What Is UFS 3.0? — The Powerful Successor To microSD Memory Card

UFS 3.0 Samsung Phone
Image Credit: Samsung

UFS 3.0 is on the horizon and is all set to replace SD memory cards. It has been more than 20 years since the launch of SD cards. Although the performance and memory size of these cards have improved, they are not as fast as today’s standards.

To overcome this plateau of performance, UFS, a new ultra-small memory storage solution, has entered the market.

What is UFS 3.0?

UFS Stands for Universal Flash Storage. It is an ultra small storage chip similar to a micro-SD card with a performance equivalent to an SSD drive. According to Samsung, the first UFS v1 standard was published by JEDEC on March 29, 2016. Since then, several iterations of UFS cards have been published, including UFS 2.0, 2.1. UFS 3.0 is the latest iteration of state-of-the-art performance storage chips. UFS 3.0 storage was supposed to debut on Samsung Galaxy Fold, but it will make its market debut in the One Plus 7 Pro.

Difference between UFS and eMMC

UFS cards are built using the following architecture

  • M-PHY Physical Layer – For reduction in power consumption
  • Unipro Link Layer – For easy detection and recovery from I/O errors
  • SCSI Command Layer – For implementing the Command Queuing feature

The difference between UFS and eMMC is on the basis of performance, power consumption and overall value. The UFS card uses new technologies like asynchronous I/O protocol, task queuing, Advanced differential signal and a lot more to deliver high performance and low power consumption at the same time.

Sequential Read Speed Sequential Write Speed
SD Card 100 90
UFS 500 200


Random Read Speed Random Write Speed
SD Card 2k 0.5k
UFS 40k 35k

*Performance measured in Crystal Disk Benchmark

As we can clearly see in the case of UFS, the sequential read speed sees an improvement of 5x and write speed sees 2.2x improvement. The same can be said for Random Read and Write Speed, which sees an improvement of 20x and 70x respectively.

So basically, UFS is a faster version of eMMC. However, the question arises whether the UFS is power efficient or not, considering its high performance.

The UFS is able to achieve such high speeds due to the parallel processing of multiple tasks. It does so with the use of asynchronous I/O protocol which is better and faster than the synchronous I/O current SD cards use.

Using Asynchronous I/O protocol, UFS storage is able to send continuous signals to make a read/write operation run seamlessly along with any other program in the background.

A real-world example of this is when you open your gallery in a microSD card-enabled storage, white blocks appear for 1 or 2 seconds instead of photos. In UFS storage, photos load instantly.

With the task queuing ability, UFS storage is able to queue up to 32 tasks at the same time. This is possible due to the SCSI command layer protocol, which is also used in USB 3.0.

UFS vs eMMC: Power Consumption

Even in terms of power consumption, UFS is better than eMMC. A microSD card requires 3.3V at the data signal initialization stage and 1.8V to perform operations. On the other hand, the UFS card uses either a 0.2V or 0.4V pair of a Differential-signal.

Max power consumption
UFS 1.62Watt
SD Card 2.88Watt

Clearly, UFS cards use less power when compared to a normal SD card. Furthermore, even the idle power consumption of UFS is less than that of SD Cards.

Whenever a manufacturer designs a smartphone and an SD card slot for it, they have to allocate a certain amount of battery power to that particular slot.

UFS 3.0 Storage Device

In the case of standard SD cards, there are no strict conditions to prevent power consumption variation, hence these cards end up using more power.

In the case of UFS cards, 10 times more strict conditions are employed to prevent power consumption fluctuations. It leads to UFS cards delivering 1.7 times better battery life than SD cards.

Differential-signal sent by UFS card hosts does the following functions to reduce power consumption —

  • Reduction to EMI and Cross-talk – To cancel out emissions from two conductors
  • Improved Signal-to-noise ratio – To operate UFS cards at a lower voltage
  • Simple Receiver Circuit – To easily determine logic gate
What is EMI and how it affects performance?
EMI stands for Electro-Magnetic Interference and it refers to the disturbance of the functioning of an electronic device in the presence of an electronic magnetic field.

