With smartphone applications soaring exponentially, the next generation of devices will need far more storage space to hold them all, as well as megabits of music, photos and other data. And memory chipmakers seem ready to meet that demand.
SanDisk this week released its biggest capacity storage card, the 32GB MicroSD, which contains a stack of eight 4GB chips. Only a millimeter thick, or 0.039th of an inch, and weighing 0.5 grams, or 0.176 of an ounce, it has enough memory for thousands of songs or 10 hours of video.
High Price for High Density
It's the highest-capacity removable memory card available for smartphones -- double the size of widely used 16GB cards -- and will be available to both consumers and manufacturers for $200, four times more than the 16GB cards and more expensive than some smartphones after rebates. Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk previously released a 32GB card for use in digital cameras.
The new card is based on a 32-nanometer process, which means memory cells are crammed into a space 32 billionths of a meter.
"With the large volume of photos, videos and music that consumers create and carry around, a high-capacity memory card is a must-have component of today's smartphone," SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said. "This is the highest-capacity card of its type, and SanDisk is pleased to be the first to ship such an advanced product."
Last month, IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture of Intel and Micron, announced that it had created a 8GB flash memory card based on a 25-nanometer process and NAND technology. Samsung is also planning to announce a 32GB card this month.
"With all the new applications being offered, more space will be needed to download on the devices," said Kirk Parsons, a senior telecommunications analyst for J.D. Power and Associates. "Currently, there isn't enough default disk space on devices to support everything folks want to download. It's a great growth segment of the market, as all the future innovative services are now being written for mobile devices."
Straining Data Networks
Increased storage capacity may be a boon to developers who will see more of their applications downloaded per customer, but encouraging more downloads will also strain current and future wireless networks struggling to handle the demands of the mobile Internet craze.
Parsons said the disks will allow storing "all the current content everyone has already, such as music videos, pictures, etcetera."
The SanDisk card would supplement the internal memory of smartphones, which can average 16GB to 32GB. But Windows Phone 7 Series devices won't support expandable memory, a Microsoft official recently announced.
IM Flash Technologies is also determined to push the storage envelope, having doubled the density of its products every 18 months since 2006, from a 50-nanometer process to 36 and now to 25.