Amazon Fire news

Amazon Fire teardown pegs parts cost just below 32GB iPhone 5S

New Dynamic Perspective sensors help boost cost, though display costs are minimal, IHS says

Parts for the 32GB Amazon Fire smartphone cost $201, just shy of the cost of parts of a similarly configured Apple iPhone 5S and well below the Samsung Galaxy S5, both with the same 32GB storage tally, according to teardowns done by IHS.

The Fire, Amazon's first phone, runs a variant of Android similar to that used in the company's Kindle tablets. The Fire includes a Dynamic Perspective feature, enabled with four sensors on the phone's front, which makes it different from other phones.

Amazon's Fire phone with Firefly
Amazon's Fire phone. (Photo: Amazon)

The Omnivision-supplied sensors allow a user to interact by tilting the phone or moving his or her head, to provide 3D-like effects.

Other features include a Firefly button for quick scanning of barcodes, QR codes and ordinary items to find information. There's also the Mayday button that's also part of the Kindle Fire HDX tablet. The button provides video access from the device to customer support within 15 seconds.

The IHS report, to be released later Tuesday and first reported by Re/Code, pegged the component cost for the base level 32GB Fire at $201. The device went on sale exclusively at AT&T on Monday for $199 with a two-year contract or for $649 unlocked.

By comparison, IHS said last year that the parts in the 32GB iPhone 5S cost $207. IHS said in April that the 32GB Galaxy S5 cost $251.52 for parts.

Fire's 4.7-in. display cost $27, compared to $43 for the 4-in. display iPhone 5S and $63 for the 5.1-in. display Galaxy S5. The Fire's HD display is 720p, not the 1080p used some other new full HD phone displays. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in June that the phone took four years to develop. It joins the crowded smartphone market seven years after the first iPhone.

Even with the tight competition provided by Apple and Samsung and a host of companies primarily making lower-cost smartphones, many analysts have said Amazon needed to produce a smartphone to be able to quickly link its customers to the Amazon online store.

In an analysis just after the Fire was introduced, IHS analyst Ian Fogg said "the Fire will struggle to ignite the smartphone market."

Fogg explained that with an exclusive carrier, Amazon is limiting its launch chances. Also, Fire owners don't have access to the Google Play store and current Android phone owners won't be able to take their Android apps to the Fire phone should they switch.

Fogg said Tuesday that Amazon's approach with the Fire is "high risk&which is unsustainable for a smartphone market entrant like Amazon. Simply having a well-known brand on the box is not enough to sell smartphones, as Nokia and Motorola know well."

IHS said other components include a Qualcomm MSM8974 processor, which costs $38, and storage (NAND Flash and DRAM) add $36.50. Two cameras, at 13 and 2.1 megapixels, add $18, while a number of sensors add $11.50. Bluetooth and WLAN, provided in a chip from Qualcomm, cost $5, while power management in another chip by Qualcomm adds $8. The battery adds $4.50 and various mechanical and electrical elements add $28. Items included in the box with the phone such as a charger add $4. The cost of actually putting the parts together is $4, for a total cost of $205.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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