Apple to Customers: Don't Screw With the iPhone

Apple is using a non-standard screw in new iPhones, apparently in a bid to keep users from messing with the devices. The news was first reported by ifixit, a provider of online repair guides to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) devices. As part of a tear-down analysis of the iPhone 4, the company discovered that Apple has switched to a new kind of tamper-proof screw that makes it impossible to open the device without a specialized screw driver.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

"One of the biggest reasons for Apple doing this is that they don't want to deal with someone who messes up their iPhone and going to an Apple store to get their iPhone fixed under warranty," Luke Soules, co-founder of ifixit, told InternetNews.com. "And basically it encourages people to just buy a new device when something goes wrong because even after the two-year warranty expires it's going to be harder for anyone to repair it because of the screw."

Soules said his company was able to get a screw driver "that was not ideal" but good enough to open the iPhone 4. He also noted Apple is using a similar tiny screw on the outer case of the new MacBook Air. The MacBook Air implementation is interesting, noted Soules, because a lot of companies have announced upgrades to the SSD drive in the mobile computer. Soules thinks screw drivers will eventually start appearing to address the problem, calling it a cat and mouse game that will spur third party solutions.

But ifixit CEO and co-founder Kyle Wiens took Apple to task for its policy.

A built-in death clock?

"This isn't planned obsolescence -- this is planned failure," Kyle Wiens, said in a blog post. "Apple is making billions by selling us hardware with a built-in death clock. It is designed to fail after 400 cycles, conveniently coordinated with their annual hardware release cycle."

One reason for opening the iPhone would be to replace the battery. Apple charges $79 and shipping to replace the battery which Soules estimates typically needs replacing after about 18 months to two years of use. "But if you spend that money to replace the battery you also get the iPhone back with no data on it," he said. "The program's designed in a way to discourage upgrades and encourage consumers to just spend $200 on the latest new iPhone."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

TAGS:

mobile, iPhone, Apple, smartphone, IOS

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