iPhone 15 Teardown Reveals Software Lockdown


iPhone 15 is right here, and it boasts a brand new cost port, a titanium body, a periscope, and a brand new pro-repair design. Let’s dive inside! We’re going to deal with the 15 Professional Max, with some cameos from the opposite telephone fashions.

Design Structure

For years, smartphones have both opened from the entrance–making battery swaps troublesome, or from the again–making display swaps difficult. Apple lastly cracked this nut with final yr’s vanilla iPhone 14, enabling the telephone to open from the entrance and the again. This big improve led us to ratchet up the iPhone’s repairability rating from earlier fashions. (We’ve since ratcheted it again down on account of restore limitations imposed by components pairing, however that’s another story.)

The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus fortunately undertake the iPhone 14’s development. There’s a central chassis, or midframe, that the interior elements are mounted to. The 15 Professional and Professional Max additionally now open from each instructions, however in an unexpectedly reverse method: all the internals are hiding behind the display nonetheless as an alternative of behind the again glass. However that again glass is now detachable, too, identical to the 14.

This notable achievement is value celebrating. For the primary time, Apple’s keynote mentioned repairability:

There’s additionally a brand new inside chassis structure that makes iPhone extra repairable, due to a brand new structural body that permits the again glass to be simply changed.

This inverted chassis association makes essential repairs like battery swaps barely riskier than on the 14, since you’re eradicating the costly, fragile show fairly than an inert sheet of glass.

With a purpose to get to the battery and different elements it’s important to warmth and pry open the display, which is barely riskier. When you by accident tear a cable, it’s higher to tear the again cowl cable than it’s to smash the show.

The nod goes to the 14 for being barely extra risk-tolerant, however they’re each good designs. Why didn’t the 15 Professional undertake the 14’s design? We’re undecided. It could must do with the bigger digicam array. The cameras protrude via a cutout within the aluminum midframe, and it’s potential there wasn’t sufficient room for the other association.

iPhone 15 Professional Max show back and front

Apple has continued to incrementally scale back the thickness of the show bezel.

Some have reported that the white gasket on the perimeter of the show is new, nevertheless it’s not–it’s simply modified from black to white. The design is a bit of totally different than earlier telephones, and a few have reported that it’s tougher to take away.

On the bottom iPhone 15 fashions, Apple is now performing microphone repairs of their service facilities. That is enabled by elevated modularity, the place the microphone is now a separate part.

Lastly: USB-C

Infamous for charting their very own course, convincing Apple to alter route takes a monumental quantity of strain. Our Proper to Restore advocacy has already applied some such strain, and Apple’s now promoting service components and posting restore manuals. However even we couldn’t convince them to change to an ordinary port—it took the European Parliament to force that individual change.

And now everybody can reap the advantages! Along with apparent compatibility benefits, the brand new USB-C port can present 4.5 watts of energy to exterior gadgets. That’s an enormous 15x improve over earlier Lightning telephones, which may solely output 0.3 watts.

Going into this launch, there have been two rumors floating round concerning the cost port. The primary was that the half can be serialized, pairing it to the primary board and locking out unbiased repairs. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and swapping two ports maintains full performance. Phew!

The second rumor was that Apple would restrict the throughput of the USB-C port for some purpose. That rumor turned out to be unfounded. The A17 System-on-Chip (SoC) provides a USB 3 controller, enabling USB 3.2 Gen 2 10 Gb throughput. As a result of the non-Professional iPhone 15 fashions inherited the older A16 Bionic, they solely help USB 2 and are restricted to the identical switch speeds as earlier gadgets with Lightning.

The battery within the 15 Pro Max is 4422 mAh, an incremental 2.3% improve over the 14 Pro Max’s 4323 mAh pack. Equally, the 15 Pro has an an identical 2.3% 3274 mAh (2.3% improve) over the 14 Pro’s 3200 mAh. This isn’t an excellent yr for anemic battery capability positive aspects, as a result of the A17 Professional is power-thirsty. Early reviews are that the phone gets hot and stays sizzling, with a corresponding drop in battery life.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Battery
Uncle Sam needs YOU to be a Skilled Technician.

