If I drop my iPhone 5 on the sidewalk, how easily will it be to repair the screen? What if my Kindle Fire's battery stops holding a charge? When we're shopping for new tablets and smartphones, we seldom take these kinds of things into consideration. Most of us just presume nothing bad will happen. And if it does, well, we'll deal with it when it happens.
As far as the manufacturers are concerned, they're usually more interested in getting customers to stand in line for the new gadget in another year or two, so making it easy to fix today's devices is hardly a priority. If you look at the user manual of an iPad, Kindle Fire or Nexus 7, you won't see instructions on replacing the battery - or opening the device for any purpose. iPhones are held together using proprietary pentalobe screws specifically designed to keep you out of your device's innards.
Whether we like it or not, we're living in the Age of Unrepairable Machines. As our devices get more portable and sleek, our ability to tweak and repair the hardware diminishes. (The ability to work with the software, of course, is a separate question.)
Some argue that this is okay. Most of us wouldn't want to fix our refrigerators or our watches if they break, so why bother with tablets and smartphones?
Computers Used To Be Hobbyist Favorites
The thing is, historically, computers have been easily modified by their owners. In fact, that ability to fix, upgrade and otherwise tinker with computers was a big part of the genre's early appeal. So while you can't crack open an iPad to add more memory like you can with your laptop, there are still plenty of consumers who would prefer the do-it-yourself route to replacing busted screens and dead batteries.
But how realistic is that in 2013? Just how fixable is that tablet you're thinking of buying?
Thankfully you don't have to wait until the screen shatters to find out. The folks over at iFixIt have been tearing down the hottest new gadgets as they're released and posting detailed, step-by-step reports on the guts of each one. We put together this handy chart of how iFixIt ranks popular smartphones and tablets:
Note: If you're the DIY Mr(s).-Fix-It type, we definitely recommend reading through your gadget's teardown report with care before breaking out the 54-bit driver set. And keep in mind that none of these manufacturers intend for you to open their devices, so do so at your own risk.
Photo courtesy of iFixIt.