Turbo-charged mobile storage coming soon from Toshiba

Toshiba in the second quarter of this year will start making flash drives for smartphones and tablets that are substantially faster, smaller and more power-efficient than current NAND flash, the company said on Tuesday.

The flash drives are based on the next-generation mobile storage specification called Universal Flash Storage 2.0, which was finalized by JEDEC Solid State Technology Association in September last year. The first UFS drives will be targeted at high-end smartphones and tablets, which typically carry more storage capacity.

The drives transfer data at 600MB per second for each lane, which is double the bandwidth of the older UFS 1.1 specification, released in 2012. And for the first time, the new specification allows data transfers over two lanes, in effect quadrupling the data transfer rates compared to the older specification.

The UFS standard is designed for high-capacity flash drives for smartphones and tablets. UFS drives are viewed as the ultimate successor to drives based on the e-MMC standard, which are widely used in smartphones, tablets, printers, cameras, e-readers and other consumer electronics. Drives based on the e-MMC specification come in capacities ranging from 2GB to 128GB, and the latest specification, e-MMC 5.0, allows for data transfers as fast as 400MB per second.

Storage capacity on mobile devices is growing as users store more apps, data and video files locally. The UFS specification could help to prepare mobile devices for real-time playback of 4K video. UFS allows for simultaneous reading and writing from a host processor, while e-MMC is capable of only reading or writing data at a given time.

Other UFS supporters include top NAND flash companies Samsung and Micron. All the UFS supporters are making their own controllers, and Qualcomm will bring UFS 2.0 to its chips via Snapdragon 805, which supports 4K video. Qualcomm is showing off the Snapdragon 805 chip and related technologies at the International CES show in Las Vegas this week.

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