Teardown looks at what goes into making an ultra-cheap cell phone

Apr 20, 2013
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Over at the Bunnie Studios blog, a $12 cell phone purchased from the Mingtong Digital Mall was given a complete (and relatively simple) teardown to see what exactly goes into making such an inexpensive cell phone. Unlike the ultra-cheap handsets that are available through various carriers, such as prepaid's Net10 and Tracfone staples, the $12 cell phone - which has no name - is completely unbranded and unlocked.

As you can see from the pictures, this is about as basic of a cell phone as you can get; it looks like a toy, almost as if it came in a child's playset or a novelty store. It is a fully functional cell phone, however, that isn't tied to any carriers, services, or stores. Likewise, the blogger says that the $12 price tag is for a single unit, not a bulk discount rate, and that it isn't priced as part of any sort of promotion. Just an ordinary, very cheap cell phone.

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Word has it the actual construction price of the cell phone is in the single digits, meaning you've probably spent more on a movie ticket than it cost to make a simple cell phone. As the blogger points out, the cell phone without a name is less than half the price of the Arduino Uno while offering quite a bit more (relatively speaking) in terms of hardware. Such a conundrum prompted a teardown.

Opening the cell phone was as easy as popping its plastic apart, revealing a nearly connector-free board harboring a MediaTek MT6250DA and a Vanchip VC5276. Says Bunnie Studios, volume pricing for the MediaTek is less than $2. There's a battery soldered to the board, as well as a Bluetooth antenna and a backlit keypad. While the teardown didn't entirely solve the mystery of why it is so cheap, it was an intersting look nonetheless, showing that, in a perfect world with the right contacts, a simple cell phone without any plan subsidization or other factors can be assembled for about the cost of your last meal.

[via Bunnie Studios]


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