Apple's Making It Impossible To Open Up Your iPhone By Secretly Swapping Its Screws

Apple's products are notoriously difficult to open and repair - surprise, they want you to buy new stuff! - but this is especially ridiculous. During repairs, they're replacing the iPhone 4's Philips screws with weird new ones for which no screwdriver exists.

Yeah, Apple's effectively making it impossible for you to open up your iPhone. Here, according to iFixit, is what's going down.

When the iPhone 4 launched, the dock connector was flanked by standard Philips #00screws. You probably have something in your house right now that could unscrew 'em just fine. But people who have taken their iPhone 4s into Apple Stores for repair have noticed something a little bit different when they got it back: The screws were no longer Philips but some bizarre new flower-shaped ones referred to as a "pentalobe security screws". And you almost certainly do not have a screwdriver that will fit them. In fact, no one does, except Apple.

Of course, it's Apple's prerogative to keep you from tampering with your iPhone, but quietly introducing these new screws to customers' iPhones during unrelated repairs is patently absurd. You go in with an iPhone you can open up with an eyeglass repair kit, you walk out with one that's sealed like Fort Knox. It's outrageous for Apple, or any company for that matter, to think that they can alter a product without permission once it's been purchased, swapping out parts willy-nilly as they come up with better ways to entomb the device. It's more than a little bit underhanded, and it's exactly the type of behaviour that leads some people to think that buying Apple stuff is akin to being trapped in a technological prison cell, albeit a beautifully appointed one. The message here is that the user is totally powerless in the Apple domain - especially so in their physical domain, the Apple Store - and that regardless of whatever you think that transaction meant, these products still and will always belong to Apple.

Now, these pentalobular screws have popped up before, in mid-2009 MacBook Pros and the new MacBook Airs, and they serve the purpose of making these Apple devices totally tamper-proof. Which also means repair-proof. Which also is totally ludicrous. When I buy something, I'm entitled to repair it, modify it, and swap parts out as I please. As stated succinctly in MAKE's Owners Manifesto, "if you can't open it, you don't own it". And while it's always been clear that Apple's idea of ownership is different from most, the covert screw swap shows just how far they're willing to go to keep you out of your phone. Or, as they see it, their phone.

Thankfully, iFixit already has this all figured out: they're selling an iPhone 4 liberation kit for $US10 that lets you replace Apple's new super screws with regular old Philips ones. Vive la resistance. [iFixit]


Comments

    Or you could just use a blade screwdriver which fits in the lobes of the screw head pattern... Security screw fail :) if they put a round pin in the centre like actual security screws... Then you would be screwed.... Ha!

    It's wong to claim that there is no screwdriver outside apple when you link to a place where they sell the screwdriver

    You're not paying attention to what you're saying, are you?

    First, you say that Apple has changed the screws to a type for which no screwdriver exists. Then, you link an article where they're SELLING the screwdriver. Obviously, a screwdriver for it exists.

    Logic and reporting fail.

      No - what the article (and video) means is that no screwdriver exists that can be used without risk of rendering the screws unusable on repeated use, which is what any normal person expects. Ifixit's solution is to replace the screws (who cares if you damage the originals!)

        Shouldn't they say that instead of "no screwdriver exists" then? Wouldn't it make more sense to say what one means?

    It's "vive la résistance".

    I bought by iPhone4 brand new and it already comes with the flower screws.

    Give iFixit 10 minutes with it and they'll have a screw driver.

    Doesn't bother me.

    This may be a concern for people who love to tinker with their gadgets - although I'm not sure why there is a need to with the iphone - but I think a vast majority of consumers couldn't care less about opening up a device as long as it works.

      This is exactly the sentiment that powers Apple. As long as the majority of their consumers buy into the Apple lifestyle and remain comfortably numb or indifferent to how they're being caged, it's all good.

      It does however annoy people who buy a phone and expect to have full control over it. And it's a huge problem that my iPhone can't do what I want it to.

        If it bothers you so much, you could always throw it away and buy something better that does do what you want.

        Really, what has the world come to when all people do these days is whinge about stuff rather than do something to help themselves.

        Oh, that's right - the internet became available to the masses.

      Yes, as long as it works. But when it doesn't work, how do you fix it? By opening it up.

    It's not rocket science. Theres nothing secure about screwdrivers EVER! It's so easy to make a screwdriver that will fit this.

    Do you actually own your iPhone? Or does Apple? If the the total ownership belongs to you then Apple should have no rights to replace the screws unless the repair is to do with the screws themselves.

      You purchased the product, it's yours to do what you want with. Otherwise you just paid $800+ (or an expensive contract) for nothing.

    And the second a Chinese factory starts pumping those screwdrivers out for all the people who like to or are paid to tinker Apple has wasted money for nothing. It's so retarded.

    This will keep everything screwed tightly. Again.

    A magical and revolutionary screw, now available from Apple.

    They're not too hard to open. I had the new screw in my replacement iPhone that I got about a month ago. Managed to get the screws with just a flat screwdriver.

    If that's too hard then just use a small FIVE SIDED allen key. see diagram:
    http://i1013.photobucket.com/albums/af259/timthemanager/iphonescrew.png

    Or you can just get a small star screwdriver at any decent hardware store...

    It's also possibly in violation of the new Australian consumer laws.

    Companies are not allowed to act without your authorisation on a product you own.

    If for example you take a car in for repairs and they change the oil when you did not specifically ask them to do so, or authorise them to do, you're not liable to pay for the change to occur.

    Completing repairs BEYOND which you have authorised (like replacing a part you did not ask to be replaced) COULD be illegal. It's something you would take to the ACCC, who I'm sure would be interested in following it up.

    disclaimer: I used to work for the Qld Gov in Fair Trading, but that was BEFORE the new laws came into effect, so my information may not be complete. the best advise I have is that if this happens to you you should contact the ACCC, because it IS a potential violation.

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