back to article Apple gobbles world's flash memory

The world is running out of flash memory, and it's all Apple's fault. Citing those always-voluble "industry sources," the market-watchers at DigiTimes reported on Monday that Taiwanese memory-module manufacturers face a serious shortage of NAND flash chips. The reason is simple: Apple is buying them up. According to DigiTimes …


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  1. Bryan Anderson
    Jobs Horns

    Price differences?

    So the difference between a 32GB and a 64GB bunch of RAM is just $8 or so? Difference between iPod Touch 32GB and 64GB is $100. Nice one, Apple.

  2. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton

    Excellent news in the long run

    I'm glad Apple is expanding the flash memory market. (Glad in part, of course, because I don't happen to need to buy a bunch of flash market _today_, but I'll be keen to see larger-and-cheaper flash devices for sale sooner into the future.)

    Paris, because she also expands markets.

  3. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Re: Price differences

    Nope, chips are sold in bits (well, kilobits, megabits, and gigabits). The prices in the article are for 32Gb and 64Gb chips, *not* 32GB and 64GB. The price difference for 64GB flash over 32GB of flash is then about $64. That's still $36 markup for Apple, or likely more since they are probably getting the flash below spot.

  4. Steve Evans

    @Henry Wertz 1

    "or likely more since they are probably getting the flash below spot."

    I should hope so... If they're pulling in that kind of volume and not getting a serious discount they shout shoot their procurements team!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Price differences

    Not to sound like I'm making excuses for Apple's profit margins, but wasn't a new kind of memory controller needed to access 64 GB flash ram? I recall this was offered as a reason for the delay in making 64 GB iPhones/iPods - the memory was available (although obviously constrained) but the controller chip wasn't. If the 64 GB iPod/iPhone use a different controller, this could be more expensive (probably not significantly though).

  6. Matt Caldwell


    the cost difference is due to the increased complexity of packing in twice the physical volume of chip, and the additional coding and controlling to address all that memory, plus the development costs for said added complexity, and of course a little more profit per unit for all this doesn't seem unwarranted either.

    You want more capacity/functionality? You pay for it...

  7. John Blagden


    Let us not also forget that the 64Gb model would need different production runs, the need to be kept apart from the other models, more space on the shelves and yes, a little bit more profit for Apple (the company that has done more in three years to kick-start the phone industry than all the others put together have done in 10 years), its distributors and the retail shops to share between them.

    Of course they make more money out of it, otherwise WHY DO IT?


  8. It wasnt me

    WTF ??

    "a rise of 0.18 and 0.14 per cent in a single trading session."

    The end is nigh. The sorry cost of global capitalism can surely not be sustained.

    I predict a riot.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge
    Jobs Horns


    I guess that this means that SSD prices will remain high due to the shortage (or, more likely, well-talked-up artificial shortage designed to drive up the factory gate prices), so I won't be aquiring any soon.

    Curse you Apple and your flashy (geddit?) consumer toys for the drooling masses.

  10. Roni Leben

    Should look at contract prices

    To estimate Apple's Flash cost, check the Digitimes article about contract prices:

    According to this article, I am pretty sure Apple is paying around $1 per GB of Flash, probably even lower - they must have committed to huge volumes over a number of years and of course negotiated a favorable price. So the Flash cost difference between 32 and 64GB would be in the $30 region (more likely even lower - remember, huge volume, negotiating power,...).

    Since iPhone uses a single flash device, they need to stack 4 64Gb Flash dies into a single chip package to get 32GB.

    I assume Apple is buying & committed to buy the largest flash dies available - 64Gb and beyond in the future.

    This deal will push the Flash prices up in the short run, but long term capacity will increase & prices will go down, which is good, right?

  11. Gulfie

    @Matt C

    Packing in twice the memory - agreed, some expenditure on repackaging

    Additional coding - trivial to non-existant cost here, this sort of stuff would be a kernel setting at worst. At best, the system can detect how much memory it has and act accordingly, so no software change would be required. That's certainly how I'd build it.

    Controlling - IF a 'new' controller is required, fair enough. But to address twice as much memory you only need one more address line, so this is unlikely. And as Apple are still using third party chips, so not their R&D cost to absorb. The new chip would be near identical to the old, so the cost of adoption would be very low.

    So the per unit cost to Apple of adding 32Gb is going to be pretty small beyond the cost of the memory.

  12. calagan
    Jobs Horns

    Really Evil

    It was evil in the first place to make iPhones without external storage, forcing storage-hungry users to shell out big bucks for iPhones with bigger flash memory .

    But now, the rest of us, non Apple fashion victims will have to suffer overall flash memory price increase due this evilness.

  13. sleepy


    Apple has had prepay arrangements with most of the flash manufacturers to ensure preferential access to future supplies. Here's the press release for the first such deal; there have been more since:

    Anyone with a billion to spare in 2005 could have done it. Apple needed to do it, because otherwise someone else with deep pockets could have killed the iPod business; the more ancient among us may remember DEC cornering the world market for a new generation of DRAM and hence cornering the market for large memory mainframes.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    All your NRAM are belongs to us

    Steve there is a (logic) bomb

    <looks for his badly translated coat>

  15. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    Apple stole me 'nanD. Don't think she'd take kindly to that at all.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    in times of recession, that just speaks volumes about the kind of brand value that apple have built.

  17. Aaron 10
    Jobs Halo


    It shows how much forethought (and forward-planning) Apple does for its products. Apple's announcement of the 160GB iPod Classic is another illustration of this -- Toshiba didn't announce their new single-platter 1.8" 160GB hard drive until AFTER Apple announced the iPod Classic. That takes a lot of weight to boss Toshiba around like that!

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