Apple will add an 8 megapixel (MP) rear-facing camera in its upcoming iPhone 5 which would be supplied by Sony, suggesting that Apple's partnership with camera sensor provider OmniVision is ending.
The teaser came from Sony CEO Howard Stringer who accidently told WSJ that the earthquake in Japan had damaged one of its key camera sensor factories in Japan which would affect the supply of sensors for iPhones or iPads.
While the blogosphere is ablaze with reports of an 8MP camera hitting the iPhone 5, the fact is that in order to compete against the likes of Samsung Galaxy II and HTC Thunderbolt, a camera with higher configuration is de-rigueur. The current breed of Android phones primary Galaxy II and HTC Thunderbolt both flaunt an 8MP rear-facing camera. Samsung Galaxy II has a 2 MP front-facing and HTC Thunderbolt has a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera.
The Galaxy S2 offers 1080p video capture capacity while HTC Thunderbolt offers 720p. In its current form the iPhone 4 sports a 5MP camera with 720p camera. Thus the iPhone 5 would need a higher MP camera to compete with Samsung Galaxy S2.
Recently Apple released its much-touted tablet iPad 2. While as a package the iPad 2 has received rave reviews but has been derided by the industry for its poor camera configuration. The only specification that Apple offered for its iPad 2 camera is that the rear-facing camera offers 720p video capture capability. However Engadget's Joshua Topolsky said: Let's just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. He said that the cameras are good enough for chat but are not worthy to take still shots unlike Motorola Xoom's 5 MP rear cameras. Engadget also assumes that the iPad 2 camera specifications are similar to its iPod Touch camera specifications.
Thus Apple would like to limit such reviews for its upcoming iPhone 5. Until now OmniVision has been Apple's key image sensor provider. It is surmised that the iPad 2 camera sensors were built by Omnivision. Engadget in its review of iPad 2 said: the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. Apple's move to rope in Sony could be to bridge the deficit in camera sensors.
Phonearena reported in February that there have been a lot of complaints about the backlit sensor that OmniVision supplies for the iPhone 4 when still photos are taken. The complaints have been about yellowish tint indoors and wrong color balance outside. It is surmised that Apple would be eyeing Sony's new Exmor R camera sensors which is used in Sony Ericsson Xperia arc. The 8MP camera sensor that Xperia uses is backlit, which helps it cope with low light situations.
Also it was reported that OmniVision recently announced its own 8MP sensor OV882 which has been beset with production problems thus making it unavailable in the next few months for iPhone 5. Thus Apple could be looking at Sony.