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Apple tops Nintendo in MEMS sensor buys in 2010

A new report by IHS iSuppli dethrones Nintendo as the top buyer of tiny components called Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems during 2010. Leading the pack was Samsung, followed closely by Apple.

2010's MEMS purchase rankings. (click to enlarge) IHS iSuppli

Apple's component purchases during 2010 have put it on top of Nintendo and just behind leader Samsung as the largest buyers of Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology, according to a new report by IHS iSuppli.

These tiny components, which include--but are not limited to--accelerometers, gyroscopes and accelerometers, can be found inside a number of Apple's portable products like iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

"MEMS sensors bought by Apple last year included 3-axis gyroscopes from STMicroelectronics for the iPhone 4, iPod Touch, and--toward the end of 2010--the iPad 2 tablet," the report said. "Apple also bought accelerometers for the above three devices as well as for the iPod nano and MacBook computer."

All told, IHS iSuppli says Apple spent $195 million on said components, a 116.7 percent increase over last year's purchases.

The purchasing put Apple on top of Nintendo, which came in third this year with $123 million. That's an 11.5 percent drop from 2009 when the company topped the list. Nintendo uses similar technologies in its Wii video game console controllers, and 3DS handheld system hardware. Jérémie Bouchaud, who is IHS iSuppli's principal analyst for MEMS, chalks up the purchasing decline to "market saturation of Wii video game controllers."

Samsung, which led the pack ahead of Apple and Nintendo at $200 million in spending, purchased its own share of microphones, gyroscopes, and accelerometers, as well as more low level components like bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters and Digital Light Processing (DLP) chips for use in its electronics. According to the report, Samsung's spending went up 46 percent from last year's $137 million.

Rounding out the rest of the list was LG Electronics in fourth place, followed by Sony in fifth. IHS iSuppli notes that Sony's 55 percent increase in spending from the previous year can be attributed, in part, to purchases of gyroscropes for use in the company's motion-based Move controller for the PlayStation 3, which was released in September of last year. The company also makes use of accelerometers in its standard PS3 controllers.