Apple iPhone Repairs Include Tamper-Resistant Screws

| News

Apple has begun replacing the standard phillips head screws that hold together most iPhones sold in the U.S. with tamper-resistant “pentalobe” screws, according to repair service iFixIt (and other online reports). The result is that users can’t open their iPhones, and it makes it difficult for third party battery replacement services to replaces the battery in the device.

The pentalobe screw is a design controlled by Apple, and getting a screwdriver is very difficult, unless you’re an Apple Certified repair person. Apple is apparently replacing the old screws with the new ones whenever an iPhone is brought into an Apple Store for repair, and users aren’t alerted to the change before or after it takes place.

Pentalobe Screw

Pentalobe Screw from iFixIt’s explanatory video

The tricky bit about getting tense about the change is that new iPhones appear to ship with them, and iPhone 4 models shipped with the screw in Japan from the get-go. It’s only units that shipped with the old screws that are being affected by the switch, and it would be easy for Apple to simply point out that it changed this part, and repaired units are getting the new standard part.

Too bad if it keeps you from replacing your own batter, changing out your iPhone’s case (like Steve Wozniak did - though to be fair The Woz can probably get the right driver if he wants it), or otherwise checking out the insides of your iPhone.

Still, some people (including MJ, the gorgeous spokesperson for iFixIt named) are riled up about two aspects of this story: The pentalobe screw’s entire raison d’être is to keep users out of their phones, an example of Apple’s notorious desire to every facet of their devices, even after they are bought and paid for by customers. The second reason is that screws are being replaced by Apple on repaired iPhones without permission or even notification.

These same screws are used on some MacBook Pro and Air models, and are likely to make their way to more Apple products in the future.

For a more detailed explanation of the situation, check out iFixIt’s video, hosted by MJ, on the subject.

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Comments

Tiger

Snooze. Not a big issue considering opening your iPhone yourself voids the warranty anyway.

I can’t crack open my odometer either…..

Lee Dronick

A tempest in a teapot. Very few owners are going to be opening up their iPhones to do repairs, they will leave that to qualified techs.

Yes, I know some people will want replace the battery themselves. They can buy a pentalobe driver from iFixit

James Roche

For clarification, the iFixit kit doesn’t contain a true “pentalobe” driver, but a 5 pointed phillips driver which is far cheaper and easier to get. It should work to get the pentalobes out, but will likely damage them in the process. Since the whole point it to replace them and put the standard #00 phillips back it shouldn’t really matter though.

geoduck

Really not a big deal.
I’ll get them out if I have to.
If nothing else a tiny eze-out would do the trick
A lot of companies use temper resistant screws in their products.
“Something that will work” will be in your local Tru-Value by the end of the year.

geoduck

The iFixIt article is more than a little shrill. I get the feeling that they are pissed that their “54 piece driver set that is all you’ll ever need to get into your Mac” is now obsolete. Well boo hoo for them.

Most of you probably don’t remember in the ‘80s when we discovered that to open our Mac SEs we needed an extra long Torx T15 driver. What the hell was a T15? For that matter what was Torx? Well we got them. I still have one around here somewhere I think. Now you can buy them in the hardware store and online. No big. The same thing will happen with these 5 pointed bits.

It must be really annoying to work at Apple. You do innocuous things that other companies do all the time and the press has a fit like you were boiling babies. Doubt this? They could have used Tri-Wing or TP3 like Nintendo, or a Clutch like GM, or Line Head like IBM, or….

FlipFriddle

Hehe. I got a tri-wing driver head from the Boeing surplus parts store when I worked in Renton. I didn’t know what it was but I figured what the hell it might come in useful someday. The only thing I’ve found so far that I could use it on was to take a bathroom divider apart in a restaurant I went to once. smile

scottuf

so what is the over/under for when the lawsuit is filed for this?

Lee Dronick

It must be really annoying to work at Apple. You do innocuous things that other companies do all the time and the press has a fit like you were boiling babies. Doubt this? They could have used Tri-Wing or TP3 like Nintendo, or a Clutch like GM, or Line Head like IBM, or?.

It must be fun going down the list of screw types to keep 99.99999999999% of iPhone users from destroying their phones trying to do repairs/replacements.

Intruder

“Without permission”???

Didn’t know that a company had to get permission from consumers to change their (Apple’s) hardware. This is consumer hardware, not MIL-SPEC stuff controlled by the government (in which case you do actually have to get permission).

