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Barring a sale price or a promotion, you're liklely to pay $200 for a Samsung Galaxy S4 handset, not including the overall cost of a two-year service agreement to qualify for subsidized pricing. Data fees notwithstanding, that's $29 less than the bill of materials (BOM). Manufacturing costs add another $8.50 per device, so on paper, Samsung is paying $237.50 for every Galaxy S4 device it builds.
That's according to IHS iSuppli, which examined the BOM of both the U.S. and South Korean versions of the Galaxy S4 and determined that they're "as different as kimchee and coleslaw." How so?
The South Korean build uses slightly different parts, including a higher end Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (5410) processor versus the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip found in the U.S. variant. There are a few other hardware differences that make the South Korean model a bit more expensive to build at $244 for the BOM and $252.50 for the overall cost.
"With at least four different known incarnations of the Galaxy S4, Samsung is demonstrating its strategy of offering a mobile product that has appealing features and pricing—and then adapting the device to suit the tastes of varying markets or regions," said Vincent Leung, senior analyst, teardown services, for IHS. "This approach is in stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all philosophy used by Apple Inc., Samsung’s primary competitor in the wireless space. While the Korean and U.S. versions of the S4 look pretty much the same and have in terms of their core electronics many same core features—such as the enclosure, display, camera and battery—the products are as different from each other as kimchee and coleslaw."
The primary difference between the two is the processor, as stated above. Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa chip is an eight-core part, though not in the way you might be thinking. It has four 1.6GHz Cortex A16 cores that fire up when playing games or other processor intensive-tasks, and four 1.2GHz Cortex A7 cores that handle less demanding tasks. Only one cluster runs at any given time, so in reality, it still functions as a quad-core phone.