Analyst house IHS claims that the latest booming piece of technology is the gyroscope.
For years the gizmo that keeps things balanced has been stopping aircraft and Italian cruise ships from flipping over. Now it is getting a new lease of life in the iPhone and iPad. IHS says this makes them the top consumer and mobile microelectromechanical sevice in 2011.
Microelectromechanical gear, or MEMS, netted $655.4 million in 2011, up 66 percent from $394.5 million in 2010.
The analyts think the gyroscope will take in $1.1 billion by 2015, well ahead of accelerometers at $705 million.
The newfound prominence of gyroscopes means the devices last year accounted for 41 percent of revenue for all kinds of motion sensors in consumer and mobile applications, including accelerometers and electronic compasses, at $1.6 billion. This is compared to a 24 percent share in 2010 when overall motion sensor revenue stood at $1.1 billion.
Gyroscopes have become more important thanks to the boom in 3-axis versions of the iPhone and iPad. When they are used with 3-axis accelerometers they provide more accurate motion sensing. Accelerometers correctly orientate phones and tablets to the viewer's perspective whether the devices are held vertically or horizontally, gyroscopes improve the motion-based interface for things like gaming.
Jérémie Bouchaud, who is the director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS, said that smartphones and media tablets are by far the main adopters of the 3-axis gyroscope.
He said that of the $655 million total revenue generated by the gyroscope space, the 3-axis segment accounted for $462 million, or 71 percent. Apple was the main consumer, accounting for 62 percent consumption of 3-axis gyroscopes, with other manufacturers like Samsung and LG also beginning to use them last year.
STMicroelectronics is the leading producer of both gyroscopes and accelerometers, with Apple accounting for half of the company's MEMS business in 2011. STMicro is the sole supplier of gyroscopes and accelerometers for the iPhone and iPad.