by Al Sacco

The Best and Worst Smartphones for DIY Repairs

Sep 26, 20132 mins
Computers and PeripheralsMobileSmall and Medium Business

iFixit ranked the "repairability" of 28 of the most popular smartphones released during the past seven years. Atop the list of easy-to-repair handhelds: Motorola's DROID Bionic. The least repairable: the HTC One.

Modern smartphones aren’t exactly built to last. In fact, it often seems like some of them are purposefully delicate. Just look around you the next time you’re on the bus or the train, or when you’re waiting in line for coffee in the morning; you’ll likely see more than one cracked or damaged smartphone screen.

iFixit 2013 Smartphone Repairability Index

If you’re even a little handy with the T5 Torx screwdriver, or you’re willing to experiment a bit, you can often repair your own damaged smartphone—and save a bundle of cash that you would have spent on expensive repair services or a new phone.

But not all smartphones are created equally, and some are much more difficult to disassemble and repair. iFixit, a company that specializes in electronics “teardowns” to expose inner components and rate “repairability,” recently sent me its “2013 Smartphone Repairability Index,” which includes 28 popular devices released during the past seven years.

From iFixit:

“A device with a perfect score will be relatively inexpensive to repair, because it is easy to disassemble and has a service manual available. Points are docked based on the difficulty of opening the device, the types of fasteners found inside, and the complexity involved in replacing major components. Points are awarded for upgradability, use of non-proprietary tools for servicing, and component modularity.”

Here’s a list of the top five most repairable devices, along with their repairability ratings, according to iFixit:

  • Motorola DROID Bionic; 9
  • Motorola Atrix 4G; 9
  • Samsung Galaxy S4; 8
  • BlackBerry Z10; 8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II; 8

And a list of the five least repairable devices, along with their repairability ratings:

  • HTC One; 1
  • Apple iPhone (2007); 2
  • Motorola DROID RAZR; 4
  • Motorola DROID 4; 4
  • HTC Surround; 5

It’s interesting that Motorola makes some of the easiest to repair devices and the most difficult to repair gadgets, which suggests that the company used very different product designs.

Also, here’s a look at the repairability of the different iPhone models, starting with the most repairable version:

  • iPhone 5 (2012); 7
  • iPhone 3GS (2009); 7
  • iPhone 3G (2008); 7
  • iPhone 5C (2013); 6
  • iPhone 5S (2013); 6
  • iPhone 4S (2011); 6
  • iPhone 4 (2010); 6
  • iPhone (2007); 2

Also of note, BlackBerry’s latest full QWERTY device, the Q10, is not listed, and neither are any of Nokia’s Lumia devices. High repairability ratings also don’t appear to correlate with new devices; in other words, just because a device is newer, it’s not necessarily easier to disassemble and repair.

You can check out iFixit’s 2013 Smartphone Repairability Index on the company’s website.