By most accounts, Samsung's latest flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, is a by the numbers release. It features all the latest hardware you would expect from a high-end phone in 2020, but doesn't do a lot to change the Note formula. However, in tearing down the device, iFixit found one surprise that could represent a new design direction for Samsung and other manufacturers. Underneath the phone's motherboard, the company discovered a multilayered graphite thermal pad.
It's an interesting design change for a company that has employed copper heat pipes to cool its phones. What makes it more intriguing is that not every Note 20 unit features it. In some teardowns, the Note 20 Ultra includes the same cooper cooling setup that Samsung has employed for years. At first, iFixit thought this might have been a difference between the Snapdragon and Exynos variants of the Note 20. For those who don't know, Samsung sources the processors for the US versions of its high-end Galaxy phones from Qualcomm.
However, when Zack Nelson of JerryRigEverything tore down his Exynos-equipped Note 20 Ultra, he too found it had a graphite layer. For the moment, the inclusion is something of a mystery. iFixit suggests that Samsung may be testing the design in a couple of phones, but without more information it's hard to say if that's the case. It's worth noting Samsung is still using copper cooling in other parts of the phone. The display, for instance, has a copper lining.
When it comes to repairability, the Note 20 series is in the same ballpark as most other modern phones. Liberal use of adhesive — that you have to replace if you open the phone up — makes most repairs challenging to pull off.