Samsung taking on Sony in image sensor market

Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics is trying to catch up with Sony in the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor market, securing deals to supply sensors to Chinese smartphone makers.

Though Sony has been dominating the CMOS image sensor sector with a market share of 50 percent, more Chinese makers have decided to use Samsung sensors ― the No. 2 player with about a 20 percent share ― because they can use high-quality cameras at cheaper prices.

Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest phone maker, said Wednesday it would use Samsung’s ISOCELL Bright GW1 image sensor for its new Redmi smartphone. The GW1 sensor is the industry’s first 64-megapixel image sensor for a mobile device.

During an event in Beijing, Lin Bin, co-founder and president of the Chinese maker, further announced that it is developing with Samsung a 108-megapixel sensor that will be used for its future smartphones.

Oppo, the fifth-largest phone maker, also decided to use the same Samsung image sensors, raising hopes that the Korean company is gaining more opportunities to boost market share.

For Samsung, which recently announced an ambitious plan to become a leader in the memory chip sector and non-memory sector by 2030, the supply announcements are welcoming.

Samsung said the collaboration with Xiaomi will help boost its market share in the CMOS image sensor market.

“Xiaomi had used image sensors of Sony but decided to adopt Samsung sensors,” a Samsung official said. “The ongoing cooperation between the Chinese phone maker, the fourth-largest phone maker, and Samsung will eventually improve our market share in the sector.”

While there is a huge market-share gap between Sony and Samsung, this is the sector that Samsung cannot abandon as more phone makers are adopting extra cameras for their smartphones.

Moreover, the market is expected to see explosive growth due to growing demand for self-driving vehicles, machine vision in robots and security video cameras. According to data from IC Insights, the global CMOS image sensor market is expected to grow to $19 billion by 2022.

Most cameras now have used either a charge-coupled device (CCD) sensor or the CMOS sensor. Though cameras using the CCD sensors can produce better-quality photos, there has been a shift from CCD to CMOS, as CMOS technology is simple and low in cost.

Samsung has been increasing its image sensor production capacity, transforming its old DRAM production line in Hwaseong, in Gyeonggi Province, into a line producing image sensors.

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