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NewsPoster Mar 1, 2013 11:48 PM
Reports: iPad least repairable, least likely to need repair
Repair and how-to guide site <em>iFixit</em> has compiled their teardown and repair-guide results on the top tablets into <a href="http://macnn.com/rd/280232==http://www.ifixit.com/Tablet_Repairability" rel='nofollow'>one comprehensive report</a>, and ranks Apple's iPad lineup (with the exception of the original iPad) very poorly for repairability, though it is Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet that gets the lowest possible mark. The Windows 8-based Dell XPS 10 gets the highest marks for being easy to disassemble, but is dinged (like most tablets) for having the LCD fused to the protective glass layer. Offsetting this, a number of studies have shown the iPads to be by far the <a href="http://macnn.com/rd/280233==http://www.pcworld.com/article/244603/tablet_reliability_and_satisfaction_ipad_comes_out _on_top.html" rel='nofollow'>most reliable tablet</a>.<br />
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The site judged the tablets' repairability by how easy it is to disassemble and the availability of a repair service manual. Points were deducted for some kinds of fasteners (particularly adhesives, which make components very difficult to separate) and the complexity of replacing key components. Points were awarded if the device was upgradable easily, required only common tools for servicing and had easily-separable components.

It should be noted that iFixit's perspective centers only on <a href="http://macnn.com/rd/280230==http://www.electronista.com/articles/12/10/16/ifixit.accuses.epeat.of.greenwashing/" rel='nofollow'>repairability</a> and ignores other factors such as reliability or practical engineering and environmental requirements, or even consumer preference (such as the improved display achieved by fusing the glass to the LCD panel).

The Dell XPS 10 was praised for its color-coded and labeled screws and cables, its easily-removable battery and how easy it was to open up. However, the LCD is fused to the glass, with all the qualities shared by the Dell Streak. Amazon's three entries were all over the map -- the original Kindle Fire being judged easily repairable with just a Phillips screwdriver, but dinged for the glass panel being fused to the frame. The Kindle Fire HD (7-inch) was judged somewhat harder to repair, despite color-coded screws and labeled cables. The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD was given a lower score for having the battery and cables glued to the case, and that a heat gun is needed to separate the fused LCD from the glass panel.

Motorola's sole entry the Xoom was ranked above average on repairability, with the only complaint being that it required removing an astonishing 57 screws -- the tablet equivalent of the notoriously-tedious iBook G4. Samsung's single entry on the list, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7-inch) was also easy to get into, despite needing a heat gun to replace the LCD.

Both of Barnes & Noble's entries were judged around average in repairability, with the Simple Touch model rated better than the Nook Tablet. The Simple Touch, by comparison to the Xoom, had only 12 screws and an easily-replaceable battery, but has its glass, digitizer and front LEDS all fused together. The Nook Tablet was criticized for requiring the removal of the motherboard to replace the battery, and "excessive adhesive and adhesive strips."

Google's two tablets were moderately rated as a "7" for the Nexus 7, and a "6" for the Nexus 10. The smaller device was praised for being easy to open and replace the battery, the latter quality shared with the larger Nexus 10. However, the 10-inch tablet was criticized for being "very difficult" to open, and having several components fastened with both screws and glue.

The Microsoft RT Surface was ranked a "4" compared to the dead-last Surface Pro, with iFixit noting that the RT was very difficult to open but once achieved, had an easily-replaceable battery. Like the iPad, the RT fuses the LCD panel to the glass panel. The Pro was criticized for having "tons of adhesive" holding everything in place, and indeed even attempting to open the Pro risks "shearing the display cables." The only praise for the Pro model was that the battery was not soldered to the motherboard.

The iPad lineup, with the exception of the original iPad, was very low-ranked, garnering "2" scores across the board. The first iPad rated a "6" by virtue of not fusing the glass to the LCD panel, making it easily openable -- however, the battery even then was difficult to remove or replace, being custom-made by Apple. The later full-sized models were all criticized for having a high risk of cracking the glass during disassembly, but praised for making the LCD easily removable once the unit was successfully opened.

