Samsung may soon supply the most expensive iPhone parts
Besides the main supplier of iPhone 12 series displays. with the exception of the 6.1" 12 Max, Samsung has wiggled its way into Apple's camera supply chain, too, reports Korean media The Elec.
Samsung Electro-Mechanics will be supplying the lenses for the iPhone 12 cameras, more specifically 6P lenses, while next year it will provide 5P to 7P ones for the iPhone 13. Famed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo already tipped that it will be an iPhone 14 model that will get periscope zoom lenses at the earliest, and the Korean report confirms that they will be provided by Samsung, too.
An Apple iPhone 14 2022 with periscope zoom?
After acquiring the Israelis from Corephotonics, Samsung apparently inherited a superior folded optics zoom technology, too, with "ball instead of spring voice coil motors," whatever that means. The problem is, however, that both Apple and LG are being sued by Corephotonics for patent infringement on their telephoto zoom tech that first appeared in the iPhone 7 Plus.
Way back in 2014, however, we probed Corephotonics about their zoom tech for phones achieved with two lenses, one wide, one narrow, set at different levels, and came away impressed, as you can see in the video below.
Corephotonics complained that Apple's lead negotiator even mocked the viability of their patents during their potential partnership talks on the telephoto and other zooming inventions, saying that Apple is too big to be sued over such patents.
Apple has plenty of patents of its own that describe dual camera features in all forms and versions, but the Israeli startup's tech seems to be preceding those. Still, we don't know what conditions had Corephotonics set for the use of their camera tech, as we all know that in business negotiations the price haggles can get nasty for all sides involved, and the lawsuit might be a case of sour grapes for the Israelis. Given Apple's size, though, it might have been perfectly aware that it can develop the idea on its own, without having to shell out for the Corephotonics intellectual property.
Well, the lawsuit is still ongoing, and now Samsung owns the Corephotonics patents and technology, so Apple would apparently have to go with the Korean juggernaut as a supplier for the eventual periscope zoom on the iPhone 14, both from technology, and from patent infringement standpoint. After all, Corephotonics has been working on "multi-aperture imaging technologies" for years, with the first patent filed way back in 2013.
This way, in just a year or two, Samsung will be supplying the most expensive parts in an Apple iPhone, unless the component pricing of OLED screens and periscope zoom systems falls drastically by then. How do we know that periscope zoom lenses are expensive? Well, straight from Huawei's Richard Yu himself, who complained in an interview that "we spend a huge amount of money on that, we invest a lot. The spend on the [P40] camera is $100 [per phone], maybe even more than $100. That’s too expensive to be honest. The material cost is too high."
That's for the 5x folded optics periscope zoom, too, and we shudder to think how much the 10x periscope in the P40 Pro+ costs. Apple is not one to jump head first into a new and unproven tech, but rather waits patiently on the sidelines to gauge consumer adoption, and for the unit prices to fall before it pulls the trigger and implements it en masse, too.
This belated adoption happened with OLED displays, as just this year Apple will move its whole 2020 lineup to the OLED panel technology, but also with fast and wireless charging, and periscope zoom may very well be the next tactic in Apple's iPhone profit margin preserving strategy.