MEMS microphone market grows fivefold from 2009 to 2012

January 22, 2013 // By IHS iSuppli
The influential iPhone from Apple has helped spark the market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) microphones to new heights, causing MEMS microphone shipments to nearly quintuple in just three short years.

Shipments of MEMS microphones reached an estimated 2.06 billion units in 2012, up by a factor of 4.8 from 432.9 million units in 2009. according to an IHS iSuppli MEMS Market Brief.

“While MEMS microphones have been around for many years, 2009 marked an important milestone when Apple started to buy MEMS microphones for the iPod nano 5, and more importantly, for the iPhone 4,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. “With Apple playing a huge role, the MEMS microphone market turned up the volume dramatically.”

Following the design win with Apple, global MEMS microphone shipments rose 696.4 million units in 2010, and then surged to 1.3 billion units the following year, as shown in the figure attached. Apple’s share of MEMS microphone consumption shipments rose from just 6.2 percent in 2009 to an outsized 30.8 percent in 2012.

One of the great success stories in the MEMS field, silicon microphones have found their use broadening over the years in what has become a fast-growing market. While a smartphone or feature phone may need one accelerometer, compass and gyroscope each, two MEMS microphones for a smartphone is typical—up from just one microphone two years ago. Even more remarkable, handset suppliers are now considering the use of three or more MEMS microphones for additional benefits, such as greater support for noise suppression as well as HD-quality audio recording for videos.

The emphasis on clearer sound is much more pronounced today, especially because handsets have become versatile tools for other tasks, such as listening to music or recording video, in addition to their original purpose for making phone calls. Acoustics, in fact, remains one of the few ways in which handset manufacturers can differentiate their phones. For instance, the Nokia Lumia smartphone touts its audio performance and high-quality recording as an important feature setting the handset apart from competitors. And in a high-profile move