The nonvolatile memory market is getting, well, volatile. Hardware publications reporting that NAND shortages will mean high SSD prices for consumer drives confirmed what Newegg product managers suspected for months—2017 looks like slim pickins’ for components sellers.
“Demand from enterprise and data center will continue to drive market pricing on SSDs upward,” says Newegg director of SSD solutions, Stephen Yang, “A 10% increase in Q1 will be a conservative estimation.”
Drive manufacturers typically by contract give OEMs priority in supply. Smartphone handsets also play a role in heightened NAND demand.
Earlier in 2016, Newegg expected that Samsung Note 7 and Apple iPhone 7 sales would eat the lion’s share of the NAND supply. Neither performed exceptionally well; new iPhones sold modestly in the historical context of Apple smartphones, even though its closest competitor literally blew itself up.
Huwai charging towards Apple’s market share
Flagship handsets by Chinese manufacturers spiked in popularity overseas, where Apple and Samsung lost the most ground. Globally, Samsung still dominates the handset market with 22%, Apple places second with 13%, with Huawei closing in with about 9.4%.
Industry analyst Sean Yang of DRAMeXchange said that demand for Chinese handsets is the “main contributing factor” for the shortage of planar NAND, the type used in TLC and MLC solid-state drives. Flagship Chinese handsets have characteristically large 64 GB solid state drives on board, and 4 GB of RAM. That’s a lot of semiconductor.
View and compare unlocked Chinese handsets at NeweggBusiness.
In September, Delloitte analysts hailed the end of the Chinese smartphone boom. The aggressive growth numbers of the past several years signals peak ownership levels for the market, which showed leveling (relatively speaking) in 2016.
The broader Asia Pacific market should see steady growth, according to more recent study by Research and Markets (pay walled): the $130 billion dollar industry is expected to cross $160 billion by 2020, analysts say.
SAMSUNG favoring enterprise SSD production
With 2D planar NAND largely going into new handsets, fabrication of 3D-NAND for computer SSDs will be ramping up but at a slower pace than demand. SAMSUNG prioritizes NAND supply for enterprise (PRO series) drives. It might be awhile before SAMSUNG’s 3D-NAND competitors can catch up. Micron announced the Crucial 5100 PRO series 3D NAND drive for the enterprise market December 5, but as Newegg’s Yang points out, they are three generations behind SAMSUNG. “That’s why enterprise, data centers, and OEMs like Apple all want Samsung chips—it’s the most advanced tech.”
With SAMSUNG shifting production to mainly enterprise SSDs, look for Samsung 960 PRO to be more available in Q1 2017, a silver lining for NeweggBusiness customers. | Check SSD prices on NeweggBusiness