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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Teardown of Apple Pencil reveals it is utterly unrepairable by users

Teardown of Apple Pencil reveals it is utterly unrepairable by users
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NewsPoster
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Nov 19, 2015, 02:50 PM
 
The Apple Pencil is an impressive technical marvel, details revealed during an iFixit teardown of the accessory have suggested. While it includes the smallest logic board the technical outfit has ever seen, among other interesting aspects, the compact nature of the internals makes the Pencil an extremely unrepairable device, scoring one out of ten on iFixit's repairability, worse than the three out of ten scored by the iPad Pro.

After freeing up the nib and the Lightning Connector, the team was forced to use an electric cutting saw to break through the tightly-packed outer casing. A second metal casing covers up the major components, including the antenna and a 3.82V, 0.329Wh battery. A pair of emitters are used to measure the distance and orientation from the iPad Pro surface, with a set of three matching ticks in the nib assembly appearing to help sense the pressure by measuring the movement between two parts.



The most interesting thing is the tiny logic board. Weighing in at a single gram, the board folds in half in order to fit inside the compact body. Onboard are chips from ST Microelectronics, including one used in the fourth-generation Apple TV and a low-power 32-bit ARM processor, and a Cambridge Silicon Radio for Bluetooth connectivity.

The extremely low repairability score is qualified by claims it is "clearly not meant to be opened or repaired," the layers of metal and plastic cannot be removed without shredding, and the 12-hour battery is "impossible to replace. On the positive side, iFixit notes the pen nib and cap can be easily replaced if worn or lost, helping prolong its useful lifespan.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Nov 19, 2015 at 02:59 PM. )
     
prl99
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Nov 19, 2015, 03:27 PM
 
So what? Other than people like me, the vast majority of computer users do not fix their own equipment and end up getting a replacement under warranty (or AppleCare) or simply buy a new one. The battery is rechargeable and with new battery technology, should last plenty long enough.
     
ghporter
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Nov 19, 2015, 03:36 PM
 
The "so what" to me is that while most users won't even have a need to open/repair their devices, the unrepairable nature of the device means that when it finally fails it must be replaced. That'll be expensive, and something that buyers of the device should know in advance.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
ElectroTech
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Nov 19, 2015, 03:40 PM
 
iFixIt hasn't figured out that not everything needs to be repairable. Take an ordinary wooden pencil for example. If Apple had invented the original wooden pencil, iFixIt would have put them down for that unrepairable device.
     
Grendelmon
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Nov 19, 2015, 03:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by ElectroTech View Post
iFixIt hasn't figured out that not everything needs to be repairable. Take an ordinary wooden pencil for example. If Apple had invented the original wooden pencil, iFixIt would have put them down for that unrepairable device.
Baloney. :-)

What iFixIt does understand is that not everyone can afford to replace these expensive, disposable devices. It is almost always cheaper to repair something than to replace it. Just because some of you don't have the technical know-how to repair electronics doesn't give you the right to say iFixIt's purpose is meaningless.
( Last edited by Grendelmon; Nov 19, 2015 at 08:37 PM. Reason: Removal of bad language.)
     
Flying Meat
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Nov 19, 2015, 03:48 PM
 
Like a watch, few have the skills, tools, or bravado to repair one.
     
fmaxwell
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Nov 19, 2015, 04:03 PM
 
Grenelmon wrote: "B*******."

B******* yourself, a******. Just because you have a different opinion doesn't justify vulgarity or your insulting remarks that "some of [us] don't have the technical know-how to repair electronics"

Given my career in electronics spanning decades as well as my personal hobby endeavors in electronics, I've probable *at least as much* "technical know-how to repair electronics" as you do. And I know that the other poster is right and you are wrong. It's important to be able to fix some things and not important to be able to fix others. If the cost is low and the MTBF is high, it might not be desirable to turn a $99 Apple Pencil into a $119 reparable Apple Pencil so that some mythical person who can't afford to replace a $99 Pencil, but can afford a $1000 for an iPad Pro, can, theoretically repair the pencil.
( Last edited by Malcolm Owen; Nov 19, 2015 at 04:49 PM. Reason: Removal of bad language.)
     
Malcolm Owen
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Nov 19, 2015, 04:53 PM
 
Grenelmon, fmaxwell:
Hi there. I know sometimes news stories prompt some unparliamentary language, but could we keep this to a minimum, especially on front-page topics? Thanks.
     
jonbwfc1
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Nov 19, 2015, 05:43 PM
 
"What iFixIt does understand is that not everyone can afford to replace these expensive, disposable devices. "
They're not actually disposable at all. Unless there are people out there who really do use an iPad and then throw it away.

You're talking about a serious edge case here. Basically what you're talking about is..

a) A person with some even of skill in repairing electronic devices, beyond the usual 'change the battery' level

AND

b) who can afford the best part of $1000 for an iPad pro and a pencil

AND

c) Then at some further point in time, can no longer afford to spend $100 to replace the pencil when it breaks.

I respectfully suggest the number of people at the middle of that particular venn diagram is vanishingly small, therefore the economic imperative for Apple to spend design effort to make the thing repairable beyond normal wear and tear (i.e. replaceable tip) is pretty much zero.

