Apple Computers, already well known for crushing end user freedom on their devices, has hit a new low.
According to this blog post on iFixit.com, Apple has begun replacing the standard "Phillips" screws on the cases of new iPhone 4's sold in the U.S. with "Pentalobe" screws. They've apparently already done this to iPhones sold in many parts of the world.
As well, if you happen to take your iPhone to an Apple dealer for repair, you will find that Apple techs are replacing the standard Phillips screws with these "Pentalobe" screws. Similar screws are also being used on the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.
Do you happen to have a Pentalobe screw driver handy? No? Neither does anyone else except for maybe the folks at your local Apple store.
Now you might just be petrified of opening up your iPhone to fix a problem yourself. That's okay.
But many folks are "do it yourselfers" (DIY'ers) or might be particularly skilled with electronics and want to hack their hardware. Afterall, it's your device and you should be able to do whatever you want to do with it as long as it isn't dangerous or likely to injure someone.
But increasingly, manufacturers of electronic gadgets are looking for ways to restrict what you can and can't do with your devices. You are no longer the owner of a device, but instead a tenant.
I come from a very different tradition when it comes to electronic devices. I've been a licensed ham radio operator for over two decades. When I purchase a ham radio transceiver (transmitter/receiver), it comes not only with an instruction manual, but with a detailed schematic diagram of every single component used in the device.
The manufacturer expects that I might some day want to do a modification to my radio, do a repair on my own or that I might want to get a particularly skilled friend to do something for me. They wouldn't dare try to lock me out of my radio's innards.
But with Apple and many other device makers, it's a different story.
Fortunately the folks at iFixit have come up with a work around and sell an "iPhone Liberation Kit" for ten bucks on their site. It allows you to remove the "Pentalobe" screws and put back the good old-fashioned "Phillips" screws.
Despite this problem, the folks at iFixit like their Apple devices. Me, I'll take a pass.
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