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Audio and Video

Apple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB Teardown

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

Overview / Main Features

The 3rd generation Nano was released in September 2007, just one year after it's last makeover and design respin. In fact the Nano has been redesigned twice since it's release two years ago, and will likely continue to be upgraded at a similar rate.

Apple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Main PCB TopApple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Main PCB Top

One year ago, the second generation Nano featured more than a beauty makeover and, when compared with the original model, offered not only more memory, and a more rugged shell but the internal design no longer used a PortalPlayer PP5021C core IC (Dual ARM Core DSP) but a Samsung S5L8701B05 (ARM Core DSP, w/ flash disk controller).

Apple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Main PCB TopApple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Main PCB Top
Now, with this third generation Nano a lot has changed again. This time, not only has Samsung continued to consolidate it's grip on the iPod line by dominating the functionality of this 3rd gen Nano (with yet again a new apps processor - also common to the iPod Classic), but video functionality has thus been added, as well as a 2" diagonal screen (vs the previous 1.5" diagonal screens in the 1st two generations of Nano). While all this functionality was added, the Nano maintains an extremely low profile and thin outline.

Apple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Display Exploded ViewApple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Display Exploded View
Target Market

The Nano targets all mainstream media player clientele worldwide. This 3rd gen Nano expands the Nano into video territory making the 2nd gen obsolete and is the first flash-based video player for Apple. Flash pricing erosion has fueled and will continue to fuel the massive acceptance of PMPs as part of the mainstream consumer vernacular - and the Nano will continue to be the sweet spot for Apple - as competing players will also have great popularity in this price / functionality range.

Unlike other products, however, and as with other Apple products, there is always a loyal cult following, however Apple's ultimate goal is always to excel with a user interface that draws the average, non-tech savvy person to their product.


Launched September 2007.

Pricing and Availability

At the time of writing the 4GB version of the new Nano sells for $149, and the 8GB for $199. Typically we have found that Apple has a vested interest / profit motive in pushing the higher capacity product which is twofold. 1) The higher end version of Apple products tend to offer Apple more incremental profit (the higher capacity comes at a lower incremental cost to Apple than their incremental selling price, thus producing more profit), and 2) Apple has the potential to sell more titles from iTunes if the capacity of the iPod is higher. The Apple website seems to demonstrate this motivation in action by offering only one 4GB version (silver/grey), but 5 of the 8GB (multiple color choices) to further "persuade" users to "upgrade" at the time of purchase.

Volume Estimations

Based on our tracking and forecasts of the shipments of the various Apple iPod products - we have assumed a total "lifetime production volume" for this incarnation (only) of the third generation iPod Nano at approximately 25 million units. This represents an assumed production time from from approximately Q3 2007 through the end of Q2 2008.

The second generation Nano survived only 1 year, and as this appears to be a sweet spot for Apple, will likely be upgraded in a similar timeframe. Eventually (along with the iPod Touch) we believe the Nano will cannibalize hard-drive based iPod's to near extinction in the near future as flash, while not being a dollar-for-byte match to hard drives, now offer enough capacity that the majority of consumers may find HDD-based iPod's irrelevant.

As a reminder, teardown volume production assumptions are primarily used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially). Unless assumed volumes are different by an order of magnitude, minor changes in volume (say 1 million vs. 2) rarely have a large net effect on our final analysis because of this.

Function / Performance

No functional or performance testing was performed on the iPod Nano.

Cost Notes

Main Cost Drivers (Representing ~77% of total materials cost)

$20.00 - Micron Technology - MT29F32G08TAA - Flash - NAND, 32Gb (Assumed MLC) (Qty:1)

$7.75 - Display Module - 2.0" Diagonal, 65K Color TFT, 240 x 320 Pixels (Qty:1)

$5.14 - Samsung Semiconductor - Video / Applications Processor - ARM Core (Qty:1)

$2.72 - Samsung Semiconductor - K4X56163PI - SDRAM - Mobile DDR, 256Mb, 1.8V (Qty:1)

$1.37 -

$1.10 - Intersil - ISL59121 - Video Driver - 3 Channel, w/ LPF (Based on ISL59123) (Qty:1)

$1.02 - Dialog Semiconductor - D1671B - Power Management (Qty:1)

$0.98 - Wolfson Microelectronics - WM1870 - Audio Codec (Qty:1)

$0.91 - OPC Manufacturing Ltd. - Main PCB - 6-Layer - FR4/RCF HDI, 1+4+1 (Qty:1)

Direct Materials Costs ~$53

Total Costs w/Conversion Costs~$54

Why Isn't This the Total I saw in Your Press Release or Market Mover Teardown Report?

