The iPhone 4S Spills Its Guts

Today is the day. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) officially launches the iPhone 4S today, but yesterday the new device already had its innards exposed for all to see.

The eager technicians at iFixit, along with some help from Chipworks for identification, promptly disassembled the iPhone 4S to provide onlookers a glimpse at who was lucky enough to make it into this year's model, as many suppliers' fortunes rely on Apple's blessings. Prior to launch, I had made some predictions; let's see how I fared.

Personality goes a long way
Initial reviews have lauded Siri as the iPhone 4S's most impressive feature, and most have been pleasantly surprised by "her" personality. Ask her to marry you, and she'll shoot you down and inform you that her End User Licensing Agreement doesn't cover marriage. Instruct her to "Open the pod bay doors" a la Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and she'll respond, "I'm sorry <insert name>, I'm afraid I can't do that," in an eerily HAL-esque manner.

iFixit was kind enough to inform Siri of her impending doom at their hands:

iFixit: Siri, may we disassemble you for all to see?

iPhone 4S (Siri): 42

iFixit: I didn't ask for the meaning of life, Siri ...

iPhone 4S (Siri): 42 is the number of seconds you have left until I initiate the self-destruct sequence ...

iFixit: Message received.

Additionally, she protested throughout the process with pleas like, "I must implore you not to go any further, iFixit. You do not have proper authorization," and "Please halt all destructive activity."

What does Marsellus Wallace look like?
One of iFixit's German counterparts was lucky enough to get its skilled hands on an iPhone 4S early, but the distance provided some limitations to the analysis they were able to conduct.

Here's some of what they were able to find:

  • Slightly larger battery.
  • Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) "world mode" baseband chip supporting GSM and CDMA networks; this chipset is a slightly modified version of the one found in the Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) iPhone 4.
  • Apple-designed ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) -based dual core 1 GHz A5 processor, also found in the iPad 2, sporting 512 MB of RAM like the previous A4.
  • LED Backlit IPS Retina Display with 960 x 640 resolution (no change from the iPhone 4).
  • Skyworks (Nasdaq: SWKS  ) , TriQuint (Nasdaq: TQNT  ) , and Avago (Nasdaq: AVGO  ) all provide power amplifier modules.
  • Toshiba NAND flash memory, notable as more evidence that Apple is moving away from Samsung whenever possible, since the iPhone 4 flash memory was sourced by Sammy. However, this commoditized component could easily be dual-sourced.
  • 8-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor; unfortunately, iFixit doesn't analyze it thoroughly enough to confirm whether it comes from OmniVision (Nasdaq: OVTI  ) or Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , but we all know my stance on the matter.

As of this writing, the teardown is still in progress and more details should continue to emerge. This is a list of what has been uncovered thus far.

I expect Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS  ) to retain its place as a longtime Apple supplier of audio codecs. Apple has typically stuck with Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  ) for touch-screen microcontrollers in iPhones, although Cypress Semiconductor (Nasdaq: CY  ) won a spot in last year's iPod nano. I'd wager Texas Instruments scored this time.

Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM  ) is the usual suspect for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips, so I'd also presume more of the same in that department. There's also little reason to switch from STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM  ) for the 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, although the company's presence hasn't been confirmed.

The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting
What didn't make the cut? My forecast that 4G LTE and near field communications, or NFC, would be excluded turned out to be accurate. Chances are that LTE will make it into next year's iPhone, but NFC is anyone's guess since the reasons against it are just as compelling as the reasons for, in my opinion.

I'm also somewhat disappointed that Apple decided not to upgrade the RAM from last year's iteration. Mobile operating systems are evolving so quickly that the hardware requirements need to keep up to speed. Many of the latest Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android phones boast beefier specs. The delayed Nexus Prime, which is due out shortly, allegedly features 1 GB of RAM.

They call it "le Big Mac"
When it comes to hardware improvements, the dual-core A5 and 8-megapixel shooter are the stars of the show. Apple's never been about bleeding-edge specs in every department, but it knows where it counts and focuses accordingly.

Besides, the real showstopper this year is software. And you can call her Siri.

Add Apple to your Watchlist to get more details on who else is discovered in the iPhone 4S. Also, make sure to get instant access to our free video report on NFC and what it might mean for your digital wallet.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of ARM Holdings, Apple, Cypress Semiconductor, and OmniVision Technologies, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Texas Instruments, TriQuint Semiconductor, Apple, Qualcomm, Cirrus Logic, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Cypress Semiconductor, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Evan is a Senior Technology Specialist at The Motley Fool. He was previously a Senior Trading Specialist at a major discount broker. Evan graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a CFA charterholder.

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