back to article Fancy fixing your own mobile devices? Just take the display off carefu...CRUNCH !£$%!

Out of 17 IT brands, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have taken the crown for devices that are the hardest to repair or upgrade – and their displays are the fiddliest bits of all. It's all about the complex designs, adhesives and proprietary parts such as screws, Greenpeace discovered in a repairability survey (PDF) of 40 popular …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 star apple screw driver

    Just wanted to replace the battery in my Mac book air. In Vietnam so no truly approved apple shop. Found the exact battery part from China (40% of apple cost) and spent 4 hours trailing around markets in Hanoi before finding the 5 point screw driver to open the case..cost $1, and the fun of the chase. Screw you apple, for a geek to have to search electronic and micro tool markets for hours was a great Saturday morning.

  2. roytrubshaw
    Pint

    Re: 5 star apple screw driver

    "Found the exact battery part from China (40% of apple cost) ..."

    Have one of these (it is Friday after all) --->

    Though you do need to take care with some of the replacement parts (even the branded Apple parts are probably from China, so it's not the nationality) as they may be poorer quality - possibly more prone to catch fire, or lesser capacity.

    There is a difference between noname and branded replacements: I've repaired my wife's phone's screen with both types and the Nokia branded part doesn't cause the phone to freeze and require a reboot and didn't cost all that much more than the noname brand.

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    Re: 5 star apple screw driver

    In the battery kits on Ebay the special screwdrivers come supplied with the part.

    This article is a lot of BS, at least up until the fingerprint sensor the Apple screen replacements were childs play. With a fingerprint snesor it's a bit tricker but easy enough after a bit of practice up to 6S.

    Battery replacements also a 5 minute doddle up to 6S.

    When the 7 arrived with its waterproofing things then got more complicated.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: 5 star apple screw driver

    When the 7 arrived with its waterproofing things then got more complicated.

    Well yes, but proper waterproofing takes effort. I have two watches, and to replace a battery costs a lot exactly because of the new seals and the pressurised case closing. There's also the jeweller's profit, but you either pay and keep it watertight or have a £5 battery replacement with the waterresistance removed.

    There's also a question about guarantee. All manufacturers have to offer guarantee, so one way or the other they'll pay for complicated repair processes. As far as I can tell, the "wear and tear" parts of your average iPhone are actually easy (up until iPhone 7), which is why there is such a brisk trade in stolen iPhones: they're not sold for complete phones (because Apple has that reasonably locked down), they're sold for parts.

    As I've said before, I'll lump Apple with the rest as soon as the rest also takes in old gear and thus voluntarily ends up with having to deal with the environmental issues. For the moment, it appears they consider the hardware landfill the moment you've bought it. You can't tell me that their manufacturing doesn't take that into account - AFAIK, that's the exact reason they stopped using screws in the first place (easier to automate later disassembly).

  5. tony72

    It's the way things are going

    It's a shame how fast this seems to be becoming the norm. I fixed many of my own phones over the years, up to my Nexus 5, which needed the screen and back replaced at different times due to drop damage. My current Pixel will be the first phone that I'd need to deal with heating up adhesive to get the screen off, and having had a bad experience doing that with my Lenovo ultrabook (it's amazing how fast thin plastic parts can melt under a standard heat gun, even on the lowest setting, if you're not paying attention), I'd be a bit scared of that process.

    But the fact is that repairability is not likely to be a key consideration in most people's buying choices, since repairing the phone is something you probably hope never to have to do, and most people will probably upgrade before the battery dies, so it's going to come way down the list of considerations when choosing a phone. So with little incentive for manufacturers to worry about it much, I suspect they'll do whatever suits them best, and if that means potting the whole innards in resin and making it 100% non-repairable, that's what they'll do.

  6. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Re: It's the way things are going

    Time perhaps for a mandatory 5 year warranty including battery replacement at advertised rate/costs given with the initial sales price?

    That would focus them and the buyers on the benefits of not selling easily broken shit and being able to fix stuff instead of throwing it away and getting a new device with even more data slurping built it.

  7. Bob Rocket

    Re: It's the way things are going

    'Time perhaps for a mandatory 5 year warranty...'

