Samsung pushes mobility with OneNAND memory

Samsung Electronics will increase its stake in the mobile memory market with multichip packaging technology as well as a new chip design known as OneNAND, the company is expected to announce Monday at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless trade show in Atlanta.

With the PC market nearing saturation, mobile devices such as smart phones are considered the next big growth segment of the semiconductor market. Those types of devices will require increasing amounts of memory to download content and execute multimedia applications, said Ivan Greenberg, director of strategic marketing at Samsung Semiconductor Inc.

One way phone designers can use more memory while keeping their phones small is to utilize multichip packages that bundle a number of different memory types into a single chip, Greenberg said. Samsung has been working on several types of chip packages, and the company will exhibit some of the chips at CTIA, he said.

Samsung is one of the world's largest vendors of both DRAM (dynamic RAM) for PCs and flash memory for cell phones and personal digital assistants. There are two main types of flash memory, NOR and NAND, and Samsung manufactures both. The names refer to the logic design that each architecture uses to read and write data.

Most cell phones have traditionally used NOR memory, Greenberg said. NOR memory reads data very quickly, but it is not as efficient at storing data as NAND memory and costs more, he said.

In order to build faster and more powerful smart phones, designers need to consider implementing a combination of NAND and DRAM as a memory architecture, Greenberg said. The company's new OneNAND product with an integrated flash memory controller will help make that transition easier, he said.

Camera phones on the market today are fairly rudimentary compared to a regular digital camera, but vendors are planning phones that can take 4 megapixel pictures, Greenberg said.

A user would have to wait 25 to 50 seconds to store a 4 megapixel picture on a phone with NOR memory, but NAND memory can store that image much faster, Greenberg said. Once digital video becomes prevalent, the difference will be even more pronounced, he said.

NOR vendors argue that a single NOR chip is less costly than a combination of NAND and DRAM, but NAND vendors point to the fact that smart phones already include DRAM.

NAND chips have to shuffle code out of NAND storage at startup to mobile DRAM chips that can execute code, Greenberg said. Shuffling the code takes about 2 to 3 seconds while the phone is booting, he said.

This creates a lag in booting the phone, but OneNAND's integrated flash memory controller speeds up the process, Greenberg said. The memory controller is usually separate from the memory chip, and adding it directly onto the memory chip allows the signals to travel back and forth between the memory and the applications processor at a much faster rate.

OneNAND can shuffle code to mobile DRAM faster than ordinary NAND chips, Greenberg said. And when combined with Samsung's multichip packaging technology, it will allow phone makers to build multimedia phones that can access media services from wireless carriers, he said.

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