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New BB Torch Costs as Much to Make as iPhone 4

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 16 comments

RIM's newest phone carries quite the bill of materials.

Research in Motion's newest phone, the BlackBerry Torch, has at least one thing in common with the iPhone 4: they cost about the same to make. Sales of the two are much, much further apart.

Supply chain researcher iSuppli did its traditional tear-down of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and found the new phone, which is pretty vital to RIM if it hopes to stave off the onslaught from Apple's iPhone and Google's Android army, has an estimated bill of materials (BOM) of $171.05, and probably costs about $12 to assemble, for a total of $183.05.

iSuppli estimated the iPhone 4 bill of materials, minus assembly costs, to be $187.51 for the 16GB model, which retails for $199 with a two-year contract.

Of course, that's where the similarities end. Apple said it sold three million iPhone 4 models in the first month of release and can't make them fast enough. The Wall Street Journal puts first week sales of the Torch 9800 at 150,000 units. Just days after the launch, Amazon cut the price to $99 from $199, with a two-year contract, but an Amazon spokesperson told Reuters that it was a short-term promotional offer, not a price cut.

The Torch is an ambitious phone for RIM. (See our own teardown here.) It's the first BlackBerry to feature both a touch-screen and a slide-out keyboard. Most BlackBerry phones have used a hard keyboard, but RIM has released the Storm, a touch-screen device meant to take on the iPhone.

In examining the internals of the Torch, iSuppli found that RIM reused a lot of technology from older phones. The slide-out keyboard and a GPS Integrated Circuit (IC) are a first for RIM phones, and the BlackBerry OS 6.0 represents a major update to the phone OS.

After that, there are quite a few retreads. The Torch's Radio Frequency (RF), power amplifier and power management subsystems are similar or virtually identical to the Bold 9700, the last phone to come from RIM. The Torch's screen is very similar to that of the BlackBerry Storm2 9550, and the Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometer in the Torch is also used in the Storm2 9550.

"On the outside, the Torch delivers a rich feature set, with three User Interfaces (UIs): a capacitive touch screen, an optical track pad and the first slider QWERTY keyboard found in a BlackBerry," Andrew Rassweiler, principal analyst, teardown services manager for iSuppli said in a statement.

"On the inside, the Torch's electronic design heavily leverages subsystems used in previous members of the BlackBerry smart phone line, specifically the Storm2 and the Bold 9700. With this evolutionary approach, RIM has delivered a smart phone with an enhanced feature set that largely matches those of the BlackBerry’s chief competitors: the iPhone and the Android-based handsets.

"Mechanically, it is comparable in complexity and cost to HTC Tilt 2. Likewise, the Torch integrates Texas Instruments's WL1271x WLAN/BlueTooth IC, which can be found in products including Motorola's Droid X and Microsoft's Kin 2," Rassweiler added.

The most expensive component is the 360x480 3.2-inch TFT LCD screen, with a price of $34.85. That's 20.4 percent of the overall product BOM. Coming in at a close second in terms of cost is the memory subsystem at $34.25. This includes 4Gbytes of eMMC NAND flash memory, an 8Gbit NAND flash and 4Gbit Mobile Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM, along with a 4GB removable Micro SD memory card from SanDisk.

The mechanical/electromechanical portions of the Torch, including the printed circuit boards and the enclosure plastics and metals, came in third at an estimated cost of $23.35, representing 13.7 percent of the Torch's BOM. The CPU from Marvell Technology Group is $15, the Infineon Technologies' RF transceiver and power amplifier section is $13.90, and STMicroelectronics' STV0987 video/image processor is $12.40.

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  • 8 Hide
    insider3 , August 26, 2010 6:17 PM
    I love RIM, I had a blackberry before switching over to the EVO. I just don't see how this phone can go up against the competition that is out now with that price tag.
  • 7 Hide
    hillarymakesmecry , August 26, 2010 6:28 PM
    They should have spent another $20 on it and had a high resolution screen.
  • Display all 16 comments.
  • 9 Hide
    hillarymakesmecry , August 26, 2010 6:29 PM
    @ eaw2539

