SAN FRANCISCO—Apple Inc.'s iPad accounts for nearly 80 percent of the NAND flash memory used in media tablets and is expected to continue to dominate worldwide demand for NAND in tablets through at least 2015, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.
Apple's iPad accounted for 78 percent of the global gigabyte shipments of NAND for use in media tablets in 2011, down from 92 percent in 2010, according to IHS. Despite the inroads of competitors this year, Apple will continue to dominate tablet NAND purchasing in 2012, with a 72 percent share of gigabyte shipments, the firm projected. By 2015, Apple will continue to account for a majority of tablet NAND purchasing, at 58 percent, according to IHS's forecast.
"Apple’s continued domination of the sales of NAND flash for media tablets reflects not only the iPad’s commanding market share lead, but its extensive memory usage," said Dee Nguyen, memory analyst at IHS, in a statement. "In keeping with its status as a high-end offering in the tablet market, the iPad employs a larger density of NAND than its competitors. Because of this, Apple’s iPad will continue to drive the growth of NAND sales in the tablet market for the next several years."
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Overall shipments of NAND flash for all media tablets will rise to 16.3 billion gigabytes by 2015, up by a factor of 10 from 1.6 billion gigabytes in 2011, IHS projected. By 2015, media tablets will account for 17 percent of global NAND shipments, up from 9 percent in 2011, the firm said.
The new iPad model comes with memory configurations identical to its predecessor, with 16-, 32-, and 64-gigabyte options, costing the consumer $100 to go from one memory configuration to the next, IHS noted. The firm estimates that the average NAND density of the iPad will grow 9.4 percent in 2012 to 33.8 gigabytes per unit.
IHS noted that demand has been tepid for competing high-end media tablets. The most successful the tablets other than iPads have come at the lower end of the spectrum, where NAND memory densities are considerably smaller, IHS said. Such tablets are attractive to consumers that have been priced out of the Apple market, the firm said.
IHS estimates that the average NAND density for non-iPad media tablets will come in at 20.2 gigabytes in 2012, making up just 3.2 percent of total NAND demand.
While the iPad has proven to be a NAND glutton, its appetite for the other major type of semiconductor memory, DRAM, has been more restrained, IHS said. The first iPad used just 2 gigabits of mobile DRAM, while iPad 2 used 4 gigabits, IHS said. Even while increasing the amount of NAND used, iPad 2 still manager to keep its DRAM content lower than most of its competitors—and even compared to many of the smartphones that were launched in 2011.
"Apple has been able to limit the amount of DRAM usage in the iPad because its iOS operating system and hardware are designed in tandem and optimized for each other," said Mike Howard, senior principal analyst for DRAM and memory at IHS. "Android, however, doesn’t enjoy this luxury. As a result, many Android handsets and tablets shipped with 8 Gigabits of DRAM in 2011."
The higher resolution screen and improved graphics of the newest iPad likely will result in another doubling of DRAM content to 8 gigabits, IHS said. Still, with Android tablets emerging in 2012 that use 16 gigabits of DRAM, the iPad will continue to appear lean on DRAM, the firm noted.
Tablets as a category so far have put little pressure on the overall supply of DRAM. However, that will change in the years to come, IHS said. In 2012, tablets will consume 3.5 percent of all DRAM; that number will more than double to 8.1 percent in 2016, according to the firm's forecast.
"For a [product] category to go from non-existence to consuming nearly 10 percent of all DRAM in just six years is extraordinary," Howard said.