Smartphones Increasingly Use DRAM Chips: iSuppli

An IHS iSuppli report finds smartphone manufacturers are turning to DRAM chips as their handsets become more sophisticated.

With smartphones becoming more sophisticated and encompassing ever more functionality, the average use of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) in these devices is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent this year, according to an IHS iSuppli DRAM Dynamics Market Brief from information and analytics provider IHS. The report found the DRAM configurations dissected in phones through the company’s Teardown Analysis service, which confirmed a trend of increasing DRAM loading in the devices.

In those analyses, all of the handsets dissected had at least 1,024MB—or 1GB of DRAM, with the exception of the Nokia Lumia 900 and the Apple iPhone 4S, both of which featured 512MB of DRAM. That marks a dramatic change from a year ago, when none of the phones analyzed had more than 800MB of DRAM. Overall, the report projected average DRAM content in smartphones would expand to 666MB in 2012, up from 453MB in 2011 and 202MB in 2010.

However, it was unclear why the Lumia handset had less DRAM than other smartphones, although the report noted it was the only device tested that was running a Microsoft Windows operating system. Samsung’s Note and Galaxy S III devices, the Motorola Droid Razr XT912 and the One X from HTC all contained at least 1GB of DRAM, while the DRAM for Apple’s recently released iPhone 5 has risen to 1,024MB due to new features added to the phone, including a more powerful processor and more memory-intensive applications, the IHS report noted.

“As smartphones become more sophisticated, memory usage in the devices continues to rise—not only to satisfy user wants and needs but also to accommodate demands made by ever-more powerful processors and increasingly refined LCD screens,” Clifford Leimbach, analyst for memory demand forecasting at IHS, said in a press statement. “And as memory has increased in smartphones, the industry has moved from a complex world featuring differing memory densities, to a simpler space where phones look increasingly similar from a memory perspective.”

Density in DRAM memory is also expected to increase and has climbed already, the report noted, with 4-GB chips encompassing roughly a 37 percent share of the DRAM market for smartphones, followed closely by the 8GB chip configuration with 36 percent. Those standings are expected to reverse next year, with 8GB chips rising to command 46 percent share among smartphones, while share of the 4GB chips will decline to 28 percent, the report said.

“An even higher-density configuration, the 16GB, is forecast to take the lion’s share in the years ahead, indicating that DRAM density growth will continue uninterrupted for some time to come,” the report projected. “While 16GB DRAM will account for just 2 percent market share in 2012, its portion jumps to 15 percent next year, overtakes 4GB and 8GB by 2013 and 2014, respectively, and then becomes the primary density configuration by 2015, with 56 percent market share.”