The battery is serviceable solely by a educated technician. Thankfully, you could be a educated technician! Merely practice your self utilizing Apple’s service guide (doubtless coming quickly) or iFixit’s repair guides (in progress!). It’s not all that onerous, we’ve helped tens of millions of individuals repair their electronics themselves.

A Titanium Housing

The brand new Professional Max weighs 221 grams, 19 grams lower than the 14 Professional Max. How a lot would you spend to avoid wasting 19 grams? Choose up 4 nickels. What’s it value to you to shave that a lot weight off of your telephone? Nicely should you’re Apple, the reply is a heck of lots.

Left: iPhone 14 Professional Max: 221 grams. Proper: iPhone 15 Professional Max plus 4 nickels: 222 grams.

The one largest use of steel within the iPhone is within the outer body, in order that’s the place Apple turned to superior metallurgy to avoid wasting grams and acquire some advertising factors.

One interesting theory that has been floated concerning the lowered weight is that by shaving weight across the perimeter of the telephone, it feels simpler to maneuver round. The technical time period for that is second of inertia, or how a lot drive it takes to rotate the telephone round its axes. As mass is faraway from the perimeters, the telephone feels extra nimble in your hand—like tucking your legs in whereas spinning. The place Apple is eradicating the burden is a bigger contributor to the “really feel” than the precise 9% weight discount.

“Lowering the mass on the perimeter, which the change from chrome steel to titanium has carried out, has undoubtedly lowered the second of inertia greater than a uniform discount in mass would have. And that may make the 15 Professional simpler to control and can contribute—not less than considerably—to the impression of lightness.”

Dr. Drang

Titanium is a space-grade materials, utilized in conditions the place you’re prepared to spend some huge cash for further robust and light-weight supplies. The titanium used within the super-fast SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane famously came from the unwitting Soviet Union. Approach again in 2001, Apple made the PowerBook G4 out of titanium. We had been notably keen on this workhorse, which encased the show in painted titanium.

Producers are likely to keep away from titanium if in any respect potential, not simply because it’s costly however as a result of it’s notoriously exhausting to work with.

So whereas titanium made sense for the outer shell, it didn’t make a distinction for the midframe, a hidden but mechanically complicated aluminum half that each one the within telephone elements mount to. However how do you retain the aluminum midframe and use titanium for the perimeter?

Utilizing an industry-first thermo-mechanical course of, the titanium bands encase a brand new substructure comprised of one hundred pc recycled aluminum, bonding these two metals with unimaginable energy via solid-state diffusion. The aluminum body helps with thermal dissipation and permits the again glass to be simply changed.

That thermo-mechanical course of is probably going strong state diffusion bonding, a course of the place two totally different metals are heated actually sizzling after which pressed collectively actually exhausting. This isn’t a brand new thought–heating metals up and banging them collectively is how blacksmiths have labored for 1000’s of years. However today, it’s fairly uncommon. Wikipedia says, “Resulting from its comparatively excessive value, diffusion bonding is most frequently used for jobs both troublesome or not possible to weld by different means.”

Excessive value? Tremendous-hard steel? Troublesome job? That feels like one thing actually up Apple’s alley.

That is roughly what a diffusion bonding machine seems like. It heats metals as much as 1700 Celsius, or concerning the melting level of metal. After which it sucks all of the oxygen out, creating a ten‐6 torr excessive vacuum. Then it presses the fabric along with 100 tons of drive. And you then depart it there for an hour. Apple’s recipe received’t match this precisely, but when this reminds you of the method for making diamonds, you’re not far off.

