IHS Markit: iPhone X Costs $370.25 to Build

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Just yesterday, TechInsights estimated that Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) new iPhone X could have a bill of materials (BOM) of around $357.50, which would actually suggest that the new flagship is more profitable than the iPhone 8. However, that component estimate wouldn't factor in depreciation and amortization of manufacturing infrastructure, one of the biggest parts of the iPhone X's overall cost structure. Still, it was a lot less than a prior BOM estimate of $581 from Susquehanna.

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IHS Markit is now weighing in with its own detailed BOM estimate, and the supply chain specialist is pegging total component costs at a comparable $370.25 for a 64 GB model, which is quite a bit more than the $288.08 BOM estimate for iPhone 8 Plus. Generally speaking, supply chain experts like TechInsights and IHS Markit are probably more accurate than Street analysts like Susquehanna.

There are some notable takeaways from the detailed breakdown.

OLED adoption is the biggest cost driver

The display module that includes an OLED panel, which Apple is sourcing from Samsung, costs an estimated $110. That's less than prior estimates that pegged the cost at $120 to $130. Display modules are always the most expensive component for a smartphone, and the premium associated with adopting OLED is definitely a significant cost driver. For comparison, IHS Markit estimates that the traditional LCD display module on the iPhone 8 Plus cost $52.50, or less than half of the OLED-based module.

Samsung is expected to supply roughly 67 million OLED panels to Apple this year, which are custom-built to Apple's specifications.

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Face ID, brought to you by the TrueDepth camera

IHS Markit notes that the TrueDepth camera system works just like Microsoft's old Kinect sensor, combining a flood illuminator, dot projector, and infrared camera. That's because Apple acquired the company that developed the Kinect, PrimeSense, back in 2013 and has been working on 3D sensing ever since.

The total cost of the TrueDepth camera module, which sits inside the controversial top notch, is estimated at $16.70.

Memory is currently a margin headwind

Total memory costs for iPhone X, including both NAND storage and DRAM memory, are estimated at $33.45 for the 64 GB model. The supply chain researcher estimated last year that the iPhone 7 had memory costs of $16.40, although that was for a 32 GB model. Memory prices have been somewhat volatile recently, with Apple specifically pointing out on the earnings call last week that memory pricing has been a gross margin headwind.

"Just to size it for you, the impact of memory on our gross margin is 40 bps sequentially and 110 bps on a year-over-year basis," CFO Luca Maestri said. "So they are meaningful impacts."

IHS Markit thinks that Apple will be "maintaining its typical hardware margins for the iPhone X," but profitability should improve over time alongside manufacturing yields.

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Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.