Tim Cook has tweeted an admission that Apple uses Sony image sensors in its iPhones as part of the CEO’s supplier tour of Japan. “We’ve been partnering with Sony for over a decade to create the world’s leading camera sensors for iPhone,” Cook tweeted, and thanked Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida for showing him around the Kumamoto facility. A photo shows Cook being shown his company’s own smartphone, which is objectively very funny.
Apple largely keeps tight-lipped about the specifics of the hardware components that go into each iPhone, so outright confirming that it’s used Sony camera sensors for over a decade is notable. Apple’s website tends to just list the specs of each iPhone’s camera — such as resolution, aperture, and field of view — rather than the specific components used. But hardware specifics have tended to matter less in the age of computational photography.
That said, numerous reports and industry rumors over the years have pointed towards Apple’s use of Sony hardware. A Wall Street Journal report from 2015 said that Apple was using two Sony sensors in the iPhone 6, and past iFixit teardowns have referenced specific Sony model numbers. Sony is regarded as a leader in the image sensor market, commanding 44 percent of the market share for CMOS image sensors as of last year, Nikkei Asia notes. Samsung is second largest with 18.5 percent market share.
Tim Cook’s visit to Sony’s facility suggests this partnership isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and a recent report in Nikkei Asia offers some clues as to what the companies are working on for future iPhones. Sony is said to have developed a new image sensor that uses a new semiconductor architecture to capture more light and reduce both over- and underexposure. The new sensor is expected to feature in Apple’s next generation of iPhones, but will also ship to other smartphone manufacturers.