Why Micron’s NOR Flash products are losing ground to NAND


Nov. 20 2020, Updated 4:07 p.m. ET

Capacity to cost ratio

Previously in this series, we learned that Micron Technology, Inc.’s (MU) NOR products are losing revenue to NAND products. Now, we’ll explore why consumers prefer NAND to NOR flash technology.

NAND’s cell size is approximately half the size of a NOR cell. NAND’s efficient architecture, coupled with a simpler production process, offers higher densities with more capacity on a given die size. NOR offers good read performance, but when compared to NAND, offers poor write and erase times. As a result, NOR is less likely to be used as a data storage device.

NOR devices are used as code storage media and dominate the data-storage market ranging between 1MB and 4MB, although 16MB is also available. NAND dominates the memory-card market, including CompactFlash, secure digital, PC cards, and commands between 8MB- and 128MB capacity.

NAND offers sophisticated features at low cost

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With each passing day, devices are becoming more sophisticated—with enhanced features, rich programs, and local information storage options. These improvements require larger capacities for both code and data storage and significantly faster erase and write times. NAND offers both of these at relatively low cost.

Smartphones and tablets’ importance to memory growth

According to IHS iSuppli, smartphones and tablets both are responsible for the surge in mobile memory growth in the semiconductor market. NAND flash is the largest contributor to mobile memory, and smartphones are the main drivers of NAND flash usage. Sandisk Corporation (SNDK) is a leading player in the NAND flash product market. Google Inc’s (GOOG) android devices, Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iOS, and Samsung Electronics Ltd (SSNLF) dominate the smartphone and mobile market.

The embedded multimedia card, or eMMC—a sub-segment of NAND flash—offers a useful mobile memory solution for expensive smartphones and tablets that require high-density storage capacity, low-power use, and a compact size.

For more on Micron in the mobile market, read Market Realist’s, Key takeaways for Micron investors: Mobile and cloud drive.

Exponential growth in smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices have added to this. As smartphones and mobile handsets demand more and more memory, NOR flash struggles to compete. Meanwhile, NAND is providing high density at a low cost. This explains the move from NOR to NAND flash products.


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