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Apple Blasted for Tiny Torx Screws
2/13/2012

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UBM TechInsights, which specializes in intellectual property analysis, got its hands 
on one of the first iPhone 4S models and conducted this teardown.
UBM TechInsights, which specializes in intellectual property analysis, got its hands
on one of the first iPhone 4S models and conducted this teardown.

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BobGroh
User Rank
Platinum
Re:Apple blasted for tiny Torx screws
BobGroh   2/14/2012 10:41:03 AM
NO RATINGS
As is often the case, I am a bit on the fence here. On the one hand, I would like to point out that the screws may have been used for better assemblibility (hope that is a word) rather than as a 'anti-intrusion device'.  Phillips screws are ok for assembly but hardly the optimum for a high production rate environment.

On the other hand, I do hate to see special hardware used which makes it difficult for me to get into something. As an example, I have a Lionel model train controller which 'broke' (probably because a fuse blew inside the assembly). This is a little $90 box - too expensive to throw away, too inexpensive to get fixed.  Should be easy for a moderately competent engineer (I hope I fit in that category) to fix but .... guess what - they used some type of anti-tamper screws!!  Darn them! 

If I could find the particular screwdriver needed (I couldn't) it would have me $8 to $16.  A pretty steep price for a maybe fix. In this case, someone on the internet (thank goodness for the web!) said he had modified an old screwdriver to do the job. So I grabbed an old screw driver, eyeballed the screw head (buried inside the controller), ground and tried and ground and tried until I got them out.  And, no, they won't go back in!

Odd hardware can be very aggravating (or even the lack of hardware as in the sealed mouse casing).  But it probably makes sense from a production standpoint. Just makes us

 

rick oleson
User Rank
Gold
Re: Happy Meal toys
rick oleson   2/14/2012 10:50:48 AM
NO RATINGS
My guess is that Apple made a business decision here to sacrifice that segment of the market that (1) insists on tearing the product apart and (2) is too dumb to find a proper screwdriver to do it with.  On balance, this was probably not a bad decision.

jeffbiss
User Rank
Gold
Whatever hapened to ingenuity?
jeffbiss   2/14/2012 10:51:15 AM
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And someone couldn't make their own driver? There was an era when machining was king. In fact all one needs for this is a vice, a file, and a piece of rod of near the right diameter. Search for watchmaker sites and be amazed at the skills.

But the truth is most owners have no interest to fix their own, open it to see what's inside, but not do anything beyond ruining it by mistake. These screws save the owners from themselves.

ChasChas
User Rank
Platinum
compromise
ChasChas   2/14/2012 10:51:21 AM
NO RATINGS
A simple seal would be work just fine. If the seal is broken, no warranty. You tinker at your own risk - with common tools.

Stephen
User Rank
Gold
Pentalobe screws
Stephen   2/14/2012 10:51:37 AM
NO RATINGS
Actually they probably serve *two* purposes:

1, They limit casual access, as a Perntalobe driver is required, $3 from Amazon for a cheap one, perhaps $10 for a quality one form various vendors.

2. Pentalobe, like the larger sized 6 lobed Torx, is far more condusive to high volume assembly than the Phillips due to the lack of camout on driving, that occurs w/ a Phillips.

At these small sizes 5 (or even 4) lobes may be more practical from a screw manufacturing and driver strength point of view than 6. Certainly it is easier to open then the original i-Pods w/ their sleek smooth fastenerless case backs -- for with an opening tool is also available.

A tool-less removeable battery cover could have been provided as well, but this come at the price of bulk, and the market does not want bulk.

Mildly sneaky -- sure; sinister and dastardly or evil incarnate -- that's a stretch.

Pete Ostapchuk
User Rank
Iron
tamper resistant or education resistant?
Pete Ostapchuk   2/14/2012 10:52:08 AM
    Over the years, I have worked on everything from steam locomotives to aircraft to computers. A lot of book learning was responsible for my education. Knowing who to ask for advice and who to totally ignore had a lot to do with it. The best education that I got was from taking stuff apart and putting it back together. I remember back when all my audio equipment came with schematics. The implication was that if it failed, you were supposed to fix it and on occasion, I did. These days, opening a piece of equipment will void the warrenty unless it's ham radio equipment.

