Smartphones to pass feature phones in flash memory consumption

November 27, 2012 // By Dylan McGrath
Smartphones will account for a larger share of NAND flash memory usage than feature phones for the first time in 2013, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.

About 792 million flash memory units—including both NOR and NAND varieties—will ship in 2013 to smartphones, compared to 703 million units for feature phones, according to an IHS memory market report. Flash memory units in smartphones are projected to increase 29 percent compared to 2012's projected total of 613 million units, while feature phone flash consumption is expected to decline 11 percent from a projected 790 million units this year, according to the report.

"Because feature phones this year will remain the largest segment of the global mobile handset market, they will continue to consume the largest amount of flash memory of any single type of phone," said Ryan Chien, analyst for memory and storage at IHS, in a statement. "However, a permanent reversal will ensue next year as smartphones overtake feature phones in total units and flash memory shipments. This illustrates the rising influence of smartphones within technology markets."

Although smartphones will make up the lion's share of the handset market in years to come, IHS said it expects feature phones to continue to make up a substantial portion of flash memory shipments in the years ahead, accounting for well over 500 million units each year through 2016.

Flash memory densities continue to rise as bit costs erode and as feature phones grow in sophistication to meet the changing needs of consumers, especially in the emerging markets of the developing world where consumers are becoming increasingly mobile-centric, according to IHS. High-density NOR remains common in feature phones because of its superior speed for code execution, while NAND densities of 128 megabytes can now be found in mainstream feature handsets in order to handle applications and media storage, the firm said.