In response to consumers’ growing emphasis on camera performance as a major selling point of smartphones, smartphone brands have successively released multi-camera handsets to target this rising demand and seize market shares, in turn driving up the annual shipment volume of smartphone camera modules, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Case in point, despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the smartphone market in 2020, total smartphone camera module shipment still underwent a 3% growth YoY due to the increasing number of camera modules featured per handset as a result of smartphone brands’ competition over camera hardware. Given that the upward trajectory of smartphone camera module shipment will likely persist this year, TrendForce therefore forecasts an annual shipment volume of 5.07 billion units for 2021, an 11% growth YoY.
In addition to increasing the number of camera modules per handset, smartphone brands have also been raising the specifications of their smartphone cameras. First, with regards to the primary camera, certain Android phones will feature up to 64MP camera modules, which will surpass a 20% penetration rate in 2021 (making this particular pixel count spec the fastest-growing among all primary camera specifications), whereas the latest iPhones will likely continue to feature a 12MP primary camera, since Apple is mainly focused on the overall image quality of photos as opposed to megapixel count. Second, with regards to CMOS image sensors, certain smartphone brands, such as Apple, Huawei, and Xiaomi, are expected to increase their smartphone cameras’ sensor sizes to one inch in order to improve these cameras’ performances in low-light or night settings.
Third, with regards to ultrawide cameras, Apple will look to strengthen the autofocus performance of its flagship iPhone models by equipping the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max with VCMs (voice coil motors), which are devices that drive autofocus systems. On the other hand, Huawei and OPPO will incorporate FreeForm Lens technology to address the distortion effect commonly found towards the edges of photos taken with ultrawide cameras.
Finally, with regards to periscope cameras, their widespread adoption by Android smartphone brands in 2020 resulted in a massive 429% growth YoY. Compared to the telephoto cameras found in iPhones, which offer 2.5x optical zoom, periscope cameras are capable of 5x optical zoom at the bare minimum, which delivers much higher image clarity in long-range photography situations. However, the forecasted decline in smartphone shipment of Huawei and Honor, which are the most aggressive in the industry in terms of periscope camera adoption, will in turn negatively affect total periscope camera module shipment for 2021 as well. TrendForce believes that a return to massive growth will not take place unless periscope camera modules capable of continuous autofocus are successfully mass produced, and smartphone brands are willing to adopt such modules for their handsets.
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