iPhone 5 Disassembly and Reassembly - The Unauthorized Guide to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Repair (2013)

The Unauthorized Guide to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Repair (2013)

Chapter 7. iPhone 5 Disassembly and Reassembly

The iPhone 5 is a work of beauty. Sure, the Lightning connector is a bit annoying until you have the appropriate adapters (or new accessories) in hand. Yes, the additional height of the device (the iPhone 5 is 8.6mm taller than the iPhone 4, and boasts a 4-inch Retina display) means you need a new case. However, in my experience, Apple did a phenomenal job on this phone. Beyond the pure aesthetics of the iPhone, the build quality is exceptional, and the performance is impressive.

The iPhone 5 is 1.7mm thinner and approximately 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4—that is a substantial difference, no doubt due in part to the iPhone 5’s anodized aluminum rear case compared to the iPhone 4’s rear glass panel. The minimal actual glass in the iPhone 5 makes it not only much lighter, but less prone to breakage. Recall that front and/or rear glass breakage is by far the most common type of iPhone repair.

Benchmark studies demonstrate that the A6 processor outperforms the iPhone 4S processor by a margin of 150 percent. This is not surprising news, of course, because it is expected that each successive version of an iDevice will pack more horsepower than the previous editions.

One disappointment for me is that I was initially fooled into thinking that the set of perforations on the iPhone 5 bottom case meant that the it has stereo output. Alas, no: The Lightning assembly, which includes a bunch of other components within its mass besides the connector proper, sports only a single speaker. Bummer.

Another letdown regarding the Lightning connector assembly is that you will have to replace the entire thing if one of the individual components (for instance, the headphone jack) fails.

With respect to its reparability, the mechanism behind the display is stunning, and frankly surprising, coming from Apple. With nothing more than a suction cup and a Pentalobe driver, you can pop off the display assembly and swap it out with a replacement! That’s right: You are no longer required to disassemble the iPhone to the bare metal to perform a display replacement. Awesome!

As of this writing, the iPhone 5’s closest competitor is the Samsung Galaxy S III. Table 7.1 is a side-by-side comparison of the phones’ major features.

TABLE 7.1 Comparison Between the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III


Speaking candidly, is it surprising to you that Apple sued Samsung for intellectual property (IP) patent infringement regarding the Galaxy S III smartphone’s design? Sure, the Samsung handset was released three to four months before the iPhone 5. However, iPhone 5 specifications leaked to the Internet well before May 29, 2012.

Figures 7.17.4 show different views for the iPhone 5.


FIGURE 7.1 iPhone 5 top view.


FIGURE 7.2 iPhone 5 front view.


FIGURE 7.3 iPhone 5 rear view.


FIGURE 7.4 iPhone 5 bottom view.

External Anatomy

Note: Bigger Is Better

The extra height of the iPhone 5 is such that users receive an additional row on their Home screens. All the more room to place more apps, right?

Required Tools

Image Screwdrivers (pentalobe, small flathead, Phillips #00)

Image Plastic (and/or metal) opening tools

Image Small suction cup

Image SIM card eject tool

Image Plastic (and/or metal) spudger

Disassembly Procedure

1. As you start the teardown, you’ll see how easy it is to remove and potentially replace the front panel assembly. As previously discussed, Apple continues its trend of using proprietary, “tamper-resistant” pentalobe screws to hold the rear case together. Remove those screws, and remember to be gentle—you don’t want to strip the heads (see Figure 7.5).


FIGURE 7.5 Removing the Pentalobe bottom screws.

2. Are you ready? Prepare to be utterly amazed. Attach your small suction cup to the lower portion of the iPhone 5 (just above the Home button). Hold down the iPhone with one hand. Lift up (with quite a bit of steady force) on the suction cup to create a small opening between the front panel assembly and rear case. Wedge the edge of your plastic opening tool between the front panel assembly and the rear case and pry upward (see Figure 7.6). This should not be too difficult to do. Continue prying along the perimeter of the front panel assembly to release the clips securing the display assembly to the rear case. After the clips have been released, pull the front panel assembly away from the rear case (see Figure 7.7).


