TAIWAN: According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce , as the number of shipped smartphone devices continues to expand, worldwide smartphone shipments are estimated to reach 210 million units in 1Q13, up 9.4 percent from the number in 4Q12.
Samsung, whose smartphones show strong sales performances in 1Q13 and rank first in the Chinese market, is expected to have a near total of 65 million handsets shipped by the end of the first quarter.
Already, the growth in the demand for Samsung’s smartphones is causing supplies of eMCP/CI-MCP to tighten. Given the large number of Chinese branded smartphones that are known to rely on Mediatek’s eMCP reference chips, the constraints to eMCP supply are expected to have a negative impact on various Chinese manufacturers’ shipments.
Hardware specs, according to TrendForce, will become less of a differentiating factor as smartphone products mature. Whereas brand marketing and product pricing strategies remain critical in terms of improving market share, a manufacturer’s ability to ensure steady component supplies is key to ensuring its success within the industry.
With Samsung appearing to have little trouble maintaining its global image, much of the company’s focus has been directed towards advancing its vertically integrated component designs and manufacturing processes. The key high-end smartphone parts that are currently known to be produced by the Korean company include core processors, AMOLED panels, LPDDR, and NAND Flash. These components are used not only in Samsung's own smartphone devices, but also those produced by other companies as well.
In the event that Samsung eventually achieves record shipments, it is not inconceivable that the company would begin excluding other manufacturers from accessing its component parts. A few noticeable signs of this can already be spotted within the memory card industry.
As Samsung accounts for approximately 60 percent of the overall eMCP/CI-MCP shipments, its decision to tighten eMCP/CI-MCP supply is likely to have major repercussions for companies like Mediatek, which is known to provide chips to Chinese smartphone makers.
As indicated by TrendForce, Mediatek's strong reputation in the Chinese market, along with its chips' ideal price and design, is one of the reasons why Chinese branded manufacturers have been keen to develop smartphone products that are based off of the Taiwanese company’s chip designs, in particular those that incorporate the eMCP/CI-MCP solution.
Mainstream products like eMCP/CI-MCP 4+4 and 4+8 are common in the mid-to-low end market, while the more advanced eMCP/CI-MCP16+8 is known to be more popular within the high-end segment. Should Samsung continue to lower and restrict its chip supply, it is predicted that during April, only first-tiered Chinese brands like Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad, and Lenovo would have access to the Korean company's eMCP/CI-MCP memory products.
These smartphone manufacturers currently account for approximately 70 percent or less of total demand. For the second and third tiered manufacturers, the supply restrictions are expected to be even more rigid. The tightened supply of eMCP/CI-MCP 4+4 and 4+8 are likely to have a direct impact on the shipment for mid-to-low end Chinese smartphones during the second quarter.
According to TrendForce, if manufacturers like Samsung and SK Hynix do not successfully resolve the eMCP/CI-MCP shortage issue during April, and if other memory manufacturers are unable to fill in the gap, the eMCP/CI-MCP inventory of smartphone manufacturers are in danger of dropping below safety levels.
This is likely to create a domino effect affecting not only the shipment progresses for smartphone components like core chips and panels, but also the revenue performances of relevant component manufacturers. For the Chinese branded manufacturers, the impact is expected to be particularly noticeable.