Is this an annoying move by Apple? Yes.Is it within their purview to do? Again, yes.

(and I’ll bet that you actually give “permission” when you sign the form to do the repair)

Tiger

A small minority group of people complain about Apple’s “control freak” nature with which they manufacture, market, sell, and service the products they make. Somebody will always complain about something.

But if performance is to be the measure of success, taking a company that was being given last rites to the number two corporation in the United States in just a matter of a few years through your control freakish nature can be considered nothing other than an invaluable success.

So, to Apple I say, go get your freak on. Let the whiners whine, let the naysayers nay.

/I just wish I still owned stock.
//have no vested interest in Apple, or any company for that matter.

b9bot

I don’t know why there is so much whining about the new screw that is used on the phones. Explanation would be that to many people are tampering with the phones that are broken and selling them on Craig’s list as a working phone even though they have been hollowed out, water damaged or frankensteined into what someone thinks is an iPhone. Then they in turn go to Apple for a warranty replacement only to get turned down because they bought a phone that was messed with because it was to easy to mess with. Now Apple has decided to slow that down with the new type of screw. Mostly to protect the innocent soles who just want to buy a working phone instead of a tampered broken one. Is that so hard to understand?

Bryan Chaffin

Intruder, you may have taken my permission mention out of context. I wasn’t talking about changing hardware on new devices sold, but rather making a change on devices taken in for repair. At that point, the device is no longer Apple’s, and argument could be made that Apple should request permission to render the device effectively unopenable before doing so.

Mind you. I’m just discussing the issue. I agree with Sir Hank about it being a tempest in a teapot.

geoduck

I’ve seen a number of places that have a policy about this. Screws are cheep and it looks bad for the company to send out the repaired product with boogered-up screws.  Therefore when something comes in for Warranty work some places just automatically replace the screws.

Intruder

Bryan,
I actually wrote that comment after viewing the video. I didn’t even notice it in your writeup (sorry…was distracted when I read it!). At time 1:46 MJ comments on Apple “baby-proofing our iPhones without permission” which could be taken either way (after repair or just in general). The comment she made wasn’t specific.

I added the aside at the bottom (aside at the bottom????) after seeing your comment in the writeup.

Tempest:teapot. I agree.

Lee Dronick
computerbandgeek

The reason so many people are upset about this is because it is just one of MANY steps that Apple has taken to ensure the short 2-year lifespan and unrecyclability of their products, while they simultaneously toot their “WE ARE TEH MOST ENVIRONMETALLY FRIENDLY GAIZ!!!” horn.

Apple took a big step forward in terms of easy battery replacement in the design of the iPhone 4 (take the two screws out of the bottom and pull on the conveniently-provided pull-tab) compared to their previous generations (pull out the display, camera, motherboard with a zillion screws). Now they have done their best to counteract that by putting proprietary screw heads, because people were discovering that they could make Apple’s devices last 5 years instead of 2.

A combination between these ridiculous screws and the fact that they charge half the price of a new phone for a procedure that costs them less than $20 for parts AND labor clearly points out that Apple has every intention of their phones becoming useless after only 2 years.

Whenever Apple unveils a new product, they always spend several minutes bragging about how their phones and computers get gold star stickers for earth-friendliness. But to anyone that knows, this is clearly all smoke and mirrors. They claim that their products are “highly recyclable”, but as soon as their product ends up in a generic e-waste facility (I think its safe to assume that the VAST majority of old Apple hardware doesn’t end up at an Apple recycling facility) an underpaid sweatshop worker won’t bother trying to open up a device that requires a tool that isn’t in their 100-piece set, and they will just toss it in a landfill. So “highly recyclable” is really just marketing BS.

But if Apple was TRULY eco-friendly they would recognize the fact that doubling an electronic device’s lifespan uses exponentially fewer resources than recycling and building a new device, and charge what it really costs to replace an iPhone/iPod battery: less than $20.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this change of screws if Apple didn’t push their “green"ness as a big selling point of their products, when they clearly don’t give a rat’s tail about the environmental impact of their products.

gnasher729

Went to www.ebay.com, typed in “pentalobe screw driver”. There is about a dozen offers for these “very difficult to get” screw drivers, at prices from $2 to about $9, including sets that include a few other iPhone related tools for less than $9. And they don’t seem to be rare, because there are also packs of ten on offer for less than $80.

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