Somewhere in America this morning, as thousands of Apple fans are waiting in line to buy an iPad, computer engineers from the San Luis Obispo company iFixit are taking one of the newly-acquired gadgets to a hotel room to suction off its glass screen and expose its secrets under bright photographic lights.
If the July 2009 debut of the Apple iPhone 3GS — for which iFixit co-owner Kyle Weins flew to London to be one of the first in line — is any indicator, then more than a million Apple enthusiasts will be following the iPad “teardown” in real time as iFixit posts commentary and photos to its Web site.
Where exactly Weins’ three teams have traveled is a secret, but they will say the destination is domestic, as the iPad is debuting in America. They’re racing against other companies to get it first.
Weins admits the event is promotional for iFixit, which he says has become one of the world’s biggest after-market Apple parts retailers and a trusted voice in the tech world. The 26-year-old Wiens and co-owner Luke Soules, 25, say that teardowns are part of their company’s larger mission to reduce electronic waste by showing that customers can take repairs into their own hands.
“Apple would prefer we didn’t exist,” Weins said.
IFixit actually got a head start Friday. IFixit techs discovered that the Federal Communications Commission had put some images of the iPad’s inner workings on its Web site. Parts like the computer chips had gray boxes put over them as a form of redacting, Weins said. But iFixit techs were able to remove the layering so Web viewers could see the chips.
IFixit takes apart, then rebuilds, Apple products and posts free, user-friendly repair manuals to its Web site. Apple is notoriously secretive about what goes into its products, making it difficult for amateurs to perform repairs as simple as replacing a battery.
IFixit has taught moms how to replace the batteries on their children’s iPods instead of sending them back to Apple, which, according to Weins, would recycle or refurbish the old device and send her a different one.
“Recycling is much less environmentally-friendly than reuse,” Weins said. “Let’s make something last four times longer, and then recycle it.”
Multiple attempts to reach Apple representatives — both at the San Luis Obispo store and corporate headquarters in Cupertino —were unsuccessful.
IFixit began in 2003 when Wiens and Soules, then Cal Poly freshmen, decided to sell computer parts online to buy a $900 projector for their dorm room.
Now they have 24 employees and offices in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero and generate more than $2 million in annual sales, Wiens said.
Apple’s iPad on sale and online today
Apple begins sales today of its latest device, the iPad, a tablet computer. It will operate using the touch-screen technology made popular in the iPhone. IPads have a starting price of $499. Apple has a company store at 899 Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo.
Technicians with the San Luis Obispo firm iFixit will conduct their teardown of an iPad this morning in a live streaming on the company’s Web site, www.iFixit.com. The teardown will begin sometime between 7 and 8 a.m.