If there’s one common denominator among most devices this year is that they all have multiple cameras. And we’re not just talking about just dual cameras: OEMs ranging from OnePlus, Nokia, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and even Apple have come out with phones that have triple, quad, or even penta camera setups. More cameras don’t necessarily correlate to a better camera experience, but it does unlock more features and versatility that is normally impossible for one single camera to pull off correctly. This versatility is what has prompted OEMs to pack in multiple cameras, increasing the demand for different image sensors. Because of this, Sony’s semiconductor division is quite literally hot on their heels — so much that they can’t seem to keep up with the ever-rising demand.
Mr. Terushi Shimizu, head of Sony’s semiconductor division, says that “judging by the way things are going, even after all that investment in expanding capacity, it might still not be enough” when it comes to manufacturing capacity for their camera sensors, and that “we are having to apologize to customers because we just can’t make enough”, as reported by Bloomberg. The reason? The demand for their cameras as well as the number of smartphones being manufactured in mass with multiple sensor arrays. Sony is the main camera sensor provider for most smartphone manufacturers, and most devices we use nowadays have at least one Sony-made sensor. So even though the demand for smartphones has plateaued on a global scale, the demand for image sensors has steadily increased. Sony is even working around the clock to manufacture its in-demand image sensors, running its chip factories constantly through the holidays to keep up with the demand. But even 24-hour operations are said to be insufficient. The demand has grown so much that semiconductors are now Sony’s second most profitable business, only surpassed by PlayStation.
Sony is the manufacturer behind the 48MP IMX586 sensor which was, very easily, the most popular flagship camera sensor this year, featuring on several devices including several Xiaomi phones (Redmi Note 7/7 Pro, Redmi Note 8, Xiaomi Mi 9 line, Redmi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro, Xiaomi Mi A3), the OnePlus 7/7T lineup, as well as on devices from Huawei, Oppo, Realme, Asus, Vivo, Motorola, et al. Its successor, the IMX686, will compete with Samsung’s 108MP behemoth head-on featuring a 64MP resolution and will be featured on 2020 phones such as the Redmi K30. Sony claims to have a 51% market share as of May 2019, and its share is expected to have increased by a few percentage points in the intervening months.