Breakdown of iPhone components: Assembled in China for US$6.50!

Every once in a while, there’s an economics professor who manages to put together a research paper that appeals to gadget geeks and iPhone nerds. Recently, it was reported in Vox that a Professor Xing tried to do this by digging up a breakdown of the country of origin and corresponding costs for the various components that go into an iPhone 3G.iPhone assembled in China for US$6.50













Toshiba (Japan)

Flash Memory


Display Module


Touch Screen


Samsung (Korea)

Application Processor




Infineon (Germany)



Camera Module


RF Transceiver


GPS Receiver


Power IC RF Function


Broadcom (USA)



Numonyx (USA)

Memory MCP


Murata (Japan)



Dialog Semiconductor (Germany)

Power IC Application Processor Function


Cirrus Logic (USA)

Audio Codec


Rest of Bill of Materials


Total Bill of Materials


Manufacturing costs


Grand Total


Table 1. Apple iPhone 3G’s major components and cost drivers  . Source: Rassweiler (2009)


His thesis was that the Chinese labour costs for the iPhone assembly accounted for only $6.50 out of a grand total of $178.96 (in the case of an iPhone 3G) and hence a revaluation of the Chinese dollar will not really have a real impact on US competitiveness and the global demand for products simply assembled in China. In fact, if the same iPhone was assembled in the US, given that labour costs are 10 times more than China, the manufacturing costs would have been $65, resulting in a grand total price of $237.46 or a 30% increase in price. Now, looking at how laptop costs have come down, I suppose the costs of materials wouldn't have increased substantially for the iPhone 4 (despite the higher specifications) and so this analysis probably still holds true.

Given that the iPhone 4 is currently priced at $199 bundled with an AT&T plan, I would say that the iPhone pricing seems to be fairly competitive based on the estimated costs of materials which obviously haven’t taken into account software development and integration costs, as well as other administrative overheads. Which explains why Apple is still the world leader in the smartphone market - not just on account of its App Store.

JS Lee blogs because he loves gadgets and keeps his own blog at <a href=""> He has been recently reintroduced to Apple products through the Ipad and the Iphone 4, having started with an Apple II at a very young age in 1984. He remembers Ultima III, Wizardry, Bard's Tale and Archon fondly.