How Apple makes products difficult -- and expensive -- to repair

How Apple makes products difficult -- and expensive -- to repair

Summary: Gallery: In recent years, Apple has attracted a lot of criticism for making devices that are difficult to repair, and complicated to recycle. Let's take a look at why.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, iPhone, iPad
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  • Adhesive

    I'm old-school enough to remember when devices were held together with screws -- or even nuts and bolts! But Apple doesn't like fasteners because they ruin the lines of products, and make it far too easy to get inside a device.

    With that in mind, a great many of Apple's current product lineup -- including the iPhone 5, iPad 4, and iPad mini -- make extensive use of adhesive to hold components in place. Adhesive is used enthusiastically to hold in place screens, batteries, cabling, and even components.  

    Using adhesive to hold in place consumables such as batteries makes repairs tricky, Prying the battery free from the adhesive can damage components, and even puncture the battery.

    Image source: iFixit.

  • Adhesive

    In order to get past the adhesive holding down the screen and into devices such as the iPad 4 and iPad mini without breaking the screen, iFixit have had to become creative.

    One new device they use to get past the glue is called the iOpener. This is a device that is heated in a microwave, and used to melt the adhesive -- a process that can take up to 30 minutes.

    Image source: iFixit.

  • Tiny screws

    Apple doesn't just miniaturize devices, it likes to miniaturize fasteners. The iPad mini is held together using some of the smallest screws seen by iFixit. The image above shows a screw from the bottom on an iPhone 5 on the right, and one from inside the iPad mini on the left.

    For the purposes of scale, the screws are on top of a guitar pick.

    Image source: iFixit.

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Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPhone, iPad

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94 comments
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  • If you want small and portable

    This is what needs to be done. I suspect they would have far fewer customers if they did otherwise. You can't please everyone.
    happyharry_z
    • Not true

      My Galaxy S3 is amazingly slim and light, has great battery life, I can replace the battery, add my own SD card, change the back cover to change for a flip case etc. It can be done. I believe that Apple glue everything in place to reduce cost, and use proprietory screws to purposely make 3rd party repair expensive.
      dimonic
      • No, you Galaxy S3

        does not have the same build quality. It's great that you love the device, but seriously, don't insult our intelligence by pretending its build quality is anywhere near that you'll find in an Apple product.
        baggins_z
        • Oh boy,

          Get off your high horse lol. Amazing what Chinese slave labor can create huh?
          SteveWojo
          • Excuse me?

            I see lines of people begging for a job at Foxconn. That "slave labor" comment is ridiculous. Foxconn's working conditions and compensation are far and away some of the best in the Chinese manufacturing sector.

            Please think before commenting.
            MC1171611
          • Sure

            That's why Foxconn employees commit suicide in droves right???
            simul8guy
          • Foxconn has a better suicide rate than USA

            So a few people killed themselves and happened to be Foxconn workers. Using your logic, schools in the USA are evil ... because they have almost 5 times the suicide rate compared to Foxconn for the same number of people.
            wackoae
          • Not to mention

            Foxconn also makes Dell hardware.
            johnsmith9875
        • Don't tell me...

          ...that iPhones have a superior build quality because they are no different to other smartphone manufacturers. They do also have hardware problems like:
          -Home and/or power button failing prematurely
          -Camera tint issue (and they declared it a 'feature')
          -Scratchable aluminum case
          -Problems of the past iPhones such as the Antennagate (You're holding it the wrong way) and their refusal to acknowledge the fault and make a recall to those units affected.

          Please don't insult our intelligence that iPhones are superior from the competition because they are no different from the others. I bet your iPhone and my Samsung are both made from China. They are even.
          triadwarfare
          • Cheap flexible plastic versus metal and glass/ceramics?

            triadwarfare: Are seriously compare those two?

            As to this article, the header is not correct. Apple makes product easy and cheap to repair, but only to its certified service centres, and not any random unauthorised repair companies like iFixit.
            DDERSSS
          • Yes, but

            after giving that authorization, they must be subsidizing the repair cost to make it cheap... wait.... for the consumer, authorized dealer or whom? I am confused...
            ashwinipn
          • how does ceramics make it better?

            S2 and S3 are about 40% glass because of the front panel. Modern plastics are as good as glass and ceramics if not better. I do not need to provide you with an evidence. Just look around. And seriously, making things out of metal and ceramics is necessary for precision mechanics, not electronics. It is more about looks than real necessity.
            pupkin_z
          • You're kidding right?

            The "cheap flexible plastic" is polycarbonate, and it withstands a much greater fall with minimal damage than your painted aluminum... Also, the chassis of the S3 is in fact aluminum, making it quite rigid in the hand. Oh please tell me more about how you'd rather drop a Glass phone than you would a Polycarbonate phone...
            jamz2277
          • form over function

            Apple has influenced the design of a lot of devices with their use of aluminium casing.
            And what has it got us?
            inferior wireless communication. Macbook Air, ipad, Asus transformer prime, iphone5 - all have crappy wifi range.
            Aluminium is not even nice to hold, it's slippery so you end up with a case on it and cosmetic value of the aluminium casing is covered up and wasted.
            But hey, it looks cool.
            warboat
          • Easy to repair

            How is soldered ribbon cables ever EASY or CHEAP to repair?
            I don't care who you are or what tools you have access to, they suck big hairy balls to work on.
            warboat
          • Cheap

            Oh yes, cheap and easy = replace the entire module which equals expensive for the customer. Apple doesnt care though, since their iKoolaid is selling so good to the sheeple.
            dundonrl
          • Veteran Apple advisor here

            I WORK for apple. I listen to calls ALL DAY LONG about "this" failing on an apple product, ore "that" failing on an apple product.... So please don't try to cram anything down my throat about how great the products are. Our call system comes in waves. One day We had received over 4,000 calls about the iPhone 4S not being able to connect to wi-fi. Know what the problem was? A HUGE batch of poorly constructed phones left the factory. Funny, no recall was noted... Just a simple "Set up an appointment at the Apple Store and we'll replace it". Apple screws up just like the rest of them but doesn't own up to it.
            On top of that Apple would need a book about 4,000 pages thick just to allow the customer the full understanding of how the phone works and all of the labor involved just to get their device to work when it gets stuck (and that is an every day occurrence). Personal opinion: Apple products were invented for those few people that are tech savvy. Others buy them just to make themselves LOOK like they know what their they're doing.

            Glad I have an android phone
            Crazy_Dog
        • Having bought 3 Samsung phones...

          1 x S II and 2 x S III, they are built as well as an iPhone. Different,yes. Is the build and design quality on par? YES, absolutely, without a doubt. I'm not saying some aspects, I'm saying entirely on par.
          Raid60
        • What an Apple shill

          Hey Bilbo Baggins, you're the only one insulting anyone's intelligence if you're espousing Apple devices as 'build quality' leaders. They are far from it. I'll take a Samsung built device over anything built by Apple every day of the week.
          simul8guy
        • Let's not confuse aesthetic appeal...

          ...with build quality. I have or have had a GSIII, Note 2, iPhone 5, a few iPhone 4s and an iPad 3 and I can assure you none of this garbage is built to the standard of high end watches or even the top of the line Sony gadgets from the mid-1990s. Before Sony went to the dumpster themselves, they managed amazing feats of miniaturization, quality and construction in their Discman, Walkman/Video Walkman and Watchman product lines (along with Handycams and such) that I have yet to see duplicated today. Apple comes closer than many, but you can still tell there's "China-ness" in the fabrication of these devices.
          Playdrv4me