Apple has been switching the screws that hold its latest iPhone shut, but cries of conspiracy are somewhat refuted by the realisation that a $2 screwdriver fixes the problem.
The new screws are called pentalobe (five-pointed), but if it is really (as iFixit so eloquently put it) "Apple's insidious plan to sabotage our iPhones" then that plan has proven to be fatally flawed by the half-dozen companies that popping up to sell suitable screwdrivers for as little as $2.35.
First up was iFixit itself, who started selling a $10 kit including a pair of replacement (Philips) screws, and a screwdriver that will get the pentalobe screws out even if it means destroying them in the process.
Apple has used Pentalobe screws before, on the MacBook Air, at which time it was found to be more annoying than insidious, but laptops have always had strange screws holding them together. Your correspondent once spent a memorable morning in a car park filing a Torx T7 down to a Torx T5 before entering the customer site; Toshiba had failed to provide a suitable tool, though the company was keen to provide (non-Torx) replacement screws.
Americans are very keen on varying their screws. A European might be happy with a Philips, or perhaps a Pozidriv for special occasions, but rest of the world likes more variation. At least the world agrees that the slot screw is an abomination that deserves to go the same way as surgery without anaesthetic and public hangings.
The more advanced screws offer loads of advantages in terms of holding the driver steady, or reducing the pressure which must be applied to push the screw in – which is particularly important when the screws are handled in large quantities by production-line machinery. The popular designs are, of course, well-patented and Apple will be paying a premium for the pentalobe screws that are equally likely to be associated with mechanisation as tamper-proofing.
It's true that using an obscure screw once offered a degree of security, but these days we have the internet for locating anything, and a moment's search shows half a dozen companies selling pentalobe screw drivers for under $10, though it was the chaps over at Gizmodo (who know a thing or two about dismantling iPhones) who managed to find one selling at £2.35, plus shipping. ®
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