Sony makes $20 every time an iPhone 6 is sold, is by far the largest camera sensor supplier in the world

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)

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67 Comments

67. unixpuppet

Posts: 12; Member since: Jun 30, 2016

Yes, Sony is doing a lot better than any Andriod phones. Including the game industry. Yes, the PC games have come a long well, but PS 4 is expected to sell 60 Million units by the year 2017. And now 40 million units are shipped out (2016). Plus, now Sony Pictures are coming out new movies with the 2.8 billion dollars USD. Which include Sony Music and electronic devices, Sony have risen 667% or more in the past months. Sony coming out VR games and glasses, in October 2016.

62. mochachino

Posts: 20; Member since: Feb 18, 2015

The why is it constantly losing money? Playstation is killing it, it's TVs are among the best out there - albeit too pricey, it's phone is also excellent. They should be more successful.

58. jonathanalexander9

Posts: 61; Member since: May 04, 2015

$20 X 70.000.000 = $1.400.000.000

57. WallStreet

Posts: 256; Member since: Sep 21, 2014

On one hand great, but I'm just worried that it might turn out disastrous to the mobile division. The camera hardware was a big advantage of the Sony smartphones and when every maker will have the same camera from Apple to Chinese manufacturers then some might say what's the point of buying a Sony phone if the camera doesn't differentiate them.

55. Limcheethiam

Posts: 68; Member since: Feb 23, 2015

Japanese company not good at promoting their product in such the way that Apple, Xiaomi does. Apple aimed for high end customer and Xiaomi focus on low price high spec product. They both have the huge markets at home. But the quality of Japanese is so good and enjoyed the high reputation around the world even in China.

61. timetophone

Posts: 14; Member since: Feb 25, 2015

Very true. Japanese don't toot their horns. Americans, Chinese are good at marketing. Just look at Jack Ma--always on TV, even in America. Never seen a Sony mobile commercial in the US.

48. JMartin22

Posts: 2422; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

The one thing Sony does right in the mobile sector is as a component supplier. They should liquidate their mobile division; it's just costing them more money to maintain and effort hasn't paid off. They still got the component and gaming sector still secured.

53. dimas

Posts: 3461; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Or they could just simplify their mobile division. Continue their two Z and Z compact series or just go mid range selling with fewer products. Either, it's their money to burn so we just have to see what they do with their Z line.

45. javaprof

Posts: 15; Member since: Apr 30, 2015

sony is illuminati

21. sonisoe

Posts: 440; Member since: May 06, 2009

thats why i was baffled, being one of the, if not 'the', best screen (ie. TVs LED, etc) & camera-sensor manufacturer, xperia z and z1 had an awful display and z2/z3 while shoot great pictures arent arguably better than s6 or iphone.

18. ryq24

Posts: 876; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

If Sony is not careful, like their TV , Samsung will one day overtake them.

20. bucky

Posts: 3797; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I have always trusted Sony products. Their problem is not quality but more so marketing and price. They command too strong of a price when the competition offers it for cheaper (albeit cheaper quality too) and advertises the hell out of theirs.

22. Feanor

Posts: 1448; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

That's not true for their mobile phones anymore. Their flagships until now have remained to levels less than €600 Shen new on the market. The Samsung Galaxy S6 costs new about €100 more, same with iPhone. Sony flagships start looking like a bargain.

25. bucky

Posts: 3797; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

The problem is they are doing so now. They should have done this before. Their TV's are still really expensive compared to their rivals.

27. CamaroSS

Posts: 173; Member since: Jul 24, 2012

Depends on the TV model though. If you're talking about the top of the line x950B, yes - it's expensive cause it was the only 4K TV that came with full array local dimming last year. Even a 1080p TV like HX929 with Full array local dimming was quite expensive. But Sony has quite a few cheap models as well.

64. Venkatramanan

Posts: 327; Member since: Aug 15, 2014

I don't think Sony TVs are expensive. But lack of marketing and less retailer's margin are the reason for their downfall. Sammy does the marketing very well though their TVs are s**t. I was about to purchase Bravia. But the retailer told that Samsung is better than Sony and he told some lies that Sony has many quality issues. So i Bought Samsung TV. After the warrenty is over, The TV Display was gone. Just two years for a costly TV is the example of bad quality. Many of my friends who bought the bravia are still enjoying with the TV. Now Even though their recent phones are tempting me to buy, Because of these bad experience, I never buy any Samsung products. s**tty Marketing made a loss for me.

52. dimas

Posts: 3461; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Samsung TV sucks, just saying.

56. pendragon0202

Posts: 164; Member since: Feb 23, 2015

Sucks to be #1 in flat panel TV for decades?

65. Venkatramanan

Posts: 327; Member since: Aug 15, 2014

TV sucks after the warrenty is over. My personal Experience. see comment #64

13. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

thats for sony's camera division.. sony mobile still a failure :-/

11. ameran

Posts: 344; Member since: Dec 04, 2013

The iSheep would say, Apple invented the camera lens and the sensor, but Sony is making them for Apple.

16. bucky

Posts: 3797; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

you're reaching...keep practicing.

24. Iodine

Posts: 1518; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

Apple got custom sensor, lenses and packaging, no wonder they have to pay 20$ for that which is about a tenth of the price of the phone according to iHaters. Also iHaters are truly the only iSheeps in here, needing to meeeh in every discusion, while rest of Apple crowd is enjoying their devices.

35. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

I see load of Apple iSheeps do the same thing in every dscusions lol.

60. timetophone

Posts: 14; Member since: Feb 25, 2015

1/10 is a nice cut considering it's just one component in one component (the sensor in the camera module). For the investment, Sony is doing well off these sensors--no marketing or distribution required. And I don't begrudge Apple--they make fine products. But it's great that both Apple and Sony benefit from these high-quality sensors.

10. Denco

Posts: 118; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Then, let Sony stop making phones and focus on their camera edge.

15. Feanor

Posts: 1448; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Sounds like an easy solution, and with the added benefit that you don't compete on the mobile phone arena with your camera sensor clients. However, this would put Sony in an extremely precarious position, in case Apple decides in the future to switch suppliers. Only for this Sony should continue making phones. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with their smartphone portfolio apart from lack of brand awareness from the end customer side.

9. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

Dunno, sammy's isocell rapes sony's sensor imho.

12. kobainez

Posts: 454; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Hahahah what a lame comment

17. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

Photos at night time look terrible with sony's sensor. They're dark and have blue tint, not to mention oversaturated colours.

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