Digital MEMS microphones to overtake analog

March 28, 2012 — Digital micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) microphones see widespread use in mass-market consumer electronics (tablets, smartphones, etc), pushing revenues high enough to overtake the analog segment by 2013. Revenue for digital MEMS microphones will hit $315 million in 2013, compared to $261 million for the analog MEMS mics, according to an IHS iSuppli MEMS Special Report.

Figure. Worldwide forecast of analog and digital MEMS microphone market revenue. SOURCE: IHS iSuppli Research March 2012. (Millions of USD.)

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Analog  177.0 268.4 267.4 261.0 261.7 268.4
Digital  50.7 104.8 226.1 315.1 366.8 398.5

In 2011, analog MEMS microphones will hold onto a slight lead, with $267.4 million in revenue over digital MEMS microphones’ $226.1 million. Also read: MEMS microphones make noise in 2012

Apple established a market for MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes, and is now "setting the pace" for MEMS microphone adoption, said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. Apple is using digital MEMS microphones in its iPad 2 and the new iPad. The IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis of the new iPad 3 indicates that the tablet uses a single MEMS-based digital microphone from AAC Acoustic Technologies Holdings Inc. The iPad 2 uses a digital MEMS microphone from Analog Devices Inc.
MEMS microphones replaced conventional electret condenser microphones (ECM) in half of mobile handsets last year. Since 2010, new acoustic applications requiring multiple microphones have been driving the further penetration of MEMS. Superior temperature stability, better matching and smaller form factors afforded by MEMS are key advantages.

While analog MEMS microphones are less expensive and still are very much used for the acoustic function in handsets, they require adaptation for resistors, capacitoes, and speakers in each design iteration. New digital alternatives are gaining greater utilization because of their design flexibility and lower sensitivity to electromagnetic interference (EMI), and their increased Power Supply Rejection Ratio (PSRR). Large liquid crystal displays (LCDs) found on laptops create a great deal of EMI. Digital MEMS mics offer easier to process signals when 3 or more mics are used, as for noise suppression.

Digital MEMS microphones have been available since 2006, when Fujitsu integrated digital MEMS mics from Akustica (now part of Bosch) into laptops. The following year, Knowles and Sonion (now part of TDK-EPC) started shipments.

Overall, however, the penetration of digital MEMS microphones remained relatively modest because of the lack of a credible alternative source beyond Knowles, and their high price—typically 50% more expensive than analog MEMS.

Knowles had managed to keep the price high because of the lack of viable competitors. All this changed in 2011 with the arrival of new players. STMicroelectronics entered the market and focused exclusively on digital MEMS microphones, allowing them to emerge as strong alternative volume suppliers in 2011, with more aggressive pricing policies.

Akustica introduced a new and more competitive digital MEMS microphone in early 2011 with a 30% die size reduction, leading to a 4 percentage point increase in Akustica’s share of the laptop business from 2010 to 2011 (15% in 2011). Akustica just introduced its first analog MEMS microphone.

STMicroelectronics — already Nokia’s No. 1 supplier of accelerometers — started to deliver MEMS microphones to Nokia in 2011 and became the top source within one year, besting Knowles. As a result, Knowles‘ share of digital MEMS microphone market revenue fell to 59% in 2011, down from 81% in 2010.

Overall, the arrival of new suppliers with more aggressive pricing boosted the penetration of digital MEMS microphones in laptops in 2011 from 18% in 2010 to 40% in 2011.

Top suppliers in 2011 for digital MEMS microphones:

  • Knowles, for laptops, tablets and handsets;
  • Analog Devices, for the iPad 2;
  • Bosch (Akustica), for laptops;
  • STMicroelectronics, to Nokia and also for laptops;
  • Goertek, to Lenovo;
  • AAC; 
  • BSE.

IHS (NYSE: IHS) provides information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape. Learn more at

View recent issues of the MEMS Direct newsletter


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.