Honey, I shrunk the battery: Something's gotta give as iPhone 12's logic board swells to accommodate 5G chippery

Next-gen connectivity requires reshuffle beneath the surface


The iPhone 12 series is Apple's debut foray into producing 5G-capable devices and the first major redesign since the launch of the iPhone X. But what lurks underneath?

A new teardown from iFixit shows off the innards of the entry-level iPhone 12, as well as its Pro sibling. With these new mobes, Apple makes few advancements in the cause of repairability, instead keeping faithful to the design decisions found in previous devices. That is to say they're straightforward, if not a bit fiddly, to disassemble.

iPhone 12/Pro components

Pic: iFixit (click to enlarge)

Still, there were a few surprises. Both devices, for example, use Qualcomm's X55 5G modem, as well as the same 5G and LTE transceiver that features on Snapdragon 865 platform. Although Qualcomm is a long-time Apple supplier, recent years had suggested Apple was looking elsewhere for its modems.

The previous-generation iPhone 11 used an LTE modem from Intel. Furthermore, at the end of 2019, Apple acquired Intel's cellular modem business for $1bn, suggesting the firm would move development in house, as it has done with Apple Silicon on the Mac.

iPhone 12 battery

Pic: iFixit

iFixit expressed concerns that Apple had made compromises in the quest to include 5G. It noted the logic board – which contains the fundamentals of the phone, including the SoC, storage, and cellular radios – was significantly bigger than previous generations. This forced Apple to use a conventional rectangular battery on the Pro version, compared to the bigger L-shaped unit used on the iPhone 11 Pro.

The teardown also showed Apple had shrunk the Taptic Engine compared with older iPhones. The Taptic Engine is a major component of the iPhone experience, providing haptic user interface feedback through a linear actuator.

Apple released the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro last Friday, along with the latest-generation iPad Air. Pre-orders for the more capable (and expensive!) iPhone 12 Pro Max flavour open early next month – meaning we'll have to wait a while to see what's inside Apple's priciest blower. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Apple may have to cough up $1bn to Brits in latest iPhone Batterygate claim
    Lawsuit took its time, just like your older iOS handset

    Another day, another legal claim against Apple for deliberately throttling the performance of its iPhones to save battery power.

    This latest case was brought by Justin Gutmann, who has asked the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) to approve a collective action that could allow as many as 25 million Brits to claim compensation from the American technology giant. He claims the iGiant secretly degraded their smartphones' performance to make the battery power last longer.

    Apple may therefore have to cough up an eye-popping £768 million ($927 million), Gutmann's lawyers estimated, Bloomberg first reported this week.

    Continue reading
  • Workers win vote to form first-ever US Apple Store union
    Results set to be ratified by labor board by end of the week

    Workers at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have voted to form a union, making them the first of the iGiant's retail staff to do so in the United States.

    Out of 110 eligible voters, 65 employees voted in support of unionization versus 33 who voted against it. The organizing committee, known as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), has now filed to certify the results with America's National Labor Relations Board. Members joining this first-ever US Apple Store union will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

    "I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," IAM's international president Robert Martinez Jr said in a statement on Saturday. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."

    Continue reading
  • Apple’s M2 chip isn’t a slam dunk, but it does point to the future
    The chip’s GPU and neural engine could overshadow Apple’s concession on CPU performance

    Analysis For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Apple's move to homegrown silicon for Macs, the tech giant has admitted that the new M2 chip isn't quite the slam dunk that its predecessor was when compared to the latest from Apple's former CPU supplier, Intel.

    During its WWDC 2022 keynote Monday, Apple focused its high-level sales pitch for the M2 on claims that the chip is much more power efficient than Intel's latest laptop CPUs. But while doing so, the iPhone maker admitted that Intel has it beat, at least for now, when it comes to CPU performance.

    Apple laid this out clearly during the presentation when Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, said the M2's eight-core CPU will provide 87 percent of the peak performance of Intel's 12-core Core i7-1260P while using just a quarter of the rival chip's power.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022