Why Smartphones Have Different Model Numbers
For some of you who are very familiar with smartphones and other electronic devices, you might have previously encountered that the same exact device has varying model numbers. This is on top of the variants or SKUs (often referred to the same devices with different storage capacities, RAM and/or colors).
The most obvious distinction is that this is often associated with the region or country the device is distributed or released. For one device, there could be half a dozen to a dozen different model numbers. Here are the reasons why there are so many model numbers for just one unit:
- Different Chipset and Other Parts. We normally notice this with Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note series where they use an Exynos chip or a Snapdragon chip in different regions. That does not stop there. Aside from the chipset, other more common parts that will have variations include SIM (single or dual) and network support (GSM or CDMA).
Galaxy S8 Model Numbers: G950F (Europe, Global Single-SIM), G950FD (Global Dual-SIM), G950U (USA Unlocked), G950A (AT&T), G950P (Sprint), G950T (T-Mobile), G950V (Verizon), G950R4 (US Cellular), G950W (Canada), G950S/G950K/G950L (South Korea); G9500 (China).
- Warranty and Support. Different model numbers might also mean different levels of warranty or support. By associating model numbers to specific regions or countries, it will be easy for the vendor or distributor to verify if the device is eligible for warranty or support. This means if you need warranty or support for your unit, you will have to return it to the country where you bought it (Hint: The local distributor will not support a device they did not distribute. This is to protect their dealers and avoid incurring technical support for a unit that they did not actually sell in the country. They even go as far as checking the serial numbers and comparing it with their inventory if it matches.).
- Tracking of Parts for Replacement and Service. We already mentioned this in #1 but this is more complicated. Vendors will source parts from different suppliers just to deliver the volume. This could be as common as a camera sensor (ISOCELL vs Sony IMX for the Galaxy S6) or as isolated as the eMMC and UFS memory chips inside the Huawei P10.
The lesser known ones often involved Apple’s iPhone. This is due to the fact that Apple only has one release cycle per year and they order parts in the tens of millions. One supplier often cannot deliver the number of LCD modules needed so the demand is distributed among several factories or suppliers.
In some cases, the next batch of supplies is already different from the previous batches (to address potential hardware issues or introduce improvements). This recently happened with the iPhone 6 Plus with the “Touch Disease” problem.
Repairing the devices will mean understanding or studying the different parts and layouts of these parts in order to properly fix the device.
- OS Updates and Firmware Roll-out. This is another complication with different model numbers. Since the models have different parts, they also require different drivers for those parts. This, a firmware roll-out or OS update can be very tricky and complicated. A specific model number might not have the proper drivers released which results in the delay of the OS update just for that model while other models are already on its way.
The next time you buy a device abroad or whenever you look for a replacement part or have your device fixed, remember it’s not as easy as you think.