    Just because you might want to have a stab at fixing an out of date bit of kit the rest of us will be forced to pay extra (that mandatory warranty isn't free and the consumer will pay).

    Why don't you choose to buy some insurance for when your device breaks then you can get it professionally repaired and let me be free to choose not to.

    I will save my money and when mine breaks I will just send it for recycling and spend that saved money on the latest model (or something else entirely).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It's the way things are going

    >Time perhaps for a mandatory 5 year warranty including battery replacement at advertised rate/costs given with the initial sales price?

    In UK the mandatory/Statutory Warranty is already 6 years if you buy direct from Apple (it's still 6 years by law [CRA 2015] if you buy elsewhere but Apple will point you at the retailer as the legal onus is on seller not manufacturer).

    Apple's battery replacement cost is £79 (although it's free for 2 years) .

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Rob Daglish

    Re: It's the way things are going @Bob Rocket

    Sorry Bob, the problem _is_ that things aren't designed to be fixed. I attended a course to be certified in repairing a certain brand of printer so I could undertake warranty repairs for the manufacturer. Their rep told us when stripping down a high volume laser printer "don't worry if you snap some of those plastic clips, I rarely manage not to". Now, if their own staff are snapping bits, it suggests someone hasn't thought how these machines are going to get repaired...

  11. L05ER
    Thumb Down

    Re: It's the way things are going

    'buy some insurance for when your device breaks then you can get it professionally repaired'

    those professional insurance companies, the handful of them... are a HUGE ripoff. everybody i know has had a bad experience with them, from unreadable replacement screens and refurbs with dead batteries to shoddy reassembly...

    i'll never use them again, but i'll also never spend insane money on a flagship phone again either.

  12. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Happy

    Re: It's the way things are going

    I for one boycott Apple MacBooks because they have soldered RAM/SSD, I have also informed all my acquaintances ... we need to make sure we get the message across. They will learn, eventually ...

  13. dajames Silver badge

    Re: It's the way things are going

    Time perhaps for a mandatory 5 year warranty including battery replacement at advertised rate/costs given with the initial sales price?

    I'd support that -- especially if it included mandatory software upgrade support for five years.

    I'd also support a lower rate -- possibly 0% -- of VAT for spare parts and repairs (including service charges) than for new goods, to try to break the "it's bust, I'll replace it" attitude that seems to be becoming the norm.

  14. paulf Silver badge
    Coat

    Professionals

    Microsoft told us: "As is the case with many products, Surface is built by professionals and is intended to be serviced by professionals."

    Aw, schucks. That means if I want to repair my Surface I'd have to give up my Amateur status and lose my chance to compete in the Surface repairing Olympics?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Professionals

    "That means if I want to repair my Surface I'd have to give up my Amateur status and lose my chance to compete in the Surface repairing Olympics?"

    I wouldn't worry, professionals appear to have been allowed in the Olympics for quite a while now; without thinking of any upcoming major professional sporting events in particular, how about Andy Murray and Chris Froome?

    And if some people believe bridge is a sport, then perhaps competitive laptop repairing has a chance of being an Olympic sport? Saying that, laptop repairing would quickly degenerate into a competition to build the best lightweight carbon fibre or titanium spudging tools. I'd rather watch competitive network cable untangling myself...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Professionals

    I'm in two minds.....

    On one hand laptop prices are quite high, so fits the criteria of needing huge amount of cash to compete.

    But on the other had, we dump our obsolete kit on same poor people, so they will be quite good it.

    I'll have a think about it later, got to get down the Yacht club to meet the old boys before a spot of dressage tomorrow.

  17. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: Professionals

    I believe iFixit said the latest Surface Pro was impossible to open because it was held together with glue.

    So I guess MS just replace and don't bother repairing.

  18. jmarked

    Re: Professionals

    Yeah, seems way better to replace than to repair.

  19. Updraft102 Silver badge

    Re: Professionals

    The Surface Laptop is spot welded together, they say, and is the first product to earn a 0/10 rating from iFixit... completely unrepairable.

    Dell XPS 13, though, gets a respectable 7 of 10. I know which I would consider and which I would not...

