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While the current pandemic will logically cause worldwide smartphone sales volumes to drop in 2020, analysts don’t see the smartphone market collapsing anytime soon. Just take a look at our Top 10 photophones to see that in a growing market, a piece of equipment is exploding: camera modules.

From a single module on the back of the device, to a seven-module configuration in the case of a device like the Huawei P40 Pro +, the volume of these optical jewels and electronics will almost double from here 2025.

It must be said that the predictions are for an average figure of five camera modules per smartphone by then. Which will take us from a market of $ 31 billion in 2019 to a big pie of $ 57 billion in five years.

More than 30% of the total for sensors …

A camera module is made up of four elements: the image sensor, the optical unit with the different lenses, the actuator, i.e. the mechanical part that controls the lenses (autofocus, optical stabilization), and the “Camera module”, which brings together all these elements in a form easy to integrate into devices (or vehicles in the case of the automobile).

The level of technicality in each area is such that no one player can invest in all of these areas, which each have their own champions. Although the assembly of camera modules is the business that will grow the most – the business volume will more than double from $ 8.7 billion to $ 19.1 billion – the business of sensors will remain the most important in 2025. And in this area, one player is paying the lion’s share…

Sony, the master of sensors, has its foot on the accelerator

If different players share three of the four markets more or less equitably, that of sensors is outrageously trusted by Sony – read our report ” Sony, the great emperor of sensors “. The Japanese account for 50% of the volume of image sensors in the world – and 70% in the smartphone market.

But in addition to reigning in volume, Sony also dominates when you consider value: when its most serious rival, the Korean Samsung, sells its components at an average price of 2.1 dollars, Sony sells it on average at 4, 5 dollars!
A differential of enormous value which gives wings to the Japanese champion. Before the video games division, the sensor branch is now the most lucrative of the group, generating almost two billion dollars in profits. A Forbes analyst even predicts that the sensor division could grow by + 300% in the coming years.

It is this money that keeps Sony investing. As much in the production apparatus – a factory worth over six billion dollars is under construction – only in research and development.
Thus, the group founded by Akio Morita reconnects with its DNA as a research engine and does not stop at classic image sensors. It invests not only in “smart” versions of its sensors, as in companion sensors such as the ToF sensors or the 3D Lidar of the latest iPad Pro.
Not to mention the list of projects that Sony is slowly boiling in its labs – global shutter sensor, Foveon-style multi-layer sensor, etc. Nor should we forget that Sony is also investing in the field of automotive cameras, the other lucrative market for imaging.

The world of traditional photography may be in crisis, but the world of sensors is doing like a charm. To the benefit of Sony …

Sources : Yole Development & Forbes via image-sensors-world (1) and (2)

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