Press Release

DRAM Content Rises and Becomes More Uniform in Smartphones


The average amount of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) in each smartphone shipped worldwide is expected to surge by nearly 50 percent this year, as these advanced cellphones gain greater functionality, according to an IHS iSuppli DRAM Dynamics Market Brief from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).

Average DRAM content in smartphones will expand to 666 megabytes (MB) this year, up from 453MB in 2011 and 202MB in 2010.

The average density of DRAM chips in smartphones also is climbing and becoming more uniform. The 4-gigabit (Gb) chip this year commands roughly a 37 percent share of the DRAM market for smartphones, followed closely by the 8Gb chip configuration with 36 percent.

Next year, however, the 8Gb chip will take over the market with a leading 46 percent share among smartphones, while share of this year’s winner, the 4Gb, will decline to 28 percent, as shown in the figure below.

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. 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.

“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,” said Clifford Leimbach, analyst for memory demand forecasting at IHS. “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.”

Teardowns Show Rising DRAM Usage in Smartphones
In another sign that DRAM use is growing in smartphones, the DRAM configurations found by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis service in its dissections of phones confirmed a trend of increasing DRAM loading in the devices. None of the smartphone models being analyzed last year had more than 800MB of DRAM. This year, however, all had at least 1,024MB—or 1 gigabyte (GB)—except for the Nokia Lumia 900 and the Apple iPhone 4S, both of which featured 512MB of DRAM.

It was not clear why the Lumia had less DRAM than its competitors, but it was the only phone in the sample using the Windows operating system. And DRAM for the new iPhone 5 has risen to 1,024MB due to new features that the phone has added, such as a more powerful processor and more memory-intensive applications, IHS notes. The other torn down phones with at least 1GB of DRAM included the Note and Galaxy S3 from Samsung, the Droid Razr XT912 from Motorola and the One X from HTC.

The rise of DRAM densities as well as increased DRAM loading in smartphones is matched by even more aggressive growth of another type of memory in smartphones—NAND flash.

A year ago, NAND configuration in smartphones ranged from as little as 1GB or 2GB for discrete NAND. This year, none of the phones observed by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis service had less than 16GB of internal NAND capacitya sizable leap for sure.

Read More > Smartphones’ Internal Memory Beginning to Look the Same