Palm Pre Teardown

June 6, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We took apart the Palm Pre. Here are our first impressions:

  • We love the feel of holding the Pre in our hands. In its closed position, it feels much more comfortable to hold than the iPhone.
  • Palm’s new WebOS software is impressively smooth! We love how natural it feels to swipe between applications and multitask with Web, Twitter, AIM, and Pandora.
  • Users preferring physical keyboards will be satisfied, but iPhone veterans may be left disappointed at the lack of a software keyboard option.
  • Revealing the keyboard feels awkward and interrupts the smooth WebOS experience. Try before you buy, because this keyboard could be enough to deter picky users.
  • Some parts of the software feel rushed. For example, the app store describes the price of free apps as “$Try now.” It looks like an overeager programmer hardcoded that dollar sign. While certainly not a showstopper, we hope Palm gets a chance to tidy up the little things like this soon.
  • We were the first in line for the Pre. Definitely not as much initial hype as when the iPhone was released.
  • We tested out Sprint’s 3G EVDO network on the road home and didn’t notice any interruptions. Uploads and downloads were fast, and Pandora’s application ran like a champ.
  • A prepaid plastic recycling envelope is included in the box, making it easy to recycle your newly obsolete phone.
  • The Pre is “Inspired by and designed in California,” while the iPhone is merely “Designed by Apple in California.”
  • The Pre’s battery capacity is 1150 mAh, exactly the same as the iPhone 3G, though the Pre is reported to have slightly worse battery life due to its background process capability. The battery is user-replaceable, something the iPhone lacks severely.
  • The Palm Pre is the first phone using Texas Instrument’s new OMAP3 (Open Media Applications Processor) platform.
  • The processor is a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 + PowerVR SGX 530 GPU + 430MHz C64x+ DSP + ISP (Image Signal Processor)
  • The Pre is definitely not an easy phone to service. There are lots of fragile and tricky tabs that will make putting the phone back together challenging.
  • Users preferring physical keyboards will be satisfied, but iPhone veterans may be left disappointed at the lack of a software keyboard option.
  • The Pre is definitely thicker compared to the iPhone (17mm vs 12mm). Not only does this allow the engineers more flexibility in designing the physical layout of components, but it also makes the Pre conform really well to our palm.

We’ll post more notes on the hardware soon.

Site Launch: User-Submitted Teardowns!

June 4, 2009 Events, Site News — Miro

We are launching a new user-driven teardown platform today. Our new online teardown creation tools allow anyone to easily author and publish teardown guides, complete with disassembly photos and technical details.

www.iFixit.com/Teardown

iFixit uses a powerful home-grown documentation tool to write our repair manuals. Over the years that software has developed into a fast and efficient way to publish the Mac teardowns that we create. Our hardware teardowns and analysis have become world-renowned for providing a first look inside new hardware.

Tons of people have asked us to publish their teardowns to our audience. This demand helped us realize the importance of releasing this platform for everyone, so we spent the last year polishing our tool and making it robust enough for anyone to create teardowns free of charge.

In the past we’ve focused primarily on Apple devices, but we’ve recently expanded and published a number of non-Apple teardowns. Our recent teardowns of the Nintendo DSi, Amazon Kindle 2, and Dell Adamo were massively popular and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. The deviation from writing Mac teardowns foreshadowed today’s epic announcement. We hope that people use our flexible teardown platform to create teardowns of devices of all kinds, not just Apple products.

We keep our website running fast. Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about handling large spikes in server traffic. Thanks to cloud computing, RightScale, and Amazon EC2, today we’re able to dynamically scale our capacity to meet demand.

Writing a teardown is simple, and we wrote a step-by-step guide to show people how it’s done.

We are also proud to announce our first user-generated teardowns. Using our tool, PhoneWreck.com has republished their detailed cell phone teardowns and circuit analysis.

We are absolutely thrilled to be launching our new site. This platform has been a labor of love for a long time, and we’re excited to see what tinkerers all over the world create with it. Join us, and show the world what’s inside your gadgets!

Meet iFixit: Mitra’s Upgrade Success Story

May 19, 2009 Meet iFixit, Repair Stories, Site News — Miro

Mitra works for iFixit as a Visual Designer. Most of the website graphics on our site have been shaped or created by her genius. She is the first person to write an article for the “Meet iFixit” series — personal blog posts written by iFixit employees relating some of their tech-related experiences. The following article is written solely by her, with a couple of edits here and there by yours truly. Enjoy.

