At the 2012 Qualcomm Uplinq conference, we sat down with Hank Lai and John E. Lucas from Samsung Electronics and discussed the upcoming trends in memory for mobile devices. First and foremost, we spoke about the biggest bottlenecks in mobile devices of today, and the difference between desktop and mobile computing. That bottleneck is memory performance.

Current LPDDR2 and future LPDDR3 memory standards vs. PC-like DDR3L memory. Power consumption savings are obvious
Current LPDDR2 and future LPDDR3 memory standards vs. PC-like DDR3L memory. Power consumption savings are obvious

While LPDDR2 memory is really great at conserving power, the performance leaves a lot to be desired. With the operating speeds of 533, 667 and 800 Megahertz in DDR mode, i.e. physical clock of 266, 333 and 400 MHz respectively, the LPDDR2 simply isn’t designed for the HD world of today and tomorrow.

We have experienced coughs on the New iPad, as well as the original ASUS Transformer and first Prime, Samsung Galaxy Tab or the LG Optimus 3D tablets. All the tablets utilized LPDDR3-667 memory and were not capable of handling high-definition tasks we’ve all grown accustomed to.

Designing memory bandwidth for estimated displays on tablets and smartphones.
Planning and designing the memory performance for estimated displays on tablets and smartphones.

As you can see on the roadmap, Samsung estimates that the mobile experience will not stop developing with the arrival of 2560×1600 on 10" tablets in 2013, or estimated 1680×945 for the mobile phones. In 2014, Samsung Electronics plans to launch a second revision of the LPDDR3 memory, called the "LPDDR3 Wide IO" will expand the bandwidth to 17 GB/s, enabling tablets to drive the 4K panels which might make an appearance in the Tablet space. Also, 1920×1080, the real Full HD displays should make their debut in 2014.

With the memory bandwidth on mobile devices topping at around 6.4 GB/s, PC market is used to 12.8-19.2 GB/s, if not even further? with DDR3-1600, DDR3-1866, DDR3-2133, you can achieve up to 68 GB/s of bandwidth, more than 10 times what the best phone platform can offer. In order to address the situation, smartphone and tablet makers reacted by starting to use DDR3L memory, which draws its origins from desktops and notebooks – we’re talking about mobile version of household DDR3-1600 memory, typically down-clocked to 1.4 or 1.5GHz.

According to Samsung Electronics, DDR3L was only a stopgap measure to LPDDR3, a memory standard which will debut on mobile devices in 2013. The LPDDR3 will debut at 800MHz DDR e.g. 1.6 billion transfers per second, offering 12.8 GB/s of bandwidth. This is the same level of bandwidth as offered by a conventional PC desktop or a notebook in 2011 and 2012, meaning that high-resolution experience will be smoother than ever before.

Smartphone memory capacity - 2GB RAM on Smartphones of today and tomorrow.
Smartphone memory capacity – 2GB RAM on Smartphones of today and tomorrow.

At that time, we can expect to see 2GB of RAM appearing on more and more memory devices. Bear in mind that there is no point in putting 4GB of memory on the ARM-powered devices, since they’re still 32-bit. That will change with the arrival of NVIDIA Project Denver and Qualcomm’s own architecture, which is widely expected to debut in 2014.