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HTC Thunderbolt one pricey smartphone to make

Research firm IHS says higher cost of 4G components may shed light on the complications Apple will face if it builds an LTE iPhone.

Verizon Wireless' first 4G smartphone, the Thunderbolt, carried a hefty price tag for manufacturer HTC.

The HTC Thunderbolt is a costly phone to make. James Martin/CNET

That's according to a recent study by IHS, who found that the phone's bill of materials was $262, the highest total out of any smartphone the firm has ever torn down.

The high price was largely due to the 4G components, which added $39.75 to the cost of the smartphone. The company says the higher cost provides some insights on the issues Apple may have when it constructs a 4G-compatible iPhone.

"The next iPhone's (build-of-materials) value certainly will increase substantially compared to the iPhone 4 if LTE is implemented in the same manner as in the HTC Thunderbolt," said Wayne Lam, an analyst at IHS.

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In comparison, the CDMA variant of the iPhone 4 has a build-of-materials cost of $171.35. The firm estimates the cost would go up to $211.10 if Apple used the same LTE components that HTC did.

While there remains speculation--mostly wishful thinking--that the next iPhone will be compatible with Verizon's 4G LTE network, many remain skeptical. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said in April that the first generation of LTE components would force compromises that the company wasn't willing to make.

The wireless carriers are eager to push 4G service, seen by many as the key to their continued growth.

IHS, however, does note that there are more cost-efficient components available now than there were when the Thunderbolt was being designed. Still, any 4G components would require a radical redesign of the hardware.