Components | September 01, 2011

Tablets & smartphones spur record MEMS revenue growth in 2011

Benefitting from its exposure to the hot tablet and smartphone and businesses, the market for MEMS in consumer electronics and mobile communications devices is set to generate record growth in 2011, states IHS iSuppli.
Revenue for consumer and mobile MEMS—the largest and most dynamic sector of the MEMS market—will hit USD 2.25 billion in 2011, up by a best-ever annual expansion rate of 37%. This compares to the previous high-water mark of 27% in 2010 when revenue reached USD 1.64 billion.

Overall, the five-year revenue forecast starting from 2010 calls for growth by a factor of nearly three to USD 4.54 billion in 2015, equivalent to a compound annual growth rate of 22.5%.

“From the accelerometers and gyroscopes that provide intuitive motion-based displays, to the microphones that allow people to talk on the phone, to the bulk acoustic wave filters that facilitate wireless Internet access, MEMS devices provide many of the basic functions that make tablets and smartphones such compelling products.” said JĂ©rĂ©mie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. “Because of this, MEMS content in these devices is increasing, driving the expansion of the entire consumer and mobile MEMS market.”

Beyond the 3-axis gyroscopes, accelerometers, microphones and bulk acoustic wave filters already found in tablets and smartphones, a new class of emerging MEMS sensors is stimulating growth. In this category are devices such as thermopiles, varactors, timing devices, pressure sensors for indoor navigation, radio frequency MEMS switches and actuators used for autofocus functions in high-megapixel cameras and pico projectors.

The real blockbuster this year, however, is the 3-axis gyroscope, a standard MEMS device that when used in conjunction with an accelerometer and a digital compass allows for more accurate, smoother and faster motion sensing for applications such as gaming and augmented reality. Revenue in 2011 for 3-axis gyroscopes will soar to USD 420 million, up from USD 127 million last year.

The 3-axis gyroscope can be found in smartphones such as the iPhone 4 from Apple and the Galaxy SII from Samsung Electronics; in virtually all tablet devices, including the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab; as well as in gaming devices like the PlayStation Move motion controller from Sony.

Overall, gyroscopes this year will generate the second-highest revenue among consumer and mobile MEMS, second only to accelerometers, the device that allows smartphones to rotate from a portrait to landscape orientation and vice versa.

Not surprisingly, mobile handsets—including smartphones—will be the largest application for MEMS this year. MEMS revenue for handsets will reach USD 1.21 billion, approximately 50% of the total consumer and mobile MEMS space.

In second place will be gaming with USD 221.49 million in revenue, followed by media tablets with USD 158.64 million. MEMS revenue from tablets, in particular, will show the fastest growth, up an astounding 331% from USD 36.83 million in 2010, and is set to overtake gaming next year to clinch second place.

For its part, gaming will decline this year and the next because of the saturation of the casual gaming market, before it expands again in the 2013-2015 time period as new platforms arrive that use motion sensors.

Unlike gaming, however, nearly all other segments in the space will boast continued growth, including laptops, standalone projectors, cameras, white goods, MP3 players, remote controllers, battery chargers for PCs, toy helicopters, personal navigation devices and ebook readers.

Two new MEMS devices were introduced earlier this year. One was a new type of joystick launched in April by Knowles Electronics, the leading manufacturer of MEMS microphones. The MEMS joystick forgoes optical or magnetic sensors, is slimmer and less power-hungry. The device soon should start finding its way into gaming accessories for handsets and tablets, IHS believes.

The second new MEMS device for the year is a thermopile, introduced in May by Texas Instruments Inc., the top MEMS manufacturer overall. The thermopile, a contactless temperature sensor, can be placed into a phone or tablet next to the processor to monitor the temperature of the phone or tablet case. By controlling the dissipated heat, the thermopile helps to better tune the operations of the processor as well as push its limits to extract optimal performance.
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