Smartphones, Tablets Drive DRAM Market Expansion

The mobile DRAM market is showing strong signs of growth as the format is adopted in smartphones and tablets.

The growing market for smartphones and tablets is giving the mobile dynamic RAM market a boost, according to a market brief from IHS iSuppli. With its increasing use in smart mobile devices as manufacturers opt for lower-power memory platforms to power applications, mobile DRAM revenue is on track to reach a record $6.56 billion this year, up 10 percent from $5.98 billion in 2011, the report said.

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.

€œThe mobile DRAM segment is achieving impressive growth as mobile operating systems, streaming apps and games require more memory to handle sophisticated tasks,€ Ryan Chien, analyst for memory and storage at IHS, said in a press statement. €œCrucial features like multitasking, media decoding and decompression, data synchronization and background operations are all driving DRAM needs€”and new phones and tablets are meeting those needs with their rise in mobile DRAM densities.€

Owing to the lagging sales of PC computing behind handsets and tablets, mobile DRAM performance is outpacing standard DRAM used in desktops and notebooks. The report noted revenue growth for standard DRAM this year is anticipated to be just 3 percent.

On the pricing front, high demand, a smaller supply base and healthy density growth are keeping mobile DRAM prices €œrelatively firm.€ However, the report noted, average selling prices for mobile DRAM have been falling over time in line with the overall memory space.

The acquisition in July by U.S. memory maker Micron of its insolvent Japanese rival Elpida highlights the importance of the rising use of mobile DRAM to counter softness in standard DRAMs.

€œSuch a disparity between the acquired and the buyer highlights a competitive differentiator for Elpida,€ Chien said. €œDespite its financial ruin, Elpida in the first quarter had an outsized portion€”nearly 20 percent market share€”of the total mobile DRAM industry revenue of $1.8 billion.

"The increasing ubiquity of mobile DRAM projected for the next few years also makes the high-flying memory segment the most important factor in Micron€™s $2.5 billion purchase, especially as the Boise, Idaho, outfit aims to counter the current market dominance of the South Korean giants Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix Semiconductor,€ he said.