It's no secret that iPads -- like many of Apple's products -- are difficult to repair, which is why iFixit exists in the first place. But the smaller iPad Pro is even less easy to take apart to fix than its bigger brother. While the original iPad Pro 12.9-inch received a result of 3 out of 10 on iFixit's Repairability Score, the 9.7-inch edition earns just a 2 out of 10.
The iPad Pro 9.7-inch mixes the higher-end specs of the 12.9-inch model with the form factor of the iPad Air. That means something like the Smart Connector -- allowing for Apple's Smart Keyboard -- has to be added to the new tablet. As iFixit mentioned in its 12.9-inch teardown, the Smart Connector is seemingly impossible to replace, though the odds are you won't need to, as it doesn't have any moving parts. Likewise, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch shares the design of its bigger brother when it comes to fusing of the LCD panel and the front glass, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in terms of opening the tablet, but can add to replacement cost if you need a new screen.
The key disadvantage to the new iPad Pro's interior, however, is how the battery fits inside the case. The 12.9-inch Pro received kudos from iFixit for using adhesive pull tabs under the battery that simplify the process of removing the batteries in a manner similar to the design of recent iPhones. Alas, the tabs haven't found their way into the smaller iPad Pro, as the battery is just glued in, increasing the degree of difficulty (and messiness) of removing it.
Of course, ease of repair is pretty far down Apple's list of important considerations when designing its products, whose thin-and-light designs make manufacturing tricky enough to begin with. The company's recent history has been fairly anti-DIY when it comes to giving users the ability to upgrade, modify, or fix their purchases. Instead, Apple needs to be more concerned with the slowing sales of its iPads, and whether the new iPad Pro is good enough to start collecting more buyers. (According to ZDNet's own Cliff Joseph and James Kendrick, it just might be.)