Sony Reportedly ‘Can’t Make Enough’ Image Sensors to Keep Up With Demand

Sony, the world’s dominant mobile camera lens maker, is reportedly having difficulties making enough to meet the demand of its customers.

Terushi Shimizu, the head of Sony’s semiconductor unit, revealed in an interview with Bloomberg that the company is running its chip factories constantly through the holidays for the second consecutive year to try and keep up with the demand of its mobile image sensors.

“Judging by the way things are going, even after all that investment in expanding capacity, it might still not be enough,” Shimizu said in an interview at the company’s Tokyo headquarters. “We are having to apologize to customers because we just can’t make enough.”

Sony controls over 50 percent of the smartphone image sensor market and supplies them to various smartphone makers including Xiaomi and Apple. In an attempt to cope with demands, the company has invested in increasing its production capacity by building a new factory in Nagasaki that is scheduled to open in April 2021.

The company is also seeing increased demand for a new generation of image sensors that can see the world in three dimensions. Those sensors use a method known as “time-of-flight” or “ToF” sensor that sends out laser pulses and measures how long it takes for them to bounce back in order to create more detailed depth models.

After the PlayStation, semiconductors are now Sony’s most profitable business segment. The company has raised its chip unit’s operating income outlook to around $1.8 billion USD for the year ending March 2021, and it predicts revenue will climb 18 percent to about $95 billion, of which image sensors account for 86 percent.

“The camera has become the biggest differentiator for smartphone brands and everyone wants their social media pictures and videos to look nice, ” said Masahiro Wakasugi, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Sony is riding that wave of demand very well.”