Friday, October 23, 2020

How Repairable is Apple's iPhone 12 Design?


Tearing down apple's new iphone 12 to see how repairable the device is apple's been known in the past to lock down parts inside their devices to prevent third-party repair. According to apple their offices stores and data centers run on 100 renewable energy and by 2030 apple is aiming for a zero climate impact. So to me that says a device should be able to be repaired when the time comes to prevent it from becoming e-waste.

To test this out I've purchased two iphone 12s which i'm going to be swapping and interchanging parts on to see taking the blue iphone 12 out of the box first you can see included with it was a usb c to lightning cable with no power adapter apple says they've removed the charger and headphones to cut waste also stating that there was already 2 billion apple power adapters in the world. Not including third-party charges the problem with almost all of those charges is that they have a different plug on the end of them, meaning you can't connect the usb-c cable.

So you'll need to go out and buy the apple power adapter or a similar third party one to make that work apple has only recently switched to the usbc power adapter with it first shipping with the iphone 11. however many people are going to be upgrading from older phones and their charges will no longer work with this cable while apple likely switched to a usbc cable so it could connect to their computers which don't have a regular usb port however we are now stuck with this odd situation with no power adapter or headphones included all that really comes with the phone is some paperwork and one apple sticker i can remove the protective film from the display panel and i can move across to our second iphone 12. that's right i had to buy two of them for this video as these phones are so new that there isn't any parts available on the market so to get some parts to test on this phone i have to use an entire donor phone which is brand new this phone includes the exact same accessories as the blue one.

We previously unboxed with both iphones out of the box we can take a quick look at them thankfully down at the bottom i can see two screws which should get us into the phone for those wondering these two phones are both 64 gig units before i can open them up i'll need to set up each phone and ensure it's working from a factory state with both phones fully functioning it's time to crack them open removing the two security pentalobe screws i can heat up the phone using a heat mat i use the 80 degrees setting for this proceeding i then tried to separate the display using this eye slack however i was having a lot of difficulty in opening this phone apple has increased the water resistant rating so the adhesive used must be stronger than before i even tried a single suction cup applying as much upward force as i possibly could and that still didn't work i repeated the heating process a few times and even broke my tool once luckily though it just screwed right back together and finally i was able to get a starting pick under the display from here getting the display off is a pretty straightforward process i can simply run the picks up the sides and around the top of the phone until it unlatches then i can simply lift up the display to the left hand side that's right this year the iphone's logic board is on the opposite side getting a first look at the internals we find a 2 815 milliamp hour battery which is much smaller than many other phones i work on with our blue phone open it's time to crack open the red iphone 12 removing those pentalobe screws and repeating the same heating process but this time i heated the phone for five minutes on 120 degrees.

This time around the display practically popped right off of the phone while i'm not sure how temperature accurate my heat mat is this definitely worked much better than the 80 degrees that i tried previously with both phones open we can finally start messing around with the internals to see how repairable this new phone is to be able to test changing every part inside this phone easily i'll just swap the logic boards between the two phones i will start by removing the original oled display panel one possible repair mistake i see people doing is breaking this earpiece cable given how the flex cable is folded i can see it getting ripped very easy to avoid causing any damage to the internal components i will first disconnect the battery before removing the display cables after which i can remove the oled display panel from the phone next it's time to get a little bit deeper inside of this phone i'll start by disconnecting all the flex cables that i can see connecting to this logic board there is quite a number of these and some of them aren't actually populated i believe this is for the us iphone 12 which has an extra 5g antenna on the side of the phone another potential repair mistake is ripping this flex cable which is hidden underneath this sticker down at the lower portion of the logic board there is also some shielding which i'll need to remove to be able to access two more flex cables after disconnecting those i can remove the four screws holding in place the logic board for the iphone 12.

There is also one screw connecting to the camera assembly which i'll need to remove i thought i would remove the sim card mechanism to be able to get more clearance to remove the logic board however one of the screws was already rounded from the factory so my screwdriver wouldn't grip it luckily i was able to get the logic board out without the need to remove the sim card mechanism now that we've got one phone out of the way it's time to move across to our red iphone 12 where i'm going to repeat the exact same process the second time around it's much easier as i know where all the screws are that need to be removed and the flex cables that i'll need to disconnect lifting off the display all that we need to take out now is the logic board so far i have to say this phone is quite modular with most components that i can see being easy to access and remove we have seen this in the past however apple has been pairing components so even with the iphone's great modularity you still can't replace the part yourself as for screws so far we've come across pentalobe phillips tri-wing and a standoff bit so quite a lot of screwdrivers to keep track of when you're performing a repair on this device with the logic board removed we can see both of our iphone 12s have been disassembled part way whilst i won't be doing a complete teardown of the device.

