Eerie dimensional changes are afoot: the Air is 20% thinner, 28% lighter, and 24% reduced in volume from the 4th-gen iPad. And there are more good scares lurking under its otherworldly skin:
9.7-inch, in-plane-switching LCD with 2,048 x 1,536 resolution at 264 ppi
Dual-core A7 CPU with 64-bit architecture
M7 motion-tracking coprocessor
5-megapixel rear iSight camera capable of recording 1080p video; 1.2-megapixel 720p front-facing camera
802.11n dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi
Support for 14 LTE bands, DC-HSPA+, UMTS, GSM/EDGE, CDMA, and EVDO
16, 32, 64, or 128 GB storage
There doesn’t seem to be a bewitching levitation feature on this tablet, despite the picture on the box.
New iPad, new model number: This iPad Air can be identified by the model number A1475.
It’s been many a full moon since the Salem witch trials of the 1690s, but sneaking into this tightly-built device is going to be nothing short of witchcraft.
Lightning Port? Check. Speaker grilles? Check. Camera? Check. Buttons? All the hallmarks of a jack-o-lantern tablet are in place.
The top edge now sports a dual mic; never again will you be haunted by background noise.
Volume is now adjusted by two separate buttons, a minor revision from the rocker switch on the previous full-size iPad.
The speakers have gone stereo and moved to either side of the Lightning connector, à la iPad Mini. It didn’t bring a costume, but this bro can morph.
Pop pop! Oh the glorious sound of an iPad popping open, with a mysterious coin for mysterious scale.
A twenty-cent coin! They don’t have those in the U.S.!
You’re right, astute teardown reader! That is, in fact, an Australian coin. If you hadn’t noticed, this whole teardown has been upside-down, courtesy of our favorite minion Walter, who survived the arduous trek down under.
Alright, enough clowning around! It’s time to open this iPad up (like a book of scary stories).
Double, double, boil and brew, with a witch’s cackle we remove that screw.
Little screws can drive you batty, but lucky for us, we’ve got our magic wands screwdrivers.
Eye of newt and toe of frog, this LCD’s connected—but not for long.
The curtains go up, and it’s a monster (battery) mash:
The Air’s 3.73 V, 32.9 WHr, two-cell power plant is decidedly less monstrous than the previous iPad’s 43 WHr, three-cell behemoth.
Despite the iPad’s skeletal slim-down Apple claims that, due to an increase in efficiency, you can still watch the Great Pumpkin at least 20 times in a row.
Ogle all you want, but this battery isn’t coming out…yet.
The 9.7″ display’s specs remain unchanged from the iPad’s previous outing, but Apple claims an uncanny 20% reduction in panel thickness.
Our display, model LP097QX2, was supplied by LG.
The LCD remains separate from the front panel glass. Is there a spirit of repairability lurking in this otherwise dauntingly difficult device?
What looks like a ZIF, and quacks like a ZIF, but isn’t quite a ZIF connector? We don’t know, but that’s what we’ve got on our hands with this home button ribbon cable.
Although unidentified, it shows more design consideration than Dr. Frankenstein.
Speaking of Frankenstein, we’ve noticed a bit of the good doctor’s methodology in the Air. It seems like Apple took an iPad Mini and transmogrified it to a regular iPad’s size.
For the second time tonight, we pull out our iOpener for some crazy glue-busting action.
We’re hoping that this trend won’t stand the test of time, and that glued-in batteries will become phantoms of the past.
In the meantime, it’s nuke, heat, scrape, repeat.
Grab your grave-robbing shovels plastic cards, ’cause it’s time to exhume this sucker—er, battery.
What is this devilry? The battery is pinned by some form of dark magic—or maybe a stray screw?
Stateside, we get this one, last, coherent message before strings of expletives:
[7:29:22] Walter Galan: It’s the worst battery ever.
Not even removing this mysterious screw helps. It’s almost enough to make us cry for our mummy!
We employ a little black magic spudger to extract the SIM card tray.
Yesteryear’s micro-SIM has given way to this year’s nano-SIM. Next year: pico-SIMs?
And while it is glued in (boo), we are happy to see it as a modular component, separate from the logic board.
We’ll call this a repairability-neutral finding.
We resume the quest to liberate the battery, and under the logic board we find the culprit in the curious case of the trapped time bomb (commonly known as a battery).
Spring contacts on the logic board clamp down on the corresponding tab on the battery, effectively trapping it and complicating any future repair.
This battery is super frustrating; we’re not Li-ion.
This battery creaks worse than the door to a haunted mansion as we ease it out of the case.
In the process, the battery warps to a state resembling the Grimm Reaper’s scythe.
Warped batteries scare the living daylights out of us. Bad things happen when batteries get punctured.
We leave the boring backside in favor of the green PCB fields of the front. Planted in this logic board patch are:
Apple APL5698 A7 Processor—a slightly different version from the APL0698 in the iPhone 5s
Elpida F8164A1MD 1 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Toshiba THGBX2G7B2JLA01 16 GB NAND Flash
NXP LPC18A1 (Apple M7 Motion Co-Processor)
Apple 343S0655-A1—from our friends at Chipworks, this looks to be a Dialog Power Management IC
USI 339S0213 Wi-Fi Module
Apple 338S1116 Cirrus Audio Codec, also found in the iPhone 5c
It wouldn’t be an oversized iPhone without the phone parts—this end of the logic board sports all of the RF components.
Qualcomm M9615M LTE Processor with 1 Gb (128 MB) of DRAM
TriQuint TQF6514 RF Power Amplifier Module—similar to the 6414 in the iPhone 5s
Three Skyworks SKY77-series LTE RF Power Amplifier/Duplexer Modules
Two Avago A79-series LTE RF Power Amplifier/Duplexer Modules
227 LG—likely a Murata Antenna Switch/Filter Module
Qualcomm WTR1605L LTE/HSPA+/CDMA/EDGE/GPS Transceiver
Qualcomm PM8018 PMIC
Just when we think there’s no hope for this werewolf of a device, it shows its human face. Finally, a modular part: the Lightning connector. (Not that it was easy to get to.)
Before the thunder even rolls, the lightning port is gone.
On a roll of our own, we remove what appear to be the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas from the rear case.
With two antennae and the use of MIMO technology, iPad touts twice the Wi-Fi performance of past models.
For our next trick, we magic away the front-facing camera. You’ll have to take your costume pics the old fashioned way.
Ho, hum: The 1.2-megapixel, 720p FaceTime camera fails to send any shivers down our spine.
More fun-sized treats:
What’s this? We carve the headphone jack(-o-lantern) out.
Catch these cell antennas while you can—you won’t find them in the strictly Wi-Fi version. They’re a huge phone exclusive.
A quick 180º, and the speakers become our next victim. Shrouded in mystery, Apple calls these speakers “built-in,” opting to leave the maker unspecified.
We’re bobbing for apples!
Sticking our spudger in for a dunk, we come up with another camera. This time it is the 5MP rear-facing camera.
iPad Air Repairability Score: 2 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair)
The LCD is easy to remove once the front panel is taken off the iPad.
The battery is not soldered to the logic board. We’ll give it that.
Just like in previous iPads, the front panel is glued to the rest of the device, greatly increasing the chances of cracking the glass during a repair.
Gobs, gobs, and goblins of adhesive hold everything in place. This is the most difficult battery removal procedure we’ve seen in an iPad.
The LCD has foam sticky tape adhering it to the front panel, increasing chances of it being shattered during disassembly.
You can’t access the front panel’s connector until you remove the LCD.