Universal Flash Storage – Advancing the World of Mobility

Posted on 07/28/2016 by

Jim Elliott

When we announced the world’s first removable UFS card earlier this month, it was praised by press, customers and industry analysts alike – and for good reason! Faster mobile devices are everywhere. 4K displays and 64-bit processors are enabling more immersive gaming experiences and driving an influx of impressive user productivity applications that will need larger device storage. Additionally, faster storage is required to embrace the evolution in mobile connectivity – 4G, Wi-Fi, USB 3.1, and 5G in the near future.   

 

Paving the Way

Over the past decade, the memory card market has been championed by microSD and UHS-1 based memory cards, which were popular but not particularly noteworthy for their speed. With embedded UFS chips appearing in flagship smartphones as early as last year, the ultra-fast UFS interface is quickly becoming the optimal choice for built-in storage within the mobile market. Now, the semiconductor industry’s standards group, JEDEC, has published the first UFS 1.0 Card Extension Standard, paving the way for commercial development of UFS in a removable card form factor.

 

First to Market

Even though OEMs, processor makers and other vendors need to commit for UFS cards to catch on rapidly, we at Samsung are moving with determination to situate ourselves at the vanguard of change for storage advancement in the mobile world. We recently developed the industry’s first UFS card and are also the first to receive UFS compatibility certification from the Universal Flash Storage Association. Moreover, I’m very pleased to say that we’ve already begun to ship our first UFS card samples to select smartphone and tablet OEMs.

Once OEMs design UFS slots, and others complete the necessary accompanying logic in application processors, market penetration will move with a vengeance.

 

Unrivaled Performance

Our line-up of UFS cards features 32 gigabyte (GB), 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB densities. The 256GB UFS version provides a maximum speed of 530 megabytes per second (MB/s) for sequential data reading, which is almost as fast as most SATA SSDs. For sequential writing, it can deliver 170 MB/s, which nearly doubles today’s top-end microSD card speeds.   For more details on their amazing performance, check out our UFS card announcement.

 

Ecosystem Enablement

In addition to welcoming the standardization of UFS card designs, we are thrilled by the ecosystem developing around the cards. Having application processor support is critical, and there are already multiple processor manufacturers designing or implementing a UFS card socket for future designs. Since the pin configuration of a UFS card differs from that of a microSD card, users cannot plug into existing microSD sockets. Either a sole UFS card socket, or a combo socket supporting UFS and microSD cards, is required. So far, at least two manufacturers are almost ready to provide combo sockets to OEMs. In order to access and transfer data from a UFS card, a card reader is also essential. Fortunately, there are a few vendors now developing a UFS card reader, too.       

 

Market Adoption

And, what about OEMs?  Think for a moment about the consumer devices that currently support microSD cards. You probably came up with smartphones, tablets, PCs, cameras, digital video recorders and virtual reality devices. Well, the majority of OEMs who have expressed significant interest in our UFS card have products that fall within these categories. As has been the case with other disruptive technologies, the first implementations will trigger a domino effect of buy-in from other manufacturers. Further, the Internet of Things (IoT) is emerging as another possible UFS card market, especially for smart drones and security devices which currently rely on microSD for video storage.            

Watch the move to UFS pick up even more steam.  Before the end of the decade, it will be unusual to see any mobile devices without UFS – embedded or removable. Which market segment do you see embracing UFS cards first? 

 

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