Sony is producing popular image sensors around the clock, but even 24-hour shaft rotations are not available for sale. Terushi Shimizu, head of Sony’s semiconductor division, said the company would maintain the operation of the chip factory for the second year in a row during the holiday season in an attempt to meet the demand for sensors for mobile phone cameras. Sony’s capital spending on its semiconductor business will more than double to 280 billion yen ($2.6 billion) this fiscal year, and it will build a new plant in Nagasaki to open in April 2021.
“Based on current market demand, even all of these investments in expanding capacity may not be enough,” Shimizu said in an interview at its Headquarters in Tokyo. “
With handset makers using camera configuration as a hard indicator to attract customers to upgrade, three-camera phones are now common. Samsung Electronics and Huawei’s latest phones have a camera resolution of more than 40 megapixels, capable of capturing ultra-wide-angle images and equipped with a depth sensor. Apple also joined the group this year with the launch of the three iPhone 11 Pro. That’s why sales of Sony’s image sensors are still soaring even as growth in the smartphone market slows.
“Cameras have become the biggest feature of the smartphone brand, and everyone wants their social media images and videos to look good,” said Masahiro Wakasugi, an industry research analyst at Bloomberg. “
Sony accounts for half of the mountain.
Sony said in May that it controlled 51 percent of the image sensor market by revenue measures, with a goal of increasing to 60 percent in fiscal 2025. Clearwater expects the company’s share to grow by a few percentage points this year alone.
Semiconductors is now Sony’s most profitable business after PlayStation games. Sony raised its forecast for operating profit in its semiconductor division for the current financial year by 38 per cent to Y200bn in October, after second-quarter profits soared nearly 60 per cent. Sony expects revenue in its semiconductor division to grow 18 percent to Y1.04 trillion, with image sensors accounting for 86 percent.
Sony is currently working on the next generation of sensors that can see the world in 3D mode. Sony uses the “Time to Fly” (TOF) method, which sends invisible laser pulses to create fine depth models by measuring the time returned. This helps your phone camera more accurately select a virtual background and take better photos. TOF can also be used in Mobile game.
Samsung and Huawei have released flagship models with 3D sensors. Apple is rumoured to be adding 3D cameras to its line of phones in 2020.
Shimizu declined to comment on specific customers, but said Sony was ready to meet the demand for significant growth next year. “This is the first year of TOF,” he says. (Author/Rain)