Mobile Devices

January 22, 2013

Apple Products Create Unprecedented Growth in MEMS Microphone Market

A new report has shown the unprecedented growth in the MEMS microphone industry from 2009 to 2012. Shipments of MEMS microphones have increased from 432.9 million units to 2.06 billion units, mainly due to Apple Inc.’s inclusion of the microphones in its popular iPhone, iTouch and iPad products.

“With Apple playing a huge role, the MEMS microphone market turned up the volume dramatically,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS, the company responsible for the report.

The IHS report is entitled the IHS iSuppli MEMS Market Brief, and shows the shipment rate for MEM microphones reaching literally off-the-charts growth over a period of only three years.

“While MEMS microphones have been around for many years, 2009 marked an important milestone when Apple started to buy MEMS microphones for the iPod nano 5, and more importantly, for the iPhone 4,” added Bouchaud.

MEMS microphones are an important factor in the Siri voice command feature, and not one, but multiple MEMS microphones are incorporated into most of Apple’s new products, from phones to music devices to tablets.

Apple shares were at just 6.2 percent in 2009, and now the company holds 30.8 percent of the MEMS microphone market, and the numbers keep rising.

The Siri feature on the iPhone 4S, and now the iPhone 5 and various other Apple products, was an important breakthrough not only for Apple, but for the MEMS microphones market in general.

Now, competing smartphone companies are looking to MEMS microphones to improve the quality and functionality of their voice command, video and audio features.

Voice command has been around for 10 years, but initially smartphones had only one MEMS microphone, if any. Now, the typical number of MEMS microphones in one smartphone is at least two, if not three, per separate device. This helps boost support for noise suppression, the quality of HD in recording applications, and allows for much more functionality.

Siri specifically can pick up on more facets of a voice command, and can understand the speaker by using the three MEMS microphones located on the side of the display and on the back of the phone. This allows the device to reply with unparalleled accuracy and capability, ramping up the competition for smartphones across the market.

The three MEMS microphones used in the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 are made by Knowles, AAC and Analog Devices, and Apple does not choose to use these makers based on price.

In fact, Apple ends up paying three to four times more than competing microphone suppliers, just because the quality and performance of the MEMS microphone is so superior.

If the IHS report is any indication (and it is), the MEMS microphone market will at least stay stable, if not continue its growth rate into 2013.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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