Teardown claims Essential Phone is hard-to-repair 'hot mess'

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A new teardown of one of the latest Apple iPhone competitors, the Essential Phone, claims that the device is fundamentally disorganized inside, a sign of it being a first-generation product.




The insides of the phone are a "hot mess," iFixit said on Tuesday, with "pick-and-choose, randomly layered components," too much glue, and "miserable modularity." The USB-C port for example is soldered directly to a massive motherboard, and the front camera and earpiece are part of a single module.




The amount of glue used in the device is said to be so much that iFixit was forced to freeze the phone and heat it back up to remove the back cover. In trying to get at the insides of the device, the firm ended up breaking the display.




All of Essential's design decisions are said to make the phone virtually unrepairable, with any attempt "likely to inflict as much damage as it fixes."

By contrast iFixit scored Apple's iPhone 7 a 7 out of 10 on repairability, complaining mainly about the use of tri-point screws and tougher access as a result of waterproofing.

Essential is a new company from former Google executive and Android creator Andy Rubin. The Phone is its first product, and notably features an edge-to-edge, 5.71-inch display, which has been compared to the 5.8-inch OLED screen on Apple's upcoming "iPhone 8." Indeed both phones have a sensor notch up top that interrupts the display, although Essential's product moves some items to what little bezel remains.

Apple is due to showcase the "iPhone 8" and several other new products at a Sept. 12 press event.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 106
    Competition to Apple iPhone - Really? LOL. More like competition to Pixel phones (not even to flagships from Huawei/LG/Sony/HTC, forget about Apple), if that counts something!!!
    macplusplusSolitmayjbdragonrepressthisRobPalmer9jony0lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 106
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,304member
    I received an email this morning from iFixit. The headline was harsh (but not unfair):

    The Essential Phone is essentially a mess



    edited September 2017 edredsully54Avieshekjbdragonlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 106
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    supadav03techprod1gyredraider11StrangeDayspatchythepiratejony0idtechfan
  • Reply 4 of 106
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,304member
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    I care, and so does Arya.
    rotateleftbytefotoformattipoojbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 106
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,979member
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    Right to Repair! right to Repair! Right to Repair! I should be able to go down to my local Home Depot and get a motherboard for my iPhone 6 if I want to.
    repressthiswatto_cobraMetriacanthosaurus
  • Reply 6 of 106
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    Quite the non-sequitur, there. You say that because you don't want repairable devices, nobody else should be allowed to choose them either. The market is a place where competitors can and should be able to offer different alternatives.
    Solimwhitetipoojbdragonrhinotuffwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 106
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,979member
    When the iPhone came out the critics said Apple was too late to the game. Cellphones were a mature market and Apple had no chance of gaining any market share. Even Steve Jobs said he would be happy with 1% I believe. Well here we are ten years later and it's for real this time. The smartphone market is dominated by two giants and the Essential Phone has little chance of gaining traction, especially since it is not all that great and is more like an also-ran. The iPhone was a revolution. The Essential Phone is just another Android phone in an already crowed Android universe. 
    slprescottStrangeDaysjbdragonRobPalmer9lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 106
    What is an Essential Phone? And why should we care?
    RobPalmer9watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 106
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,195member
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    I take the opposite view. Repairability (the user part isn't a must) should be in the design of high priced electronics and be required by legislation if necessary.

    This phone looks to be a very bad example. If it is impossible to replace the battery without breaking the unit or leaving it in a worse state than when you began the process, a good idea would be to give it a very healthy warranty.

    If not, you are basically purchasing a time-bomb with a one year delay on the countdown.
  • Reply 10 of 106
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,994member
    iPhones may not be the most repairable devices, but at least the insides always seem to be laid out in a rational, logical, elegant way, that makes certain common repairs feasible, unlike this thing.
    RobPalmer9lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 106
    In a utopian view perhaps, but what you are suggesting is that the greater than 99% of customers who have no need, intent or desire to ever repair a phone, should all pay more and accept less to accommodate the tiny fraction who are interested in repairing their own phone.  The engineering trade offs to manufacture the ever more complex devices would cripple advancements.  The other problem that occurs is where do you draw the line?  Does a manufacturer have to separately create a retail distribution line for parts and components that, even if practical, would never come close to covering costs? For example, would Apple have to build the next phone  with user repairable OLED screen that Apple stocks and sells to consumers? 
    StrangeDayspatchythepiratetmay
  • Reply 12 of 106
    Where would one take an Essential phone for repairs anyway?
  • Reply 13 of 106
    avon b7 said:
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    I take the opposite view. Repairability (the user part isn't a must) should be in the design of high priced electronics and be required by legislation if necessary.

    This phone looks to be a very bad example. If it is impossible to replace the battery without breaking the unit or leaving it in a worse state than when you began the process, a good idea would be to give it a very healthy warranty.