I am testing its repair ability so i'm going to swap the iphone 12 logic board from our red phone into this blue one while this doesn't sound like i've done a whole lot here apple's known for pairing everything inside their phones so if my theory is correct this phone isn't going to be very happy when i reconnect everything back up and power it on after reinstalling the logic board i'll connect up the display cables and any other flex cables required pressing and holding the power button nothing happened so i lifted up the display panel and reseeded my connections for the display after which i could press and hold the power button and i still got nothing however plugging in the charger the phone booted right up straight up i was bombarded with notifications saying face id couldn't be activated and that there was an important display and battery message as you can see here my power button is functioning so i'm not quite sure why the phone wouldn't turn on earlier the phone won't let you do anything until you tap learn more here it tells you it cannot verify the display and battery is genuine navigating into the battery section it says the device needs to be serviced and disables the battery capacity reading tapping learn more takes you to apple's website informing you of the message and that you can get your phone serviced at apple one amusing thing i found is apple telling you not to replace the battery yourself trying to log in with face id you can see it just times out and requires a password.

If i try and reset the face id and set it up again with a fresh face you can see that it says it's not available and to try setting it up later but we've seen this in the past few iphones what changes now is the camera has been affected it's completely unstable and broken with the camera freezing in photo mode when switched to the 0.5 x zoom in video mode both cameras and zoom work fine after returning to photo mode from video the 0.5 x zoom now functions however after changing the camera two functions are now completely unusable portrait mode only works for the front camera with the back one only flashing still images and a black screen as you can see the camera app tends to lock up relaunching it you can see panoramas also don't work when using the .5x zoom however you can still see the cameras working fine in the small viewfinder but it's blocked and won't actually let you take a panorama i tested this with both of these phones and they have the exact same symptoms when the rear camera has been swapped i thought maybe this was just a software issue so i factory reset one of the devices through settings and as you can see it's still complaining that face id cannot be activated and is still displaying messages that the display and battery aren't genuine after i can get past those messages and launch into the camera app you can see the issue is still there.

I also tried restoring the other phone with itunes just to check if it connected with apple servers that somehow made this issue go away however we can see here with the red iphone 12 we get the exact same issues as the other iphone while i believe i'm the first one to discover this issue i don't believe it's a software bug it's the exact same camera but just from another brand new iphone 12. these issues would likely mean there's some form of pairing serialization or bond with the original camera while this isn't confirmed by apple camera replacements on the iphone 12 are currently not possible as for the display and battery messages i understand the benefits to these as it can inform a user if someone has sold a refurbished phone as new but apple has taken it a step further by disabling other features as a result of the new part including true tone which just disappears from the phone without warning and the battery health reading which is disabled for any battery other than the original factory part with only apple having the tools to pair the new part and this camera issue is taking it to another level even face id and apple's touch id in their home buttons is also paired to the device as i have not heard of anybody that has run into this issue given this phone is only a couple of days old i wanted to be a hundred percent certain that i didn't just damage the camera installing it and messing around inside the phone.

So what i'm going to do is swap the original boards back into the correct housings so everything will be a factory and original that means it'll have the original battery camera face id and other aspects of the phone after reconnecting all of the flex cables i will leave the screws unattached in case i need to do any further work to this phone i'll reconnect our original display panel to the blue phone and we can test it out going into the camera we can see straight away our camera app is a lot more responsive and everything is working as it should switching over to panorama you can see it's also working on the 0.5x zoom all of our battery warning display warnings and face id messages have disappeared true tone has reappeared as well as our battery health is back at 100 to ensure nothing inside of the phone was conflicting with the camera after we replaced absolutely everything by simply swapping the logic board between the two phones i'm going to be swapping the cameras between the two phones so everything inside this blue iphone and red iphone are going to be absolutely original except the cameras which i'll be swapping out between the two phones.

It's hard to believe even using genuine parts from two brand new phones causes so many issues with our cameras swapped across between the two devices i'm going to reassemble the phone and see whether this fixes the issue yet again i ran into the issue where the phone wouldn't turn on with the power button and i had to use the charger it's almost like it knows that i've been messing around with the inside so it refuses to turn on using the charger though it fired right back up into action and you can see the portrait mode is now just like it was before completely unusable so nothing else is affecting that camera it's purely just not compatible between different iphones i did run it through a factory reset using itunes for windows and you can see the same issue occurs i think by now you get the point that the camera doesn't work when you replace it and then i don't believe that this is a software bug but rather apple locking down more components inside of their phone i can't confirm that as apple hasn't publicly stated anything about it but for now it's time to reassemble this iphone with its original parts and hopefully we haven't damaged anything between the two phones in all of this messing around and will still have two working iphone 12s by the end of it reconnecting our front oled display panel and battery i can reinstall the two metal brackets which cover the many flex cables underneath using a microfiber cloth with some alcohol on it i can clean away any of the dust or fingerprints that i've left inside the device all that's left to do is to reassemble the red iphone 12 in a similar fashion to what we just did with the blue one finally i can close up the display attaching it to the frame ideally you'd want to replace the water resistant seals.

However there's none of those available on the market just yet so i won't be doing that after reinstalling the pentalobe screws we're done so this is it apple's latest iphone 12 both phones survive just fine with all features working correctly again what we've learned is that this iphone is more locked down than ever before if you want to keep full functionality of this device you basically have no choice but to take it to apple for repair despite having to pay whatever apple is charging for repair if they even offer it for the issue a device might have what happens when they stop servicing a device in a few years no one will be able to fix it apple is doing some things to reduce emissions and help the environment sure but remember they are one of the biggest companies lobbying against right to repair even though i spent almost three thousand dollars on these two phones i don't even have the ability to fix them recycling shouldn't be the first or only option repair and reuse is most important.