Sandisk to launch 4 GByte embedded Flash memory for cellphones

San Jose (CA) - Sandisk announced new Flash memory products targeting to replace micro harddrives in consumer electronics applications. The company will ship the chips in 256 MByte and 2 GByte capacities in October, a 4 GByte chip will follow in March of 2006.

Cellphones, at least high-end models, soon could be available with a substantial increase in storage capacity while maintaining a compact form factor. Sandisk's iNAND memory chips measure just 12 by 18 mm in surface area space and just 1.4 mm in height. According to Sandisk, the resulting chip volume of 302.4 mm3 is just about four percent of the volume of a typical micro drive which comes in at about 7790 mm3 (42.8 by 36.4 by 5 mm).

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Sandisk iNAND Flash memory

The new Flash products are built with stacks of 8 Gbit NAND/MLC flash memory chips and integrate Sandisk's an integrated controller chip all in a single TFBGA package. According to the company, the controller saves host system CPU and RAM buffering, provides a complete disk-like file management structure and provides defect management and Error Correction Code (ECC) functions.

Available capacities are currently 256 MByte and 2 GByte. The company said it will add a 1 GByte version in November, a 512 MByte version will follow January of next year. A high-end 4 GByte model will complement the series in March of next year. While it is obvious that the threat for harddrives in the 2 - 4 GByte range is increasing, a major drawback of Flash remains its premium pricing. Sandisk charges for the 2 GByte module $95 in 10,000 unit counts. This makes the memory an unlikely choice even in $500 smartphones and may limit the memory's integration to other consumer electronics applications.

However, market research firm iSuppli recently said that Samsung provides its 2 GByte Flash memory chips to Apple for an estimated $54. We would not be too surprised, if a similar offer for cellphone manufacturers brought 2 GByte or even more storage space to cellphones by mid-2006.