As the head honcho of iFixit, Kyle Wiens loves liberating mobile users from the shackles that bind them, showing everyone how to repair and rehab their high-tech gadgets. By the end of this week he expects to have a full report on the new iPhone 5C and 5S, and while he doesn’t rule out some possible improvements on repairability scores, he also predicts that each phone will clock in about where the current iPhone 5 sits in terms of battery life: about 300 charges, or between 18 months to 2 years of everyday use.
“The batteries are not easily replaceable, and the reason is that Apple wants you to throw it away when you’re done,” says Wiens. He expects to perform teardowns of the new phones, and post step-by-step reports, within 24 hours of their official release. Both are slated to hit stores nationwide on Friday, Sept. 20.
Of course, opinionated reviews of the new phones are already beginning to pour in. (New York Times writer David Pogue loved the fingerprint sensor on the 5S so much, he told haters to “go jump off a pier.”) But the most important review of all may be the one iFixit writes, because it will tell consumers what they ultimately need to know: Just how easy is it to repair these things?
To that end, Wiens says it’s useful to look at iFixit’s teardown of the iPhone 5. The 34-step procedure resulted in a generally positive review as Apple products go. Because the iPhone 5 opens front-to-back, it makes replacing a cracked screen “easier than ever.” Cracked glass by far represents the number one reason for iPhone repairs, and many independent repair shops charge about $100 for the fix.
The iPhone 5 battery only comes out with prying once the front panel is removed. And it also uses pesky pentalobe screws, which require special screwdrivers to remove. (The iFixit gang gave away loads of these screwdrivers over the summer; the batches were gone in a matter of hours.)
Meanwhile, Wiens says he plans to get in line just like every one else to purchase new phones–specifically for the teardowns, of course. You might think Apple would provide him with a few review specimens, as they did to major media outlets like the Times.
But for starters, there’s not much love between the House that Jobs Built and Wiens’ Home of Teardowns. In listing the 10 least repairable objects iFixit has ever encountered, iFixit singled out six Apple products, including the MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch, which Wiens slammed as “designed to fail.”
The iPhone 5 rated a 7 out of 10 in repairability, a pretty good score, actually. And looking at early shots of the 5C, Wiens says he was a bit encouraged to see exterior screws on the product. But just a bit.
Meanwhile, he’s not holding his breath. Because when it comes to sizing up Apple’s newest iPhones, he says, “I don’t like using the words ‘optimistic’ and ‘iPhone repairability’ in the same sentence.”