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Advanced NAND flash manufacturing processes await Apple's approval

post #1 of 21
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Makers of NAND flash memory found in devices like the iPhone and iPad have worked to transition their manufacturing processes to below 30nm, but the products have yet to be certified by the largest user of NAND flash: Apple.

Both Samsung Electronics and Toshiba have made products that are sub-30nm, sources told DigiTimes. The move to more advanced NAND production methods only makes sense if volume production can be achieved with companies like Apple buying the memory.

The transition has reportedly been held up because of longer certification times. While customers like Apple approved 30nm-class NAND flash in three to six months, validation now takes as long as nine months.

Current industry standards have more stringent requirements for product performance, quality and reliability, sources told the Taiwanese industry publication.

The push for standard sub-30nm manufacturing of flash began in early 2011, when Micron Technology was first to produce 25nm chips in volume. They were followed by Samsung's 27nm flash, Toshiba's 24nm process, and Hynix Semiconductor at 26nm in larger quantities.

Despite the fact that Apple has not yet approved sub-30nm products, major manufacturers are still engaged in a race to transition to 20nm-class processes, sources reportedly said. Samsung is expected to transition from its 27nm process to 21nm, while another Apple supplier, Toshiba, will move from 24nm to 19nm.



Smaller manufacturing processes increase the density of memory in NAND flash, allowing for higher capacities and faster speeds. They can also result in lower manufacturing costs.

With hot selling products like the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air based on NAND flash, Apple is the world's largest consumer of the solid state memory. In fact, the company has on numerous occasions caused a worldwide shortage of flash storage thanks to the popularity of its devices.

Apple's new thin-and-light MacBook Air offers internal flash storage capacities up to 256GB, while both the iPod touch and iPad max out at 64GB. The iPhone still offers a maximum capacity of 32GB, as Apple has not increased the storage offered in its iOS products in a few years.
post #2 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


Apple's new thin-and-light MacBook Air offers internal flash storage capacities up to 256 GB,

Corrected.
post #3 of 21
Quote:
Smaller manufacturing processes increase the density of memory in NAND flash, allowing for higher capacities and faster speeds. They can also result in lower manufacturing costs.

... and shorter lifespan, which would be the main drawback with 25nm flash.
post #4 of 21
I really hope the next iPods and iPhone get a capacity doubling, its been too long without one.
post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by exscape View Post

... and shorter lifespan, which would be the main drawback with 25nm flash.

For one, you would never in your life hit the read/write cycle count of flash memory on your iPod or iPhone before something else broke, and for two each generation also has better wear leveling so its not guaranteed to go down. In the SSD world read/write cycles went up on average when they went to 32nm.
post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

I really hope the next iPods and iPhone get a capacity doubling, its been too long without one.

with iCloud coming, we won't need it... i'd rather get an iPod with a better camera than more storage.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

with iCloud coming, we won't need it... i'd rather get an iPod with a better camera than more storage.

that's kinda of false dilemma though.
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by myapplelove View Post

that's kinda of false dilemma though.

well, if they want people to buy the new model they have to provide incentive... one way to do this is increase the storage. another way is to upgrade the camera.

ideally they would do both, but they have to keep the cost in mind. if it came down to one or the other, i would want a better camera.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by exscape View Post

... and shorter lifespan, which would be the main drawback with 25nm flash.

Exactly. That's in fact the main issue, yet it was inexplicably not brought up in the article. This is less an issue for iPods and other devices that spend more of their lives in read mode, but for SSDs lifespan (measured in the number of write operations) is of course critical.
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

I really hope the next iPods and iPhone get a capacity doubling, its been too long without one.

I submitted a feedback form offering to pay an extra $100 for a 64GB iPhone, 128GB iPod Touch and iPad. But perhaps the market for that much storage isn't that big.

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Six x 3.5GHz '14 MP, 64GB, 1TB PCIe, 16TB HDs
2.6GHz 6GB 17"HD LED MBP, Sony 52XBR6 HDTV
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64 ATT iPhone 5S, 128 ATT iPad Air, 128 ATT iPad miniRetina, 16...

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post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Multimedia View Post

I submitted a feedback form offering to pay an extra $100 for a 64GB iPhone, 128GB iPod Touch and iPad. But perhaps the market for that much storage isn't that big.

I spend less and less time syncing my content and more time streaming it. Thank god for unlimited data.
post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

with iCloud coming, we won't need it... i'd rather get an iPod with a better camera than more storage.

