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Electronics Production | December 16, 2008

iPhone Mania boosts MEMS-Market

The success of Apple'’s iPhone is spurring competitors to offer products with comparable features, fueling a sales boom for Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometers used to detect motion in smart phones.
“Apple’s visionary use of MEMS accelerometers that support the automatic switch from landscape to portrait view on the iPhone display has prompted a flood of competitors to follow suit,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, principal analyst for MEMS at iSuppli.

“Mobile handset makers now are adopting accelerometers for this purpose and for other human-interface or power-savings applications, causing sales growth of MEMS for this application to exceed all expectations. Because of this, the mobile-handset industry has become the driver of the MEMS market, starting in the second half of 2008. This is truly a watershed event for the global MEMS business.”

By the end of 2008, 10 percent of the 1.29 billion mobile devices shipped worldwide will include MEMS accelerometers, up from 2 percent at the end of 2007. This will help the global MEMS accelerometer market for mobile phones and other consumer electronics to grow to 900 million units in 2012, up from 65 million in 2007.

It also will significantly boost the market for all types of MEMS for mobile handsets. As presented in the attached figure, global revenue from shipments of all types of MEMS for mobile handsets and smart phones will increase to $1.3 billion by the end of 2012, rising at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 34.4 percent from $296.8 million in 2007.

“Mobile-handset accelerometer sales long have been driven by suppliers that are pushing the technology,” Bouchaud said. “However, the market is now demanding this feature, preventing the MEMS industry from falling into the doldrums with most of the rest of the electronics market.”

The gains in mobile-handset accelerometer sales are offsetting declines seen in other areas, including Rear-Projection Televisions (RPTVs). The decline in RPTV shipments already has impacted the MEMS market and sales are not expected to recover until 2010.

Accelerometer suppliers like STMicroelectronics, Bosch, Analog Devices and Kionix are the major beneficiaries of the increased use of MEMS accelerometers for mobile handsets, iSuppli believes.

Game on
Video game console controllers represent another bright spot for MEMS gyroscopes and accelerometers, with their revenue growing at a CAGR of 11 percent to reach $240 million in 2012, up from 28 in 2006, due to their adoption in well-known platforms like the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3. Microsoft also is heavily promoting MEMS accelerometer-based accessories for the holidays, like Guitar Hero and Lips.

PCs also will be a hotbed for MEMS demand in the coming years.

“MEMS motion sensors that detect free-fall in laptops to help protect their Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) have become a standard feature for commercial products, and will begin to significantly penetrate consumer models in 2009,” Bouchaud said. “Digital MEMS microphones also will become a more prevalent feature in laptops to enhance Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications. These two applications will grow at a CAGR of about 22 percent to reach $182 million in 2012, up from $68 million in 2007.”

In terms of volume, the largest product sectors for all types of MEMS are accelerometers and microphones, followed by Film Bulk Acoustic Resonator (FBAR) filters.

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