What could you make from an iPhone?

Exploring future product opportunities using the iPhone's components

Since the iPhone's June 29 launch, we've seen several teardown reports--some from professionals, some demonstrating more enthusiasm than skill, and some that are just awful (but funny).

What's inside? Well, you can read the details in reports from various analyst firms, but it breaks down like this:

Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
  • A microprocessor
  • A 3D graphics controller
  • DRAM
  • Flash memory
  • An LCD
  • A touch sensor
  • A cell phone module
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controllers
  • An audio chip
  • A microphone and a speaker
  • An accelerometer
  • A camera module
  • A SIM card
  • Assorted other interfaces, connectors and buttons
  • A lithium-ion battery
  • Power-supply circuitry

All these components weigh less than 5 ounces and fit into a space less than 5 cubic inches. That's just amazing to me.

What could we make by adding, removing, or changing components?

  • A mini Newton: drop the cell phone module, add stylus support
  • iGame: Drop the cell phone module, add a joystick and more buttons
  • A wide-screen iPod: swap out the cell phone module for a 1.8-inch hard disk
  • A smaller cell phone: substitute a smaller LCD, simpler software, no Wi-Fi
  • A smaller iPod: the smaller cell phone without the cell phone module
  • An Internet tablet à la the Nokia N800: use a 5-inch LCD, drop the cell phone
  • A Newton: use that 5-inch LCD, add stylus support and Apple's Inkwell software
  • An auto navigation system: use the 5-inch LCD, drop the cell phone, add a GPS receiver
  • A UMPC: use a 7-inch LCD, add iLife, and iWork
  • An education laptop: use a 12-inch LCD, add a keyboard and educational software
  • A mobile companion à la the Palm Foleo: the same, but with business software
  • A tablet Mac: use that 12-inch LCD, a faster x86 processor and the full Mac OS X

Now that Apple has developed this platform, with a custom version of Mac OS X that runs on an ARM processor, it would be silly for the company not to use it in other products where ultralow power consumption is critical. These are my favorite ideas. What are yours?

UPDATE: My friend Kevin Krewell points out that I really should have made a Transformers joke in here. To make up for that omission, I'd like to mention the Monty Python "Pet Conversions" skit, which I was thinking about when I wrote this.


By the way-- if you're looking for something to do in Silicon Valley this weekend, Saturday's Ron Paul rally at Charleston Park near Google in Mountain View, CA begins at 10:00 a.m. I'll be there probably 30 to 45 minutes earlier if anyone wants to drop by and chat about iPhones, Macs, private jets, politics, or anything else I've mentioned here. Or even things I haven't.

Before the rally, I'll be at the Electronics Flea Market at De Anza College in Cupertino. This month's event is sponsored by the Palo Alto Amateur Radio Association. Come on over and check out all the new, old, surplus, collectible, neat and junky stuff for sale!

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About the author

    Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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