Sony said to be talking to Apple about camera for 'new' iPhone

Sony could double the number of sensors it supplies to Apple if it cements a deal as a supplier for a new iPhone.

iPhone 5S rear camera.
iPhone 5S rear camera. Apple

Sony is in negotiations with Apple for supply of sensors for a "new iPhone," according to a Japan-based report.

The talks call for Sony to double the supply of camera components for a "new iPhone slated to roll out as early as next year," according to a Wednesday report in Nikkei, Japan's largest business daily.

Sony is a supplier of CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors for the iPhone 5S' rear-mounted cameras, as teardowns have shown. Nikkei states that "nearly all" rear-mounted CMOS sensors for "current iPhone models" are supplied by Sony.

And Apple will "likely" switch to Sony sensors for the front-facing camera as well, Nikkei said.

Nikkei offers up some big numbers to back this up. Sony "likely supplies Apple with more than 100 million [sensors] a year, with the bulk destined for iPhones," the business daily said. But this number could double in next-gen Apple products, the report claims.

Orders from Apple can profoundly affect investment plans for companies that supply components for the iPhone and iPad. Sharp, for instance, has invested heavily in LCD manufacturing capacity in order to supply Apple with displays for its iPads.

Similarly, orders from Apple spurred Sony to acquire a plant from Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics, according to Nikkei.

The camera in the iPhone 5S has received kudos. The 5S uses a redesigned camera sensor (presumably from Sony) with bigger pixels for better low-light exposure, among other benefits.

Though Nikkei does not specify what new iPhone would use the sensor, rumors claim that the 8-megapixel camera in the 5S could get an upgrade with the iPhone 6.

Sony's image sensor sales (mostly CMOS sensors) are expected to reach 360 billion yen ($3.47 billion) this fiscal year, Nikkei said.

Sony has also begun to supply batteries for the iPad Air, Nikkei said. "In December, it scuttled plans to unload its battery business, instead choosing to shift toward products for mobile devices," according to the report.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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