Knowles, Goertek and AAC ranked as the top three global suppliers of packaged MEMS microphones for 2015, according to the latest analysis from IHS Markit (NASDAQ: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.
MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technology is utilized to produce microphones used in laptops, hearing aids, wearables and smartphones among many other products. Last year, MEMS microphones remained the healthiest sensors segment for suppliers, in terms of unit volume and revenue, said Marwan Boustany, senior analyst for IHS Technology.
“Our updated analysis of 2015 MEMS microphone supplier market share, shows that Knowles remained the dominant supplier with more than two times the units and revenue of the second-place supplier, Goertek,” Boustany said. “In addition to offering a wide range of analog and digital output microphones for many applications, Knowles has also started shipping its VoiceIQ ‘intelligent’ microphones with local processing as it seeks to address both mobile and IOT applications.”
Strong growth for MEMS’ runner-ups
Goertek MEMS microphone units grew by an impressive 104 percent CAGR between 2011 and 2015, thanks in large part to its design wins in Apple, the IHS Markit analysis shows. Apple accounts for approximately 70 percent (in units) of Goertek’s MEMS microphone business in 2015. Goertek entered in large volume in the iPhone in 2014 and has since continued to increase its share; this has had the impact of reducing the share of AAC and Knowles in subsequent years.
While still solidly in third position among packaged MEMS suppliers after Goertek, AAC has faced challenges from Goertek in both Apple and in Chinese OEMs. This has resulted in a reduction in unit volume shipped by AAC in 2015 of almost 9 percent, IHS Markit says. However, AAC invested in a new technology for MEMS microphones in 2016 when it officially partnered with Vesper MEMS, a piezoelectric MEMS microphone start-up.
Boosting audio performance in handsets
The general adoption trend for microphones in smartphones has been towards higher performance, IHS Markit says. Driving this trend: OEMs want better quality audio for calls and hand-free communication, noise cancellation, voice recognition such as Siri and Google Now, as well as the availability of lower-cost microphones due to the erosion of ASP (average selling price).
“These types of use cases also drive high-performance microphone adoption in smart watches, tablets, noise cancelling earphones, hearing aids and increasingly in automotive cabins,” Boustany said.
Beyond performance, the average number of microphones per handset increased in 2015 due to Apple adopting four microphones in its iPhone 6S, with most other OEMs using two or three microphones in their mid- to high-end smartphones, the IHS Markit analysis shows. In tablets, smart watches and hearing aids, the number of microphones is between one and two. Adoption of microphones in automotive cabins can potentially exceed eight, depending on use cases and implementation choices in the future.
Knowles tops list for die makers, too
According to the IHS Technology analysis, Knowles – which produces its own microphone dies – holds the number one spot for market share in MEMS microphone production, with a dominant 43 percent market share.
Infineon acts as the major supplier of MEMS microphone dies to Goertek, AAC and BSE among others and stands solidly in second place with a 31 percent market share. In third place is Omron, which has supplied into STMicroelectronics, ACC and Goertek among others and has a 13 percent market share, the analysis shows. Neither Infineon nor Omron supply fully packaged MEMS microphone die.