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Samsung Galaxy S III teardown reveals easy-open case, difficult-to-fix display

Getting inside the Galaxy S III is easy, but Bill Detwiler shows you why replacing the front panel or display isn't.

With its beautiful display and stylish design, the Samsung Galaxy S III looks great on the outside. But, what about on the inside? And how does it compare to the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II. Let's crack it open and find out.

Our T-Mobile test unit had a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage (expandable via the microSD slot), a 4.8" HD Super AMOLED display (1280 x 720 resolution), an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera. It measures 5.38" (H) x 2.78" (W) x 0.34" (D) and weighs 4.7 ounces.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Samsung Galaxy S III (T-Mobile)

Cracking Open observations

Pros:

  • Easy-to-open case: On the plus side, its polycarbonate case is ridiculously easy to open. Thanks to its user-replaceable, NFC-capable battery, the back cover just pops off. And after removing a few Phillips screws, I detached the motherboard cover using just my fingers. The headphone jack and speaker assembly came out just as easily.
  • Easy-to-remove motherboard: Another positive is the motherboard's connector placement. Unlike the HTC One X, most of the S III's connectors are located on the side of the motherboard that faces the phone's back cover. This makes the board easy to remove and reinstall.

Unfortunately, while getting to the internal components is easy, replacing them may be a bit more complicated.

Cons:

  • Clustered components: Some components (such as the volume buttons, earpiece, and service light) appear to be joined together with a single ribbon cable. If you replace one, you'll need to replace them all.
  • Cables glued to internal frame: Most of the internal ribbon cables are glued to the internal frame. If you ever needed to replace the frame, it would very difficult to remove all the attached components without damaging them.
  • Fused front panel/display/frame: Why would you ever need to replace the frame? That question brings me to my biggest complaint about the phone's construction. The front panel, display, and frame are all sandwiched together and held in place with extremely strong adhesive. If you crack the display or front panel (which happens a lot), you'll likely need to replace the whole assembly or just get a new phone.

Bottom Line

As of this tapping, T-Mobile's version of the Samsung Galaxy S III is available for $279 (with a two-year contract and after a $50 rebate). And despite my complaints about repairability, the S III is a solid Android phone with top-shelf hardware and a highly-competitive price.

For more information on the phone's software, real-world performance, and battery life test results, check out Jessica Dolcourt's full CNET review.

Internal hardware

Our T-Mobile Galaxy S III test unit has the following hardware:

  • 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor (MSM8960)
  • Samsung K3PE0E000A-XGC2 16Gb LPDDR2 Mobile DRAM (2GB)
  • 16GB Samsung KLMAG4FE4B-B002 storage chip
  • 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED screen (1280 x 720 resolution)
  • 8MP rear-facing camera
  • 1.9MP front-facing camera
  • 3.8V, 2,100 mAh Li-Ion battery (EB-L1G6LLA)
  • Melfas touchscreen controller (8PL590 1207)
  • 236A 1213 1374
  • Qualcomm PM8921 power management IC (PM8921 AD2T708 F3214004)
  • Invensense MPU-6050 6-axis (gyro + accelerometer) MEMS MotionTracking device
  • Qualcomm RTR8600 multi-band/mode RF transceiver (RTR8600 AFM287.0 HA20400A)
  • Murata SWQ GAD48 package (possibly an RF antenna switch module)
  • FDMC510P -20V P-Channel PowerTrench MOSFET (F BC9AA FDMC 510P)
  • 4756E8 C315A9
  • CML0801 (possibly a CMOS IC)
  • TriQuint TQM7M5013 Quad-Band GSM / GPRS / EDGE-Linear Power Amplifier Module (TQM7M5013 1211 KORE AT4208)
  • Skyworks 77737 Power Amplifier Module for LTE Bands 12/17 (698-716 MHz) (77737-4 46187.1 1217 MX)
  • RF Micro Devices RF7241 3V WCDMA Band 1 Linear PA Module (7241 K41F)
  • RF Micro Devices RF7244 3V WCDMA Band 4 Linear PA Module (7244 EVVB)
  • RF Micro Devices RF7245 3V WCDMA Band 5 Linear PA Module (7245 K3TT)
  • NXP 65N30 39 17 NSD216
  • Silicon Image SiI9244 MHL Transmitter with HDMI Input (SIMG 9244B0 PGW653C 10K2218)
  • Audience eS305 audio processor (AUD 305B 00022 1141A)
  • 1894 CB216
  • Y218 13CM
  • Qualcomm WCD9310 (WCD9310 NBA78900 A204002 03)
  • Skyworks 77762 SkyHi PAM for WCDMA/HSDPA/HSUPA/HSPA+/LTE (77762-1 9755.1P 1217 MX)
  • N8BA C7P

