iPhone 8 / 8 Plus Teardowns: As Tough as Glass

With innovations like wireless charging under the hood, can the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus overcome the pesky repairability issues of their new glass backing?

Apple's iPhone 8 and 8 Plus announcement was overshadowed in a matter of minutes by the same-day reveal of the much more leading-edge (and expensive) iPhone X. But the iPhone 8 should not be overlooked.

Ahead of a December 6, 2017, keynote presentation at ESC Silicon Valley, where iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens will discuss the Right to Repair as he tears down Apple's iPhone 8, iFixit released two new teardowns that reveal there's plenty under the hood to consider the iPhone 8 more than a incremental upgrade from the iPhone 7.

Like the iPhone X, the 8 and 8 Plus contain Apple's new A11 Bionic chip, which is optimized for augmented reality and artificial intelligence applications. Though the Plus is further optimized for AR content with a dual camera system, the 8 model still has an improved camera over the iPhone 7. Like the 7, the 8 features a 12-megapixel camera, but with a larger sensor – meaning better overall image quality at the same resolution. The Plus' dual camera system offers 12-megapixel wide angle and telephoto cameras as well as a 7-megapixel HD camera for FaceTime.

While the Plus offers a slightly bigger display than the 8 (5.5 inches with 1920 × 1080 pixel resolution versus 4.7 inches with 1334 × 750 resolution) both models feature an ambient light sensor that enables what Apple calls True Tone technology to allow the screen to be more easily readable in sunlight. Put simply, the light sensor detects the color temperature of light around you and changes screen colors to match.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus features a new wireless charging coil supplied by Broadcom (Image source: iFixit). 

Also returning to the 8 and 8 Plus is the 3D Touch technology first introduced in iPhone 6 models. Under the hood both the 8 and 8 Plus share fundamentally the same logic board components – same processor, modem, and power management ICs – with only minor differences in some modules such as the WifI/BlueTooth/FM radio module and the flash storage.

The other big hardware addition to the 8 and 8 Plus, aside from the A11 chip, is the wireless charging coil (Nikola Tesla would be proud). In both models the wireless charging is courtesy of a Qi charger compatible power receiver chip supplied by Broadcom. iFixit notes the model of the chip as the BCM59355 which it speculates is an iteration of Broadcom's BCM59350 model.

According to iFixit, the 8 and 8 Plus are a bit more cumbersome to take apart than previous iPhone models. However, it's worth noting Apple has never been a fan of letting anyone easily tinker with their hardware.

Where both models lose big points is in the new glass backing, which is just as fragile as it is aesthetically pleasing. Despite Apple's claims of durability, third-party tests have shown the glass to be pretty fragile and easy to break loose in drop tests. And since the glass backing is one large piece and cannot be easily removed that means a pricey repair bill. If nothing else the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will go down in history as the iPhones you least want to drop.

Overall iFixit gave both models a slightly above average repairabliity score of 6 out of 10. While the display and battery remain straightforward to access and repair and wireless charging means you're less likely to have to replace the lightening port, other factors such as the glass and a variety of screws and connectors make both models a chore for the DIY repair person.

Visit iFixit for the full teardowns of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.


Right to Repair Hardware Showdown: iFixit Takes You Inside Apple's iPhone 8
Can you fix modern electronics? Or have manufacturers put an end to electronics repair? In a Dec 6, 2017, keynote presentation at ESC Silicon Valley, Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit , will discuss the Right to Repair as he tears down Apple's iPhone 8, uncovering its cutting-edge AR (augmented reality) sensor, and compares it to the competition while discussing the tradeoffs and decisions made by Apple's product designers. Click here to register for the event!


Chris Wiltz is a senior editor at  Design News  covering emerging technologies, including VR/AR, AI, and robotics.

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