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Google Glass teardown puts rock-bottom price on hardware

Google objects to notion that $1500 headset only costs $80 to make

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A teardown report on Google Glass is raising eyebrows over suggestions that the augmented reality headset costs as little as $80 to produce.

Researchers with the TechInsights' teardown.com service placed the bill of materials (BOM) of the device at a mere $79.78. The report, which considers the cost of components ranging from processor and battery to non-electric structural pieces, estimates that no part of a Glass headset costs the company more than $14.

Thus far, Google has limited the Glass headset to tightly-controlled demo programs and a one-day sale which require users to cough up $1,500 to get their hands on the headset.

The claim has been met with some skepticism, as reports have suggested that teardown.com's analysts have underestimated the cost of key components such as optical hardware and chip pricing. Google, meanwhile, has limited its thoughts on the matter to a blanket statement saying that the teardown.com estimate was "absolutely wrong," and "the Glass Explorer Edition costs significantly more to produce."

Joel Martin, general manager for the teardown.com service, told The Reg that while the report was an early estimate and subject to change, he believes that even with further analysis and information the cost of hardware for Glass will be found at less than $100.

He noted that the company's estimates of hardware prices call on hundreds of teardown reports of the same components in other mobile systems. Martin objects to the suggestions that the company has wildly underestimated the cost of key pieces such as optics.

"I've seen reports that state it is like 30 to 40 dollars," Martin said of the Glass display eyepiece.

"There is no way it is that high, we are talking about something that is within five to $12 at the most."

Furthermore, Martin points out that his company is only estimating the cost of the hardware and assembly for Glass, not trying to put a price tag on the up-front costs Google has incurred for the extensive research and development required to bring Glass to this point.

The takeaway here could be less about suggestions of gouging on Glass prices (which, to be clear, teardown.com has at no point made) than the possibility that the retail versions of the headset will be significantly more affordable and accessible than the limited "Explorer" hardware has been thus far.

The Chocolate Factory has yet to reveal what consumer editions of Glass would sell for, and Martin noted that as the company moves forward with manufacturing partners to ramp up production, a low hardware overhead would let Google offer an affordable Glass unit and still make a tidy profit both for itself and partners.

Whether a lower price tag would change the perception of Glass as a creepy spy device have yet to be seen, but it would at least challenge the notion that it's just for techie elitists.®

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