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Audio and Video

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB Teardown

30 November 2012
The following is an overview of a teardown analysis conducted by IHS Technology Teardown Services.

Main Features

Very compact flash music (mp3 and other) player, 512M Bytes of storage, USB 2.0 interface with full-size USB connector, no display.

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCBApple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCB
Marketing / Positioning

Flash music (mp3 and other format) players are, obviously, a booming segment, and are expected to produce approximately $3.8B in revenues in 2005, and expanding rapidly over the coming years. Currently, the "sweet spot" for the market is still 256M Byte players, with 512M and up representing more the leading edge.

The flash player segment is awash with models and manufacturers, but of course, at Apple, marketing is all about being unique (and capitalizing on the phenomenal success of the HDD iPod family). In the case of the iPod Shuffle, Apple touts the player's greatest weakness (lack of display) as some sort of unique (as in desirable) "feature", with the name and associated "Life is Random" campaign. But, despite this weakness, at $99 retail, the Apple brand mystique and monolith aspect are still likely to make the iPod Shuffle very popular and competitive with other clunkier flash music players, such as the Rio Forge Sport which we analyzed simultaneously.

We have assumed, for the purposes of this cost assessment, that the iPod Shuffle will be produced over an approximate 2 year life cycle with a total lifetime volume production of 10 Million units (512 and 1G combined). These assumptions are used in our cost calculations (details below).

For the overall market, ISuppli projects total Flash mp3 player sales to be approximately 41 M units in 2005, and 55 M Units in 2006 (with another 43M units of HDD models sold during the course of 2005 and 2006).

Cost Notes

Main Cost Drivers (only three representing approximately 90% of total materials cost!)

Memory (512M bytes - Samsung NAND Flash) $30*

Media Processor (Sigmatel STMP3550)$7.50

Battery (Li-Ion Polymer, 3.7V) $1.40

Subtotal - Total Direct Materials Cost~$43

Materials and Manufacturing** ~$45



* - This price is a reflection of major OEM market pricing as of 3/8/05. This pricing does not assume any "special" relationship pricing between Apple and Samsung, in the form of rebates or other discounts. Flash and other memory pricing is volatile, therefore this pricing represents only a snapshot in time of the market.

We have learned, however, that Samsung negotiated pricing agressively with Apple to win this memory slot (Toshiba was also an approved source), however, as of the writing of this commentary Flash pricing is again on the rise.

** - This cost reflects only the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), manufacturing and test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the manufacture of the core device itself - cost of packaging, accessories, literature, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only Apple's final product margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device (the player, in this case) itself.

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCB - Contact Sheet and InsulatorApple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCB - Contact Sheet and Insulator
Manufacturing Notes

Labeled as Made in China, it is assumed that all of the manufacturing, including PCB stuffing, plastics molding (and other custom mechanical components), as well as final assembly. These assumptions affect both the assumed costs of manually manufactured elements (based on relative local skilled and semi-skilled labor rates), and auto-inserted device (such as surface mount components on PCBs).

Furthermore, our total production volume assumption used here may not be highly market accurate from a marketing point of view, however, it is used here for the purpose of estimating the amortization of certain test set-up costs and other NRE charges for such things as injection molding tools for the enclosures, etc.

Although this assumption affects the bottom line, changes in the quantity assumption generally produce a very small total cost variance, as typically in quantities of several hundred thousand and up, amortized NRE costs are usually quite small on a per unit basis.

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCB - Contact Sheet and InsulatorApple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCB - Contact Sheet and Insulator
Design

The Apple iPod Shuffle design is modular, but most of all very dense compared with the Rio Forge - or really most other handheld devices (such as phones or PDAs) that we have analyzed.

Modular - The two main modules are the Memory/Keypad PCB (with essentially only the Samsung memory chip on board), and the Main PCB. The use of the Memory board as a standalone is clever because it allows Apple to produce the 512MB boards separate from the 1GB boards, and "snap-in" via board-to-board connector whichever board they actually need to produce at the moment of final assembly. The way the boards snap together and produce an extremely low-profile assembly that occupies on the top third of the overall length of the device.

Dense - Furthermore, the main PCB makes extensive use of Chip Scale devices (even for discrete power MOSFETs (something we have not seen before)), and 0201 packages on passive devices such as capacitors and resistors. To date in all of the portable devices we have seen, the use of very small discretes (0201) have been limited to modules (such as power amplifiers, Bluetooth modules, etc.) found with devices such as handsets, but never directly on the PCBs. The main PCB is all about component density and microsized components.

The rest is hand assembled - but the design facilitates hand assembly and the overall lack of components makes gives the iPod a very low overall assembly (auto-insertion, manual assembly, and test) cost figure.

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCBApple iPod Shuffle 512MB - Keypad / Memory PCB
Major Components

  • Memory - Samsung NAND Flash - 512M x 8 bit*
  • Audio Processor - "System on a Chip" - Sigmatel STMP3550
  • Battery - Lithium-Ion Polymer, 3.7V - Amperex Technology Limited (ATL)

Other published reports show Toshiba as memory source for this device. Memory is, of course, often multi-sourced, and other suppliers may also be approved.



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