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iFixit throws an iFit over iPhone screws

Gadget-tinkering site blasts Apple's "diabolical" policy of adding tamper-resistant screws to yet another product, the iPhone 4. But it has a financial stake in pointing the change out.

tamper-resistant screws
The pentalobe screw as seen in the MacBook Pro, iPhone 4, and MacBook Air. iFixit

Tamper-resistant screws are popping up in another Apple product, the iPhone 4, and some users say they're feeling screwed by the change.

Among the most outraged, it seems, is iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens, who sent out an e-mail today blasting the tech giant for its change to a proprietary, tamper-resistant screw called a pentalobe on later shipments of the iPhone 4. Wiens believes Apple stopped using standard Phillips and Torx screws on the iPhone 4 and other products to "keep you out of your own hardware."

Apple has not yet responded to CNET's request for comment.

But while some are annoyed by the change, not everyone thinks it's a bad idea. "As a service tech, you would be surprised to see how many people open up their machines to try and fix them before bringing them in for warranty service. And in doing so [they] cause more damage than the original problem was," wrote a commenter on iPodnn.

Some consumers feel strongly that users should have the ability to open up their devices to remove and replace batteries, memory, and drives.

Then again, notes another commenter to iPodnn, "Apple is selling an 'appliance experience.' If you don't like that, don't buy these products. When's the last time you tried to open up your cell phone, clock radio, or car stereo? Or your TV? These aren't user-serviceable devices and neither are iPhones, iPods, or iPads. Factor that into your buying decision."

The new fasteners reportedly first appeared in the battery lock of mid-2009 MacBook Pro laptops. The pentalobe reappeared again in the 2010 MacBook Air, which used the screw on the lower case.

Liberation kif
The "Liberation Kit" includes a driver to remove Apple's proprietary screws, a pair of Phillips screws, and a Phillips screwdriver (click to enlarge). iFixit

iFixit posted an extremely detailed blog on the matter titled "Apple's Diabolical Plan to Screw Your iPhone." It states that there are three variations of the five-point pentalobe circulating in Apple hardware. Those of you outside of the U.S. will be sad to know that "non-U.S. iPhone 4 units have had smaller versions of these evil screws all along."

But what really gets Wiens going is this: iFixit claims to have spoken with several Apple store Genius Bar employees who confirm that when consumers are bringing their iPhone 4 in for repairs, the company is switching screws without consent, no matter the service performed.

Of course, iFixit has a financial stake in calling attention to the situation. It's readied a $9.95 solution amusingly called the "iPhone 4 Liberation Kit," which includes a driver to rid your phone of the proprietary pentalobes and replace them with standard Phillips screws.

First there was an Antennagate. Are we now looking at Screwgate?