Apple iPhone 4S Teardown: Old design, new hardware

Bill Detwiler cracks open the Apple iPhone 4S and finds a design nearly identical to that of the iPhone 4, but also significant hardware updates.

In October 2011, Apple released the iPhone 4S. Although its exterior and interior design are nearly identical to that of the iPhone 4 (released in June 2010), the iPhone 4S packs a lot of new hardware.

The iPhone 4S is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models. It comes in black or white. In the U.S., the iPhone 4S is available from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. When purchased with a two-year contract, a 16GB model costs $199, the 32GB model costs $299, and the 64GB model costs $399. I bought AT&T's version of the white, 16GB iPhone 4S (sans contract) from a local Best Buy Mobile location for $699.99 (plus tax).

Our the Apple iPhone 4S has an Apple A5 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of DDR2 RAM, 16GB of storage, 8MP rear-facing camera, VGA-quality front-facing camera, and 3.5" Retina display (960x640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi). It measures 4.5" (H) x 2.31" (W) x 0.37" (D) and weighs 4.9 ounces (0.1 ounces heavier than the iPhone 4).

We've published teardown galleries of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3G S, iPhone 3G, and original iPhone. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the 2011 model.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Apple iPhone 4S

Cracking Open observations

  • Different battery: The iPhone 4S has a 3.7V, 5.3Whr Li-ion Polymer battery, which has a different connector than the iPhone 4's 3.7V, 5.25Whr battery.
  • Tamper-resistant pentalobe screws: Like Verizon's version of the iPhone 4 and the latest MacBook Airs, the iPhone 4S has two pentalobe screws along its bottom edge. You'll need a special screwdriver to remove them.
  • iPhone 4 design (take two): The iPhone 4S' internal hardware layout is nearly identical to that of the iPhone 4. Their PCBs are roughly the same size and shape, as are the batteries, speakers, display/touchscreen assemblies, buttons, and dock connectors. Unfortunately, there are few, if any, interchangeable components. For example, the batteries have different connectors, and the speakers have different wires attached.
  • A5 processor: The 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor (with 512MB RAM) is a step up from the iPhone 4's A4 chip. From their markings, both chips appear to have been manufactured by Samsung. According to Apple, the new processor provides "two times more power and up to seven times faster graphics" than the old chip.
  • Twin antennas: The iPhone 4S has two cellular antennas. According to Apple, the phone will automatically switch between the two antennas to achieve the best possible call quality.
  • World phone capability: Depending on which carrier you choose, the iPhone 4S can support the following cellular bands:
    • UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)
    • GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
    • CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)
  • More storage: The least-expensive iPhone 4S has 16GB of storage. The least-expensive iPhone 4 has 8GB.
  • Better camera: The iPhone 4S has an 8MP rear-facing camera, compared to the iPhone 4's 5MP camera. The iPhone 4S can also record video in 1080p HD at 30 fps.

Internal hardware

To avoid damaging our test device, I decided against de-soldering the EMI shield which covers the RAM. Luckily, our friends over at iFixit did, and we have a fully hardware list thanks to their effort.

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.


Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...


This article hasn't mentioned too much about the camera. I'm a big fan. It's a big step up from the camera on the iPhone 4. It certainly produces professional pictures, and is one of the areas that Apple have made great strides in. The accessories you can get for it are amazing too. The Olloclip is genius.


The MDM6610, like the MDM6600 in the iPhone 4, is capable of using EVDO Rev. B networks in addition to Rev. A. The upgrade to Rev. B would allow 14.7 mbps download rates on CDMA networks using a tri-carrier Rev. B setup. So far, only a few cell networks in Pakistan, India, China, and Indonesia have upgraded to Rev. B, but Sprint and/or Verizon could easily upgrade their networks here. The transceiver used, RTR8605, is different from the iPhone 4. This new one is also used in the HTC Thunderbolt, and has SVDO (simultaneous voice & EVDO data) capabilities since it is a multi-transceiver. This means that on Sprint or Verizon with an iPhone 4s, you can use 3G data while talking on the phone, which isn't possible with the iPhone 4 on CDMA systems.


I was expected to have 4G LTE (at least with Verizon) on this one ... it is 2011, Apple! My almost 1 years old HTC Thunderbolt is not perfect and it is boring to wait for the long time promised Gingerbread update, but I would never ever trade an old 4G LTE device for a new 3G one ... of course it is a personal opinion.


The two key technical questions I have regarding the 4s go beyond mere anatomy revealed by the tear-down and into its actual physiology: 1. Under "normal" usage how long does the battery hold its charge? 2. Have they fixed that inane design flaw in iPhone 4 whereby the metal case served as the antenna that shut down reception unless you held the phone "just right" or attached one of those ugly bumpers?


iPhone 4S is the iPhone 5. This was just marketing blow. And probably will exist iPhone 4GS before 5, like iPhone 3. What I can not understand yet is this model 4S ("for Ass"). Nobody from Apple saw it could become a joke?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler moderator

The iPhone 4S may look like the iPhone 4, but Apple's packed lots of new tech into the new phone (A5 processor, twin wireless antennas, more storage, better camera). Do these upgrades and the phone's support for Siri make the iPhone 4S a worthwhile purchase for existing iPhone 4 owners?

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