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Flash drives in mobile devices to become faster with new standard

Flash drives in mobile devices to become faster with new standard

JEDEC's eMMC 5.1 standard will also secure storage on mobile devices

Flash drives in mobile devices are set to become faster and secure with a new standard approved by the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association.

The new standard, eMMC version 5.1, will lay the groundwork for new mobile storage that will provide faster access to data. Flash drives based on eMMC 5.1 will be able to handle 4K streaming and more data-intensive tasks.

Users are storing more multimedia and data files locally, and the need for faster storage has also increased with mobile devices handling more resource-heavy applications. Smartphones and tablets in some cases are replacing PCs as people's main computing devices.

Samsung has started making 64GB, 32GB and 16GB drives based on the new standard. The company is already shipping units to customers, but has not said whether those drives will be used in the Galaxy S6 smartphone, which will be announced early next month at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

Samsung's 64GB eMMC 5.1 will deliver a random read performance of 11,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second) and write performance of 13,000 IOPS, compared to a rough performance of 7,000 IOPS for 64GB drives based on the previous eMMC 5.0 standard. The random read and write speeds are seven times and 26 times faster, respectively, than Micro-SD cards, which are generally slotted inside mobile devices.

The speed improvements comes through some cache and data-streaming improvements.

The new standard could also make flash drives more secure. A new protocol called Secure Write Protection ensures only specific entities are able to access files and lock or unlock storage.

Beyond mobile devices, eMMC drives are also used in cameras, e-readers, printers and other consumer electronics.

A faster eMMC standard was long overdue, with the last refresh coming in October 2013. But, ironically, the standard already has a successor, as momentum grows behind the faster Universal Flash Storage 2.0 standard, which is ready now and was also developed by JEDEC. UFS is designed mainly for high-capacity flash drives in mobile devices, and is becoming relevant as the storage requirements of mobile users grows. Toshiba and Samsung, which back the eMMC standard, have been developing UFS storage in parallel.

Although eMMC 5.1 will eventually be replaced by UFS 2.0 in mobile devices needing more storage, it may live on in low-storage devices like e-readers.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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