Despite major differences in features and component selection, Nokia’s new N8 smart phone carries a Bill of Materials (BOM) cost nearly identical to that of the iPhone 4, according to a preliminary teardown analysis conducted by iSuppli Corp.
The N8’s BOM amounts to $187.47, according to a preliminary estimate from iSuppli. The 16Gbyte version of the iPhone 4’s BOM came in at $187.51, based on pricing from iSuppli’s teardown in June, although Apple’s component prices have eroded since that time.
“The N8’S BOM shows Nokia is targeting the product squarely at the touch-screen smart phone segment now dominated by the iPhone,” said Andrew Rassweiler, director, principal analyst and teardown services manager, for iSuppli. “Although the two phones differ markedly in key areas, including the camera and the core silicon, both are designed to hit similar production cost budgets.”
When the approximately $9.50 manufacturing expense of the N8 is factored in, the total cost to produce the smart phone rises to $196.97.
Costly CameraAlthough not the most costly design feature of the N8, the camera stands out as one of the most striking differences between the N8 and the iPhone 4—and between the N8 and other recent smart phone designs. The primary camera in the N8 is based on a CMOS sensor with a 12-megapixel resolution, compared to just 5 megapixels for the iPhone—and 8 megapixels for the most cutting-edge smart phone designs.
“The 12-megapixel resolution represents the leading edge of camera resolution in handsets, and the N8 is the first smart phone model iSuppli has torn down with such an advanced image sensor,” Rassweiler said. “Apple has never regarded the camera module as a key differentiating feature on iPhones, and has always spent its budget elsewhere within the design. Clearly, Nokia wants the N8 to be distinguished in this aspect.”
In addition to the 12-megapixel camera module is a secondary VGA resolution module and a conventional Xenon flash unit, which allows the N8 to rise to the quality level of digital still cameras in low-light conditions. Most other smart phones employ white LED lights to help in low-light conditions—a solution generally considered to be unsatisfactory.
The camera subsystem costs $31.08, including both camera modules and the Xenon flash unit. This makes it the third most costly subsystem of the N8.
Displays of UniquenessThe most expensive subsystem within the N8, like most other smart phones, is the display and capacitive touch screen section. The technology used in this section also represents one of the bigger differences between the iPhone and N8.
The iPhone 4 employs a 3.5-inch LCD using advanced Low-Temperature Polysilicon (LTPS) and In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology. In contrast, the N8 employs an alternative display technology to the LCD—the Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (AMOLED).
The AMOLED display is supplied by Samsung Mobile Display, which also provides similar screens commonly found on high-end Android phones.
Not long ago, AMOLED was an exotic new display technology. However, the quality of displays and touchscreens has become the key differentiating feature for smart phone manufacturers. This is especially true now that the display and touch screen practically define the user’s experience as the primary output and input for smart phones.
The N8’s display and touch screen subsystem, which also includes a controller Integrated Circuit (IC) made by Synaptics Inc., is the most expensive portion of the smart phone, carrying a collective $39.25 cost for Nokia.
Valuable MemoriesUnlike Apple designs that use conventional NAND, the Nokia N8 employs a variant of NAND flash memory known as Embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC). eMMC NAND flash can be slightly more expensive than the conventional variety used in the iPhone 4. eMMC combines memory with interface circuitry and a controller in a single package, facilitating the design cycle for those who use it in their designs. Although memory is always multisourced, Toshiba was found to be the source in the sample of the N8 iSuppli’s Teardown Analysis Service used for this analysis.
When 4Gbits of additional OneNAND memory and mobile Double Data Rate (DDR) DRAM from Samsung are added in, the memory subsystem carries a total cost of $37.12, making it the second most expensive portion of the N8.
Processor ParticularsFourth on the cost ranking is the applications, media and baseband processing subsystem, at $22.00.
This section features a digital baseband processor IC that is a custom part manufactured by Texas Instruments Inc. It also sports a Broadcom Corp. mobile multimedia processor chip.
The Broadcom multimedia chip, the first time iSuppli has seen this device in a product teardown, features HD support, including the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), allowing the transfer of 720p-format video. iSuppli hasn’t identified any discrete HDMI transmitter ICs, and doesn’t expect to find them.
The processing subsystem also features a Texas Instruments analog baseband/power management chip.
Supplier LineupOther notable suppliers and components in the N8 include:
Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd.’s Bluetooth/wireless local area network IC
Texas Instruments’ single-chip GPS device and audio power amplifier
ST-Ericsson SA’s RF Transceiver, RF power management IC and power reset device
Renesas Electronics Corp.’s Power Amplifier
Epcos AG’s front-end module
AKM Semiconductor Inc.’s electronic compass
STMicroelectronics’ Microelectromechanical System (MEMS) accelerometer