iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: 5 Surprises Found Inside
Apple fans have finally gotten the chance to get their hands on the new iPhone models as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus began to go on sale at Apple Stores and select reseller locations around the world on Friday, September 19. While most iPhone buyers will carefully handle their new devices while they explore its hardware and software capabilities, there are also researchers who cannot wait to tear apart the new devices in order to learn about its internals. Repair firm iFixit is usually one of the first companies to publish a comprehensive teardown of Apple’s latest devices and this year was no different.
Although Apple will usually reveal most technical specifications and measurements for its devices before they are released to the public, the company is notoriously secretive about where it sources its parts, as well as certain technical specifications, such as the capacity of the battery. For this reason, teardowns of Apple’s products tend to reveal a lot of previously unknown information about the devices.
Considering that this year Apple has not one, but two completely new iPhone models on the market, it came as no surprise that the teardown performed by iFixit revealed plenty on new information about the largest and thinnest iPhone models that Apple has ever created. Here are five surprising details uncovered in the recent teardowns of Apple’s newest iPhones.
1. Battery sizes
While Apple is happy to talk about how long the new iPhone models’ batteries are expected to last while performing various tasks, the company has traditionally declined to specify battery sizes. For this reason, battery capacities are usually one of the most anticipated technical specifications that are revealed when researchers obtain Apple’s latest devices.
IFixit’s teardown of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus revealed that the device uses a surprisingly large 2,915 mAh battery that is rated at 3.82 V and 11.1 Wh of energy. Early rumors about the iPhone 6 Plus suggested that it would be equipped with just a 2,500 mAh battery. As noted by iFixit, this means that the iPhone 6 Plus has a battery that is nearly double the capacity of the 1,560 mAh unit found in the 4-inch iPhone 5S, or slightly larger than the 2,800 mAh battery used in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S5.
On the other hand, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 relies on a 1,810 mAh capacity battery rated at 3.82 V — considerably smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus battery, but still an upgrade from the iPhone 5S. As noted by iFixit, the significant difference in battery sizes explains why the iPhone 6 Plus has a much longer battery life than the iPhone 6, despite its larger screen size. Apple claimed that the iPhone 6 lasts for up to fourteen hours of talk time on 3G, while the iPhone 6 Plus lasts for up to twenty-four hours of talk time on 3G.
Interestingly, the iPhone 6 battery is labeled with conflicting energy rating information, according to iFixit. The front of the battery is labeled with an energy rating of 6.91 Wh, while the back noted a rating of 7.01 Wh. IFixit researchers speculated that engineers may have relabeled the battery after discovering a higher energy rating.
Finally, it should be noted that while battery capacity is important information to know, a larger battery size it doesn’t necessarily equal a longer battery life. Intelligent power management software and improvements in processor efficiency can enable smartphones with smaller battery sizes to achieve longer usage times than devices with larger batteries.
2. Improved repairability
While Apple’s iPhone is widely considered to be one of the leaders in the high-end smartphone market, the company’s devices also have a reputation for being notoriously difficult to repair. From the use of proprietary screws, to a non-removable battery design, Apple’s iPhones make it difficult for users to repair their devices without professional help.
However, the researchers at iFixit noted that Apple’s latest iPhone models include several surprising design changes that appear to be geared toward improving the devices’ overall repairability. While Apple’s new devices still do not feature batteries that most consumers will be able to easily replace themselves, iFixit researchers praised the inclusion of pull tabs that make the battery removal much easier for repair technicians. Apple also extended and rerouted the home button cable so it is less prone to tearing when the device is opened. Finally, Apple maintained the display assembly design that allows it to be easily removed for replacement.
Thanks to Apple’s surprising repair-friendly design changes, the researchers at iFixit gave both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus a seven out of ten repairability score. In contrast, last year’s iPhone 5S received a six out of ten score.
3. Apple shakes off Samsung for A8 chip fabrication
Besides being Apple’s biggest competitor in the worldwide smartphone market, Samsung has also been repeatedly sued by the Cupertino-based company for copying its products. However, despite this outward animosity, Samsung has also long been the sole provider of the A-series chips that power Apple’s mobile devices. Over the past several years, multiple rumors have circulated about Apple shifting chip production to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in order to reduce its reliance on Samsung. However, each year those persistent rumors have been proven false when iPhone teardowns reveal that the A-series processors are still being supplied by Samsung.
So it was a surprise when researchers at Chipworks via iFixit confirmed that Apple has finally ditched Samsung in favor of TSMC for the fabrication of its latest A8 processor. The A8 chip was made by TSMC using the company’s 20-nanometer fabrication process. According to Apple, the A8 processor is “up to 50 percent more energy efficiency than the A7 chip.” Interestingly, Apple has eliminated its reliance on Samsung for its A-series chips just as the iPhone maker has entered the phablet segment of the smartphone market that was pioneered by the Korea-based company.
4. New iPhone parts makers: winners and losers
While the replacement of Samsung with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company for the fabrication of the A8 may be the biggest story about the internals of the new iPhone models, there were also several other surprising winners and losers. While previous component leaks suggested that NXP Semiconductors would provide the Near Field Communications (NFC) chip for the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, Chipworks identified two separate parts made by company in the new devices. Besides providing the NFC controller as expected, NXP Semiconductors also supplied an NXP LPC18B1UK ARM Cortex-M3 Microcontroller, more commonly known as the M8 motion coprocessor, reports iFixit. Many of Apple’s regular component suppliers also reappeared in this year’s devices, including Avago, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Skyworks Solutions, and several others.
On the other hand, the teardown also revealed that some of Apple’s longtime suppliers were ditched in favor of competitors. STMicroelectronics , the company that traditionally supplies the accelerometer and gyroscope for Apple’s iPhones, saw its spot usurped by InvenSense in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, noted Chipworks.
5. New vibrator assembly design
While perhaps not as exciting as the appearance of new suppliers or an improved battery capacity, researchers at iFixit were also surprised to find that the vibrator assembly has been redesigned and relocated in both new iPhone models. While this part was presumably changed in order to accommodate the new devices’ slimmer profiles, the researchers noted that Apple regularly rotates among different vibrator assembly designs for reasons that are not entirely clear.
For example, the iPhone 4 used a counterweight design, the iPhone 4S used a linear oscillating design, and the iPhone 5/5S returned to a counterweight design. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus appear to have once again switched back to a linear oscillating design. Regardless of the reasons behind the change, the new vibrator assembly appears to quite powerful. Several reviews of the device, such as this one from John Gruber, have noted that the new devices seem to have much stronger vibrations than previous models.
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