Samsung Galaxy S23 Introduces Killer Feature … from the iPhone 4

Okay okay, hear me out. In the smartphone world, a decade-old feature isn’t a bad thing. Phones have gotten so sealed up and full of glue, old is the new… new. You know?

So reviewers are loving the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The software has been performing great, there’s hope that the overheating issues of the S22 are in the past—but in terms of hardware, not a ton has changed. Full disclosure, we work with Samsung to get parts and tools to the DIYers of the world, but this phone, and our teardown are completely editorially independent. That’s a legal-y disclaimer-y way to say: we’re not pulling any punches.

Samsung S23 Ultra Teardown Video

Samsung S23 Ultra X-rays

The folks at Creative Electron give us our first glimpse into this year’s Ultra, and the only “new” I can spot is an ultra visible heat sink. A potentially-stainless-steel heatpipe may be helping manage the heat put out by the processor. Then again, maybe the switch from Samsung’s Exynos back to Snapdragon is doing the bulk of the work.

X-ray of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra by Creative Electron

Opening the Galaxy S23 Ultra

One thing that has changed, thanks to our tool development department, is the opening procedure, thanks for the assist Clampy! A bit of heating from an iOpener and the steady pressure of the Anti-Clamp works wonders on this stubborn glue. And while we’re promoting new tools, the FixMat does a great job keeping track of all 17 midframe screws.

And now the pièce de résistance: a battery adhesive handle à la iPhone 4. Yeah a lot of folk are using this non-stretch adhesive, the OnePlus 5 for example. But the first time we saw this was more than 12 years ago now—feel old yet? We didn’t have the easiest time pulling on this handle—I suspect that the wrong bits of the adhesive started to separate—but subsequent attempts went much better. And I gotta say, this is the most straightforward battery removal since the S6 and S6 Edge. The pull tab is even labeled! Samsung has finally admitted that yes, batteries can, and even should, be removed.

What a Removable Battery Means for the S23 Ultra

With a new battery tab and hardware otherwise unchanged, how will this phone score? The S21 just managed to scrape a 4/10 on our repairability scale. Add a battery pull tab and the S23 is now solidly in 4/10—you’ve still got to peel out the old adhesive and delicately reapply new stuff after all.

The S22 Ultra (left) and S23 Ultra (right) differ only by battery adhesive—nearly invisible from here.

But phone repair isn’t just about phones. If Samsung releases parts and repair manuals, they could earn the S23 a score of 6/10 on our repairability scale. That’s a score they haven’t seen for a decade, and a great improvement for DIY repair. Given that the S22 has part and tool support, there’s a good chance the S23 line will achieve that impressive score. Incidentally, the iPhone 4 also scored a 6/10—granted the comparison is Apples to oranges here, as scoring metrics do change over time.

While we’d love to see a pull-tab that’s a bit more reliable, the fact that it’s there at all is proof enough that Right to Repair is gaining ground—and fast. Now we just need to figure out how to protect third-party screens, and maybe convince them to use less glue, too.