Even with supply shortages, smartphone main camera resolution continues to improve

Despite supply shortages, smartphone rear cameras are increasingly adopting high-resolution image sensors, which continue to penetrate lower-end smartphone segments. According to the latest research from Counterpoint Smartphone Camera Tracker, smartphones featuring rear main cameras powered by 48MP and above megapixels accounted for 43% of total sales in the second quarter of 2021, rising significantly from 38.7% in he first quarter of 2021. The share of 64MP alone increased 3.5% QoQ to 14% in he second quarter of 2021.

Commenting on this high-resolution advance, Senior Analyst Ethan Qi said: “48MP and 64MP have become the mainstream for models priced between $200 and $400, while flagship smartphones resort to large-area sensors to deliver a DSLR-like professional performance, of which 50MP is the most adopted. Although the share of 108MP fell to 3.1% in he second quarter of 2021, the more affordable 0.7µm-based 108MP sensors continue to spread to mid-range models from OEMs such as Redmi and realme.”

(TOP: The main camera of the OPPO Reno6 5G).

On the other hand, low-resolution sensors continue to suffer from the demand-supply imbalance, with the price increasing sharply. For instance, 5MP sensors have experienced more than a 10% increase in cost since the beginning of this year.

Nevertheless, entry-level smartphones (wholesale price below $100) continue to upgrade their rear primary cameras from 8MP and below resolutions to 12MP or 13MP. Therefore, the collective share of the 8MP and below cameras shrunk to 5.9% in he second quarter of 2021. With the launches of Samsung’s Z series in August and Apple’s iPhone 13 series in September, 12MP is expected to see significant growth in the second half of the year.

Composition Ratio of Smartphone Rear Main Cameras by Resolution (%)

Source: Counterpoint Smartphone Camera Tracker, Q2 2021

In front main cameras, the collective share of 20MP and above resolutions almost stayed flat QoQ in he second quarter of 2021 due to the decline in sales of high-end models. However, we expect the resolution of the front-facing camera to continue to improve with more high-end smartphones adopting 32MP and even 48MP image sensors.

Meanwhile, the share of 8MP and below resolutions further increased to 45.2%, with 5MP and 8MP together accounting for 41.7% on strong demand for low-end smartphones in he second quarter of.

Composition Ratio of Smartphone Front Main Cameras by Resolution (%)

Source: Counterpoint Smartphone Camera Tracker, Q2 2021

In September 2021, Samsung further pushed the smartphone CIS industry into the 200MP era with the new ISOCELL HP1 sensor, which is expected to enter flagship models in the coming quarters. In October, Sony launched the Xperia Pro-I with a 12MP 1-inch rear main camera, aiming to bring consumers a DSLR camera-like photography experience. Although mid- to high-end smartphones (wholesale price above $200) will continue to adopt high-resolution and large-area imaging sensors, the upgrade may slow down due to the ongoing component shortages and rising bill of materials (BoM) costs. We will keep a close eye on it.

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