Revenue for mobile dynamic random access memory (DRAM) rose to the highest level yet in the second quarter driven by increased bit shipments and relatively steady pricing, according to industry analysts IHS iSuppli. Mobile DRAM revenue amounted to $1.85 billion in the second quarter, up from $1.83 billion in the first quarter, as shown in the figure attached.
“The increase marked the fourth straight quarter of growth for mobile DRAM revenue,” said Mike Howard, senior principal analyst for DRAM & memory at IHS. “This sustained growth is courtesy of the continued propulsive expansion of the smartphone and tablet markets, the two main consumers of mobile DRAM. The second quarter this year also marked a new revenue record for the segment, exceeding the peak reached in the first quarter. The achievement is notable: While the overall DRAM market is down in 2012 compared to year-ago levels, mobile DRAM revenue is trending higher.”
Mobile DRAM is the DRAM variant currently preferred for use in mobile applications, including a variety of consumer electronics devices.
Mobile DRAM on the move
In yet another sign of the mobile segment’s growing importance to the overall DRAM space, mobile DRAM commanded more than 26 percent of all DRAM revenue during the second quarter—a significant improvement from 19 percent the same time a year ago, and from 11 percent two years ago in 2010.
Two reasons account for mobile DRAM’s rising market clout. First, mobile DRAM’s share of total DRAM bit shipments is now at 17.8 percent, up from 7.9 percent in the first quarter.
Second, the price of mobile DRAM has fallen less than that of its besieged cousin, commodity DRAM. While commodity DRAM historically has been subject to great swings in pricing—with the product losing as much as half of its value from the second to the fourth quarter last year alone—mobile DRAM pricing is less vulnerable, falling 10 percent per quarter on average.
Mobile DRAM also tends to be priced according to manufacturing cost, not based on the general balance between supply and demand. As a result, DRAM companies are able to earn a more reasonable margin for their mobile memory products—unlike in commodity DRAM, where negative margins are frequently the rule.
Samsung is tops; Micron is down
Samsung Electronics continued its unshakable hold at the top of the mobile DRAM market in the second quarter, with sales of $1.1 billion, or a remarkable 61 percent of the global mobile DRAM market. With the success of smartphones such as the Galaxy S III, the South Korean electronics titan also is now one of the world’s largest consumers of mobile DRAM. Samsung enjoyed a 3 percent improvement in sales during the quarter, and its year-to-year growth was even more impressive at 35 percent.