Skip to main content

Trigger-happy Apple is going overboard with the glue gun

It's said that just about anything that's broken can be fixed with one of two things. If something moves when it shouldn't, you need duct tape to hold it in place. If it doesn't move when it should, lubricant is what you need. Apple, it seems, has a different approach. Forget screws and clips; these days Apple tech is just held together with glue.

And we’re not talking about just a bit of glue - we're talking tons of the stuff. Gallons of adhesive pumped into laptops, tablets and phones, holding everything in place and - ultimately - making things incredibly awkward to repair. Anyone would think the company had shares in a chain of abattoirs that shipped off horse carcasses to be boiled down into glue. Take the new MacBook Retina for example which featured recently in an iFixit teardown.

It's a device that has created some interest, and a teardown was all but inevitable. Let's cut to the chase: Apple does not build its devices with reparability in mind. In fact, iFixit gave the 2015 MacBook a rating of just one out of 10. Ripping into the guts of a MacBook is an entirely different ballgame to get elbow-deep into the entrails of a non-Apple laptop. It used to be that if you delved into your portable's innards, you'd end up surrounded by a sea of screws. Not so much these days.

Unlike many laptop manufacturers, Apple goes to some lengths to discourage user tinkering. If you want something fixed, you're not meant to tackle it yourself, or even seek help from a friend or non-authorised repair shop. These devices are Apple's babies and if something goes wrong, they need to return to the womb rather than going under the knife of an untrained surgeon.

Using tamperproof screws is one way to discourage people from venturing into their MacBooks, and these are employed here. As, it turns out, so are weird assembly/disassembly features that mean it's very, very easy to break something if you do get inside. Remove things in the wrong order, or twist something half a degree too far, and it's time to wave bye bye to your beloved device. But when weird clips and screws are not used, Apple turns to glue.

This is true for the battery. If something goes wrong with your battery, Apple has made it all but impossible to get to the power pack, and even when it is exposed, it is held in place with industrial adhesive. It's one thing to discourage home-meddling, but iFixit shows that Apple seems to be making life difficult for itself. You'd just better hope the battery holds out until you decide to upgrade your MacBook.

Glue holds cables in place, chips where they should be, and covers over whatever they're meant to be protecting. The back of the keyboard is held together with glue for good measure. Glue is cheap, and it's easy to see why it is splashed about so liberally, but it also presents problems. Whether it's done by a MacBook owner or an Apple technician, removing a component held in place with glue greatly increases the risk of damage to it and other nearby electronics.

Glued components are often subjected to torque during removal along with contact with scraping implements, but the alternative - heating up the glue so it melts - is equally worrying. That said, glue is not the only problem. iFixit notes: " The processor, RAM, and flash memory are soldered to the logic board."

And then there's the display. This is a completely sealed unit. If somethings goes wrong here, there really is little scope for replacing a damaged component - it's pretty much a case of replacing the whole thing.

Does the use of glue help to keep costs down? Probably. Does it help to minimise weight? Quite likely. Does it make things really bloody awkward to repair? You betchya!

Photo credit: Katrina Leigh / Shutterstock