Research firm IHS iSuppli has carried out the teardown of the HTC Thunderbolt 4G and found out that the 4G LTE wireless component within the phone added a whopping $39.75 to the total bill of material of the smartphone.
With a BoM of $262, the Thunderbolt has the highest manufacturing cost of any smartphone IHS has ever torn down, one which it says almost rivals the cost of full size tablets; this could have a significant impact on the BoM of any 4G-enabled iPhone 5 and the profit margins of Apple.
IHS's senior analyst, Wayne Lam, says that the iPhone 5 PCB will have to be significantly bigger than the current one in order to accommodate 4G LTE components which include a 4G baseband chip (with additional power management and memory modules), a 4G radio frequency transceiver and a 4G power amplifier module.
Adding 4G to the iPhone is likely to raise the price of the iPhone 4 by around 23 per cent, a rise that doesn't include any cost related to design changes or modifications to other features, like a different battery to maintain the same battery life.
Qualcomm is almost certainly going to be the provider for any LTE part, and it will be interesting to see whether Apple actually gets an integrated CDMA/HSDPA/LTE chipset, the first of its kind.
Apple could also choose to license Qualcomm's IP and integrate it into its own iPhone 5 design. Qualcomm already has a Snapdragon chip, the MSM8960, that combines LTE, EVDO and HSPA on one single chip, an approach that cuts on development & component cost as well as save on power and space.