Apple’s Diabolical Plan to Screw Your iPhone

Philips #00 screws out; in come the pentalobes. Kyle Wiens:

Apple is switching to a new type of tamper-resistant screw. This is not a standard Torx, and there are no readily available screwdrivers that can remove it. This isn’t the first time they’ve used this type of screw—it first appeared in the mid-2009 MacBook Pro to prevent you from replacing the battery—and Apple is using a similar screw on the outer case of the current MacBook Air. This screw is the primary reason the 11″ MacBook Air earned a lousy repairability score of 4 out of 10 in our teardown last October.

Apple chose this fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive. Shame on them.

Why would Apple make it harder to open up the iPhone? Simple: Apple doesn’t want you to fix your own iPhone. Right?

I don’t buy that. If the iPhone broke and was easy to open the casual user would just open it up, take a look, and try his hand at fixing it. If the iPhone was somewhat difficult to open the same user would think twice. If the iPhone was very difficult to open it would most likely end up at a local Genius Bar. Only the most serious would acquire the tools, open up the iPhone, and attempt to fix it. BTW, that’s why I’m not opening up my old Mac mini to upgrade; I’m not confident enough that I won’t break anything.

This effect has two positives. First, the casual fixer-upper won’t try to fix his own iPhone. This is probably a good thing because most likely he won’t be able to fix it and second Apple won’t be put in the position of having to inform the casual fixer that the warranty has been voided, or worse that it has now been rendered unrepairable.

The second positive is that only those who have the skills and determination would attempt at fixing a broken iPhone. Most likely the potential for success would be high.

These are the effects that Apple wants and what the company will most likely get with the pentalobes on the iPhone. My guess? Apple will continue to make it more difficult to open up most if not all of its products for this same reason.

Of course one could argue: just make it easy to fix and stop screwing around. That wouldn’t work: Apple’s products are highly customized. The new MacBook Air that Wiens mentions is a perfect example. In a typical notebook PC the LCD is modularized, meaning there is an enclosure that surrounds and keeps together the LCD cell and the backlight unit (BLU). The LCD module makes it easy to drop into a standard chassis. In the new MacBook Air that’s not the case. In order to slim down the overall thickness of the display, Apple did a custom job forgoing the module and putting the LCD cell and the BLU together using the chassis itself. The result is a really thin display but almost impossible to fix. Let me warn you: don’t open up the display. If you do, you’ll never be able to get the dust out and that will drive you nuts. If you have access to a clean room, go ahead.

PS: If you’re serious about fixing your own iPhone 4, iFixit sells the “iPhone 4 Liberation Kit” for $9.95.