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Moto X pays a premium to be a made-in-America smartphone

An IHS teardown suggests that Motorola is paying $221 to build out each device, but that doesn't mean it's using the most futuristic tech for the phone's components.

The Moto X ships with a black or white back, but users can customize the device with custom hues, patterns, and engravings crafted to order.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Motorola's Moto X has been touted as the company's foray into well-crafted superphones. It appears that to create such a product, Google is reportedly laying down some serious cash in the manufacturing process -- namely, $221 per phone.

That's quite a lot for a device that costs consumers $579 without a contract and $199 with a two-year contract. For comparison, Apple's most expensive smartphone to build is its iPhone 5, which is said to cost $167.50 per unit.

Even though Moto X is said to cost a fair amount to build, it's not actually using haute technology for its components, according to AllThingsD, which got a look at a teardown from IHS (formerly iSuppli). Apparently, the device uses a year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip and two other chips from Texas Instruments for its most important features.

A teardown by iFixit on Friday confirmed the 1.7GHz Qualcomm S4 Pro chip, along with a Motorola 3.8 volt, 2200mAh Lithium ion battery.

The Moto X is Motorola's flagship smartphone that is supposed to rival other high-end devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and Apple's iPhone 5. The device has a speedy camera, futuristic voice command capabilities, and an endless variety of customized designs. But its screen isn't cutting-edge and there's no expandable storage.

"What Google and Motorola are trying to do is not play the game of 'bigger is better' that everyone else is playing," IHS analyst Wayne Lam told AllThingsD. "They are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from the pack and push the user experience in a new direction."

One of these new directions is a feature that lets users ultra-customize their phones. Consumers have a choice of two basic colors to choose from when purchasing a new Moto X handset, white and black. Motorola, however, will offer buyers the option to personalize their phones with custom hues, patterns, and engravings crafted to order at Motorola's new Texas factory.

A huge part of the Moto X's design story is its born-in-the-USA ethos. The company is designing, engineering, and constructing all Moto X units in the US.

"Motorola is paying a premium for a made-in-America phone, but it's also giving them the ability to do the customization work easily," Lam told AllThingsD.

IHS estimates that all of the components in the smartphone add up to $209, and US manufacturing costs tally in another $12 -- bringing the total to $221. Assembling a phone in Asia typically costs $7 to $8 per unit, according to IHS.

The Moto Maker store, which is the one-stop shop for users to customize their phones, opened for business on Tuesday. Color, wallpaper, and Google ID for the device can all be chosen; but other enhancements, such as the rumored wood case and message engraving, are not yet available.

Now playing: Watch this: Motorola's Moto X targets the masses