Because when we perform a high-level "quick-turns" analysis, we are operating on a condensed timeline. We do our utmost at the time of issuing releases to buffer them, to make them somewhat conservative, because at such preliminary stages we cannot have researched or costed out all of the smaller components, or may not have had the time to examine all sub-assemblies in detail (charger, docking station, etc.). Instead we focus our time on the most valuable components, and make budgetary assumptions for an amalgam of others. These budgetary assumptions are, in the final analysis, replaced with detailed totals summing the actual costs estimated at the component level by all iSuppli analysts.

Furthermore, as our analyses progress we learn new facts; perhaps we learn something new about a process geometry for a given chip, or we may revise volume assumptions, etc. as new information comes in. As a result, the final analysis has boiled down from our original estimates to the current figure which we feel reflects our most up to date cost methodologies and therefore should be comparable to other recent teardowns.

What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis

The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing with basic test costs. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.

Manufacturing Notes

Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions

Apple has historically produced it's iPod product lies with a number of EMS providers / partners:

  • iPod Shuffle: Asustek
  • iPod Nano: Hon Hai, Inventec Appliances
  • iPod Video: Quanta (and possibly Inventec Appliances)

These manufacturers produce the bulk of the iPods in and from souces that are mostly in China.

Furthermore, we have assumed that custom mechanicals (plastics, metals, etc. were sourced in China, as well. Sub-assemblies may also come from other countries of origin, but for the purposes of this analysis, when there is no proof to the contrary, we have stayed with this assumption (China being the country of origin) for all levels of assembly.

Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of "finished" sub-assemblies (such as the display), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.

Remember also that labor rates are applied directly only to hand inserted components and systems in our bill of materials, and although regional assumptions do, these new rates do not have a direct effect on our modeled calculations of placement costs for automated SMD assembly lines. "Auto" inserted components (such as SMT components) placement costs are calculated by an iSuppli algorithm which allocates a cost per component based on the size and pincount of the device. This calculation is affected by country or region of origin as well.

Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity

The Apple iPod Nano third generation features a total component count of 312 components (not including box contents), of which 30 components are mechanical in nature. The second generation managed to integrate some of the features and components that were discrete in the first generation design, thus reducing overall component counts and complexity, as well as cost and featured 348 total components (excluding box contents again). As a further point of comparison, the first generation Nano featured 383 components (not including box contents), of which 48 components were mechanical in nature.

Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design.

Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.

Design Notes

The core of the 3rd generation Nano design is the Samsung application processor, as with the second generation, however this part is different as this new Samsung apps processor features not only video functionality, but it is a common IC to the new iPod Classic. This convergence of the fundamental design allows Apple to achieve even greater economies of scale by standardizing on a single processor.

As a reminder, the first generation Nano featured a PortalPlayer PP5021C core IC (Dual ARM Core DSP). The second generation featured a Samsung S5L8701B05 (ARM Core DSP, w/ flash disk controller). This 3rd generation player features a Samsung Core Video/Apps Processor - ARM Core - S5L8702X01.

Samsung's consolidation grip on Apple iPod product line at the time of writing (Q4 2007) is, for the time at least, all but complete.

In terms of the rest of the design, it consists primarily of the NAND flash, display and battery, in terms of key functional components and cost drivers. Although most of the core IC functionality is in the Samsung apps processor, there is still, in the third generation Nanos, the Wolfson Microelectronics audio codec. The application of this audio codec seems to have been key in delivering a smooth, consistent user audio experience from iPod to iPod. Wolfson seems to have lost out on this slot to Cirrus Logic in the iPod Classic - this is the first non-Wolfson audio codec we have seen in Apple iPod products torn down by iSuppli.

Key Components

Main PCB


  • Samsung Semiconductor - Microprocessor - DSP, ARM Core

Battery / Power Management

  • Dialog Semiconductor - D1671B - Power Management (replaces previous NXP/Linear Tech solutions)


  • NAND Flash - Micron Technology - MT29F32G08TAA - 32Gb (Assumed MLC)
  • SDRAM - Samsung Semiconductor - K4X56163PI - Mobile DDR, 256Mb, 1.8V
  • NOR Flash - SST - SST25VF080B-xx-xx - NOR, 8Mb, Serial SPI

* - Most memory items are multi-sourced - sources indicated here are typically one of several sources.

User Interface

  • Audio Codec - Wolfson Microelectronics - WM1870
  • Video driver - Intersil - ISL59121 - Triple Channel, w/ LPF (Based on ISL59123)
  • Clickwheel Controller - Synaptics


  • 2" Diagonal -240x320 pixel, 262K Color - TFT


  • Li-Ion Polymer - 3.7V - 400mAh (Estimated) - Multiple Sources

Apple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Box ContentsApple iPod Nano 3rd Generation 4GB - Box Contents

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