Seagate Technology will begin shipping a higher capacity version of its hard disk drive for mobile phones in the third quarter of this year, the company said at the 3GSM exhibition in Barcelona.

The new drive will have a 12GB capacity – a 50 per cent increase on its current highest capacity 1in drive. Such drives are typically used in mobile phones and digital music players. In addition to increased capacity there are three other main improvements offered by the new drive: it consumes almost a third less power than current models, has higher operational shock resistance, and is physically smaller.

Smaller, shock-resistant power miser

"We've made it 23 per cent smaller by moving from a Compact Flash form factor into a smaller package, which eliminates some of the connector and packaging," said Brodie Keast, senior vice president and general manager of Seagate's consumer electronics business.

To get the higher capacity Seagate is using perpendicular recording technology. Hard disk drives store data by magnetically charging particles on the drive's surface. In almost all current drives the charges run parallel to the surface of the disc, but perpendicular recording involves the charges being stood on end, running perpendicular to the disk surface. This means they occupy a smaller space, so more can be crammed onto the disc, increasing the capacity.

The technology is just being introduced by hard-disk makers and is coming at a time when conventional parallel recording methods are starting to reach their limits.

Smaller and larger, the data Tardis effect

Seagate said the new drive will be available in the third quarter but didn't detail pricing. However Keast said the price-per-gigabyte would be lower compared to the company's current 8GB drive.

Seagate is one of a number of companies chasing the mobile phone market with hard disk drives. Another company, Cornice, will launch 8GB and 10GB versions of its 1in drive during the current quarter. Cornice, which has already seen its drives used in handsets from Samsung Electronics, expects about 72 million mobile phones with embedded drives to be shipped in 2009 out of a global total of around 1 billion handsets.

The 3GSM World Congress 2006 runs from today until Thursday 16, February in Barcelona, Spain.