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HTC Thunderbolt 4G Tear Down Gives Insight On LTE iPhone 5 Pricing

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 (opens in new tab) 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.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.