Samsung Galaxy S 4G Teardown

February 23, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The Samsung Galaxy S 4G — not to be confused with the Samsung Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, Galaxy Tab, or the Los Angeles Galaxy — is Samsung’s newest smartphone to date. We set out on an interstellar journey to find out just what makes this phone burn from within.

We heard that Samsung used magnesium to create some of the structural components of the Galaxy S 4G. So we lit a part of the phone on fire to verify. It turns out that Samsung tells no lie — their structural framework IS made of magnesium!

Otherwise, the phone is midpack in terms of features as well as repairability (it received a 6 out of 10 score). Contrary to yesterday’s super-repairable Motorola Atrix, the Galaxy S 4G’s LCD is fused to the front panel glass, essentially doubling the repair cost if you drop your phone. You also have to use a heat gun in order to get to the front panel, so it’s not super-easy to perform the repair.

Thankfully a few tidbits redeem the Galaxy S 4G from being utterly unrepairable: swapping out the battery is a cinch, there’s only trusty #00 Phillips screws to deal with, and the phone is generally assembled using connectors that you can carefully disconnect.

Teardown highlights:

  • We found a bummer from the get-go: a fairly noticeable gap between the glass front panel and the outer framework. It’d be less of a concern if a cell phone’s primary home is in the pocket of its user, but we like using our phones.
  • A cool sliding door keeps the micro-USB port lint-free and somewhat redeems the gap between front panel and framework. You can distract your friends with its cool sliding action.
  • Thankfully the rear panel is easily removed, revealing both SIM and microSD card slots, as well as a user-replaceable battery!
  • The 3.7V Li-Ion battery inside the Galaxy S 4G lists a capacity of 6.11 Watt-hours, or 1650 mAh. We’re definitely seeing a trend of increased battery life among the last couple of teardowns. The question is whether that increased capacity will net any increased use time, or if all the extra juice will be sucked up by the phones’ extra processing power.
  • The compact front and rear facing camera assembly has a NEC MC10170 Image Processor cleverly attached right to its ribbon cable.
  • The headphone jack, earpiece speaker, and proximity/ambient light sensors reside on one cable. Seems oddly familiar, given yesterday’s Atrix teardown.
  • Separating the front panel assembly from the rear panel assembly requires loosening the adhesive around the perimeter. That means it’s heat gun time!
  • On the back of the display assembly we found the Atmel mXT 224 touchscreen controller, which provides capacitive multi-touch capabilities. It’s the same controller found in yesterday’s Atrix.
White flash indicates the frame is made of magnesium. Success!

White flash indicates the frame is made of magnesium. Success!

Final layout

Final layout

Motorola Atrix Teardown

February 23, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The Motorola Atrix is currently the fastest Android phone on the market, packing an impressive assortment of specs: the Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU/GPU, 1GB of RAM, and all the trimmings that one would expect to find in a flagship phone.

But the story doesn’t end there. This is also the most-repairable smartphone we’ve ever taken apart! The Atrix was definitely designed for repairability on the inside, just waiting for our loving hands to disassemble it piece by piece.

After all was said and done, the Atrix received a 9 out of 10 repairability score: there were no proprietary screws, you could replace the battery just by popping off the back cover, and the LCD wasn’t even fused to the front panel glass! Our only gripe was that the two central ribbon cables were soldered to several components (like the cameras and proximity sensors), making the cables costly to replace.

Teardown highlights:

