Hard drives in phones not soon, says IDC

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May 5, 2004

New research from IDC, says that the incorporation of hard disk drives (HDDs) into mobile handsets will require a number of further evolutionary steps before HDD-enabled mobile phones will represent a beneficial investment for consumers and enterprises.

"The addition of HDD storage will eventually address many of the limitations that have kept converged devices from reaching their full potential," said Alex Slawsby, senior research analyst in IDC's Mobile Devices service. "Handsets already have the killer application of wireless telephony, and adding increased storage will make them a viable option for extensive music, imaging, reference, and business applications."

Today's MP3-enabled phones, for example, can only store about 8-12 4MB songs. In contrast, a new breed of HDD-based phone, similar to an HDD-based MP3 jukebox players, could easily hold several thousand songs, images, or hours of video.

Although ultimately promising, HDDs have not yet achieved the economies of scale necessary to attract the masses. "Cost, size, and power consumption are prohibitive factors," said Dave Reinsel, IDC research manager, Hard Disk Drives and Components. "Flash memory is sill the best near-term option with rotating storage solutions too costly, too large, and too power hungry for all but the highest-end, business-class mobile phones."

This will not change until HDD technology improves further and the price of such drives drops below $50, and arguably below $30.

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