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iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, Europe, Fairphone, GreenTech, hardware, ifixit, iPhone, Mobile, phil schiller, repairability, smartphone, smartphones, sustainability | No Comments

Here’s something the hermetically sealed iPhone can’t do: Score a perfect 10 for repairability.

Smartphone startup and social enterprise Fairphone’s latest repairable-by-design smartphone has done just that, getting 10/10 in an iFixit Teardown vs scores of just 6/10 for recent iPhone models.

The Fairphone 3, which was released in Europe last week with an RRP of €450, gets thumbs up across the board in iFixit’s hardware Teardown. It found all the internal modules to be easily accessible and replaceable — with only basic tools required to get at them (Fairphone includes a teeny screwdriver in the box). iFixit also lauds visual cues that help with disassembly and reassembly, and notes that repair guides and spare parts are available on Fairphone’s website.

iFixit’s sole quibble is that while most of the components inside the Fairphone 3’s modules are individually replaceable “some” are soldered on. A tiny blip that doesn’t detract from the 10/10 repairability score

Safe to say, such a score is the smartphone exception. The industry continues to encourage buyers to replace an entire device, via yearly upgrade, instead of enabling them to carry out minor repairs themselves — so they can extend the lifespan of their device and thereby shrink environmental impact.

Dutch startup Fairphone was set up to respond to the abject lack of sustainability in the electronics industry. The tiny company has been pioneering modularity for repairability for several years now, flying in the face of smartphone giants that are still routinely pumping out sealed tablets of metal and glass which often don’t even let buyers get at the battery to replace it themselves.

To wit: An iFixit Teardown of the Google Pixel rates battery replacement as “difficult” with a full 20 steps and between 1-2 hours required. (Whereas the Fairphone 3 battery can be accessed in seconds, by putting a fingernail under the plastic back plate to pop it off and lifting the battery out.)

The Fairphone 3 goes much further than offering a removable backplate for getting at the battery, though. The entire device has been designed so that its components are accessible and repairable.

So it’s not surprising to see it score a perfect 10 (the startup’s first modular device, Fairphone 2, was also scored 10/10 by iFixit). But it is strong, continued external validation for the Fairphone’s designed-for-repairability claim.

It’s an odd situation in many respects. In years past replacement batteries were the norm for smartphones, before the cult of slimming touchscreen slabs arrived to glue phone innards together. Largely a consequence of hardware business models geared towards profiting from pushing for clockwork yearly upgrades cycle — and slimmer hardware is one way to get buyers coveting your next device.

But it’s getting harder and harder to flog the same old hardware horse because smartphones have got so similarly powerful and capable there’s precious little room for substantial annual enhancements.

Hence iPhone maker Apple’s increasing focus on services. A shift that’s sadly not been accompanied by a rethink of Cupertino’s baked in hostility towards hardware repairability. (It still prefers, for example, to encourage iPhone owners to trade in their device for a full upgrade.)

At Apple’s 2019 new product announcement event yesterday — where the company took the wraps off another clutch of user-sealed smartphones (aka: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) — there was even a new financing offer to encourage iPhone users to trade in their old models and grab the new ones. ‘Look, we’re making it more affordable to upgrade!’ was the message.

Meanwhile, the only attention paid to sustainability — during some 1.5 hours of keynotes — was a slide which passed briefly behind marketing chief Phil Schiller towards the end of his turn on stage puffing up the iPhone updates, encouraging him to pause for thought.

Apple 2019 event

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 are made to be designed free from these harmful materials and of course to reduce their impact on the environment,” he said in front of a list of some toxic materials that are definitely not in the iPhones.

Stuck at the bottom of this list were a couple of detail-free claims that the iPhones are produced via a “low-carbon process” and are “highly recyclable”. (The latter presumably a reference to how Apple handles full device trade-ins. But as anyone who knows about sustainability will tell you, sustained use is far preferable to premature recycling…)

“This is so important to us. That’s why I bring it up every time. I want to keep pushing the boundaries of this,” Schiller added, before pressing the clicker to move on to the next piece of marketing fodder. Blink and you’d have missed it.

If Apple truly wants to push the boundaries on sustainability — and not just pay glossy lip-service to reducing environmental impact for marketing purposes while simultaneously encouraging annual upgrades — it has a very long way to go indeed.

As for repairability, the latest and greatest iPhones clearly won’t hold a candle to the Fairphone.

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Samsung Galaxy Fold teardown reveals ‘alarmingly fragile’ display

Posted by | galaxy fold, hardware, ifixit, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold, smartp | No Comments

While Samsung performs its own internal investigations, the folks at iFixit had plenty to say about the Galaxy Fold in their own teardown. The write-up is a bit of a roller coaster ride, admiring the “ambitious first-generation device,” while noting some clear flaws in the way the foldable was put together.

There’s a full 19-step breakdown of the product that adheres to the site’s customarily thorough breakdown, but the key takeaway here is the “alarmingly fragile” display mechanism. “Alarmingly” isn’t the kind of word you see tossed around lightly on a site like iFixit .

“Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge,” Samsung wrote on Monday when it officially pushed back the Fold’s release to an undisclosed date. That certainly appears to confirm the relatively fragile nature.

And iFixit did the unthinkable, pealing back the protective display, which has been mistaken for the user-replaceable adhesive plastic Samsung’s other devices ship with. As expected, it didn’t go great. “In all known cases (including ours!), removing this layer kills the display,” the site writes. “The display could technically function without the layer, but it is so tightly adhered and the display is so fragile that it’s difficult to remove without applying display-breaking pressure.”