  • The LCD is not glued to the front panel glass — something we haven’t seen in quite a long time. So the ~85% of people who drop their Atrix and shatter just the glass won’t have to spend their money on also replacing a fully functional LCD!
  • The Atrix’ back cover comes off easily, providing access to the user-serviceable battery and the microSD slot. There’s also instructions on the inside of the back cover showing how to remove the battery and reconnect the cover. We applaud Motorola’s drive to help its users with this procedure.
  • We didn’t encounter any VOID stickers or things of that sort while taking apart the Atrix, making it even more repair-friendly.
  • A dual-LED flash flanks the 5 MP camera (which is capable of shooting 720p HD video). A software update to be released soon will reportedly allow for full 1080p video capture.
  • Big players on the front of the board include:
    • Elpida B8132B1PB. According to Chipworks, the Elpida contains 1 GB DDR2 RAM, but also covers the Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU/GPU residing underneath the package.
    • Qualcomm MDM6200 supporting HSPA+ up to 14.4 Mbps
    • Toshiba 16GB NAND Flash
    • Hynix H8BCSOQG0MMR 2-chip memory MCP
  • Two ribbon cables to rule them all: the first cable connects to the front camera, earpiece speaker, power button assembly, and top microphone; the second attaches the rear camera, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, pressure contacts for the headphone jack, and side volume buttons together. So you’ll have to replace ALL the components attached to that cable if just a single component fails.
  • What a decade can do for cables. We pulled a Parallel ATA cable from an old Dell PC and compared it to one of the Atrix ribbon cables. The PATA cable is 0.66 mm thick, while Atrix’ camera cable measures just 0.17 mm! And they’re routing several components through the same cable!
Final layout

Final layout

Verizon iPhone 4 Teardown

February 7, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We all knew that the external appearance of the Verizon iPhone 4 was changed slightly, but we had no idea how many differences were to be uncovered inside — until now.

The Verizon iPhone 4 earned a Repairability Score of 6 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair). You can remove the battery fairly easily once you circumvent Apple’s pesky Pentalobe screws — no soldering required. Other components are connected mostly with regular screws, with limited use of tabs and adhesives.

However, the LCD is still fused to the front glass, and we recommend you wear gloves while performing repairs, unless you want your finger oils to interfere with the phone’s RF grounding points (something we found through personal experience).

Teardown highlights:

  • The iPhone 4’s vibrator received a complete makeover. Rather than using a rotational electric motor with a counterweight, the Verizon iPhone appears to utilize a linear oscillating vibrator for call/message alerts.
  • The phone uses a Qualcomm MDM6600 chip — the same package that’s being used in the Droid Pro world phone. Of course, there’s no way the CDMA iPhone 4 could be a real “world phone” without a SIM card slot, regardless of whether it had GSM capability.
  • We believe the additional notch in the antenna enclosure on the right side of the phone is a result of the switch from GSM to CDMA. An antenna’s operating frequency is directly dependent on its size and geometry, so the change-up required an antenna overhaul. Only time will tell if this new antenna design helps combat the reception problems plaguing the GSM iPhone 4.
  • The display assembly appeared to be identical to that of the GSM iPhone 4 at first glance. Upon further investigation, the mounting tabs are in drastically different locations for the two display assemblies. Sadly, this means the two assemblies are definitely not interchangeable.
  • The battery is listed as the same 5.25 watt-hour capacity, but does have a new model number (616-0520). The new battery also weighs less; it shrunk from 26.9 grams to 25.6 grams.
  • Apple used custom molded rubber pads between the chips and the EMI shields presumably to conduct heat and quell any interference between analog and digital circuitry.
  • Like the Apple TV, there is an interesting set of unused solder pads near the edge of the logic board. These were likely used for testing during development.
  • Big players on the logic board include:
    • Apple A4 Processor
    • Qualcomm MDM6600 CDMA/GSM chip
    • Toshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89 16 GB NAND Flash
    • Cirrus Logic CLI1495B0 Audio Codec (38S0589)
    • Texas Instruments Touchscreen controller (343S0499)
    • Skyworks power amplifier modules for CDMA/PCS (SKY77711-4 and SKY77710-4)
  • According to Apple, the SIM card and SIM tray were the only user-serviceable parts in the AT&T iPhone 4. Sadly, now the Verizon iPhone “does not contain any user-serviceable parts.” We’ll have parts and repair guides for this iPhone 4 flavor very soon.

Comparison of the internals

Comparison of the internals - the Verizon iPhone is on the left

Final layout

Final layout

“Yellow Light of Death” Repair Kit

January 24, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Brett

Remember the feeling of starting your favorite video game console for the first time? Yeah, that was a pretty great feeling. Now, take the inverse of that, multiply it by ten, and you will understand how it feels when your favorite game console fails on you. And as game consoles get more and more complex, so do their failures. For Sony’s PlayStation 3 lineup, there is no failure more recognizable nor detrimental than the infamous “Yellow Light of Death.”

