iPhone 14 Secretly Redesigned to Be More Repairable

The new iPhone has been completely redesigned on the inside and it’ll be much easier and cheaper to fix than previous models.
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iFixit photo.
Screen Shot 2021-02-03 at 12
State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.

The iPhone 14 is here and it’s not exactly wowing critics. On the outside, the new phone appears to be a slight upgrade over its predecessor. But, according to iFixit, the inside is nothing short of a revolution. “Apple has completely redesigned the internals of the iPhone 14 to make it easier to repair,” iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said after iFixit disassembled the phone. “It’s the most significant design change to the iPhone in a long time.”

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The iPhone has long been a notoriously difficult phone to repair. Its internals are a mess of parts that require proprietary tools and a steady hand to do even basic repairs. The iPhone 14 redesign has done away with much of that. The phone has a completely new frame with a thin metal sheet in the middle that allows easy access to both the front screen and the back glass. It can be opened from both the front and the back, which makes both screen replacements and back-glass replacements much easier than they were for past models.

According to iFixit, the back glass is secured to the phone with a single connector and two screws. “Apple has seemingly used a slightly less aggressive adhesive, making opening it up a tad easier than screens of yore,” iFixit said. “And as a bonus, removing the exact same screws as the back glass gets you access to the screen. Just two screws, and both screen and back glass are immediately accessible.”

Contrast that with the iPhone X, which had a nightmarishly difficult-to-repair back. The adhesive was so powerful that chemicals, prying, and heat would not shake it free. The camera bezels were welded onto the glass which added extra complications. The best way for repair shops to enter the rear was to use a laser to melt away the adhesive then shatter the glass and carefully scrape away the resulting dust. Not exactly conducive to at home repairs.

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Last year, Apple announced it would sell parts, tools, and manuals that would let people do basic repairs of their own phones. It was a major policy shift for a company that had long maintained a repair monopoly of its phones. Last month, it expanded this new DIY system and offered more tools and manuals to help people fix more stuff. The new design of the iPhone 14 seems to be another step in the right direction.

But there’s more work to do. As iFixit noted in its repair review of the phone, Apple still requires software pairing to replace things like screens. This matches early reports Motherboard has heard from independent repair stores that iOS 16 is bricking phones repaired with aftermarket screens.

Apple did not make the changes it has out of the goodness of its heart. Investors, customers, and even the government have been pressuring companies like Apple and others over why it's so hard to do basic repairs to their phones. Biden backed the right-to-repair in an executive order earlier this year and ordered the FTC to open investigations. This week, Congress is hearing testimony from repair advocates and organizations on the issue. Legislation aimed at breaking up repair monopolies and making it easier for people to fix their own electronics is also working its way through state legislatures across the country.