Verizon's very first blazing fast 4G LTE smartphone was the HTC Thunderbolt. We did a full review on the handset and although we were a disappointed by the poor battery life, we were indeed impressed by its speed. However, that connection speed is also what makes the HTC Thunderbolt the most expensive phone to make at the moment.
According to iSuppli, the teardown of the HTC Thunderbolt reveals that the total bill of materials (BOM) comes to $262, which is the highest of any smartphone they have ever torn down. The cost even rivals the expense of tablets. The culprit for the bloated cost is the 4G LTE component that adds $39.75 to the BOM.
The current Verizon iPhone 4 has a BOM of $171.35, which means that if it were to incorporate the same first-generation 4G LTE component as the HTC Thunderbolt, its BOM would jump to $211.10. This doesn't include any other changes to the design that could incur other materials costs.
This may indicate that the next iPhone won't support 4G LTE yet because the cost and design tradeoffs may not be worth it. Plus, the first-gen 4G LTE technology isn't integrated into the chipset making the handsets much more bulky and battery draining. However, a more efficient solution exists now from Qualcomm that combines LTE, EVDO, and HSPA into a single chip.
Knowing this, it's strange to see that Verizon may be planning to give away the HTC Thunderbolt for free in an upcoming promotion. Well, that is of course with a two-year service agreement and the wallet drain of Verizon's new tiered data plans.