The famed "Yellow Light of Death"

The PS3’s Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) takes its name from the very brief, yet distinct  flash of yellow light from the status indicator LED, which heralds the console shutting down involuntarily.

Generally, the status indicator LED is green when the console is running, and red when the console is in stand-by. However, in a console with the YLOD, the status indicator starts green, switches briefly to yellow, and then quickly switches to flashing red. This is accompanied by three loud beeps and the console shutting down. It often occurs right at power up, rendering the console useless.

Usually either the power supply or the motherboard is the culprit responsible for the YLOD; however, it is far more common for PS3s to YLOD due to motherboard failure. To get a solid grasp of how to tell the two apart, check out iFixit’s PlayStation 3 Troubleshooting guide.

The main cause of motherboard failure is overheating; if the motherboard is not properly ventilated, or if the cooling system is not working properly, excess heat builds up inside the processors. This overheating causes the solder joints between the motherboard and the processors to either crack or melt, which, as you may guess, severely hampers the PS3’s ability to operate.

Reflowing the solder can revive a YLODed PS3

The Yellow Light of Death is not necessarily the end of the road for your beloved PS3. Whether it’s the power supply or the motherboard that failed, we can help you resuscitate your lifeless PlayStation 3. A faulty power supply can be remedied by simply replacing the old power supply with a new one. In comparison, repairing the motherboard is a slightly more involved process.

To repair the connection between the motherboard and the processors, the joints must be re-soldered. The trick is to use a heat gun to melt the already existing solder back into place. By simply “reflowing” the solder under each chip, you’ll reconnect the contact points and the motherboard should once again function properly.

The Contents of iFixit’s “Yellow Light of Death” Repair Kit

Our YLOD Fix Kit contains everything you need to repair the YLOD on your PS3:

  • A heat gun for solder re-flow
  • Fresh thermal paste to replace the factory thermal paste
  • Thermal paste spreader card to help you evenly distribute the thermal paste
  • Fresh thermal pads to replace the old PS3 pads.
  • All the tools needed to perform the repair (a 26-piece bit driver kit, a spudger, and a T10 Security Torx screwdriver).

You can purchase the kit right now from our store. Just make sure to follow the YLOD Fix Kit repair guide to properly mend your PS3!

Closing Bell

January 21, 2011 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

CNBC asked me to come on the financial show Closing Bell to talk about screws, of all things. I never imagined that the humble screw would be my ticket to national television. And if you think I was shocked, imagine how CNet’s Natalie Morris felt when she was asked to take counterpoint.

(CNBC’s flash embed is rather slow. Give it a few seconds, or click through to their site.)

On Controversy

January 21, 2011 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

Managing the Internet Controversy
Our screw post has stirred up a hornet’s nest. The folks in the MacRumors forums think we’re Apple haters (never mind our dozens of teardowns showcasing Apple’s hardware in glowing detail) and the commenters at Boing Boing are thrilled that we’ve finally stuck it to the man. Marco Ament, a developer I respect very much, thinks that the existence of our solution validates Apple’s strategy.

I hope you’ll make up your own mind. Peter-O weighed in on our post, and I think his perspective is worth sharing:

MJ, that was excellent. Just excellent.  A clear and concise summary of a perspective I wholeheartedly subscribe to.

To those people who hold a different perspective, it’s all good — no problem-o.  We can agree to disagree, and our respective opinions are no worse for wear.  Together, we remain, after all, totally jazzed with our Mac gear.

I think, however, hurling guff and attitude at iFixit for offering a solution to those people who share in their perspective serves only to erode the joint respect for differing opinions and to undermine the weight of your personal opinion.

From my perspective, iFixit is about a community giving each other the cognitive tools to demystify, understand, and return ownership to our devices that are too often veiled to keep us hostage to the service shop.

