Last year’s iPhone X had a weird name and the most advanced internals we’d ever seen in a teardown. This year Apple turns it up to eleven with the bafflingly-named iPhone XS and XS Max. In a teardown first, we’re taking apart both phones simultaneously—so grab ahold of your Roman numerals and let’s get started.
Huge thanks to our friends at Circuitwise for hosting us in Sydney, Australia, where iPhones launch early and all the Apple Stores are upside-down—and to our pals at Creative Electron, for their incredible imagery and appropriate use of the letter X.
We aren’t one to judge a book by its Gorilla Glass cover, but these covers don’t suggest that much has changed since the last X we saw on this table.
… Besides the luxurious gold color and the new XL size option, that is.
Thankfully, Creative Electron gives us a sneak peek at any hidden plot twists we might be in for. (Their high-tech technique still uses X-rays, which is still pronounced “ex-rays.”)
Here we have all our
exeserm, tens lined up.
We notice an extra antenna band has moved in where our left-side mic-hole friends used to live. Rumor has it this is for “Gigabit LTE,” and it seems to make a difference.
Our teardown engineer doubles up on the drivers, demonstrating excellent dual-driver discipline as the teardown-ing commences.
Apple may be changing up their naming scheme, but we’re glad they left the opening procedure alone.
Though we feared Apple might pile on more adhesive to achieve that new IP68 rating, we fared no worse opening these phones than we did with ye olde IP67-rated predecessors.
We’re a little short-handed in this 2-for-1 teardown, so we called in some local muscle to help kick things off.
It turns out lack of opposable thumbs slows things down a little, but our drivers make it so easy even a kangaroo can do it.
With the displays out of the way, we start to notice a few differences between the XS and XS Max.
The Taptic Engine inside the XS Max has been resized—big phone, bigger vibrations?
The XS Max also gets an extended logic board, with one of the display connectors moved to the bottom.
The XS battery looks weird, and new, while the XS Max battery sticks to a familiar design.
On the hunt for signs of improved ingress proofing, we turn our attention to the largest unsealed gap in the device—the SIM card slot.
With the topside set of peripherals dispatched, we can finally turn our attention to the most important part of every S-series iPhone—the logic board!
Having seen this kind of logic board once already, we’ve gotten pretty good at pulling this PCB sandwich apart. Let’s see what’s on top of the top layer (XS on left, XS Max on right):
Toshiba TSB3243V85691CHNA1 flash storage
Apple 338S00248 audio codec
Cypress CPD2 USB power delivery IC
NXP CBTL1612 display port multiplexor
Texas Instruments 61280 battery DC converter
Digging a little deeper, we find the RF board (XS on left, XS Max on right):
RF board part two:
Avago 8092M high/mid PAD
Murata 500 4×4 MIMO DSM
Skyworks 206-15 946368 1830, 170-21-916794 1830, 5775 4321 1827, and 5941 0925 1831
5762 P10 1828
S775 4321 1827
Time to talk cameras! The S-year often comes with a camera upgrade, and Apple had a lot to say about these new sensors.
The wide-angle sensor size has been increased by 32%.
Pixel size has also been bumped, bringing better low-light performance and contributing to the new “Smart HDR” feature.
There was one thing Apple forgot to mention about the new camera: all that 32% had to go somewhere, and it turns out the camera bump had to grow a little—your iPhone X case may not fit your iPhone XS.
After dissecting the brains and the eyes, we take a look at the brawn powering these phones.
The XS packs a 10.13 Wh battery (2,659 mAh at 3.81 V), weighing 39.5 g—slightly downgraded from last year’s X.
The XS Max battery unsurprisingly comes out on top capacity-wise, with 12.08 Wh (3,179 mAh at 3.80 V), and weighing 46.6 g. No single-cell here, though!
Let’s take a deep dive into Apple’s battery origami:
Since 2015 when the 12″ MacBook was announced with a terraced battery, Apple has increasingly sought to take advantage of every bit of space in the chassis of their devices using contoured batteries.
These patents show solutions they have found to get around tricky problems like thermal expansion, using different layer sizes and precisely folding electrode sheets cut into complex shapes to fit those contours.
The extra corners and edges of the single-cell battery in the XS will be prone to extra stress—it will be interesting to see how this new battery performs as it ages.
Time to fish out the noisemakers! The Taptic engine and loudspeaker come out in an assembly, but easily separate for modular replacement.
Speaking of same, the earpiece speaker assemblies match almost identically across the XS and XS Max, with just a bit of extra speaker volume for Max.
As we scrape the bottom of the phone we find some tasty display chips, and a barrel of tiny cables in the body.
It looks like the rear glass is still sandwiched between the camera bump and the frame with dozens of tiny welds.
Our synchronized two-phone teardown has come to a tidy conclusion.
We suspect this marks the beginning of a new era in iPhone battery design—the carefully contoured single-cell concept is limited to the smaller XS for now, but we expect to see it again soon. iPhone XR, perhaps?
Oh, and one more thing: it’s time to assign an overall repairability score.
- Critical display and battery repairs remain a priority in the iPhone’s design.
- A broken display can be replaced without removing the biometric Face ID hardware.
- Liberal use of screws is preferable to glue—but you’ll have to bring your Apple-specific drivers (Pentalobe and tri-point) in addition to a standard Phillips.
- Waterproofing measures complicate some repairs, but make difficult water damage repairs less likely.
- Glass on front and back doubles the likelihood of drop damage—and if the back glass breaks, you’ll be removing every component and replacing the entire chassis.
Repairability 6 out of 10
(10 is easiest to repair)
Embed this guide
Choose a size and copy the code below to embed this guide as a small widget on your site / forum.