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Teardown analysis: NOR flash retains mobile place

Posted: 05 Aug 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless handset? nand flash memory?

The following article was provided by Mark DeVoss, a senior analyst with iSuppli Corp., an El Segundo, California-based market research firm.

Teradown analysis of 30 mobile phones conducted by iSuppli Corp. has revealed that NOR-type flash memory remains firmly entrenched as the code storage memory of choice for wireless handsets, although NAND flash memory is starting to make inroads as a data-storage medium.

Over the past nine months, iSuppli has performed teardowns on mobile-phone models that represent all segments of the market, from entry-level handsets to full-featured smart phones. The mix of phones dissected by the teardown analysis service consists of: one smart phone, nine high-end or full-featured phones, 10 mid-range camera-enabled and data phones, seven inexpensive models with lower-resolution cameras and three entry-level phones without cameras.

This distribution of product types roughly mimics the mix of phones in the general market. Most phones are mid-range to upper-end models, as evidenced by the larger proportion of products with higher resolution cameras and enhanced data capabilities. An examination of the memory content of the 30 phones revealed that all 30 models used some quantity of NOR flash memory and 12 employed only NOR flash and Pseudo SRAM (PSRAM). Six of the phones used NOR flash with SDRAM, Two used NOR and SRAM. Four of the phones used NOR flash, PSRAM and NAND flash. Two of the mobile phones employed NOR flash and SRAM only.

One NAND and Mobile Disk on Chip are specialized NAND-flash devices that have an integrated controller to handle the housekeeping chores associated with using NAND as a code-storage device. They are available from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and M Systems Flash Disk Pioneers Ltd. respectively, and these were used by one mobile phone each although both contain NOR flash.

In aggregate nine of the 30 phones, or 30 percent, employed a form of NAND flash.

Among the 30 mobile phones, the average density for each memory type was: 175-Mbits of NOR flash, 47-Mbits for pseudo SRAM 6-Mbits of SRAM, 218-Mbits of NAND flash, 140-Mbits of SDRAM.

Among all the components in the mobile-phone teardowns, memory on average was the third most expensive segment, following displays at number one and digital logic chips in second place. Displays were the most expensive component in 24 of the 30 phones, while memory and digital logic chips were first in three of the handsets.

The average bill of materials (BOM) costs were $135.09, $91.49, $66.03, $61.46 for high-end, mid-range, low-end and entry-level cell phone respectively. The memory costs as a percentage of the BOM were 13.0 percent, 10.0 percent, 12.6 percent, 11.0 percent, respectively.

Looking at this data, it's clear that NOR flash remains the predominant memory in mobile phones and the preferred method of code storage. However, NAND represents a growing presence, although its use is limited to data-storage applications.

Furthermore, the trend of using a combination of NOR/SDRAM in place of NOR/PSRAM is gaining momentum in phones where high density and performance are key attributes. The percentage of the BOM allocated to memory remains relatively small, as is the amount of absolute dollars available to spend on memory. Over the next year, as more advanced third-generation (3G) phones grow to represent a larger percentage of the market, the possibility exists that the memory budget of wireless handsets will rise.

- EE Times

Mark DeVoss is the senior analyst, flash /SRAM/MCP at iSuppli Corp. DeVoss can be contacted at:

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