Calculating Google's contribution to iPhone profitability

In the iPhone cost structure analysis I showed how revenues and costs for iPhone are probably allocated. The revenue per iPhone was shown to include $29 for revenue items “above” the price of the phone to the channel. This total includes Apple’s own iPhone accessory sales plus revenue from licensing the “Made for iPhone” trademark to third party accessory makers. Apple also receives some revenues from cloud services. But, pertinent to our recent discussions on the Android business model, Apple also receives revenues from Google.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much? Here’s a way we can estimate it.

I’ve read an estimate that 50% to 60% of ad revenues from Google search initiated via iOS are paid to Apple. This is believable because the TAC for Google overall is about 40% and Apple probably drove a hard bargain to get a premium for its, presumably, premium traffic.

So if we knew the revenue run rate for Android search on a per device basis we could perhaps guess how much of each phone’s revenue comes from Google. What we’ve heard last year in Congressional testimony is that two thirds of its mobile revenues come from iOS devices. This would imply that the run rate for iOS would be 2x the run rate for Android.

Having a model of Android revenues helps at this point. Assuming Google obtains $4.4 from Android (excluding AdMob and App sales) and assuming negligible other mobile revenues from other platforms gives a possible Google revenue per iOS device per year of nearly $9.

Taking the lower bound of the revenue share estimate above means that half of Google’s revenue goes to Apple or $4.4/iOS device/year or $9 over the two year life of the device.

That would put revenue from Google at about 1.4% of iPhone revenues (see average revenue per iPhone here). And that revenue comes without any costs and so flows straight to the bottom line. That, in turn, would imply that 3% of Apple’s operating margin is provided by Google. Not a bad deal considering that some phone vendors can’t get that for their entire product line.

The interesting factors at work here are that this contribution by Google to Apple is higher than the contribution by Android to Google. In yesterday’s post, I calculated that in 2011 Android contributed about $590 million to Google’s operating margin (5% of total).

If we consider that Google pays Apple $9[1] for every iOS device and since Apple sold 156 million iOS devices in 2011 then Apple received $1.4 billion from Google, all of which went to the bottom line.

$1.4 billion from Google to Apple vs. $600 million from Android to Google. Three percent contribution of Google to iPhone profits vs. 5% contribution of Android to Google’s profits.

This sets up all kinds of game theorizing which will undoubtedly entertain and enrich us all.


  1. Perhaps this $9 value is not valid for all devices. Perhaps iPod touch does not get a lot of traffic and is less valuable. Perhaps iPads get more traffic and are worth more. On average, this may be plausible.