iFixit strips iPhone 4 down to bare metal

Has anything really changed?

The iFixit.com team has put the screwdrivers to Apple's new iPhone 4 and taken it apart. As usual, they haven't uncovered anything earth-shakingly new in the smartphone but the exercise in gadget voyeurism is, as always, pretty fascinating.

The phone is the first from Apple to feature stainless steel not only as the main internal body architecture but as a key ingredient in the phone's visible design. In fact, Apple went further: combining both internal architecture and external design by incorporating the phone's several antennas with the iPhone 4's distinctive steel sideband.

First look: Apple's new iPhone 4

You can find the full tear-down and lots of photographs of the step-by-step process online at iFixit.com. 

The main conclusions, apart from the fact that Apple has some very smart engineers and designers working together:

* Improved cellular connectivity: "The dual purpose stainless steel inner frame/antenna assembly addresses possibly the two biggest flaws concerning previous iterations of the iPhone: continuous dropped calls and lack of reception." IFixit also notes that Apple has "tuned the phone to utilize whichever network band is less congested or has the least interference for the best signal quality" instead of simply grabbing the strongest signal.

It will be interesting to see what impact this change has on users' perceptions of AT&T’s cellular network performance, and how much of the performance problem can be "blamed" on the iPhone itself.

* Sealed LCD-digitizer-glass panel unit: if the front glass breaks, apparently this entire unit will have to be replaced. The good news: the glass is Corning Gorilla Glass, chemically treated to be, according to Apple, 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic.

* A powerful new processor: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 core, built by Samsung, similar to that used in the iPad tablet. By comparison, the 3GS model has used the Samsung S5PC100 ARM A8 running at 600 MHz CPU.

* Double the RAM: iPhone 4 has 512MB, compared to the 3GS and iPad, both with 256MB.

* 3-axis gyroscope: the gyro will extend the range of the phone's motion controls, which can be exploited in variety of applications. iFixit concludes that the gyro is a so-far-unreleased new package built for Apple by ST Micro.

* Easy battery access: to reach the 3.7V, 1420 mAh Li-Polymer battery, remove the two silver Phillips screws at the bottom of the phone; there's no soldering, and the battery is "very easy to remove."

* Broadcom remains the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth supplier, with a model of the BCM4329 chip, integrating 802.11n Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate). Broadcom also supplies a version of its BCM4750 single-chip GPS chip, also used in the iPad.

Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwBlog RSS feed

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Tags smartphonesApplePhonesconsumer electronicsWireless & MobileApple iPhone 4

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John Cox

Network World
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