The global mobile phone shipment in 2005 was 795 million units, 57% of which (about 455 million units) had the photographing function. It is predicted that 85% of the mobile phones will be camera phones by 2008 with a shipment of 800 million units; and the market scale of camera phone module will accordingly rise from $2 billion in 2005 to $4.8 billion by 2008, showing very promising prospects.
The camera phone module industry chain mainly includes three parts: image sensor, lens and assembly.
As for image sensors, most of the manufacturers (except Japanese ones) adopt CMOS image sensors. The market share of CCD image sensor will remain stable in the future, due to Japanese manufacturers’ high requirement for quality, and currently only CCD sensor can satisfy the demand of Japanese market.
There are about 20 CMOS sensor manufacturers worldwide, which can be classified into three categories.
One is memory manufacturers, including Micron, Magnachip, ST, and Cypress. Micron was the earliest one to enter CMOS sensor field, it acquired Photobits as early as 2000, and realized large amounts shipments in 2005. These memory manufacturers are capable of manufacturing large amount of wafers. There are few types of memory products. These manufacturers are thus known with low costs; they manufacture a large quantity of products, but only few different kinds. They mainly target the mobile phone market. Before taking its independence, Magnachip was the logic IC division of Hynix. And Cypress is a large SRAM manufacturer.
Another category is specialized CMOS image sensor manufacturers, including Omnivision, Pixelplus, Transchip, Pixart, ElecVision, Taiwan Advanced Sensors Corporation (TASC). The first three manufacturers are specialized in mobile phone market with a big advantage for design; while the other three ones are Taiwan-based manufacturers which are not so interested in mobile phone market, but more engaged in optical mouse field.
The third group is CCD/CMOS image sensor manufacturers with high fundamental technologies, Sony and Kodak for example.
Characteristics of CMOS sensor manufacturers:
1. Most of them have wafer plants, or have a close relationship with wafer plants, which is a necessary condition for low costs.
2. Most of them have been through M&As. For instance, Omnivision acquired CDM Optics in Apr 2005; Magnachip acquired IC Media in Apr 2005; Micron acquired Photobit at the end of 2001; and Kodak acquired Imaging Department of the National Semiconductor of the US.
3. Proficient in CMOS technique, but lacking of optical and image color processing technologies.
4. The assembly processes of most manufacturers are centralized in Taiwan. For instance, Omnivision entrusts VisEra to assemble, Micron entrusts Kingpak, Samsung entrusts ASE, Pixart entrusts Sigurd, and IC Media entrusts King Yuan Electronics.
Lens manufacturers are concentrated in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Due to its high technology content, Lens industry has a high entry threshold. And Taiwan-based enterprises are obviously advantageous in costs with a market share of 57% in 2005, which is expected to reach 65% by 2006.
There are 4 major camera phone lens manufacturers in Taiwan are Genius, Largan, Asia Optical, and Premier. The global market shares for those four are 23%, 25%, 5% and 4% respectively
With the pixel upgrade of camera phones, more and more lens manufacturers are engaged in glass lens manufacturing, but the manufacturers who only have plastic lens technologies are declining. Enplas, for instance, whose sales revenue reduced 6 billion yen with a profit decline from 8.45 billion yen to 3.7 billion yen. Especially in 2-megapixel camera phone lens market, glass lens manufacturers are taking obvious advantages; the optical giants like Fujinon, Konica Minolta, and Largan almost monopolize the market.
As for assembly industry, Flextronics has become the largest camera phone module manufacturer in the world after it acquired the CMOS image sensor department of Agilent, and the image sensor testing plant of ASE; however, it does not have very efficient R&D. Altus, affiliated to Foxconn Group, developed fast, and its market share has risen from 4% in 2004 to 9% in the second half of 2005 with a shipment of 41 million sets. Meanwhile, domestic manufacturers are declining sharply. During the first half of 2005, the operation revenue of Macat’s major businesses was 157 million Yuan, a 40% decrease year-on-year; the profit of its major businesses was 3.55 million Yuan, a 82% decrease year-on-year; and its net losses were 14 million Yuan, a 286% increase year-on-year. This is mainly caused by the loss of its major client Agilent, which turned to Fextronics.