Hard Disk Drives Not Ready for Mass Market with Mobile Phones

Hard Disk Drives Not Ready for Mass Market with Mobile Phones


Positioned at the center of the mobile device universe, mobile phones are quickly becoming robust multifunctional platforms that will enable mobile users to get out from under the weight of multiple devices. According to new research from IDC, however, the incorporation of hard disk drives (HDDs) into mobile handsets will require a number of further evolutionary steps before HDD-enabled mobile phones will represent a beneficial investment for consumers and enterprises.

“The addition of HDD storage will eventually address many of the limitations that have kept converged devices from reaching their full potential,” said Alex Slawsby, senior research analyst in IDC’s Mobile Devices service. “Handsets already have the killer application of wireless telephony, and adding increased storage will make them a viable option for extensive music, imaging, reference, and business applications.”

Today’s MP3-enabled phones, for example, can only store about 8-12 4MB songs. In contrast, a new breed of HDD-based phone, similar to an HDD-based MP3 jukebox players, could easily hold several thousand songs, images, or hours of video.

Although ultimately promising, HDDs have not yet achieved the economies of scale necessary to attract the masses. “Cost, size, and power consumption are prohibitive factors,” said Dave Reinsel, IDC research manager, Hard Disk Drives and Components. “Flash memory is sill the best near-term option with rotating storage solutions too costly, too large, and too power hungry for all but the highest-end, business-class mobile phones.” This will not change until HDD technology improves further and the price of such drives drops below $50, and arguably below $30.

Key Findings

— Increased wireless network bandwidth (3G networks) will continue to drive the need for additional storage capacity on mobile devices.

— Solid state storage, although more expensive, will continue to surpass the performance of HDD solutions in the vast majority of mobile phones.

— The availability of several gigabytes of local storage allows mobile phone vendors to add sought-after memory-intensive functionality to their products.

— In 2003, 1.8-inch drives (the kind used in most portable MP3 jukeboxes) represented a mere 1% of all HDDs shipped worldwide and the 1.0-inch drive represented just 0.1%.

— Today’s rotating storage designs continue to draw significantly higher power than other memory options.