New iPhone SE Teardown Shows Bigger Battery, Mysterious Qualcomm 5G Chip

iPhone SE 2022 Credit: Jack Skeens / Shutterstock
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While the folks over at iFixit have yet to do their comprehensive teardown of Apple’s latest budget iPhone, a few others have decided to take their own peek at the internals.

The new 2022 iPhone SE landed in stores on Friday, and over the weekend the first teardowns began to appear on YouTube to show us what’s inside.

There aren’t many surprises, since the new iPhone SE maintains the nearly five-year-old design of the iPhone 8, but the teardowns did reveal a few interesting things.

Most significantly, according to PBKReviews, the 2022 iPhone SE packs in an 11 percent larger capacity battery — 2,018 mAh versus the 1,821 mAh for the prior 2020 model. This is likely how Apple manages to boast an extra two hours of video playback and ten hours of audio playback on this latest model, although we’re sure the efficiency of the A15 chip has something to do with that as well.

While the new iPhone SE looks nearly identical to its predecessor on the outside, the display is actually a bit different internally. The specs are the same, and there’s no evidence that Apple had made any quality improvements, but the internal connectors are different. This means you won’t be able to use a screen from the older 2020 model as a replacement for the new iPhone SE.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X57

Perhaps even more surprising is the 5G modem chip found inside the iPhone SE. Before the release of the new model, many sources speculated that it would use the same Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 found in the iPhone 13 lineup, but it looks like what we ended up with was something a bit different.

According to Nikkei’s xTECH (Google Translate), the iPhone SE 3 uses a Qualcomm SDX57M, or Snapdragon X57 modem chip. This is a notable departure from the 2020 iPhone SE, which had the same Intel PMB9960 chip as its iPhone 11 counterparts.

What’s interesting, however, is that the Snapdragon X57 doesn’t officially exist. This suggests that Apple had Qualcomm build a custom 5G modem chip just for the 2022 iPhone SE.

Without knowing more about this chip and its capabilities, it’s hard to even speculate on why Apple and Qualcomm would need to do this beyond mere logistics. Even the Snapdragon X60 used in the iPhone 13 has some minor customizations, although these are mostly done to integrate the chip with the RF and antenna modules.

A Snapdragon X57 chip, however, suggests something quite different. If we had to guess — and it’s only a guess — we’d suggest this is more likely a modified version of the Snapdragon X55 used in the 2020 iPhone 12.

This could have simply been a cost-cutting measure on Apple’s part, as presumably the older X55 chip is less expensive. Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon X55 in February 2019, and made it available to manufacturers later that year. This means that the modem chip was already a year old when Apple put it into the iPhone 12 in late 2020.

As we already know, the new iPhone SE 5G support doesn’t include mmWave. That’s not entirely a function of the modem chip, as only U.S.-based iPhone 13 models support mmWave, yet they all feature the same Snapdragon X60 chip. However, since no iPhone SE models require mmWave capabilities, it’s possible that Apple may have been able to shave a bit off its costs by having Qualcomm produce a chip that lacks the mmWave frequencies entirely.

As it stands, the addition of 5G forced Apple to raise the price of this year’s iPhone SE by $30 — something that it was surely loath to do. This means that the company was undoubtedly sharpening its pencils as much as possible when putting the iPhone SE together.

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