That iFixit also sells physical tools and supplies is merely a convenience to those people who need them and a means to offset the cost of running the website.  Last I checked, there are no hopping bunnies, spinning monkeys, weight loss discoveries, nor erectile dysfunction solutions littering the site.  Also, unless I missed something, iFixit’s repair manuals are free, and of far, far greater value than any screwdriver or repair kit they sell.  I see no conflict of interest.  I see liberation.

Apple’s Latest ‘Innovation’ Is Turning Planned Obsolescence Into Planned Failure

January 20, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We’re accustomed to planned obsolescence. New models come out every year—faster, shinier and just plain better. But before the iPhone, cell phones without user-replaceable batteries were almost unheard of. Apple realized that they could sell more phones if they built the phone with an integrated battery, prompting users to upgrade once the battery wore down. A phone isn’t very useful once you can’t take it away from the charger for more than an hour—which is guaranteed to happen with every iPhone. We’ve written extensively about Lithium-Ion batteries in the past—they’re wonderful technology, but they have a finite life of 300 to 500 cycles. If you’re like me and use up your battery completely every day, it’ll only last a year or so. (When I travel, I have to charge my phone at least twice a day.) Once the battery is worn down, it needs to be replaced—just like the light bulb in your refrigerator or the air filter in your car. Until the iPhone, all consumer product designs included a way to replace consumables. Apple’s consumer-hostile approach has turned product design on its head.

Charges are cumulative, and you do not have to completely discharge the battery every cycle.

Imagine if rather than shipping inkjet printers with replaceable ink cartridges, HP forced you to buy a new printer every 400 pages. Or if Ford told you to buy a new car after 40,000 miles rather than replacing the brake pads! We would never tolerate such wasteful engineering—and yet somehow Apple has suckered us all into an involuntary annual upgrade cycle.

Apple defends themselves by claiming that you can always pay them to replace the battery. That’s true—it’s $85.95, takes a week, and Apple will erase your phone’s memory during the procedure. That’s the only way. There are no other officially sanctioned options—Apple refuses to authorize any independent iPhone battery replacement centers. Their onerous replacement procedure is intentionally expensive, because they don’t want you to replace the battery. Apple wants you to buy a new phone—but if you insist on doubling its lifespan by replacing your battery, they want to make some money in the process. Never mind that iPhone batteries retail for just $20, and cost Apple far less than that.

Exploded view of the iPhone 4, battery highlighted in red

Users have two options: buy a new phone every year or so, or pay Apple $85.95 every year or so. Apple wins either way. They’re not selling us phones—they’re leasing them to us!

This isn’t just planned obsolescence—this is planned failure. Apple is making billions by selling us hardware with a built-in death clock. It is designed to fail after 400 cycles, conveniently coordinated with their annual hardware release cycle. Dead, hard to replace battery every year. New iPhone every year.

The current iPod Shuffle is the worst example of this. Replacing the battery is almost impossible—in our teardown last fall, the new Shuffle earned the worst repairability score we’ve ever given . This is the first product Apple has ever shipped where their price for battery replacement ($49 + $6.95 shipping) is higher than the retail price of the product ($49, free shipping)! Apple has clearly given up on replacing batteries and is just shipping people a replacement. The Shuffle’s intended design life is exactly the same as its battery, with no hope for extending it.

While the environmental and human consequences of this business strategy are dire, the financial impact is also substantial. This policy helped Apple make six billion dollars in just the last three months.

Replacing iPhone batteries for fun, profit, and to stick it to the man

Fortunately, there’s a way to opt out of the annual hardware replacement cycle: replace your own battery. We’ve put everything in one place to make it as easy as possible—we have step-by-step replacement guides (original, 3G, 3GS, 4), tools, and batteries. Replacing your own battery saves you money, keeps expensive hardware from going to the landfill prematurely, and sends a message to manufacturers that you will not tolerate design for failure.

Apple sees self-replacement as a threat, and they are working on making it harder to open your own phone. That’s a battle that the iFixit community is prepared to fight.

Apple’s Diabolical Plan to Screw Your iPhone

January 20, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

Expecting to be one of the first people in the world to buy the iPhone 4, I was dispatched to Japan for its release last June. Much to the dismay of thousands of Japanese with similar intentions, my mission was thwarted: FedEx delivered hundreds of iPhone 4 boxes in California two days early.

