In recent years, the biggest trend of smartphone camera modules is the increasing number of rear camera modules, according to TrendForce’s investigations. According to TrendForce research, triple camera modules surpassed dual camera modules to become mainstream in 2020 and drove the continued growth of smartphone camera module shipments. Annual smartphone camera module shipments in 2022 are expected to reach 4.92 billion units, or 2% growth YoY.
However, the trend towards multiple cameras started to shift in 2H21 after a few years of positive growth. The previous spike in the penetration rate of four camera modules was primarily incited by mid-range smart phone models in 2H20 when mobile phone brands sought to market their products through promoting more and more cameras. However, as consumers realized that the macro and depth camera usually featured on the third and fourth cameras were used less frequently and improvements in overall photo quality limited, the demand for four camera modules gradually subsided and mobile phone brands returned to fulfilling the actual needs of consumers. In addition, increases in the pricing of semiconductor chips such as PMICs and Driver ICs, as well as increased shipping costs, have driven the cost of mobile phones up sharply. Without the ability to effectively pass this cost onto consumers, any remaining allowance to economically install low-end cameras has been effectively eliminated.
Camera resolution upgrades: fastest growing market share encompasses 49-64 million pixel cameras
Although camera shipment growth has slowed, camera resolution continues to improve. Taking primary cameras as an example, the current mainstream design is 13-48 million pixels, accounting for more than 50% of cameras in 2021. In second place are products featuring 49-64 million pixels which accounted for more than 20% of cameras last year with penetration rate expected to increase to 23% in 2022. The third highest portion is 12 million pixel products, currently dominated by the iPhone and Samsung's flagship series. However, a 48 million pixel primary camera is expected to be introduced to the iPhone 14 Pro series (tentative name) that Apple will release this year, further reducing 12 million pixel products to a 15% share in 2022.
In addition to the original Samsung and Xiaomi brands employing 108 million pixels cameras, Vivo and Honor also introduced similar resolution cameras in 2021. There is a chance 200 million pixel products will be ready for commercial use in 2022, driving the penetration rate of ultra-high pixel products to an expected level in excess of 5% in 2022. However, such ultra-high pixel products primarily focus on enlarging photographs without losing image quality. Therefore, TrendForce believes that any marginal benefits these products bring to consumers will gradually decrease and the penetration rate will not grow as quickly as 49-64 million pixels products.
Overall, TrendForce believes that the number of camera modules mounted on smartphones will no longer be the main focus of mobile phone brands, as focus will return to the real needs of consumers. Therefore, triple camera modules will remain the mainstream design for the next 2~3 years.
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