The functionality of cellphones increases every year as manufacturers battle each other with new features, bigger and better screens, and faster processors inside their products. In order to support these advancements, smartphones require increasingly higher amounts of dynamic access random memory (DRAM) in order to support the processor, multitasking and for running the screen.
According to IHS iSuppli, the average amount of DRAM in a smartphone is anticipated to increase from 453MB in 2011 to 666MB in 2012. Also anticipated is greater uniformity in the average density of DRAM. The standard 4-gigabit (GB) chip, currently supporting over 37% of the market, will be taken over by an 8GB chip in 2013. The 8GB chip is poised to dominate 46% of the market as the 4Gb chips will fall to 28%. However, by 2015, a 16GB chip should become the new industry standard, based on IHS iSuppli's research.
The recent announcement of the iPhone 5, and subsequent tear down, showed that Apple bumped up the device's DRAM to 1024MB (1GB). This is double the density of its predecessor, the iPhone 4S. other smartphones with 1GB of DRAM include the Samsung Note, Samsung Galaxy S3, and HTC One X.
Just as DRAM continues to grow and even out, NAND flash, the other type of memory in smartphones, is also on the rise. Over the summer, we saw that the demand for NAND and NAND-based products remained fairly flat. In less than a year, average NAND densities increased from 1-2GB to no less than 16GB. The flat demand in 2Q2012 meant that pricing continued to decline (until recently), helping smartphone manufacturers keep costs down on products launching in the fall and for the holidays, while providing one of the most popular features, more storage.
In late July, Toshiba announced a 30% reduction in NAND production. Samsung also went vertical with their NAND supply, so pricing increased briefly, then leveled out, as overstock cleared the shelves and lead times shortened. Some thought that we would see another shortage after Apple’s announcements on Sept. 12, but robust iPhone 5 sales have coincided with lower-than-expected demand for SSDs, likely offsetting any rumored shortages.