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back to article iFixit boss: Apple has 'done everything it can to put repair guys out of business'

Fixing and upgrading iOS devices can be a rewarding business opportunity, so long as you don't mind having to fight Apple every step of the way. So says the founder of iFixit, who spoke at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco on Thursday. The repair outfit's CEO Kyle Wiens said there is little or no official public information for …

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About only thing that has surprised me is Apple hasn't DMCA'ed ifixit to get these repair guides removed.

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There are specific DMCA exemptions for repair and fixing and there is a raft of legal precedent existing against anyone trying to apply the DMCA in this "creative manner". So while Apple would love to apply it, it cannot.

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There are also exemptions for obviousness and prior art when applying for a patent, apparently.

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Even though not a very thorough response I'm surprised apple even replied to the reg at last!

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A new Apple T&C clause needed?

Apple could add a new clause that says any video/photo taken with an iDevice that causes Apple 'financial hardship'/distress, they have final say/ownership, in terms if getting the content removed. A bit like what Microsoft has, in terms of reading the content of our emails, if it thinks you are taking part in subdefuge against Microsoft, using Microsoft products.

Still it would leave a long list of non-Apple devices that you could film tear downs of Apple products.

I bet someone at Apple has thought about it. Microsoft obviously realise the power and breath of the technology they are giving you, to realise at some point that Technology can also be then used to destroy the Company that brought it about. (Some would say, the sooner the better, after having sat through several hours of MS Software Updates)

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Facepalm

Re: A new Apple T&C clause needed?

Maybe they could ask for your first-born too?

Despite what so many think, terms and conditions / EULAs are not allowed to override laws or reasonable expectations.

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Anonymous Coward

plus ca change c'est la meme chose

Apple have always done whatever they can to keep repairs and maintenance in house, through strictly limited spares availability to legal means. Ever since the original Macs and maybe even before.

Running a small department repairing Macs to component level was an interesting challenge because Apple would actively try to stop you if they found out. Fortunately some of the Apple authorised resellers were either sick of the problems or were trying to make a fast buck and helped us out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

Is that really so bad... you can argue choice is good but I'd rather have a genuine Apple battery or other replacement than a 3rd party one in the same way I'd fit manufacturer approved brakes to my car - maybe that's just me.

Apple repairs are not expensive - friend had a (think it was) 1Gb drive replaced on his Macbook (out of warranty) - this was perhaps 12+ months ago and they charged him about £100 which included replacing the drive, restoring the OS and advising how to restore using TimeMachine (if he had taken his drive in think they would have done that as well).

If you get Applecare they now cover 2 incidents of accidental damage to iPhones / iPads I believe - so smart your screen and pay about £50 and get it fixed or replaced by the manufacturer - I really can't imagine a 3rd party could claim to do the same for that cost.

Even out of warranty you can go to a 3rd party - yes they may not be easy to open etc. - but it's what you get if you want the device to be lighter / thinner etc. If someone offered me a car with a sealed bonnet (apart from washer fluid) but a good warranty in return I'd be open to it. I imagine electric cars are a lot like that - i.e. you are not going to service a lithium battery pack yourself - so may be a sign of things to come...

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Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

Personally, yes, I think it is that bad.

Now, I'm not a mechanic, I'm an IT professional - but if I were a mechanic, and someone offered me a car with the bonnet welded shut and when questioned said "Yes, well, despite having all the skills and tools required to service this machine yourself we'd really rather you didn't. Don't worry tho, we have an excellent warranty available." my first reaction would be to immediately go and buy something else.

You should not have to trade the ability not to avail yourself of the warranty should you happen to be capable of doing the job yourself in order to get the warranty in the first place.

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Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

"If someone offered me a car with a sealed bonnet (apart from washer fluid) but a good warranty in return I'd be open to it."

So the fact that you'd only ever be able to get it serviced every year at their dealership at whatever price they charge now (or in the future) and only ever use their spare parts and have to have that same clause on any second-hand buyer of your car would not worry you?

You would only be able to use either their breakdown service or be only eligible for tows back to their garage (and sleep in the car until they open in the morning) if you broke down - even if you were off on holiday with kids in the car?

If their local dealer goes out of business, you'd also be then required to travel, possibly a few hundred miles to the next nearest.

To me, doesn't matter if they offered a free 7 year warranty and throw in some fluffy dice I wouldn't buy the car.

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Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

Your brake comment just hit home with me. I had a car that's rear brakes always made a scratching sound when first applied after sitting for a while. A couple of pedal pushes and all was quiet. It only happened when they cooled down. A month ago the rear wheel ceased pulling out of my driveway. We took it apart and the pad on the shoe had come off and jammed up. I replaced the shoes on both sides with top line NAPA shoes and everything has been quiet since.