I suspect very many more pencils will be replaced because they get lost than ever get physically damaged beyond use. Sod making it repairable, make it so it does something (vibrate, beep, whatever) when it loses BT connectivity to it's iPad.
     
bjojade
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Nov 19, 2015, 06:14 PM
 
"What iFixIt does understand is that not everyone can afford to replace these expensive, disposable devices. It is almost always cheaper to repair something than to replace it. "

No, that is not always the case. With mass produced electronic items, it is often less expensive to simply replace the unit than it is to attempt a repair, especially when labor is taken into account.

By making the item sealed and non serviceable, not only is it less expensive, it is also more reliable.
     
bjojade
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Nov 19, 2015, 06:16 PM
 
"What iFixIt does understand is that not everyone can afford to replace these expensive, disposable devices. It is almost always cheaper to repair something than to replace it. "

No, that is not always the case. With mass produced electronic items, it is often less expensive to simply replace the unit than it is to attempt a repair, especially when labor is taken into account.

By making the item sealed and non serviceable, not only is it less expensive, it is also more reliable.
     
pottymouth
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Nov 19, 2015, 06:17 PM
 
[where did that delete button go?]
     
DiabloConQueso
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Nov 19, 2015, 06:43 PM
 
When the pencil fails there are a couple of scenarios:

1) It's under warranty and you simply pop into an Apple store and have it replaced immediately for free

2) It's out of warranty, it was broken due to misuse or carelessness, and you rightfully need to shell out for a new one

3) It's out of warranty, it was broken due to normal wear and tear, and you've gotten your money's worth from the usable life of the device and you shell out $100 for a new one

With most electronic repairs running in the dozens to hundreds of dollars, do you guys REALLY think that it's worth it to spend $50 to $80 having your Apple Pencil repaired (if it were repairable), or just shell out $20 more for a brand new one?

When your bathroom mirror breaks, you don't take the pieces to a glass-fusing shop and shell out hundreds of dollars to have something that costs way less brand new fixed. You throw it in the trash and buy a new one. Each and every one of us live with and use things that are either a) non-repairable, or b) not feasibly (economically or physically) repairable.

Just because it works with computer electronics doesn't mean that one of the features needs to be "repair-ability."
     
Charles Martin
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Nov 19, 2015, 08:18 PM
 
As usual, DcQ nails it. While we enjoy reading the iFixit teardowns for the insight into the amazing engineering that goes into Apple products, their misplaced obsession with the "repairability" of everything is becoming a detriment to their credibility. They are a company that sells repair tools and repair services -- they have a monetary interest in promoting their services that is blinding them, ever more so, to the reality of the real world where there is a real threshold of practicality (not to mention a widespread lack of skills in most consumers) to "repairing" things.

To put this another way, oil changes are a mostly very easy and inexpensive "repair" you can make to your car, but *somehow* the 15-minute oil change places do not lack for customers.

PS. $50-$80 wouldn't even cover the cost of labour to open up an Apple Pencil to "repair" it, and as noted by iFixit, you can't do so without destroying the unit, so um ... what exactly is the point ghporter was even trying to make?
Charles Martin
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Flying Meat
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Nov 19, 2015, 08:55 PM
 
I think ghporter's point is that ghporter's time is no object.
Ergo, repairability would be good, because ghporter would only be out the cost of the service parts (plus tax and shipping).
But as noted, this is a 100 dollar add-on to the iPad, and not an integral/shipped with/required component.
     
Charles Martin
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Nov 19, 2015, 08:58 PM
 
I'm thinking either ghporter is an incredibly short person, or doesn't fully understand the scale of the pieces used in the Apple Pencil. There's not a lot of us here (and even fewer, by percentage, in the general population) who are used to working with components that small.
( Last edited by Mike Wuerthele; Nov 19, 2015 at 10:22 PM. )
Charles Martin
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Inkling
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Nov 20, 2015, 09:57 AM
 
I'm not surprised that something that compact can't be repaired. That's pretty much comes with the pencil-like size. I'm just ticked off that replacing it will cost so much. Apple could easily knock $30-40 off the price of this and encourage budding but starving graphic artists.

As to the discussion about repairability, keep in mind that it's not just an issue for techie geeks who want to be able to fix what they own. Lots of people who can't fix still live with tight budgets. It's a big plus for them if they can go to a local business and have a dying battery replaced. The easier that is, the less the charge.

Apple realizes that it benefits from long-lived, passed-on-to-others products. Someone who's given a second-hand Mac, iPad or iPhone is likely to buy new when they can afford it. And for mobile devices, the key to that long life is a battery that is easily replaced. That's why it is to Apple's advantage to raise their iFixIt ratings.
Author of Untangling Tolkien and Chesterton on War and Peace
     
mac_in_tosh
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Nov 20, 2015, 12:19 PM
 
I think by itself this article may not have evoked such a heated discussion. But the backdrop is that over recent years it has become increasingly difficult for even a semi-skilled user to repair/upgrade Apple products, exemplified by having to go through the screen to replace an iMac hard drive to the variety of unusual and custom screw heads used inside laptops. I think that without that history the fact that this relatively inexpensive item is not repairable might not, by itself, be such a big issue to some.
     
   
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