  20. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Natural result of IP certifications.

    Early on I changed the batteries and did repairs on the devices in the house myself. That was quite easy on Sony early on. Samsung was more difficult, but possible as well. I do not even try now. It is worth it to wait until the next holiday and use a market stall somewhere in deepest, darkest Eastern Europe. They do not repair them themselves, but send them off to someone who does it for a living. 20£ worth of labor will get you a screen change on most devices (just make sure you wipe the device securely after that just in case).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Green lobby failure

    Time the environmentalists got to cracking down on this - we're constantly being threatened with shortages of rare elements, lectured about plastic and metal going into oceans etc. If it can't be broken down easily into reusable or repairable parts, it should have a 100% green tax surcharge.

  22. Alumoi

    Re: Green lobby failure

    Dear AC, f...you very much!

    Why the hell should I be charged more?

  23. James 51 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Re: Green lobby failure

    To pay the true cost of the device over its entire life cycle.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Green lobby failure

    They can be broken down fairly easy (despite what it says). A hammer is quite effective.

    It can't be repaired easily.

    Not the same.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Green lobby failure

    Currently supply of Rare Earth Elements is outstripping demand. This will carry on for about another 10 years then as demand overtakes supply the cost will start to rise and there will be an incentive for mining companies to locate new sources of supply.

  26. Ledswinger Silver badge

    Re: Green lobby failure

    If it can't be broken down easily into reusable or repairable parts, it should have a 100% green tax surcharge.

    The bulk recycling of electronic devices involves shredding the device, and then magnetically, mechanically and possibly chemically separating into various waste streams that can be reused in other processes. The method of assembly is irrelevant, because for real recycling (as opposed to repair or component salvage) the process is fast, industrial scale, and efficient, there's no messing around with screwdrivers.

    What Greenpeace are complaining about is not (or should not be) the ease of recycling which isn't affected much by the assembly method, but about artificially shortened lifetimes because the device is difficult to repair. Whilst I keep phones for longer than average, and would like them to be repairable, most people don't and to be honest, they've got good grounds for that: Consumers want frequent device refreshes anyway, old devices go out of software support very quickly, once more than a few years old built in NAND storage often starts to get a bit flakey, the processing power and capability of older devices struggle with newer OS releases even if they exist, and the cosmetic appearance is often poor. as paint rubs off bezzles, display coatings wear off.

    Even if you could repair them when the original owner has finished with it, what would you do with all that obsolete, unsupported technology? There's some talk of sending it to poor countries - personally I think those countries would be better off with a new device made cheaply in China. And the idea of giving rich country cast-offs to the developing world smacks of technological colonialism.

    Seems to me Greenpeace are pushing water uphill on this.

  27. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Re: Green lobby failure

    'we're constantly being threatened with shortages of rare elements'

    Only be people who don't understand what a provable reserve is, why mining companies have to state their assets in terms of said reserves, and why no one bothers listing rare earth elements in said assets. There's an article somewhere on this very website about it by one Tim Worstall.

  28. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: Green lobby failure

    Please note: repairability is not necessarily the same as recyclability, and these days often isn't.

    Plastic and metal parts can be shredded together before separation. The harmful and or costly stuff is in the screen and motherboard.

    Glued parts can be more economically separated for recycling than screwed parts, because unscrewing is labour intensive and ungluing just requires an oven.

    Gluing is also used to reduce thickness, and to make things more reliable (stresses are spread across a part rather than focused on stress-rising bosses). It's likely that the flexible nature of glue is factored into to the shock resistance of the end product.

    If Greenpeace* are trying to do a total environmental cost analysis, then they need to factor in how reliable a product is, how long it remain useful for, and how long a user will want to own it (i.e how pleasant it is to use and own). Repairability is only a factor after it has been multiplied by the fraction of people who would actually repair it, multiplied by the chance of it actually going wrong, multiplied by this failure not occuring within the warranty period. So, that's a small number, multiplied by a fraction multiplied by a fraction multiplied by a fraction.

    *remember this is the group who protested against a GM crop trial in Australia by setting fire to it, thus dispersing the GM material over a wide area. Still, being an activist impresses some young women, so what the hell.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Re: Green lobby failure

    "*remember this is the group who protested against a GM crop trial in Australia by setting fire to it,...."

