LONDON Good news for suppliers of MEMS based accelerometers such as STMicroelectronics, Kionix Inc., Freescale and ADI. A report from market trackers iSuppli predicts that by next year, one out of three mobile phones shipped worldwide will include one, up from one out of five in 2009, and one out of 11 in 2008.
Their take-up is being spurred by the success of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone and Palm Inc.'s Pre, where they play an essential role in the user interfaces.
"While few consumers know what accelerometers are, they do know that when they turn their iPhones to the side, their screens automatically adjust from portrait to landscape view, or that when they shake their handsets they can roll a pair of virtual dice in a game of chance," notes Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst, Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) for iSuppli.
"With their capability to detect and measure motion, accelerometers are the critical enablers of these features, which are an essential element of what makes these smart phones so popular. These capabilities now are spreading beyond smart phones to other types of handsets," adds Bouchaud.
Beyond game play and screen orientation, the most popular uses for 3-axis MEMS accelerometer motion sensors in phones include power management and shake modes for control of tracks in music phones, context awareness and pedometers.
Looking specifically at the top mobile-phone OEMs, 38 percent of new Nokia handsets platforms have integrated motion-sensing accelerometers since January, suggests iSuppli.
Sony Ericsson had the highest penetration of accelerometers, with 18 out of 19 new phones models introduced this year. Samsung and LG also are offering new phones with 3-axis accelerometers.
The market research group suggests that since the beginning of this year, of the several hundred phones already introduced, 18.3 percent of the models integrated an accelerometer. iSuppli expects the penetration of accelerometers in new models to rise in the second half of 2009.
Partly as a consequence of this pace of adoption, as well as the use of other MEMS, the market for microelectromechanical sensors for mobile phones is estimated to more than triple from 2008 to 2013.
Global revenue from sales of MEMS for mobile phones will rise to $1.6 billion in 2013, up from $460.9 million in 2008 and $780.6 million in 2010, says iSuppli.
Beyond accelerometers, other MEMS devices already used in mobile phones include microphones, BAW duplexers and filters, MEMS autofocus actuators, pressure sensors and even MEMS pico-projectors. MEMS gyroscopes will join the fray in early 2010.
Teardowns by Portelligent showed that the iPhone 3GS uses a 3-axis MEMS accelerometer from ST Microelectronics, while the Palm Pre includes one from Kionix.
ST slims MEMS accelerometer profile for ultrathin consumer gear
Accelerometer offers orientation, shake and tap detection
MEMS ready to lead component revolution
A first look inside the Palm Pre
UPDATE: B'com, Toshiba win sockets in iPhone 3GS