Samsung earlier this week announced that it has started mass-producing high-density ePoP memory modules for smartphones, which happens to be the industry’s first such “embedded package on package” memory module. By itself, this announcement isn’t that interesting, because most people have no idea what this tech does and why it might be useful in their future mobile devices.
An ePop module is basically a way of clearing more space inside a mobile device, which can be used for further expanding the battery capacity of the device. That’s particularly useful for slimmer smartphones, as smartphone makers have yet to crack the battery problem and are still trying to figure out ways of improving smartphone battery life.
Essentially, Samsung managed to stack all memory, including RAM and NAND, on a single ePoP module that’s then positioned on top of the processor, rather than beside it. The following image, provided by Samsung, perfectly explains this memory design choice.
Samsung does not specifically mention which devices will use this new type of processor and memory arrangement, but it does hint that it’s made for high-end devices.
“The new ePoP provides an ideal “one-package” memory solution, satisfying the market needs for high-speed, high energy efficiency and compactness. The 3GB LPDDR3 mobile DRAM inside the ePoP operates at an I/O data transfer rate of 1,866Mb/s, and sports a 64-bit I/O bandwidth,” the company wrote.
So not only does this ePoP design save a “significant amount of space” inside the phone, but it’s also designed to improve performance. As seen above, the memory is intended to be used in mobile devices packing 64-bit processors and 3GB of RAM — that’s what’s expected from Samsung’s Galaxy S6 (at least according to some rumors detailing the phone’s specs), and other top mobile devices later this year.
Furthermore, considering that the Galaxy S6 is expected to be as thin as that other phone so many people love these days, and is expected to feature a glass and metal design that basically implies the battery will be sealed, the use of such ePoP chips seems to be a likely choice for the Galaxy S6.
A Galaxy S5 iFixit teardown has produced the following image showing the handset’s motherboard. The phone’s 2GB RAM chips are highlighted in red, and they’re likely now placed on top of the 2.5GHz quad-core processor in the Galaxy S6. Next to it, in orange, the 16GB storage module can be seen.
On the other hand, there’s also reason to believe the Galaxy S6 won’t be the first flagship Samsung smartphone to sport such ePoP chip technology.
Samsung specifically announced that its first ePoP designs include 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 32GB of eMMC (storage) and a controller, so it’s not clear whether the company is also making such modules sporting 64GB and 128GB of storage. The Galaxy S6 is expected to come in various with either 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage, which would need appropriate ePoP chips.
“By offering our new high-density ePoP memory for flagship smartphones, Samsung expects to provide its customers with significant design benefits, while enabling faster and longer operation of multi-tasking features,” Senior Vice President of Memory Marketing at Samsung Electronics Jeeho Baek, said. “We plan to expand our line-up of ePoP memory with packages involving enhancements in performance and density over the next few years, to further add to the growth of premium mobile market.”
What seems to be clear though is that Samsung’s new designs — thinner, lighter devices that come with a much better build quality — will also introduce significant under-the-hood changes that should offer important performance improvements and energy efficiency. As a result, such ePoP designs could be used in upcoming flagship smartphones and tablets, even if the Galaxy S6 is skipped.
Naturally, non-Samsung devices could also make use of this particular technology later this year, though it’s not clear at this point which OEMs will choose ePoP chips for their flagship handsets and tablets.