FIGURE 7.6 Prying up the iPhone 5 front panel assembly.


FIGURE 7.7 Lifting the iPhone 5 display.

Note: Tale of the Tape

Be careful when you lift the front panel assembly because it still remains connected to the logic board by means of three tape-covered cable connectors.

3. Remove the three Phillips screws that secure the front panel assembly cable bracket to the logic board. Next, lift the bracket out of the iPhone (see Figure 7.8).


FIGURE 7.8 Removing the front panel assembly cable bracket.

4. Use your trusty plastic opening tool to disconnect the three front panel assembly cables. As shown in Figure 7.9, the three cables map to (1) the front-facing camera; (2) the digitizer cable; and (3) the LCD cable. Note that (3) is hidden in Figure 7.9; it is located beneath the digitizer cable.


FIGURE 7.9 Disconnecting the three front panel assembly cables.

Note: Leave Those Sockets Alone!

I know I sound like a broken record here, but please be sure to pry up only the connectors and not the sockets themselves.

5. Remove the front panel assembly from the rest of the iPhone. Lay the part aside and bask in how easy screen replacements are with the iPhone 5, especially compared to the same procedure with the iPhone 4S.

6. It’s time to return your attention to the battery. The first task is removing power to it. Remove the two Phillips screws that hold down the metal battery connector bracket. (See Figure 7.10.)


FIGURE 7.10 Remove these two screws to get at the battery connector.

7. Use your fingers (or better yet, a pair of tweezers) to remove the bracket as shown in Figure 7.11.


FIGURE 7.11 Removing the metal battery connector bracket.

8. Use your plastic opening tool to pry the battery connector from its socket on the logic board. (See Figure 7.12.) Leave the socket alone—you want only to lift the connector!


FIGURE 7.12 Disconnecting the iPhone 5 battery.

9. The battery inside the iPhone 5 is held to the rear case by a LOT of adhesive. Carefully but firmly run the plastic opening tool around the perimeter of the battery. Lift and remove the battery out of the iPhone 5, as shown in Figure 7.13. You may use the plastic pull tab to lift out the battery.


FIGURE 7.13 Removing the battery.

Caution: Assault and Battery

Be mindful not to puncture or grossly deform the battery. I say “grossly” deform because in my opinion the force that is required to unseat the battery from its adhesive will doubtless deform the battery package a little bit.

10. Use the tip of a spudger to disconnect the cellular data antenna cable connector from the logic board. The “button” connector is covered with a tiny square of felt. (See Figure 7.14.)


FIGURE 7.14 Disconnecting the cellular data antenna.

11. Remove the two Phillips screws (see Figure 7.15) and then use your fingers or tweezers to lift the top logic board bracket off the rear case. Take note of the component’s orientation to make reassembly faster.


FIGURE 7.15 Removing the top logic board bracket.

12. Now you can work on disconnecting the myriad logic board cables. The iPhone 5 features two interconnect cables that use the same “button”-type connector head that you saw earlier with the cellular data antenna cable connector. (See Figure 7.16.)


FIGURE 7.16 Disconnecting the primary logic board cables.

13. Tilt the iPhone 5 chassis 90 degrees to reveal two additional Phillips screws as shown in Figure 7.17. Remove the two screws that hold the logic board to the rear case.


FIGURE 7.17 Removing two more screws that hold the logic board in place.

14. Remove the single Phillips screw that holds down the logic board bracket, and then use your fingers or a pair of tweezers to remove the mid-section logic board bracket itself, as shown in Figure 7.18. (Why do you think Apple includes so many of these metal-covering brackets in the iPhone 5? Do they serve a conductive purpose, a protective purpose, or both?)


FIGURE 7.18 Removing the mid-section logic board bracket.

