Apple buys most MEMS microphones in 2011: First time atop the rankings

January 18, 2012 — In 2011, Apple Inc. became the world’s largest purchaser of micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) microphones, passing Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Apple’s share of MEMS buying amounted to 27% for the year, compared to 20% for Samsung.

Top 4 brand purchasers of MEMS microphones in 2011 (Ranking by Unit Shipments in Millions of Units). SOURCE: IHS iSuppli.

2011 Rank Brand 2010 Unit Shipments 2010
Market Share
2011 Unit Shipments 2011
Market Share
2010-2011 Growth
1 Apple 127.8 18% 348.8 27% 173%
2 Samsung 132.2 19% 250.8 20% 90%
3 LG 90.4 13% 88.3 7% -2%
4 Motorola 44.0 6% 61.9 5% 41%
  Others 309.3 44% 533.9 42% 73%
  Grand Total 703.7 100% 1283.6 100% 82%

Overall global shipments of MEMS microphones rose to 1.3 billion units in 2011, up 82% from 704 million in 2010. MEMS microphone revenue in 2012 is projected to reach $493.5 million, up 32% from $373.2 million in 2011, shows an IHS iSuppli MEMS Market Brief. This year’s revenue expansion continues last year’s remarkable 64% increase. By 2015, MEMS microphone revenue will hit approximately $667.0 million, equivalent to a five-year compound annual growth rate of 24% starting from 2010. Shipments in 2015 will amount to some 2.9 billion units.

Apple primarily purchases MEMS microphones for its iPhones, headsets, and most notably iPads. Apple bought 173% more MEMS microphones year-over-year, or 349 million units, IHS reports.
MEMS microphones use a pressure-sensitive diaphragm etched on a semiconductor, replacing conventional electret condenser microphones (ECM) with a smaller form factor and better sound quality, among other benefits. Learn more in MEMS microphones make noise in 2012 from IHS director and principal analyst, MEMS and sensors, Jérémie Bouchaud.

Apple began its MEMS microphone buying spree with its iPhone 4, said Bouchaud. The iPad 2’s success pushed Apple into the #1 spot, with help from handsets and iPhones. Apple uses two analog MEMS microphones in its iPhone 4 and 4S phones, one analog MEMS microphone in the headset sold with the iPhone, and one digital MEMS microphone for Pad 2 tablets. "There has been a rapid adoption of multiple microphones in smartphone devices for noise compression, particularly important for voice commands such as those used in the Siri speech-recognition feature of the iPhone 4S," Bouchard notes.

Also read: Apple shares list of suppliers

Samsung uses dual MEMS microphones for its smartphones, and the microphones are also in the Galaxy 10.1 tablet. Samsung’s share in 2011 was roughly the same as it was in 2010.

Other notable MEMS microphones buyers include LG Electronics for its phones and G-Slate tablet; as well as Motorola Inc., an early adopter via its Razr phones as early as 2003.

Learn more about this topic with the forthcoming IHS iSuppli report, MEMS Microphones Go Digital in 2012:

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