iFixIt tears down the Apple watch


1 Like

You can replace the band and the battery and they gave it a 5 out of 10?! I thought I was being generous giving it a 2.

That’s not really unusual, though, right? I mean, it’s a watch. There’s a trade-off between user-serviceability and size, and once you’re down to watch-size there’s pretty much no way to make it easily serviceable. Everything’s got to be tightly integrated or it won’t fit.


I thought they said screen, band, and battery. Did I miss something?
I figure those will be the most likely things to fail, so if they’re the ones that can be repaired, that’s a start, right?


There is a special place in Hell for the designers, and if possible should be some sort of tax on the products to disincentive them on the marketplace for the designs, that intentionally produce difficult-to-repair things.

Are you basing your comparison with some actual ultra-modular user upgradeable watch that exists, or the platonic ideal?

Even the infamous ‘terrorist Casio’ of the ‘platform for modifications’ reputation isn’t really supposed to be user-serviceable beyond strap and battery, as far as I know.

(I do prefer the Stainless Steel With Link Bracelet version myself, for that slightly more upscale retromodern look. And the price is right.)


I’d be the first to agree that their scoring system is a bit…ideosyncratic; but this seemed comparatively fair:

Screen came off without too much incident, which is important because those are pretty galling if scratched or cracked.

Battery was replaceable, and that’s the part that will, inevitably, die within a few years at most, so that’s good.

Not much else was; but everything else was some sort of BGA package on a lilliputan circuit board anway, so the difference between “we then popped the metal heat spreader off the S1 and you can see the chips below” and “the S1 is a blob of epoxy” are academic for anyone without access to sophisticated rework gear and the correct chips.

Their numerical scores are hopelessly subjective and vague; but my takeaway was 'screen, check. battery, check", and there really wasn’t anything else you’d expect to be able to replace.


Apple can definitely be nasty about their miniaturization, to the point where you have to start suspecting actual dickery, rather than mere desire for thinness(this is a really nice one: if you accidentally insert the 1.3mm screw in the hole where the 1.2mm screw should go, you damage the logic board enough to render the device inoperable…); but I’m not sure how any device at this scale is going to be terribly user-serviceable.

Even if we were looking at the dev-board version of this, laid out nice and flat without the constraints of the case, we’d pretty much have screen, battery, bunch of high-density BGA components. BGA rework isn’t impossible or anything; but it raises the bar substantially compared to mere surface mount, which is itself nastier than through-hole(which is meaner than wire wrap).

I’m definitely much further in the direction of “make it big, robust, and modular; and can I get that in black powdercoated steel?” than the market at large; but even in those environments some parts are black boxes.(A DIMM, say, is nice to be able to swap out, and I wouldn’t want it soldered down; but the chips on it or the traces within its PCB would be hell to rework).

1 Like

Yes, it’s not repairable, but look at the positive side; there’ll be a new one out by the time this one breaks.

1 Like

That’s an offense that deserves shooting after a quick court-martial staffed with pissed-off repairmen.

…are us two enough for a market niche? I love powder-coated steel!

BGAs suck. I hate hate HATE that form factor. Where attaching a wire to an unused pin would be a quick job with a microscope and a fine-tipped soldering iron, it becomes a risky torturous ordeal with hot air and expensive equipment. (“BGA. Got the balls?”)
I have some leftover GPS modules and they don’t have the 1-pps signal broken out. It is at the bottom of the BGA, inaccessible to me. I need that signal for some global-sync experiments…

(Todo: get some decommissioned BGA hardware with small chips (cellphone wrecks, perhaps?) and practice the hot air techniques…)

Thought… would a dental xray tube give good enough resolution to reconstruct the traces within multilayer circuitboards, if several exposures at different angles are used (essentially an xray tomography)?

1 Like

Kickstart it, just in case! (pun)


The killer is shipping costs. My current “Build a desk that (unlike so called ‘computer desks’ actually fits computers) from server racks and industrial shelving components” project is running into more ‘amazingly low price on Ebay, Local Pickup Only’ hits than anything I’ve tried prior…

As for BGAs, I can understand why they use them; but that doesn’t make them fun(double if they’ve been underfilled with some Epoxy of The Old Gods that is resistant to everything). For your GPS units, though, you might have luck with this technique, if they aren’t underfilled.

1 Like

I saw such deals for old electron microscopes. But they were all on the wrong continent…

Assuming the xray tomography works, could this be alleviated by microdrilling a hole through the board (avoiding severing the other traces), right into the ball we need? Then soldering in a wire by inserting and heating it?

Nice one. However, no permanent attachment. Little use if there’s no trace from that ball out. :frowning:
The xray tomography may be an alternative here.
…and thankyouverymuch, now I am in the microtomography rabbit hole. Here goes the evening!

Yep, pretty hard to repair for most people. OTOH, not many people can repair a traditional watch, either.


Many can’t even change the battery in a traditional watch.


Mechanical watches have been repairable since their invention, and they use hella fiddly little parts.

Really, it’s just a question of reassembling the components in the correct sequence…


Yeah screw TI for making those TTL chips which I can’t rewire.

1 Like

Yes, with electronics sold for their small size, there really are limits to how much the manufacturer can do to make sure the 1 in 50,000 of their customers who wants to can take it apart without breaking it.

1 Like

The world needs an opensource and cheap SEM/focused ion beam desktop device…

1 Like

Spin it as a recycling thing, mandate it. Problem solved.