We’re quick to adapt, and the rest of our teardown team got their hands on one of these early units. Rather than waiting in line at the Ginza Apple store, I worked on the teardown virtually from my Tokyo hotel room. The teardown was quite straightforward—the iPhone 4 was electronically complex, but easy to disassemble and work on. Opening the phone entailed removing the two Phillips #00 screws on the bottom and then sliding off the back cover. The ease of disassembly gave me plenty of time to analyze the internals.

Once we finished the teardown, I hit the streets of Tokyo to watch the actual iPhone release and then hang out with the Apple community. I didn’t need to buy a phone for myself, but I wanted to see the new iPhone firsthand.

I immediately noticed something odd about the Japanese phones: they had different screws on the bottom! These new screws looked like very small Torx (I guessed T3 at the time) but were actually something far more insidious.

An Evil Ascending

Apple is switching to a new type of tamper-resistant screw. This is not a standard Torx, and there are no readily available screwdrivers that can remove it. This isn’t the first time they’ve used this type of screw—it first appeared in the mid-2009 MacBook Pro to prevent you from replacing the battery—and Apple is using a similar screw on the outer case of the current MacBook Air. This screw is the primary reason the 11″ MacBook Air earned a lousy repairability score of 4 out of 10 in our teardown last October.

Apple chose this fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive. Shame on them.

So what is this screw?

It’s similar to a Torx—except that the points have a rounder shape, and it has five points instead of six. Apple’s service manuals refer to them as “Pentalobular” screws, which is a descriptive enough term. It’s certainly better than what I came up with, which was “Evil Proprietary Tamper Proof Five Point Screw.” It’s best I stay out of the naming business.

Contrary to what has been widely reported elswhere, this is not a security Torx screw. Security Torx have a post in the middle. Apple would never use a real Torx security screw with a post for two reasons: they’re ugly, and the posts break off easily with screw heads this small. To further complicate matters, Apple occasionally refers to these as “Pentalobe security screws.” Please don’t confuse them with security Torx.

This screw head is new to us. In fact, there isn’t a single reputable supplier that sells exactly the same screwdrivers Apple’s technicians use—which is Apple’s point. 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. Alas, no more. Thanks a lot, Apple!

Which devices are affected?

Now that we’ve got the background out of the way, what’s Apple doing with these new fasteners?

  • This screw head first appeared in the mid-2009 MacBook Pro as a fastener for the battery.
  • The 2010 MacBook Air uses this screw on the lower case to prevent any access to the internals.
  • Many non-US iPhone 4 units have had smaller versions of these evil screws all along.
  • Apple has switched production, and new U.S. units are shipping with the evil screws.
  • If you take your phone into Apple for any kind of service, they will sabotage it by replacing your screws with the new tamper-resistant screws.

Making things worse, Apple has used three different sizes of this screw head so far. Here’s the rundown:

Mid-2009 MacBook Pro

The largest 5-point Pentalobe screw used thus far was deployed in the Mid-2009 MacBook Pro. Apple calls this a “Torx Plus Tamper 6.” For reasons known only to them, Apple has switched away from these screws and is using Tri-Wing screws on current MacBook Pro models. A compatible Tri-Wing bit is included in our toolkits, so you don’t need to worry about this if you have the latest MacBook Pro.

iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 has one of the smallest screw heads we’ve seen, probably for cosmetic reasons. This 5-point Pentalobe screw is actually slightly smaller than a Torx T1. Yowsers that’s tiny. The shape looks a little rough because this tiny screw is giving Apple’s manufacturing process a run for its money.

Current MacBook Air

The new Air uses a significantly smaller 5-point screw than the MacBook Pro, but it’s still larger than the one in the iPhone 4.

A Solution: Liberate Your Hardware

This screw head clearly has one purpose: to keep you out. Otherwise, Apple would use it throughout each device. Instead, they only use it at the bulwark—on the outside case of your iPhone and MacBook Air, and protecting the battery on the Pro—so they can keep you out of your own hardware.