About

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...

15 comments
Aditi Gupta
Aditi Gupta

I had given my S3 for repair at a Samsung Service Center. They claim to have changed the Motherboard of my phone. Is there any way I can find out if the Motherboard of my s3 has actually been changed?

Briandb82
Briandb82

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the most competitiv Smartphone comapred to teh apple iPhone and after it bets all records rumors about the Samsung Galaxy S4 are still there. As i read the S4 could release by 2013 beginning aound MArch this is what the Blog http://www.factitup.com/2012/08/21/samsung-galaxy-s4-fight-vs-iphone-5/ said and i'm so glad and excited to buy this technically innovation. The question will be if Samsung is able to release these kind of Smartphone or Tablets due to the faulty use of rights and not legal patent conflict with apple.

Shayd93
Shayd93

So the phone has LTE? Everyone including Samsung said T-mobile version doesn't have LTE in it but HSPA+ at most (Besides UMTS EDGE GSM)

ilovesards
ilovesards

GALAXY S3 IS QUAD CORE. i just upgraded today 23jun2012 my galaxy note 1.4dual core 2.3 gingerbread to 4.x .upgrade was ok. but phone becomes slow. before , eats only 300 to 500MB ram out of 800MB+. now it immediately eats 600 to 800MB making many hang ups. i think its not good to upgrade to this OS. i heard that s3 has 2GB RAM, so its fine with s3, not for others with less than 1GB RAM. everybody be careful. i hope i can reverse the upgrade(i did not back up also= so confident).

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

@wholeness I, too, bought a Samsung Galaxy S II Epic, and the thing was so sensitive I was afraid to even look at it for fear it would do something naughty. It's a phone that can't be carried in a pocket or a holster because the slightest pressure will run an app, or dial a number. I returned it and bought a BlackBerry Bold.

wholeness
wholeness

WARNING: Last cell phone I bought was a Samsung Galaxy, worst phone I've ever had because it pocket dials emergency with key lock on multiple times per month. Any of the following key sequences will dial emergency even with the key-lock on: 000, 110, 112, 118, 119, 911 (at least for provider Wind Mobile in Canada anyway)

sire_tim
sire_tim

"If you crack the display or front panel (which happens a lot), you???ll likely need to replace the whole assembly or just get a new phone" I don't mean to be picky, but what's your source for this being a regular occurance? I've the the SGS3 since the day it launched, as well as 20 individuals in the office with me, more than half of which are somewhat hard on their devices. Not a single cracked frame or screen among us. If you're referring to prior versions, there too I can't agree. My own SGS2 has fallen from second floor and survives to this day, a bit scratched but otherwise fine. We have around 108 users who have the same model and haven't had a single complaint about damage. SGS1, while it's been awhile, was used by almost 120 of our users between UK and France at the time. We had a total of three devices that needed repair, and the problem there was mainboard based. We've seen 0% screen and case cracks across the entire SGS range. If you were talking blackberry, then I would agree: at least 20% of our blackberries have had to be replaced due to screen damage.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

