Should the iPad Be More User-Servicable?

Allyson Kazmucha at iMore has written an article so ridiculous that I can’t pick out just one part to argue with. So, here goes.

When it was suspected that the new iPad would be a bit thicker than its predecessor, I was secretly hoping that Apple would be going back to using clips to hold in the screen like the original iPad instead of adhesive. Alas, that was not the case and Apple decided to stick with the same horrid adhesive they used on the iPad 2.

Now this would be fine if there were a way to gain access to the device from the rear. But there isn’t. The only way to access internals on an iPad 2 or new iPad is to physically melt the adhesive around the edges of the screen. Yes, I said melt. This makes it a nightmare for anyone who wants to DIY repair anything other than a broken screen. Actually, replacing a newer iPad screen is a terrible experience in itself and way beyond what most would be willing to take on.

This type of construction isn’t specific to the iPad. Apple has always favored thinness and neatness over ease-of-repair. Ask anyone who has worked on Mac hardware for a living.

I’ve gotten several emails from readers asking for directions on how to repair their iPads, the same way I’ve shown how to repair iPhones. I’ve been hesitant to even offer advice as the process is so tedious and way beyond what even a skilled user should attempt on their own. The screen is damn near impossible to get off without breaking it. This is why I dread the day when the iPad 2 starts coming out of warranty all at once and I start getting calls for battery replacements, bad home buttons, and anything other than a cracked screen.

Ah, there it is. Kazmucha repairs iOS devices for people. This is something that Apple neither approves of or cares about when designing their products.

First you’ll have to take a heat gun to the edges of the screen and get the adhesive running around the edges soft enough to be able to fit a putty knife underneath an edge.

So, she’s hesitant to give advice about repairing iPads, but she’s going to anyways. Cool. I love seeing photos of broken glass.

Speaking of…

The worst part of all this is the tiny shards of glass that you’ll more than likely end up picking out of the frame. I’ve had more than one client attempt a screen replacement on their own. Only one has succeeded and more importantly, another actually hurt themselves pretty badly when a piece of glass broke off in his hand.

Glass can hurt people? HOLY. SHIT. You know, when the stove is hot…

Never mind.

I understand Apple wants to keep these as sealed appliances, as magical boxes that, if they break, you simply bring them back to Apple and either swap them for, or pay for, a replacement.

She’s right about the first part. Apple does want iOS devices (and the Mac, it would seem) to be magical appliances.

In fact, there’s nothing new about this at all. This has been Apple’s philosophy since the original Macintosh 28 years ago.

The sad part is most of the phones that go into Apple and get swapped for new ones probably could have been fixed and given back to the customer in less than 30 minutes time. To my knowledge the only thing Apple employees are even trained to replace is the back cover, rear-facing camera, and vibrator assembly on the GSM iPhone 4 and the front assembly of an iPhone 3GS. Anything else just gets swapped and that’s a shame. It’s prioritizing packaging over everything else. It’s too much.

Or, Apple is more concerned with making a nice product and keeping customers happy. If everyone’s phone had to be repaired, Genius Bars would be a lot more busy. A swap ensures fast customer service, so users can be on their way. Being without your phone for 2 days while the Genius Bar dicks around with the insides is shitty customer service.

But what do I know … I just worked behind the Genius Bar for two years. Granted, I don’t have a fancy iOS device repair center.

Apple’s recent design practices are making it economically unrealistic for businesses like myself to even bother with devices such as the iPad 2 or new iPad. The process is time consuming and has a very high margin for error.

Why not find work within the Apple ecosystem that the company supports and encourages?

I fear what the next iteration of iPhone is going to bring with it and surely hope that Apple seriously evaluates their current design process and changes some things.

Not only because it would hurt me but because it hurts my clients. Some of them just don’t have the money to walk into an Apple store and drop another $200 or more on a brand new replacement device. But they can afford to buy a part and swap it themselves or pay me a more reasonable amount to fix a shattered screen, broken home button, or replace a battery. They walk out happy and the odds of them purchasing another Apple device is more likely. They have the security that if an accident does happen, they have a safety net — either their own repair skills or businesses like my own.

Remember, these people who can’t drop another $200 already dropped at least twice that on the iPad itself.

Again, this seems to be about Kazmucha’s business, nothing more.

Sure consumers can buy services like AppleCare+ to avoid unfortunate accidents and save themselves some money but that only lasts for 2 years and after that customers are left with no options but to buy new devices, which they can’t always afford.

If someone can’t afford a new device, maybe they can do without it. Owning an iPad isn’t a right, as far as I know.

Apple, please consider how these practices impact your consumers, other businesses, and the environment. You’re selling millions and millions of iPads yet you continue to make them almost unserviceable even by your own stores. Creating a product made mainly of glass that’s next to unrepairable is not responsible, it’s form over function. You now set the standard in mobile. It’s time for you to re-evaluate those standards and prioritize not only beautiful looking, excellent working devices, but easy to repair and maintainable ones as well.

I really don’t think Apple gives a shit. And that’s fine with me. The company has an excellent track record when it comes to the environment, suppliers and more. I don’t think making life easier for people trying to cash in on the back end is worth Apple’s time or energy. It doesn’t want people repairing its products, or making money doing so for others. That’s that.