A vacuum sizzling chamber used for sintering 3D printed components. Mix this with a hydraulic press and also you’ve obtained the concept. Picture: Centorr Vacuum Industries

That’s an insanely difficult, costly course of that’s usually restricted to small manufacturing aerospace components, not mass manufacturing of smartphones. No matter machine Apple is utilizing, they’ve lots of them.

There are sustainability implications right here. Electronics recyclers are accustomed to working with metal and aluminum, however don’t often take care of titanium. If the titanium ended up in an aluminum shredder, it could injury or boring the blades. Then again, iPhones have a lot residual worth that they often get particular remedy in these amenities.

Whereas the titanium itself may be very exhausting, the coating on the titanium scratches fairly simply. Because of Evident Scientific for help with the imagery.


One factor we weren’t anticipating to search out is an Apple baseband processor. Apple’s 5G modem staff has been toiling in isolation for years with none {hardware} to point out for it. We’re undecided who to really feel for, Tim Prepare dinner’s pockets or the poor Apple legal professionals who needed to grovel with Qualcomm a brand new contract. Amazingly, the lots of of engineers engaged on this venture for first-Infineon, then-Intel, and now-Apple have but to ship a single 5G modem to prospects. That’s obtained to be demoralizing.

Certain sufficient, as soon as we separated the primary boards, we will affirm that Apple is utilizing Qualcomm’s excessive finish Snapdragon X70 modem. In response to Qualcomm, it’s powered by AI for beam administration and antenna tuning. AI and 5G? We’ve heard that before! Alas 8K is nowhere to be seen.

The Apple A17 Professional hexa-core functions processor with six-core GPU layered beneath what is probably going SK Hynix DDR5 reminiscence. We’ve created a separate Chip ID page with excessive element on what all of these components are.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Chip Identification

This half is manufactured with TSMC’s cutting-edge 3nm process, and is unlikely to be crushed by the rest anytime quickly as Apple merely purchased out everything of TSMC’s capability for the yr. Rumors are that yield on this new course of are still quite low, making this a very costly half.


The large improve for the cameras this yr is the “tetraprism” periscope lens, upping the iPhone’s optical zoom from 2x to 5x. The S23 Ultra technically beats this with 10x zoom, however the best way Apple’s engineers achieved it’s notably attention-grabbing. Tetraprism, a flowery means of claiming 4 lenses, is a phrase invented by Apple’s advertising staff, nevertheless it’s obtained a pleasant ring to it!

As a substitute of choosing a sequence of lens components managed by electromagnets, they designed a single ingredient “periscope” which displays gentle a number of occasions to simulate a 120mm focal size.

The laser gentle coming from the left is shifted onto a better airplane by the periscope lens system.

The physics problem that smartphone digicam designers are continually working towards is the thickness of the lens system. Utilizing a periscope permits them to offset the sensor barely from the lens.

Picture: Apple

A periscope is a tool for viewing issues previous obstacles. On this case, the impediment is the digicam itself. The mirrors bounce the sunshine to the facet, permitting for a better focal size between the entrance lens and the focusing level on the sensor.

Apart from the brand new periscope lens, the sensors on the 15 Professional Max fundamental and huge cameras appear to be the identical measurement as final yr’s 14 Professional Max—suggesting any enchancment in picture high quality has extra to do with the brand new A17 SoC than the digicam {hardware} itself.

One shocking factor we discovered was considerably bigger screws holding down the digicam than up to now. Why? We don’t know. However now we have a brand new microscope, and that is pretty much as good a means as any to point out it off!

iPhone 15 digicam screw, high. Equal iPhone 14 screw, backside.

A Nice Design Undermined by Components Pairing

Sadly, swapping the entrance digicam between two of our 15 Professional Max items ends in full failure. The cameras merely don’t work. After we first encountered this drawback final yr, the place the half was paired to its authentic machine, we assumed that it was a bug that will be shortly fastened. Our belief was clearly misplaced.

