Sony Says Smartphone Demand is Low, But is Itself at Least Partially Why

Smartphone sensor

While the interchangeable lens camera market is on the upswing, the mobile market is going the other way. Sony, which makes the majority of sensors for mobile, doesn’t think that will change for another year.

Sony says that based on demand for its smartphone camera sensors, the previously expected recovery of the smartphone market is being pushed back until next year, Bloomberg reports. The company, which produces the majority of sensors for smartphones, says that conditions are “tough” in both the United States and China, which has pushed down demand.

“The recovery of the smartphone market in China is slower than we expected and conditions in the U.S. market are worsening,” Sadahiko Hayakawa, a senior general manager for finance, explained to analysts at a briefing, Bloomberg says. “We had expected the smartphone market to start recovering from the second half of this fiscal year, but now we expect that would not happen until at least the next year.”

The publication adds that manufacturing yield issues of sensors have additionally posed challenges for the iPhone 15’s production.

“The image sensor arm is a big concern. The business is getting a lofty tailwind from exchange rates, yet the unit hasn’t been able to make profits,” Morningstar analyst Kazunori Ito tells Bloomberg. “We need to pay close attention to the unit going forward.”

Sony appears to be placing most of the blame on low demand, but that might only be half of the story. While demand for Sony’s traditional sensors is low, the company appears unable to keep up with demand for its stacked sensor designs. PetaPixel previously reported that Apple is expected to roll out stacked sensors across the iPhone line in the 2024 iPhone 16 models and only include it in the Pro tier of the iPhone 15 smartphones coming this year.

That is, as respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says, likely because Sony was unable to fabricate enough stacked sensors to include them across the entire line in 2023. In somewhat circular reasoning, Sony is now also saying that it does not expect high demand for the iPhone 15. Considering that upgrades to the camera would be the primary reasons to buy a new iPhone and Apple isn’t expected to bring those upgrades to any model outside of the most expensive, it does stand to reason that fewer consumers will upgrade in 2023 as a result.

But it is important to point out that the depressed demand isn’t necessarily entirely on Apple, even if that’s the story Sony would prefer. The information from Sony and the opinions of analysts comes across as a lot of finger-pointing to explain sluggish sensor sales, when the truth might be that there might not be enough of the sensors manufacturers actually want to buy available.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.