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Cracking Open the Palm Pre

In partnership with iFixit, TechRepublic cracks open the Palm Pre, the latest smartphone from Sprint. The Palm Pre is supposed to give the Apple iPhone a run for its money - we see if it can.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The Palm Pre is the latest smartphone to create buzz in the marketplace. In partnership with iFixit and Phonewreck, TechRepublic presents this Cracking Open Photo Gallery. Let's see if the Palm Pre can really stand up to the iPhone.
Photo by iFixit, used by permission
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2 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Just like the Apple iPhone, the Palm Pre sports some fancy packaging.
Photo by iFixit, used by permission
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3 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Palm Pre phone
  • AC Phone Charger, Standard Li-Ion Battery
  • Stereo Headset, Carry Pouch
  • Micro USB Sync Cable
  • Get Started Guide and Features Guide
  • A prepaid plastic recycling envelope in the box, making it easy to recycle your newly obsolete phone. This is a fantastic move on Palm's part, but of course recycling is a last resort if you can't fix it.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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4 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Users preferring physical keyboards will be satisfied, but iPhone veterans may be left disappointed at the lack of a software keyboard option.
  • Revealing the keyboard feels awkward and interrupts the smooth WebOS experience. Try before you buy, because this keyboard could be enough to deter picky users.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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5 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The Pre comes with a stylish and rugged case, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, earbuds and USB cable.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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6 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

Photo by iFixit, used by permission
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7 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The battery came only partially charged, and we managed to drain it on the 1.5 hour drive back from Santa Barbara.
  • We'll just charge it briefly with the MicroUSB connector before ripping it apart. :)

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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8 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
You get a full one year warranty on hardware, but for software Palm only promises "software will perform in substantial conformance to their program specifications for a period of ninety (90) days."
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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9 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The lineup: Apple iPhones vs. Palm Pre
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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10 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
We love the feel of holding the Pre in our hands. In its closed position, it feels much more comfortable to hold than the iPhone.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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11 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Notice the extra thickness of the Pre compared to the iPhone (17mm vs 12mm). Not only does this allow the engineers more flexibility in designing the physical layout of components, but it also makes the Pre conform really well to our palm.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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12 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • To see your face better while taking photos for MySpace, the Pre includes a mirror on the back.
  • Unfortunately, the mirror distorts everything in sight-- it conforms to the slight curve of the phone. It also gets easily covered in fingerprints. Your digits will gravitate to this region while holding the phone open.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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13 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Cheese does not cut Pre. Evidently it only works the other way around.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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14 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The 3 megapixel camera does take great pictures though (we took the last photo here using our Pre in the car).
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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15 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The back panel snaps off easily to reveal the battery.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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16 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The Pre's battery capacity is 1150 mAh, exactly the same as the iPhone 3G, though the Pre is reported to have slightly worse battery life due to its background process capability (but we don't mind).
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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17 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Though Sprint will eventually sell replacement and/or backup batteries, our store did not have them available today.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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18 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The Pre on the left, and the iPhone 3G on the right. Although they're different shapes, both weigh in at 23 grams.
  • In contrast to Apple's iPhones, the battery on the Pre is user-replaceable. Thanks Palm!

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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19 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The back of the phone and speaker.
  • The speaker in the Pre is substantially better than the one in the iPhone.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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20 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Palm didn't skimp on antennas. They're exposed for all to see as soon as you remove the back panel.
  • The antenna design is three dimensional to optimize signal quality. The iPhone's antennas also use this technique.
  • The small sticker labeled palm is probably there to prevent people from doing what we're about to do...

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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21 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Removing one of the six T5 screws required to seperate the backplate from the phone.
  • The screw in the upper right corner is covered by a sticker labeled "Palm."

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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22 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
There are interlocking tabs securing the backplate.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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Carefully work around the phone releasing the tabs as you go.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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24 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • We found two antennas.
  • One was labeled GPS (its obvious what its for) and the other one was labeled DIV (for diversity antenna - thanks microbreak!).

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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25 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The two volume buttons are still connected to the front half of the phone. Completely separating the two halves requires first removing the plastic volume button cover, then peeling up the volume button electronics.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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26 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

Photo by iFixit, used by permission
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The back frame separated from the rest of the phone.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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28 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Two connectors need to be disconnected in order to remove the black PCB.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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29 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The PCB is glued to the rest of the Pre. A gentle pry with the spudger separates the two.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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30 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Removing the keyboard bezel.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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31 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The hardware keyboard and its associated sliding mechanism weighs 32 grams. That's nearly 25% of the weight of the phone! Even if you're not a fan of a hardware keyboard, there's no denying that packing the keyboard into a device that's not much larger or heavier than the iPhone is a very impressive engineering feat.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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32 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The Palm Pre is the first phone using Texas Instrument's new OMAP3 (Open Media Applications Processor) platform.
  • The processor is a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 + PowerVR SGX 530 GPU + 430MHz C64x+ DSP + ISP (Image Signal Processor)