The noise always bothered and at times embarrassed me but the dealer could find nothing wrong and when they failed they still had plenty of pad. It must have been something in the design of the shoes.

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Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

We didn't offer 3rd Party parts, we offered repair of the original Apple parts, replacing chips on motherboards, repair of monitors, power supplies etc.

Apple had specifically gone out of their way to make life difficult for anyone offering those services, even in some cases attempting to shut us and others down via spurious legal means.

To the best of my knowledge it has never been and still isn't illegal to desolder chips from boards and replace them.

Feel free to buy your car that requires no technical knowledge on your part, don't come back and complain when your local dealership screws up, charges you an extortionate fee or refuses to repair it because it's 'too old' though because you signed away that right.

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Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

"Apple have always done whatever they can to keep repairs and maintenance in house, through strictly limited spares availability to legal means. Ever since the original Macs and maybe even before."

I wouldn't go that far. Mac Pros were obviously just regular desktops, and the original aluminium unibody Macbook has a simple catch to get to the hard drive and battery without the use of tools, and the rest of the mainboard is a couple of screws away. Getting into the screen needs a heat gun to get the glass off but that's the worst of it. As a whole an absolute delight to get into - HDD, battery and mainboard replacements are easier than most laptops of any make.

The iMacs were also not too bad with magnets holding the glass on until they went over to glue. Worst part was lifting the 27" panels out which gave me the fear, and then trying to get the glass back on dust-free.

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Re: plus ca change c'est la meme chose

The laughable thing about relying on a quality outcome from Apple is that you are doomed to be dissapointed.

The Genius Bar title applies to the person that thought of it not the people who staff it. The latter couldn't find their way out of a wet paper bag never mind repair an iphone that actually has an issue that isn't covered under warranty rather than the user having an issue (lack of sufficient braincells to operate the device).

This is personal bitter experience, not only did they NOT fix my iphone but in trying to replace the battery they broke the pin off the connector. This was after waiting for 45 mins and then watching some spotty faced knownothing repeat every step I'd already told them I had already done.

It took a local watch and smartphone repairer 10 mins to diagnose fault and fix that followed by finding the missing pin. 15 mins later phone was working again.

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Apple DON'T repair your iThing

Or so I was told when I looked into it after buying a used iPad with a cracked screen for testing purposes. I was told Apple will simply swap your device for a new one (possibly even the newer model) for some fixed fee and then send the old one off (to be repaired, recycled, who knows).

Can anyone corroborate or refute this?

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

I can only speak from personal experience...

I dropped my year-old iPhone onto concrete and cracked its screen. I took it to an Apple Store, armed with the knowledge that for £100 or so they would give me a new replacement.

As it happens, they gave me a new phone for nothing.

Love them or hate them, Apple's support is generally second to none.

I can't say I'm surprised that they would wring their hands if you've jailbroken your device. Their support covers software and hardware, and they can't be expected to investigate and fix problems caused by installing an unsupported operating system.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

Can't confirm it about apple, but it's a standard thing a lot of companies do when you send your stuff away for repair. You send it off and in the meantime they send you back a refurbished model, if they have the exact same model in stock you get the same, if they don't you get newer because they can't legally downgrade you.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

I spoke to Apple about having the screen replaced on an iPad 2. They told me to take it into the local Apple store and they would replace it with a reconditioned device for a fixed fee. There was no mention of repairing my device.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

Unless you go to a dedicated repair company, no one repairs devices then gives them back to you in my experience. What happens is they swap the device for one with equivalent specs, then send your device to the manufacturer who repairs and refurbishes it, then it's given to someone else when their device dies, or it's sold as a refurb.

I know that if you take a faulty Apple device into an Apple store, the "Genius" will attempt to repair it if it's a simple repair (even to the point of replacing damaged screens), and I've two Apple devices go bad on me. Both times, the "Genius" tried to run some simple diagnostics, poked around the device, then said they'd have to send it for repair. Actually, the first was an Apple Time Capsule with a blown power supply. That was fun watching them try and run simple diagnostics on a device that wouldn't even power up.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

There's a problem with Apple making their stuff easy to assemble (thus usually hard to disassemble).

When you break most IT things the biggest blow is losing access to your data, if only temporarily.

Apple's policy of replace rather than repair usually means you lose your data permanently.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

"There's a problem with Apple making their stuff easy to assemble (thus usually hard to disassemble)."

