updated 10:45 pm EST, Tue February 17, 2009
iPhone flash memory orders
Apple's preparations for the next-generation iPhone line is constraining worldwide supplies for leading flash memory manufacturers and may increase prices. A new analyst report says that Apple’s (unannounced) refresh of iPhones is putting increased pressure on flash memory manufacturers managing dwindling inventory. According to Cult of Mac, ThinkEquity analyst Vijay Rakesh is telling clients that Apple has begun placing orders for memory for a yet unannounced upgrade to the current iPhone 3G and the rumored "iPhone Nano" or a similar device. Most recently RBC analyst Mark Abramsky claimed that a $99 iPhone would appear later this summer, but that the device would not be a rumored iPhone nano, but instead a pared-down regular iPhone.
The new ThinkEquity analyst report indicates that the component purchases leading up to the manufacture of the next-generation iPhone(s) have begun to put strain on supplies from major flash memory, such as Samsung, Hynix, Toshiba. In particular, long-time partner Samsung has allocated its inventory until April.
“Our checks indicate that Apple has started ordering for its iPhone refresh (iPhone and iPhone Nano), stifling the supply chain,” ThinkEquity analyst Rakesh told clients in a note obtained by Cult of Mac.
According to the note, three out of Apple’s four memory suppliers are constrained and with limited availability from Samsung due to Apple's increased needs, Hynix and Toshiba are facing even greater pressure to meet Apple’s memory supply demands.
Rakesh also notes that Toshiba, which recently cut NAND production by 30 percent, is having supply problems when it comes to 56nm flash NAND and that Hynix had experienced significant sales slowdown in the fourth calendar quarter of 2008. However the report noted that Micron, the fourth Apple memory supplier, was not mentioned in the analyst report as experiencing similar supply questions. Micron last week was the first to ship 16GB NAND flash memory using the smaller 34nm flash (but is not the largest, as it is dwarfed by physically larger 32GB chips that should be in production from Toshiba and Intel).
While NAND flash prices dropped last year because Apple placed limited orders, the new iPhone ramp by Apple has caused a supply problem, forcing flash memory prices upward, the analyst concluded.