Apple iPhone X Design Evo

This year, and after ten years of iterations, Apple exceptionally released at same time two new devices: iPhone 8 and iPhone X (three if we count the 8 Plus variant).

iPhoneX_iPhone8_iPhone8Plus.jpg

We can really identify an evolution and a polish of their industrial design in the current most iconic product line as it is the ‘iPhone’.

Sir Jony Ive made several movements in material selection along the years:

  • iPhone 2G (soft Aluminium) [2007]
  • iPhone 3G (Polycarbonate) [2008]
  • iPhone 4 (Steel frame with back glass)  [2010]
  • iPhone 5 (Alum Series 6000)  [2012]
  • iPhone 6s (Alum Series 7000)  [2015]
  • iPhone 8 (Alum 7000 frame with back glass strengthened [but not shatterproof])
  • iPhone X (Steel frame with back glass strengthened [but not shatterproof]) [2017]

The iPhone 4 made the first milestone, introducing a precious design based solely on noble materials such as Glass and Steel:

iPhone4S

The users have seen the polishing of the original iPhone industrial design, making it Better, more simple, robust and elegant along the last years.

One step further, Apple introduced a fully unibody alum case making the device (iPhone 5) even more robust against falls and over time, and reaching the maximum expression of inner specs and nice design with the still available iPhone SE (2016). And still pretty loved small and handy 4″ screen iPhone for single hand usage.

iPhoneSE_Flying

But I would say this was until 2014 with the iPhone 6 introduction. It became slimmer and rounded but the introduction of the Back Camera Turret destroyed the beautiful job done until the iPhone 5s. I can understand the engineering trade-off’s and Apple’s eagerness to continuously improve its photographic system; but that doesn’t mean that the final solution was pretty inconvenient in terms of simply ID.

iPhone6s_flying

And in 2014 year, also the iPhone 6s Plus (the bigger iPhone made until today) was also presented, which due its size, also explained the fact of making the device thinner and rounded (despite the back turret); to avoid a feeling of having a mastodon in the hands of the end user.

iPhone6s

Personally, I have been a really fan lover of the Plus FHD 5.5″ screen, despite the fact that the overall device size was never as handy as other more compact smartphones with 5,2″ FHD screens. So, I was also always waiting to what happen this year with the iPhone X, a more compact device with a massive screen.

You can see how the 4″ size is not enough anymore nowadays, and how the design of the iPhone X with bigger screen fixed it (compared with also iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models):

iPhoneSE_iPhone7_iPhone8.jpg

But coming back to the desing of the device itself, I would like to remark several things.

I was not a big fan of losing the 3.5″ analog audio jack (although, I think is a good movement to push the market to improve the wireless earbuds developments), but the iPhone 7 (2016) fixed several design holes of the previous generations.

iPhone7

First of all, the black matte color came back and due the new alloy and treatment processes, it was stronger against scratches, just perfect!

Secondly, the back camera turret design was embraced with the whole housing design, making of it something Smoother and Flowing more naturally to the lens, not like a ‘nut’ screwed into the housing. Look at it:

iPhone7Plus.jpg

Third, the plastic lines embedded in the housing for the RF antennas, were delicately re-designed and pushed to the side borders to go undetected. So beautiful and handy engineering trade-off solution, again very well done in both black color variants.

And last, but not less important, the Touch ID mechanical push button was fully removed, but keeping perfectly its functionality! I really love this change. Because it eliminated a mechanical piece, more or less delicate, and with a certain tendency to break with time, even maybe being very careful with it.

This made the most robust, powerful and reliable iPhone device until today.

But unfortunately, the history doesn’t end here, and in 2017 iPhone 8 and X, Apple decided to came back to back glass covers.

iPhone8_iPhoneX_iPhone8Plus.jpg

I understand the reasons behind for this movement: Inductive Charging feature introduction; as the main trend of Apple is to make its iPhone an fully ubiquitous device and fully cable loss dependent.

But this doesn’t mean that this marketing and engineering decision hard a tough impact in the design.

Now, we are again having a ‘nut’ embossed in the glass:

iPhone8.jpg

Which is even worse in the iPhone X, which straight turret is above 1mm height:

iPhoneX_flying.jpg

On top of that, the new “Space Gray” 2017 tone, is not dark/light enough gray, nor black, but some kind of slighly ‘ugly’ and a bit ‘dirty perception‘ gray tone, which makes it lose all the magic to the device. In the photos is not clearly noticeable, but in live it is, and loses many points in its favor; go to a shop and take a look yourself if you have the opportunity.

