© david alary Analysis | November 12, 2014

iPhone 6 increases demand for NAND flash in smartphones

iPhone shipments in 2014 increased to 188.1 million units, up 22% on year, as strong demand for the new large-screen iPhone 6 reversed a year of declining sales, according to DRAMeXchange, a division of the Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.
“The strong performance of the iPhone 6 reaffirms Apple’s leadership position among high-end smartphone vendors,” said Sean Yang, an assistant vice president at DRAMeXchange. The iPhone is also notable because it shows Apple is willing to equip its handsets with larger screens, Yang said. The iPhone 6 is available with either a 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch screen, while previous generations of the Apple handset had smaller, 4-inch screens. At the same time, Apple’s pricing and storage capacity strategies are becoming more aggressive, Yang added.

With advances in NAND flash manufacturing technology since 2012, production has become more efficient, leading to a reduction in prices. The cost of 64GB and 128GB chips is not significantly higher than last year’s 32GB and 64GB chips. Additionally, since Apple is the world’s largest consumer of NAND flash chips, it pays vendors less for the chips than its competitors. Those procurement advantages give Apple more room to utilize NAND flash strategically, Yang said.

Whenever Apple has released a new iPhone, each model with additional storage capacity has been successively more expensive by $100, but for the first time this year, both the 32GB and 64GB models have the same price as previous 32GB models. TrendForce believes this will drive production of NAND flash and cause competition in the industry to intensify. Consumers are also more willing to pay for additional storage capacity handsets, which will boost NAND flash usage in the future, Yang said. DRAMeXchange forecasts the iPhone 's NAND Flash consumption – the percentage it comprises of overall NAND flash usage globally – will increase from 10% this year to 18% in 2015.

Although NAND flash prices will fluctuate in the short term, the long-term outlook for the industry is good. Strong demand for the iPhone 6 will continue. The new iPad, Macbook and Apple Watch will also require OEM manufacturers to bolster NAND flash production capacity.


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