Why Apple’s iPhone Charger Is A High-Tech Work Of Art

This is a discussion on Why Apple’s iPhone Charger Is A High-Tech Work Of Art within the iPhone News forums, part of the Apple News category; It doesn't look like much, but on the inside Apple's iPhone charger is incredibly complex. Apple is renowned for obsessing over tiny details and making ...

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    Why Apple’s iPhone Charger Is A High-Tech Work Of Art

    It doesn't look like much, but on the inside Apple's iPhone charger is incredibly complex.



    Apple is renowned for obsessing over tiny details and making its products as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside, and the company maintains that design policy for everything it creates, whether it’s a $1,200 MacBook Pro, or a $30 iPhone charger.

    In fact, Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure those tiny iPhone chargers are safe and efficient, and it uses state of the art technology to do that — which is why its chargers are more expensive than most.

    Ken Shirriff has torn down one of Apple’s iPhone chargers on his blog, and he’s made a number of interesting discoveries. First, they are very different to similar products from the likes of Samsung, and it’s clear the Cupertino company has a heavy focus on quality and safety — though that’s hardly surprising when we’re talking about Apple.





    The iPhone charger is a switching power supply that turns the input power on and off around 70,000 times a second to get the right output voltage. As you can see from the image above, the charger consists of two circuit boards, both slightly under one inch square in size. The one at the top is the primary board, which handles the high voltage input circuitry, while the one at the bottom handles the low voltage output circuitry.

    Shirriff stresses just how small Apple’s components really are:

    Looking at these pictures, it’s easy to lose track of how very small these components are, and how the charger crams all this complexity into one inch. The following slightly magnified picture shows a quarter, a grain of rice, and a mustard seed to give a size comparison.





    So, other than its tiny size, what makes Apple’s charger so special? Well, Sherriff says it’s “clearly a high-quality power supply designed to produce carefully filtered power.” Apple has put a lot of effort into reducing EMI interference — likely to prevent any interference with the iPhone’s touchscreen — and it has introduced a number of components that aren’t found in similar chargers.

    The input AC is filtered thorugh a tiny ferrite ring on the plastic case. The diode bridge output is filtered by two large capacitors and an inductor. Two other R-C snubbers filter the diode bridge, which I’ve only seen elsewhere in audio power supplies to prevent 60Hz hum;[6]perhaps this enhances the iTunes listening experience. Other chargers I disassembled don’t use a ferrite ring and usually only a single filter capacitor. The primary circuit board has a grounded metal shield over the high-frequency components (see photo), which I haven’t seen elsewhere. The transformer includes a shield winding to absorb EMI. The output circuit uses three capacitors including two relatively expensive tantalum ones[14] and an inductor for filtering, when many supplies just use one capacitor. The Y capacitor is usually omitted from other designs. The resonant clamp circuit is highly innovative.

    In addition to these things, Apple uses “super-strong” AC prongs and a “complex over-temperature/over-voltage shutdown circuit” which all help make this charger extra safe.

    Shirriff concludes that Apple crams a lot of high-tech components into an incredibly small space to create a high quality, super safe charger that makes rival chargers look like a high school electronics project. The only downside is, we have to pay a little extra for it.

    5-21-12

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    Circuits in Apple's iPhone charger are 'surprisingly complex and innovative'

    A closer look at the wall charger that Apple ships with its iPhone has found that the hardware includes better and safer components than typical chargers.


    An exhaustive analysis of the iPhone charger was conducted by Ken Shirriff (via Gizmodo), revealing that Apple utilizes a "surprisingly complex and innovative" circuit to convert AC input between 100 and 240 volts to 5 watts of smooth 5 volt power.

    ""Apple's power adapter is clearly a high-quality power supply designed to produce carefully filtered power," he wrote. "Apple has obviously gone to extra effort to reduce EMI interference, probably to keep the charger from interfering with the touchscreen.

    "When I opened the charger up, I expected to find a standard design, but I've compared the charger to the Samsung charger and several other high-quality industry designs, and Apple goes beyond these designs in several ways."

    One of Apple's main concerns with the design of its charger is safety. Shirriff found that Apple employs "super-strong AC prongs," as well as a "complex over-temperature / over-voltage shutdown circuit."





    In particular, the strong charger prongs were likely prompted by a recall Apple initiated in 2008 for iPhone 3G USB power adapters. The recall began after Apple found that "certain conditions" could cause the prongs to snap off when the adapter is pulled from a wall outlet, potentially creating a shock for those who might touch an exposed connection.

    Shirriff found that Apple's new and improve prongs are considerably more difficult to remove than counterfeit devices and even Samsung's chargers. Apple's prongs refused to budge even when they were pulled using pliers.

    "They have large metal flanges embedded in the plastic of the case, so there's no way a prong can come loose short of the destruction of the charter," he said, adding: "I'm impressed with the effort Apple put into making the charger more safe after the recall."





    The teardown also found that Apple's charging circuits pack an impressive amount of complexity into a size smaller than one inch. In all, the charger crams most of the components into a printed circuit board that is about the size of a quarter.

    Even with superior components and greater safety, Shirriff speculated that Apple's charger is still sold for "almost all profit." Apple's higher-quality parts probably cost the company about a dollar extra, but the charger sells for about $20 more than similar competing options.

    5-21-12

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