SAN FRANCISCO—Shipments of MEMS microphones grew 57 percent in 2012 on the strength of uptake in cellphones, laptops, headsets and media tablets, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.
More growth is expected in 2013. IHS projects that shipments of MEMS microphones will grow 30 percent this year to 2.66 billion units, up from 2.05 billion units in 2012. The market research firm forecasts at least three more years of double digit growth for MEMS mics after this year, culminating in shipment levels of 4.65 billion by 2016.
Revenue from MEMS mics is enjoying a corresponding upswing, rising 42 percent to $582 million in 2012, according to IHS. The firm projects that revenue for the devices will hit $1 billion by 2016.
According to said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS, microphones continue to be one of the biggest success stories in MEMS. In addition to rapid uptake in cellphones, laptops, headsets and media tablets, MEMS sensors can also be found to a lesser extent in applications such as gaming, cameras, televisions and hearing aids, Bouchaud said. He added that he expects further utilization for MEMS microphones in set-top boxes this year and to automotive during the next three years.
Cellphones are by far the top applications for MEMS microphones. According to IHS, penetration of MEMS microphones in cellphones rose to 69 percent last year, up from 52 percent in 2011 and 38 percent in 2010. In particular, multiple microphones are now being adopted in smartphones for noise suppression, in which the cancellation of ambient sounds is crucial for handsets when carrying out voice commands, IHS noted.
The total number of microphones per handset is also on the rise. While midrange to high-end smartphones mostly used two microphones in 2010 and 2011, three microphones are fast becoming standard ever since Apple introduced a third device on the back of the iPhone 5 for high-definition video recording, IHS said.
Tablets are expected to become the second biggest application for MEMS microphones by 2016, IHS said. The first tablets on the market—including Apple Inc.’s original iPad—used electret condenser microphones, MEMS microphones had started to appear by the second generation of tablets, IHS said. New use cases for noise suppression and voice commands are expected to add to the total device count moving forward, resulting in as many as four microphones in some tablets in the future, according to IHS.
MEMS microphones were also present in more than half of laptop computers last year, as well as in headsets for the iPhone 4 and 4S, IHS said.
Both Apple and Samsung were the top consumers of MEMS microphones last year, accounting for a combined 54 percent of all shipped MEMS microphones, well ahead of other significant users like LG Electronics and Motorola, IHS said.
The top supplier of MEMS microphones was U.S.-based Knowles Electronics, which continued to dominate even though its share of shipments last year slipped to 58 percent, down from 74 percent in 2011, on the face of increased competition, IHS said. Knowles is a second supplier of MEMS microphones for the iPhone, and is a first supplier for the iPad mini, according to the firm.