Smartphone and Tablet Lifespans: The Best (and Worst)

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Smartphone and Tablet Lifespans: The Best (and Worst)

by Michelle Maisto

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The Dell XPS 10 Is the Most Repairable Tablet

iFixit gives devices what it calls "repairability" scores, ranging from 0 to a possible high score of 10. The highest-scoring tablet iFixit has torn down to date is the Dell XPS 10, which earned a 9. The team found it "refreshingly" easy to work on. The battery removes easily; several cables are labeled, aiding reassembly; and there are only 20 screws in the device, which were even color-coded for easy identification.

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Amazon's 7-Inch Kindle Fire

While the Apple iPad 3 received a score of 2 from iFixit, four tablets earned a very respectable 8. One of these was the Amazon Kindle Fire. While its glass panel is fused to its frame (not good), it received high points for being easy to open, including no proprietary fasteners and featuring a simple design with standard Philips screws.

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The Dell Streak

The Streak, it might be argued, was ahead of its time. While Samsung's newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S 4, features a 5-inch display, in 2010 the 5-inch Streak was panned for being too big to be a phone and too small to be a proper tablet. Still, the iFixit team gave it an 8, applauding how easy it is to replace the battery as well as open the phone, and that the cables use standard connectors.

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Samsung Galaxy S 4

Speaking of the Galaxy S 4, tech site Techno Buffalo reported April 10 that a source had gotten hold of the phone and reported it to be easy to tear down—and easier than the Galaxy S III, which iFixit gave a 7 out of 10. While replacing the Gorilla Glass on the GS4 will be an expensive endeavor, Samsung reportedly made it easy to replace the microSD card slot, the SIM slot, the microUSB charging port and the camera module, among other components.

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Motorola Xoom

The third tablet with a repairability score of 8 is the Motorola Xoom. The first tablet to run Google's Honeycomb OS, it also gets bragging rights for having an LCD and front-panel glass that aren't fused; individualized components, like the cameras, on the motherboard, allowing each to be separately replaced; and for not including proprietary screws or fasteners. It lost points for having 57 screws, which were time-consuming, though not difficult, to use.

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Samsung Galaxy Tablets

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 also received an 8 from iFixit. While a heat gun is needed to replace the LCD, the latter isn't fused to the front glass. The iFixit team also applauded the Tab 2's modular design and easy-to-remove components. And while it's not listed on a new iFixit chart, a search of old iFixit teardowns found that the Galaxy Note 10.1 also earned an 8.

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Microsoft Surface Pro

What not to buy if longevity is a consideration? The Microsoft Surface Pro made iFixit history by being the first tablet to score a 1. "The Surface Pro has some nifty features, like a removable [solid-state drive], but that upgradability is marred by non-accessibility to the internals," blogged Fixit Chief Information Architect Miro Djuric. It's also held together by copious amounts of adhesive and 90 screws, which Djuric called "a tad crazy."

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Also in the camp of don't-expect-to-fix-this is the new HTC One. It, too, scored a 1, "a first-ever for a cell phone," Djuric blogged March 28. It took 11 steps and much "prying and peeling" to get to the battery, and Djuric wrote that it was "very, very difficult (possibly impossible?) to open the device without damaging the rear case." That would make it "extremely difficult" to replace any broken component.

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BlackBerry Z10

On the other end of the spectrum is the BlackBerry Z10. "The BlackBerry Z10 is proof that smartphones can be thin, easily-repairable and have replaceable batteries. All these traits yield an 8 out of 10 repairability score, something we haven't seen in a smartphone for a while," Djuric blogged March 25. He added that it had absolutely zero adhesive holding down the motherboard. "Wonderful."

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Apple iPhone 5

Given the popularity of the iPhone 5—according to both Sprint and T-Mobile, one can't effectively run a carrier without it—it seems worth mentioning that it earned a score of 7. While Apple still uses pentalobe screws—special screws meant to keep iPhone owners out of their devices (a measure iFixit counters by selling a pentalobe screwdriver)—the iPhone 5's glass/display, the iPhone component most likely to break, is now the first thing that comes off, instead of the last.

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