Virtual Teardown Estimates iPhone 5 Part Cost at $199

iPhone 5 TeardownPrerelease iPhone 5 Parts Leak via

Apple’s new iPhone 5, set for release this Friday, carries a bill of materials (BOM) of US$199 for the low end model, according to an analysis and virtual teardown by IHS iSuppli Tuesday. With an estimated $8 manufacturing cost, Apple’s total cost to build a 16 GB iPhone 5 is $207.

The amount of flash storage is the only differentiating factor between the three models of iPhone (not including color differences), and the low price of flash memory chips allows Apple to make an even greater profit on the higher end models. The 32 GB iPhone 5 has a total manufacturing cost of $217, and the 64 GB model has a total cost of $238.

Apple charges an unsubsidized price of $649, $749, and $849 for each model of iPhone and, according to the iSuppli analysis, makes $442, $532, and $611 per phone, respectively. These profits only consider the pure hardware manufacturing cost and do not take into account research and development, advertising, distribution, and any licensing or royalties associated with software on the device.

Apple’s hardware profits on the iPhone 5 are slightly lower than those from the iPhone 4S. Apple’s previous iPhone, which had the advantage of sharing the same physical characteristics as its iPhone 4 predecessor, carried a BOM of $188.

iPhone 5 BOM iPhone 4S ComparisonChart by The Mac Observer from iSuppli Data.

“While the price of some components, such as NAND flash, has fallen during the past year, the iPhone 5’s overall BOM has increased mainly because its display and wireless subsystems are more expensive compared to the iPhone 4S,” Andrew Rassweiler, senior principal analyst of teardown services for IHS said in the firm’s press release.

Apple’s new 4-inch Retina display with in-cell touch technology accounted for a slight increase in the cost of materials. The new display costs approximately $44, higher than the combined total of display and touchscreen on the iPhone 4S, priced at $37.

“The iPhone 5 makes a big evolutionary step in technology that we have not seen elsewhere with the use of in-cell touch sensing,” Mr. Rassweiler said. “Most other smartphones LCDs use a completely distinct capacitive touchscreen assembly that is physically separate and placed on top of the display. The iPhone 5 partially integrates the touch layers into the display glass, making the product thinner and reducing the number of parts required to build display that senses touch without the need for a separate capacitive touch layer.”

Another big ticket item for the iPhone 5 is the highly anticipated addition of 4G LTE capability. While some smartphones from other manufacturers have featured LTE since 2010, the iPhone 5 is the first Apple phone to receive support for the ultrafast cellular data network. That speed, however, comes with an added cost; the iPhone 5’s LTE chip and antenna costs an estimated $34, a 41 percent increase over the $24 3G chip found in the iPhone 4S.

The brains of the iPhone 5, its custom designed A6 processor, also cost slightly more than the iPhone 4S’s A5 at the time of its launch: $17.50 to $15.00.

A major decrease in cost for Apple comes from drastically reduced NAND flash prices over the last year. Apple’s estimated cost of flash storage on the 16 GB iPhone of $10.40 represents a nearly 46 percent decrease in cost compared to the same amount of flash storage for the iPhone 4S, at $19.20.

“NAND flash continues to come down in price as manufacturing processes for these memory chips become more advanced,” Mr. Rassweiler said. “And because it is the world's largest buyer of NAND flash, Apple gets preferential pricing. Apple’s massive leverage in this market is reflected in our price estimate.”

The iPhone 5 launches this Friday, September 21 at 8:00 a.m. local time. iOS 6, featured on the new phone, will be available Wednesday for existing users of compatible older devices.