It isn't a natural follow through, and I'm not sure it is a problem. I was able to replace a cracked screen on a Nexus 7 myself, with no prior experience and very little skill in handling delicate things. What that tells me is that if Asus can make things inexpensive to assemble, yet still in a manner that permits serviceability, then Apple could. They choose not to, and whilst that puts me off, it is a commercial decision that they are entitled to take.

I don't like any of Apple's "toaster" model of technology, involving walled gardens, casting jailbroken devices into the wilderness, near impossible to service hardware, unexpandable storage, non-replaceable batteries. But that's why I buy selected Android devices. Apple users buy into the toaster model, and as far as I can see most of them are actually very happy with that, and with the higher cost that this business model involves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

"There's a problem with Apple making their stuff easy to assemble (thus usually hard to disassemble)."

There's more than one problem: how does an end-user remove or upgrade parts when they wish? Or what happens if a regulator responds to a story such as this one by mandating separation of certain components before getting on a plane?

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

My son's 160GB ipod classic had a flaky headphone socket. I could not figure out even how to open it so phoned Apple who told me to take it to their shop, quite a long distance away. When I got there I met a spoddy kid with pink glasses and ironic haircut who told me it was unrepairable they were not interested and would I please have a nice day.

Confused I phoned Apple again who this time routed me to a very competent and helpful lady in Russia who organised a device-swap by mail which cost me NINETY (90) QUID.

Recently my own MP3 player (Sansa Clip) developed the same intermittent headphone socket problem. With the help of a soldering iron and youtube tutorial I fixed it myself in less than 30 minutes.

tl;dr

Yes they make repair difficult on purpose to get your money.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

>Apple's policy of replace rather than repair usually means you lose your data permanently.

'Data that you only have in one place is data you don't care about', Shirley?

If you lose your phone, or have it stolen, you will also have lost your data permanently... unless, of course, you have synced your phone to your computer or a cloud service. Indeed, it is possible to clone an iPhone in its entirety, so that the replacement unit is indistinguishable from the original.

Android is a bit more piecemeal in this respect, though the important stuff such as phone numbers and photos can be uploaded as they are created. It also gives Google the WiFi passwords that are stored on your device. Backing up apps requires 3rd party software, and possibly rooting.

Mike Bell's positive experience is reflected by surveys conducted by the British Consumer Association, and published in their journal 'Which?'. The other highly rated retailer for customer service and support was John Lewis.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

>My son's 160GB ipod classic had a flaky headphone socket.

I don't know if the iPod Classics have the same internals as the, ahem, classic iPods, but the older ones were repairable (though I only ever took one apart to get its HDD to repair an iRiver H320). The hard part is getting inside - though iFixit or a wealth of YouTube videos will help you out. A guitar plectrum was the tool of choice. On the older models the headphone socket was on a ribbon cable, so the first thing to check would be whether it has become dislodged...

I remember an old Creative Nomad jukebox in which the headphone port was soldered directly to the main PCB... not a good design decision. With no flexibility, it didn't respond well to the large 3.5mm plugs found on oolder headphones or on 3.5mm > phono 'Y' cables. I've also had a Sharp MiniDisc player with the same flaw, and a myriad of screws that looked like they came from a Swiss wristwatch, never two the same length.

I've just remembered - my latest Sansa Clip is due to drop through my letterbox today (I tend to lose them before I break them... I might have to paint it hi-vis orange!) : D

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

Which means that if the failure doesn't allow you to recover and wipe your data from your device, said data might end in the hands of some unknown subcontractor located God-knows-where and working under God-knows-what security rules.

To each his own, Apple is not the only company playing by these rules. I recently had this same problem with an HP fondleslab. The owner chose -very wisely, IMO- to destroy the device instead of sending it to 'repair' and running the risk of giving away all his personal data to an unknown party.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

I guess it depends but my iPhone had a fault (after I dropped it from about 2m up!) and the camera got dislodged - surprisingly little damage to the case (and it dropped onto tarmac). Anyway... took it to Apple and - they opened it up in the back - replaced the camera module and 20 minutes later all done - barely time to get a coffee. Cost: FREE

Someone else I know literally destroyed theirs (broken screen and more) - was their fault (skiing accident) and Apple charged them about £120 for a new one I think but a brand new phone.

Now Applecare comes with 2 incidents of accidental damage - something like £40-50 excess but it's probably cheaper than having a separate insurance policy perhaps costing £7-15 per month and which may still have an excess and then require a 'fix' by a 3rd party.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

That said, this only reinforces the idea that regular backups are a Good Thing To Do.

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Re: Apple DON'T repair your iThing

Very large iDevice repair center in my town. National, in fact. And no, it's not California.

