Galaxy S4 costs $US236 for materials

Biggest increases over GSIII are processor and display costs

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with HSPA+ costs $US236 for materials, up 15 per cent from the equivalent Galaxy S III, according to a virtual teardown by IHS iSuppli.

There is an added $8.50 in manufacturing costs for the HSPA+ GS4 with its 16GB of flash memory. For materials alone, that GS4 is $30.40 higher than the GSIII.

The GS4's HD display costs $75, up from $65 fpr the previous model, while the Exynos 5 Octa processor in the HSPA+ version costs $30, compared to $17.50 for the quad-core Exynos apps processor in the GSIII. The LTE version of the GS4 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, priced at $20. That lower-cost processor reduces the overall materials cost for the LTE version to $233, down $3 from the HSPA+ version. However, the LTE wireless radios (covering six global bands) cost $25, which is higher than the $16 for the HSPA+ radio and related systems.

Samsung manufactured many of the parts in the GS4, including the display and touchscreen module, as well as the Octa processor and power management circuit and SDRAM and flash memory. All the Samsung components together account for $149 of the hardware in the HSPA+ version, or 63 per cent of the materials.

The virtual teardown was based on specs released by Samsung, combined with information about components and suppliers. The virtual teardown results are preliminary and subject to change pending an actual physical teardown, IHS said.

Vincent Leung, senior analyst at IHS, said that even with the larger HD display, a more powerful Samsung processor and new sensors, the GS4 has roughly the same width and handling ability as the GSIII.

The new display in the GS4 uses a full-HD active-matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) with a pixel format of 1920 x 1080 (up from 1280 x 720 in the GSIII). The GS4 is the first smartphone with an AMOLED display at such high resolution, although there are other smartphones on the market using full-HD LCD displays, according to Vinita Jakhanawal, director for displays at IHS. Higher AMOLED performance drove up the display cost, Jakhanwal said.

The GS4 has a record number of sensors for a smartphone, Leung said. A humidity and temperature sensor and an IR gesture sensor that are new to the GS4 increase the cost by $16, up from $12.70 in the GSIII. The GS4 also has an accelerometer, RGB light, e-compass, gyro and a barometer.

Many experts say U.S. carriers will charge $200 for the GS4 with a two-year contract. An unsubsidized version might cost more than $650 at retail.

Samsung said the GS4 will be available to major U.S. carriers in the second quarter.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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