Why Apple iPhone 5S, 5C buyer is ripping apart new phones

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by CBS News

CBS News

Posted on September 20, 2013 at 8:18 AM

(CBS News) Apple's new iPhones go on sale in the United States Friday, but the people who work at an American tech company went to Australia to buy the first ones on the market. But they weren't going to use the phones, they were buying them to tear them apart.

At 8:00 a.m. at the Apple Store in Melbourne, Australia, Luke Soules was one of the first people in line at one of the first places on earth selling the new iPhone 5S and 5C. He dismantles the phones and photographs what's inside.

And then, half a world away in California -- where the phones didn't go on sale for 17 hours -- Soules' colleagues at iFixit, a do-it-yourself electronics repair web site, download and analyze his photos of the inner workings and post the information online.

Kyle Wiens, who runs the company along with Soules, said, "We will go wherever in the world we can go to get the new phone first. It's critical to us to know, what's the new product? How's it put together? How easy is it gonna be to fix? And we want to know as soon as possible."

And it's not just phones. Wiens said, "We have repair manuals for everything from cars to motorcycles, cell phones and computers."

"Our goal," Wiens explained, "is to empower everybody around the world to be able to repair all their stuff. We're like Wikipedia for fixing things. We want to make it as easy as possible."

Wiens and Soules started iFixit in their dorm room at California Polytechnic University 10 years ago after Wiens' iBook computer died. Wiens recalled, "So, I did what anybody would do. I googled it."

Only to find Apple doesn't share repair manuals with consumers. Wiens said, "So I had to do it the old fashioned way. I had to figure it out myself. So it was that moment of frustration that kicked this off."

He soon was posting step-by-step repair instructions online. "We had thousands of people rushing to the manuals," Wiens said. "It almost crashed our servers the first weekend."

They now sell their iFixit tool kit to do-it-yourselfers.

Poor college students 10 years ago, they earned almost $10 million last year. The company now has about 50 people now.

Miro Djuric is in charge of technical writing at the company. "iFixit started out with only thousands of people fixing their things, and now it has grown into millions," he said.

Wiens added, "We have to get outside this mentality of, 'It's their product.' It's your product. You bought it. You own it. You should be able to repair it if you want."

Repairing electronics is not just a geek thing, it's green too. Wiens said, "And I've learned along the way that there's a lot of reasons to repair products rather than tossing them away and going and buying a new one. It takes a tremendous amount of raw materials to go in and make a phone. It's a huge ecological impact."

Six hours after Soules bought the phones in Australia, the California team was revealing the 5S components to the world: two powerful processors to double the speed; a more powerful camera; new fingerprint technology that makes passwords obsolete. But they also found Apple has glued the battery into the phone, making it harder for iFixers to fix it.

 

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