The Most Profitable Activity in the World


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The iPhone is — arguably — the most profitable product in the world.  Since it was launched in 2007 it has sold over 700 million units.  In my household alone we have 4 of the damned things. I hasten to add my daughter’s phones are hand-me downs, but all the same.

The iPhone 11 is available this week. A basic one will set you back £749.

I think that counts as a strong revenue stream.  Steve Jobs died a rich man.

Who created the iPhone

For all his genius, Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone.  An iPhone contains technologies and components that were developed and produced by people all over the world. According to the web a new iPhone contains all these components made by all these companies…

  • Accelerometer: Bosch in Germany and Inverse in the United States
  • Audio Chipsets and Codec: Cirrus Logic in the United States
  • Audio Inductor Coil: TDK in Japan
  • Baseband processor: Qualcomm in the United States
  • Batteries: Samsung in South Korea and Huizhou Desay Battery in China
  • Camera: Sony in Japan
  • Controller Chips: PMC Sierra and Broadcom Corp in the United States
  • Display Screen and Glass: Corning (Gorilla Glass) in the United States
  • Display: Japan Display and Sharp in Japan and LG Display in South Korea
  • DRAM Memory Chip: TSMC in Taiwanand SK Hynix in South Korea
  • eCompass: Alps Electric in Japan
  • FaceTime Camera Chip: OmniVision in the United States
  • Fingerprint Sensor Authentication: Authentec in China
  • Flash memory: Toshiba in Japan and Samsung in South Korea
  • Gyroscope: STMicroelectronics in France and Italy
  • Main Chassis Assembly: Foxconn and Pegatron in China
  • Mixed-signal chips: NXP in Netherlands
  • Processors: TSMC in Taiwan
  • Radio Frequency Modules: Win Semiconductors in Taiwan
  • Semiconductors: Texas Instruments, Fairchild and Maxim Integrated in the United States
  • Touch ID Sensor: TSMC and Xintec in Taiwan
  • Touchscreen Controller: Broadcom in the United States
  • Transmitter and Amplification Modules: Skyworks and Qorvo in the United States

It goes beyond high tech. Apple’s list of its top 200 suppliers also includes ECCO Leather B.V. in the Netherlands and Golden Arrow Printing in China. 

They don’t say who makes their sandwiches.

The tip of the iceberg

Each of those suppliers will subcontract, outsource and purchase supplies from a myriad of other companies.  Apparently GT Advanced Technologies produce sapphire crystals which Corning use in the Gorilla Glass for the screens.  I didn’t even know Gorilla Glass existed, let alone that it contains sapphire crystals.

I have no doubt, that somewhere along the line the company I work for supplies something for somebody who supplies Apple.

The most profitable activity?

Steve Jobs didn’t invent any of these components or technology, but he did have the foresight to bring them all together. We live in an interconnected world. Profitability isn’t about control, compliance or cost saving.

It is about collaboration.

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Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Lawther
James Lawther is a middle-aged middle manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for many organisations, from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had multiple roles from running a night shift to doing operational research. He gets upset by operations that don't work and mildly apoplectic about poor customer service.


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