Analyst: What downturn for consumer, wireless MEMS?

July 16, 2009: In sharp contrast to the lousy near-term outlook for the broad electronics industry, particularly semiconductors and wireless, the market for MEMS used in consumer electronics is actually seen growing more than 6% this year, according to statistics from iSuppli.

Global and consumer wireless MEMS revenue will total $1.24B, up from $1.17B last year. By comparison, semiconductor sales are expected to plunge -23% this year; wireless equipment will be down -13.1%; and the overall consumer electronics sector will dip -8.2%.

Poking around the numbers, MEMS gyroscopes are seen rising 18% CAGR over the next five years (2008-2013), finding demand in products like controllers for video game consoles, notes Jérémie Bouchaud, iSuppli’s director and principal analyst for MEMS, in a statement. “As the market for multi-axis gyroscopes develops and these components hit target insertion prices, the market will accelerate for gaming and will pick up for cell phone camera image stabilization as early as 2010.”

Consumer and mobile MEMS market by application. (Source: iSuppli)
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On the wireless side, MEMS accelerometers for mobile phones are the growth drivers, due to their role in user interfaces for “smart phones” — though 1/3 of all mobile phones shipped in 2010 will have them, up from 1/5 this year. Features they support include screen-orientation adjustment (i.e. turn the handset to the side and the screen reorients to proper display angles), which are spreading to other handsets as well. Also seeing fast growth are bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters, used in CDMA and UMTS phones that saw >50% unit growth in 1H09.

Also notable, reports iSuppli, is the first annual drop in sales for MEMS microphones market which will happen this year, though sales will bounce back to double-digit growth in 2010. Other MEMS devices they deem worthy of note include RF MEMS switches and varactors, which should go into production for cell phones by 1Q10.

The sparkling growth has a downside, though — rapid price erosion. Accelerometers in cell phones currently sell for 25%-30% less than they did a year ago, and those suppliers who are most aggressive on pricing are taking market share.

From the report abstract:

While MEMS products like DLP chips that were already identified as losing ground continue in this fashion, the MEMS domain has been more than compensated by the ascendancy of accelerometers, microphones, and even gyroscopes.
A number of factors drive the success of MEMS sensors — not least of which is the desire for intuitive motion-based interfaces in mobile devices.
In addition, MEMS sensors earn plaudits for enabling the practical requirement of taking blur-free pictures in cameras and camera phones that — through no fault of their own — suffer from the pixel “one-upmanship” of the manufacturers; and finally, for providing rich and realistic gaming experiences.

Global revenues for consumer, mobile MEMS devices, 2006-2013. (
Source: iSuppli)

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