Google Nexus One, Motorola Droid Drive MEMS Microphone Market

The introductions of Google Inc.’s Nexus One and Motorola Inc.’s Droid marked the arrival of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology in the cell phone market, a development that is expected to boost the market for Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) microphones, according to iSuppli Corp. To implement ANC, at least two microphones are required, and sometimes many more are employed. Partly due to the rising use of ANC in cell phones and other devices, iSuppli has raised its global MEMS microphone forecast from its previous outlook issued in September.

iSuppli now predicts 1.2 billion MEMS microphones will be shipped worldwide in 2013, compared to the previous forecast of 1.1 billion.

“ANC reduces or eliminates ambient noise, silencing background sounds that can make it hard to concentrate, sleep or listen to music or engage in cell phone conversations,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst, MEMS, for iSuppli. “ANC leverages recent progress made by audio CODEC companies like Audience or Wolfson Microelectronics in dedicated noise-suppression Integrated Circuits (ICs). ANC leverages MEMS microphones which are preferred over traditional Electret Condenser Microphones (ECM) for that function.”

ANC headsets became popular in 2009. Sony last year introduced a headset providing up to 99 percent ambient noise cancellation. The company at CES 2010 also introduced the world’s first earbud with noise cancellation.

Nokia recently presented an ANC-equipped headset using 10 MEMS microphones, illustrating how noise cancellation can drive higher volumes. Furthermore, these applications often use higher-performance microphones that command larger price tags.

However, the arrival of ANC in the 1.1 billion unit mobile phone market represents a much more attractive growth opportunity for MEMS microphones.

iSuppli’s recent teardowns of the Nexus One and Droid uncovered two MEMS microphones from Knowles Electronics in each phone.

ANC can improve the quality of mobile calls in noisy environments by suppressing background noise, intermittent sounds and echoes. The technology also can automatically adjust voice volume and equalization during calls to adapt to local noise interference. Furthermore, AND is suitable for voice commands, a feature gaining popularity in mobile handsets.

MEMS microphones offer significant advantages in ACN applications compared to traditional Electret Condenser Microphones (ECMs). These advantages include better performance in terms of size, sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio and suitability for use with digital signal processors that are required to implement ANC.

The MEMS microphone market also is benefitting from new applications like MP3 players. iSuppli’s Teardown Analysis Service recent opened the last iPod nano and found a high-performance and ultra-thin MEMS microphone from Analog Devices Inc. that supports the video camera in the iPod. Laptops also offer also a great opportunity as more and more of them are integrating two digital MEMS microphones.

Find iSuppli’s latest MEMS microphone forecast in its updated report entitled: Dynamic Times for MEMS Microphones.