Sony – Powering Rival Smartphone Cameras

Xperia Z Ultra

Sony may be making headlines for its smartphone-mounted cameras and 20 megapixel-rumored flagships, but the company has been winning a war behind the scenes too. The Japanese firm is a leading producer of CMOS camera sensors for the smartphone market, reaching beyond their own Xperia handsets and seemingly some of the rivals’ flagship phones too. But the real secret behind the success may be the innovation.

Executives of the Japanese company decline to disclose the list of buyers that Sony provide for their own phones, though it has been known for years that Sony is one of the final parts suppliers to Apple in their iPhones. But which parts? Many companies retain the right to mark their parts with logos, so when someone takes apart a smartphone piece by piece, the ‘undisclosed’ logos are finally revealed. This is exactly what this technology specialist did and found Sony logos on the iPhone 5.

This innovation is a hidden gem in the Sony portfolio, as the firm’s management directly referenced their camera technology’s performance positively during their Q1 Fy 2013 earnings release:

 In the imaging business, sales of image sensors for smartphones, including external sales continue to perform well due to market expansion and Sony’s industry-leading product appeal. 

Essentially, as their smartphone share builds, the company effectively benefits from the success of rivals, much like Samsung does with Apple.

More on Sony’s 2013 CMOS camera sensors.

Xperia Z Ultra Wet


Should Sony help power rival smartphones and reap the profits or should they keep their technology for themselves?

  • I think they absolutely need to push further for this. For example, Samsung’s biggest customer is Apple who gets their screens and memory from Samsung. Two bitter rivals yet each gives the other so much profit. Sony needs to be a key player. You don’t have to always make your profits from just consumer products.

  • Jonathan Nolan

    I’m sure I read about a year and a half ago or so that Sony had a contract with Apple to exclusively provide some aspect of the camera (sensor?) for earlier iPhones. I couldn’t find the original source so left it out. That limited the technology to Sony Ericsson and iPhones. Apparently Sony decided not to renew the contract, instead making deals with the multiple manufacturers as we see now. If that was true, that exclusive contract with Apple I think would have done Sony more harm than good. Selling/licensing the technology appears to have benefited their CMOS market share expansion.

  • Yea, I see what you’re saying. The issue at hand is, who are these companies because we know that Apple does massive volume. If it’s HTC or whatever other company, they won’t nearly pump out what Apple or Samsung do in volume.