Android Influencers: iFixit founders Kyle ens ke Soules

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 24 Jul 2014

ere’s the first place you go when you break a gadget? Hopefully it’s iFixit.

Kyle ens ke Soules are lifesavers. Their site has become an indispensable resource since its launch in 2003 , helping tech lovers around the world fix their phones or computers, without having to trudge down to the local Geek Squad kiosk or Genius Bar for help. iFixit is also well known for its device teardowns, which have become an essential part of every major device launch.

The site has grown exponentially for the last year or so, with new guides that have nothing to do with smartphones tablets, the founders are hoping its community will help take the site to the next level. I talked with ens Soules about the beginnings of iFixit, where it’s headed, why Android smartphones can be some of the most challenging mobile devices to take apart.

: I know you guys started out at Cal ly. Can you tell me a bit about the day you ke decided to start iFixit? Did you have the same objectives back then that you do now? How have things evolved?

ens: started our first year in college, we were trying to find a way to earn enough money to buy a projector. were originally just selling parts for Apple werBooks, but gradually exped until we had parts manuals for tons of gizmos. at we learned along the way is that Apple isn’t the only manufacturer that makes things hard to fix—it’s a plague in the mobile devices industry. Some companies, like Dell novo are making great hardware. But others are following Apple’s lead making things hard to fix.

: The site has grown exponentially through the years. Any ideas for where the site might go from here? Any hints you can drop about what you might be considering for the future of iFixit?

ens: The future is up to our community! st like kipedia, people around here decide what to put on iFixit next. But we’re putting a big emphasis on Android. just passed 500 phone repair manuals! That’s tens of thouss of photos, a huge resource aimed at making phone repair so easy that anyone can do it.

’re exping iFixit internationally, too. recently added German, French, Italian, Spanish support. ’re well underway with support for Chinese, Dutch, Russian. And more all the time!

’re also doing some non-electronics repairs, like the sewing tutorials that tagonia helped us out with some awesome community-driven Mercedes repair guides.

The biggest change for iFixit from the Android community’s perspective is our new Android app (other apps exist, too). You can take photos make a repair guide entirely from inside the app. So if you’re working on your car, take some photos as you go to remind yourself how to reassemble things. You can even use voice dictation to add descriptions to the process. It’s made it so much faster easier to write repair guides.

: How can Android users, who are “fixers” themselves, help contribute to the iFixit community?

ens: iFixit is generated by the community! So if you have something you know how to fix, pitch in help make our guides better. There’s an edit button on every step you can add your own photos. You can even add guides for things (Android or not) that we don’t have yet.

’d love to get some more general purpose household repair guides to cover everything from drywall to plumbing to adding a stereo to your car. ’re also adding some general purpose skill tutorials so you can upgrade yourself learn how to sew or solder. 

: at’s one thing you haven’t torn apart that you really want to? It can be a device, or whatever you’d love to just take a part study.

ke Soules: Space shuttle. I hear there’s one in now. Maybe the museum will let me borrow it! ’re looking forward to Amazon’s Fire phone. It’s not very often that we get to see the first phone from a company, it usually reveals a lot about their design perspective. like to see fresh ideas rather than just the same old stuff.

ens: I’d love to get inside the Model S. The engineering on that is just phenomenal, I’m interested in how they make the batteries safe. I think Tesla has a huge lead on the rest of the automotive industry because they were able to start with a clean slate.

I’m interested in products from other industries, from Rolex watches to kitchen appliances. Design for repair is a philosophy that applies to every product, the repairability design practices in many industries are much more sophisticated than we see in the electronics industry.

I think it’s easy to give product designers a pass say “It’s ok that you glued your smartwatch together because it had to be thin.” ll, watches have always had to be thin! I’d argue that it’s much harder to make a completely mechanical, accurate mechanical watch that fits on your wrist repels water than it is to make a solid state D, battery, circuit board fit. If Rolex has figured out how to make elegant, repairable watches then why can’t Motorola or Apple?  have a couple centuries of evidence proving that it’s possible to make repairable wearables.

: Are any of you using Android phones? If so, which one?

ens:  actually both still have ione 4S’s that just won’t die. ke swapped out the headphone jack on his the other day. But my next phone will be an Android. I really want a Fairphone, but the current version doesn’t work in the . ’ve got a lot of Androids around the office: lots of Nexus 4s 5s, a Galaxy S3, a Moto X, a Note II. don’t have any HTC Ones in the office because I banned them.

Devices with repairability scores of one aren’t allowed at iFixit. HTC’s integrated battery is planned obsolescence, pure simple. Consumers should be aware of what they’re getting up front. I’m not sure how compatible closed together hardware is with an open ecosystem.

: at was the first Android phone you took apart?

ens:  have a community manual for the G1, but the first Android that we took apart was the Nexus One.

: at was the hardest Android device to ever take apart?

ens: The HTC One its newer sibling, the M8, are two of the most challenging phones we’ve been faced with. It’s somewhere between very, very difficult impossible to open the device without damaging the rear case. This makes accessing any component inside extremely difficult to replace. us, once you get inside the battery is buried beneath the motherboard adhered to the midframe, there’s copper shielding on many components that’s difficult to remove replace. The One earned a ignominious score of one (out of ten) for repairability, the M8 was scarcely better with a two.

: Do you think that Android devices ( the many OEMs that make them) are easier or harder to fix than iOS devices?

ens: There’s a good spectrum. On the phone side, there are Androids that are a lot worse (I’m looking at you, HTC Motorola), there are phones that are better (Samsung Blackberry). On the tablet side, Androids are universally better than ids. The only tablet we’ve seen that’s more difficult to take apart than an id Air is the Surface o.

The biggest challenge with Android repair is the number of products out there. There are over a thous Android phone models! And we need a repair guide for every model. No one out there can do that on their own—but together, it’s certainly something that we could make a big dent in.