Hard-Drive Makers Aim For Handsets
By Carlo Longino, Tue Apr 06 19:00:00 GMT 2004

Vendors are clamoring to sell their sub-1-inch drives to mobile phone makers, but challenges remain.

Hard-disk manufacturers are clearly targeting mobile phones for their smallest drives, like a 0.85-inch diameter model from Toshiba we mentioned back in December. With megapixel cameras becoming more popular, MP3 playback common, and some Asian handsets even featuring PVR functions, storage is still a high priority and pressing need in handsets.

One Japanese analyst says 1GB of storage on a hard disk costs about 5,000 yen (a bit less than $50), far less than an equivalent amount of flash memory and certainly an attractive statistic for device makers. But there are a number of kinks to be worked out before the tiny hard drives appear in mobile phones.

The drives' thickness is a significant problem. Most phones today are between 20 and 30mm thick, and the 5mm thickness of the drive isn't insignificant in comparison. Device makers would like to see the thickness reduced to that of an SD card, which is 2.1mm. Mobiles are also designed to withstand a 1.5-meter drop, something that could be tough for the small drives, and power consumption is another big problem. Hard drives draw a third more power than semiconductor-based memory, posing more problems as battery and power development struggle to keep pace with devices' needs as it is.