The iPad 2 shared the iPad 1's fault of making the battery difficult to remove and replace, but the later third- and fourth-generation iPads drew more criticism for using adhesive to hold things in place. The iPad mini was also dinged for the same issue, plus it has hidden screws that make disassembly even more difficult. On the plus side for the Mini, iFixit reports that the LCD and glass are not fused together.

Recent studies may cast a more positive light on the iPad line, however, by pointing out that the incidence of them needing repair is far lower than typical for other tablets. <em>PCWorld</em>, among others, found that the iPad lineup score <a href="http://macnn.com/rd/280231==http://www.pcworld.com/article/244603/tablet_reliability_and_satisfaction_ipad_comes_out _on_top.html" rel='nofollow'>"above average"</a> in all categories and breakdowns when compared to the Android competition, and was the only tablet to get superior scores on reliability, ease of use and user satisfaction, far ahead of any other model.


 
Inkling Mar 2, 2013 11:16 AM
A broader design genius
You'd think Apple could apply a little of its much-trumpted design genius to repairability. It's not that it can't be done. My new Mac mini is actually easy to work on.

Second-hand devices may not make Apple much money, but they're how a lot of low-income families manage to provide technology for their kids. Making those devices almost impossible to fix makes their hard lives even harder.
 
Charles Martin Mar 2, 2013 08:31 PM
With respect, I think you're missing the point a bit. The idea behind the way Apple (and most of the other manufacturers) have put their tablets together is that the items probably won't NEED any repair during the normal course of their useful lives. Surely that's better than having to constantly fix things?

I've owned a number of mobile Apple (and other companies' devices) over the years, and with a bare minimum of care not to shatter the glass, all of these devices have outlasted my use for them -- and with a cover, they even look good after years of use as well. My first-day-of-issue iPhone (that's over 5 1/2 years now) still works, still holds a decent charge, and still looks pretty good (not perfect, but its in better shape than a lot of other folks' stuff I've seen). I did nothing special to it other than a) put a case on it (just an ordinary case) and b) kept it in my pocket.

I don't use it much anymore other than as a spare phone, but it, like my BlackBook and original iPad and present iPad and our other phones, haven't given us a lick of trouble and also haven't met with any extraordinary abuse. Mind you -- we haven't given them to any children to play with, because they're EXPENSIVE and frankly (this is me the non-parent coming out) I don't trust very young children with expensive stuff that isn't a toy. I don't think we're exceptionally lucky, I think we just know how to take care of valuable things and in return (especially with iDevices) they tend to last longer than we need them. (that said, they sell AppleCare on these things for a reason.)

Maybe you've shed some insight for me on what all those crappy $200 and less Android "tablets" are actually for. :)

As for notebooks, have you forgotten what notebooks (even Mac notebooks if you go back far enough) used to be like (and on the PC side, still are)? Easily flexed plastic with coatings that chipped off or turned yellow with time? You get none of that with your unibody stuff. My three-year-old MBP looks brand new, and works just like the day I got it (better, actually, since I added RAM to it).

I think you're underestimating how much the reliability factor has gone UP in while the repairability factor has gone down ... you might remember that most buyers (of any platform) *never* open up their machine (even if it is easily openable, like a tower) for any reason, and just replace them every few years. Believe me, it's not in Apple interest to make thing that deliberately have tendency to break, and thus need to be accessible so they can be repaired.
 
davidlfoster Mar 3, 2013 10:36 AM
chas_m is totally correct
It is more important that Apple reduces the need for repairing their devices to the point that it is far easier and less expensive to replace them (through some sort of Applecare plan following a one year policy) than to set up the infrastructure and labor costs needed to repair devices. The devices require a lot of ingenuity and innovation to be so thin and light and that is apparently aided by the use of adhesives or other construction techniques that make their disassembly impractical. While Apple and other manufacturers should encourage their recycling, placing 'repairability' as a major factor regarding their suitability for intended use is mostly irrelevant. That's the way it is folks. The introduction of high-tech polymers and the drive to manufacture thinner and lighter devices will only drive this trend to the extreme where the repair of mobile devices is never even contemplated, let alone attempted. Reading this article has convinced me that thresh-hold has already been crossed given the details regarding the construction of the iPad and Surface Pro.
 
