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Building Galaxy S5 costs more than iPhone 5s at $256

Posted: 21 Apr 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Samsung  Galaxy  S5 

Samsung outfits the Galaxy S5 smartphone with discrete-intensive design—a step above the previous models in terms of both features and cost. According to a preliminary estimate by the Teardown Mobile Handsets Intelligence Service at IHS Technology, the S5 with 32GB NAND flash memory carries a BOM of $251.52, plus the addition of $5 manufacturing cost.

This is more expensive than other high-end smartphones, such as the 32GB iPhone 5S, which carried a $207 BOM based on an IHS pricing estimate in September. The S5's BOM contrasts even more starkly with smartphones at the lowest end of the cost spectrum, such as two Android devices, the ZTE U793 and K-Touch T619+, which have BOMs of less than $35, according to recent IHS teardowns.

Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE

The Galaxy S5 LTE

"The high cost of the S5 is becoming more typical of Samsung's flagship Galaxy line," said Andrew Rassweiler, senior director, cost benchmarking services for IHS. "In the last year, IHS has torn down four Galaxy devices with BOMs ranging from $237 to $280.

"The S5 exemplifies a conservative evolutionary design approach," Rassweiler said. "There are no revolutions or giant steps forward in this design. There's a lot of similarity and commonality between the S5 and other recent Samsung smartphones IHS has torn down, such as the Galaxy Round and the Note III. However, there are many small changes throughout the design."

The table attached presents the preliminary BOM and manufacturing cost estimate of the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. Note that this teardown assessment is preliminary in nature, accounts only for hardware and manufacturing costs, and does not include other expenses such as software, licensing, royalties or additional expenditures.

Galaxy S5 assembly cost

A multiplicity of minor mods

Modified component selections in the S5 include the Qualcomm Inc. WTR1625 radio frequency transceiver. Previous multiple Galaxy products included the WTR1605L instead. This part switch may have been spurred by specific carrier and network requirements.

The S5 also includes a new version of the NXP near-field communication controller that's different from the NXP PN5441, PN547 and PN65N devices found in other Samsung teardowns.

The S5 uses the ES704 noise suppression device from Audience Semiconductor, as opposed to eS305B and eS325 seen in several other recent Samsung devices.

Moreover, the latest Galaxy smartphone employs the PMC8974 power management chip from Qualcomm. This is a chip that IHS has never seen in an electronic design, and seems to integrate two or more power-management ICs from Qualcomm that previously were separate.

Getting a Wi-Fi boost

In one major departure from previous designs, the Galaxy S5 features the first sighting of 802.11ac Wi-Fi with multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology. MIMO utilises multiple antennas to improve Wi-Fi signal strength and overall performance.

Although IHS is not yet able to confirm the supplier of the MIMO Wi-Fi module and the underlying silicon supporting this function, we believe that Broadcom is the most likely available semiconductor solution provider. The module is a combo solution that supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality.

Upgrading to a pricey processor

Another major cost factor in the Galaxy S5 is the smartphone's core processor, the Qualcomm MSM8974AC. The MSM8974AC is a variant of the popular MSM8974 used in a number of mobile products ranging from the Nokia Lumia 1520, to the Galaxy Round, to the LG Google Nexus 5. The AC version employs the newer Snapdragon 801 processor, as opposed to the 800 used in the MSM8974. The MSM8974AC with the Snapdragon 801 features a faster clock speed, at 2.5GHz, compared to 2.3GHz in the MSM8974 with the Snapdragon 800.

The MSM8974AC carries an estimated cost of $41.00. This may seem elevated but represents the combined functionality of two formerly separate chips, the core applications processor and the wireless semiconductor. In other designs, such as the Apple iPhones and other Samsung designs, these two roles may be filled by two separate chips. Implementing the Qualcomm MSM8974AC solution saves Samsung internal board space and reduces manufacturing cost by eliminating separate ICs on the board.

There is speculation over whether there is another variant of the Samsung S5 design that features a Samsung Exynos processor in lieu of the Qualcomm MSM8974AC. In the Samsung Galaxy S4, there were two different versions, one with a Samsung Exynos 5410 processor, and another with a Qualcomm processor, dubbed the APQ8064AC.

The S5 may be based only on the Qualcomm MSM8974AC, but this has yet to be confirmed.

A sensor surge

The S5 represents the latest escalation of the sensor war, adding more such devices than IHS has ever detected in a smartphone design. Whereas a typical smartphone design might feature an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, the S5 features all of those plus a barometric pressure sensor, and two new additions: fingerprint and pulse sensors.

For the first time, Samsung has added a fingerprint sensor to its Galaxy line, following Apple's lead with iPhone 5S.

The pulse sensor is the Maxim MAX86900. This may seem like an odd choice of sensor to add, but this stems from a recent wave of consumer and OEM interest in activity monitors and other wearable devices that also feature pulse monitoring and other health and vital statistics tracking features.

Samsung uses a number of different sources for the sensors, depending on the model built. The accelerometer/gyroscope component in the individual S5 torn down by IHS is from InvenSense Inc., whereas the S4 featured a unit from STMicroelectronics.

The electronic compass in the S5 torn down by IHS comes from Asahi Kasei Microelectronics; in the Samsung S4, IHS found compasses from both Asahi and Yamaha, depending on the variant of the S4 design. The barometric pressure sensor found in the S5 torn down is from STMicroelectronics, whereas both previously torn down S4 variants feature Bosch Sensortec. It's important to note that different variants can employ distinct components from diverse supplier both in the sensor area and other sections of the design.

Looking at the South Korean build

The individual S5 torn down by IHS was sold in the South Korean market and included a television receiver—the FC8080 T-DMB tuner/demodulator from Silicon Motion. The U.S. version is unlikely to include this chip, IHS believes. Furthermore, IHS expects that versions sold by AT&T, Verizon and other global carriers may have other minor modifications.





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