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Innovation

Apple patents tamper-evident labels for iPods and iPhones

Tinkerers, hackers and modders listen up: First it was water, then cigarette smoke, now Apple's threatening to void your warranty if you open the case.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on

Patent 1It's patent time here again at The Apple Core -- which means that it's time delve into one of the multitude of new patent applications filed by our favorite Cupertino computer company.

In its latest patent application Apple is trying to protect a specialized label that would be installed in hardware that tells Apple techs if the case of an iPhone or iPod has been opened or "compromised."

Apple notes that tampering with an electronic device can destroy it and that its new tamper-evident technology could save manufacturers "substantial costs." Apple also claims that without evidence of such tampering, manufacturers will be obligated to provide warranty coverage on tampered devices. An expense that the company would rather not incur.

The technology is not unlike the Liquid Submersion Indicators (LSIs) that Apple added to iPhones, MacBooks and keyboards about a year ago.

In knowledgebase article HT3425 Apple clearly disclaims warranty coverage on any portable or desktop keyboard that's been exposed to water:

Liquid submersion indicators (LSI) have been added to specific locations on current Mac portables and desktop keyboards to help determine if systems have been exposed to liquid. Damage due to liquid exposure is not covered by the Apple one (1) year limited warranty or the AppleCare Protection Plan (APP).

In HT3302 Apple further states that iPhones and iPods built after 2006 have LSIs that will show whether water or a liquid containing water has entered the device:

If an iPhone or iPod has been damaged by water or a liquid containing water (for example, coffee or a soft drink), the repair is not covered by the Apple one (1) year limited warranty or an AppleCare Protection plan (APP).

Apple's new patent describes the tamper-evident labels as being U-shaped or zigzagged and being made from paper, plastic, or a metallic foil.

In the event that the user nevertheless does fully or substantially open the electronic device, then the label tears or otherwise becomes damaged... Although such damage may be noticed by the user after opening the device, any repair or replacement of the torn or damaged label would ordinarily be difficult after the fact. In the event that the electronic device is ever exchanged, returned for repairs or otherwise provided back to the manufacturer or other authorized party, then the device can be checked to see if it has ever been opened since its initial issuance.

Who wants to bet that it's also a hologram?

The prolific teardown artists (and iPod parts and repair shop) at iFixIt worry that in its attempt to thwart tinkerers Apple is contributing to our disposable culture and adding more e-waste to our landfills, telling AppleInsider:

We wish Apple would a little effort into making iPods repairable, instead of forcing people to throw them away when they break. Recent iPods have become increasingly difficult to successfully repair.

Are tamper labels good business or just another way for Apple to void its warranty?

Tip: AppleInsider

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