Feature Article

May 24, 2012

Smartphone Teardown Reveals DRAM Share of BOM Cost Down by Half

As part of the DRAM market study, information and analytics provider, IHS iSuppli recently dissected several smartphones to see the usage of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) in these mobile devices and investigate its share of the total bill of material (BOM) cost. Surprisingly, the teardown revealed that even though DRAM usage has increased, its share of the total cost of the advanced cell phone has actually declined by more than half in the course of a year. This fall in the BOM cost is mainly due to drops in its price, said the research firm IHS.

According to IHS, the smartphone dissections conducted by the company reveal that DRAM’s share of the cost of the total BOM of a smartphone declined to 6.3 percent in the first quarter, down 7.1 percentage points from 13.4 percent during the same time last year. DRAM’s share of the BOM in the first quarter of 2012 amounted to $11.81, compared to $19.48 a year ago.

According to the investigation, IHS found that the share of DRAM in the total cost of smartphone BOM first slipped to single-digit territory in the second quarter last year to 8.5 percent, and the cost percentage has remained in the six percent range since then. The sample of smartphones in the teardown included 19 devices, and only smartphones that included discrete DRAMs, were considered in an effort to maintain consistency in comparison, said IHS.

In a statement, Dee Nguyen, memory analyst for HIS, stated, “Larger demands are being placed on the processing power of smartphones, in the process blurring the line between a phone and a computing device. As this has happened, DRAM has become an increasingly crucial component of the handset supply chain. The growing importance of DRAM, however, appears not to be correspondingly reflected in the total BOM cost of a smartphone given the memory’s declining share,” noted Nguyen.

The lower share of the BOM has occurred even though DRAM content has risen in smartphones, from 256 megabytes (MB) in the first quarter of 2010 to 800 MB during the first quarter this year, the analyst said.

Continuing, Nguyen added, “Because of the extensive application processing requirements of the modern smartphone, handset manufacturers can throttle DRAM loading by only so much before risking lower performance. As a result, handset manufacturers will have little choice but to continue moving up the DRAM technology and density curve, which could then enable the memory to take a greater share of total smartphone BOM costs,” asserted Nguyen

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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