Despite the bad rep it often gets about its strict control over smartphone parts and repairs, Apple’s flagship iPhones from the past five years are actually more repairable than those offered by its biggest rival — Samsung.
That is according to smartphone repairability scores awarded by major US third-party electronics repair shop iFixit.
iFixit is among several businesses and individuals that support the right-to-repair movement, which is advocating for consumers to have the right to freely modify and repair their products.
It seeks to have companies make their products more sustainable and easier to fix.
The movement is particularly focused on electronics, which can have very complex assemblies and sensitive components that make them challenging to open up and repair without causing further damage.
For several years, iFixit has been calculating repairability scores for popular smartphones to help people decide which devices are best if they want an easy repair experience.
It rates the repairability of a smartphone from zero (unrepairable) to 10 (easiest to repair), based on teardowns by its engineers.
iFixit’s measurement of repairability is comprehensive and includes numerous elements of the smartphone’s repair manual, availability of spare parts, and its design.
Apple vs Samsung
We compared how the top two smartphone brands in South Africa — Apple and Samsung — stack up in terms of repairability.
We focused specifically on the flagship segment, as the prices of smartphones in this category mean repairing them often makes sense.
Apple’s worst-rated smartphones in terms of repairability carry a score of 4/10.
While that might seem like a terrible score, it is worthwhile to note it is equal to the maximum 4/10 for Samsung’s Galaxy S-series flagships.
Apple’s iPhones more regularly achieve a 6/10 repairability score, while most of Samsung’s flagship smartphones have scores of 3/10.
iFixit considers scores of 5 or above as “respectable”, while 4 means “maybe you can still fix it, but it’s tougher than it needs to be”.
According to iFixit, the primary issue with Galaxy S-series repairability is the battery being very firmly glued and requiring extensive disassembly to service.
With the latest Apple flagship — the iPhone 15 series — iFixit praised the priority given to easy screen repairs and access to other parts through the back glass.
It also said the screws and clips aided in reassembly, with or without the replacement of adhesives.
The table below compares the repairability scores of various flagship smartphones released by Apple and Samsung between 2019 and 2023.
|Apple vs Samsung flagship repairability
|iFixit repairability score out of 10
|iPhone SE 2020
|iPhone 11 Pro Max
|iPhone 12 Mini
|iPhone 12 Pro
|iPhone 12 Pro Max
|iPhone 13 Pro
|iPhone 14 Plus
|iPhone 14 Pro
|iPhone 14 Pro Max
|iPhone 15 Plus
|iPhone 15 Pro
|iPhone 15 Pro Max
|Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G
|Galaxy S20 Ultra
|Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
|Galaxy S22 Ultra
|Galaxy S23 Ultra
One important caveat with Apple’s devices, which applies specifically to scores for the iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 series — is Apple’s parts pairing policy.
The manufacturer uses software to identify when a part connected to an iPhone is not a “genuine” Apple part.
This results in deterrent messaging on the device, which can irritate the user.
After discovering this parts pairing hiccup, iFixit downgraded the scores of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus from 6 to 4.
iFixit’s scores for the iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max, and the entire iPhone 15 series are also provisional because it is yet to determine if Apple applies this policy to these models.
Even so, a score of 4/10 is still more than the typical 3/10 of most Galaxy flagships.
If you are looking for the most easily repairable smartphone and are not bothered about premium specifications, then neither Apple nor Samsung should be your chosen brand.
According to iFixit, the most repairable recent smartphone on the market is the Fairphone 4 — with a score of 10/10.
While its specifications put it squarely in the mid-range, the smartphone has also received high praise from prominent tech YouTubers JerryRigEverything and Louis Rossman for its repairability.
All the major parts of the phone — including the battery, display, cameras, earpiece, loudspeaker, and USB-C port — are user-replaceable.
Unlike other smartphones, this requires no specialist tools either, with only a Phillips #00 screwdriver necessary to remove the screws. This tool is included in the package.
Unfortunately, Fairphone’s devices are not officially available in South Africa, although you might be able to buy one from a specialist importer.
Other phones with “respectable” repairability scores from the past five years include the Shift 6m (9/10), Nokia G22 (8/10), Google Pixel 6 (6/10), Google Pixel 5a (6/10), and Google Pixel 5 (6/10).
Unfortunately, none of these models are available in South Africa.