The smartphone industry is highly dynamic. In 2018, more than half of the smartphones sold globally had two or more cameras. Counterpoint identified the megapixel war back in 2016 when OEMs were shifting from a single camera to dual cameras.
In 2019, OEMs are taking the battle a step ahead with a triple camera setup now becoming popular. Almost 6% of smartphones sold globally had three or more rear camera sensors in March 2018. This figure is likely to go up to 15% by the end of 2019 and 35% by the end of 2020. We expect that by the end of 2021, 50% of the smartphones sold globally will have three or more camera sensors.
More than 40 smartphones launched as of April 2019 had three or more cameras. Among these, 30 launches were in Q1 2019. The Huawei Mate & P series, the Samsung Galaxy A series, the new Galaxy flagships, and the Vivo V15/Pro are some of the existing models driving the triple (and more) camera sensor penetration. We expect other OEMs, including Apple and OnePlus, to join the bandwagon later this year.
Similar to dual camera adoption trend, the triple camera fixture initially featured in the higher priced smartphones. However, towards the end of 2018 and early 2019, even smartphones in the affordable premium and mid-tier price bands featured three or more cameras. The triple camera setup enables new camera intensive features such as 50X zoom, AI-based photo optimization, and depth effect. Features such as bokeh, telephoto zoom, portrait mode, wide-angle photos, have now become standard. Overall, the focus on camera as a differentiating factor is likely to enhance the cooperation among camera lens, module, and AP manufacturers to achieve higher optimizations.
We can expect smartphone OEMs to launch models with 64MP and more in H2 2019. In 2020, we expect smartphones with camera resolutions of 100MP and more.
Huawei and Samsung are leading the adoption. Samsung is a big adopter of the three or more camera setup, especially in its models in the affordable-premium price bands. Apple launches later this year are also expected to give a boost to the category.
Triple camera penetration in mid-premium (US$600-US$799) and premium (>US$800) price band is also expected to grow rapidly with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S10 series and the Huawei P30 series.
Google does not even have no dual cameras on its flagship Pixel phones and was relying on the stellar image quality through software. However, with the premium segment increasingly adopting dual camera sensors, Google will be under pressure to integrate this into their upcoming flagships.
Supply Side Insights:
5MP camera image sensors (CIS) remain in tight supply as they’re essential for triple camera phones. This is likely to continue in case of 5MP and 8MP camera sensors.
SK Hynix is a key supplier likely to benefit from the adoption of three or more cameras. However, supply may remain a significant issue, creating room for other suppliers such as Samsung.
Sony is another key high-quality supplier for camera image sensors specializing in the 13MP camera setup, which is already going through capacity expansion in Japan. This is likely to suffice for the surging demand.