The BlackBerry Z10 Spills Its Guts


Even though the device has yet to make it stateside, the BlackBerry Z10 has now spilled its guts. UBM TechInsights got their hands on a model and took it apart to get a peek inside. What component suppliers will get a boost if the device succeeds?

Qualcomm won
On the inside, the Z10 has some striking similarities to Samsung's flagship Galaxy S III and shares numerous components with the popular Google Android device. Qualcomm emerged as a key winner, scoring numerous important design wins in the device. The Z10's processor was rumored to be a Qualcomm Snapdragon, but BlackBerry opted not to officially confirm which chip it was using.

Source: UBM TechInsights.

A Snapdragon S4 chip was found inside, specifically the MSM8960 featuring an integrated baseband modem that was found in numerous high-end Android devices last year. The newer Snapdragon 600 and 800 series processors were unveiled just weeks before the Z10 was. These faster chips are currently sampling and devices sporting these chips aren't expected until mid-2013, necessitating a slightly older yet very capable applications processor in the Z10 due to timing.

Qualcomm also won the audio codec, power management integrated circuit, and multimode RF transceiver. This is the same transceiver that's found in the Galaxy S III as well as Apple's iPhone 5 and fourth-generation cellular iPad.

Bye, TI
The predominance of Qualcomm ingredients is a notable shift from previous generations of BlackBerry hardware, which frequently included a large number of components from Texas Instruments . For example, a TI OMAP 4430 processor powers the BlackBerry PlayBook. In the Z10, TI's only notable win is the Wi-Fi combo chip. The shift away from TI comes as no surprise, as the chip maker has already publicly exited the mobile chip sector amid intense competition and the broader trend toward increased integration within OEMs.

Other component vendors include Samsung for both the 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of NAND flash storage, Avago Technologies for a pair of power amplifier modules, and Synaptics for the capacitive touchscreen microcontroller, among others.

In many ways, the Z10's hardware resembles the Galaxy S III on the inside and the iPhone 5 on the outside, since the device takes clear external design cues from Cupertino.

How low can you go?
UBM TechInsights pegs an initial estimate of the total bill of materials, or BOM, at $154. The Z10 is expected to carry an unsubsidized retail price point of $600, implying a hardware gross margin of 74% before incorporating costs related to software development, licensing, marketing, and distribution.

However, BOM estimates are tough to rely on, as UBM TechInsights pegs the iPhone 5 BOM at $139, which is much lower than the $207 estimate from iSuppli last September. With the iPhone 5, the biggest discrepancy was the display and touchscreen assembly. UBM thinks Apple pays only $21.50 for it, while iSuppli estimates that part at $44.

It seems possible that UBM's component estimates are a little low for both Apple and BlackBerry.

Is it enough?
From hardware perspective, the Z10 is competitive with current flagship devices that launched in 2012. The Z10 is looking to compete with high-end devices head on, and Verizon Wireless is currently the only domestic carrier to announce pricing ($200 on contract).

Having solid hardware is just the first requisite though, and the Z10's success or failure will ultimately lie within the operating system platform. BlackBerry 10 will need to sway consumers with its interface and content ecosystem for the Z10 to succeed and bring the company back from the brink. The content front is primarily where BlackBerry has some catching up to do, but at least the company knows this and is focusing its efforts there.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple, Verizon Communications, and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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