Basically, you are right. It's not really a repair center, but a refurbishment center and even then, only to a point. Screens. Batteries. Hard drives.

Apple's repair process is indeed to just "black box" everything, recommending that the customer keep their personal data on the iCloud so they can just clone the new device.

My personal experience supporting these is that they really are quite reliable and rarely do the machines themselves fail. Often it is the user who has done something to it whether software or physical harm. Notice I said rarely. It does happen, but the hardware failure rate I've seen is incredibly low compared to all other brands.

They are also the most stolen device.

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mac book air screen

price for the "spare" (not the screen, but the entire top half) is over £600 plus vat.

you can buy a replacement non-apple screen fro £100. its 1mm thick and apple glue it, (yes glue it) into the top half. so there is no way in the world you can get the old screen out without getting tiny slivers of razor sharp screen all over the place, cutting yourself or getting the fluid from the screen all over the diffussers behind the screen. even if you then get new diffusers, its (well, it was for me) impossible to get them to line up correctly so the screen appears blotchy.

never doing one of them again.

imac hard disk repalcement. takes about an hour. pain in the arse.

iphone screen replacement. takes about an hour.

is it really so difficult to make this stuff so that it can be repaired? the extra weight of screws cant be that much, the extra size of the device (a mm or something?) wouldnt be such an issue would it?

glued in batteries, screens, aaagh!

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Re: mac book air screen

the extra weight of screws cant be that much, the extra size of the device (a mm or something?) wouldnt be such an issue would it?

It would be enough. See the Reg's Z1 review which states "it weighs 25g more and is 3mm taller, 6.5mm broader and 2mm thicker." If the iPhone used screws and wasn't glued together, it would probably take up a chunk of those size differences.

I have sympathy for the manufacturers - they're being challenged to make devices smaller, thinner, prettier, more resilient to dust etc and still being pushed to make them repairable. The goals are (mostly) mutually exclusive.

Deliberately making something unrepairable when there isn't a valid design reason is just being a jerk, though.

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Re: mac book air screen

Yes I agree but this is my point...25gramms? You wouldnt even be able to tell the difference without scales. A few mm here an there is no biggie. But you are right...built in obselecance and if it breaks get a new one.

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Re: mac book air screen

>I have sympathy for the manufacturers - they're being challenged to make devices smaller, thinner, prettier, more resilient to dust etc and still being pushed to make them repairable. The goals are (mostly) mutually exclusive.

Actually, they've been challenged for a decade to make the device more recyclable - the legislation placed some of the onus of 'end of life' onto the manufacturers.

Ironically enough, using glues instead of screws make disassembly for recycling easier - devices can be batch-processed through ovens at certain temperatures, and the parts separated. This approach is cheaper than employing lots of people with screwdrivers, since it lends itself to automation.

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Re: mac book air screen

Aren't the manufacturers in the war for size that they self created?

None of my devices are "the smallest" ones because I work on functionality first. I'd rather a thicker phone with better battery life, or more capable of handing a bit of abuse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: mac book air screen

Yeah and I'd rather carry a heavy laptop as it works my biceps and gives me back pain - oh well...

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Re: mac book air screen

Yeah and I'd rather carry a heavy laptop as it works my biceps and gives me back pain - oh well...

I'd like a machine that is as small and light as my Aspire One netbook but has the screen and CPU grunt (and battery life) of my Dell M4800. I think I'd need the assistance of Dr Who for that though.

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Re: mac book air screen glue

It may make it easier to recycle something ultimately if it's glued, but making it cheaply repairable delays the day when it's scrapped and reduces the demand for (no doubt eco-costly to make) replacements.

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Re: mac book air screen

The most annoying 'glued' part on the iPhone 4/4S are the ruddy batteries (Easy enough to remove with a spudger, nonetheless) - I don't think it would be a fantastic idea to send that through an oven.. no disassembly required.. *Kaboom*! :-D

As a side-note, I find iPhone 5's the easiest to do screen replacements off.

Two screws on the bottom.. sucker on the front glass, bingo.. screen off. 3 screws and 2 push-down ribbon cables and bobs your uncle!

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Re: mac book air screen

That's nonsense really, iPhones are screwed together, they disassemble entirely with screws. To separate the digitiser from the LCD requires a heat gun, but the replacement is dirt cheap.

iPods do not disassemble easily and will need a heat gun, i believe the iPad is the same, but the iPhone is definitely a screw together device and most repairs are simple stuff.

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@Vince - Re: mac book air screen

Wrote :- "Aren't the manufacturers in the war for size that they self created?"

Indeed, them and the industry journos. The marketing droids always want something to highlight and currently it is thinness.