    About as bright as animal rights activists that freed Mink from farms in the UK.

  30. gryff
    Pint

    Re: Green lobby failure

    -->"Gluing is also used to reduce thickness, and to make things more reliable.."

    Yes, true. My R&D teams often wanted glue when I needed "repairability".

    You can keep "repairability" by not gluing the entire area (use cut outs in your gluing foil: make it look like a window frame not a sheet of glass) and also by using different gluing strengths on each side of the foil, so that it is possible to remove a component without further breakage // the need to clean off too much residue.

    --> " Repairability is only a factor after it has been multiplied by the fraction of people who would actually repair it, multiplied by the chance of it actually going wrong, multiplied by this failure not occuring within the warranty period. "

    If the cost of repair is lower than new and the component to be repaired is expensive.. you fail Design for Serviceability, increase warranty costs and repair time.... for example, if the only way to repair a €1 audio part is to destroy the glued €5 display at the same time :o(

    Pre-ramp up you have no idea what will fail en-masse, and once you introduce new suppliers as part of your cost erosion plan ...and they in turn fiddle with their production to lower their costs....all bets are off.

    Design for Serviceablity and Reliability because reality often bites you in the a*se post ramp-up.

  31. Alumoi

    Re: Green lobby failure

    To pay the true cost of the device over its entire life cycle.

    I'm sorry, I was talking about the 100% green tax. Correct me if I am wrong, but where I live the tax goes to to government not the company So how taxing me more is going to pay for the tue cost of the device?

    And what's this 'true cost' of the device? Let's take a phone, for example. Are you implying that the price I pay for it in the store (unlocked and without a contract) is not the true cost? Do I have to add the price of the SIM, the price of electricity for charging it? The SD card I buy to expand the crappy storage?

    Oh, wait, you're saying all the manufacturers are selling devices below the true cost?

  32. Bob Rocket

    Re: Green lobby failure

    'Currently supply of Rare Earth Elements...'

    Is that you TW ? (if so I claim my 5 shillings)

  33. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: Green lobby failure

    I'm sure future generations will say the same thing.

  34. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Re: Green lobby failure

    Currently supply of Rare Earth Elements is outstripping demand. This will carry on for about another 10 years then as demand overtakes supply the cost will start to rise and there will be an incentive for mining companies to locate new sources of supply.

    Go talk to fisherman at Cape Cod ... look at the mines in Africa, the guyz in the pits are treated like slaves.

    Where does the ewaste go ?

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/e-waste-toxic-not-in-our-backyard210208/

    Most of it gets sold as second hand electronics (in working condition) to Senegal, where they burn the stuff to get the metals ...

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-senegal-environment-landrights-idUSKBN13I1KV

    You have to be pretty f'ed up not to realize this is bad, right ? You do not pay the real price for your devices, the third world pays the rest with their health ...

    Call me commy, freetard, tree hugger ... I don't care, this is not right.

  35. James 51 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Re: Green lobby failure

    Of course the price you pay when you buy it is not the true cost but this is what I mean by that. The full cost of any device should include dealing with environmental damaged causing during its creation and disposing of it when it has reached the end of its useful life (or when people decide to chuck it in the bin and buy the new shiny). There are lots of costs you can associate with a device but as manufactures don't bear the cost of dealing with them, they aren't included in the price you pay when you buy. Cleaning up the pollution released in the mining and refining the materials needed to make the phone. The environmental damage done directly by the mining (particularly if it is open cast) and the human cost were safety standards are very low. Then there is the pollution released in creating the components and manufacturing the device. Then when it is time to be disposed of, there is dealing with any number of toxic materials embedded in a device that has been designed to be difficult to dismantle and repair to encourage people to buy the new shiny rather than repair it when something goes wrong. All this could be applied to TVs as well. I could go on but you get the idea.

  36. Toc-H-Lamp

    Cutting edge Technologies

    That explains all those Sharp edges then.