UFS Vs eMMC: Speed Comparison

Using the above-mentioned features, UFS cards can deliver 3 times faster loading when compared with an SD-card.

Transferring 4GB Adobe Files Transferring 1000 files
UFS 18.51 Seconds 6.58 Seconds
SD Card 54.85 Seconds 29.59 Seconds

When compared with the UFS and eMMC storage speed of the current day mobile phones, we see some very similar results.

Sequential Read Sequential Write Random Read Random Write
Zen Phone Max Pro M1 (eMMC) 269.15MB/s 210.12MB/s 13289 IOPS 3875.28 IOPS
Honor Play (UFS 2.1) 681.71MB/s 167.2MB/s 25349 IOPS 23244 IOPS
Asus Zenphone 5Z (UFS 2.1) 722.01MB/s 198MB/s 33017.98 IOPS 26484.78 IOPS

*Androbench Storage Benchmark

The sequential speed limit for the latest eMMC enabled storage devices lies somewhere between 250MB/s and 300MB/s. However, as we move to UFS 2.1 the sequential reading speed increases to 680MB/s all the way to almost 730MB/s.

Evolution of Mobile storage

UFS 3.0 Samsung eUFS

Since its inception, UFS storage has also evolved. Currently, smartphones utilize UFS 2.1 storage and cars running Android OS in their infotainment system utilize eUFS (embedded universal flash storage).

UFS 3.0 vs eUFS 2.1 vs UFS 2.1 vs eUFS vs eMMC 5.1

Sequential Read Sequential Write Random Read Random Write
UFS 3.0 2100MB/s 410MB/S 63000 IOPS 68000 IOPS
eUFS 2.1 1000MB/s 260MB/s 42000 IOPS 50000 IOPS
UFS 2.1 722MB/s 168MB/s 33017 IOPS 26484 IOPS
eUFS 2.0 850MB/s 260MB/s 45000 IOPS 40000 IOPS
eMMC 5.1 250MB/S 125MB/s 11000 IOPS 13000 IOPS

Since the UFS v1 was released, UFS storage has been adopted on several flagship phones including Samsung Galaxy S10, OnePlus 6T and many more. However, most of these devices only use UFS 2.1 storage. UFS 3.0 will come with the OnePlus 7 Pro and an updated Galaxy Fold.

UFS 1.0 UFS 1.1 UFS 2.0 UFS 2.1
Bandwidth Per Lane 300MB/s 300MB/s 600MB/s 600MB/s
Number of Lanes 1 1 2 2
Total Bandwidth 300 MB/s 300MB/S 1200MB/s 1200MB/s

What to expect from UFS 3.0?

The UFS 3.0 was announced by JEDEC in 2018. UFC 3.0 will adopt HS-Gear 4 with 12Gbps per lane doubling the performance of the current UFS 2.1. The maximum interface performance of UFS 3.0 will reach 1200MB/s from 600MB/s.

With more powerful hardware coming into mobile systems very soon, the need for powerful and efficient storage is paramount. UFS 3.0 is all set to launch and hopefully, after its release, UFS 2.1 will also see its adoption into lower-spec smartphones as well.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold was the first mobile device with UFS 3.0 storage but it was recalled by the company. The phone’s review unit featured a severe manufacturing flaw which caused the Galaxy Fold to break upon usage.

Hopefully, after the launch of the OnePlus 7 Pro, the UFS 3.0 storage will become the norm, at least in the top-end smartphone market.

Also Read: Samsung Makes World’s First 1TB UFS For Its Future Smartphones
Yetnesh Dubey

Yetnesh Dubey

Associate Editor at Fossbytes. Yetnesh manages the everyday editorial duties and oversees the writing staff. He occasionally covers news related to electric vehicles and tech.
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