Sunday, September 25, 2011

What some smartphones really cost

Smartphones may be pretty uniform in price at the store, but what they cost to manufacture -- and their price without a two-year contract -- varies wildly.
Apple iPhone 4 (16 GB)
Courtesy of Apple
Component Cost: $187.51
Price Without Contract: $599
Price With Contract: $199
Lowest Available Price: $197 (Wal-Mart)
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Unlike other smartphone manufacturers, Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - News) generally doesn't allow its devices to be sold for any less than in its stores, so $199 is almost certainly what you're going to pay for a new iPhone 4 with a two-year contract. Buying it at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT - News) will knock that down a buck or two.
With component costs of nearly $190, the iPhone 4 is the most expensive smartphone on the market to manufacture, according to research firm iSuppli. The largest single component of that cost is the iPhone's Retina Display, which costs an estimated $30 to make.
But the real wallet wallop comes if you break or lose your iPhone 4 and have to replace it before your contract is up. Buying one without AT&T's (NYSE: T - News) subsidy will set you back a jaw-dropping $600.
Samsung Galaxy S - Vibrant
Courtesy of Samsung
Component Cost: $165
Price Without Contract: $399.99
Price With Contract: $199.99
Lowest Available Price: $39.99 (, Wirefly)
Samsung (KSE: 005930.KS - News) followed in Research In Motion's (NasdaqGS: RIMM - News) successful footsteps by launching what is more or less the same phone on each of the four major U.S. wireless networks.
The phone is Samsung's Galaxy S class, and The Vibrant is T-Mobile's version. AT&T's Samsung Captivate can be had for about the same price with a new two-year contract, but without a new contract, it will set you back $100 more than the Vibrant. Sprint's Epic (NYSE: S - News), the 4G version of the phone, can't be bought for less than $200, however. Verizon's Fascinate (NYSE: VZ - News) version hasn't yet gone to market.
With similar capabilities to other top-of-the-line Android peers, the Vibrant is bargain at $40 with a new contract. Without one, prepare to shell out $400.
BlackBerry Torch
Courtesy of Research In Motion
Component Cost: $171.05
Price Without Contract: $499.99
Price With Contract: $199.99
Lowest Available Price: $99.99 (, Wirefly)
The $200 price point surprised a number of people, given that Research In Motion's top-of-the-line BlackBerry doesn't match up all that well with the features and app availability of its high-end smartphone rivals, especially the iPhone or Android alternatives.
But at $100 from retailers like (NasdaqGS: AMZN - News) and Wirefly, the Torch can be a pretty good deal. It's not quite as fast and doesn't have the screen resolution of some of its peers, but the BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard is a big plus for heavy e-mailers and texters.
The touch screen makes the Torch more expensive than most BlackBerry phones, but surprisingly it's not the priciest: Verizon's BlackBerry Storm sells for $540 without a contract, and the Bold goes for $510 on Verizon.
HTC Droid Incredible
Courtesy of HTC
Component Cost: $163.35
Price Without Contract: $529.99
Price With Contract: $199.99
Lowest Available Price: $69.99 (Wirefly)
One of the most sought-after smartphones on the market, Verizon's Droid Incredible only recently became available for next-day shipping -- four months after it went on sale.
So with such "incredible" demand and high-end features like an 8 megapixel camera and Android 2.2, it's a surprise that it can be had for as little as $70 on Wirefly with a new two-year contract.
At $40 less than the Droid X and $10 less than the Droid 2 without a new contract, it's also the least expensive Droid-branded smartphone that Verizon offers. It doesn't have a keyboard like the Droid 2 or a 4.3-inch screen like the Droid X, but if you don't need those features, the Droid Incredible is competitively priced.

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