Worldwide mobile DRAM revenue increased by 6% to US$3.46 billion in the third quarter, representing 29% of DRAM industry value, according to DRAMeXchange, a division of Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce. As global DRAM supply remains tight, despite a slight decline in mobile memory prices, industry value still rose in the third quarter on the back of increased bit output.
“For the fourth quarter, Apple is leading the pack with iPhone 6 shipments, while other smartphone makers are lowering their shipment forecasts,” said Avril Wu, assistant vice president of DRAMeXchange. “As the iPhone’s 1GB of LPDDR3 does not significantly benefit overall mobile DRAM consumption and market demand is slowing due to seasonality, average selling price could decline further in the fourth quarter. Looking at discrete and PoP product contract prices, 8Gb and 16Gb LPDDR2 and LPDDR3 prices are forecast to fall by around 3% while other products should see prices stay flat, Wu added.
With the gradual arrival of LPDDR4 next year, which DRAM makers will produce on their most advanced process technology, 8Gb mono die will be the mainstream specification for LPDDR4, while 16Gb and 32Gb will follow. Next year, major smartphone manufacturers are expected to release smartphones with 4GB of mobile memory. Looking ahead to 2015, since Apple announced the iPad Air 2 would use 2GB of mobile memory, the next-generation iPhone is expected to have the same amount. Along with conservative DRAM capacity expansion and manufacturers focused on profits, the mobile memory market is expected to see healthy price trends.
Mobile DRAM Manufacturer Highlights
Samsung’s mobile DRAM revenue increased by 18.4% in the third quarter, bringing market share to 50.7%, nearly twice that of SK Hynix. Now that Samsung is back in Apple’s supply chain, SK Hynix and Micron are expected to lose orders, widening the gap between the memory makers. Samsung is busy producing 23nm LPDDR products, which have the best cost structure. With reliable product quality, Samsung is the most profitable memory maker in the industry.
SK Hynix did not experience revenue growth in the third quarter. Although bit output increased, the memory maker is behind Samsung, resulting in a slight market share decline. In the fourth quarter, migration to the 25nm process and increasing the production ratio of LPDDR3 will help improve SK Hynix’s profits.
Micron’s market share was 19% in the quarter to September as the US manufacturer continues to lose 3-4% of the market each quarter. Until its MCP and eMCP products hit the market, Micron’s mobile DRAM shipments are highly dependent on its main client Apple. As a result, Micron’s average selling price is the lowest of the three major manufacturers.
Nanya’s mobile DRAM revenue grew by 98% in the third quarter, a result of increased capacity due to client demand. Mobile memory accounted for 14% of Nanya’s revenue, up from 8% in the previous quarter, and the Taiwanese manufacturer’s market share increased to 1.8%. Nanya is still focusing on KGD product sales, but the manufacturer is cooperating with top-tier module makers on eMCP products. As volume production of LPDDR3 begins in the second half of the year, Nanya will be able to join the eMCP and MCP battle, increasing its mobile DRAM capacity.
Winbond’s mobile DRAM revenue fell by 11% in the third quarter, putting market share at 0.9%. Mobile memory accounted for 11% of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s total revenue, a 2% decrease resulting from client-end inventory adjustments. As for technology, 46nm product sales account for 60% of mobile DRAM revenue but will be adjusted in the future based on client demand. Winbond may increase capacity to 40K wafers per month at the end of the year, with 44K wafers per month possible for next year, as the ratio of mobile DRAM production continues to climb.