Fortunately, our always-creative hardware acquisition team has been on this problem for a while. It’s our responsibility to provide you with all the tools you need to work on electronics, and we have a solution for you!

iPhone 4

The real solution is to get rid of these pesky screws so you can use a normal Phillips screwdriver on them. We now have replacement Phillips screws so that you can reverse Apple’s dastardly handywork. We have found a driver that works for the 5-point “Pentalobe” fasteners on the iPhone 4 case. It’s not a true Pentalobe driver — the tip is more star shaped than “flowery,” so there may be some slight play in the fit when using. This screwdriver gets the job done, but we don’t recommend it for repeated use. It’s really just a hack to get the screws out and then replace them with standard screws.

So go ahead, set your iPhone free with our iPhone 4 Liberation Kit! Rid your phone of those terrible Pentalobe screws forever. The $9.95 kit includes a Pentalobe driver, 2 replacement PHILLIPS screws, and a regular #00 Phillips screwdriver.

iPhone 4 Liberation Kit

iPhone 4 Liberation Kit

MacBook Air

We’ve got a 5-point MacBook Air screwdriver in stock that unlocks this machine! Now you’ll be able to do your own repairs or upgrade your SSD.

MacBook Air 5-Point Torx Screwdriver

MacBook Air 5-Point Torx Screwdriver

MacBook Pro

Use the MacBook Pro 5-Point Torx Screwdriver if you’d like to remove your laptop’s battery. It’s the best way to ensure you don’t fry any sensitive components on machine while performing a repair.

MacBook Pro 5-Point Torx Screwdriver

MacBook Pro 5-Point Torx Screwdriver

HTC Surround Teardown

January 11, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We started off the new year by doing a “something completely different” teardown — a Windows 7 phone! At least, that’s what we thought initially.

As it turns out, we’ve already seen a lot of this hardware in the Nexus One. In fact, five of the major chip packages on the Surround’s motherboard are identical to the Nexus One, and the sixth (Samsung NAND+SDRAM) appears to be just a revised chip found in Uncle Nexus. Hey if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

We gave the HTC Surround a mid-pack repairability score of 5 out of 10. It’s relatively easy to remove the rear case to replace the battery, but that’s where the fun stops. You’ll have to void your warranty to take anything else out, and it’s very difficult to access the front panel and LCD if you’d like to replace it.

Teardown highlights:

  • A piece of gray EMI shielding tape (next to the SIM card holder) covers the Surround’s “internal storage” — which happens to be a well-hidden MicroSDHC card. And they would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for us meddling kids!
  • Should you decide that 16 GB isn’t enough, it definitely seems possible to swap out the card for a higher capacity MicroSDHC. But you’d have to void your warranty in order to do it, because two VOID stickers attached to the inner case screws ensure that no intrusion attempts go undocumented.
  • The Surround has two Nexus One-esque motherboards that are attached with a large ribbon cable spanning the gap between them. This is not much of a surprise, as HTC is the manufacturer of both the Nexus One and the Surround.
  • Big players on the front of the lower motherboard include:
    • Qualcomm RTR6285 multi-band UMTS/EGPRS transceiver with integrated GPS
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1GHz RISC microprocessor with embedded DSP
    • Samsung KA100O015E-BJTT 512 MB NAND Flash + 512 MB SDRAM
    • Qualcomm PM7540 power management IC
    • Skyworks SKY77336 power amplifier module
    • Audience A1026 voice processor
  • All six of the chips above are either identical to, or newer versions of, chips found in the Nexus One.
  • The hefty metal slider mechanism should hold up to years of opening and closing the speaker grille.
  • Like the Nexus One, the Surround utilizes dual microphones (working in conjunction with the Audience A1026 voice processor) to cancel background noise during phone conversations.
  • The motherboard interconnect cable is sandwiched between the many layers of the upper motherboard, much like on the Nexus One. This technique eliminates the space requirements for thick connectors and sockets, making the final connection much thinner.
  • Metal plates with strategically placed holes are soldered to the front of the Surround’s two speakers to direct the sound out of the fancy speaker grille, and not into the phone.
Taking off the second motherboard

