DRAM Takes Hold in the Mobile Landscape

Carl Weinschenk

There are winners and losers as market segments rise and fall. And a winner, according to IHS iSuppli, is mobile dynamic random access memory (RAM), or mobile DRAM.

This is a pretty geeky issue, but it is important to track because it impacts the availability and price of devices. For instance, a good percentage of the hard drives are manufactured in Thailand, and floods last year led to shortages and higher prices. There often is nothing that can be done in such circumstances, but knowing about shortages and surpluses can help planners.

There seems to be no such problem on the DRAM front. iSuppli reported last week that revenue for mobile DRAM will reach $6.56 billion in 2012, which is an increase of 10 percent over the $5.98 billion of revenue last year. There is an increase in the number of devices and in the amount of mobile DRAM per device. eWeek reported on the iSuppli research:

The expansion in mobile DRAM use in various devices is impressive, with smartphone density jumping from 2.28Gbit in the second quarter of 2010 to 5.85Gbit in the second quarter this year. Tablets are driving even greater expansion, with the mobile DRAM average density soaring fourfold during the same period from 2Gbit to 8.33Gbit, according to the report’s findings.

The firm said that prices are holding steady. A decrease in pricing also is noted by DRAMeXchange, which this story says is a research division of TrendForce.

Overall, the price of DRAM decreased during the second half of July. A 4GB chip fell to $19.75. The mobile scenario was much the same in terms of prices, but the competition is tough, according to Electronics Feed:

Mobile memory is experiencing much of the same; since the beginning of the year, mobile DRAM ASP has been on a continuous downtrend. Lowest price for 2Gb LPDDR was US$2.75 in July; while still more than twice as high as PC DRAM’s US$1.1 ASP, profits are shrinking and competition is harsh in the mobile memory sector. Manufacturers’ initial plans to adjust production in favor of non-PC DRAM no longer seems like the best strategy.

LPDDR stands for Low Power Double Data Rate memory (LPDDR).

Focus Taiwan reports that the five biggest mobile DRAM vendors are: Samsung, which controlled 59.6 percent of the market during the second quarter; SK Hynix was at 17.9 percent; and Elpida was third at 13.9 percent. Finishing off the top six were Micron Technology, Winbond and Nanya Technology.

The list may soon shrink by one. Last month, Micron agreed to acquire Elpida. That, according to EE Times, is an indicator of the benefits of specialized mobile memory:

Mobile DRAM is a low-power DRAM variant preferred for use in mobile applications. Analysts from IHS and elsewhere believe that Elpida Memory Inc.'s strength in mobile DRAM is a major reason that Micron Technology Inc. bid to acquire the firm's assets earlier this year.

Mobile DRAM is a very important element in the mobile landscape. It is not insignificant and appears to be healthy.



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