iFixit iPhone 5s Teardown Reveals Touch ID, but no M7 Chip

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While the rest of the world is fighting to get their hands on the gold iPhone 5s, iFixit was busy stripping one down to its frame. Inside, they found Apple's Touch Id fingerprint scanner, but the M7 motion and fitness chip wasn't anywhere to be seen.

iPhone 5s: Lots of parts, but no M7 chipiPhone 5s: Lots of parts, but no M7 chip

The Touch ID sensor scans your fingerprint and uses that to unlock your iPhone 5s instead of using a passcode, and it can also be used to authorize iTunes payments. What it can't do is come out easily.

A cable runs to the Lightning port assembly from the Home button's Touch ID sensor which means it takes a gentle touch to open the iPhone 5's case without causing any damage.

On the Touch ID sensor, the iFixit team said, "We worry about how well the sapphire crystal covering the sensor can protect it from degrading over time like most CMOS fingerprint sensors."

The M7 chip that Apple is so proud of turned out to not be a chip at all, and instead most likely is a series of components that work together. Apple touted the M7 as a way to track motion and fitness activities.

"As we search for a much-anticipated M7 coprocessor, we begin to wonder if it actually is a separate IC, or if it is additional functionality built into the A7," they said.

The battery is held in place with some serious adhesive which makes it much harder to remove and replace, but the difficult to work with interconnected antenna cables that were such a pain during repairs are now gone. Apple gives a little and takes a little.

iFixit gave the iPhone 5s a 6 out of ten for ease of repair, with 10 being the easiest. It lost points for the easy to break Touch ID cable, the more difficult to replace battery, more expensive replacement costs for the front glass, and the continued use of pentalobe screws.

The Mac Observer Spin The Mac Observer Spin is how we show you what our authors think about a news story at quick glance. Read More →

No M7 chip! Looks like Apple's marketing team came up with a clever way to explain the motion and fitness features, and Apple never explicitly said M7 was a single chip -- but they sure did a great job of implying just that.

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All it means is that either the A7 and M7 are on the same piece of silicon, or they are separate pieces of silicon sharing the same package.  It’s funny how they both share the “7” even though there have been six previous versions of the “A” processor, but this is the first “M” processor.  This isn’t a new idea (think multi-core processors vs. having multiple separately packaged single core processors on the motherboard, processors with embedded graphics processors, network processors, memory controllers, etc.).  One of the things that makes the ARM platform so strong in mobile devices it has advanced power management techniques that can be used to shut down power to unused parts of the “processor”.  Placing both the A7 & M7 on the same slab of silicon and using power management techniques to only power what is needed is a great way to save size, weight and power.  What it probably really means is that Apple decided to take what was once a set of embedded features in the “A” processor and segregate them out into a “stand alone” processor sitting next to the A7 to make it easier for the M7 to interface directly to the outside world without having to use any part of the A7.  Kudos to Apple.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The real shocker is who makes the A7. Who’s your Daddy, Apple? That’s right, Samsung is Apple’s biological father!


IFixit Update: The M7 chip has been found! 


Quoting from the article: “It’s an NXP LPC1800 device that was buried beneath a neoprene-looking cover”

Paul Goodwin

Brad Brad Brad. Samsung didn’t design any of it. They’re manufacturing to specs and drawings because they had the cheapest bid among suppliers that could handle the volume. And Apple did have a very big hand in developing this architecture. Samsung isn’t anyone’s daddy, they are helping Apple maintain their superiority. They will do anything for money.

Paul Goodwin

And by the way, iFixit found the M7 processor under some rubber cover. Their article was premature and they came out later with the announcement that it was really in there. The guys who do the teardowns do way too much smart Alec dommenting. They are technically competent enough, but they run off at the mouth too much, and this time prematurely. Their commentary on the facts is good, however, they never say anything about how ingenious parts of the design are. Their commentary is always stating a fact, then making a derogatory comment, or no comment if the design is good.

Paul Goodwin

They updated their article down in the body of the article in step 16 where it says: “Update. The M7 has been found!” It’s a link to a separate article on the “found” processor.

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