Is Apple trying to screw us?
I have traditionally held a relatively high level of respect for iFixit, a web site dedicated to the repair of your iProducts, providing parts and manuals for just about every Apple product made this side of the year 2000. I gained even more respect for them about a month ago, when they announced their quest to publish a repair manual for everything out there. Their goal here is to empower consumers and help to solve the problem of e-waste that is severely harmful to places in China. You can read more about it in their blog.
When word broke out that Apple recently switched to using a new Pentalobe style screw for the iPhone 4, iFixit decided to seize this opportunity to get free PR and make Apple look like some sort of monstrous company trying to screw customers out of being able to unscrew their iPhones open. iFixit hates to be the bearer of bad news, I’m sure, especially when it brings so much attention to their company and spins them as some sort of anti-Apple consumer advocate group, and they’re even being so altruistic about it that you can even buy a liberation kit (read: a screwdriver that gets the Pentalobe screws out, but mutilates them in the process and 2 #0 Phillips screws) to liberate your iPhone from the absolute tyranny of having different shaped screws.
I truly can’t believe that iFixit would stoop to such trolling to try to get some pageviews and exposure. Having opened quite a few Apple devices in my day, I’ve had the displeasure of opening quite a few such devices that had previously been worked on by some amateur who didn’t see the importance in getting the right sized screwdriver to put the now-stripped Phillips screws back into place. And Phillips screws are remarkably easy to strip, even with the correct sized screwdriver. I’ve had better experiences with Torx screws and screwdrivers; they don’t seem to strip as easily.
Looking at the design of the Pentalobe screws, it seems pretty clear that these were designed to not strip as easily.
Apple’s very well known for trying out new things in their products. They’re always looking at new materials, new manufacturing processes, and new hardware that becomes available. This looks like they’re trying a new screw design. Yes, it’s a screw type for which proper screwdrivers aren’t widely available, but it’s hardly Apple’s responsibility to distribute screwdrivers to customers all over the world just because it’s trying a new screw design in its devices. Someone’s going to develop and sell a proper Pentalobe screwdriver soon enough, and we’ll all be just fine (and maybe won’t have as many stripped screws).
If Apple’s motives were to keep people from servicing their own devices, there are better (and much more douchey) ways to go about it.
Furthermore, cries of Apple’s “planned obsolescence” of equipment are pretty spurious to me. Used Apple devices go for premium prices, even the oldest of Apple devices. The first generation iPhone (which, by the way, didn’t have any outside-accessible screws at all, but nobody complained about that) easily sells for $100 on eBay. G4 Mac Minis are going for as much as $200 (note: these are at least six years old). Apple devices are still sought after even once they’ve reached an age where their counterparts made by other companies are sitting in a pile of electronics being sorted through by an eight year old in China. And Apple’s devices have come a really long way in the past few years in terms of their reliability. Apple notebooks are now made using a lot fewer parts (thanks to the Unibody case design) which results in fewer, simpler repairs. The computers are highly recyclable and Apple happily collects their own machines at the end of their lifecycle, free of charge.
Much love. Namaste.