This weekend Sony CEO Howard Stringer let slip the news that Sony is manufacturing camera sensors for the next iteration of Apple's iPhone. Speculation then shifted to the exact configuration of this new camera model.

Sensors for previous iPhone models were provided by Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor company OmniVision Technologies, which Apple seems to be now distancing itself from. 

Echoing a Wall Street Journal report from last year, most speculation points to Sony outfitting the next iPhone with an 8-megapixel camera. That's a significant boost over the 5-megapixel camera found in the current generation of the iPhone.

The camera joins multiple significant additions expected in the next iPhone. Of most of the expected features of the next iPhone, is being the first to feature iOS 5. Apple will give developers their first peek at the OS during this year's World Wide Developers conference in June, with the iOS 5-equipped iPhone appearing some time after.

Apple is also widely expected to support near field communication hardware in the next iPhone, which will allow users to make payments with a simple swipe of their phones. The functionality would be linked with iTunes, allowing customers to easily set up (and pay for) the service. The iPhone 5 is also expected to come with an A5 processor and 4G connectivity. 

As for that improved camera, Steve Jobs himself said during the unveiling of the iPhone 4 last June that photo quality is more than megapixels. Software and camera sensor quality also play a major role in how a digital photo is captured. By some tests, the camera on the original iPhone took better photos than the 8-megapixel cameras included in the Droid X and Evo 4G. Likewise, some testers reported that the camera in the iPhone 4 was more effective at digital video than some of Sony's Cyber-shot cameras.

Sony's Howard Stringer wasn't mum on the irony in his company providing Apple with camera technology. It always puzzles me, he said. Why would I make Apple the best camera?

Irony aside, Sony, like OmniVision, is set to greatly benefit from its deal with Apple -- even as the company is preparing to launch its own tablet to compete with the iPad later this year.