Apple first confirmed that the cameras on the iPhone use Sony sensors, even though the two companies have worked together for more than a decade.
In a Twitter post on December 13, Tim Cook said that the iPhone uses a camera sensor provided by Sony. It’s a rare revelation from the CEO of Apple, the company that makes the components used in iPhones.
“We’ve been working with Sony for more than a decade to build world-leading image sensors for iPhone,” Cook said.
The post was shared while the Apple CEO was visiting Sony’s factory in Kumamoto (Japan). In the photo, Cook and Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida tour a room with several devices and two iPhones on a table.
“Thank you Ken and everyone on the team for allowing me to tour our state-of-the-art facility in Kumamoto today,” the Apple CEO wrote.
According to The Verge, Apple has largely kept the details of the components in each iPhone under wraps. So the fact that Tim Cook confirmed that the iPhone had a camera sensor from Sony more than 10 years ago is pretty remarkable.
If you go to Apple’s website, you’ll only see basic camera specs like resolution, aperture, and camera angle, not the manufacturer or sensor model.
However, as software algorithms become more and more concentrated today, it is no longer necessary to provide specific information about hardware.
Rumors about the iPhone’s Sony camera sensor had been around for a long time before Tim Cook confirmed it. In 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple equipped the iPhone 6 with Sony sensors for the front and rear cameras. The Japanese company charges users $20 per delivered device.
A 2013 iFixit article “dissecting” the iPhone 5s also revealed that the code printed on the rear camera was very similar to the Sony sensor. This continued to happen in subsequent iPhone generations, although Apple never confirmed it.
Sony is the market leader in smartphone image sensors. According to Nikkei data, the Japanese company will hold a 44% share of the CMOS image sensor market in 2021, followed by Samsung with 18.5%.
Tim Cook’s tour of the Sony factory shows that the two companies are still working closely together. In late November, Nikkei sources said Sony was developing an image sensor with a new semiconductor architecture that would help capture more light and achieve a better balance.
The new generation of sensors is said to appear in Apple’s next-generation iPhone lineup, and possibly other future smartphones as well.