-Miro

Last week I finally got enough motivation to fix my old 15″ PowerBook. The process was more fun and interesting than I expected. My repair story started in January of 2008 when I made the choice to update my computer system. My 2004 15″ PowerBook was making strange clicking sounds and the battery was dead (I had to keep it plugged in all the time). It was time for a faster machine and I needed a bigger monitor. I decided to get a 24″ iMac and retired my old laptop for use on special occasions.

In December my laptop totally died. It would display a panic message and then freeze when I tried to turn it on. From that point, it took 4 months to convince myself that I could fix the PowerBook. I started by using the ID your Mac help guide to figure out what kind of laptop I had. Next I consulted a few tech savvy friends to confirm my suspicion that the hard drive was the cause of my problem. Then I went about getting everything I needed to make the repair.

To fix my computer I bought a replacement hard drive, a battery, and a tool kit. I used the step by step iFixit guide for hard drive replacement, and an OS operating system CD. I was a little nervous getting started.

I used a cupcake baking pan to organize the screws as I took the laptop apart.

There were a few moments when I wondered if it was ever going to turn on again. Looking at the inside of my computer was strange.

I swapped the hard drive and put the pieces back together. I swapped out the old battery and installed the OS. It was easy.

It took about 30 minutes to replace the hard drive… And installing the software took 3 hours. I’m happy to have a working laptop now. Thanks to everyone who helped!

iPhone 3G Front Panel Replacement

April 24, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

Go to our iPhone 3G Front Panel Repair Guide to get complete step-by-step instructions for replacing your broken glass!

Imagine this scenario: You’re late for a meeting. To make matters worse, you find that your bike tires are extremely low. As you’re hastily pumping up the tires, The Boss calls your iPhone 3G. He usually doesn’t call your personal line, but this time it’s personal — his butt’s on the line, since you’re bringing his presentation to the meeting. You’re juggling many things in your mind, including the virtual beating you’re going to receive for being late, all the while not realizing that the sweat on your hands is making the iPhone quite slippery. Everything changes in one split-second flash: the iPhone 3G shoots out of your well-oiled hand and has an intimate chat with Mr. Concrete. The result? A cracked iPhone 3G screen, not to mention an even-more-furious boss due to your inability to pick up the phone. While iFixit can’t get you a new job in the bicycle sales industry, we can show you how to fix your iPhone 3G’s cracked screen.

The first thing to know to is what part you need to replace. On the original iPhone display, the glass, touchscreen digitizer, and LCD display were inseparably glued together. Fortunately, Apple changed their design and the iPhone 3G front panel glass is not glued to the LCD behind it. This is great news, because most of the time when you break the glass the LCD itself is fine. The front panel is available online at iFixit for $70, a bit cheaper than the LCD itself.

Opening the iPhone 3G is definitely simpler than the first generation iPhone. The original required a wide array of tools (including a dental pick) to remove the back panel. Apple’s designers decided to be nicer with the 3G, but weird tools like suction cups are still needed to make the opening procedure easier. Removing two Phillips screws and a small pull with the suction cup open the iPhone 3G. Don’t pull too hard, however– several cables still hold the two sides in place.

Disconnecting the display assembly from the rest of the iPhone 3G is as easy as 1-2-3 — literally. Apple was nice enough to number the black ribbon cables “1,” “2”, and “3,” allowing for a no-brainer disconnecting procedure. However, people attempting this at home should be careful to not break any connectors while trying to remove them.

Just like anyone can be linked to Kevin Bacon via six degrees of separation, six screws prevent the display from being separated from the front panel. The screws are very small in size and have #00 Phillips heads. An injudicious flick of the wrist will misplace them forever, so one should take care to keep them in a safe place. Scotch tape is your friend. We like to tape each set of screws down to a sheet of paper and write down where they came from.

To separate the display from the glass, you have to carefully insert a metal spudger between the two metal rails along the edge of the display assembly. A word of caution, however: metal spudgers are the double-edged swords of the iPod and iPhone repair worlds. They are incredibly useful due to their hard metal edge, especially for tight crevices where plastic tools are too soft to be used. However, the hierarchy of hardness dictates that “like scratches like,” meaning that everything softer than the metal spudger will be easily scratched. Unfortunately the list includes pretty much every surface of the iPhone 3G. A metal spudger can also bridge electrical connections, potentially shorting the iPhone 3G’s logic board if you’re not careful.

Glue prevents the removal of the plastic touch screen from the rest of the front panel. The glue loosens when heated, and consequently a heat gun comes in very handy for this procedure. However, too much heat gun action can warp the front panel, as well as leave nasty burns on your hands (nobody likes playing hot-potato with an iPhone 3G front panel).  Hair dryers are preferable if they provide enough heat — a safer (and more readily available) alternative.

