Apple win lifts Goertek up MEMS microphone ranks

October 27, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Chinese acoustic components company Goertek (Shangdong, China) has gained market share at the expense of US-based and European rivals such as Knowles and STMicroelectronics and risen to second position in a ranking of MEMS microphone suppliers by 2015 sales from IHS Markit.

The top four MEMS microphones suppliers in 2015 were Knowles, Goertek, AAC and STMicroelectronics according to IHS Markit. MEMS microphones are being deployed in increasing numbers in laptops, hearing aids, wearables and smartphones among many other products. However, all of the top four except Goertek saw declining sales in 2015 compared with 2014.

Goertek MEMS microphone units grew with an 104 percent CAGR between 2011 and 2015, thanks in large part to its design wins in Apple, the IHS Markit analysis shows. Apple accounts for approximately 70 percent (in units) of Goertek’s MEMS microphone business in 2015. Goertek entered in large volume in the iPhone in 2014 and has since continued to increase its share; this has had the impact of reducing the share of AAC and Knowles in subsequent years.

However, AAC invested in a new technology for MEMS microphones in 2016 when it started a partnership with Vesper, a piezoelectric MEMS microphone startup (see Vesper, AAC partner to push piezoelectric MEMS microphones ).

The general trend is towards the use of more and higher performance microphones, according to IHS Markit. The quality is needed for voice recognition applications and in noisy environments on smartwatches and in automotive cabins.

The average number of microphones per smartphone handset increased in 2015 due to Apple adopting four microphones in its iPhone 6S, with most other OEMs using two or three microphones in their mid- to high-end smartphones, the IHS Markit analysis shows. In tablets, smart watches and hearing aids, the number of microphones is between one and two. Adoption of microphones in automotive cabins can potentially exceed eight, depending on use cases and implementation choices in the future.

Knowles – which produces its own microphone dies – holds the number one spot for market share in MEMS microphone die production, with a dominant 43 percent market share.

However, Infineon is a significant unlisted player in the microphone market because it supplies