Samsung Galaxy S4 teardown reveals '1337' boast, IR deets

iFixit's ripped the Galaxy S4 apart, exposing some (probably unintentional) geek bragging and revealing how its hands-free features work.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Using only a Philips screwdriver, a plastic stick, some tweezers and a spudger (my current favourite word), the experts at iFixit have completely disassembled the magnificent Samsung Galaxy S4, reducing it to a pathetic pile of parts.

Not to make a million nerds cry out in anguish, you understand, but to find out how fixable the Galaxy S4 is. If you're splashing out £550 on a mobile, you'd be well advised to consider how much it'll cost to repair the thing if it breaks. So let's have a look inside.

In a brilliant (and almost certainly unintentional) bit of geek-bragging, Samsung has given the S4 the model number SGH-1337, so when you open it up you see a prominent bit of boasting (the red frame was added by iFixit).

Taking it apart gives some clues to how the S4's new features work -- two IR sensors either side of the call speaker are how the phone knows you're waving at it. "By comparing IR light reflected from your hand into each of the sensors, the phone can track sideways motion as you gesture without touching the screen," iFixit deduces.

Popping the headphone jack off the front of the phone, iFixit notes how cunning Samsung's integrated design is. "The headphone jack is home to the status LED and the first of a pair of IR sensors."

iFixit also points out it's perhaps not optimal to have the main speaker at the bottom rear of the phone. "This is the prime location for a speaker if your ears are attached to your hand," it snarks.

All done, and it turns out the S4 is as eminently repairable as the rest of its kin, with only 11 standard non-proprietary screws in the whole blower. The replaceable battery is the main bonus for most people, as you can carry a spare in case you run out of juice, and needn't seek out a professional if it dies altogether. You can't say the same of any of the S4's main rivals, the iPhone 5, the HTC One or the Lumia 920, although BlackBerry's Z10 can swap cells.

The only real downer is the huge screen, which is the most vulnerable and breakable part of the phone. "The display and front glass are fused, with a layer of optical adhesive," iFixit sighs. "The glass is then adhered to the plastic display frame, making a single assembly."

You'd do well to consider a case for your S4 then, with the S View cover particularly desirable -- its little window lets you see the time and your notifications.

The S4's unbeatable power and spectacular screen helped seize its place as our favourite phone of the year so far, and won it a highly coveted CNET UK Editors' Choice award. Sensible user-friendly features like being able to replace the battery and expand its storage didn't hurt at all, although they have the trade-off of requiring a plastic back, which is slightly less desirable than the all-metal frames of some of its rivals.

Does repairability factor into your phone-buying decision? Do you think phones should be easier to repair, or better built in the first place? Tinker around in the comments, or on our unbreakable Facebook page.

Image credit: iFixit