Feature Article

February 04, 2013

Largest Consumer of Flash Memory in 2013 Will be Smartphones

Flash memory is an electronic, meaning no moving parts, or non-volatile computer storage device that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. It was developed from electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM).

There are two main types of flash memory, named after the Negated AND (NAND) and Negation of the OR (NOR) logic gates.

Whereas EEPROMs needed to be completely erased before being rewritten, NAND type flash memory may be written and read in blocks which are generally much smaller than the entire device.

The NOR type allows a single machine word or byte to be written or read independently.

The NAND type is primarily used in main memory cards, USB flash drives, solid-state drives and similar products, for general storage and transfer of data. The NOR type, which allows true random access and therefore direct code execution, is used as a replacement for the older EPROM and as an alternative to certain kinds of ROM applications.

NAND or NOR flash memory is also often used to store configuration data in numerous digital products – a task previously made possible by EEPROMs or battery-powered static RAM.

IHS iSuppli is a major provider of diverse global market and economic information. According to a market brief on February 1, 2013, as a whole, cell phones are positioned to become the world’s single largest consumer of flash memory in 2013.

IHS iSuppli sees this as another sign that smartphones hold a preeminent position in the global technology market.

Ryan Chien, analyst for memory and storage at HIS said, “With smartphones accounting for an ever- increasing portion of the global cell phone business, the mobile handset market is demanding more and more memory, particularly flash. This is causing the cell phone business to eclipse all other application markets for flash usage. Indeed, the shift in flash demand is reflective of a widespread transition in technology markets to focus more on mobile platforms like smartphones.”

We have seen that everyday people find more uses for their smartphones. They’ve become pocket-sized, mini computers. Not only are they used for phone calls, but for music, videos and browsing the Internet. With all this comes the need to save and keep more information.

Considering the way that smartphones are being used today, it’s not surprising that people want more memory. Flash memory fits the bill quite nicely.

In 2012, flash storage cards had the largest market share of flash memory utilization. IHS iSuppli sees that number coming down, putting flash storage cards in the third place slot in 2013 with about a 19.7 percent share. Solid state drives (SSD) are ranked number two with a 20.6-percent share. This is up two spots from last year.

All-in-all, tablets, MP3 players, GPS and handheld gaming devices are among the other devices that round out the 100 percent of flash memory consumption. Cell phones will take over as the number-one slot for flash memory utilization.

The use of NAND flash in various applications was a major theme at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Storage Visions events, both held last month in Las Vegas. Toshiba and Seagate Technology discussed individual efforts in hybrid hard drives. These are different from cache SSD. The hybrids feature the flash memory component integrated within the hard drive – not outside it. Both companies said they believe 8-gigabyte, single-level cell NAND caches to be sufficient for most user needs. Intel believes in 24 gigabytes of NAND.

Kingston Technology introduced a 1-terabyte USB 3.0 flash drive, at a time when most manufacturers haven’t even showcased 512-gigabyte models.

According to IHS iSuppli, as the intersection of flash, storage and the cloud deepens in the consumer and enterprise environments, a bounce-back for the NAND industry is imminent this year, with revenue projected to climb to a record $22 billion – up from $20 billion last year.

Revenue in 2012 had contracted after industry takings of $21 billion in 2011.

Edited by Braden Becker

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