Good news, though: Galaxy S21 changes on the inside may win it some favor with repair shops and DIY users. Tech channel PBKreviews just gave the Galaxy S21 a surprisingly favorable score for repairability.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 teardown proved rather quick and pain-free. The back panel came off in one piece (nothing broke) with a pry tool after applying heat, and many of the components inside were as simple to take apart as removing a few screws and disconnecting a flexible ribbon cable here and there.
With the backplate removed there are just 22 Philips screws holding most things in place – that's right, nothing overly exotic to unscrew. Even removing the backplate you could use a hair dryer rather than a dedicated heating device, according to PBKreviews.
Many of the internal components come off as a single unit, making it simpler to replace them on an individual basis. PBKreviews explained the process of removing the display but didn't go through it in the video, so we'll have to wait for some other teardowns to see if its sturdy enough to for easy disassembly.
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From one teardown to another
It's hard to make a direct comparison to the reparability of other devices as PBKreviews hasn't included numeric rating on all of its reviews. It offered a 7.5/10 repairability for the Galaxy S21. Watching the disassembly of the similar Galaxy S20 FE, it seemed the prior phone was simpler to take apart in some regard (especially the camera modules), but there was no explicit score to compare.
Though too much weight shouldn't be put into comparing scores from different sources on different devices, the Galaxy S20 Ultra only earned a score of 3/10 from iFixit for repairability. So, perhaps Samsung is making a better effort to design repairable devices and cut down on products going into landfills, an eco-friendly effort that would line up with its exclusion of a charging brick with the phones.
Not everything was so simple to disassemble, though. Of note were the front-facing camera, under-display fingerprint reader, and the battery – all of which were attached or glued into place.
Still, simplified repairability is a positive thing to see on a smartphone that's likely to find its way into many pockets this year.