Getting everything apart is hard enough, but it’s only half the task. The new touch panel now needs to be adhered to the front panel. iFixit includes a set of cut-to-shape 3M double-sided tape strips with every iPhone 3G front panel purchase. Alternatively, the home user can also use double-sided tape — it’s trickier than the pre-cut pieces, but can be done.

Repairing the iPhone 3G’s screen is a difficult, yet rewarding undertaking. A quick lapse in judgment can certainly provide a couple of good stories for next day at the office — stories such as why you have a melted iPhone front panel attached to your right hand, for example. Although the difficulty is relatively high, the cost of replacing the entire iPhone (as opposed to just the front panel) is even higher. A little patience along with good tools, parts, iFixit’s disassembly guide, and a couple of hours will enable anyone to fix their iPhone 3G display for $70.

Calling All Tinkerers

April 2, 2009 Events, Site News — Kyle Wiens
Maker Faire 2009

Maker Faire is the world's largest DIY festival

iFixit is hosting the brand-new repair section of Maker Faire 2009! We’re going to show the masses how to fix all sorts of things, and we need your help.

The theme of the repair section is going to be “Fix the World.” We’re looking for volunteers to share their repair knowledge. We want to show the world that with the right information, materials, and a little time, you can repair just about anything. Are you an expert in automobile repair? Do you know how to fix a wide variety of washer and dryer problems? Is your gift building bicycles from scratch? Then iFixit wants YOU!

The repair section will feature areas for appliances, computers, automobiles, motorcycles, consumer electronics, bicycles, and other cool stuff we’re working on. If you have experience fixing things and would like free admission to Maker Faire, admission to the invite-only “Maker to Maker” event on Friday, and some other cool perks, please sign up as an iFixit volunteer!

We’re going to schedule volunteers in shifts so you won’t have to help out all weekend. You will definitely have time to see the rest of the Faire! You will be helping people with their problems, showing off cool ways of diagnosing and repairing failed devices, and generally having a good time. The more people we are able to help, the richer the experience will be for everyone.

To volunteer, send an email to MakerFaire@iFixit.com and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Contact info (phone number, address)
  • Area of expertise (cars, computers, etc.)
  • Any specific interests or cool things you’ve fixed
  • Availability for either May 30th, May 31st, or both

Deadlines:

  • Volunteer registration opened on April 2, 2009. Space is limited, so please send us an email as soon as possible.
  • Volunteer registration closes on May 15th, 2009.

All volunteers should receive an email confirming their volunteer status within a week. Volunteers will be assigned one or more shifts depending on their preferences and availability.

We will be updating our Maker Faire 2009 section with the latest news — check periodically for additional information.  Please email us with any questions, and let us know as soon as possible if you can contribute to this wonderful event!

New Guide Site

February 13, 2009 Site News — Kyle Wiens

As you can see, we’ve made some changes around here.

New site design

New site design!

Aside from the redecoration, here’s the highlights:

  • This blog. We’ll be posting hardware tips and tricks, troubleshooting advice, teardowns of new products, and news about new site features. Be sure to follow the RSS feed— we promise to provide useful and pertinent information. Today we posted an analysis of the problems people have been reporting with the new MacBook Unibody headphone jack.
  • Guide notes. We’ve always appreciated useful feedback about our guides from people like you, but sometimes it takes us a little while to integrate your disassembly tips into our instructions. Guide notes provide a platform for you to help share what you’ve learned about while working on your own hardware.
  • Troubleshooting notes. Do you have any additional ideas for diagnosing hardware problems? Do you disagree with us on a diagnosis? Post what you know so other people don’t have to reproduce your knowledge the hard way.
  • Community forum. Brag about your triumph over the gremlins Apple hides inside Macs, or get help from everyone with your current problems.
  • Twitter. Follow us and we’ll follow you.
  • Search. This has been our #1 most requested feature. We’re sorry it took so long. How do you like it? Let us know!
  • New navigation. We’ve added helpful background information about specific devices alongside links to the step-by-step guides and troubleshooting documents. For example, if you browse from Mac to MacBook to MacBook Core Duo, you’ll find that we’ve added a list of possible MacBook Core Duo upgrades, links to other useful information on the net, and some historical information on the hardware. We’ll be adding to this over time.

Our mission is to help you fix things. All of these features are designed to make it easy for you to work on your own hardware. Now go out and fix your Mac!