15. Whoops—you don’t want to forget about the dadgum SIM card! Use a SIM card eject tool or a bent paper clip to eject the SIM card tray. You may remove the SIM card from the tray if you desire. (See Figure 7.19.)


FIGURE 7.19 Removing the SIM tray and SIM card from the iPhone 5.

16. You are almost ready to remove the logic board. First, remove the final set of five screws that secure the logic board to the rear case. As you can see in Figure 7.20, there are two types of screws at play here. The standoff screws are best approached with a small-gauge (2.5mm) flathead screwdriver.


FIGURE 7.20 Removing the Phillips and standoff screws that hold the logic board to the rear case.

17. Grasp the bottom portion of logic board and wiggle it to unseat it from the rear case. (See Figure 7.21.) Be mindful of the Wi-Fi antenna cable that is connected on the underside of the logic board.


FIGURE 7.21 Removing the logic board.

18. Use the tip of the spudger to gently pry the Wi-Fi antenna cable connector from its socket located on the underside of the logic board. (See Figure 7.22.)


FIGURE 7.22 Disconnecting the Wi-Fi antenna cable from the logic board.

While you are here, take a look at the new Lightning connector assembly. A total of seven screws hold this monstrosity in place. (See Figure 7.23.)


FIGURE 7.23 The Lightning connector assembly.

What is important to note here is that this single, monolithic component contains not only the Lightning connector, but also the headphone jack and loudspeaker. This is bad news for us DIY’ers, as we need to purchase the entire assembly to replace an individual component.

Reassembly Notes

As I’m sure you observed, the interior of the iPhone 5 is filled with metal-to-metal contact points. Please keep in mind the best practices to avoid transferring finger oils to these components and creating unintentional electrical shorts and/or interference.

Don’t worry too much if you need to deform the battery a bit during extraction. I was amazed at how much glue Apple used to secure it to the chassis. Simply flatten out the battery as best as you can prior to re-seating it in the rear case.

As discussed previously, the iPhone 5 includes a plethora of small metal connector brackets. Be sure to note their original orientation during disassembly to reduce or eliminate confusion during reassembly.

On Material Costs and Profit Margins

Market research companies like iSuppli (isuppli.com) take it upon themselves to disassemble electronic devices, source the vendor’s cost for each and every component, and then compare the bill of materials (BOM) price to the unit’s actual retail price.

According to iSuppli’s September 18, 2012 press release (http://is.gd/KVvHoS), the iPhone 5 carries a $199 BOM. Stated simply, it costs Apple approximately $200 to produce an iPhone.

iSuppli tempers their data somewhat by stating that their iDevice disassemblies and cost estimates are “preliminary in nature, [and]account only for hardware and manufacturing costs and do not include other expenses such as software, licensing, royalties or other expenditures...” (source:http://is.gd/vXu2wp).

Now, compare that BOM figure with the list price for the 16GB iPhone 5 both with and without a cellular contract.

Image Price without a contract (unlocked phone): $649

Image Price with a contract: $199

Because you can reasonably assume that the vast majority of iPhone 5 customers buy the phone along with a contract (what good is a phone without a cellular provider, after all?), you must ask the question, “How does Apple make money if they break even on the iDevice cost?”

A ha...I’m glad you asked. Let’s scratch the surface of this fascinating subject by listing a mere portion of Apple’s myriad revenue streams for the iPhone 5:

Image Apple charges accessory vendors a licensing fee.

Image Apple earns a “cut” of every iOS app purchase in the Apple App Store.

Image Apple earns a “cut” from every song, ringtone, audiobook, and so on sold in the iTunes Store.

Image Apple makes money on its AppleCare warranty program.

Image Apple sells its own accessories (Lightning adapters, for instance).

The aforementioned list is not comprehensive by any means. The bottom line is that Apple is able to offset the material cost of the iPhone 5’s hardware by making a financial “killing” with related hardware, software, and license deals. The customer expenditures surrounding the iPhone 5’s hardware seem to be where Apple derives its profit margin for this device.

Now don’t you wish you owned a nice chunk of Apple stock?