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Smartphone Subcontractors Get Smart Money

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- As Apple (AAPL) is rumored to be releasing the newest iPhone as early as next week, interest in smartphones and its components has reached a fever pitch.

Apple, HTC, Research In Motion (RIMM), Google (GOOG) and Motorola (MOT) are direct beneficiaries of consumer demand for smartphones, but investors should also consider component makers.

It's easy to forget that the company whose name is stamped on the front of a smartphone didn't make everything buried beneath the shiny touch screen. The guts of most phones are an amalgam of chips and circuit boards from smaller companies around the world that are better suited to produce the nuts and bolts of technology than the finished product.

Companies such as Marvell Technologies (MRVL), a supplier of connectivity chips for Research in Motion, and Texas Instruments (TXN), which makes processors for the Palm (PALM) Pre, are good examples of the auxiliary beneficiaries of the smartphone boom.

While those companies may not enjoy the same sort of margins or name recognition that the designers of the phones do, they capture huge contracts by landing smartphone-chip deals.

The hush-hush nature of smartphone subcontracting makes it difficult to determine the profitability of the orders. Many times, suppliers are identified only when a phone is torn apart by research companies.

Chipmakers such as Qualcomm (QCOM) and Samsung, which is the envy of many since it supplies Apple with the chips for the iPhone, could be attractive derivative bets on the smartphone market. Still, a broader type of technology offers greater opportunities for growth due to universal applications.

Qualcomm, in particular, is an interesting stock to play the smartphone industry. The company's Snapdragon processor has found its way into Google's Nexus One and HTC's upcoming EVO 4G. It's widely regarded as one of the best options available to phone makers. Qualcomm's stock has fallen 23% in 2010, so this could be a good time to get in on the chipmaker.

Printed circuit-board makers like Jabil Circuit (JBL) and Multi-Fineline Electronix (MFLX) also create components for phones, but their products are so generic, they can be used in literally anything electronic. That means diversification benefits.

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