iFixit iOpens iPhone i11 iPro iMax…iAm iMpressed

The midlevel editor said I couldn’t do that in an article title, so I iGnored him.

This is nearly two weeks old, but unless you hang out around iFixit everyday, you might have missed it. In any case, the site recently acquired the kilobuck-priced iPhone 11 Pro Max, and did exactly what they always do: they tore it to bits in front of a camera.  Even better, the author seemed possessed of more irony than is typical for one of their write-ups, making it a treat to read as well as watch. Highlights:

  • Battery is (relatively) easy to access for future service, on par with an iPhone 6.
  • Everything else rates a 6/10 for repairability, which is mediocre.
  • RAM, parts list, etc. nearly all confirmed via identification numbers.
  • It turns out you CAN make a phone imperceptibly thicker and gain a new lease on battery life. Who would have thought.

The poor overall repairability is no surprise once you see everything that’s stuffed into this chassis. iFixit didn’t spend too much time on the new camera, deferring instead to the detailed writeup at Halide. Both articles are recommended reads. Suffice to say it’s an all-around impressive achievement in both technical capability and product packaging, if you can accept the “Steve Jobs never would have let a camera stick out like that” aspect.

As to the phone more generally: the features of the 11-series have been variously lauded and mocked elsewhere since the release, with our ongoing favorite being iPhone mitosis.  Our second favorite involved arachnid anatomy, which trended on Twitter long enough to make a news segment at NBC. Those are done well and done to death, so we’ll leave them alone here.

Our complaint is more prosaic. The one thing iFixit didn’t find in the teardown was a headphone jack. (Did you see that one coming?) Yeah, yeah, get with the times, they say. Here’s the thing: anymore, the “times” seem to involve random Bluetooth pairing errors, glitches, and dropouts, sometimes mysteriously resolved by rebooting one or both affected devices, and sometimes only by declaring one of the two devices incompatible and replacing it with something else. Or, perhaps, by purchasing the same vendor’s matching headphone accessory for the assurance of lab-tested interoperability, for the low price of an entire day at Disney World. So, no, we’re not going to let that one die, especially since it was Apple that hamfisted the entire industry in that direction back at the iPhone 7 launch.

Yes, we know that Samsung, Apple’s behemoth bête noire in the phone space, is belatedly giving up the fight. And yes, we know that Google’s only recent concession was to include a headphone jack solely on the downmarket-targeted 3a of its third-generation Pixel lineup. Together, those decisions end any hope of a mass return to sensibility. We’re still annoyed. Since I travel for business now and then and have seen a lot of late-model rental cars, I’m painfully aware of the lack of consistency and compatibility from one vendor’s implementation, to the next, both for USB interfacing and Bluetooth. Running audio out of a portable device to an Aux Jack may seem soooo 2008, but it Always Works as a last resort.

Don’t even ask a true A/V production nerd what they think of the matter. Smartphones from roughly the gen1 Pixel and iPhone 6, and forward, are among the best all-purpose A/V recording devices in existence, and killing the headphone jack eliminates one of the most foolproof ways ever invented of getting audio signals in and out of such a machine. So meanwhile, Apple is selling $1k, jack-less phones to somebody other than me, and I’m collecting $80 gen1 Pixels off eBay as hobby spares.

And get off my lawn.

Aaron Vienot

Engineer by day, hobbyist by night, occasional contributor, and full-time wise guy.

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psuedonymous
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psuedonymous

“Don’t even ask a true A/V production nerd what they think of the matter.” That the 3.5mm jack could go take a long walk down a short pier as soon as Android and iOS implemented support for USB DACs, so one can get a proper line-level output rather than fart-arseing about with headphone levels? Or even better, just get S/PDIF and not worry about entering the analog domain in the first place? For personal use, Bluetooth or nothing. The barely-perceptable-if-any difference in quality (when listening to sweep tones in a silent room) is not worth the tradeoff in getting tangled… Read more »

ludi
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ludi

“Both of the two primary phone platforms don’t support proper USB DACs after TEN YEARS, but just imagine if they did…” Anyway, same counterargument as always: why limit your options by killing the one thing that always works in a pinch, in hopes that the others will work eventually? When BT/USB/WiFi solutions work, they work great, but if you’re trying to do a quick and dirty recording for YouTube in an otherwise unwired room, you’re going to have a bad day when you discover later that the BT feed de-synchronized midway through a 20-minute talk and your master track has… Read more »

usacomp2k3 (AJ)
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usacomp2k3 (AJ)

In those headphone jack that is (at least used to be) included.

psuedonymous
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psuedonymous

“Both of the two primary phone platforms don’t support proper USB DACs after TEN YEARS, but just imagine if they did…”

Android implemented support in 4.1 (2012) and Type C’s more codified USB audio standard in 5.0. iOS has had support since launch as far as I am aware, using the ‘camera adapter’ cables that broke out a Type A host port.

ludi
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ludi

Android implemented support in 4.1 (2012) and Type C’s more codified USB audio standard in 5.0. iOS has had support since launch as far as I am aware, using the ‘camera adapter’ cables that broke out a Type A host port. Ah, okay, I misread your earlier paragraph to say that it wasn’t fully implemented yet. In any case, my response stands. Any time you go through an external digital port or protocol it seems to get progressively buggier the more you try to do with it, and if and when that happens, it’s nice to ALSO have a failsafe… Read more »

Spunjji
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Spunjji

Fewer links in the chain (either physical or software) is always nice to have – nothing beats the simplicity of plugging a passive device into an analogue port.

They removed a feature, the feature is still extremely useful, they didn’t give anything back in exchange. It’s just bad!

psuedonymous
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psuedonymous

Fewer links in the chain (either physical or software) is always nice to have – nothing beats the simplicity of plugging a passive device into an analogue port. When it comes to professional use (i.e. not just “and then I plug some headphones in”) the analog port is actually an additional link in the chain. at least 4 links in practice: a DAC, than an amplifier, then an analog transmission line (which will also have connector at at least one end), then an ADC. All of these elements can introduce error, whereas a completely digital chain should have 0 error… Read more »

Fist
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Fist

What about usb to 3.5 mm adapter . I got one that works like a charm and also allows me to recharge at the same time. Paid few bucks.

willmore
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willmore

The wide angle camera is fixed focus and can’t take RAW images. Full up Krogoth on that.

The lost cat
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The lost cat

I don’t intend to buy a phone without a headphone jack and…owait, I already did. Huh.

not@home
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not@home

I agree, I won’t buy a phone without a headphone jack as both of my cars lack bluetooth. Then again, I won’t ever buy an Apple product either.

chuckula
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chuckula

iAm Krogothed!

Krogoth
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Krogoth

iAM unimpressed by this cancellation!

usacomp2k3 (AJ)
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usacomp2k3 (AJ)

Rumors are that by removing 3dtouch they were able to get a thicker battery without making the overall factor any thicker.

Jan Ames
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Jan Ames

The 11 Pro is in fact ever so slightly larger than the XS:
Height: 0.6mm+
Width: 0.5mm+
Depth: 0.4mm+

iPhones surprisingly have gotten progressively thicker since the iPhone 6, it’s just been fractions of a mm each time 😉

Spunjji
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Spunjji

Less bendy, too – not that they ever publicly admitted that it was a legitimate issue with the 6, but over time the flex imposed on the logic board would reliably cripple the touch sensing processor. The iPhone 6 was just a poorly designed device, even more than the original death-grip iPhone 4.

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