Mobile DRAM revenue hits a record high in Q2

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 an IHS iSuppli. Mobile DRAM revenues amounted to $1.85 billion in the second quarter, up from $1.83 billion in the first quarter.

“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 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.

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 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.

Fellow South Korean entity SK Hynix Semiconductor was No. 2 behind Samsung with sales of $362 million, down from $366 million in the first quarter and from $377 million the same time a year ago. Despite the loss, SK Hynix continued to hold down a fairly sizable share—equivalent to nearly 20 percent of the total mobile DRAM space.

Elpida was in third place with a 13 percent share based on mobile DRAM revenue of $245 million, up sequentially by 12 percent; while in fourth place Micron saw its share amount to 4 percent in light of $79 million in revenue, down 30 percent on the quarter.

For SK Hynix and Elpida in particular, the two have seen their share of activity increase at Apple during the past months because they supply mobile DRAM for the iPhone. Apple and Samsung, meanwhile, continue to challenge each other—in both the courtroom and the marketplace—with their mobile products.


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