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What is UFS 4.0? Everything you need to know
While a smartphone’s performance is often judged based on its processing prowess, storage speed can have an equally large impact on overall usability as well. So when Samsung Semiconductor announced its Universal Flash Storage 4.0 (UFS 4.0) chips in 2022, we knew it would have far-reaching benefits for the consumer electronics industry. And in early 2023, the Samsung Galaxy S23 series became the first to feature UFS 4.0 storage on a smartphone.
So in this article, let’s discuss what you can expect from the latest UFS 4.0 flash memory standard and why it’s such a big deal.
What is UFS storage?
Early Android devices used eMMC-based flash storage, a significantly slower storage technology than modern Universal Flash Storage (UFS). A blazing fast SoC paired with slow eMMC storage will likely exhibit sluggish app opening times, stutters, and general slowdowns. This is why you don’t see eMMC used in anything but budget devices these days, such as low-cost Chromebooks.
Universal Flash Storage (UFS), a more modern flash storage technology, began gaining popularity in the Android smartphone ecosystem around 2016. UFS is a full-duplex interface that allows simultaneous reads and writes. eMMC, meanwhile, uses a parallel or half-duplex interface that only allows one of those operations at a time. UFS also consumes less power as compared to eMMC. The upcoming UFS 4.0 standard succeeds UFS 3.1, which is just over two years old at this point.
What is UFS 4.0 and how fast is it?
Compared to UFS 3.1, Samsung says that the new UFS 4.0 standard offers significantly improved transfer speeds, power efficiency, and even space savings. More specifically, UFS 4.0 can achieve transfer speeds of up to 23.2Gbps per lane. That’s twice the speed of UFS 3.1 and quadruple the speed of the older UFS 2.1 standard. Samsung Semiconductor says it managed to achieve this feat thanks to its use of a new proprietary controller and an updated vertical NAND (V-NAND) architecture.
As for real-world figures, the company claims UFS 4.0 can deliver sequential read speeds of up to 4,200MB/s and write speeds of up to 2,800MB/s. While not quite as fast as the best PCIe computer SSDs, UFS 4.0’s claimed performance still puts it ahead of most other storage technologies. It also boasts much better efficiency, pushing 6.0MB/s per milliampere (mA) or 46% less power consumption than its predecessor.
UFS 4.0’s increased bandwidth should cut down app and game loading times significantly.
In summary, UFS 4.0’s increased bandwidth should become immediately apparent in everyday situations like app and game loading. It’ll also be a boon for high-resolution, high framerate video recording, and other memory-intensive applications. Meanwhile, the increased efficiency should directly translate to better battery life for smartphones.
Samsung believes improved transfer speeds will also aid emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality. Indeed, portable devices like the Meta Quest VR headset could perhaps benefit from better read and write speeds, especially as screen resolutions and corresponding asset sizes increase in coming years.
According to initial estimates, UFS 4.0 offers 4,200MB/s sequential read speeds and 2,800MB/s write speeds.
Which smartphones use UFS 4.0 storage?
UFS 4.0 is still brand-new, but it has started to make its way to consumer devices already. Samsung Semiconductor said it would begin mass manufacturing by the third quarter of 2022 and it looks like everything has gone according to plan. All three variants of the Galaxy S23 feature UFS 4.0 storage. The only exception is the 128GB variant of the base Galaxy S23. But while this is an exciting first step, it may take a little while longer for widespread adoption, which in turn depends on the manufacturing volume and yields of these chips improving.
You can expect more 2023 flagship smartphones to follow Samsung's lead and include UFS 4.0 storage chips.
As a brand-new technology, you can also expect UFS 4.0 chips to come at a slight price premium versus existing storage technologies. This means that it will first make its way to flagship smartphones and tablets, where manufacturer margins are higher. Over time, though, the technology will eventually trickle down to the mid-range segment too. After all, you can find the current-generation UFS 3.1 standard in sub-$500 devices like the Google Pixel 6a.
UFS 4.0 is the latest version, which debuted with the Samsung Galaxy S23 series.
UFS and SSD both refer to flash storage technology. However, SSDs in the context of computers may have better performance and reliability than a smartphone UFS module.
No. UFS 3.1 supports sequential read speeds of 2,100MB/s, versus the latest NVMe standard can reach double that.