The global camera module market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20% over the next six years, increasing the market from what was $12 billion in 2012 to over $43 billion in 2019, as forecasted by Research and Markets and Transparency Market Research in recently released reports.
This growth is driven by numerous segments. The smart phone and tablet PC segment is the largest, expected to grow at the rate of 21.9% from 2013 to 2019, followed by consumer electronics (excluding smartphones and tablets). Other key factors behind the market’s growth will be increasing use in the automotive sector and rapidly improving technology: as smartphone camera modules are increasingly 5MP, 8MP, and 13 MP or more, and offer higher pixel front-facing cameras, market demand is expected to increase globally.
The shipments of camera modules in smartphones were about 80% of the global market in 2012. While the automotive camera market is indeed growing, it will remain dwarfed by the mobile device camera market. TechNavio’s analysts forecast the Global Automotive Camera Module market to reach $1,554.72 million by 2016. In other words, when the automotive camera module market will be at about $1.5 billion, the smartphone/tablet market will likely be at $24.8 billion.
Although TechNavio’s Industry forecast predicted a significantly smaller growth rate (CAGR) of 13.2% per year for overall camera module sales from 2013-2018, its conclusion regarding driving factors and overall growth forecast concurred with the other reports.
We recently read on Image Sensors World about the trends in China toward higher resolution front cameras in smartphones, and were inspired to do a bit more investigating into what we can expect to see in the U.S. Although the typical front-facing camera available here is less than 2MP (for reference, the iPhone 5 has a 1.2MP front camera), several Chinese manufacturers (MeituKiss, Oppo, and Zopo) are currently releasing phones with 5MP or 8MP front camera modules. Of course, we all know that megapixels are not the only factor in image quality, but giving the front-facing camera greater capabilities and higher precedence will change the way app developers think and how people use their smartphones.
Of the many uses of the front-facing camera, most of them have to do with popular communication tools and apps, such as FaceTime for Apple iOS systems, Skype, and Vine, the mobile video sharing app that recently added front-facing capabilities. There are also popular security apps (such as EyeVerify), mirror apps, and self-portrait photography (very popular with young, social media-savvy Millenials) that rely upon front-facing cameras.
The compact Omnivision OV2724 Sensor
The challenge with front cameras is the limited space for them within the smartphone casing. To overcome this challenge, Omnivision will be producing a new front-facing sensor this summer: the OV2724 sensor, which, while tiny (5mm x 5mm x 3.5mm), will allow for a front-facing 1080p HD camera that can record video at 60 frames per second. Given this advance in technology, consumers can probably expect to see significant changes in smartphone front cameras by next year – one of many exciting prospects on the horizon in the smartphone technology evolution taking place.
More and more, people use their smartphones as their default cameras; thus, precision smartphone camera modules are touted as highly desirable features. However, on the flip side, the point-and-shoot cameras of late are becoming more like smartphones. Camera makers are integrating connectivity, and now app capabilities, so that images can be shared instantly.
The Olympus E-PM2 is a new mirrorless camera that has integrated Wi-Fi connectivity so users can send images instantly to their smartphones. The newly announced Samsung Galaxy camera takes a different approach, with Android built right into it so that its screen functions like a smartphone would, using a 4G data network, and photo apps such as Instagram can be integrated easily.
The benefit of one of these cameras is the ability to immediately share top quality images – much better in focus, zoom, and pixel size than a typical smartphone camera. However, you must still carry a smartphone and a camera BOTH if you were to purchase one of these new cameras.
The Photojojo Phone Lens Series is available to customize smartphone cameras.
In terms of smartphones, it won’t be long before their camera modules improve. In fact, several new smartphones that were unveiled at the IFA Technology Convention in Berlin a few weeks ago offer higher resolution camera modules. A 13-megapixel camera will come with the new LG Optimus G, Sony’s Xperia T, and the Samsung Galaxy S4. In addition, there are add-on lens options for improving your existing smartphone camera; Photojojo offers fisheye, telephoto, wide angle and macro lenses that can be mounted onto a mobile phone or tablet. Whether you prefer a smartphone with an excellent camera module or a camera with smartphone connectivity, keep your eyes on the horizon for the next exciting innovations.