Taking off the second motherboard

Final layout

Final layout

The Nexus One — err, the HTC Surround — is a very solid, capable phone that will undoubtedly please its users. Still, we’re a bit underwhelmed that HTC chose to put year-old hardware in it, especially since dual-core phones are coming right around the corner.

iFixit on iPad: Let’s kick-start a mobile repair revolution

December 23, 2010 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We need to make repair accessible to everyone. That means repair documentation needs to go with people to where the broken things are. Computers aren’t very good at the whole mobility thing—but the iPad sure is!

iFixit is now native on the iPad, and live in the app store. Just like all of our repair manuals, it’s free and has no ads.

Repair is Mobile

The iPad is an impressively rugged device. I expected that we would be inundated with tales of cracked screens the moment Apple started shipping them—but it hasn’t happened. That’s not because people aren’t dropping them, but because the well-engineered aluminum frame combined with thicker-than-iPhone Gorilla glass are incredibly robust.

The moment the iPad came out, I knew it was the perfect repair platform. Imagine having every repair manual ever written on your tablet—completely accessible while you’re working underneath your car! The iPad is no bigger than one of my Chilton repair manuals—and it’s just as mobile. The battery can handle a full day out working in the shop. It’s incredibly durable (doubly so if you have a rugged case).  And it’s always connected, so I know I’ve got the most up-to-date instructions. Phenomenal!

iFixit iPad auto repair

iPad-led distributer cap repair

A bit of velcro on the back of the iPad comes in handy

I think mobile repair could be a killer app for the iPad. I could see buying an iPad just for fixing things. Unlike the repair manuals of yore, iFixit on iPad gets better when you’re not using it—because thousands of people all over the world are constantly editing and making our manuals better.

I am ecstatic—this is the sort of innovation I envisioned when we started iFixit. We are taking repair to the people, and empowering individuals one step at a time.

An App Story

We’ve been working on this for quite a while, but we couldn’t release it until we finalized our public API—which the app is built on top of. We finally submitted the app on November 30, and after some back and forth with Apple, just barely managed to get it approved before Apple’s app team takes a well-deserved week off for Christmas. This app was in the very last batch of apps they approved before they left for the holiday. Now that’s what I call just in the nick of time!

Right now, the app blends a native, full-screen guide view with web views for navigating the site. We kept the app focused on performing repairs, so we don’t have native support for much of iFixit—including Answers and guide editing. You can still do just about everything in the app’s web view that you can on a computer, and I think it works quite nicely. Over time we’ll learn what works well on iPad and how people are using it.

We’ve been using the app around the office to fix things over the last couple weeks, and I can definitively say that our native iPad view is the best way to repair anything. Period.

Performing a repair with the app is a phenomenal experience. It really feels like the future. Follow a step. Swipe to the next step. Tap to zoom in on a photo, and pinch to zoom to see the itty-bitty details of an individual screw head. Tap to close, swipe for the next step. The iPad completely disappears, and the photo manual is all that you experience. This really is a quantum leap forward in making online knowledge seamlessly useful.

Open Source

As I said when we announced the API last week, the sky is the limit on innovating around our repair database. This app is a great example, and learning how we did it could be really useful to help you get going on your own repair apps. So we’ve open sourced our iPad app! It’s freely licensed under the GPL (and also the CDDL, for esoteric legal reasons explained here). The source is up now on Github.

We built this app using our API— It currently uses the /api/guide, /api/areas, and /api/guide/featured endpoints, but it will use more of the API in the future as we add more functionality.

Going Forward

We have lots of ideas for improving the app—storing guides locally so you can follow them offline, adding commenting, and integrating more interactive features so you can share what repairs you’ve completed. But we’ve got a small development team, and we just don’t have time to do everything. So if you want to pitch in and add your own code to the app, we’d love your help.

First choose your device...

First choose your device...

...Then figure out what parts and tools you need...

...Then figure out what parts and tools you need...

...And then follow our step-by-step instructions to fix your device!

...And then follow our step-by-step instructions to fix your device!