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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33 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The chip covered by a white sticker on the LCD is CP6944BA 0907 A 04 KOR 604022.
  • We found a water damage sensor on the logic board, just below the Micro USB port, indicated by the red box.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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34 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Removing four more small connectors, and the main logic board is finally free.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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35 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Like the original iPhone, the Pre has two main boards, the logic board and the communications board.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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36 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Unfortunately, everything interesting is carefully hidden beneath metal EMI shields. Not only are the shields soldered to the board, there's epoxy holding them down as well. Palm definitely didn't make it easy to see what makes the Pre tick.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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37 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Finally, prying the logic board out.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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38 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The Pre is definitely not an easy phone to service. There are lots of fragile and tricky tabs that will make putting the phone back together challenging.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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39 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
We wish manufacturers would put more effort into making their devices easily repairable.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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40 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
This is an incredibly thin, flexible PCB.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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41 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The Pre has an integrated 3 megapixel digital camera with LED flash.
  • The camera is one of our biggest complaints with the iPhone. The iPhone suffers from both poor quality photos and a long shutter delay. While the quality is definitely improved on the Pre, it's still pretty slow snapping photos.
  • You can see the standard phone vibrator next to the camera.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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42 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

Photo by Phonewreck, used by permission
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43 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Internal components, from left to right:
    • Earpiece speaker, LCD display and digitizer, microphone, communications board.
    • Original rear panel and plastic framework.
    • Battery, internal metal framework and spring mechanism, keyboard.
    • Camera board and main circuit board.
    • Main plastic framework containing antennas, antenna cabling, and the surprisingly excellent speakerphone.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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44 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Communications board.
Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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45 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Qualcomm MSM6801A
  • AVAG0 FEM-7788
  • 0CEQ 86K H33F

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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46 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
On the bottom of the communications board we can spot the BaseBand PMIC (Maxim MAX8695Q), RF Transmitter (RFT6150) and the RF Tranceiver (RFR6500) both by Qualcomm.
Photo and description by Phonewreck, used by permission
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47 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

Photo by iFixit, used by permission
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48 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
There are some pretty interesting things that popped up on the Pre’s PCB’s. This is the first production device we’ve seen on the OMAP3 (Open Media Applications Processor) platform. OMAP3 is powered by the 600MHZ ARM Cortex A8, PowerVR SGX 530 (GPU), 430MHz C64x, DSP and ISP (Image Signal Processor) and was clearly designed to pack a punch - Dr. Wreck thinks we’re going to see this processor popping up in future netbook endeavors.
On the connections side we see the usual wifi/bluetooth combo going to Marvell and CSR with the W8686 and 63823 respectively. We also see the BaseBand win going to Qualcomm with the heavily integrated MSM6801A platform. The OMAP3 PMIC comes loaded with a USB tranceiver and Audio codec which even further reduces the overall board density of this device. We’re not fully sure - but it looks as if the Pre’s cool new multi-touch Touch Screen Controller win went to Cypress Semiconductor with the CP6944BA device.
The device packs a 1150mAh battery - just like the iPhone 3G.
On the top of the communications board we can spot the BaseBand Processor (Qualcomm MSM6801A), SDRAM, RF power amp and Duplexer by TriQuint.
Photo and description by Phonewreck, used by permission
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49 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The back of the display, complete with what appears to be a manufacture date at the beginning of January.
  • Unfortunately for repair, it doesn't look like the LCD and digitizer are easy to separate.
  • Both the iPhone and the Pre sport a HVGA display. However, the iPhone's display measures 3.5" diagonally, while the Pre's is only 3.1"

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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50 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Logic board with shielding removed.
  • Chip markings:
    • Texas Instruments TWL5030B 8CA28MWC
    • Marvell WiFi chip under the silver EMI cover, marked W8686B12. Directly above it is the CSR bluetooth chip. They're both on a daughterboard soldered to the logic board.
    • Samsung SDRAM KMCMG0000M-B998
    • ELPIDA K2132C1PB-60-F 08510N060. There is clearly another BGA chip underneath this one, but we don't yet know what it is.
    • Unbrandedchips: 3335A ADJ RNX, 89A8 850

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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51 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
On the main logic board, we see the OMAP3 PMIC - the Texas Instruments TWL5030. As mentioned before, this PMIC is packed with a USB Traceiver as well as Audio Codec. We also see the Bluetooth and Wifi Tranceivers with the earlier discussed wins from both Marvell and CSR. This device contains a microUSB port and 8GB of internal memory from Samsung.
Elpida offers up some mobile DDR memory and is stacked on top of the venerable OMAP3 processor. We’ll have to wait and see how this thing benchmarks.
Photo and description by Phonewreck, used by permission
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52 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • The top of the board is labeled 888-3 94V0 1 309 - F3. The bottom of the board is bereft of chips or markings, something Apple has never done.

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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53 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
  • Component comparison between the iPhone and the Palm Pre.
  • Hardware-wise, the Palm Pre is very impressive. Our only hardware complaint was the physical keyboard, although some people may appreciate the hardware keyboard.
  • The Pre logic board is substantially smaller than the iPhone logic board, which is very impressive considering how renowned Apple's engineers are for shrinking hardware footprints. It's amazing the difference a year can make.
  • In general, this Palm hardware reminds us a lot more of Apple's engineering style than any of hardware we've taken apart by other manufacturers (like Dell).

Photo and description by iFixit, used by permission
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54 of 54 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

Photo by Phonewreck, used by permission

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