    What the heck does that have to do with an article on the teardown of a blackberry? No one cares if you like your iphone.
  • 4 Hide
    jellico , August 26, 2010 6:30 PM
    Yeah, RIM really had some nice products, and I might have gone that way when I recently decided to swap my multimedia phone (LG Touch) for a smartphone. With the lastest Android offerings, I had to go with the Droid X. I thought I would really miss a hardware keyboard since I do so much texting and note writing with my phone; but the Droid X gives me the option of voice as well as a very responsive multi-touch touchscreen, so I haven't missed the HW keyboard at all.
  • 1 Hide
    SlickyFats , August 26, 2010 6:58 PM
    I love BlackBerry. I wish they had this before I switched phones. I had the Bold 9000. I still use it for various tasks, just not as my phone. I went with the Samsung Captivate. When I was buying it AT&T still had that "large mysterious box" setup but wouldn't say what was in it. Turned out to be the Torch. Our local AT&T store still only has the Torch in that display under glass and none to try out.
    I thought I would miss the BB keyboard I had grown to love but Swype has taken care of that now.
    I do think the Torch is too little too late. They have lost so much in the consumer space, but I think this will keep them going in the business realm.
  • -5 Hide
    blackened144 , August 26, 2010 7:21 PM
    hillarymakesmecry@ eaw2539 What the heck does that have to do with an article on the teardown of a blackberry? No one cares if you like your iphone.

    You do realize that iPhone 4 is in the title of the article and the article itself mentions "iPhone" several more times, right? That makes it relevant...
  • 1 Hide
    maestintaolius , August 26, 2010 8:04 PM
    I love my bb tour but the torch has me interested but I'll probably wait until the 1st revision before I consider changing. My tour is just a fantastic phone for what I need my smartphone to do (email, gps, read docs, and light browsing to google a question). I've eyeballed the droids now and again but I don't care for any of their keyboards when compared to my tour's. And yes, I am one of those Luddites who demands a physical keyboard.
  • 0 Hide
    orionantares , August 26, 2010 8:40 PM
    They needed to release this on more networks than just AT&T... My fiancée would have loved to get this, she loves blackberry but has been really temped by my Pre's physical design, though she hasn't used it enough to know just how nice webOS is in and of itself, and she's coming eligible for upgrade shortly. I wonder what RIM has planned for BB6 phones on the other carriers.
  • -2 Hide
    TeKEffect , August 26, 2010 9:33 PM
    Used to love blackberry well the keyboard anyway. Not a huge fan of the tour/bold keyboard. I liked the curve with hard buttons. The OS feels to dated. It takes them forever to update anything and fit always feel incomplete. I got used to my evo touch screen and now I think my bb days wee over.
  • -4 Hide
    matt87_50 , August 27, 2010 12:35 AM
    eaw2539I have an iPhone 4 and love it, despite all the bad reviews. For the record, I hate Apple, but I am not too stubborn to commend them when they do occasionally make a product worth buying.

    don't just downvote any comment that mentions apple or iphone.

    this is a perfectly fair and valid comment. for something that costs the same as the BB, the iphone 4's hardware SHITS ALL OVER the torch.

    seriously, its like the graphics calculator weirdness: "it must cost alot of money to find engineers that still know how to make a screen that crap" - XKCD

    just imagine if the iphone 4 some how wasn't made by apple, and had android on it! would have totally bought it! alas... Apple's police state can suck my ****s
  • 0 Hide
    dEAne , August 27, 2010 3:27 AM
    thought it is not quite attractive.
  • 0 Hide
    tipoo , August 27, 2010 3:43 PM
    So where does the cost difference go? The iPhone 4 has a better display and processor, so presumably those two things are more expensive. I'd guess the cost difference goes into mechanical things like the keyboard slider?
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , August 27, 2010 5:18 PM
    BB Touch? I thought that thing was a Kin or Pre.
  • 0 Hide
    branflakes71 , August 27, 2010 5:57 PM
    I wish the author would correct the error in this article (which has also been posted in other articles). Amazon did not "cut" the price of the Torch. Amazon, and other retailers like, have ALWAYS offered the Torch at $99. It's standard procedure for these types of retailers, they offer all the top phones (except iPhone) at a discounted price. There are restrictions to getting the phone at that price.

    PC World put out an erroneous report about a "price drop" on the Torch and few journalists are bothering to correct it.

    I have the Torch and it's the best BB I've had. The new OS is very good and the phone runs beautifully for me.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 27, 2010 9:09 PM
    I can't wait to get my hands on one. It works really well, what more do you need?