Palm Pre Parts Costly, But Provide High Performance

The Teardown Analysis team of iSuppli, an El Segundo, Calif.-based analyst firm, this week released the results of its dissection of a Palm Pre, which shows that those four suppliers contributed a total of $94.32 to the cost of building each of the new smartphones.

The most important component in terms of cost is an advanced Low-Temperature Polysilicon (LTPS) LCD display from Sony, which features a 16-million-color screen in a 320-by-480 pixel format, iSuppli said.

LTPS displays offer higher resolutions and faster response times than the conventional LCDs used in most mobile phones, but are more expensive, iSuppli said. The display itself has an estimated cost of $21, which rises to $39.50 when combined with a touch-screen module, the analyst firm said.

Like Apple's iPhone, the core processors of the Palm Pre come from two suppliers, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm.

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Texas Instruments is providing its OMAP3430 applications and media processor together with a dedicated power management and audio codec device, which iSuppli estimated to cost about $19.37.

The wireless semiconductor in the Palm Pre is the Qualcomm MSM6801A baseband processor, which supports CDMA2000 1X and CDMA2000 1X Rev A EV-DO air standards. iSuppli said that the chip, together with two Qualcomm RF support chips, costs about $18.45.

The Palm Pre also includes 8 GB of eMMC MoviNAND flash memory from Samsung. Unlike the typical multilevel cell (MLC) NAND memory in most mobile phones, eMMC includes an integrated memory management controller to increase performance and provide easier integration, iSuppli said.

Because of its higher cost, Samsung's eMMC adds a total of $17 to the cost of building a Palm Pre, the analyst firm said.

The use of components that cost more than those used in typical mobile phones is key to increasing the Palm Pre's performance, iSuppli said. For instance, splitting the core processor into two major components offers a big performance boost compared to using a single chip, said Andrew Rassweiler, director and principal analyst of teardown services at iSuppli.

"Most of the so-called 'iPhone killers' iSuppli has torn down keep costs down by having one -- and only one -- core silicon asset," Rassweiler wrote in a statement. "However, this approach burdens a single processor with multiple functions, degrading performance. This Pre's two-pronged solution may be more costly, but should yield a superior-performing smartphone."

Other key components in the Palm Pre include a 3-megapixel CMOS-based digital camera with a fixed lens, the same Murata WLAM/Bluetooth module as used in the iPhone, an Osram optical sensor that detects when the Pre is removed from its charging stand, and a proximity sensor to detect how close the device is to a user's face to actively dim the screen to conserve energy, iSuppli said.

iSuppli said that there are alternatives to many of the above components that Palm could use in the future, especially for the display and the memory.