Changes In NAND Flash Market

New players at the top of the list and shifts in what they’re selling shows just how competitive this market is becoming.

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Things are changing quickly in the NAND flash market. Newcomers are challenging long-time market leaders and shifting the lineup in this market.

A survey of NAND flash vendors, conducted by DRAMeXchange, a Singapore market research firm, shows that in Q1 of this year Samsung was firmly in first place with $2.175 billion in revenues, followed by Toshiba with $1.548 billion and SanDisk with $1.367 billion.

What isn’t so obvious, though, is just how turbulent this market has become. SanDisk has never placed in this lineup before. In fact, the combined sales of Toshiba and SanDisk together surpass Samsung’s. And while SK Hynix sold more than Micron during a second of 2013, Micron has since surpassed SK Hynix and taken a significant lead.

Sales of NAND flash for smartphones, tablets, and laptops slumped during the first quarter due to a seasonal influence. The top six NAND flash companies showed a 6.6% decrease in the sales compared to the previous quarter, a sign that the market is weakening. DRAMeXchange speculates this oversupply situation may continue into third quarter.

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Fig. 1: Revenue of NAND Flash makers during the first quarter in 2014 Source: DRAMeXchange

Samsung’s numbers showed robust sales of high-density memory cards, eMCP (embedded multi-chip package), and SSD-related products. Production of high-end smartphones had weakened during the second quarter. However sales of eMMC (embedded multi-media card) and other business-related products such as SSD continued to grow, and are expected to increase 15% compared to the previous quarter. Samsung produces eMMC, eMCP and SSD for personal computers using 19nm technology and had produced 3D NAND flash at its Xi’an factory, which opened in May. Sample shipments of 3D NAND flash SSD have been sent to lists of major customers in the United States, Europe and China for testing purposes.

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According to DRAMeXchange, Toshiba was expected to reach 50% of sales of 19nm products by the end of last quarter and begin producing eMMC and eMCP products. The chipmaker hoped to regain market share by focusing on 19nm triple-level cell (TLC) eMMC and eMCP SSD during the second quarter. Toshiba expects to complete construction of the second tower of Yokkaichi factory Fab 5 this quarter and equip the fab next quarter. Mass production of 1x nm products and 3D memory is slated to begin in Q1 2015.

SanDisk, meanwhile, produced more 1x nm products during the second quarter, with 19nm products focused on SSD for business. Text production of 1x nm memory began in Q4 of 2013. According to DRAMeXchange, mass production of 3D NAND will likely start after 2016.