  37. James 51 Silver badge

    If there was a fairphone 3 coming out or someone took advantage of the fairphone 2's modular construction to put a more powerful CPU in then I'd probably head over to the co op website and get one. As it is, after about four years my Q10 struggles with some websites as they are so media heavy. Don't want to end up with hardware that's fine but unusable because of software stuff (my playbook being a case in point).

  38. deive

    Bought my misses a fairphone 2 a while ago, it is still passable but it was mid range when released - I so want them to bring out a new revision too!

    Had to replace a faulty mic unit on it and they sent the replacement out quick on warranty and it was so easy to replace.

  39. bluesxman

    "Surface [...] is intended to be serviced by professionals"

    Exactly how professional does one need to be to repair the certified unrepairable?

    https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft+Surface+Laptop+Teardown/92915

  40. Roland6 Silver badge

    Re: "Surface [...] is intended to be serviced by professionals"

    And how professional do you need to be to be able to effect a repair of a Surface when MS are effectively listed one of the vendors listed as not providing all spare parts or instructions for repair?

    I suspect if your Surface is within warranty the 'professional' will simply return it to MS who will simply bin it and take a brand new one off the shelf and send that to the 'professional'...

    What do you mean you had stuff on the HDD which hadn't been replicated to the cloud...

  41. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: "Surface [...] is intended to be serviced by professionals"

    To paraphrase the BBC: Other off-machine strategies are available.

  42. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Re: "Surface [...] is intended to be serviced by professionals"

    Hello ? Nobody trusts Microsoft around here, last time I checked, that is ... I have been crying out loud on here since around 2003 never to trust MS, with Windows 10, now, everybody has seen the light.

    Sincerely,

    Hans 1

    Microsoft MHP

    Adobe MHP

    Accenture MHP

  43. Roq D. Kasba

    LG G4

    I was ever so wary of opening this beautiful former flagship device - curved screen, high performance camera, etc., but I needed to polish out a lens. I got up courage after seeing a YT vid - my god it's the easiest to open/fix device I've seen. Not even silly screws or warranty-void stickers on screwheads, just in, unclip motherboard and peripherals, and you're done. First time I was in in 10 minutes, second time mere seconds. It has convinced me to go LG from hereon in, and there's no indestructible OEM software preloaded either - delete what you don't want.

  44. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: LG G4

    Similarly, swapping the battery in an LG-built Nexus 5 is a breeze. The battery was a tenner, and a bag of weird screwdrivers and 'spudgers' bought for a couple of quid was not required - the job can be done with a Phillips screwdriver in my Victorinox keyring and my thumbnails.

  45. Rabbit80

    Warranty

    It's great that manufacturers stand behind their warranties however many items are designed to fail not long after that warranty expires. Case in point - I just repaired a switch.. was 2 months past its warranty when it failed. The cause - 10v Capacitors failed on a 12v circuit on the PSU board!

    Similar thing about 10 years ago with a Toshiba surround system at home.. caps failed within 2 months of the end of warranty, fitted higher voltage ones and its still going strong to this day!

    With Phones, tablets and laptops, the batteries are the most obvious point of failure and will lose quite a lot of capacity with a charge a day over 2-3 years - if they don't fail fully that is/

  46. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: Warranty

    Japanese or Korean capacitors? African or European swallows?

  47. Rabbit80

    Re: Warranty

    As it happens, Japanese capacitors in the switch (Rubycon)

  48. PhilipN Silver badge

    African or European

    UV'ed. Seems all the other punters are too sozzled to have noticed the Holy Grail nod. I fart in their general direction

  49. cs94njw

    Went to Apple Genius Bar yesterday. Said, effectively, that my gf's iPhone 5s days were numbered, and that most mobiles will probably only last 2 years. Although he added that's mostly due to phone contracts these days.

    He also tried to explain why the EU's 2 year warranty didn't apply to Apple stuff.

    The only thing he said which sounded remotely true, was that the screen on the iPad (iPad 2) wasn't easily fixable because of the need to keep it thin and light. If it was made to be repairable, the iPad would be thicker. Which at least sounds reasonable.

  50. wolfetone Silver badge

    Then you should take it straight to Johnny Ive and tell him that you didn't want a thin iPhone, he did, so he should be made to fix it.

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