Samsung will begin mass production of a new type of thumbnail-sized mobile memory card at the start of the year.

The company has already started producing samples of the MMCmicro cards, which measure 12mm by 14mm by 1.1mm in size - a third the size of that of existing multi-media mobile cards (RS-MMCs). "There's nothing wrong with the RS-MMCs," said a spokeswoman. "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 10Mbit/s and write at 7Mbit/s, and will be produced in 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities, according to the company. By comparison, RS-MMCs read data at 2.2Mbit/s and write it at 2.1Mbit/s.

The 128MB version of the MMCmicro can store about 60 five-megapixel digital photographs or nearly one hour of QVGA-resolution (320 pixels by 240 pixels) video. The cards can be erased and reused more than 100,000 times, according to Samsung.

The development of the cards is just one of a series of recent moves by handset makers to sell smaller form-factor 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 11mm by 15mm by 1mm 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 standardizing the new memory card with the Multimedia Card Association (MMCA), the company said. Prices for the new cards have yet to be announced.