The Apple TV (3rd generation) A1427, was released in March 2012 and immediately torn down. A Bill of Materials (BOM) was generated, and at the time, was estimated at $70.30. Roughly 2 years later, Amazon released their Fire TV, which was torn down with a BOM estimate landing at $92.99. The comparison below represents the estimates created at the time of their respective teardowns. Be advised that in the two years since Apple released their TV, the BOM for that unit is likely to have dropped.

From a cost at launch standpoint as shown in Figure 1, Apple appears to be making a better profit at nearly $30 compared to Amazon at $6, as both units retail at $99. This ignores any channel margin, which is estimated at ~20%. Amazon's advantage, is that it sells most of its own products directly, therefore limiting channel distribution costs. But make no mistake - neither company is looking for unit profits, both are seeking to continually unleash the profits of streaming media services to the growing number of connected consoles worldwide.

It is not surprising to find that, being a 2014 product, the Fire TV comes with a faster processor, more SDRAM memory, MIMO dual-band WiFi, 5.1 surround sound and a Bluetooth driven remote for non-line-of-sight control. The device also comes with a very interesting new IC from SiTime. (More about them in a coming blog.)


Key Design Wins Include:

Processor:
Qualcomm gets the processor socket with a 1.7GHz Quad-core Snapdragon S4 incorporating an Adreno 320 graphics processor along with the associated Qualcomm PMM8920 power management IC.

WiFi/Bluetooth:
Qualcomm also wins with the Qualcomm Atheros QCA6234 dual-band 2x2 MIMO WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.0 part.

SDRAM Memory:
Micron provides the 2 Gigabytes of DDR2 SDRAM memory onboard that is stacked on top of the Qualcomm APQ8064T processor.

NAND Flash Memory:
For non-volatile memory, Toshiba provides an 8 Gigabyte multi-chip memory part.

Bluetooth Remote:
The Bluetooth connected remote is powered by a Texas Instruments M430F5435A mixed signal microcontroller. Also found on the remote is a Texas Instruments CC2560 single chip Bluetooth IC, an Audience eS305 voice processor and a Bosch Sensortec BMA150 3-axis accelerometer.

Figure 1: Cost stackup between Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV v. Apple TV

Connectivity

Apple TV's connectivity, which included WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI and 10/100 Ethernet, has a higher initial cost than the Fire TV. By leveraging new technology from the past 24 months, the Fire TV incorporates a much faster and more expensive Qualcomm Atheros QCA6234 MIMO WiFi solution, but stillmanages a lower connectivity cost overall.

MIMO is important because it allows for simultaneous use of two or more transmit/receive channels to boost throughput data rates. The QCA6234 is a 2 x 2 (2 transmit/2 receive) MIMO part.

While Apple TV contains a Broadcom BCM4330 based Universal Scientific Industries (USI) WiFi/Bluetooth module that does not contain MIMO, Broadcom has not been sitting still. Their BCM4354 WiFi/Bluetooth/FM radio part is 2 x 2 MIMO capable and is now in production. We will not be surprised to find the BCM 4354 or a module containing it in Apple's next generation.

Non-Volatile Memory (NAND)

Both units come with 8 GB of MLC NAND Flash. While we priced the Apple TV memory at $1.60 (Higher than Fire TV) current costing for the same memory is less expensive. Both Apple and Amazon source their NAND flash from Toshiba, which, barring any volume pricing implications, should have them at cost parity at a given point in time.

Volatile Memory (SDRAM)

The Apple TV comes with 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM while the Fire TV came equipped with 2GB DDR2 SDRAM. The cost, which again is at time of teardown, has the Apple TV's cost approximately $1.50 higher than Fire TV at $4.54. In 2014, we expect Apple to be paying closer to $2.40 for this memory part. This would make Apple's total volatile memory costs ~ $2.00 less than Fire TV's.

It is notable to remark that, by going from 512 MB to 2 GB that Amazon will have faster response time to new apps, as well as receiving a boost to streaming and playing the latest HD content. This jump further amplifies the readily available memory IC choice by product vendors today.

Processor

The applications processor in the Apple TV is a 1 GHz, dual-core (one core is disabled), 2nd generation of the A5 processor. Analysis on this chip was done by TechInsights and can be found here. It is a die shrink version of the processor first seen in the Apple iPhone 4S. The Fire TV runs on a Qualcomm 1.7 GHz quad-core Krait 300 processor with an Adreno 320 graphics processor, giving it more horsepower with an approximate $7.50 premium. However, if we assume Apple has been able to shave off cost from their A5 over the past two years, the premium would increase to about $10.00.

