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Mobile phones could become biggest flash consumer of 2013

Mobile phones will become the single biggest repository for flash memory by product category this year, IHS iSuppli projected in a new market report released Friday.

Calling its forecast "another sign of the pre-eminent position smartphones now hold in the global technology market," IHS predicted that mobiles of all types will represent 24.6 per cent of worldwide NAND flash memory in 2013, up from 23.3 per cent in 2012.

If that happens it would vault mobiles past flash storage cards as the largest consumer of flash memory for the year. Flash storage cards owned the top spot in 2012 but IHS predicted they would fall to third place this year with a projected 19.7 per cent share of the flash memory market. Solid state drives (SSDs), in fourth place on IHS's list last year, is projected to make up 20.6 per cent of flash consumption and end up in second place behind mobiles.

Rounding off the research firm's forecast were USB flash drives (13.5 per cent of flash in 2013), tablets (11.4 per cent), MP3 players (3.4 per cent), and all other devices and systems using flash (6.8 per cent).

The biggest driver of the rise in flash memory used in cellphones has been the explosion in smartphones, IHS analyst Ryan Chien said.

"With smartphones accounting for an ever-increasing portion of the global cellphone business, the mobile handset market is demanding more and more memory - particularly flash. This is causing the cellphone business to eclipse all other application markets for flash usage," Chien said in a statement. "Indeed, the shift in flash demand is reflective of a widespread transition in technology markets to focus more on mobile platforms like smartphones."

IHS put the top six product categories using flash at a projected 93.2 per cent of the total market. Flash-utilising products outside of that group of six included personal navigation devices, video camcorders, handheld gaming devices, and digital set-top boxes, the research firm said.

Chien also outlined some promising new product opportunities for makers of flash memory. Those included cache SSDs used alongside mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs) in products like ultrabooks, hybrid hard drives which integrate flash with mechanical in a single device, and new embedded installations for the automotive industry, smart home designers, and more.