Another detail is that Apple bring back the frame made in Steell to the iPhone X (to differentiate further from iPhone 8), but I believe that the Alum alloy series 7000 continues being the best approach in terms of Hardness, Durability and Compensated weight for metal usage in smartphones:

iPhone8VSiPhoneX.jpg

And the worse is that the new back cover made in glass, and even reinforced, it is not shatterproof against falls. What, together with the higher back camera turrets, will make the need to use a cover more necessary than ever before, and not due the possible scratches of daily use, but to avoid instability on flat surfaces and possible glass breakages against falls.

Another problem of usability and perception is that the rear glass (despite being less slippery than the metal) is too warm and gives the impression of being cheaper and more bad than it really is; as it gives the feeling of being some kind of plastic material instead of glass, and not a premium material, something that back metal actually transmitted to the end user much perfectly.

iPhone8_Gold.jpg

Nor does it give it a feeling of being a Monolithic device, something that the previous iPhone 7 Jet Black model transmitted much better, despite its inherent problem of being prone to scratches or micro abrasions after some daily usage without any cover.

iPhone7_Jet_Black.jpg

I also personally think that the decission to avoid a black variant in 2017 was to avoid any possible reminiscences with the old iPhone 4 and any kind of annoying comparison with an obsolete device of seven years ago. Although another possibility is that Apple has a silver bullet for next year minor update, and they would introduce the Pure Black in the iPhone 2018 as a variant novelty, we’ll see. As this also happened in the past.

So, as conclusion, even if this year new devices are really great iPhones (I have not any doubt about it) and I know for sure that Apple will make another hit of sales; they didn’t move a step forward with respect pure to Industry Design, but management decided to focus on offering a truly exceptional photographic experience, putting aside the aesthetic details; at least until R&D can find a viable technical solution that puts everything all together: Photography + Wireless + Design

To end, my wish would be that in next years iPhone milestones, Apple solves the engineering issue for the wireless charging (keeping it, of course) but changing the back material to something more robust for daily use and without hiding its great industrial design under a case: Aluminum again, another metal alloy or maybe even any innovative material (a new kind of ceramic?); and also the back camera it becomes again completely flat maintaining all its spectacular functionalities 😉

P.S. By the way ,I did not want to put too much emphasis on the iPhone X’s notch (Face ID), or ‘ears’ as some people call them:

FaceID_TrueDepth-iPhoneX_a

because the idea (True Depth cameras technology) has been implemented in a so sublime way taking into account all the engineering trade-off’s, look by yourself the inners complexity (8 tiny and extremely complex electronic components putted together in a row and perfectly alligned along the millions of units to be made):

FaceID_TrueDepth-iPhoneX_b.jpg

This is again a big step ahead in the consumer electronics in terms of strong seamless security system; and anyone can not, and should not, neglect all the merit behind to bring it to market; because it is another milestone in the smartphone industry, as it was the Touch ID at 2012. And I know that Apple UX team will find the best balance (maybe after few iOS iterations) to use those couple of ears to simply show useful information to the user without making ugly the whole interface always, adapting them depending of the app being used, and without bringing back a useless bottom black band just to simply offer a full symmetrical design, which will again wrongly oversize the device, making it less handy.

Xperia Z5 Thermal dissipation

Although it was known in the Android community from other high-end smartphones already released this 2015 year that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 suffered of overheating in their first die revision (you can take a look to my previous article) it seems that Sony decided go ahead with it in their latest high-end Xperia Z5 family.

Although not mentioned, it is most than probably that Sony is using the die revision 2.x of it, which suffers lower over heating but anyhow noticeable by the user if you use the SoC at maximum throttle (as gaming).

However, it looks like Sony decided to introduce some extra thermal dissipation techniques coming from higher size consumer electronics equipment or computers; more complex but also efficient to spread the heat along the phone, instead of a single heat sink point above the SoC.

