Apple will consume 25% of all DRAM in the world next year

Largest DRAM makers are ramping production to meet Apple’s growing appetite

6Gb mobile DRAM

Apple's consumption of mobile DRAM will grow from 16.5% of the industry's total production volume today to 25% in 2015 as the company outfits more smartphones, tablets and even laptops with DRAM, according to a new report.

Since 2011, Apple has been the biggest consumer of NAND flash, according to IDC Research. Its iPod and iPhone are generally considered responsible for increasing the use -- and lowering the overall price -- of NAND, making it a more viable storage medium for other products, such as solid-state drives (SSDs).

According to DRAMeXchange, a subsidiary of the Taiwan-based market research firm TrendForce, while the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has created a global consumer frenzy, Apple fans are still anticipating the release of the next iPad Air, which is expected to have 2GB of DRAM, and the next Macbook Pro, which will be equipped with LPDDR3 DRAM for the first time.

"Since Apple is already a major player in the mobile DRAM market, PC DRAM manufacturers will switch to mobile DRAM to meet the company's demands," Avril Wu, assistant vice president of DRAMeXchange, said in a statement. "This has indirectly caused supply shortages in the PC DRAM and server DRAM sectors."

According to Wu, chip leader Samsung is expected to adjust its 2015 DRAM production expansion plans after rejoining Apple's supply chain earlier this year.

Last week, Samsung announced it has begun mass-producing its 6Gb, low-power double data rate 3 (LPDDR3) mobile DRAM chip, based on advanced 20 nanometer (nm) process technology. The chip vastly increases density while reducing manufacturing costs.

20nm dram Samsung

Samsung's 20nm process mobile DRAM.

SK Hynix is also increasing overall mobile DRAM production capacity, as well, to attract Apple orders, Wu added. "That strategy has borne fruit, as Apple has become its second largest mobile DRAM client," he said in his report.

SK Hynix is currently investing billions of dollars to build new chip manufacturing plants, while also revamping operations in others to produce more DRAM.

To that end, DRAMeXchange believes changes at SK Hynix's 20-year-old M10 factory in Korea are aimed at offering Apple more flexible mobile DRAM production capacity.

The third largest producer of DRAM chips, Micron Group, is another major Apple supplier. It has designated 70% to 80% of mobile DRAM production capacity at its factory in Hiroshima for Apple orders, Wu stated.

With Micron's introduction of 25nm, and even 20nm, processing into its mobile DRAM mass production plan, production volume is expected to be scaled up to meet Apple's demand in the second half of 2015.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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