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The latest mobile DRAM market analysis by DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, finds that smartphone makers continue to upgrade memory specifications of their devices as to get the optimal performances from the latest mobile operating systems. At the same time, more products within the mainstream application processor lines are supporting the latest-generation memory solutions. The developments, together with advances in DRAM manufacturing processes, have accelerated the pace of market adoption for LPDDR4 and its variant LPDDR4X.
According to DRAMeXchange, the bit output of LPDDR4X continues to expand and its share in the total bit shipments of mobile DRAM products is projected to surpass that of LPDDR4 this second quarter. Not only has LPDDR4X reached price parity with LPDDR4, its price difference with LPDDR3 has narrowed down to less than 5% on average. As a result, the pace of generational transition in the mobile memory market has taken off. DRAMeXchange estimates that together LPDDR4 and its variant will account for more than 50% of the total shipments of mobile DRAM products for 2017. Therefore products from the LPDDR4 generation will formally replace those belonging to the earlier LPDDR3 generation as the market mainstream.
According to DRAMeXchange, the growth of mobile form factors in the consumer electronics market has widen the uses of mobile DRAM. Besides smartphones, mobile DRAM products are found in ultrabooks (very thin high-end notebooks), IoT devices, wearables, smart HD TVs and even automotive electronic components for self-driving systems.
DRAMeXchange points out that while LPDDR4 offers improved performances over LPDDR3, the urgent need to reduce power consumption in smartphone design has led to the surging adoption of LPDDR4X, which is the lower voltage variant of LPDDR4. Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron have begun to release LPDDR4X products since the second half of 2016 to address this increasing demand for more energy efficient memory solutions. According to data provided by these three suppliers, the power consumption of LPDDR4X components on average is about 10~20% less than that of LPDDR4 components and 40~50% less than that of LPDDR3 components.
Though LPDDR4 and LPDDR4X share the same basic frontend manufacturing process, they diverge in backend packaging and testing processes. LPDDR4X has a different power in design and go through a more stringent sorting process. Most mid-range and high-end application processors that are on the market this year support LPDDR4X. Examples include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 and 660 and MediaTek’s P20 and P30.
A look at major DRAM suppliers’ technologies and production schedules shows that Samsung is currently the market leader in LPDDR4X solutions. Samsung was the first to release18nm LPDDR4X products in the fourth quarter of 2016. SK Hynix quickly followed Samsung by rolling out 21nm LPDDR4X products. Both companies initially offered discrete LPDDR4X components with capacities of 4GB and 6GB. These solutions mainly target the latest flagship smartphones. Now in this second quarter, Samsung and SK Hynix have also released LPDDR4X eMCPs.
U.S.-based Micron caught up with the South Korean memory makers this first quarter by putting its 20nm discrete LPDDR4X components on to the market. Micron’s LPDDR4X eMCPs have also been available since this second quarter.