Apple iPhone Repairs Include Tamper-Resistant Screws

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.