I recently bought a large TV - 46" screen. Beforehand I researched the specs of several alternative makes before I chose one, and all the makers' info banged on about how thin they were above all else. WTF does it matter how thin a 46" TV is? OK, say one make is half an inch thinner than another - so instead of being 12' away from me it is 12' 0.5" away from me. WTF?

Like when I first bought a PC (1992?) the buzz-word was "footprint" which apparently was good if it were "small". I read quite a few magazine reviews which banged on about little else but "footprint", which I assumed was something to do with software (!) until it dawned on me that it meant the plan-view size of the system unit. At that time the makers' aim was for it to be "pizza box" size. The fact that the screen and keyboard stuck out far beyond this "pizza box" did not seen to be considered. Then the marketing droids discovered multi-media and nothing more was heard about "footprint".

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Apple=evil, MS=incompetent

"iPads are difficult to disassemble on purpose, the Surface Pro is impossible to take apart because Microsoft is incompetent."

Among negative traits, I prefer incompetence to malice.

That's also why I found Nokias so endearing...

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Re: Apple=evil, MS=incompetent

I do wonder why Apple's is intentional while MS's is unintentional.

I think the guys at iFixit maybe have a little bit of bias... maybe.

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@Oninoshiko - Re: Apple=evil, MS=incompetent

Wrote :- "I do wonder why Apple's is intentional while MS's is unintentional. I think the guys at iFixit maybe have a little bit of bias..."

As a professional engineer who also does a lot of repair work to my own stuff (just been repairing the broken throttle lever on my lawnmower) I can easily tell the difference between incompetent design and design which is too fancy for its own good. I expect those iFixit guys can too.

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Is resilience the flip side to repairability?

Since I got my first phone in the 90s I've replaced each one after about two years. Partially because of new features of the new phone, but mainly because the old one was now knackered. Scratched screens, fluff in the screen, buttons not working properly, etc. This was true from my many Nokias, through Blackberries and finally an iPhone 3GS. Apple were even quite nice about the 3GS and out of warranty gave me a new one for free when mine got fluff under the glass.

I bought an iPhone 4S almost 3 years ago and it is the first to break the mold. I got Apple to replace the battery last month for £55. Other than needing that it is as good today as it was the day I bought it. I can't help but think that maybe making a device both small and really robust is somewhat related to it becoming harder to repair.

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Re: Is resilience the flip side to repairability?

I've always used nokia phones, and each of them survived more than 3 years of use, even with the multitude of times I dropped them on floor

the only one I replaced because it broke was the one I dropped into water -- worked fine for 3 or 4 months after I dried it, but ultimately it went down

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It isn't because they're "out to get" the poor third party repairmen

As everyone knows, Apple is freakish about controlling everything in the customer experience. Repair is part of that, and they don't want dodgy repairs done by some guy in a mall kiosk.

Because they don't expect third parties to repair the phones, or even in most cases their own store employees, they don't need to compromise the design or manufacturing process to make it easier to repair. Gluing everything down is hell for repair, but it guarantees the phone is rock solid and there's never a noise/rattle, and glue is lighter than screws.

Honestly, the type of people who are bothered by Apple not doing anything to help third parties repair their products are the type of people who are bothered by their control over the App Store, the fact you can't replace the keyboard with an alternate one, the fact it doesn't have a removable back, etc. so they weren't going to be Apple customers anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It isn't because they're "out to get" the poor third party repairmen

If you buy Apple in the first place you would let Apple fix it - if you buy a new Mercedes I doubt many people get it serviced anywhere other than a non-authorised dealership - at least until it's out of warranty. Cars also last a lot longer than phones (normally) - if Apple will support it and charge reasonable prices (as they seem to) it's just part of what you are buying into.

The idea of using 3rd party batteries and / or charges and / or cables has also been shown to be dodgy and at least if there is an issue I'd rather go after Apple than some guy who fixes phones in the shopping mall or via ebay?

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Re: It isn't because they're "out to get" the poor third party repairmen

I was going to post a similar thing: people are concluding malice where there is no such evidence — jumping from "Apple makes disproportionately hard-to-repair devices" to "Apple is trying to kill the repair industry so that it can pump up its own profits".

As well as the factors you raise, I think it may also be because the people at Apple genuinely seem to care about shaving millimetres off the products every year. When faced with a conflict they prefer being able to claim thinnest/lightest to being able to claim more repairable.

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"iPads are difficult to disassemble on purpose, the Surface Pro is impossible to take apart because Microsoft is incompetent."

That's my favourite piece! I'm not an Apple fan, but that's a cracking statement, well it made me smile :D

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