Many iPhone 4 handsets include tamper-resistant screws similar to those in some MacBook Pro and MacBook Air units, says iFixit, calling such "baby proofing" evil.
Apple has turned to using hard-to-find, tamper-resistant
screws in some iPhone 4 handsets, says iFixit
the repair site know for its teardowns of popular devices. The move, says
iFixit, is all part of a "diabolical plan" to prevent iPhone 4 owners from
accessing their personal hardware.
In a Jan. 20 post, iFixit blogger Kyle writes that the
screws aren't a standard Torx, or really even a security Torx - Torx
screws have six points and a pin in the center. The new screws, officially called
"pentalobe," have no center pin and five rounded lobes, making them look like a
child's drawing of a daisy. (Which is maybe too sweet a description for what
Kyle refers to as "an evil ascending.")
"There isn't a single reputable supplier that sells exactly
the same screwdrivers Apple's technicians use - which is Apple's point," he
writes. "They picked an obscure head that no one would have. This new screw
defeats even our vaunted 54-bit driver kit
which until now we've been able to claim that it's all you need to disassemble
just about any consumer electronics."
Many non-U.S. iPhone 4 units have shipped from the factory
with the pentalobe screws, and in the United States, when a user brings his or
her iPhone 4 in for repair, the device's more standard screws are said to be
matter-of-factly replaced with this tamper-proof variety.
According to iFixit, the pentablobe screws first appeared in
the mid-2009 MacBook Pro as a fastener for the battery, and is now also used on
the lower case of the 2010 MacBook Air.
Additionally, Apple uses three different sizes of the
five-pointed screws. The largest version, called a "Torx Plus Tamper 6" by Apple,
was used in the mid-2009 MacBook Pro, though Apple has since switched to using
tri-wing screws in the notebook. The current MacBook Air also uses a five-point
screw, though one larger than the MacBook Pro.
By contrast, the screws on the iPhone 4 are teeny-tiny
- "one of the smallest we've ever seen," writes Kyle. It's so tiny, he
continues, that the "shape looks a little rough, because this tiny screw is
giving Apple's manufacturing process a run for its money."
In a video on the site, iFixit's M.J. spells out her
frustrations with Apple's "insistence on baby-proofing our phones."
"You're going to need an entirely different driver for these
pentalobular screws... [and] these drivers are really rare, and expensive, and
usually require proof of Apple certification just to purchase them," she says.
While she appreciates the thoughtful design of her Apple products, she adds, "once I've purchased it, it's mine to do with as I
To that end, iFixi is now selling an "iPhone Liberation
Kit." It includes a driver that can take out the pentalobe screws - not a
true pentalobe driver, as it's more star-shaped
than flowery, but one good enough to get the screws out once. "We don't
recommend it for repeated use," the site explains. "It's really just a hack to
get the screws out and then replace them with standard screws."
It follows, then, that the kit also includes two replacement
Phillips screws and a regular #00 Phillips screwdriver.
Apple chose the new screws because they knew the repair
tools would "be both rare and expensive," writes Kyle. "Shame on them."
During its 2011 fiscal first quarter, Apple announced Jan.
sold 16.24 million iPhones,
which was a record for the company and an
increase of 86 percent from the same quarter a year ago.