TOKYO -- Prices for NAND flash memory used in smartphones and memory cards continue to climb, recently rising above $3 per chip for the first time in two years.
Bellwether 64-gigabit multi-level cell (MLC) chips are currently selling for around $3.30 apiece, 6% more than in September. The price last topped the $3 benchmark when it reached $3.10 in November 2014. The price of 128-gigabit memory is up 1% from September to around $4.10.
Memory prices typically fall with the passage of time accompanying advances in manufacturing technology. It is extremely unusual for prices to climb as far as the same level as two years earlier.
Driving the increase is a surge in demand. One major factor is the decision by South Korea's Samsung Electronics to halt sales of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, which was plagued by exploding batteries.
NAND flash memory was already headed toward a shortage, since it is used to increase memory capacity as smartphone functionality expands. Now, Samsung's rivals are seizing the offensive, taking the South Korean company's woes as an opportunity to expand market share. In particular, the Chinese manufacturers behind the Oppo and Vivo brands are competing to secure NAND flash memory.
In the U.S., companies engaged in finance and e-commerce are increasing investment in servers. This has contributed to the rise in NAND prices by driving up demand for solid-state memory, a type of memory that incorporates NAND and helps speed data throughput while reducing operating costs.