In late August, we announced our first ever mobile 3D NAND memory products, enabling our smartphone customers to pack in a lot more storage capacity into a smaller footprint. While bringing this new 3D architecture to mobile is significant, perhaps even more exciting was our announcement that we are transitioning our managed NAND products to the Universal Flash Storage (UFS) standard.
Now, unless you’re a memory expert or a reviewer performing a smartphone “teardown”, you probably don’t know much about UFS. You won’t see it listed on your phone’s specifications, nor will you find it anywhere in your phone’s OS settings. But trust me – even though you can’t see UFS, you’ll feel its impact of faster performance and improved phone responsiveness.
Up until now, most of the world’s mobile devices have been using the eMMC storage interface. While it’s currently the dominant mobile storage interface, eMMC it has its limitations, including only being able to read or write sequentially (but not at the same time). Additionally, higher resolution content is really starting to push the bandwidth limits of eMMC.
Perhaps the most important aspect of UFS is its future scalability, allowing for bandwidth growth that can support future mobile advancements such as virtual reality and 4K video capture. Today, UFS 2.1 enables up to four times the peak bandwidth of eMMC 5.1, and we can expect even faster performance as the spec is updated. When the 5G network arrives, this scalable bandwidth will be critical to eliminate any potential memory bottlenecks.
Numbers and features are great – but how does UFS actually improve the real world user experience? The improvements can be described with one word: responsiveness. Because the latest mobile operating systems have already been optimized to take advantage of the UFS multiple queue feature (reading and writing data at the same time), the phone will spend much less time waiting for data to be loaded from storage. Additionally, the multiple interface lanes and faster read speeds will shorten the time it takes to boot up and launch applications. This mobile experience will continue to get better once software developers optimize their individual applications to take full advantage of UFS.
Our connected world will continue to demand richer content, faster networks, and enhanced hardware functionality. These enhancements will stretch the requirements and the challenge for mobile data and storage. Luckily, UFS is here to pave the way into the next-generation of high-performance mobile storage.