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Hardware Hacking Iphone Apple Build Hardware

The Case of Apple's Mystery Screw 845

Pickens writes "Network World reports that in the past if you wanted to remove the outer case on your iPhone 4 to replace the battery or a broken screen, you could use a Phillips screwdriver to remove two tiny screws at the base of the phone and then simply slide off the back cover. But now Apple is replacing the outer screw with a mysterious tamper-resistant 'pentalobular' screw across its most popular product lines, making it harder for do-it-yourselfers to make repairs. What about existing products in the field? Pentalobular screws might find their way into them, too. 'Apple's latest policy will make your blood boil,' says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. 'If you take your iPhone 4 into Apple for any kind of service, they will sabotage it by replacing your Phillips screws with the new, tamper-resistant screws. We've spoken with the Apple Store geniuses tasked with carrying out this policy, and they are ashamed of the practice.' Of course, only Apple-authorized service technicians have Pentalobular screwdrivers and they're not allowed to resell them. 'Apple sees a huge profit potential,' says Wiens. 'A hundred dollars per year in incremental revenue on their installed base is a tremendous opportunity.'"
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The Case of Apple's Mystery Screw

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  • by nicholas22 ( 1945330 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:25AM (#34952918)
    How many other patented screw designs are not as popular as the Phillips? It doesn't matter that it was *patented* a long time ago. What matters is that it is a niche design, making it harder to use that the Phillips screw.
  • Sue Them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:34AM (#34953106)

    Take a picture of your laptop or device, carefully documenting the screws.
    Take it in for service
    Tell them not to change the screws
    If they change the screws, ask them to put the old ones back.
    Document change in screws
    Take it to your states AG, and start a criminal investigation.

      ITS YOUR COMPUTER, if they change it against your will, we have laws to protect you. It is illegal for them to do this without your permission.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:40AM (#34953234) Journal
    Once so called "smart screws" hit the market. The idea has been in the theory/laboratory stage for some years now: basically fasteners that, under electrical control, can move between their fastened and unfastened or extended/retracted states(assorted pizieo, MEMS, tiny motor, etc. principles of operation have been tried).

    Cool thing is, since you no longer have to be able to reach the head of the fastener with a driver, it becomes possible to do case and assembly designs that would be impossible with conventional fasteners. On the minus side, if the fasteners are no longer exposed, and under electrical control(via a simple bus in the chassis) you'll have to gain software control of the device just to open it(without extreme violence to the case. Obviously, nothing resists a good power tool for long...)
  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:43AM (#34953310) Homepage

    The date of the patent is critical. Just imagine that there was a new screw head that was patented in say 2005, and Apple held that patent. They could then stop anyone else manufacturing and selling suitable screwdrivers them to the public.

    As it is, a quick Google will lead you to someone selling a suitable screwdriver as the patent has long since expired.

  • Re:Yay! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skids ( 119237 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:47AM (#34953396) Homepage

    Or, you should make a point to buy a dremel before purchasing any apple products.

  • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by He Who Has No Name ( 768306 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:49AM (#34953412)

    Then you can sue them for breach of warranty.

    I don't think Apple thought this cunning plan all the way through. Somewhere, somebody with spare time and money and a propensity for making statements or grinding axes is going to flex their state's consumer rights laws, specifically the part about warranty service on goods as rendered.

    Unless Apple can somehow argue that anti-tampering devices are crucial to the proper and desired function of the phone as a phone, they may be in for some trouble.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:52AM (#34953456)

    1. They are technically better in some aspect for their use.
    2. A supplier offered them cheaper than the what they were using.
    3. The supplier of the new slightly more expensive screws is a good friend of an apple board member/engineer/designer/whatever.
    4. It reduces the chances of idiot users doing idiot things.
    5. Jobs thought they looked better.

  • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <[enderandrew] [at] []> on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:05PM (#34953730) Homepage Journal

    I say this as an iPhone user, I'm not sure why it is commonly accepted that Apple provides this perfect user experience.

    Repeatedly my iPhone has been wiped when connecting to iTunes. I've lost save data on games, photos, videos, contact information, etc.

    I could in theory have contacts in groups, but there is no way in the interfact to add a contact to a group. I have to pay for a third party app to handle this for me.

    I can't do basic things like add new SMS tones.

    I tried importing contacts from a Yahoo account, a Gmail account, and Exchange. All failed. I can't edit my address book by typing at a computer. I have to very slowly type entries in via the phone.

    iTunes is one of the worst pieces of software I've ever used. I see UI problems galore.

    And the few times I've sat at a Mac to try and fix them for friends, Finder has driven me up a wall.

    Can we instead say that Apple provides an alternative for those who prefer it? I don't buy how Apple is perfect and a superior user experience.

