HTC One 'Impossible To Repair' Says iFixit

HTC did such an incredible job piecing the One smartphone together that it is practically unrepairable, teardown outfit concludes.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

March 29, 2013

3 Min Read

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Do-it-yourselfers take note: You're probably not going to be able to fix the HTC One on your own, no matter how skilled you may be. This is the conclusion reached by iFixit, which tore down the HTC One only to find its seamless construction makes it incredibly difficult to pull apart without causing damage.

One of HTC's goals in designing and manufacturing the One was to create a seamless case with no screws or other assembly elements present. It succeeded. The One is made from milled aluminum (something that has delayed the One's launch), plastic and glass, all of which are assembled tightly. HTC called the process "zero-gap construction." It was able to inject plastic in between the metallic surfaces in such a way as to be sure there were no gaps between the two materials in the final product.

A heat gun is the first weapon needed to beat the zero-gap construction. iFixit said the heat gun can soften up the materials holding the display in place, and that a suction cup can help dislodge the display assembly from the body. That's the easy part. After that, everything is pretty tough.

[ HTC has high hopes for its new smartphone -- and for good reason. See HTC One Can Compete With Apple, Samsung. ]

"While the display can be lifted, it can't be removed without first disconnecting the display ribbon cables, which are routed underneath the case assembly," said Miroslav Djuric, iFixit's chief information architect. Once the display is removed, the next step is to pull out the motherboard assembly, which is attached to the rear shell of the One. IFixit calls this an "arduous and daunting task."

"It took us over half an hour to separate the rear aluminum case from the functional components of the phone. Worse yet, our diligent spudgering [prying] appears to have permanently mangled the plastic bezel surrounding the aluminum case. It's possible that prying at a snail's pace while applying heat could minimize this damage, but we're not too hopeful. This phone was not made with openability in mind."

Fewer and fewer phones can be opened these days. The Apple iPhone is among the most notable devices to have a secure enclosure, but many other manufacturers have followed suit. HTC (One, 8X) and Nokia (Lumia 920, 900, 800) are perhaps the two most well-known OEMs to field devices with unremovable batteries, for example. Samsung and BlackBerry have taken the opposite approach with their handsets, and almost always offer devices that can be opened.

Once the motherboard assembly is pried loose, other components can be accessed, though not easily. For example, the battery is glued to the device's mid-frame, and the camera module can't be touched until nearly every other component is first removed.

Given the difficulty of pulling the One apart to begin with, and the high possibility of damaging its parts in the process, iFixit scored the One with a repairability of 1 out of 10. The HTC One is the first cellphone to receive such a low repairability rating.

By way of comparison, iFixit recently tore down the BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry's new smartphone earned one of the highest repairability ratings, an 8 out of 10.

About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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