Now that the iPhone 14 series is out, we’re learning all the secrets Apple didn’t discuss during the launch event. As usual, teardowns featuring the new iPhone units reveal some of these secrets. An iPhone 14 teardown told us the cheaper models are much easier to repair. The iPhone 14 Pro Max teardown that followed revealed the more expensive units have a big piece of plastic where the SIM tray used to be.
That seems like an odd choice to make for a device that costs at least $1,000. And the first reaction might be frustration that Apple would do that. However, upon reflection, you’ll realize there’s no reason to complain about it. That plastic volume could have been avoided, sure. But that’s not the way to go, especially in this economy.
The iPhone 14 SIM to eSIM switch
iPhone 14 rumors claimed that some US carriers might sell only eSIM variants of the phone. We speculated at the time that the handsets would still pack a physical SIM card tray you could use for international travel rather than ditching the hardware component.
What Apple did was more courageous. You can’t fully switch to eSIM functionality if you keep the SIM tray in place. People would just use physical SIM cards.
So Apple went ahead and removed the SIM tray completely. But only for America. Regardless of which iPhone 14 variant US buyers choose, they’ll have to learn to deal with eSIM-only experiences.
The move saw some criticism from people who worry about getting eSIM functionality going during travels. But like the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, the SIM card is going away. International iPhones will probably have a similar fate in upcoming years.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max teardown
As we explained during the rumors season, taking away the iPhone’s SIM card gets us closer to the portless iPhone of the future. An immediate advantage is removing a potential point of liquid ingress, as there’s no SIM card cutout in the iPhone’s frame.
Unsurprisingly, Apple removed the internal SIM card components, which occupy plenty of space on the logic board. However, Apple did not replace the reclaimed space with anything useful. iFixit’s iPhone 14 Pro Max teardown shows that a big piece of plastic replaces the SIM tray slot. And it’s quite a large one too.
The reason Apple needed to place something in there is simple. The component reinforces the display section that covers it. You can’t have an empty space inside the handset.
But why didn’t Apple fill up all that extra space inside the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max with a battery? Apple could have indeed redesigned the logic board to increase the battery capacity.
On that note, the teardown above focuses on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which implies the iPhone 14 Pro has the same design particularity in the US. But it’s very likely that all SIM-less iPhone 14 sold in the States do not feature SIM card slot components. It’s just that iFixit focused on something else during the iPhone 14 teardown instead of the piece of plastic: repairability.
Why it all makes sense
Economies of scale allow Apple to make hundreds of millions of sophisticated iPhones every year in a profitable way. But even Apple faced manufacturing issues during the pandemic years, and the iPhone 14 was not spared. The iPhone 14 Plus delay is a testament to that.
Apple used that chunk of plastic inside the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, so it didn’t have to create four sets of logic boards for the four iPhone 14 variants sold in the US. And four different battery capacities for the four US iPhone 14 models.
Apple could have done it, but this would have complicated the manufacturing process and increased costs. And let’s not forget that the current economy has forced parts suppliers to increase expenses already. Moreover, Apple kept the iPhone 13 price structure in place for the iPhone 14, at least in the US.
That’s another big win for consumers. And if that means having a useless piece of plastic inside the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, then that’s the price to pay.
All of this is speculation. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple ever explains or acknowledges the piece of plastic that replaces the SIM card tray inside the iPhone 14 Pro models.
More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.