The Cupertino, Calif.-based consumer electronics giant first used the design, called "pentalobe," in screws on its computers, said Kyle Wiens, chief executive of gadget repair site iFixIt.com.
Now, the company has begun switching out the screws on its latest iPhones, he said, forcing customers to find unusual screwdrivers in order to change a battery or tinker with the device's other parts.
"They don't want people fixing things," he said.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move is not uncommon for the consumer electronics giant, which is more controlling and restrictive than other gadget makers. The company was frequently chastised for not offering replaceable batteries for its iPod music player after its release nearly a decade ago.
Instead of bowing to criticism, however, Apple expanded the strategy, making it harder to access batteries and other parts of its iPhone and recently even its computers.
"They only want authorized centers to repair these devices," said Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu.
Wiens, of iFixIt.com, theorized the reason was more sinister than that, noting that making the battery harder to replace ties the life of the device to the life of the battery.
"The faster they can get someone to turn around and buy another phone, they'll make more money," he said.
A few screwdrivers for the new designs are already being sold on the Internet, including Wiens' site, with more likely to follow.
Apple shares closed down 1.8% at $326.72.
-By Ian Sherr, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6455; email@example.com
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 21, 2011 17:11 ET (22:11 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.- - 05 11 PM EST 01-21-11