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NAND spreads to mid-range wireless handsets

Posted: 05 Jun 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile phone? teardown? NAND flash? iSuppli? Mark DeVoss?

iSuppli Corp.'s latest set of mobile phone teardowns reveals that NAND-type flash memory is seeing more widespread use in wireless handsets outside of the highest-end models.

Seven new mobile phones were torn down by iSuppli in the first quarter. Six of them were mid-range models, including one CDMA phone, and one was a high-end GSM handset. These handsets were commercially available in the fourth quarter of 2005 and now are being sold worldwide.

Among the mid-range phones, memory densities ranged from 128Mbits of NOR flash and 16Mbits of pseudo SRAM (PSRAM) to 256Mbits of NOR flash, 128Mbits of PSRAM and 512Mbits of OneNAND.

OneNAND is a type of NAND flash memory sold by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd that integrates a NAND controller and the NAND array onto a single die and interfaces to the host system with an asynchronous SRAM-like interface.

The high-end phone consisted of 256Mbits of NOR, 128Mbits of PSRAM and a 1Gbit of OneNAND. Only one model, one of the mid-range phones, had an external memory slot. All of the memory solutions for the phones were implemented via multichip packaging solutions.

The total direct bill-of-materials cost for the mid-range devices ranged from $79.69 to $80.29, while the associated memory costs for the mid-range handsets varied from $5.80 to $16.90. The memory varied from 7.6 to 17.7 percent of the total direct material costs for the respective models. The high-end model had a direct material cost of $111.10 and a memory cost of $19.95, or 17.6 percent of the total.

For the mid-range handsets, the NOR densities ranged from 128Mbits to 384Mbits and the PSRAM densities varied from 16Mbits to 128Mbits. The average NOR density was 29Mbytes, while PSRAM was at 8Mbytes.

Five of the six mid-range models used excess NOR capacity, i.e. capacity beyond what is required for code storage, to capture and store data. The other two units used OneNAND as a companion data storage device but still relied on the combination of NOR and PSRAM to store and execute the operating and applications code.

In the mid-range handsets, the total direct-material costs varied by nearly $20 from the cheapest to the most expensive, with the range being from $76.79 to $95.74. However, among these phones, the memory budget had only a $10.60 spread from least to most expensive. Despite this, the memory content from a megabyte perspective ranged from a low of 18Mbytes to a high of 56Mbytes for models without a companion data-storage memory, to a high of 120Mbytes for those with a companion data device.

This translates to a range 32 cents per megabyte to 14 cents per megabyte respectively.

he table summarizes the memory content in the recent teardowns, plus the relative ranking of the five most expensive components in the phones.

As time progresses, mobile-phone memory will be under tremendous pressure to increase density and to provide even more aggressive price points per megabyte. This will allow the mobile-phone replacement cycle to remain frequent and the level of service to increase, thus keeping consumers coming back to buy new products.

This process will force the memory suppliers to add more value to their products, while the service providers and handset manufacturers need to keep mixing and matching combinations of components to bring compelling products to market.

- Mark DeVoss
iSuppli Corp.

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