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]