Shipments of gyroscopes in smartphones to hit 285.9m

9 Jun 2010

The arrival of the iPhone 4 is to trigger an explosion in the number of gyroscopes appearing in smartphones, as other manufacturers get in on the act.

According to industry analyst iSuppli, global unit shipments of gyroscopes in mobile handsets are expected to rise to 285.9 million in 2014, up from 26 million in 2010 and from zero in 2009.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, gave a dramatic demonstration of the gyroscope by playing a virtual game on the iPhone 4.

In the demonstration, Jobs spun around on the stage, causing the gyroscope in the iPhone 4 he was holding to detect a change in direction, thus moving a piece in the game.

The integration of the gyroscope in the iPhone 4, which is set to begin shipping on 24 June, confirms iSuppli’s forecast that these parts would make their first appearance in smartphones this summer.

“Because of Apple’s role as a technology trendsetter, a multitude of mobile handset OEMs are expected to offer smartphones that integrate gyroscopes,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst, Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), for iSuppli.

“This will cause shipments to rise by 157pc in 2011 and by 60pc in 2012 and 2013.”

The appeal of gyroscopes

Mobile handset makers until recently have shown little interest in gyroscopes, Bouchaud noted. However, the success of the Nintendo Wii Motion Plus video game console demonstrated the consumer appeal of gyroscopes for game playing. Meanwhile, InvenSense and STMicroelectronics have offered a cascade of new gyroscopes with 2 and 3 axes, making the technology more accessible.

“STMicroelectronics is the sole supplier of accelerometers for previous models of the iPhone, as well as for the iPad and the iPod line,” Bouchaud said. “Because of this, we believe that STMicroelectronics is also the supplier of the gyroscope in the iPhone 4. However, we will have to wait for confirmation from iSuppli’s Teardown Analysis Service when it dissects the iPhone 4 in late June.”

The main applications for gyroscopes in mobile phones in 2010 and 2011 will comprise a user interface utilising a gyroscope in combination with an accelerometer, followed by image stabilisation and dead-reckoning for in-vehicle navigation.

From 2012, gyroscopes will start to be used for indoor navigation in combination with an accelerometer, compass and pressure sensor for floor accuracy. By 2014, the market for gyroscopes in mobile phones is expected to amount to $220m.

Photo: The iPhone 4

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years