It’s time for an pressing dialog about Apple’s strategy to repairability. Regardless of our enthusiasm for iPhone 14’s easier-to-disassemble design, we’ve been compelled to adjust our repairability score from a promising 7 to a discouraging 4, highlighting Apple’s ongoing constriction of restore freedoms via its restrictive components pairing system. To successfully restore these fashions, it’s important to procure components inside Apple’s sphere and validate the repairs. With out calibration, the components both don’t work in any respect, or have compromised performance and relentless warnings.

Restore is difficult sufficient with out software program obstacles thrown into the combination. We’ve spent over $10,000 on iPhones over the previous couple of days and our technicians have been systematically testing elements to find out which repairs are potential and which aren’t.

Our goal in methodically swapping out each part within the telephone is to search out out whether or not repairs might be not possible or just annoying. Our checks swap components between an identical, model new gadgets. No aftermarket components are concerned. We’ve found that the rear lidar meeting, which might be essential for augmented actuality performance and creating content material for the Imaginative and prescient Professional, is totally locked to the iPhone 15 Professional Max.

We bought two iPhone 15 Professional Max items, and swapped the lidar modules between the 2. The digicam app initially loaded after which crashed. We had been capable of repeatedly reproduce this habits.

Right here’s the result of our tests:

Components pairing in these fashions extends past mere mechanical compatibility, requiring authentication and pairing via Apple’s System Configuration instrument, additional limiting real replacements to Apple-blessed ones and considerably impacting unbiased restore enterprises and the overarching situation of e-waste.

Our insights aren’t confined to iPhones; we’ve witnessed analogous conditions with MacBooks and iPads the place the stranglehold on repairability is tightening, limiting the remit of repairs to Apple or forcing compromises on unbiased repairs. The slew of software program hindrances considerably overshadow any mechanical developments in design.

That dystopian future that science fiction authors warned us was coming, the place DRM contaminated each a part of our lives? We’re dwelling in it. The results of these intensive limitations is a serious infringement of possession rights and amplification of the e-waste disaster.


The iPhone 15 Professional Max, 15 Professional, 15 Plus, and 15 all earn a 4 out of ten.

The rating is provisional as a result of we’re awarding some credit score for anticipated service guide availability and promoting restore components. Apple doesn’t have both of those reside in the mean time, however we anticipate them quickly.

Sadly, software program is the anchor round an in any other case exceptionally designed telephone. However with out the power to swap elements, repairability suffers dramatically. We don’t buy merchandise for our staff that rating beneath a 5, so iFixit won’t be buying the iPhone 15 for inside use.

The Backside Line

The 15 is an incremental improve, and that’s simply effective. The rollout of the 14’s progressive open-from-both-sides mechanical structure is welcome. Investments in digicam {hardware} are all the time nicely spent, and the periscope is especially progressive. Given the expense, lowered drop take a look at tolerance, recycling challenges, and fragile end, titanium doesn’t seem to be the most effective long-term materials for a smartphone—however we’re impressed Apple pulled it off. We tip our hats on the supplies engineers, however aluminum works simply effective from our perspective.

It’s clearly time for Apple to desert components pairing. Some components calibrations will should be carried out with tooling within the area, and a few components will merely should be enabled with out calibration or the identical stage of precision that Apple achieves of their factories. That’s completely acceptable for a area restore.

An element put in in a telephone ought to simply work. Ever since we invented interchangeable components within the 1800s, components have been swappable between merchandise. Software program shouldn’t be an impediment to harvesting components, or utilizing aftermarket components for that matter. Your complete financial system of reuse will depend on interoperability, from native restore outlets to massive scale refurbishers to recyclers.

The iPhone is the market chief, however Apple is trailing the pack on repairability. This hole is totally self-inflicted, with a superbly serviceable {hardware} design that’s sabotaged by an extremely complicated regime of components pairing and cloud calibrations.

It’s time for Apple to start out pondering otherwise.



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