While at CES 2012 in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to connect with Samsung Mobile Memory Group product marketing manager Stephen Lum to talk about the role that his group is playing in driving the miniaturization of smartphones and tablets.
That role is not to be underestimated. According to Lum, Samsung's memory is used by pretty much all of the major smartphone OEMs. Lum attributes that success to Samsung having delivered the best combination of size (.8 mm) and speed (1066 Mb/sec) for a 8 Gbit LPDDR2 (Low Power Double Data Rate 2) DRAM.
DRAM is the memory that smartphones and tablets typically use to hold running programs and the data that they act on. The low power nature of LPDDR2 is why many devices last on a single battery charge as long as they do, particularly when they are in standby mode. As the capacity improves (it was just a year ago that Samsung was talking-up 4 Gbit LPDDR2 DRAM), so too will the use cases. For example, according to Lum, Intel is now talking about using LPDDR2 DRAM to support the instant-on capabilities of ultrabooks.
The more DRAM that can be squeezed into a mobile device, the better it can multitask, the higher the resolution the displays can be pushed to, and the more complex that mobile games and other applications can get. On the performance end of the equation, Samsung is already working on LPDDR3 -- a technology that doubles the per-pin data transfer rate of LPDDR2.
In a market where Samsung fiercely competes against companies like Micron, the company that's first to market with the newest, fastest performing, and most battery-cheating technology wins.
In the interview (seen in the embedded video below), Lum and I talk about the hypothetical point in time when there's no gap (in terms of performance and capacity) between smartphones and PCs. Lum admits the gap is shrinking, especially now that smartphones are beginning to move to 4-core processors from companies like ARM. At processing speeds of 1.5 Ghz, today's smartphones are the equivalent of a PC from the earlier part of the decade. That window will continue to shrink as companies like Samsung continue to push the envelope on performance, power, and size.
Another question that brought a smile to Lum's face had to do with the proposition of mobile devices moving to a single memory type. In other words, the day when DDR RAM and solid state drive (SSD) technology blend into one offering. According to Lum, that would be ideal. But he declined to comment on whether that's a future that Samsung will be enabling any time soon.