The iPhone is a slick little device that will no doubt change things in the mobile device community. It may not have as many features and options as other similarly priced devices (such as Windows Mobile phones), but the iPhone is so revolutionary that an unprecedented 90% of buyers were "very" or "extremely" satisfied with their iPhone. These amazing results clearly illustrate why Apple is a company to be reckoned with.
However, this doesn't mean the iPhone is perfect, which is why we tore ours apart and performed a few modifications to make it uniquely ours. Read on to see the three modifications we made, how we did them, and the results.
Disassembling the iPhone
Before we can do anything to the iPhone, we need to get inside it. As numerous sites online have illustrated, this takes a lot of finesse if you want to get your iPhone put back together again. Here are the steps of our procedure for cracking the case, which can be done without permanent damage to the device.
Removing the black plastic bottom
The iPhone contains two main radio components that must be able to reach out as far as possible: the cell phone radio and the wireless radio. The problem is that the iPhone's main casing is aluminum, which isn't very accommodating for wireless transmission. To maximize the signal strength, Apple wisely placed the antennas for the GPRS/802.11 wireless components at the bottom of the iPhone and covered them with a black plastic piece.
This black plastic cover is also how we gain access to the device. To remove this piece, we inserted a razor blade between the metal and the black plastic and simply pried the piece off. It takes a bit of work, but do it carefully and you'll be able to slide the plastic piece right off the iPhone. Note that the cover has to slide downward and away from the phone, because part of the plastic is inserted between the antennas and the power/sound component.
Remove the aluminum back case
Before removing the back case, it's important to understand how the case is held in place. This will help you safely and carefully pry the case up and off the device with some confidence that you aren't damaging the internals.
The iPhone's case structure has three layers. The first is a plastic layer that holds most of the components of the iPhone. From outside the phone, you won't even know this layer exists because Apple has hidden it away under the second and third layers and the screen. The second layer is made of what seems to be (we're not a metallurgist) a steel alloy with some ironlike qualities, such as being magnetic and very hard. From the outside, all that is visible of this layer is the silver ring around the edge of the phone. It's fairly thin on the outside, but on the inside this ring extends up to wrap around the plastic of the inner iPhone (you can see this illustrated later in this article). The final layer is the aluminum casing that represents most of the backside.
Why do you need to know all this? Because Apple combined all these layers together to form a fairly robust casing that is interconnected to give the phone as much support as possible, and this also helps protect the core iPhone from damage as you remove the case.
Around the edge of the aluminum case is a groove that holds seven female parts of a clip component. The male parts are on the metallic ring, which must fit into the groove so the clips will seat. It is these clips you must overcome if you want to open up the phone. We've seen numerous sites that describe and illustrate how not to pop the back off the phone—one even suggested sliding the back off, which will cause some serious damage. The truth is that the case is not very hard to remove, as long as you are patient and work slowly.
To remove the case, you'll first have to remove three Phillips screws that hold the case in place (see the red arrows in Figure 1). Next, obtain a razor-blade scraper. We have speculated about and even tried a few other tools, such as the Case Opener Tool from PDAParts.com. However, the best option is a sturdy razor blade because it can be slid into the slit between the aluminum case and the metal ring (Figure 2). Once you've inserted the blade, slowly and carefully work the case off—up and away from the silver ring. It'll take a while to pop the clips, but you'll soon be rewarded with a half-open iPhone. Work your way around the iPhone, continuing to push more of the case up and away from the iPhone. You might want to try another tool after the first side is popped up, but we found the blade approach to be the most effective.
Figure 1 iPhone screw locations
Figure 2 iPhone vs. a razor blade
With the case back loosened and the iPhone face down, flip the case over to the right. This will allow you to see the insides without having to disconnect the case component ribbon. Finally, carefully disconnect the ribbon from the iPhone to separate the aluminum case from the rest of the iPhone.
At this point, you'll need to remove ten small Phillips screws in order to take off the metallic ring. There are three on each side, and two on both the top and bottom (see yellow arrows in Figure 1). With all of the screws out, you can remove the ring from the iPhone body, and that's it—at least, that's all the disassembly you'll need for our modifications.