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.