Curious Gadget Fans Smash, Dissect iPhones

It took Apple Inc. more than six months to build the iPhone but curious gadget fanatics needed only minutes to tear one apart.

Within hours of the first iPhones going on sale on Friday, enthusiasts scrambled to be the first to discover what makes the devices tick, posting photos and videos of disassembled phones on the Internet.

The information is more than just academic. Apple keeps a tight grip on information about parts suppliers so "tear downs" of its products are closely watched by investors keen to figure out how to place their bets.

In the past, word that a particular part was being used in Apple's popular iPod music players has sent that company's shares higher.

"With every new release of an Apple product, the hype and interest ratchets up a notch," said Andrew Rassweiler, an analyst with market research firm iSuppli.

Rassweiler and his team at iSuppli were working through the weekend to catalog the phone's guts for a report estimating the cost of every component, crucial for figuring how much it cost Apple to make each iPhone.

"We have had more people thrown at it this week than any other previous product," Rassweiler said.

Apple is offering the phone in two versions costing $500 and $600 depending on memory capacity, but the high price and limited availability wasn't enough to stop some people from giving into curiosity.

Some dissected the phones with the clinical skill of a surgeon while others resorted to brute force, enraging those swept up in the hype and winning praise from those gleefully resisting it.

By Sunday afternoon, a video on YouTube showing two guys banging away at an iPhone with a hammer and nail had garnered 56,000 views and was the 13th most-watched clip on the site, prompting some extremely angry comments. Watching the clip, it is difficult to see what was learned from the destruction.

The creator, whose user page identified him only as Rob in Miami, Florida, posted a second clip defending his unorthodox methods.

"We didn't smash it just to smash it. We smashed it to see what was inside. We were under a time limit," Rob said. "We resorted to extreme measures."

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an Apple parts and repair guide site, conducted one of the most sophisticated dismantlings, posting dozens of high-quality photos alongside technical commentary.

"They've done some things that are above and beyond. They did some very innovative things," site cofounder Kyle Wiens said of the iPhone's manufacture.

Their efforts yielded a few nuggets of information. The iPhone boasts a main processor and memory chips from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., an audio-processing chip from Britain's Wolfson Microelectronics Plc and a Wi-fi wireless chip from Marvell Technology Group Ltd.

Opening the iPhone was the easy part. For many, the real prize is hacking the phone to get it to do things Apple never intended, such as run on networks other than that of AT&T Inc., the exclusive U.S. service provider.

Some programmers also want to find a way to run their own programs directly on the phone's operating system rather than being limited to programs run through the Web browser.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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Scott Hillis, Reuters
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