Contributing Editor, MEMS Investor Journal
Designers of next-generation smartphones are feverishly adding MEMS gyroscopes to the accelerometers that already grace high-end mobile handsets today. Besides providing enhanced sensitivity for gaming apps, gyros will also enable location-based services that work indoors. Every major handset vendor is expected to introduce smartphone models with gyroscopes before the end of 2011.
InvenSense, STMicroelectronics and Seiko-Epson have all lowered the prices on consumer grade versions of their gyroscopes to under $2, putting them on par with the ubiquitous digital cameras that are already standard equipment on mobile handsets. Also, MEMS accelerometer makers Kionix, Bosch Sensortec, Analog Devices and Freescale are expected to announce consumer grade gyroscopes during 2010.
InvenSense already has one of the widest installed bases of gyros to date, since so many digital cameras and camcorders use its gyros already for image stabilization, with shipments of 50 million gyro axes in the past two years, and with the addition of handset sales, it expects to ship more than 250 million gyro axes in 2010.
HTC has already revealed that it will be rolling out a gyroscope-equipped smartphone this summer. And ST-Ericsson -- the joint venture of Ericsson and MEMS chip maker STMicroelectronics -- has revealed that its LTE-based 4G handsets, due in 2011, will be equipped with gyros in order to enhance the gaming experience. Apple's iPhone is rumored to be including a gyro in its new models to debut next month, and all the other smartphone vendors are expected to follow suit by 2012.
Besides providing a superior gaming experience and stabilizing camera shake, gyroscopes used in combination with the accelerometer that is already built into most smartphones can navigate indoors using dead-reckoning. High-end smartphones will also be adding MEMS pressure sensors (to measure altitude) and a magnetometers (to measure compass heading) to enable indoor navigators to track on what floor you are located.
Copyright 2010 MEMS Investor Journal