The display on my 12.9" iPad Pro has been suffering from a noticeable flicker for quite some time, so I made a Genius Bar appointment at my local Apple Store. This is the first fault I've had with any iPad I've owned and within five minutes of arriving and speaking to a Genius, I left the store with a replacement iPad Pro.
The only service option for the iPad is, still, a whole unit replacement. Whatever hardware issue an iPad is suffering from, the solution is to replace the entire device—just like an iPod or Apple Watch. In comparison, hardware issues with a Mac typically involve a repair, with any affected components replaced. The iPhone sits somewhere in the middle as there are some issues that can be resolved by a repair instead of simply swapping the device (e.g., battery, display).
If my iPad Pro hadn't been under warranty, the service cost would've been $599 to replace it through the Genius Bar. Gulp.
In comparison, Mac repair costs are much more favorable. The Apple Store typically charges a labor cost (around $100) and either the cost of the affected component(s) or a flat-rate fee of $475 to send the Mac to their repair facility. This fee covers the cost of any parts needed, so for expensive repairs (e.g., multiple component failure) it's often cheaper1.
If Apple is serious about the iPad Pro being a PC replacement, the time has come to rethink their strategy and pricing around iPad servicing. A faulty Smart Connector or camera shouldn't cost the same to fix as an iPad that doesn't power on, and it certainly shouldn't be more expensive than a Mac that went for a swim.
Considering how the iPad is constructed, it's unlikely we'll see in-store repairs conducted by Apple, at least not in a similar way to the Mac or iPhone. An alternative would be for Apple to be more flexible with the replacement cost so it's appropriate for the issue reported. For example, it could cost $100 to replace an iPad if the volume button is faulty, whereas a shattered display or liquid damage could cost the full $599.
This isn't a concept that Apple would be unfamiliar with as they already offer battery replacement pricing. If the battery is worn out, Apple will replace the iPad for just $99. Similarly, AppleCare+ customers can replace a damaged iPad (a maximum of twice) for the meager sum of $49.
Given the longevity of the iPad, I hope that Apple considers offering more affordable service options. AppleCare+ for iPad offers only two years of coverage and I don't have any intention of replacing my iPad Pro for quite a long time after that. If it does develop a fault after those two years are up, it's going to be very costly.
My wife's 12" MacBook also needed to be taken to the Genius Bar recently as the USB-C port wasn't working correctly. Since it's covered by AppleCare, the Genius specified the flat-rate fee and sent it off for repair. ↩