The people who build the phones, the people who run the networks, or the people who make mobile interesting by writing the great apps?
Sidebar: Asymco · The numbers I’m talking about are mostly from Horace Dediu’s wonderful asymco.com site. If you want laboriously-gathered, elegantly-presented facts about what’s going on around here, Horace has ’em.
$350 for Apple · They’re obviously the best at turning a profit on selling phones. As Asymco reports, Apple gets about $650 per iPhone, has a margin around 55%, and thus makes a gross profit of $350 or so apiece.
$590 for AT&T · I went and dug through their 2011 Q3 numbers: They claimed a smartphone ARPU (dollars per customer per month) of $83.46 and reported a 29.6% gross margin; which over two years (a reasonable lifetime for a phone), by my math comes to just under $600.
(Dear businesspeople: I know the difference between “gross profit” and real money, and there are probably lots of places in the preceding two paragraphs where you might want to quibble with the accounting. But stay with me a minute.)
$12 for App Writers · Back to Asymco; Horace calculated the total amount that the average user spends for apps on the average iOS device. Everyone thinks that iOS is the place to go to monetize apps. Yep, twelve bucks per device.
Aaaaaaaaargh! · As a computer programmer, I find these numbers painful. A river of gold for the people who build good phones. Another river for the people who run the networks. And for the developers, crumbs. Scraps that fall off the edge of the table. Rounding error.
Modern Internet-connected phones exist mostly to run apps. I think some of the wrong people are getting rewarded. Feaugh.