updated 02:15 pm EDT, Fri July 8, 2011
iSuppli says HTC Thunderbolt pricier than iPhone 4
HTC's Thunderbolt might be the most expensive phone ever to make and might explain the lack of a 4G iPhone, according to a new cost breakdown by iSuppli. Deciding to use an LTE-based 4G chipset from Qualcomm hiked the price by almost $40 and made it the most expensive phone the analysts had ever studied, at $262. If Apple had decided to go the same route, the price of an iPhone 4 on Verizon would have spiked over 23 percent to $211.10.
The price could have climbed higher. HTC and most other LTE phone designers so far have had to use much larger batteries to offset the power drain from the LTE chipsets. The Thunderbolt has to use an external chipset just for LTE and consumes much more than either hybrid 3G/4G modems or ones folded into the processor.
Apple could already eliminate some of the space and battery problems if it used the Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960, which merges both a dual-core processor and the LTE baseband hardware into one chip. Apple designs its own processors now and wouldn't use a Snapdragon in its devices; even if it did, the sacrifices could still be a problem, iSuppli explained. An LTE iPhone right now would need more RF equipment, power amps and other parts than the 3G versions do now.
Qualcomm is poised to have a much more efficient dedicated chipset more suited to Apple's aims in 2012 and could find its LTE hardware incorporated into the sixth-generation iPhone without having to make the "lot of design compromises" that Apple COO Tim Cook had said his company didn't want to make. Most expect the iPhone 5 to support HSPA+ 3G and still see an Internet speed boost on GSM networks.