The iPhone 5 asymmetric screw? Just a viral hoax

Remember a vague rumor from last week which had some people concerned that Apple might employ a special tamper-resistant design for iPhone 5 screws? Turns out the report was a false alarm, an elaborate hoax by a Swedish design shop which wanted to highlight how Apple rumors propagate across the blogosphere.

Day4, the design company, revealed this in a blog post titled “How we screwed (almost) the whole Apple community”, explaining that the team had decided to design a rendering of the non-existent screw and publish it through a throwaway Reddit account in order to see if the story would gain any traction…

And boy did it blow up.

iDB and a number of other blogs picked up the story, though we and many other news outlets questioned the veracity of the rumor.

Lukasz Lindell of Day4 explains:

Have you heard the phrase ”That’s true because I saw it on TV” at some point? It was often the truth in the old days when people only had the TV or newspaper to relate to. What you saw or read was the truth, although it obviously wasn’t always so.

This gave Day4 an idea for the ‘special’ iPhone 5 screw hoax.

One afternoon we sketched out a screw in our 3D program, a very strange screw where the head was neither a star, tracks, pentalobe or whatever, but a unique form, also very impractical.

We rendered the image, put it in an email, sent it to ourselves, took a picture of the screen with the mail and anonymously uploaded the image to the forum Reddit with the text ”A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws ”.

I spoke to iFixit’s Kyle Wiens last week and he immediately questioned the authenticity of the story:

My gut feel is that this isn’t from Apple. The threads are unrealistic, and I suspect that a head like that is too complex to use as a tool head. Existing tool designs tend to be simple because the head needs to withstand a fair amount of torque.

iFixit previously criticized Apple for switching to Pentalobular screws for the iPhone 4. Though a Pentalobular screw is similar to Torx, it has five points instead of six and the points have a rounder shape, prompting iFixit to call these “Evil Proprietary Tamper Proof Five Point Screw”.

There would be little point in developing an asymmetric screw, Wiens told me via email:

If this is an Apple design, it looks like it would be expensive to manufacture. Apple uses tiny screws, and that’s a lot of complexity.

One other thought: why do that instead of a one-way screw?

Let’s pretend for a moment that the story was real.

What would Apple gain by tapping a special screw design for which there was supposedly no tool available?

If this were an Apple design, it would be concerning. Service technicians of all kinds need access to hardware. We regularly sell pentalobe screwdrivers to forensic investigators who depend on our tools for important investigations.

Recyclers all over the world to dismantle products, and Apple has historically relied on the open market (third parties like us) to supply their recyclers with the tools they need to recycle Apple products.

Guys, that’s why they call these stories rumors.

Good thing that was just a hoax, but it wouldn’t have surprised me one bit if the story had been true.

Did you fall for it (Wired did)?