For all the wonder and convenience of the post-PC era, there's one big disadvantage worth griping about: As we move toward tablets and smartphones, our devices are getting harder to open up and fix ourselves.
It's not just Apple products, either. Sure, Cupertino's wares have become so notoriously hard-to-fix for so long, that a bogus news story about Apple developing a new asymmetric screw spread from like wildfire last year before people figured out it was fake. As it turns out, though, most tablets and smartphones are relatively hard to fix ourselves. The iPad is pretty bad, for example, but the new Microsoft Surface Pro is even worse.
In a recent teardown by iFixIt, the Surface Pro scored a measly 1 point out of 10 on the site's fixability scale. That's a point lower than the fourth generation iPad and iPad Mini (which were tied at a still-pathetic 2 points).
The Surface Pro has more than 90 tiny screws inside it. Yes, 90 screws. On top of that, many components are glued together using adhesive that makes it difficult for do-it-yourself tinkerers to take the device apart and swap out parts.
Thankfully, Microsoft does let you (very carefully) remove the battery, which is thankfully not soldered into place. But try removing the LCD screen or solid state drive and you're likely to ruin your brand new tablet/ultrabook hybrid.
The Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and iPhone 5 are all considerably easier to open up and tinker with. But at 7 points apiece, these devices still aren't as consumer friendly as PCs used to be. It would appear that we're trading our freedom to update, expand and repair our devices for convenience, sleek design and unwieldy gobs of adhesive.
(Of course, It's not just tablets and smartphones. Apple's newest laptop got some very low marks from iFixIt, which called the retina MacBook Pro "the least repairable laptop yet.")
A Crappy Deal For Consumers
These new devices might be slick and trendy, but this trade-off sucks for consumers. Since repairs and hardware upgrades (insofar as they're even possible) are harder to complete at home, fixing a shattered screen, replacing a component or troubleshooting hardware problems requires consumers to pay some high-priced technician or replace the device all together.
There's an obvious strategic incentive here. Companies like Apple depend on consumers upgrading their devices every year or two in order to keep their sales flowing. Why risk fixing my iPhone myself when I can trade up to a shinier, faster new iPhone 5?
For Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, and other hardware manufacturers, The Age Of Unrepairable Machines is a good thing. For everybody else, it's kind of a bummer.
Lead image from iFixIt.