Having completed the disassembly of the iPhone 4, we started taking pictures of its components. Meanwhile, one of the engineers picked up a small part from the desk.
"This is awesome," he said. "Normally, this kind of part is made in a one-piece molding process using plastic. But Apple scrupulously made this part by using a metal."
"I agree," another engineer said. "It is well crafted and looks posh."
The part that the engineer picked up was a volume button. In addition to two switches used to adjust the volume, a part that gives springiness is attached to a metal plate. The engineers were impressed by Apple's efforts in caring about details.
Through the teardown, we found that Apple designed the iPhone 4 by paying attention especially to its external appearance including the volume button and the aluminum frame. On the other hand, the company did not necessarily use state-of-the-art components inside the phone. For example, we found a component that looks to have been developed a decade ago because of its large size.
The reason why Apple used such a component is to make a uniform height.
"For the iPhone 3G, Apple used a small part even when it could do with a larger part," an engineer said. "This time, the company used small parts only when it is necessary to use them for making a uniform height. Apple chose components in consideration of the balance of the entire body, like Japanese manufacturers."
The engineers judged that Apple's product design is becoming more similar to that of Japanese manufacturers not only because of the choice of components but also because of the advance in modularization and the emphasis on high specifications. In other words, the company, like Japanese firms, did not express novelty by design and usability but focused on improving hardware.
We are interested in whether Apple will focus on improvement of hardware for its next product or will surprise the world by showing novelty of design and usability.
We wrap up the teardown of the iPhone 4 for the meantime. But there are still some unclear points. And we might report on them as follow-up stories.
By the way, it turned out that the "A4" microprocessors equipped in the iPad and the iPhone 4 have the same size. But why did Apple show an A4 chip smaller than that of the iPad as a chip for the iPhone 4 at Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2010 (WWDC)? This question is still unanswered.