Apple iPad Air Teardowns: The Good, the Bad, the Unrepairable

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-11-08 Print this article Print

Apple's iPad Air is 20 percent thinner and 28 percent lighter than the fourth-generation iPad. IHS iSuppli found that Apple also built its latest tablet for about $42 less than its third-generation iPad (comparing the WiFi-only, entry-level versions of each), while iFixit, during its own teardown, found what Apple calls a "big leap ahead" to be several steps in the wrong direction, where repairability and environmental responsibility are concerned. "For every fixable Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire, there's a Surface Pro—or in this case, an iPad Air—to saturate the market with unrepairable devices," iFixit Chief Information Architect Miro Djuric wrote in blog post Nov. 1, the day the iPad Air went on sale. iFixit's big gripe with the iPad Air is its battery, which is secured with lots of glue, screwed in, and still requires the removal of the logic board before it can be separated from its housing. The front panel also didn't escape the glue bottle. "It's glued to the rest of the device, greatly increasing the chances of cracking the glass during a repair," said iFixit. Celebrating the small victory of the LCD being easy to remove once the front panel was off, the team gave the iPad Air a repairability score of 2 out of 10.

  • Apple iPad Air Teardowns: The Good, the Bad, the Unrepairable

    By Michelle Maisto
    Apple iPad Air Teardowns: The Good, the Bad, the Unrepairable
  • Apple iPad Air: Proceed with Care

    The Apple iPad Air is a beauty, weighing in at just a pound and featuring a profile a full 20 percent thinner than the fourth-generation iPad. But go easy on it, is the lesson of iFixit's teardown. "With a hard-to-repair device, the fix is either expensive or impossible," blogged Miro Djuric. iFixit gave it a rating of just 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. (Image: Apple)
    Apple iPad Air: Proceed with Care
  • Thinning Down the iPad

    IHS iSuppli, which performed its own teardown, more for a financial tallying of the parts, reports that the thinning down Apple achieved comes partially from the change in touch-screen subsystems in the display. The Air's display is 1.8mm thick, compared with 2.23mm in earlier models.
    Thinning Down the iPad
  • What the iPad Air Costs Apple

    The lowest-end iPad Air has a bill of materials (BOM) of $274, $42 less than the third-generation iPad, says IHS. While the new display, at $90, is pricier than the older one, Apple found savings by using some of the same parts and suppliers as it does for the iPhone 5S and 5C. Apple's A7 processor is an example, though the version in the Air has a metal top "that acts as a heat sink," says IHS. (Image: IHS)
    What the iPad Air Costs Apple
  • Opening the Air Is Not for the Undetermined

    iFixit had no easy time cracking into the iPad Air. It used a warm compress to melt the glue, suction cups to lift, and guitar picks wedged in all around. "Apple has secured the digitizer glass in place with more than ample amounts of adhesive," reported iFixit. But eventually, open it did. Beneath the revealed black tray are the batteries. (Image: iFixit)
    Opening the Air Is Not for the Undetermined
  • "Nuke, Heat, Scrape, Repeat"

    A few turns of the screwdriver and the batteries were revealed. That is where progress pretty much came to a standstill. Calling it "the worst battery ever," iFix described a process of "nuke, heat, scrape, repeat" with its warm compress, followed by discovering that the battery was screwed in as well, and then also that the motherboard had to come in first. In summary, Apple would like the battery to stay put. (Image: iFixit)
  • Battery Life

    Here, triumphant, iFixit shows off the removed batteries. IHS reports that, despite promising (and delivering) 10 hours of battery life, Apple was able to reduce the capacity of the battery by 23 percent, from 42.5 watt hours to 32.9. This is most likely because of the new backlit display's lower power consumption, it explained. (Image: iFixit)
    Battery Life
  • Chip Changes

    IHS reports that unlike the processor and baseband segments, the RF/power amplifier (PA) modules in the iPad Air are different than those in the 5S, "in a way that makes a big difference to Apple." The RF and PA in the Air support 4G LTE bands for all carriers, which isn't the case in the iPhone 5S.
    Chip Changes
  • iFixit, Feeling Generous

    Just when there seemed no hope for the Air, iFixit noted wryly, the team happily discovered a modular, repairable part: the Lightning connector. "Not that it was easy to get to," they added. (Image: iFixit)
    iFixit, Feeling Generous
  • Apple iPad Air, in Summary

    iFixit had a laundry list of complaints about the Air, from the "gobs and gobs" of glue to the foam sticky tape adhering the front panel to the LCD and the likelihood of cracking the glass during a repair. To the list of cons, IHS adds the nugget that while Apple charges $100 more to upgrade from 16GB to 32GB, the upgraded model costs Apple only $8.40 more.
    Apple iPad Air, in Summary
  • Slimmer iPad, Fatter Margins

    The iPad Air is now available in the U.S. at a starting price of $499 for the WiFi-only model and $629 for the WiFi plus cellular version. "While the iPad Air slims down in size, the profit margins [for Apple] are getting fatter," Andrew Rassweiler, senior director of cost benchmarking services at IHS, said in a Nov. 5 report. (Image: Apple)
    Slimmer iPad, Fatter Margins

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