Before every MWC event, Samsung gradually unveils bits and pieces of its semiconductor innovations that not-so-suprisingly end up inside its line of imminent Galaxy S devices. So far this year, the company has announced its 8Gb LPDDR4 RAM chip (with 4GB of RAM) and 14nm FinFET processor (to be introduced in the company's Exynos 7 Octa), both of which promise faster speeds and more power efficiency.
Today we get another glimpse inside the Galaxy S6, well...presumably. (The timing is just perfect, isn't it?) Samsung is taking the cover off a significant advancement in the semiconductor space for smarphones: a 128GB NAND memory based on the much anticipated UFS 2.0 standard. In layman terms, what you need to know is that this is a different standard than current embedded smartphone storage solutions, it's significantly faster, and Samsung is keen on letting you know that it really blows the socks off using a MicroSD card. That definitely lines up with the rumor — corroborated by the leaked images — that the Galaxy S6 won't offer a MicroSD slot.
In more technical terms, UFS 2.0 is a flash memory standard introduced in 2014 by the JEDEC, which is different from the current eMMC 5.0 (and even the imminent eMMC 5.1) storage system that is used in most consumer electronics. While eMMC has a parallel interface that can only read or write at a time, UFS can perform both simultaneously thanks to dedicated paths for each action. And more importantly, UFS has a Command Queue feature that allows it to sort and reorder the tasks it needs to perform. Without Command Queue, eMMCs have to finish the task at hand before moving to the next.
These differences result in performance improvements across the board for UFS 2.0. Compared to eMMC 5.0, they are 1.4x faster at sequential reading, 1.66x at sequential writing, 2.71x at random reading (19000 Input Output Per Second vs 7000 IOPS), and 1.07 at random writing. The difference is even more staggering compared to MicroSD cards: sequential read and write speeds are more than tripled, while random read and write IOPS are multiplied by factors larger than 10.
The promise is that with UFS 2.0, consumers will be able to run multiple applications in the background, download and upload big files, and play massive games or UHD videos simultaneously, without any compromise on performance. That explains why Samsung will likely forego its MicroSD slot in the Galaxy S6 in favor of an embedded UFS 2.0 solution. And the company expects that it won't be alone in this endeavor: UFS should become widespread in the high-end smartphone market, leaving eMMC to populate the middle-range and low-end.
Back to today's announcement, this particular chip from Samsung will come in 3 flavors: 32GB, 64GB, and the mighty 128GB. Aside from speed improvements, it should consume 50% less power (presumably compared to eMMC) and come in Samsung's new ePoP (embedded Package on Package) which allows it to be stacked on top of another chip for up to 50% less space usage, all of this making it a real winner.
Samsung reveals that it's already mass-producing this UFS 2.0 flash storage and calls it, "today’s optimal memory storage solution for high-end mobile devices." Whether the Galaxy S6 will come in all three storage flavors or just one or two of them remains to be seen. But it's pretty safe to say that there should be a 128GB Galaxy S6 option, and that's really cool.
As someone who lives in the land of slow and expensive Internet, offline stored media is a necessity to me. I've been using MicroSD cards for years, but if a phone provides this amount of storage out of the box, I'd be more than happy to ditch the card. Nonetheless, this whole MicroSD thrash based on speed alone misses one of the points of the debate: a MicroSD slot allows you to transfer and access data between devices (two phones or a phone and a camera for example) a lot easier and faster. Oh well, you can't have it all.