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Memory Card Slots in Smartphones Reach Record High in Q1 2017

by Stuart Robinson | May 17, 2017

Despite the growth in cloud storage and embedded NAND Flash storage on smartphones, the inclusion of memory card slots in smartphones has never been stronger. Some people have been predicting the demise of card slots in smartphones for years, saying that memory cards are an old cumbersome technology, and a throwback to the days when embedded memory was expensive and the card slot was a way to get the user to pay for their own memory.

However, the latest generation of microSD cards are faster, bigger capacity and offer significant performance improvements  over those of yesteryear and are finding favour again with almost every smartphone OEM, except Apple of course. The latest cards based on versions 5.1 and 6.0 of the SD specification have two main advantages over previous versions: Application Performance Class provides a guaranteed minimum performance when you run your apps directly from the SD card; while UHS Speed Class 3 and Video Speed Class V30 support read/write speeds that are fast enough to save your 4K videos directly onto the card rather than saving them to embedded memory first and then transferring the file later.

Strategy Analytics has been tracking and forecasting many aspects of the smartphone memory market for years, including tracking the number of new smartphone models announced. We do this on a daily basis and the chart below shows the quarterly aggregates for the last 3 years from our SpecTRAX database service

Smartphone Memory Card Slot Penetration by Quarter From Q1 2014 to Q1 2017

As the chart shows, 97% of smartphone models announced in Q1 2017 had a card slot, the highest quarterly figure on record. There are some interesting points to note from the chart:

  • The dip in Q3 2015 was due to the announcement of multiple model variants without card slots including iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, Nexus 6P and many models from Xiaomi, ZTE and others.
  • The drop in Q4 2016 was influenced by the announcement of multiple model variants from Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, Gionee, LeEco, Meizu, Google and others.
  • The only models announced in the first quarter of 2017 without a card slot were a few model variants of the Apple iPhone SE, LeEco Le Pro 3 Elite and Xiaomi Mi 5c.

So why is the inclusion of card slots in smartphones still growing? Does the rise in removable card slots mean that capacities for embedded memory will decline or stagnate? And does it mean that consumers will use less in the way of cloud storage? Our Handset Component Technologies service addresses these questions and many more. Contact us to find out how our research can help you understand the future trends in smartphone memory.

Stuart Robinson

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