iFixit’s Apple TV Tear Down Screwed Developers

| Analysis

Apple rarely gives developers early access to unreleased products, and iFixit may have ruined that for everyone. iFixit is known for their detailed tear downs for new devices, and the company found itself on Apple's bad side after taking apart an early access Apple TV developer kit and posting what's inside on its website.

The Apple TV view we weren't supposed to see yetThe Apple TV view we weren't supposed to see yet

The new Apple TV was introduced during a media event in September with the promise of an October release. The new model supports third-party apps, so Apple offered developers early access to the device so they could start testing their code on actual hardware.

iFixit made the cut and got their kit, but instead of jumping in and getting to work on an Apple TV-native app, they cracked the case open and shared a detailed analysis of what's inside with the Internet. The tear down lived up to iFixit's standards and offered some great insight into Apple's design genius, but it shouldn't have gone online until the new Apple TV was officially released to the public.

Here's the problem: Getting a pre-release Apple TV was an agreement to not talk publicly about the device until its October release. iFixit violated its developer agreement with Apple by posting the tear down early, so Apple responded by revoking their developer account.

"The  developer unit we disassembled was sent to us by Apple. Evidently, they didn't intend for us to take it apart," said iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. "A few days later, we got an email from Apple informing us that we violated their terms and conditions—and the offending developer account had been banned."

Since iFixit had an iPhone app linked to that developer account, it was pulled from the App Store. Pulling the app wasn't a spiteful act, but simply how the terms and conditions work. Apps need to be linked to valid developer accounts, and iFixit doesn't have one anymore.

For iFixit, this isn't going to be that big of a deal. The content they offered through their app is available on the company's website, and it can still buy products it guts on release day just as it has always done.

For the rest of the developer community, however, the consequences are a lot bigger. Apple rarely gives developers pre-release access to hardware like this, and thanks to iFixit that likely won't happen again. Next time, Apple will most likely limit access to a few hand picked developers who come to the company's headquarters for some controlled hands-on time ahead of the product launch.

That means the larger group of developers who had the luxury of extended time with the new Apple TV won't get that in the future, and instead will have to make due with software simulators and updates after they see how their apps perform on shipping hardware.

That sucks, but the real salt in the wound is that some developer was turned down for the early access program in favor of iFixit. Instead of getting to test their app on real hardware, they have to wait until release day just like the rest of us, and the Apple TV they would've had instead ended up in pieces on the Internet.

Mr. Wiens' response to Apple pulling iFixit's developer account: "Live and learn," he said. That kind of stings considering it's hard to believe he didn't see this coming. Apple's agreement with developer program members is pretty clear, and you'd have to be surprisingly myopic to not expect the company's reaction.

iFixit it got its early Apple TV tear down plus the visibility that goes along with it, and lost its developer account. In the end, however, the real price will be paid by the rest of the developer community.

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I looked at the response from iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens and then I scrolled through some of the comments and this one struck me:

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015 AT 2:33 PM
“Just respect our license” like we didn’t do with the dev kit we got.

[italics]The reference to a license was about the iFixit iOS app code being available, if someone else wanted to update & release a 3rd party version of the iFixit iOS app.[/italics]


Gizmodos action with the iPhone 4 affected Gizmodo
iFixits action with the AppleTV will affect iFixit

To claim this “Screwed Developers” is sensationalistic because it’s an unfounded conclusion. Especially when you consider one important fact that many Apple “journalists” are (intentionally?) ignoring…

iFixits business is to take apart everything… And Apple sent them an AppleTV.

(NDA. Professional Courtesy. Common Sense. However people want to vilify iFixit, you just don’t give a glass piggy bank to a kid with a hammer. My guess is that Apple expected a tear down and then changed their mind later)

John Francini

Actually, it’s probably likely that whoever approved the developer application for an Apple TV didn’t make the connection—may not have even HEARD of iFixit. It happens.  Let’s not assume that everyone in Apple is on the same page regarding things like this.


It was pretty dumb on IFixit part to do a teardown, maybe they can pay a fine and get back in Apples good graces.



While I cannot speak to the gravitas of an NDA in the electronics tech world of Apple et al, I can say that in my profession, an NDA is not to be trifled with. It almost invariably involves tens of millions of dollars of R&D into therapeutics, vaccines, new diagnostics and other implements to save/extend human life; and violating one of these could not only cost one future access to privileged information, but have substantial legal and financial consequences as well. It would further violate the terms of one’s professional liability insurance, leaving one vulnerable to personal liability and lawsuit, unless one signed as a corporation.

