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NXP Discloses Design Wins for More than 130 NFC Handsets and Tablets

NXP Semiconductors CEO Rick Clemmer said the chip maker has notched design wins for more than 130 handsets and tablets, giving it an “Intel-like” market share for the number of devices being designed with NFC chips.

Clemmer, speaking in a fourth quarter conference call with financial analysts Thursday, confirmed that NFC handset shipments during 2011 were lower than the chip maker had originally projected.

But he said 2012 would be a “very solid year” for NFC business, and the percentage of handsets supporting NFC would be higher than in 2011.

The more than 130 design wins are an increase from the more than 90 handsets and tablets Clemmer said were in the pipeline using NXP chips in November, during the company’s third quarter conference call.

Clemmer said the attach rate for NFC chips was only 10% of the 445 million smartphones shipped in 2011, lower than the 16% rate–or 70 million phones–that NXP had originally projected. He declined to project NFC device shipments for 2012.

“It’s clearly going to grow significantly,” he said. “We learned our lesson last year that we’re not going to get into the forecast business for NFC attach rate. Clearly, we have encouraging signs and encouraging order levels from a number of customers with the 130 handsets and tablets that have designed in our NFC product.”

When asked by an analyst for NXP’s market share of total design wins, Clemmer said he knew of only six to eight models not using NXP chips.

“(We have) Intel-like market shares associated with the design-win basis,” said Clemmer. “We’ll have to see how the volume ramps up for each one of those users (customers).”

NXP has enjoyed the entire market for Android-based smartphones and tablets as well as other phones shipped by the two largest handset makers, Nokia and Samsung.

Rival NFC chip maker Inside Secure, which this week relaunched its initial public offering, has the other design wins, though in the past has disagreed with Clemmer’s market-share estimates.

Inside’s chips run in at least seven BlackBerry models, some of them closely related, along with at least one model of rugged work phones from U.S.-based Sonim Technologies. Inside also said it will get NFC business from Chinese phone maker ZTE, though no ZTE phones carrying Inside NFC chips have been introduced. And Inside this week also announced a design win from a leading smartphone maker on a major mobile platform, which will either be Windows Phone or Android. The smartphone maker, which Inside declined to name, will introduce the model in mid-2012.

Inside said it shipped just under 17.5 million NFC chips in 2011, which CEO Rémy de Tonnac contends gave it 50% of the market, based on an estimate of 35 million NFC phone shipments for the year by UK-based IMS Research. NXP had the other half of the market, he told NFC Times Tuesday.

NXP declined to respond to a request to rebut de Tonnac’s estimate. But if NXP’s estimate Thursday that a little more than 40 million NFC phones were shipped in 2011, using chips from both NXP and Inside, is correct, it would give NXP the edge in unit shipments for the year.

Clemmer, during the conference call Thursday, said sales in NXP’s mobile transactions unit, which takes in NFC chip revenue, grew by 30% in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the third quarter. But NXP does not break out figures for the unit, which is part of NXP’s Identification division.

All told, sales in the ID division, which also includes chips for Mifare transit, banking and ID cards, as well as e-passport chips, dropped by 3.7% in the fourth quarter of 2011 to $155 million, compared with the same period in 2010. Q4 2011 sales in the division were also down by about 3% from the third quarter of 2011.

Demand in the ID division was weak during the second half of 2011, Clemmer said, compared with the first half of the year. Overall, the division had sales of $698 million for all of 2011, an increase of 18.5% over 2010. NXP is projecting growth for the division in the low double digits in the first quarter of 2012.

“What we’ve seen is a rebound in the demand of the core business as well as the mobile transactions side,” said Clemmer.

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