Samsung Electronics is to begin mass production of a new type of thumbnail-sized memory card for mobile phones by the end of the first quarter of 2005.

The company has already started producing samples of the MMCmicro cards, which are 12x14x1.1mm in size

Prices of the products have not been announced, nor the names of companies testing the cards.

The new cards have take up less than one third of the space of the reduced-size multimedia cards (RS-MMCs) that were previously developed for mobile phones.

"There's nothing wrong with the RS-MMCs," Chae said. "It's just that mobile phones are getting smaller and smaller and people want high-capacity cards," she said.

The MMCmicro cards can read data at 10Mbps (megabytes per second) and write at 7Mbps, and will be produced in 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities, according to the company.

By comparison, RS-MMCs read data at 2.18Mbps and write it at 2.08Mbps.

The 128M byte version of the MMCmicro can store about 60 5Mp digital photographs or nearly one hour of QVGA-resolution (320x240 pixels) video. The cards can be erased and reused more than 100,000 times.

The development of the cards by Samsung is one of a series of recent moves by handset makers to sell smaller memory cards for mobile phones, according to Michito Kimura, senior analyst for mobile handset market research at IDC Japan.

In February, SanDisk announced its Transflash memory card. The same month Motorola said some of its phone models released this year would use the format. Transflash cards are 11x15x1mm in size and come in 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities, according to SanDisk.

"New consumer devices are getting even smaller and thinner and the market is demanding smaller, lighter, reasonably high-capacity cards," said Kimura.

Samsung is working on standardising the new memory card with the Multimedia Card Association (MMCA), the company said.