LONDON – Japan is responsible for 97 percent of digital compass IC production and is home to the four leading manufacturers. All came through the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, according to market researcher IHS iSuppli.
The world's top four suppliers of digital compasses are Japanese firms AKM Semiconductor, Yamaha, Aichi Steel and Alps, IHS iSuppli said.
Nonetheless supplies could be constrained just because the market is expanding so rapidly with inclusion of these devices in smartphones, tablet and other computers.
Global demand for digital compasses increased to 263 million units in 2010, up 354 percent from 58 million in 2009. By 2015, shipments will rise to 1.28 billion, according to IHS iSuppli (El Segundo, Calif.).
"Digital compass usage is rising rapidly, with the device becoming a standard feature in tablets and in cell phones equipped with the global positioning system feature," said Jeremie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) and sensors at IHS. "These devices were employed in Apple Inc.'s iPhone 3 and iPhone 4, and can be found in virtually every Android phone. The compass also is a mandatory hardware feature for devices using Microsoft Corp.'s Mobile Windows 7. Likewise, digital compasses are starting to find their way into gaming — for example, in the Move controller and the upcoming Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) 2 from Sony Corp."
AKM's main fab is located on Kyushu island and far to the south of quake's epicenter. It produces electronic compasses for the iPad 2 tablet and has not been damaged, iSuppli said.
No. 2 supplier Yamaha said its plant manufacturing digital compasses also was undamaged by the quake and that it is not experiencing the power outages plaguing companies in other parts of the country, according to the market researcher.
According to iSuppli no. 3 supplier Aichi Steel operates its digital compass fab in Aichi Ken near Nagoya. The company said this facility has suffered no damage and that there has been no delay in shipments.
And fourth-ranked supplier Alps said that although its compass fab is located in Nagaoka, near the earthquake zone, the facility is operating normally, again according to iSuppli.
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