An iPhone assembled in the United States from parts mostly made in the United States would cost about $100 more than the current model which is manufactured overseas, according to a crude estimate by Technology Review magazine.
The current iPhone 6S sells for $750 and costs about $230 to manufacture research firm IHS has said, though Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned investors not to rely on such cost estimates. “I’ve never seen one that is anywhere close to being accurate,” he said last year.
In a report called “The All-American iPhone” published on Thursday, the MIT-based magazine took the IHS estimates as a starting point to model how much more expensive it might be to assemble the iPhone in the United States and use more American-made parts, as presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have advocated.
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Just moving manufacturing from China to the U.S. would increase the cost of labor as well as adding expenses to ship component parts from Asia, Jason Dedrick, a professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, estimated for the magazine. Assembling phones domestically would cost $30 to $40 per phone, versus $10 for the current Chinese work, Dedrick concluded. That would raise the retail price of the phone about 5%, to $788.
Switching all parts in the iPhone to U.S. suppliers would be much more difficult. Of Apple’s (AAPL) currently disclosed 766 suppliers, 346 are in China and another 167 are in Japan and Taiwan. Only 69 are based in the United States, including Corning (GLW) which supplies the glass screens on the iPhone.
Building as many of the components domestically as possible would be less economical, as plants would have be to be constructed and the new factories wouldn’t have the same large scale as the Asian producers. But Dedrick estimated that doing so would add another $30 to $40 to the cost of making the phone and add a total of about $100 to the retail price, pushing it to $850.
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But don’t expect any such a move from Apple. The estimates seem rather liberal at best and even somewhat naive, ignoring the difficulties of creating whole new manufacturing industries, finding trained workers and sourcing needed materials. Others have estimated a U.S. made iPhone would have to sell for double the current price.
So despite what Donald Trump has said, the iPhone isn’t likely to come home anytime soon.