Figure 2: Apple A5

Apple A5 Processor

Figure 3: Qualcomm APQ8064T

Qualcomm APQ8064T Processor


Power Management and Audio

Apple's 338S1040 single die power management and audio IC made by Dialog is priced at $1.47. The Qualcomm PMM8920 IC, found in the Fire TV, is a two die part with larger area and costs $4.20.

Non-Electric Parts

Based on inputs from our customers and industry expertise, the costing methodology we used to estimate the Apple TV has now significantly changed since we costed it. At first glance, it appears that Apple has a more cost efficient design, but when employing the new model to those parts, Apple's non-electric parts increases to $8.29. Compared to $9.70 for the Fire TV. A description of the costing methodology change is at the end of the article.

Other Parts

At the time of launch, Apple's other parts came in at about $10. We expect that the Apple TV would have dropped into the $9.50 range by this point due to manufacturing efficiencies and a decline in the cost of these parts by various suppliers. Fire TV currently has $13.29 worth of other parts. The 10 layer main circuit board is approximately $3.50 more expensive than its Apple counterpart and accounts for the bulk of the cost difference.

Supporting Materials

Apple TV's supporting materials comes out to $2.80 while similarly the Fire TV's are $3.12, if we exclude the remote controls. However, Apple's IR remote is costed at $4.15 and Fire TV's Bluetooth remote comes in at $13.19. The Fire TV's remote contains a $1.55 Texas Instruments mixed signal microcontroller, a $0.92 Bluetooth solution, a $0.81 3-Axis accelerometer, a $0.59 voice processor, two microphones and more. All told, it is a more costly, and much more impressive remote.

Fire TV Bluetooth Remote

The Bluetooth remote is powered by a Texas Instruments M430F5435A microcontroller. It contains a Texas Instruments CC2560 Bluetooth IC, a Bosch Sensortec eS305 3-axis accelerometer, Audience eS305 voice processor and two MEMS microphones.

The Voice processer is a very interesting innovation from Amazon because it moves the interaction with the console into the growingly popular voice control world. Further from a bundled services perspective Amazon is using voice to drive people to its search engine, thus allowing it to further present and promote its products and services.

The accelerometer does not appear to have a documented usable functionality associated with it at the present time. It may be usable for certain games, but this has yet to be verified.

Final Test and Assembly

Along with better capability comes higher assembly and test costs. The Fire TV, with its Bluetooth based remote, MIMO WiFi and more, requires an additional $0.65 in this area.

Other Observations

Both units are small boxes of comparable size. When you open them up, Apple chose to embed a 2.5 Watt power supply while Amazon used a whopping 16 Watt external power supply. Amazon's power supply is so large that it blocks access to an adjacent wall outlet.

In order to fit the power supply inside the Apple TV, Apple had to increase the component density on their circuit board. They also managed to do so with an 8 layer board that was estimated at $3.12. Amazon on the other hand, used a larger, more expensive 10 layer board that cost $6.53 resulting in a cost difference of $3.41. It is worth noting that the Fire TV board in figures 4 and 5 have a significant amount of green space. Had they packed their electronics more densely, they would have had a smaller, cheaper board.

Figure 4: Amazon Fire TV Boards Side 1

Fire TV Board

Figure 5: Amazon Fire TV Boards Side 2

Fire TV Board 2

Figure 6: Apple TV Board Side 1

Apple TV Board

Figure 7: Apple TV Board Side 2

Apple TV Board 2

Apple TV & Amazon Fire TV Closing Thoughts:

While the Apple TV had an estimated bill of materials cost of ~ $70 in July 2012, supply chain efficiencies and other cost reductions should have reduced that number significantly by now. Combine this with a constant retail price of $99, and you get a business case that improves over time.

The Amazon Fire TV outperforms the Apple TV in features and speed, but that is hardly a surprise given it launched just over two years after the Apple TV. Apple has not been standing still and there are rumors of a new Apple TV with Kinect type remote-free UI support.

Cost Methodology Change:

After receiving consistent feedback from our customer base, we acquired expertise in mechanical costing to improve our mechanical cost model. Up to this point, our model calculated cost based on weight and material composition, and then multipliers were used for various types of processing (fabrication techniques, coatings, processes, processing operations, etc.). While our new model calculates base cost from weight and material composition, multipliers are only used for formation techniques (moldings, extrusions, stampings, etc.). For coatings, our new model uses a base coating cost and takes into account the part area to be coated along with a process yield. Likewise, for processing operations (inserts, drilled holes, heat staking, printings, etc.) are calculated from a base cost, quantity of occurrence and yield factor. The results are now more accurate due to the feedback received.