Faster! Even faster! Built-in memory plays a key role in any device, and Windows PC users know this like no one else. In the past few years, the transition from traditional storage drives to solid-state format has begun to avalanche. Smartphones have also changed, but owners often do not notice this unless they are hardware experts. Only experts note that the performance of flash drives in many smartphones is lower than in modern computers and laptops.

More specifically, smartphones, especially budget ones, lack the high speed of SSDs that run on the latest NVMe protocol. To store data in the phone, you have to be content with the built-in eMMC memory card, so the information transfer rate ranges from 200-400 MB / s, which corresponds to the speed of inexpensive SATA SSDs.

Universal mobile storage device

UFS flash storage accelerates data transfer on smartphones to NVMe SSD speeds and permanently solves the problem of slow eMMS. The Galaxy S8 already has an eUFS chip (pictured). UFS chips are also built into memory cards, which creates competition for microSD.

Universal Flash Storage 3.0: Smartphone technology of the future

At the beginning of 2018, the smartphone market was divided into three segments according to the principle of internal storage structure.

eMMC: this type of memory is very common in entry-level and mid-range smartphones, but on the downstream branch. Historically, eMMC has relied on previously used multimedia cards. Actually, the name stands for “embedded multimedia memory card” (eMMC – embedded Multimedia Memory Card). The main disadvantage of this solution is that the controller of such cards is combined with flash memory, and this causes half-duplex data exchange with high latency compared to the same NVMe SSDs.

eUFC: eUFC is one of the options for the built-in Universal Flash Storage and is installed in mid-range and premium smartphones on the Android platform. An example is the Samsung Galaxy S8 model with an eUFC 2.1 chip (top, second page).

NVMe: Apple goes its own way in iPhone development and uses a modified NVMe controller from the MacBook in its smartphones.

UFS as internal storage (eUFS)

The slower but cheaper eMMC mobile phone storage will be replaced by eUFS over the next few years. The current UFS 2.0 standard is already significantly faster, and eUFS 3.0 will increase the speed gap even further.

Universal Flash Storage 3.0: Smartphone technology of the futureThe speed comparison between eMMC and eUFS is in favor of the latter. Only the more expensive production of UFS still allows you to save a niche for a cheap eMMC drive.

eUFC 2.1 chips are the fastest modern storage that can be installed in a smartphone. However, changes are coming in 2018 as the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association finalizes the latest UFS 3.0 standard, which will take smartphones to a whole new level of performance. In particular, the UFS 3.0 program aims to make the smartphones of the future as fast as PCs with NVMe SSDs.

The UFS 3.0 specification delivers up to 2.4 GB/s dual-lane data transfer rates, doubling the speeds of current UFS, and is ideal for parallel task processing. In addition, in future versions of the standard it will be possible to increase the number of lines and increase throughput.

SSD technology in smartphones

Universal Flash Storage 3.0: Smartphone technology of the futureTo optimize performance, JEDEC focuses on SSD technologies: for example, data exchange between a UFS host and flash memory can be full duplex. This makes it possible to simultaneously read and write – eMMC cannot boast of such.

The write procedure does not take much time here, and full two-way communication is carried out using the UFS driver, which interacts with the host controller. The controller, in turn, sorts the incoming tasks in such a way that all parallel commands can be executed in the established order. At this stage, prioritization occurs: for example, the video you are watching loads faster than the update in the background.

UFS as a memory card (UFS Card)

When it comes to memory cards, standards like microSD have already reached their limits. The UFS Card offers higher read and write throughput, but shows its strengths especially well in random accesses.

Universal Flash Storage 3.0: Smartphone technology of the futureUntil now, the UFS 1.0 card could not withstand the widely used microSD cards. But plans for UFS Card 2.0 will further increase the speed advantage.

Commands for serial connections have been adapted for UFS from the SCSI protocol, and for smartphones, further configuration is required, otherwise the memory chips used in SSDs would already be installed in phones.

Energy saving is also an important factor. Both in long run and standby mode, UFS should become as fast as eMMC and go into standby mode as often as possible to conserve power.

UFS overtakes microSD

Universal Flash Storage 3.0: Smartphone technology of the future
Command sequencing: UFS processes memory commands in parallel

Today, the built-in memory of mobile devices is not always enough for certain tasks. Then their owners resort to installing microSD cards, which have gained popularity among users due to their large capacity and affordable cost. However, UFS intervenes here and since 2016, under the name UFS Card, it begins to compete with microSD.

New memory cards are noticeably faster: for example, UFS 1.0 shows a speed of 600 MB / s, compared to 100 MB / s for a microSD card. In 2018, the release of UFS Card 2.0 is expected, which will increase the speed to 1.2 GB / s. Samsung is a pioneer in this business and already has similar cards in its product line. The nuance is that there are no compatible card readers for them yet, and those manufacturers who are ready to install such memory cards in their smartphones simply cannot do this.

The first smartphones with UFS 3.0 will appear in 2019

When talking about the UFS specification, Phison is unlikely to come to mind. However, this Taiwanese manufacturer of memory controllers is leading the industry and setting the trend. Phison developed the first prototype of UFS 3.0 storage. The 3.0 standard was adopted by JEDEC only in 2018, and the first Android smartphones with UFS 3.0 from Phison will appear in 2019.

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Photo: manufacturing companies