localnet Mar 3, 2013 06:57 PM
Least repairable?
As a normal use kind of customer, why should I be concerned with how easy an item like an iPad or iPhone is repaired? If I have a galaxy phone that is "easily repairable" and it stops working, am I in better shape than if it was my iPhone that just up and dies? My experience with mobile devices is if something goes wrong, I take it back and get a new one. Which has been my normal experience with Window devices, I cannot say I have had any failures of any of my Apple devices, 3 iPads and 7 iPhones. Oh, I did crush my iPhone 4 with my semi truck... Can't really blame Apple for that.
 
Charles Martin Mar 3, 2013 08:47 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by localnet (Post 4220022)
As a normal use kind of customer, why should I be concerned with how easy an item like an iPad or iPhone is repaired? If I have a galaxy phone that is "easily repairable" and it stops working, am I in better shape than if it was my iPhone that just up and dies?
It's an interesting question, but I think the answer (at least at present) is "no" within the normal lifespan of the device (which you presumably have some extended warranty on), but "yes" once you cross that threshold. Apple's customer service is widely regarded as better than the other manufacturers' so I'd say the typical user using the device for its typical lifespan has nothing much to worry about as regards "repairability." AppleCare Plus even covers a limited number of cases of user abuse, so again during the expected normal lifespan of a typical smartphone (let's say 2.5 years generally), your odds of getting into trouble unless you are terribly clumsy are really very low.

Quote
My experience with mobile devices is if something goes wrong, I take it back and get a new one. Which has been my normal experience with Window devices, I cannot say I have had any failures of any of my Apple devices, 3 iPads and 7 iPhones.
A lot of devices reach a state of build quality where it is cheaper for the manufacturer (or the consumer) to replace them than repair them ... look at the lack of seamstress/tailor, bootsmith, lamp and household appliance repair places anymore (some of you will have no idea what I'm even talking about :) ).
 
Gazoobee Mar 4, 2013 11:48 AM
who cares?
Seriously, who cares about "repairability" today? The average user doesn't ever get their computer "repaired" today or even "worked on" even if it's a desktop.

Getting advice from iFIxIt about "repairability" is like talking to one of the last VCR repair guys in his shop in the late 90's for advice on the new digital technology coming out.

iFixIt is a sort of nerd backwater of folks who still think Linux "has a chance" on the desktop, and that Apple should make a mini-tower computer.

They're a walking, talking anachronism.
They have their finger on the pulse of ... last year.
What they think is irrelevant.
 
Grendelmon Mar 4, 2013 02:51 PM
Yeah... okay
Quote, Originally Posted by Gazoobee (Post 4220109)
Seriously, who cares about "repairability" today? The average user doesn't ever get their computer "repaired" today or even "worked on" even if it's a desktop.

Getting advice from iFIxIt about "repairability" is like talking to one of the last VCR repair guys in his shop in the late 90's for advice on the new digital technology coming out.

iFixIt is a sort of nerd backwater of folks who still think Linux "has a chance" on the desktop, and that Apple should make a mini-tower computer.

They're a walking, talking anachronism.
They have their finger on the pulse of ... last year.
What they think is irrelevant.
That's right, because if you don't need to repair anything, then nobody else does, either.

iFixIt is aimed towards savy power users (not people like you), as well as, and most importantly, Mom and Pop Apple repair shops. There are TONS of iOS devices that are clearly out of warranty, and many people (myself included) would never spend the money Apple quotes for out-of-warranty service. For iPhones/iPod Touches/iPads, the most common repairs (excluding broken glass) are:
  1. Battery
  2. Home Button

Would you drop over $100 at an Apple Store just to replace a stuck Home button? Many local shops will do it for cheaper, and a lot of them rely on the information provided by iFixIt.

Sorry buddy, but what you think is irrelevant.
 
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