Image Sensors: Samsung, Sony Clash in Mobile CIS Market | BusinessKorea

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Samsung Electronics has developed the next-generation ISOCELL technology, a step beyond traditional CMOS image sensors.
Samsung Electronics has developed the next-generation ISOCELL technology, a step beyond traditional CMOS image sensors.
27 November 2013 - 4:21pm

Samsung Electronics and Sony are competing fiercely in the mobile CMOS image sensor (CIS) market. The former’s strategy is to supply various products in quantity based on its high manufacturing capacity, whereas the latter is trying to maximize its profits by means of high-performance and high-pixel products. 

According to market research firm Techno System Research, Samsung Electronics is forecast to take the lion’s share of the mobile CIS market this year. Specifically, it is expected to enjoy a market share of 24.5% by supplying 548.325 million units of CISs in 2013. Sony’s supply volume and market share are estimated at 410.84 million units and 18.4%, respectively. 

Industry insiders are saying that Samsung Electronics is likely to have a bigger influence in the market thanks to its overwhelming supply volume, but Sony’s brand power is greater than Samsung’s when it comes to high-price products of eight to 10 megapixels. 

At present, Samsung Electronics is focusing on mid-end and high-end products of less than eight megapixels. Although it does produce those that can capture eight or higher megapixels, these account for less than 20% of the total sales volume. Meanwhile, products of 8 to 13 megapixels represent over 70% of Sony’s total sales. These are characterized by a unit price two to three times those of the others. In addition, Sony’s CISs have proven their excellence by being equipped in Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics’ flagship smartphones. 

“Sony’s CISs are at least 1.5 times more expensive than those of Samsung Electronics and OmniVision,” said a market expert, adding, “This means that a better result can be achieved with the same number of pixels, and almost all of the high-end smartphones in the market are equipped with CISs manufactured by Sony.”

Under the circumstances, Samsung Electronics is striving to improve the performance of its products. One of the outcomes is the ISOCELL that was developed in late September. The ISOCELL is a technology using a novel structure in which insulating components are placed between pixels to separate adjacent pixels. With it, inter-pixel interference can be minimized and optical loss can be reduced to 30% or so.

Samsung Electronics applied for a patent for the technique in January and is planning to begin the manufacturing of S5K4H5YB, an eight megapixel CIS adopting it, before the end of this year. At the same time, it is going to apply the same technique to those with 10 or higher megapixels. “A large quantity of ISOCELL-based mobile CISs will be available from next year,” said Samsung Electronics System LSI Division head Woo Nam-seong at the analyst day event on November 6.

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