In next pictures you can see how Sony added a couple of thermal copper heap pipes connected to a bigger heat sink and even thermal paste on top of the SoC, which makes more complex (and expensive) the inners and assembly of the Z5 phones family, but less noticeable to the user when the SoC warms up:

Sony_Xperia_Z5_Dual_Heat_Pipe

And for the Z5 Premium:

Sony_Xperia_Z5_Premium_Dual_Heat_Pipe

Of course, these kind of techniques are not very usual in high integrated smartphones due the higher manufacturing costs, labor time and lower reliability at long term. I assume that Sony Mobile R&D team had to make some trade-off’s this year to be able to release a newer Z family member with higher specs (currently 810 v2.1 is the highest, while the 820 is ready to be released) able to compete with the strong competition coming from China (as the OnePlus, Huawei, Meizu, Mi, Lenovo/Motorola), Korea (Samsung/LG) and for sure, Apple with their iPhones.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – Looking Inside

Some users have already got their first Samsung Galaxy S6 final samples and disassembled them to take a look inside.

Samsung_Galaxy_S6

Time ago there were a leakage of its user manual, suggesting that its internal battery could be exchanged easily:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_User_Manual

But the point is that after the first disassembly reviews it seems that it is not so easy as above looks like, neither took in mind for regular users but only for Samsung technicians, as the back glass panel is strongly glued to the chassis of the smartphone and its removal is quite tricky, needing a Heat gun and good skills.

Here we can see the back cover once removed:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Back_Cover

And also what you can see below it, basically its Qi wireless charging system attached to the metal frame:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Disassembly_1

There is also another sub-chassis where the battery and the main board are screwed:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Disassembly_2

And both side-by-side, including its two cameras took a part:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Main_Board_0

For the most curious of the electronics, the RF shielding on top the chips were removed, and we can see the main CPU and memory in the main board (very compact and integrated, allowing maximize the inner space for other components and bigger battery)

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Main_Board_1

This is its famous new metal chassis based on Aluminum 6013 alloy, claimed to be stronger than the one used in the Apple iPhone 6 series:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Chassis

So, as you can see, disassembly the new Samsung Galaxy S6 is not easy and even with patience and skills, could lead to break any component or inner flex cables:

Samsung-Galaxy-S6-Teardown-1-710x361

Personally, I would not suggest to try it to anybody without enough experience removing glued parts and high integrated micro electronics, as it is quite dangerous and you could break the glass bottom cover or you could damage any of other parts of the phone during the heating or disassembly process. Not only trying to unglue it, but also due the heat. That heat not well managed (overheating) could damage partial or totally some electronic inner parts.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 could suffer overheat [Updated x1]

Some months ago there were some rumors saying that the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 thought for this 2015 year high-end smartphones had some overheating issues.

snapdragon_processor_810

This was also one of the reasons why those rumors suggested the decision of Samsung to disregard this processor and use only their own Exynos in their Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge new 2015 series.

Well, today Tweakers.net (Dutch specialized site) was evaluating the HTC One M9 (which uses this 810 CPU), and discovered that when high-performance games as Asphalt 8 and Assassin’s Creed are running, the temperature of the M9 case gets much warm that the HTC competitors, in fact, up to 55,4°C.

You can see it in their thermal picture that they made:

CPU_Thermal_Image

It is true that the test was not done with the final SW Android OS build for the HTC One M9, but anyhow it doesn’t show very good perspective. There will be more high-smartphones using this high-end CPU on 2015, so if it is a real issue, we will see more reports like this one and users complaining in the coming months.

[Update x1: 26 March 2015]

After the shocking results shared by Tweakers.net couple weeks ago, HTC released a new Android OS build (claimed to be more stable and closer to the final release) where the temperature of the HTC One M9 is reduced by -13,7°C down to 41,7°C, something closer to its competitors:

cpu_thermal_image_updated

The official details of what was exactly changed has not been officially disclosed by HTC, but pretty sure HTC reduced the processor performance (freq. clocks in some domains) in extreme cases as high demanding 3D games.

Now, we will have to wait for newer HTC One M9 benchmarkings using the tweaked new Android OS build, which still is not the final one, to see if it still can compete face-to-face against latest Samsung Exynos 7 or Apple A8.

Samsung Galaxy S6 will use different Aluminum 6XXX series alloy than iPhone6

After few weeks of iPhone 6 market release some users highlighted what was called as “Bending gate” case, basically they claimed that iPhone 6/6Plus were weak enough to blend easily in their pockets, and after so much fuss, Apple showed couple of videos of their internal Testing & Qualifying housing process (also against ‘bendings’) and made the following official statement:

Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure every day, real life use. With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple.