    If not, you are basically purchasing a time-bomb with a one year delay on the countdown.
    You care enough about repairable to force it on everyone through legislation. To you it doesn’t matter what others might desire, your desire rules. In my opinion, reliability over rules repairability. If it never needs repairs, in my opinion, how repairable it doesn’t matter. This describes my Apple products.
    designrtmaysteven n.watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 106
    Soli said:
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    I care, and so does Arya.
    Mass market does not care. As these devices get smaller and more tightly integrated and cheaper to produce, end-user repairability becomes even more of an edge case than it is today.

    I'm all for shop repairability as long as possible, but I realize that inevitably even this will be less feasible and cost more resources than recycling and replacing.

    Still, it's fun to read about a touted Android device suffering from iFixIt's disdain. 
    edited September 2017 patchythepirateRayz2016tmaywatto_cobraidtechfan
  • Reply 15 of 106

    avon b7 said:
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    I take the opposite view. Repairability (the user part isn't a must) should be in the design of high priced electronics and be required by legislation if necessary.
    So let me get this straight -- you're saying the state of the art technology should not be legally allowed to evolve into new formats even smaller and more efficient, if it prevents guys in the back room from being able to work on them? We should halt all technology progress beyond this arbitrary limit, just because? 

    I find this very odd. It's like protecting buggy whip makers. 

    If devices get small and cheaper and reach a point where replacing costs fewer resources than repairing -- let's say everything were integrated into a single chip, which nobody can repair -- that seems to be completely natural. Producing this hypothetical chip would get cheaper over time and require less resources than producing multiple chips and modules. Efficiency is a good thing.
    designrRayz2016tmaywatto_cobra2old4fun
  • Reply 16 of 106
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,098member
    timpetus said:
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    Quite the non-sequitur, there. You say that because you don't want repairable devices, nobody else should be allowed to choose them either. The market is a place where competitors can and should be able to offer different alternatives.
    Actually I find the people who do not care if something can be fixed, are the people who lack the skills to fix what they own. Personally I rather have a product which does not need to be fix before berating it because it can be easily fixed. Considering my Kids broke their display how many time, and the fact I personally could fix them in under and hour and for less than $50, was worth the repair than having to make them buy a new $600 phone because they were still on contract. Yeah I know, make kids pay, and I do, but in the end the parent still end up paying.
    Soli
  • Reply 17 of 106
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,364member
    I’ve gone through so many threads, here, on arstechnica and anandtech, about repairability, that I can’t count them. Most people agree that repairability isn’t particularly important for mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

    its really difficult to make these things easy for the consumer to repair while, at the same time, making them light, slim (and yes, most people do want that), water resistant and reliable.

    glue isn’t a bad thing in these devices as far as usage is concerned. The industrial glues used, add shock resistance, whereas screws do exactly the opposite. While I’m not commenting on this particular design, I leave the repair to the manufacturer.
  • Reply 18 of 106
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,658member
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    Really, that something is unfixable, not merely hard to fix is irrelevant to you! Are you made of money?
    rhinotuff
  • Reply 19 of 106
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,364member
    maestro64 said:
    timpetus said:
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    Quite the non-sequitur, there. You say that because you don't want repairable devices, nobody else should be allowed to choose them either. The market is a place where competitors can and should be able to offer different alternatives.
    Actually I find the people who do not care if something can be fixed, are the people who lack the skills to fix what they own. Personally I rather have a product which does not need to be fix before berating it because it can be easily fixed. Considering my Kids broke their display how many time, and the fact I personally could fix them in under and hour and for less than $50, was worth the repair than having to make them buy a new $600 phone because they were still on contract. Yeah I know, make kids pay, and I do, but in the end the parent still end up paying.
    That’s not true. I have the skill, and the tools,  but I choose not to, as do most people.
  • Reply 20 of 106
    tmaytmay Posts: 2,642member

    avon b7 said:
    Nobody cares, iFixit. You make it sound like anyone cares about repairability except you, which is false. No one cares. Your business must evolve to deal with the changing landscape, or you need to move on altogether. No one should be making products with user-repairability in mind. That is a total waste. I don't want devices that are crippled by that as a priority. 
    I take the opposite view. Repairability (the user part isn't a must) should be in the design of high priced electronics and be required by legislation if necessary.
    So let me get this straight -- you're saying the state of the art technology should not be legally allowed to evolve into new formats even smaller and more efficient, if it prevents guys in the back room from being able to work on them? We should halt all technology progress beyond this arbitrary limit, just because? 

    I find this very odd. It's like protecting buggy whip makers. 

    If devices get small and cheaper and reach a point where replacing costs fewer resources than repairing -- let's say everything were integrated into a single chip, which nobody can repair -- that seems to be completely natural. Producing this hypothetical chip would get cheaper over time and require less resources than producing multiple chips and modules. Efficiency is a good thing.
    iPhone is easily best in class design.

    Reliability far outweighs repairability in iPhone design, as it should for any personal consumer product.
    Metriacanthosauruswatto_cobra
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