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The iPhone 12 proves extremely repair-unfriendly in a new video

An iPhone 12 responds poorly to independent repair. (Source: YouTube)
An iPhone 12 responds poorly to independent repair. (Source: YouTube)
Apple's products have shown themselves as resistant to teardowns and re-assembly in the past. The Australian device-repair YouTuber Hugh Jeffreys has posted a new video that seems to demonstrate that this is also true of the recently-launched iPhone 12. The device's UI and cameras exhibited anomalies in response to a motherboard switch.

Apple is ostensibly not a fan of "right to repair", having gone to extensive lengths to ensure customers use its authorized service centers only while also making sure some of its devices are hard to get into in the first place. The vlogger Hugh Jeffreys set out to investigate whether the new iPhone 12 also followed this trend.

As there are no spare parts available for this device at present, he reported having to spend "almost AU$3000" (~US$2108) so as to have 2 of these devices on hand in case of damage to one.

The YouTuber ran into adversity from the start in his teardown of the first of these 64GB internal memory SKUs. The adhesive holding the back glass on was found to be extremely effective, probably for the purposes of water-resistance (never mind that this protection would be compromized on re-assembling the phone in the absence of replacement sealing).

Jeffreys also found that the 12, as with some predecessors, has cables that could break on eventually getting the rear panel away without extreme care. Then again, he found that much of the internals were quite "modular", even though 1 pre-rounded screw prevented a full teardown.

Nevertheless, it was possible to swap the motherboard of one new iPhone for another, thus simulating a repair. However, the vlogger reported difficulty in getting the same device to boot back up following re-assembly.

When the screen did eventually turn on, Jeffreys was greeted with notifications to the effect that non-genuine parts were installed, which also caused UI issues such as a new-found inability to display Battery Health.

The "repaired" iPhone 12 also suddenly developed problems with its front and rear cameras, including an inability to use Portrait Mode, the failure of others on switching modes and the complete loss of Face ID. A factory reset did not address these issues: the phone continued to insist that the display and battery were not genuine (even though they were, just not original).

However, swapping the phones' boards back did solve the problems. Therefore, it seems that each 2020 iPhone's display and battery is unit-specific, thus making the sale and use of replacement parts much more difficult and effectively restricting repair to the purview of official Apple centers.

This, as Jeffreys noted, is ironic given the OEM's recent measures to supposedly combat e-waste, and also poses a problem for customers with out-of-warranty devices. Apple has yet to respond publicly to these new findings.


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 10 > The iPhone 12 proves extremely repair-unfriendly in a new video
Deirdre O'Donnell, 2020-10-31 (Update: 2020-10-31)