Why are iPhones getting so expensive?

Why are iPhones getting so expensive?
Apple's CEO Tim Cook has famously said that he had seen many iPhone teardowns or bill-of-materials (BOM) estimates, but nothing was even close to what it really costs to concoct, develop and assemble one unit in total costs over time. Still, even if we assume 30% extra costs over the $390 in components and assembly that go into an iPhone XS Max, for instance, that still leaves Apple a healthy margin which has propelled it to the world's richest company status.

Apple, however, is a very disciplined manufacturer and doesn't jump on every novelty that Android makers stuff into their flagship models. It picks and chooses, waits for a technology to mature, prove itself and fall down in price, then jumps the gun with mass implementation and production. This has allowed it to constantly keep its operating margins very high compared to other companies.

Nowadays, though, even Apple is not immune to the breakneck pace in the mobile industry that forces phone makers to cram an increasing quantity of complex technologies in their handsets, both legacy and new ones, in order to stay competitive. The unique TrueDepth camera kit used for FaceID on newer iPhones comes to mind, as well as their OLED displays that are a great technology which, however, Samsung has near-monopoly over and can set triple the panel prices compared to the times when Apple was only having LCD models.

These have pushed the iPhones' BOM estimates ever higher, as you can see from the chart, and, consequently, the price of Apple wares for the end user has suffered. This is probably valid for all other manufacturers of $800+ handsets that have made the phone price mission creep in the last year or two, but usually, we only get detailed cost breakdowns for iPhones, and they are pretty illustrative for this vicious circle unpleasant trend.

Related phones

iPhone XS Max
  • Display 6.5 inches 2688 x 1242 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera) 7 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A12 Bionic 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3179 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x


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