Samsung is hoping to expand the storage capacity of mid-market mobile devices with its speedy new 128 GB eMMC 5.0. In many ways, eMMC packages are simply smaller SSDs that provide data storage for phones, tablets and other mobile devices. eMMC consists of a controller embedded onto a small NAND package, which is perfect for space-constrained mobile devices.
Mobile phones have limited onboard storage, and many are moving away from offering microSD cards for capacity expansion. The reason many companies don't allow microSD cards? It's easy to assume that it's due to the markup. It can cost upwards of $200 to upgrade to a 128 GB iPhone 6 Plus, for instance. This is more than quadruple the current price of the NAND used in SSDs, which can retail as low as 40 cents per GB. It's clear that a low-cost solution is needed to reverse the high-priced trend.
“With the introduction of our value-focused, 3-bit NAND-based eMMC 5.0 line-up, we expect to take the lead in the expansion of high-density mobile storage," said Dr. Jung-Bae Lee, Senior Vice President of Memory Product Planning and Application Engineering Team, Samsung Electronics. “We are continuing to enhance our next-generation embedded mobile memory offerings with improved performance and higher densities to meet increasing customer demand across the mobile industry."
Samsung's 128 GB eMMC is catering to the mid-market by combining eMMC 5.0 and 3-bit NAND. Samsung already offers a 128 GB eMMC UFS 2.0 product for high-end devices with 2-bit NAND, but low cost storage is the key to mid-range devices. 3-bit NAND, more commonly referred to as TLC, offers higher density and a lower price point than the typical 2-bit MLC found in most devices.
3-bit NAND's endurance is considerably lower than 2-bit, but clever engineering has made it useful for a wide range of applications. Apple pioneered using 3-bit NAND for mobile applications in its iPhone 6 Plus, and 3-bit is also used in datacenter and PC applications. It will undoubtedly be the storage of choice for future mobile devices.
There are also faster eMMC 5.1 devices on the market, but eMMC 5.1 (and its UFS 2.0 competitor) will only be found on high-end phones for some time to come. eMMC 5.0 will continue to address the mid- and low-end, and Samsung's product still offers the same sequential speed of 260 MB/s for sequential tasks, such as recording and playing back video. The small packages also offer up to 6,000 random read IOPS, and 5,000 random write IOPS. This weighs in at roughly 10x the speed of a typical external memory card and provides ample speed for multitasking and other intensive workloads.
It will take some time before these new eMMC packages filter down to end user devices, but here's hoping it finally spurs the needed value-centric capacity renaissance in mobile devices.