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Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge Is More Expensive to Build than Apple’s iPhones

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, March 2, 2015.
Gustau Nacarino | Reuters
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, March 2, 2015.

Samsung's latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6 Edge, is the most costly yet to build and assemble, according to a teardown analysis of the device by the research firm IHS.

According to report due out later today, the 64-GB version of the phone built for use on Verizon Wireless' network cost about $290 to build, including parts and assembly.

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That's about $34 per unit higher than the costs of the Galaxy S5 released last year, and even higher than the most costly versions of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. IHS estimated the top end of the materials cost on those phones at $247 and $263. The 64-GB version of the phone sells for $699 without a contract and some versions cost more.

The cost of components, known in electronics industry lingo as a bill of materials, has been steadily climbing in recent years, says Andrew Rassweiler, an analyst who heads up IHS' teardown research efforts.

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"Samsung is clearly studying Apple's playbook by using things like metal enclosures and other design choices that are similar to Apple's," he says. "The bottom line is that this phone costs less than an iPhone to buy, but it costs Samsung more to build."

The most costly component in the S6 is the curved touchscreen display which wraps around the left and right sides of the phone. The curved portion of the screen acts as a secondary display for notifications and can be used to launch applications with one hand. The combined display and touchscreen elements add $85 to Samsung's costs, Rassweiler says.

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The second most expensive part is the Samsung-made Exynos 7 applications chip, which costs an estimated $29.50. The phone is the first to sport a chip built on 14-nanometer manufacturing technology, which allows for the packing of more computing power in a smaller space than with prior chip generations. The only other 14-nanometer chip on the market right now comes from Intel. Apple is expected to use a 14-nanometer chip in a future iPhone.

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The new high-end chip also required expensive new high-end memory chips to accompany it. The phone has three gigabytes worth of Samsung-made DDR4 memory, which added $27 to the component cost. It was the first time that DDR4 memory has been spotted in a smart phone, Rassweiler said. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both use DDR3 memory. The teardown also estimated the cost of the 64 gigabytes of flash memory used for data storage at $25, also Samsung-made.

Rassweiler said the teardown revealed a $15 Qualcomm-made baseband chip for connecting to cellular networks in the version of the Galaxy S6 Edge sold through Verizon. A separate analysis is being done on a version of the phone being sold through AT&T, which may reveal a Samsung-made chip.

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