We disassembled two very different cell phones to document the differences in components and technologies. The two phones were released 17 years apart, making them good candidates for this demonstration. The total weights of each item or material is shown in (grams) in the upper corner of each image.
There is a substantial difference in the circuit board weights as shown below. The older Qualcomm phone has circuit boards weighing 55 grams, or 25% of it’s total weight. The newer LG board only weighs 15 grams, or 12% of it’s total weight.
The batteries also vary greatly in overall size and weight. The Qualcomm battery accounts for 50% of the total weight of the phone, while the newer technology in the LG allows it to use a battery weighing only 32% of the phone’s weight.
The amount of plastic used is surprisingly similar, with the older Qualcomm’s plastic content weighing in at 14% and the newer LG at 16%. It should be noted that this stat is based entirely on which phone is used for reference. An iPhone 6 for example, with a frame constructed primarily of aluminum will feature very little plastic, roughly less than 5% by weight.
Screen size is one of the major differences between these two phones. The Qualcomm uses a tiny 1.75″ display, the LG uses a 4.5″ touchscreen. The smaller screen comes in at <5 grams, which is approximately 2% of the phone’s weight. If the more modern LG phone retained that screen:phone weight ratio, with it’s current screen the phone would weigh 2250 grams, or 4.96 pounds. Luckily, that is not the case, the LG screen comes in at 45 grams, which is 36%.
Steel is a commonly used material in cell phones, but it’s typically quite sparse. The qualcomm had it as shielding on the surface mount chips and antenna base mount, it weighed in at <5 grams, or 2%. The LG had even less, only used for shielding around the SIM/SD slots, it didn’t even register on the scale, realistically around 0.25 grams.
Miscellaneous materials such as rubber, wire, speakers, microphones, and cameras make up a small percentage of the weight. The assorted remaining items in the Qualcomm amounted to 10 grams, or approximately 5%. The LG was <5 grams, or around 4%.
We hope this detailed breakdown of components and individual weights is educational and helpful to those interested in recycling electronics. A more detailed description of mentioned materials can be seen here: What is a cell phone made of?
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