Quad-camera phones to push CIS sensors sales to 5bn units in 2020

Led by OPPO, Xiaomi, Huawei, Samsung and Realme, the global shipment of smartphone CMOS image sensors (CIS) is likely to reach 5 billion units this year as quad-camera smartphone designs witness great momentum despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report has said.

The pandemic has overall affected the global smartphone industry and the market is expected to be dragged down to the level of shipments in 2014, slightly over 1.3 billion units, representing a nearly 10 per cent (year-on-year) decline in comparison to 2019.

However, as a beneficiary of the continuous improvement in technology and feature sets, the sales volume of CMOS image sensors (CIS) for smartphone applications increased eightfold over the past decade, reaching more than 4.5 billion units in 2019.

“Thanks to the irreversible trend towards multi-camera setups and the spreading adoption of 3D sensing systems, the smartphone CIS segment will likely still register high-single-digit shipment growth in 2020, hitting an all-time high of close to 5 billion units,” said senior analyst Ethan Qi from Counterpoint Research.

Each smartphone shipped in the March quarter this year packed more than 3.5 image sensors on average.

The growth is primarily driven by the rising penetration of quad-camera designs in the high- to mid-end smartphones, which jumped to nearly 20 per cent during the period.

Smartphone brands OPPO, Xiaomi Huawei and Samsung were at the forefront of adopting quad-camera setups, collectively accounting for 83 per cent of all the quad- and penta-camera-based smartphone shipments during Q1 2020.

The fast-growing brand Realme was most aggressive to ride on this trend.

“Almost two-thirds of its smartphone volumes in Q1 packed a quad-lens system. The next brand squeezing more camera sensors into the rear camera module was OPPO accounting for more than half of its smartphones shipped in Q1 2020,” said the Counterpoint report.

“As camera function has become a key differentiator in smartphones, we expect the quad-camera feature will become a standard moving forward,” said Research Director, Tom Kang.

Leading smartphone brands will continue to enrich and enhance the photography and video capture experiences, as well as exploring AR applications, “by leveraging diversified lens and sensor combinations along with the increasing AI computing power”.