At $236, Galaxy S4 costlier to produce than S3, says report

IHS iSuppli's virtual teardown of the lasted Samsung smartphone shows it's 15 percent more expensive for Samsung to produce than last year's model.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy S4 's production costs are 15 percent higher than those of its predecessor, thanks to an upgraded display, sensors, processor, and memory, according to an IHS iSuppli teardown.

The latest model of Samsung's flagship phone costs $236 to produce, according to information analyzed by IHS. The firm said its estimates could change with a physical teardown, but for now the improvements equal a heftier cost. The HSPA+ version of the S4 has 16 gigabytes of NAND flash memory and costs $244 in materials plus $8.50 to manufacture. The LTE version is a bit cheaper at $233.

"Among the upgrades are a larger, full high-definition (HD) display; a beefed-up Samsung processor; and a wealth of new sensors that set a record high for the number of such devices in a smartphone design," Vincent Leung, senior analyst for cost benchmarking at IHS, said in a press release.

Click to enlarge.

The S4's new AMOLED 1,920x1,080-pixel display is where a bulk of the increased costs came from for both the HSPA+ and LTE versions. It costs $75 versus the S3's $65 display. IHS' analysts said it's the first phone to have an AMOLED display with this resolution, since it's been a challenge to squeeze pixels into this type of display in the past.

IHS also notes the high number of sensors on the S4. It's not surprising given the smartphone's multiple new features , such as integrated eye-tracking software and the ability to monitor health stats. In addition to sensors that were available in the S3 -- geomagnetic and proximity sensors, as well as an accelerometer, gyroscope, and barometer, among others -- Samsung added a new infrared gesture sensor and a humidity and temperature sensor. The barrage of sensors costs $16, up from $12.70 in the S3.

To run the HSPA+ phone's apps, Samsung "is believed to be" using an eight-core chip of its own design, the Exynos 5 Octa, according to IHS. The cost is $30, compared with the S3's chip, which costs $17.50.

Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS, said in the release that the processor integrates two quad-core processors into one chip. This lets the phone assign less intensive tasks, like phone calls and social-media apps, to the less powerful processor, saving power. The more powerful processor is used only for things like video gaming.

The 4G LTE version uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, a quad-core apps processor and LTE radio solution, which costs $20.

Samsung manufactures at least $149 worth -- or 63 percent -- of the parts needed for the S4, and IHS thinks Intel and Broadcom supply the rest.

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