Smartphones and media tablets drive expansion; 3-axis gyroscope is the star MEMS device
Contributed by Jérémie Bouchaud, Director and Principal Analyst, MEMS, iSuppli
The MEMS market for its largest and most dynamic sector, consumer and mobile devices, is set to generate record growth in 2011 on the back of robust exposure in smart-phone and tablet applications, according to a Consumer & Mobile MEMS Market Tracker report from information and analysis provider IHS.
Revenue in 2011 for consumer and mobile MEMS will hit $2.25 billion, up a best-ever expansion level of 37 percent, compared to the previous high-water mark of 27 percent in 2010 when revenue reached $1.64 billion. Consumer MEMS growth slowed to 6 percent in 2009 during the crucial period of recovery following the deep economic crisis of the prior year, but that has proven to be the only soft spot for the market. Overall, the ﬁve-year revenue prospects starting from 2010 call for solid growth by a factor of nearly three to $4.54 billion in 2015, equivalent to a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 22.5 percent.
Smartphones and tablets are the key drivers to this year’s growth, with the MEMS content in those devices continuing to increase. Not only do smartphones and tablets already have standard MEMS devices such as accelerometers, microphones, bulk acoustic wave ﬁlters and 3-axis gyroscopes, a class of emerging sensors also is stimulating growth. In this category are MEMS devices such as pressure sensors for indoor navigation, MEMS actuators for autofocus in high-megapixel cameras, pico projectors, thermopiles, and possibly MEMS timing devices and RF MEMS switches and varactors.
The real blockbuster this year, however, is the 3-axis gyroscope, a standard MEMS device that when used in conjunction with an accelerometer allows equipment to sense motion on six axes—left, right, up, down, front and back—allowing for more accurate motion sensing. Revenue in 2011 for 3-axis gyroscopes will soar to $420 million, up from $127 million last year. The 3-axis gyroscope can be found in smartphones such as the iPhone 4 from Apple Inc. and the Galaxy SII from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.; in virtually all tablet devices, including the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab; as well as in gaming devices like the PlayStation Move motion controller from Sony Corp.
Overall, gyroscopes this year will generate the second-strongest revenue among consumer and mobile MEMS, second only to accelerometers, the device that allows smartphones to rotate from a portrait to landscape orientation and vice versa.
Not surprisingly, mobile handsets will be the largest application this year. MEMS revenue for handsets will reach $1.21 billion, approximately 50 percent of the total consumer and mobile MEMS space. In second place will be gaming with $221.49 million in revenue, followed by media tablets with $158.64 million. MEMS revenue from tablets, in particular, will show the fastest growth, up an astounding 331 percent from $36.83 million in 2010, and is set to overtake gaming next year to clinch second place.
For its part, gaming will decline this year and the next due to saturation of the casual gaming market, before it expands again in the 2013-2015 time period as new platforms arrive that use motion sensors. Unlike gaming, however, nearly all other segments in the space will boast continued growth, including laptops, standalone projectors, cameras, white goods, MP3 players, remote controllers, battery chargers for PCs, toy helicopters, personal navigation devices and ebook readers.
Two new MEMS devices were introduced earlier this year. One was a new type of joystick launched in April by Knowles Electronics, the leading manufacturer of MEMS microphones. The MEMS joystick forgoes optical or magnetic sensors, is slimmer and less power-hungry. The device soon should start ﬁnding its way into gaming accessories for handsets and tablets, IHS believes.
The second new MEMS device for the year is a thermopile, introduced in May by Texas Instruments Inc., the top MEMS manufacturer overall. The thermopile, a contactless temperature sensor, can be placed into a phone or tablet next to the processor to monitor the temperature of the phone or tablet case. By controlling the dissipated heat, the thermopile helps to better tune the operations of the processor as well as push its limits to extract optimal performance.