Hmmm, You probably will face a hard time shoving all your 10M pixel HDRI pictures through the iCloud. And besides no one really knows what the iCloud is really going to implement. I for one like to have a lot of local storage at hand at any time. Makes me feel kind of in control.
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

While customers like Apple approved 30nm-class NAND flash in three to six months, validation now takes as long as nine months.

Current industry standards have more stringent requirements for product performance, quality and reliability, sources told the Taiwanese industry publication.

The push for standard sub-30nm manufacturing of flash began in early 2011, when Micron Technology was first to produce 25nm chips in volume.

Yet another reason why the iPhone 5 is rumoured not to launch until September?


Quote:
Originally Posted by exscape View Post

... and shorter lifespan, which would be the main drawback with 25nm flash.

Shorter needs to be qualified. In and of itself this is not an issue.

Besides, Im more concerned with read and write speeds. Will this be negatively or positively affected by the shrink, and by what amount?


Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

with iCloud coming, we won't need it... i'd rather get an iPod with a better camera than more storage.

Even as streaming content get more common so will the need to store to more data locally.

They arent exclusive technologies as weve been using cloud computing long before flash NAND was on the scene.
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post #14 of 21
Apple used to acquire as much as 40% of the total NAND market flash production. Although in recent years it has drop down to 2x%. However that is still the largest single buyer of NAND.

However even with two Node Shrink and MLC or TLC NAND, we are still not ANYWHERE close to the total capacity outputed by HDD.

There are only two kind of people in this world.

Those who dont understand Apple and those who misunderstood Apple.

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There are only two kind of people in this world.

Those who dont understand Apple and those who misunderstood Apple.

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post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

with iCloud coming, we won't need it... i'd rather get an iPod with a better camera than more storage.


So where are you going to put the lens to support that image sensor without devolving into a nightmare of noise? High pixel counts require high quality lenses and mechanical optical zoom to get results without significant artifacts.

iPhone is in the lower end of the it-doesn't-matter-much-anymore band, Apple could add a MP or two without hurting quality, but it won't really help either, so the cost of the sensor will drive which one gets in rather than any actual "perceived improved quality" argument.
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post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rabbit_Coach View Post

Hmmm, You probably will face a hard time shoving all your 10M pixel HDRI pictures through the iCloud. And besides no one really knows what the iCloud is really going to implement. I for one like to have a lot of local storage at hand at any time. Makes me feel kind of in control.

And still photography is just the tip of the iceberg.

It's 720p HD video that chews up local storage. Try uploading a 250MB video on Verizon's EV-DO 3G network.
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by exscape View Post

... and shorter lifespan, which would be the main drawback with 25nm flash.

I'm not convinced my self that sub 3Onm flash will be reliable enough for consumer devices.
post #18 of 21
Apple owns the NAND flash memory market. They can practically set their own price. And more importantly they can essentially set their competitors' prices.

Next step (pun intended) is to do the same in the 4" - 10" touchscreen market. Not sure, but I think Apple almost owns that market as well now.

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post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rabbit_Coach View Post

Hmmm, You probably will face a hard time shoving all your 10M pixel HDRI pictures through the iCloud. And besides no one really knows what the iCloud is really going to implement. I for one like to have a lot of local storage at hand at any time. Makes me feel kind of in control.

The person you replied to was talking about iDevices, how are you getting 10Mpix photos on your iDevice?
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

with iCloud coming, we won't need it... i'd rather get an iPod with a better camera than more storage.

Besides what good would be a better camera if you can't store images locally? Streaming a video directly to the cloud just doesn't make sense for a number of reasons. On top of that excessive cloud usage will force providers to punitive pricing strategies. I just don't see there ever being enough bandwidth for everybody to have their own TV and Radio station.

In effect that is what many people are asking for when they promote the cloud. The problem is they don't seem to understand the entirely negative impact such usage has on the availability of the network. Especially in the context of repetitively played media. If Apple does anything here I'd expect them to buffer or cache the media tracks long term on the device.

In any event media is only part of the argument for higher storage density on the portable devices. Things like games and even some productivity apps are using plenty of space on today devices. The next round of NAND updates would mean that these devices can double storage space at the prevailing price points. In other words the base model becomes a 32 GB iPad and the high end 128 GB. Honestly though I'd rather see Apple make the high end model 256 GB in the next rev. of the iPad. It takes very little in the way of apps these days to eat up a huge amount of flash space.
post #21 of 21
The bigger concern for the suppliers of NAND flash is a sluggish market. Industry projections are specifically mentioned as bearish on the tablet market.

So those suppliers are trying their best to hold prices while the market for NAND and DRAM continues to drop. I'd take that as an indication that overall tablet/laptop sales are soft.

http://www.digitimes.com/print/a20110513VL202.html
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