Android Tablets Give NOR Flash Storage a Boost: IHS

While growth of NOR flash memory in the smartphone space tapers off, suppliers are finding demand from tablet makers.

Although the growth of NOR flash memory sales may be slowing down in mobile handsets and smartphones, tablet computers and embedded applications in the automotive and industrial markets are giving NOR flash makers new opportunities for growth, according to the iSuppli Storage Service at information and analytics provider IHS. Despite the elimination of NOR in Apple€™s new iPad, tablets are among the most prominent applications for NOR, the report found.

Based on the teardown results, NOR chips were found in several tablets running Google€™s Android operating system, including the Asus Transformer Prime and Eee Slate tablets, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and HTC Flyer and Jetstream tablets. Samsung, also a maker of NOR chips, tends to include its own chips in its tablets, which are higher-density NOR flash components, as compared to discrete low-density serial peripheral interface (SPI) parts.

California-based Spansion led all NOR suppliers in terms of design wins, accounting for more than one-third of the NOR chips in the torn-down devices, based on a sample of 55 embedded products dissected by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis Services over the course of three quarters. Along with Samsung Electronics of South Korea and Micron Technology from Idaho, the three companies accounted for 53.4 percent of NOR chips in the three subsegments during the period from the third quarter of 2011 to the second quarter this year.

€œUsed to store small amounts of executable code, NOR flash was traditionally employed in devices like cellphones for fast read operations and random access capabilities,€ Ryan Chien, analyst for memory and storage at IHS, explained in a statement concerning the report. €œHowever, newer implementations of NAND-based Embedded MultiMedia Card (eMMC) solutions that emulate NOR capabilities have resulted in NOR falling out of favor.€

The report also noted the rise of NOR flash memory in automotive and industrial markets, where head units in vehicles from Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Honda each had more than 230 megabits of NOR flash. The top NOR chips suppliers in the automotive sector, where NOR flash plays an increasing role in addressing vehicle safety regulations and manage user-comfort expectation, include Microchip and Micron (Honda and Toyota) as well as Spansion (GM and Ford) and Toshiba (Nissan).

€œThe percentage of handsets using NOR flash has fallen from 14 percent in 2010 teardowns to less than seven percent since then, found mostly in Samsung smartphones,€ Chien said. €œHowever, NOR manufacturers have been proactive in their diversification efforts, borne out by a study of recent teardowns in both wireless and embedded categories.€