TrendForce reports a significant 8.9% decrease in shipments of smartphone camera modules in 2023, totaling around 4.065 billion units. This downturn is attributed to a decline in smartphone production and evolving trends in camera integration by major brands. However, after a year of depleting inventories, a rebound in smartphone production is expected in 2024, potentially leading to a resurgence in the smartphone camera module market with an estimated 3% YoY growth to approximately 4.171 billion units.
2023 has seen the smartphone sector grappling with slower-than-expected post-pandemic recovery in China and rampant global inflation. Some brands have scaled back production to counteract tepid customer demand, resulting in a year-on-year decline. TrendForce notes a shift in focus toward enhancing main cameras to 50MP and reducing rear cameras to three in mid-range models, a strategy embraced by Samsung and also adopted by OPPO, Vivo, Honor, and Transsion.
However, TrendForce believes these adjustments in camera module configurations are influenced by consumer preferences. Apple’s 2023 iPhone 15 Pro Max, for instance, with its significant upgrade to a tetraprism telephoto lens module offering 5x optical zoom, has boosted consumer interest and is likely to drive similar upgrades among competing brands.
The evolution of smartphones toward sleeker designs presents a challenge due to limited internal space, restricting the inclusion of thicker lenses and larger sensors. This limitation can cause issues such as noise artifacts, blurring, and overexposure in photos. Consequently, software assistance for hardware is becoming an essential solution to enhance camera performance, with AI image enhancement algorithms playing a pivotal role in optimizing image quality.
TrendForce anticipates that the adoption of AI will chart a new course for improving smartphone camera performance. Cognitive ISP technology powered by AI, which performs real-time semantic segmentation and individual optimization of elements within a frame (ex. faces, hair, glasses, or objects), is poised to revolutionize photo quality. This enhancement occurs instantly as the photo is taken, streamlining the imaging process and negating the need for post-editing.
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