Teardowns of the Verizon iPhone 4 by iSuppli and iFixit reveal a number of changes, including to its antenna and a chip, that may hint at Apple's plan for the iPhone 5.
Verizon Wireless' Apple iPhone 4 may appear to be essentially AT&T's
smartphone with its GSM technology replaced by Verizon's preferred CDMA, but
not so, say iFixit and IHS iSuppli, two companies that on Feb. 7 revealed the
initial findings of their teardowns of the smartphone.
The two iPhones feature different batteries, vibrators, baseband processor
chips and GPS chips. But most likely to grab
attention is the redesign of the antenna-a component that, following the launch
of the AT&T iPhone 4, instigated a public-relations nightmare for Apple,
dubbed "Antennagate," after some users found that holding the phone a
certain way (known as the "death grip") caused signal interference.
That a change had been made was known-the exteriors of the two models are
ever-so-slightly different-though not to what degree.
"This isn't just a case where Apple took a CDMA chip and slapped it
into the iPhone and called it Verizon. They actually redesigned the entire
logic board, including the electromagnetic shields," iFixit's M.J.
explains in a video
for the repair site. "Apple's RF engineering team
did a great job at restructuring the antenna, so hopefully we don't have the
same death-grip problem that saddled its AT&T brother."
In early reviews, the Verizon iPhone 4 was found to drop significantly fewer
calls than the AT&T version, which the Wall Street Journal's Walter
Mossberg and The New York Times' David Pogue attributed to Verizon's network.
It's possible, though, that the new design-instigated by the phone's CDMA
technology-was also a contributor. Reviews of the device
have pointed out that
several performance-related differences, such as the Verizon model's inability to
simultaneously accept calls and surf the Web, are also attributable to the
phone's switch to CDMA, a technology used by Verizon and Sprint but one that's
less common around the world than GSM.
"While Apple kept the fundamental integrated antenna and enclosure
design, provisions were made to improve reception quality," iSuppli Senior
Analyst Wayne Lam wrote in his report. "The new CDMA version employs a
dual-antenna design that takes advantage of antenna diversity to improve
iFixit's Kyle Wiens adds in his report, however, that "only time will
tell if this new design helps combat the reception problems plaguing the GSM
Other major changes-and major design wins for Qualcomm-include Apple's
decision to use a Qualcomm baseband processor chip instead of the Infineon chip
it has used for the last four years. Also, while it was thought that Apple had
eliminated the iPhone 4's discrete GPS chip,
it turns out that it instead replaced its Broadcom GPS
chip with "the integrated GPS
functionality of the Qualcomm MDM600," wrote iSuppli's Lam.
While (according Lam) the chip offers cost savings for Apple, it's more
interesting for supporting (according to iFixit) both CDMA and GSM technologies-which
might point to Apple's next move: a single iPhone 5 that could run on both
networks. The Motorola Droid Pro world phone, for example, runs the same MDM
chip and offers voice coverage just about all around the world.
"Can it be that Apple's thinking of using this chip in iPad 2? Or maybe
when iPhone 5 is released there will be just one phone for both Verizon and
AT&T? That would be great," said M.J. "We can't tell just yet,
but what we can tell is that while the chip supports both GSM and CDMA, there's
no modding this phone to work on AT&T."
Still other changes to the Verizon iPhone 4 include a lighter battery-25.6
grams, down from 26.9 grams, says iFixit-as well as a "complete makeover"
of its vibrator.
"Rather than using a rotational electric motor with a counterweight,"
wrote Wiens, "the Verizon iPhone appears to utilize a linear oscillating
vibrator for call/message alerts."
Translation? "Probably the biggest difference is that it's three or
four times bigger than the previous vibrator," said iFixit's M.J. in her
video. "And in testing it, it actually felt a bit softer, and it was
quieter. I don't really know that I would notice it, if it were going off in my
With the Verizon iPhone 4's components laid bare, iFixit gave it a "repairability"
score of 6 out of 10, noting that, despite its "pesky pentalobe screws,"
the battery can be
removed fairly easily and most other components are connected with most regular
screws and limited tabs and adhesives.
In conclusion, iFixit's Wiens marveled that Apple had made so many changes
to a phone that, in a matter of months, is "already set to antiquated by
the [introduction of] the iPhone 5."