Sony makes $20 every time an iPhone 6 is sold, is by far the largest camera sensor supplier in the world
Sony's smartphone division may be struggling to remain relevant, but another business unit of the company is actually in its heyday: the imaging department.
A lengthy Wall Street Journal article, citing a study by Techno Systems Research, makes it clear that Sony isn't just moving a healthy amount of image sensors, specifically ones for smartphones, but it's actually the market leader — by a long shot. According to the findings, Sony held the whopping 40% of the entire camera sensors market in 2014, trailed by US, California-based OmniVision (15.7%) and South Korea's Samsung (15.2%). Even combined, the two runner-ups apparently move less volume than Sony.
That's not surprising, seeing how a Sony-made image sensor can be found in essentially every high-end smartphone on the market. In fact, the iPhone 6 uses two of them — one on the front, and on the back — and even Samsung's Galaxy S6 was found to be making use of both its own sensors, and a Sony IMX240. Analysts say that Sony makes some $20 on every iPhone 6 sold right now, which is not at all a trivial sum — after all, Apple sold over 61 million iPhones in the second quarter, many of which likely the iPhone 6 model.
Sony has at least considered the idea of letting its TV or smartphone businesses go (as it did with it personal computers division recently), and while nothing is yet official, the company did give its phone unit a 'tier 3' priority, which is the lowest possible, in its latest strategy shift in February. The imaging business, on the other hand, is a first priority, and that's not surprising — the company is, reportedly, unable to meet rising demand, especially from China, and is committing over a billion dollars in investments in the unit. Given how Sony's debt rating was cut to dangerously low levels by Standard & Poor's Rating Services last year, the situation begs the question: Will there be any money left to invest in making better phones?
source: Wall Street Journal (paywall)