The Pentalobe screws saga: How Apple locked up your iPhone 4

Thanks to Pentalobe screws, you'll need a special tool to open up new iPhone 4 models – but what the heck are Pentalobe screws?

Pentalobe screws now hold together the Apple iPhone 4, according to one popular tech site. At left, a screwdriver of the non-pentalobe variety.

According to the tech site iFixit, Apple is using something called pentalobe screws to hold together new iPhone 4 units, as opposed to the tiny Phillips-head screws that originally shipped with the iPhone 4. Which effectively means that it is now very difficult for a would-be MacGyver to crack open his iPhone 4 like an Atlantic lobster and take a gander inside.

Tamper-resistance is usually "designed for protecting company profits," points out Brian X. Chen of Wired. "In the case of software, Sony, for example, baked extra-strict security into the PlayStation 3’s operating system, which hackers recently infiltrated to install pirated software on the console. In a lawsuit, Sony asked a court to remove all traces of the PS3 hack from the internet, claiming it violated copyright law and would eat into PS3 game sales."

Meanwhile, when "it comes to odd screws keeping you out of hardware," Chen concludes, "it’s most likely to get you to buy new stuff sooner." True. Faced with a screw they've never even seen before – and may not be able to pronounce – plenty of iPhone users are likely to fork over the extra cash for a new iPhone, rather than scour Amazon for a pentalobe screwdriver in order to fix the thing themselves.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that there are only a few reasons why an iPhone 4 users would want to get inside the device in the first place – to install some sort of mod, maybe, or to attempt an amateur repair job. In which case the pentalobe screws will be a hurdle, but nothing you can't hop with a little bit of pocket change and some persistence.

Among the best options: Buy a ten dollar "liberation kit" from iFixit. The screwdriver included in the kit is "not a true Pentalobe driver – the tip is more star shaped than 'flowery,' so there may be some slight play in the fit when using," the iFixit team notes. "This screwdriver gets the job done, but we don’t recommend it for repeated use. It’s really just a hack to get the screws out and then replace them with standard screws."

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