Samsung Galaxy S4 teardown: Qualcomm is a big winner

Samsung Galaxy S4 teardown: Qualcomm is a big winner

Summary: A teardown of Samsung's new Galaxy S4 Android smartphone shows that Qualcomm is a big winner, succeeding in getting multiple chips onto the motherboard.

TOPICS: Samsung, Smartphones

Samsung's new Galaxy S IV smartphone has made it off the production line and onto the iFixit operating table. What makes the newest — and most anticipated — Android smartphone tick?

Straight away, the iFixit team was pleased to discover that Samsung has bestowed the S4 with a user-removable battery. All that's needed to get into the handset is a sturdy fingernail to get into the device, after which the 3.8V and 2,600mAh (9.88Wh) battery can be removed by hand.

(Image: iFixit)

Delving deeper into the smartphone, the iFixit team discovered a 13 megapixels rear-facing camera capable of recording full 1080p HD videos at 30 frames per second, a pair of IR sensors that are used for the Air View/Air Gesture feature, and a Synaptics S5000B touchscreen processor that is so sensitive it allows the screen to be operated while wearing gloves.

While Samsung is hoping that the Galaxy S4 will bring in the dollars, the real winner seems to be Qualcomm, having scored multiple wins inside the new smartphone.

On the motherboard are found the following:

  • Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T 1.9 GHz quad-core CPU

  • MDM9215M 4G GSM/UMTS/LTE modem

  • PM8917 power management module

  • WCD9310 audio codec chip

  • WTR1605L Seven-Band 4G LTE chip

  • PM8821 Power Management chip.

(Image: iFixit)

According to iFixit, the Galaxy S4's internal construction is "is very similar, if not identical, to the Galaxy S III", which means that it is a quite an easy device to fix, should something break or stop working. The battery is user replaceable, and the internal components easy to access, with only 11 Phillips #0 holding the device together.

(Image: iFixit)

The only black marks against the device are the fact that the glass is fused to the display and display frame, which increases the cost of a replacement, and that getting at the screen means taking the entire handset to bits.

iFixit awarded the Galaxy S4 a repair-ability score of 8 out of 10, which is very good going for a modern smartphone.

Topics: Samsung, Smartphones

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  • interesting discovery

    It was said Samsung has switched to their own supply of components, yet it seems the Galaxy S4 is full of Qualcomm tech... Very interesting.
    • Doubtful Samsung makes all that

      It doesn't mention what is Sammy...Probably the display, memory, and video driver.
      • Don't forget about the multi-carrier changes.

        You can blame the extremely large number of worldwide carriers for the many variants of the GS4.

        The US, for example, gets a stock Exynos S4 while the UK gets the Snapdragon variant.
        • just before I saw the paycheck which

          just before I saw the paycheck which said $9050, I did not believe that my neighbour was like truly earning money parttime on their apple laptop.. there uncles cousin haz done this 4 only 13 months and resently paid the morgage on their mini mansion and purchased Ariel Atom. I went here,,, >>
      • Umm

        The SoC is 100% Samsung. Even the GPU doesn't exist in the Qualcomm world.
        • you talk about some other device, apparently

          The CPU in this mobile phone is all Qualcomm, as is the GPU -- which is part of the CPU, in fact. Also, all the comms chips come from Qualcomm as well.

          Qualcomm make components -- even if a specific component is only used by one customer, it remains Qualcomm component.
          • Samsung makes their own SOCs

            but this version uses the cheaper Qualcomm chip set for certain markets.
            Just like the S3 where it was dual core snapdragon for some restricted markets and the real Exynos quad core version for international unlocked versions.
    • @ danbi

      That is because Samsung has slowly moved more of its internal expertise into integration in the last 2 years away from semiconductor manufacturing industry only. Samsung IC division is still the world's 2nd largest IC designer/manufacturer in the world though its foundry division is still dwarfed by GlobalFoundries, TSMC and Intel. More important is its increasing specialization in chip design and system integration (including display, IC, motherboard and other peripherals).

      Samsung is almost like Apple without the needed scale yet for Exynos. That would be the next step - to get manufacturing capacity at a foundry for Exynos while dishing out new phone designs with octocore Exynos and more of its series CPU chips. They should be able to integrate the LTE modem too much like Apple will eventually succeed at.

      By the way, Apple uses MDM9615 LTE modem while Samsung uses MDM9215 LTE modem. It will be interesting to know the benchmark difference between these two Qualcomm chips.

      It looks to me Qualcomm and Samsung are eating Intel's consumer PC lunch. That also explains the doubling in revenue for these two IC divisions or companies since 2011. I expect Qualcomm to be the leading American mobile CPU and modem designer as well as exceeding Intel in overall revenue by 2017 or 2018. This is inspite of Qualcomm announcing that smartphone growth rates have levelled off. But achieving $45 - $50 billion per year looks doable to me as Intel keeps losing consumer PC monopoly margins.

      This also implies the rise of the WinQual as opposed to the WinTel alliance is eventual and completely possible. I expect all Windows smartphones and tablets that are under 8" or 9" to be Qualcomm CPU based on a majority and Nvidia CPU based on a minority. And since they have taken 7.5% marketshare in tablets, Qualcomm will also benefit from the rise of WinRT platform on the consumer market.
      • Haswell

        Haswell's low-power chips will surely surprise you then.
    • Crippled version

      USA gets the crippled version with the Qualcomm chipset.
      The real deal is the international Exynos version with the 8 core SOC and Wolfson Audio.
  • Jimi Hendricks is alive!

    My friend's stepmother's yoga trainer's roomate saw him in a Starbucks just two days ago!
    Because this is the internet, y'all believe that too? *SNORK*
    • Sarcasm.

      It's just another service I provide.
      • Do you not use Windows...

        ... Or are you sarcastic about that too?
  • I still prefer a notebook and pencil

    Why can't they integrate everything into a single chip. Makes more sense to me.
  • I see

    Well Qualcomm has been kicking everyonse butt in the mobile chip world.
  • qualcomm

    Qualcomm is killing it in the mobile market. I do hope Nvidia and samsung can keep them in check, though, because I don't want them to become too big.