting, scratches and dents are not covered by the warranty.
The document also reveals to technicians how certain questions they ask can help them determine whether an iPhone being brought in for repair has been damaged by water. And if you don't see an issue that affects your iPhone listed in the guide, don't panic. The VMI Guide is not the last word on whether a repair is covered by Apple. As one Apple Store employee said, "There are always those one-off issues that the phone is technically not covered under warranty but we swap the phone anyways under warranty."
Check out the images of an Apple VMI Guide by clicking on the slideshow below.