    Changing a flat tire is something many people would only attempt if it was a matter of life or death. We are not even allowed to choose what kind of light bulbs we want to use. I wonder if so many jobs are going overseas because that's where all the Yankee ingenuity is. My advice is to get dirty and get an education even if the big comapnies try to stop you.

           Pete O.    

ViragoMan
User Rank
Silver
Re: Apple hallmark
ViragoMan   2/14/2012 11:21:15 AM
NO RATINGS
Rob, your son could have done a google search for "ipod battery replacement" and had the ipod back and functional in about a week for ~$40.

With all the debate here about access into Apple products and who owns a product that is bought, I've seen nothing regarding proprietary technology or intellectual property rights. Sure, when you buy an Apple whatever, you get the hardware, software, firmware, cloudware... You own the hardware, but you are only licensed to USE the software. You're welcome to tinker by writing your own code and apps., but Apple is not obligated to publish their system specs. to facilitate your tinkering. If you're sooooo upset at Apple's "arrogance" (that they have done all the tinkering for you and don't want to give you a chance to tinker with their product design) then don't buy Apple products.

ncourtney
User Rank
Silver
Re: Apple hallmark
ncourtney   2/14/2012 11:34:01 AM
NO RATINGS
I don't recall the article mentioning anything about the code just taking a device a part, but if you're going to go that direction there is no reason that a person couldn't just remove the Apple software and install open source software if they choose. It is their device not Apple's once it's purchased. It's not like a credit card which many people assume is their credit card, banks allow customers to use a credit card and can take away those rights to the credit card anytime they like and without any reason, Apple can't take your phone from you once you've bought it, they don't even want the thing back.

I also didn't see where anyone wanted Apple specs, what i fond interesting is that most work around fixes to problems with hardware and software often come from end users and not engineers and software programmers.

Ironically if any of the founders of Apple, Microsoft and many other companies had not been able to tinker, or buy kits to build electronic projects their companies wouldn't exist today.

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Asking for trouble
Amclaussen   2/14/2012 11:54:33 AM
Well said Naperlou!  If I own a device, I should be able to do anything to it as long as it is not illegal, or I do not harm anyone; and the damn company has already stated the typical: "Warranty void if opened".

The example of the Ipod needing to be sent back to the manufacturer for an extremely simple battery renewal tells it all: "Why let the captive consumer change his worn out battery, if WE can keep on robbing him by making it difficult to exchange, and then charging an outrageous amount to change it at the factory?" The reason is pure and simple GREED.  It's the same with the damn screws... only to *crew the consumer.

These "design" practices go against the consumer, the environment (many perfectly good devices are trown in the garbage because the battery lost capacity or any other simple fault that could be perfectly and efficiently repaired at a reasonable charge; not only by the manufacturer, but by selected franshises or repairing-recycling centers) and against the culture and common sense.

The stupid culture of the 'throw-away and buy a new one' is producing thuosands of tons of electronic garbage, consuming scarce precious materials and teaching the public to be a brainless apathic couch potato that is easily herded into an eternal device buying and "upgrading" that usually leaves the consumer unsatisfied and craving for newer and newer gizmos... Which could be great for the manufacturer, but is not sustainable in the long term. Besides, Apple truly represents what is wrong with the american enterprise nowaday: Even when Apple stock is climbing and climbing, in reality its products are made in other countries, by non american workers, and their installations and workforce in america is mostly sales and administrative, not fabrication or even design.  Most design in an Apple product was only conceived by Apple, but the materialization of those great conceptual "designs" was made in other countries like Japan, Germany and (assembly only) in China.  So, instead of myopically applauding the success of Apple, lets take a discerning view of it.

And congratulations for being a savvy consumer and fixing your old Blackberry, that's the spirit of a true engineer. A truly decided individual can always find the way to open the device (like grinding the special screw heads with a Dremel, and later replacing them with slot head ones -Micromark.com has a Micro Screw Assortment (10 Sizes, 100 Each) package at less than 20 bucks, enough for many years of tinkering-).

ViragoMan
User Rank
Silver
Re: Apple hallmark
ViragoMan   2/14/2012 12:00:46 PM
NO RATINGS
There are technical points and there are philisophical points.                       Mine was philisophically about the comments, not the article. 

BTW Apple provides development tool "kits" for tinkerers that lets them write iPod/iPhone Apps.

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