Nancy Maas
If you are like me, you may not be fully aware of how great an impact the mobile phone accessory market has had on the wireless industry. For most consumers it is no longer enough to have the latest and greatest cell phone, but they want all the "bling" available to go along with it. And more importantly, it must be personalized and unique to just them — ringtones, cell phone wallpaper, cases, face plates, cell phone charms, etc.

According to a recent study by ABI Research, the market for mobile phone accessories will generate over $32 billion in revenue in 2007, more than $28 billion expected from the Smartphone market. Around 77% of these revenues will come from the sales of "after market" mobile phone accessories and the remaining for "in-box" accessories shipments.

It did not take long for handset vendors to recognize that in order to increase sales of their high-end mobile phones; they needed to provide accessories that will allow the user to enjoy all the features provided in these handsets to their fullest extent. Handset manufacturers are addressing this market in different ways. For example, Nokia is doing it through "Mobile Enhancement" products while Motorola focuses on the "Personalization" and "Self-Expression" trends. And the choices are endless. Accessories run the gamut from wired and Bluetooth headsets, network cards, personalized cases and illegal software, which is designed to unlock your iPhone allowing you to subscribe to any provider of your choice rather than stick with AT&T (this is another story in itself and will be left for a future column.)

One particular offering appears to be pulling away from the pack and showing great promise to fully support industry demand for higher densities and faster transmission speeds — memory cards. ABI recently reported that the revenue from shipments of removable memory cards for handsets is expected to be over $7 billion in 2007, compared with $5 billion expected from headset shipments including Bluetooth and wired headsets. ABI goes on to state that memory cards will continue to be the highest revenue-generating mobile phone accessory category over the next five years.

Micron Technology, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Sony Ericsson, Spansion Inc., ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments recently came out in support for the creation of an industry specification for removable memory cards and embedded memory solutions being standardized by the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association. The new specification, called Universal Flash Storage (UFS), reflects the industry’s need for a universal memory solution that removes the need for adaptors to accommodate different removable memory card sizes. The goal of UFS is to provide memory cards with high-speed access to large multimedia files, while at the same time reducing power consumption in consumer electronic devices. Now we’re talking accessories. If the consortium is able to get everybody on board, this could bode very well for the future of the mobile communications market place and be well worth the price of admission. The UFS standard is expected to be finalized in 2009.