3/1/2004 - SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ: SNDK) introduced SanDisk T-FlashTM, the world’s smallest removable flash memory storage format. It is similar in size and function to embedded flash memory but can also be readily removed and upgraded to allow for a range of memory capacities as well as interoperability with other consumer electronics devices.
Approximately the size of a fingernail, T-Flash is designed for new mobile phones that are compact yet fully-featured with storage-intensive multimedia applications such as digital cameras, video capture and playback, MP3 players, video games, personal organizers, Multimedia Message Service (MMS), email and voicemail capabilities.
The exceptionally small size of T-Flash (11mm x 15mm x1mm) represents approximately one quarter of the volume of the smallest removable flash cards available on the market today and allows handset manufacturers to incorporate significant amounts of removable storage capacity into their progressively smaller handsets without changing the physical size of the phone. To realize the small form factor, T-Flash uses advanced packaging technology and SanDisk’s latest NAND MLC flash memory and controller technologies. This technology is employed in SanDisk’s miniSD and TriFlash products and is a proven low cost/high volume production technology.
Eli Harari, President and CEO of SanDisk, said, “The T-Flash product family that we are announcing today is, we believe, a revolutionary product that will be an important enabler for the rapid adoption of vastly more exciting multimedia cell phones, to the benefit of consumers worldwide. The accelerating rollout of third generation (3G) cell phones starting this year will have a profound effect on consumer electronics, similar to what we saw a decade back with the advent of the web. The vastly improved wireless transmission rates of data and multimedia content of 3G networks will completely transform the usage pattern of handsets. For example, consumers will be able to send wirelessly 10 high-resolution digital images in less than one minute of airtime. Such cell phones will become the dominant form of portable music playing, and will offer the capabilities not only of digital cameras but also of good quality video camcorders. All this will require substantially more flash storage than is available with the majority of today’s handsets. While these new storage needs are being met more and more with removable flash cards such as our miniSD, what T-Flash offers is all the low cost and small size benefits of embedded flash with all the flexibility benefits of removable cards.
“We have been developing T-Flash based on the numerous inputs that we have received in the past few years from the top tier handset manufacturers. We are particularly gratified by the very important endorsement and support that we have received from Motorola, our first major announced customer for T-Flash. We plan to accelerate our T-Flash design-in activities with other leading handset manufacturers globally, to make T-Flash a de facto standard for transportable flash storage in multimedia cell phones.”
Randy Giusto, vice president of technology and services at IDC, said, “As cell phones add new features, storage becomes increasingly important. The worldwide market for cell phones is growing from 536 million in 2003 to 745 million in 2007 and the anticipated capacity needs for embedded memory will grow as well. Handset designers require a cost-effective and flexible alternative that combines the benefits of embedded memory–in terms of size—with the benefits and flexibility of a card that can be removed to add more capacity or new applications. Mobile phone users will continue to demand more applications as next generation phones begin to offer enhanced audio and video capabilities which will increasingly drive storage requirements higher.”
Motorola Cell Phones One Of First to Adopt T-Flash
Motorola announced last week at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes, France, the Motorola E1000 and the Motorola A1000, two 3G phones that will use the 32MB T-Flash. These two phones are expected to be available in the second half of this year.
“T-Flash memory offers us the flexibility to pursue smaller, sleeker designs without sacrificing the capabilities of our new handsets,” said Chris Swambar, product line manager, Personal Communications Manager, Motorola, Inc. “Even with the compact design of these phones, many of these models are capable of still image and video capture, music replay, and Internet messaging.”
Unique Characteristics And Usage Model
T-Flash represents a new type of flash memory for mobile phones that combines the space-saving benefit of embedded flash memory with the flexibility of removable flash storage cards. Given the extremely small size of the T-Flash module, handset manufacturers have greater flexibility to implement T-Flash into their new designs. A range of T-Flash connectors are available that support external slots as well as ‘under-the-battery’ placement. The T-Flash module is likely to be used as a semi-permanent storage device in the handset, and is ideal to transport subscriber data and settings from an older T-flash enabled phone to a new one. T-Flash has built- in content protection rights management to allow secure downloads of content such as songs, video clips and video games. Future versions of T-Flash are being developed which will offer advanced encryption security to permit protected storage of personal, financial and medical information.
Bo Ericsson, vice president of OEM marketing, said, “As handset manufacturers offer new generation cell phones that pack more content-intensive applications into even more compact designs, it is obvious that a new storage solution is needed to meet these seemingly conflicting requirements.”
Ericsson added, “Prior to T-Flash, mobile phone manufacturers have been using embedded flash memory, which is easy to implement but cannot be flexibly upgraded once soldered onto the motherboard during the manufacturing of the cell phone. With T-Flash, the handset manufacturer can now design the smallest amount of embedded flash memory required for the basic operation of the cell phone, and let the customer decide how much additional flash memory is desired for storage of personal content. Since the T-Flash memory is readily transportable, the consumer is inclined to upgrade his handset more frequently. With the new T-Flash form factor, we believe mobile phone designers will have a much easier time and greater freedom in fitting flash storage into their handset designs.”
Benefits to Consumers
T-Flash is designed to store personal content such as digital images, MP3 music files, video games and other applications, phone settings and personal data. Due to its very small size and substantial storage capacity, it is likely to remain in the handset for extended periods; however, it can easily be removed and inserted into another phone when consumers want to upgrade their phones.
This usage model is similar to the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards used in most mobile phones worldwide that can be transported by the subscriber from one handset to another. However, SIM cards have very limited flash memory storage and suffer from a very slow data transfer rate that is not suitable for tens or hundreds of megabytes stored. T-Flash has approximately half the footprint of SIM cards.
When inserted into an available SD adapter, T-Flash converts into the SD card for interoperability with standard SD devices so consumers can exchange data between their T-Flash-equipped mobile phone and any SD compatible host, such as a digital camera, PDA or laptop PC.
Small Size Offers Design Advantages to Cell Phone Manufacturers
The tiny size of T-Flash gives handset manufacturers greater freedom to fit removable mass storage into virtually any mobile phone regardless of size. The ability to configure a basic handset for different amounts of T-Flash memory just before shipments to different customers is another desirable flexibility offered by T-Flash that is not possible with embedded flash memory. The same configurability can also be accomplished at the store where the T-Flash equipped handsets are sold. For example, a customer purchasing a cell phone with a two megapixel camera may want to configure his handset with higher capacity T-Flash than a cell phone that has a lower resolution camera.
Due to its ability to store operating system code and system data, T-Flash offers mobile phone manufacturers and network operators the flexibility to offer customized memory configurations, additional software and applications upgrades. In addition, service providers can create custom carrier bundles that are tightly integrated with handsets and stored on T-Flash so they can be easily replaced or upgraded in the field.
For mobile phones with storage requirements that assume frequent card removal and data sharing between other consumer electronic devices, SanDisk offers its regular SD and miniSD as well as Memory Stick PRO Duo cards and MultiMediaCards. T-Flash works seamlessly with any standard flash card implemented in the same handset.
Pricing and Availability
SanDisk has started sampling T-Flash to OEM customers. Volume production is expected to commence in the second quarter. Pricing ranges from $14 to $39 for capacities that range from 32MB to 128MB.
Availability of T-Flash at retail outlets is expected later in the year in support of the rollouts of these new handsets in various geographies.
SanDisk, the world’s largest supplier of flash memory data storage card products, designs, manufactures and markets industry-standard, solid-state data, digital imaging and audio storage products using its patented, high density flash memory and controller technology. SanDisk is based in Sunnyvale, CA. SanDisk’s web site/home page address: http://www.sandisk.com
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