The T-Mobile version of the Galaxy S III has a Qualcomm MSM8960 SoC package (which contains an integrated LTE modem), a Qualcomm RTR8600 multi-band/mode RF transceiver (which supports DC-HSPA+, LTE, and EDGE), and a Skyworks 77737 Power Amplifier Module for LTE Bands 12/17. Given this hardware, it's plausible that the T-Mobile Galaxy S IIIs could support LTE--even though T-Mobile doesn't have an LTE network at this time. Turning on the phone's LTE support would likely require rooting the phone and installing new firmware.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

All U.S. Galaxy S III models have a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. The international versions (which don't have LTE support) use 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 4412 quad-core A9 processors.

Bobcooper31
Bobcooper31

I have a Galaxy s which changes settings for no apparent reason. Since you've highlighted a problem of pressure on the device I guess that's what is causing the changes to my settings like switching to silent or switching off the tilt option which means I have to reset it before I can type a message. I've had 3 black screen episodes and sent it back to Samsung every time but they refuse to give me a new one. Last Samsung product I'll ever buy

rhonin
rhonin

On my second SG.... SGS2 and SGS2Skyrocket. Have not had that issue. Maybe I'm just lucky....

OGDroid
OGDroid

This is the problem with fanboys; you guys always show a bias in the direction of your preference. It shouldn't be like that. Bill is simply saying in the event of it breaking you are stuffed. The issue as he has rightly pointed out is not to suggest that the SGS3 is susceptible to breaking, but rather, its about what it means in the event of it cracking/reaking. Knowing a lot of people who have a phone without issues doesn't really mean anything. I know a lot of people with the iPhone 4/4S and just like you, no screen issues. Does that prove that the iPhone 4/4S will not break if dropped? Not at all. Here are a few links that clearly show that the SGS3's screen seems to break very easily. This first link shows a drop test between the SGS3 vs. the iPhone 4S. What's interesting is that the SGS3 cracks on the side drop whilst the iPhone 4S doesn't. As expected the iPhone 4S's back and front screen shatter on the back and front drop tests whilst the SGS3 only breaks on the front and side test. Something that amplifies Bill's concerns about the fused front display into the frame and the glued cables and belts is that whereas the iPhone 4S continues to work after the side, back and front drop tests the SGS3 becomes faulty with some functions not working. From this video it seems as if with the iPhone it's just a question of replacing the glass however given that the SGS3 becomes faulty it's not easy to see that, "If you crack the display or front panel (which happens a lot), you'll likely need to replace the whole assembly or just get a new phone." http://gadget-mag.com/drop-test-samsung-galaxy-s3-vs-iphone-4s/ Take note that most people on these links are saying their SGS3's screen broke after experiencing seemingly non-fatal drops. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1716425 This person claims that their SGS3 screen cracked after falling on a carpet from 1 meter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTW9IwipJko http://www.howtobepremed.com/pre-med-videos/index.php?page=video/view/z_YHbRixmuw This dude dropped it whilst sitting... http://support.t-mobile.com/message/153668

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I wasn't suggesting that the Galaxy S III was more prone to front panel/screen than other smartphones. But from both personal experience and available research (limited though it may be), accidental damage accounts for the majority warranty claims against smartphones. And, there are two types of common accidents--water and broken screens/displays. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9195760/iPhone_edges_out_Android_smartphones_in_reliability_race http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9191425/Warranty_firm_blames_iPhone_4_s_glass_for_82_jump_in_damage_claims

ac1223
ac1223

that its modem, not SoC is a 8260a, which does NOT support LTE. I used terminal emulator, typed "getprop," and it said the modem is 8260a. I think I'm gonna switch carriers over this.

Shayd93
Shayd93

Good to hear though T-mobile announced they won't be supporting LTE for S III unless you will be able to force it on somehow. (I hear they will run tests this summer and full release 2013)