  • by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:29PM (#34954182)

    Philips screws are not suited for automated processes. Or rather, they were designed for automated screwing but the times have changed. A Philips drive head is designed to cause the driver to cam out when the screw is all the way in. Caming out isn't desireable, as it can damage the screw head and possibly the driver head as well. But, it's better than stripping the screw, or cracking whatever you're screwing into, which is what happens if a high speed automated driver keeps going too long with, say, a Robertson drive. But times have changed. Automated drivers are very good at torque sensing now, so they can stop the instant a screw has been driven home. So the Philips isn't optimal any longer. Caming out can damage the screw, the driver, it's not good. So the best screws to use in automated assembly are screws that can take high torque, and will not cam out. A Robertson works well for this, but isn't widely used any more. Probably because it's Canadian ;) Instead, Torx screws are most often used in electronics and automotives. They're also called Hexalobular screws. They're 6 pointed stars. Their sharp edges allow for high torque without cam out. Supposedly they last longer than a Robertson so that's why they're used instead. They're also pretty popular. Most driver sets come with Philips, Robertson, Slot, and Torx. All of mine have more Torx than anything.

    Torx also makes Pentaloblar drivers, and that's what Apple's using. So, they can say they switched to Torx because of their suitability for automated assembly. But, they did chose to go with the tamper resistant Torx, not the 6 lobed variety. They can't really say anything about that, because there's no reason. And, do you know the only people who use them besides Apple? Prisons and government schools (but I repeat myself). So it's actually an extremely apt choice on their part. "We use prison screws, try not to think about it."

    Still, they're being cheap about it. I see in the picture that they don't have the center pin. That means they're using the old pentalobular drivers, not the new, more tamper resistant, and also still patented, ones ;)

  • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:30PM (#34954186) Journal
    Worry not, us communist hobbyists are working on 3D-printing machines good enough to print wax molds that can be used to cast metal. Soon, your local hackerspace/fablab will be able to download these new screws when they come out and print them out.
  • Re:Yay! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hrimhari ( 1241292 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:32PM (#34954230) Journal

    Well, they can try to sue the brains out of people trying to commercialize such a tool, if they managed to get a patent on its format...

    Time will tell.

  • Re:Yay! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:36PM (#34954280)
    for not thinking of using screws that require a screwdriver nearly nobody has.

    Good luck with that. I used to be a blacksmith, and I still have all my tools. If someone can produce an intact example of one of these delightful screws, I'll bet I can produce a screwdriver for it.

    Hell, it might even be worth my while selling them. It might be fun to watch their lawyers try to serve me a court order while trying not to get their kneecaps bashed in with a 10-pound hammer.
  • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:53PM (#34954622)

    You are simply rehashing well-rehearsed talking points, and I'm dubious your post is genuine.

    "Finder has driven you up a wall"? Seriously? When you sit down to fix a Mac, what does Finder have to do with anything?

    UI problems in iTunes is easy to say, but I prefer examples.

    Gmail was easier to setup than my old .mac account. Until there are widespread accounts of users experiencing Gmail sync issues, it's not really a problem.

    That is not to say I think Apple is "perfect", but their emphasis on "superior user experience" is they type of alternative that I prefer. Yes, I have lost info syncing with iTunes, but mostly because my iTunes is a mish-mash of 5 users stuff (obtained legally or not) with 4 phones in the house. It's easy to dismiss warnings about overwriting libraries and the such.

  • Apple products blow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:08PM (#34954952)

    I posted previously about the problems I had getting my father's iPad to work. What a headache.
    So then my brother and his wife visit me with their iPhones. They have some video that they want me to watch.

    So I first I try putting in an standard A/V plug to my TV. It works with my smart phone. Nope. No A/V on iPhone.

    So then I think, I'll just download the video to my computer over the USB connector. So I connect the iPhone to my computer. Nada. It does not appear as mass storage device or anything. What? I have to install iTunes to get data off it? And my computer has to be 1 of the only 5 computers to which this thing can ever connect? My brother only visits me once every five years!

    So then I think, I will have my brother upload the video to my web site. My brother brings up the browser and my web page on his iPhone. And guess what? The "choose file" button is greyed out! Something as basic as uploading a video file is not allowed.

    Any of the above work just fine on my smart phone. There is no way I would ever recommend anybody buy any kind of Apple product. What a headache.

  • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jthill ( 303417 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:55PM (#34955842)

    honey that was packaged 15 years ago

    I think you made your point well, and this correction doesn't really undermine it at all, but so far as honey is concerned you don't have to start worrying for at least 200 times that 15 years. So far as anyone can tell, honey never goes bad.

    Wandering OT, search for "nih honey burn treatment". There may be drugs better than honey for that, and for radiation burns the best is a mix, but in general honey is noticeably-to-substantially better.

    Honey doesn't appear on the recommended-treatment lists published by most medical institutions. Strangely enough, those institutions tend to get substantial volume discounts for all their drugs, those discounts chosen by the drug companies.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments