Analyst: Next big MEMS market is cell phones

July 31, 2008 – A new report from Yole Développement criticizes MEMS-based sensor and actuator firms for not figuring out how tap into what it says is the largest growth opportunity for MEMS devices over the next five years: wireless handsets.

Twelve MEMS devices have potential application in this field, including silicon microphones and FBAR/BAW filters, which have seen impressive growth since their introduction in 2003 and are now entering a maturity stage, led by Knowles Acoustics (microphones and Avago Technologies (filters), respectively, according to Mathieu Potin, Yole project manager. MEMS accelerometers are in a development stage, with other MEMS products just now emerging (e.g., gyroscopes, microdisplays, micro-autofocus, micro-zoom) and others still being tinkered with (e.g., pressure sensors, micromirrors, RF switch/varicaps, oscillators, micro-fuel cells). A list of such technologies is below.

Status of various MEMS technologies for use in cell phones. (Source: Yole Développement)

“The cell phone industry represents a complex challenge for MEMS,” he says, in a statement discussing Yole’s new report. “On one hand, MEMS manufacturers are focused on finding the appropriate price, power, and size to enter the cell phone market. At the same time, they face the challenge of meeting the implementation rate of their MEMS products in their business plans.”

Moreover, product development cycles for MEMS devices in wireless handsets are not the same as in the IC industry, so developing good ties to MEMS suppliers with “a precise and reliable product roadmap” is key, he added.

The stakes are high in the MEMS cell phone market. Yole projects a 40% CAGR to $2.5B in 2012, vs. just $440M in 2007 for just three types of MEMS products (silicon microphones, FBAR/BAW filters, and accelerometers). Growth will come from both replacement phones as well as new functionalities, with new features expected to account for ~60% of the total MEMS market by 2012.


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