I will not open the iPhone 6 ‘Bending’ housing debate again here, as I want to talk more about the new aluminum alloy that Samsung will use in their newer Galaxy S6 series high-end metal unibody smartphones:

Galaxy_S6_Frame

Samsung will use the Aluminum 6013 alloy, which as the other aluminum alloy 6XXX series is an alloy of Aluminum-Magnesium-Silicon. Moreover, the second number (a “zero”) denotes that the alloy purity is maximum without any kind of the change on it.

SiMgAl

Samsung claims this aluminum alloy is sturdier than the regular used in automotive industry and most of current days smartphones, also they say “that is an alloy used in aircraft industry”, but I want to highlight that 6013 alloy is not used in the inner structural parts of an airplane but in the external and visible parts.

Moreover, Samsung Mobile officially assured that “this alloy will not bend” (making an obvious nod to Apple), (at minute 1:18 of next YouTube video):

Which is something we need wait to test/see until first units are market released and some users begin playing with them and uploading videos in YouTube of their experiments.

I will also mention that even it is not officially stated in Apple iPhone 6 specifications, we think Apple used Aluminum 6003 alloy (at least in the beginning iPhone 6 batches of last year).

In Wikipedia, these alloys are not detailed described, but you can find some technical data of both these two alloys here:

  1. Aluminum 6003 Alloy
  2. Aluminum 6013 Alloy

Where if you look in the Applications section of each one, you will notice that 6013 alloy is used in harshest environment products than 6003 version.

I don’t know why Apple exactly selected 6003 iso 6013 (or other from 6XXX series), but they should have their good reasons: Technical limitations, Manufacturability issues (DFM), Costs or Production capability from their vendors?

Only Apple knows, but looking the figures, it seems that 6013 is an sturdier alloy than 6003, so probably Samsung is right using 6013 in their newest high-end smartphones.

Anyhow, I am pretty sure that Apple will improve the strength of their current/coming iPhones doesn’t matter the way:

  1. Maybe also moving to 6013 alloy without letting us know (and if the change is impossible to be noticed by end user, maybe it is already done in latest iPhone6 batches without being officially announced; if not maybe reserved for coming iPhone 6s as new feature).
  2. Maybe keeping 6003 alloy but changing the Temper grade used (we also don’t know which one is currently used by Apple housing manufacturing process).
  3. Or simply strengthening the weak area where the housing was blending (near the volume buttons housing hole) with more/bigger/thicker steel/titanium insertions, as it is already done in other sides of the housing to keep it slim, lightweight and robust as Apple stated.

I.e. You can see below where are those inner metal inserts located inside iPhone 6 Plus (first 2014Q4 batch) in these photos:

iPhone6_Inserts1

(The blue highlight is the Volume area where even having an insert, it seemed to be the weakest against pressure exerted)

iphone6_inserts21b

You can see those inserts are basically steel/titanium flat metal pieces directly screwed in the housing of iPhone 6/6Plus.

In any case, this time I am sure of the good & high housing quality of both products: Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6.

Samsung closes the loop in high-end smartphones production chain

Until this year, all the high-end Samsung smartphones came with an in-house CPU design (Exynos) or Qualcomm performance equivalent; depending of market and sales volumes.

Q810_Exynos7

But on top of moving to Glass + Metal materials, it seems Samsung game rules changed also this year for CPU, and the newest Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will come only with Exynos 7 CPU flavor inside.

Mr. Shin Jong-kyun (Samsung CEO) argued:

Samsung previously used more Qualcomm mobile processors; But we are flexible. If Qualcomm chips are good enough, then we will use them. Samsung always uses the best-quality components and materials to differentiate our products from those by rivals.

But I don’t think that current Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 is not good or powerful enough. My view is that Samsung wants to have a closer control in the supply chain and full Bill Of Materials costs, reducing overall production costs and improving margin benefits avoiding paying any kind of IP to Qualcomm (which are not negligible).

If Exynos performs well and Samsung doesn’t suffer production bottlenecks, I doubt that they will come back to Qualcomm and probably they will begin to introduce their Exynos in medium range, increasing the visibility of Samsung Semic. R&D division.

Basically they are following the steps made by Apple: to have a closer control up to the last dollar cent of the BOM to achieve bigger benefits.

This was done some decades ago until most companies began to outsource progressively everything, focusing only in branding; but I think the tech business trend is changing again, having in-house control even up to lower ASIC design level.