iPhone 7 Teardown Finds a Speedy Intel LTE Modem

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A look at the iPhone 7's innards confirms an intriguing rumor about the cellular modems powering Apple's latest handset: at least some of the modems are made by Intel, not Qualcomm.

Chipworks added images of its iPhone 7 teardown to its blog this week, which show RF transceivers and a cellular transmitter made by Intel. More specifically, the Chipworks teardown appears to reveal an Intel XMM7360 modem, which would make the iPhone 7 capable of the 450Mbps LTE download speeds that Apple has promised.

While Chipworks picked apart the iPhone 7 on sale in the US and Europe, rival teardown gurus at iFixit used a Japanese version, which has a Qualcomm modem instead. That modem is a category 12, which means it's theoretically capable of up to 600Mpbs LTE download speeds.

Apple never reveals specifics about the guts of its iPhones, and keeps its modem technology especially secret. But these teardowns and others of previous iPhones make that an open secret; modems in recent iPhone models have mostly been sourced from Qualcomm.

The fact that Apple is adding an Intel modem to the mix this time for phones sold in the US means that not all iPhone 7s will work with all American carriers. Apple's official spec sheet for the iPhone 7 lists two sets of units sold in the US. Models A1660 (iPhone 7) and A1661 (iPhone 7 Plus) work on all four major US networks and virtual networks like Ting, Ultra Mobile, and Consumer Cellular. Models A1778 (iPhone 7) and A1784 (iPhone 7 Plus) do not have CDMA modems and thus don't work on Verizon, Sprint, or any smaller carrier that uses those networks.

In its teardown, iFixit also found that Apple applied lots of adhesive to the iPhone 7's edges, a lot more than in previous models. That likely helps the phone's water resistance: the iPhone 7 is the first Apple handset to be able to survive complete immersion in water. It is rated IP67, which means it should withstand immersion in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes without damage.

Finally, the lack of the headphone jack makes room for hardware that powers the new "taptic" feedback home button, iFixit found. It uses haptic feedback to simulate a push, though the button itself is stationary.

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