The site was suitably impressed with the hinge mechanism, but notes that “large gaps around the spine let dirt right in, possibly getting trapped between hinge and display.” That’s in line with one of the two points in Samsung’s own reporting of “an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance.”

The teardown appears to confirm fears that the issues could ultimately be broader than a few defective review units. Hopefully Samsung will push things back enough to properly address the above issues.

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Motorola is partnering with iFixit to sell official DIY phone repair kits

Posted by | Gadgets, ifixit, Motorola, TC | No Comments

Repairing a phone is harder than it needs to be. With phone manufacturers spending the last decade chasing device slimness and building devices meant to last however long a phone contract lasts, user repairability just doesn’t seem to be something they care much about. Need a repair part? Good luck on eBay, friendo!

In what might, maybe, hopefully be a sign of that tide changing, Motorola is now selling official repair kits in a partnership with iFixit .

You probably know iFixit as the folks that somehow manage to rip apart nearly every new popular device within hours of its release. Their deep gadget teardowns show you how the clocks tick and the silicon hamster wheels turn, allowing a peek inside while your own hard-earned gear stays in one happily functioning piece.

But they also sell a bunch of bits and bobs for when things stop working. They source tons of individual parts for repairing all sorts of devices, from aging iPods to console controllers. And now, for a handful of Motorola phones, they’re doing it with Motorola’s blessing.

They’ve just started shipping a handful of pre-assembled repair kits with replacement parts sourced straight from Motorola. At this point they’ve got kits for eight different phones (Moto Z, Moto X, Droid Turbo 2, Moto Z Play, Moto G5, Z Force, X Pure and G4 Plus). They’re focusing on the two biggest, most frequently replaced components — the battery and the screen — and each kit contains everything you need to get the phone apart, patched up and put back together. The battery replacement kits cost around $40, while the screen kits cost around $100-$200.

Will other manufacturers follow suit? It’s hard to say. But I’d sure hope so. With each subsequent generation of smartphone getting less and less enticing (“The camera is slightly better! The screen is… brighter? Harder? Faster? Stronger?”), it’d be great to see more of them embrace repair.

(Image source: iFixit’s Moto Z repair guide)

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Teardown of Magic Leap One reveals highly advanced placeholder tech

Posted by | augmented reality, Gadgets, hardware, ifixit, Magic Leap, Magic Leap One, TC, teardown, Wearables | No Comments

The screwdriver-happy dismantlers at iFixit have torn the Magic Leap One augmented reality headset all to pieces, and the takeaway seems to be that the device is very much a work in progress — but a highly advanced one. Its interesting optical assembly, described as “surprisingly ugly,” is laid bare for all to see.

The head-mounted display and accompanying computing unit are definitely meant for developers, as we know, but the basic methods and construction Magic Leap is pursuing are clear from this initial hardware. It’s unlikely that there will be major changes to how the gadget works except to make it cheaper, lighter and more reliable.

At the heart of Magic Leap’s tech is its AR display, which overlays 3D images over and around the real world. This is accomplished through a stack of waveguides that allow light to pass along them invisibly, then bounce it out toward your eye from the proper angle to form the image you see.

The “ugly” assembly in question; pic courtesy of iFixit

The waveguide assembly has six layers: one for each color channel (red, blue and green) twice over, arranged so that by adjusting the image you can change the perceived distance and size of the object being displayed.

There isn’t a lot out there like this, and certainly nothing intended for consumer use, so we can forgive Magic Leap for shipping something a little bit inelegant by iFixit’s standards: “The insides of the lenses are surprisingly ugly, with prominent IR LEDs, a visibly striated waveguide “display” area, and some odd glue application.”

After all, the insides of devices like the iPhone X or Galaxy Note 9 should and do reflect a more mature hardware ecosystem and many iterations of design along the same lines. This is a unique, first-of-its-kind device and as a devkit the focus is squarely on getting the functionality out there. It will almost certainly be refined in numerous ways to avoid future chiding by hardware snobs.

That’s also evident from the eye-tracking setup, which from its position at the bottom of the eye will likely perform better when you’re looking down and straight ahead rather than upwards. Future versions may include more robust tracking systems.

Another interesting piece is the motion-tracking setup. A little box hanging off the edge of the headset is speculated to be the receiver for the magnetic field-based motion controller. I remember using magnetic interference motion controllers back in 2010 — no doubt there have been improvements, but this doesn’t seem to be particularly cutting-edge tech. An improved control scheme can probably be expected in future iterations, as this little setup is pretty much independent of the rest of the device’s operation.

Let’s not judge Magic Leap on this interesting public prototype — let us instead judge them on the farcically ostentatious promises and eye-popping funding of the last few years. If they haven’t burned through all that cash, there are years of development left in the creation of a practical and affordable consumer device using these principles and equipment. Many more teardowns to come!

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iFixit drops its iPhone battery replacement to $29, matching Apple’s apology price

Posted by | Apple, battery, hardware, ifixit, iPhone, Mobile | No Comments

 iFixit has never been particularly fond of Apple’s repair policies. The company’s gadgets regularly rack up poor repairability scores on the site. The site’s taking another jab at the tech giant today, dropping the price of its battery replacement kits to $29 — matching the cost of out-of-warranty battery replacements being offered up as consolation for its iPhone… Read More

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