Innovation Trends in the Smartphone Camera Market

Friday, October 20th 2017

The recent launch of new flagship smartphones confirmed that the camera remains the key means of differentiation between brands.  All brands have innovated and there have been some common approaches to improving the camera functionality:

Wider Use of Dual Cameras

Dual cameras feature on nearly every flagship smartphone.  Aside from the well-known Bokeh effect dual cameras provide better zoom, dynamic range and low-light performance than single aperture devices.

More Sensitive Image Sensors

The improvement in image sensors has shifted from increasing pixel count to making them more sensitive or providing them in pairs.  Greater sensitivity improves low-light performance, whereas dual pixels provide improvements to dynamic range.

Faster Image Processing

Enhanced image processing capabilities are being used to combine several images to give better results or to recognise what is being photographed and set the camera accordingly.

Use of Glass and Hybrid Glass Lenses

As sensors improve the quality and size of lens elements is also improving.  However, such lenses are heavier, and manipulating these lenses needs higher forces than currently employed.

Wider deployment of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)

Concomitant with the innovations above, OIS has been introduced more widely to take advantage of low-light performance or to facilitate the capture of multiple images.  The first dual cameras with OIS have been introduced as well as OIS on a front facing camera.

 CML believes that innovation in the smartphone camera market will continue.  CML expects the number of cameras per smartphone to continue to increase and that OIS will feature on every lens.  As smartphone form factors converge towards sleek feature free devices, the ability to deliver lens actuation in a compact low-profile design will become increasingly important.  The move to heavier lenses is a challenge for most actuators, but is within the performance envelope of SMA.