AAC, GoerTek join lead pack of mini-microphone suppliers
Mainland firms in top flight of suppliers of smartphone and tablet microphones
With Apple as their major customer, Chinese electronics components makers AAC Technologies and GoerTek have vaulted into the top tier of suppliers of complex, miniature microphones used in media tablets and smartphones.
The global market for so-called microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) microphones reached US$583 million last year, with AAC and GoerTek generating combined sales of US$144 million, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.
Jérémie Bouchaud, a director at IHS, said installing three MEMS microphones on a smartphone was fast becoming an industry standard since Apple introduced the set-up on the iPhone 5, which was launched in September.
Mid-range to high-end smartphones mostly used two such microphones in 2010 and 2011, but Apple added a third device on the back of the iPhone 5 to support high-definition video recording. These microphones are also used in headsets, gaming consoles, cameras, televisions and hearing aids.
"Apple has led the way in the adoption of MEMS microphone technology … compelling competitors to follow suit," Bouchaud said.
Hong Kong-listed AAC, which has its headquarters in Shenzhen, is now the world's second-biggest supplier of the microphones behind United States-based market leader Knowles Electronics.
AAC sold US$98 million worth of MEMS microphones last year, compared with US$48 million in 2011, as the top supplier for the iPhone and the regular-sized iPad. Knowles posted US$291 million in sales last year, as the main supplier for the iPad mini and No2 for the iPhone.
Shenzhen-listed GoerTek was ranked fourth behind No3 US firm Analog Devices and ahead of No5 French-Italian supplier STMicroelectronics. MEMS microphone sales last year for GoerTek, which is based in Weifang, Shandong province, reached US$46 million, up from US$12 million in 2011. It was the main supplier for iPhone headsets.
IHS said other mainland MEMS microphone suppliers were seeing growing demand. These included NeoMEMS Technologies in Wuxi, MEMSensing Microsystems in Suzhou, Shandong Gettop Acoustic and Weifang XingGang Electronics.