I say this because the comments above lead me to think that an NDA with Apple may be perceived as a trivial matter, honouring the terms of which is a personal choice, and that if anyone is at fault, it might be Apple for engaging the developer community in confidence in the first place.

The rationale for engaging knowledgeable professionals with privileged information under the terms of an NDA is the proven benefit of expediting the successful development and rollout of new technologies and ideas with the supportive infrastructure that will benefit end users. Violating the the terms of the NDA has an adverse effect not only that practice and perhaps similar professionals, but may therefore affect the end user with delays in support systems and products.

In short, it affects everyone.

Whatever the consequences of iFixit’s actions, and hopefully they will be negligible to minimal, it reflects a disregard for the wider relationships and parties that might be affected, and a failure to appreciate the responsibilities of a professional. Then again, perhaps iFixit does not regard the developer community, or themselves, as professional, but as on-the-job-trainees. As Mr Wiens said, ‘Live and learn’. At least there is that.

As a consumer, let me simply close with:

Thank you, Mr Wiens. #iRuinit.

John C. Welch

The “Apple should have known” line is nonsense, and blaming Apple for iFixit’s actions. Is iFixit run by and composed of children? No. They’re adults.

As well, IFixit could have easily carefully taken the unit apart, built and tested their guide, then…*not published it until the new AppleTV was publicly available.* The taking apart was a venial sin, it was the publishing a takeapart guide for beta hardware, literally pissing on the NDA that they agreed to and knew about that was the mortal sin.

Why would iFixit do this? Why any YouTube comment stream will answer that question:


They were indeed first. In many ways they didn’t want to be. I’ve zero pity for them. Even in their writeup on it, *before* Apple did anything, they “weighed the risks and threw them over our shoulders”. They knew what could happen due to their actions, they decided the risk was worth the reward.

The problem is, as Jeff points out, their actions make this harder on people who are not them who do respect the agreements they make.

I imagine iFixit threw those concerns over their shoulders as well.


As usual, much ado about nothing. I mean NDA’s are one thing, but in reality how did this affect ANYTHING allowing iFixit to DO WHAT THEY DO a little early? Please provide proof.  And why should that affect the other 99% of developers that DON’T do what iFixit is known for? 
  I like the fact that one thing iFixit does is show that a lot of so called “un serviceable parts” are actually quite easily serviced by the end user with iFixit’s help thus bypassing expensive repairs. I suspect Apple has never been happy with iFixit and this was just a good excuse to whack them.

John C. Welch

NDA’d hardware is a very different thing in Apple’s world than software they are *publicly beta testing* anyway.

In addition, iFixit could have waited to publish the takeapart. But no, they had to be able to claim FIRST.

And yes, it does make things suck for other devs. Downloading OS releases used to be the simplest thing in the world, even after Steve came back. But no one could respect a friggin’ NDA and so it was locked down more and more.

Sailor HG

I was one of the developers who received a rejection letter instead of a new AppleTV, and I know several others who are in the same situation. Any one of us could have used iFixit’s unit for productive purposes, rather than for what essentially amounts to “hardware porn”. They should have waited and used a consumer model (which could be slightly different anyway) for their teardown.

Dean Lewis

iFixit says on their blog about it:

“We weighed the risks, blithely tossed those risks over our shoulder, and tore down the Apple TV anyway.”

If they had waited until the Apple TV’s release to publish the teardown, they likely wouldn’t have been dropped. They knew what they were doing and they decided to go for the attention instead of doing the right thing.

The jury is still out on how this will affect other actual developers, but this will definitely have some repercussions. In the meantime, iFixit gets to act like a d-bag and run around smirking, “Look at us and our bad selves!”


Somebody call the WHAmbulance. The Apple fanboys (and girls) are so blinded by their idolatry and the reputation of their *precious* they covet, that they haven’t stopped to think about how IFixIt is actually helping and benefiting the consumer in the long run.

How so? Props to CudoBoy above who gets it:  “...one thing iFixit does is show that a lot of so called “un serviceable parts” are actually quite easily serviced by the end user with iFixit’s help thus bypassing expensive repairs.”  Aaaand thus benefiting everyone in the long run. Yes I mean you, and you, and oh yes you too.

Regarding the ‘FIRST’ aspect? You are all helping play a role in that as well.  The more a topic is talked about, whether it’s positive or negative, is still being talked about.

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