NdFeB Consumption for Mobile Phone Voice Coil Motors Up 10% in 2018

Jan. 29, 2019

Last year was a dreadful year for the global mobile phone market

Last year was a terrible year for the global mobile phone market as a whole. According to the Asia Times, sales in China decreased 14% year-over-year to 396 million units, marking the second consecutive year of declining growth in the nation.

Similarly, earlier this month Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company will report much lower iPhone sales than previously anticipated, primarily due to a slowdown in China and additional “macroeconomic challenges in some markets”.

Huawei defies gravity amidst a turndown in domestic sales

Despite the gloom looming heavy over the market at large, China’s mobile phone and voice coil motor (“VCM”) manufacturers are finding much reason to celebrate. In 2018, Chinese mobile phone-making giant, Huawei, surpassed Apple as the world’s number two supplier of smartphones, shipping over 200 million units worldwide, according to a company announcement on December 25th cited by AnandTech.

Since 2010, Huawei smartphone sales have increased by a factor of 66x, helping lift the collective market share of Chinese mobile phone manufacturers to over 50% of global sales in 2018, and simultaneously launching China’s mobile phone VCM manufacturers, including HOZEL, ZET, New Shicoh and Shanghai B.L., into the global top 10.

Voice coil motors used to auto-focus mobile phone cameras

Much like a loudspeaker in your headphones or car door, an auto-focus VCM uses the principle of electromagnetism to attract or repel a permanent magnet along a linear axis, thereby moving a camera lens in or out while an algorithm calculates image sharpness to determine the optimal placement of the lens.

As mobile phone form factors have gotten thinner and thinner over the years, the mobile phone VCM industry has gravitated towards use of high-strength NdFeB magnets to meet size limitations and performance demands.

Despite lackluster phone sales globally, mobile phone VCM shipments up 10%

In 2018, over 1.8 billion mobile phone VCMs were shipped globally, an increase of 10% over the year prior, according to First Mobile Research Institute. Despite a poor year for mobile phone sales globally, VCM shipments increased due to the rising popularity of dual camera (or multi camera) options being integrated into new phone models.

Stemming from this growth, Adamas Intelligence estimates that global NdFeB consumption for production of mobile phone VCMs also increased by 10% in 2018 over the year prior.

NdFeB market outlook to 2030

For a detailed breakdown of global NdFeB production, consumption and trade – and forecasts to 2030 – keep an eye out for Adamas Intelligence’s upcoming ‘Rare Earth Market Outlook to 2030’.


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