Huawei does a lot of things right, but when it comes to product design, the Chinese giant is still trying to find a voice of its own.
Case in point, the newly released Huawei P9 sports a well thought-out metallic design, but the device features some undeniable similitudes to Apple’s iPhone 6S, especially on its bottom.
Depending on whom you ask, the fact that some phone makers draw inspiration from Apple’s creations isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a reason why the iPhone remains a bestseller, despite the end of its record growth streak. Others think that Huawei should know better.
Sometimes copying a design element hurts more than just sensibilities. Huawei chose to use pentalobe screws on the bottom of the P9, and the folks over at iFixit are not happy about it.
As the phone repair specialists put it, the problem with pentalobe screws is that they serve no purpose other than to make it harder for users to pry open their devices. That’s because you can’t unscrew a pentalobe with a regular Philips screwdriver.
In theory, that helps the manufacturer keep unauthorized repairs under control. But with the proliferation of the iPhone, every corner phone repair shop has pentalobe screwdrivers, making this “secure” screw pointless.
Besides making it harder for consumers to access their own devices, pentalobes strip easily, which can cause even more headaches in the long term.
Pentalobe (“five lobes”) screws were not invented by Apple, but the Cupertino company used to be alone among big electronics manufacturers in using the design. Starting with the iPhone 4, all Apple smartphones have featured exposed pentalobe screws on the sides of the charging port.
With the P9, Huawei is joining Apple in this dubious club. Here’s how iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens put it in a Wired op-ed:
“Huawei copied a really stupid idea, and did so for a really stupid reason: Because it looked right.”
Indeed, there’s no reason for Huawei to use pentalobe instead of regular Philips screws, other than to imitate the iPhone. Someone at the top of the company decided it was more important for the P8 to look trendy than to be user-friendly.
For sure, 98% of P9 buyers will not give a damn about the screws on the bottom of their phones. But this small issue is indicative of the larger issue of looks trumping function in the mobile industry. That’s why we have thin phones that can’t last a day on a battery charge, or sleek metallic designs that forego wireless charging.
If you’re interested in the overall reparability of the Huawei P9, the good news is the phone is fairly easy to fix, weird screws notwithstanding. iFixit gave it a score of 7 out of 10, the same score as the iPhone 6S.