Apple’s OS X increasingly resembles iOS. Now Macs are becoming like iPhones.

October 25, 2013

Ever since OS X Lion, Apple has gradually been importing features from its mobile operating system into the desktop environment. Lion brought an iOS-style full-screen mode and the Launchpad, an application launcher that works a lot like the iOS home screen. Lion also reversed the default scrolling behavior to match the way iOS devices work.

Then Mountain Lion introduced notifications, Game Center, deep integration with Twitter and a handful of other features that until then were only available on Apple's smartphones, tablets and iPods.

Clearly some convergence between PC and mobile device software is happening here. And the hardware seems to be converging too. The latest MacBook Pros have solid-state storage and retina displays, features pioneered by the iPhone. And Macs are beginning to resemble iPhones and iPads in another way too: it's getting harder and harder to take them apart and repair them.

In the PC world, hobbyists and DIY-ers routinely swap out hard drives, RAM, motherboards, CPUs, GPUs and all manner of other components. And that modular mentality still serves you well if you've got an older Mac Pro or a MacBook that comes apart.

But with newer machines, Apple has locked everything down tight. The folks at iFixit, who take it upon themselves to tear down most every new Mac, have proven it. In 2010, iFixit took apart the 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro, declaring it "no match" for its handy geeks. A year later, on Apple's new 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro, it took a little more effort. The folks at iFixit rated it a 7 out of 10 for repairability (10 means a monkey could do it). By 2012, the 15-inch MacBook Pro was still at a 7 out of 10, but the brand-new Retina Display-enabled 13-inch MacBook Pro earned a repairability score of 2. The 15-incher with Retina Display earned a score of 1.

iFixit called it the least repairable laptop — ever. Among its faults? The screen was so unfixable that even a minor problem inside it meant the whole display would need to be replaced. The RAM was soldered to the motherboard, meaning it couldn't be removed or upgraded. "Proprietary pentalobe screws prevent you from gaining access to anything inside," iFixit wrote.

It seems iFixit's repairability index may need some rejiggering, because now this laptop — the one Apple released this week — has won the title of least repairable ever.

Apple's PCs are increasingly like its phones — closed up, opaque, hard for the ordinary person to take apart and understand. It contributes to the notion that its products operate by magic. And though that might serve Apple's marketing department, for the user, the company's garden wall just grew a little taller.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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