The Secret Life of a Cellphone
Ever wonder what went into making that amazing device in your pocket? Samsung's latest music-playing camera phone took a year to design, requires a mere eight seconds to assemble, and--if it's a hit--could end up in ten million hands worldwide. We coaxed one out of its shell.

(FORTUNE Magazine) –


Samsung makes about 50% of the D600's components, and the phone is assembled in Gumi, South Korea. Like most cutting-edge phones, this $600 model (below, actual size) will be launched in Europe and Asia--then make its way to the U.S.


Black is the new silver: Samsung plans to unveil no fewer than ten black phones this year, vs. three last year.

Sliding hinge

Forget clamshells. Slick new designs like the D600 are "sliders." Its spring-assisted keypad slips out from under the phone with the smoothness of a switchblade.

Main board

Tantalum, mined in Brazil or Australia, is just one exotic element used on the circuitboard (in all, about one-quarter of the 109 elements are found in a phone). With 300 components, the circuitboard is the most expensive part of the phone. Tech consulting firm Portelligent estimates that it accounts for some 60% of the D600's $130 manufacturing cost.

Vibrator (at top)

Rap lovers, stay tuned. Engineers are trying to develop a speaker-vibrator combo, which would sound more like real bass.

LCD board

The first commercial cellphone, a 1984 Motorola, had one red and one green light. The D600 color display includes 262,144 hues. Samsung designers say color follows culture: The Irish perceive more shades of green than average, and Koreans won't write their name in red.


Battery life only improves about 10% each year. But they've gone from being 50% of the weight of a phone to about 20% today.


Keypads have shrunk by about 50% since 1984--and they're about as small as fingers can comfortably handle. Experts say pressing a button and hearing a slight click or other sound in response is very satisfying to humans.


Most modern antennas--like the one on the D600--are invisible, tucked inside the phone. Europeans don't mind hidden antennas, but Americans and Japanese still tend to prefer the pull-out variety or its protégé, the nub.


Camera phones now outsell digital cameras. A low-end camera phone costs around $7 today, but will cost only $2.50 by 2008, predicts research firm Gartner. Samsung manufactures the D600's two-megapixel camera--which can also take movies--in house.


Like most new cellphones, the D600 has twin speakers. But something dime-sized just can't get very loud. The next frontier: using the surface of the display screen as a speaker.

Memory card

The D600's card holds 32 megabytes of data. Memory-card capacity is now doubling every year--growing even faster than Moore's law (which sees the number of transistors on a chip doubling every two years).


Unlike many components, the microphone has hardly changed since the first cellphones.


Ten years ago cellphone engineers mocked screws as boring-- trendy phones tended to use snap-on parts. But screws are making a comeback: The D600 has 14 of them, vs. six in the average Samsung phone a decade ago.