Who Manufactures Apple's iPhone Camera?
By James Lee Phillips
The manufacturers of the iPhone's cameras, Sony and Omnivision, was once a motivating mystery. Apple has almost infamously shown reluctance to provide clear and detailed answers concerning the manufacturers of the components within the company's devices. While the reasons are largely mundane issues of competition and exclusivity, this has provided yet another factor of mystique for Apple fans, whose hunger for gossip and speculation is likewise almost infamous, and certainly unmatched in tech circles.
Tearing Down History
Despite meticulous tear-downs of every model of iPhone that came before, the exact manufacturers of many of the components for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 remained unconfirmed. Many of the major parts are clearly labelled with Broadcom, Skyworks, Samsung and other familiar names, but few of the individual smaller component parts bear distinguishing manufacturer names or symbols, whether from the necessity of size or Apple's insistence.
With so many separate parts, the potential number of individual manufacturers increases. Apple has solid reasons to divide the duties between multiple companies -- purchasing power and increased secrecy, for example. Still, some of the manufacturers have been revealed by iPhone tear-downs, and others have been named by analysts with access to manufacturer supply chain paperwork.
How Many Camera Parts Are There?
The iPhone cameras, like most smartphones and digital cameras, have sensors that use CMOS, or complementary metal oxide semiconductor, technology to convert light to electrons. The sensor is protected by a clear cover -- a sapphire crystal in the iPhone 5 -- that is often referred to incorrectly as a lens, although the five-element lens module is a separate component altogether. Additionally, the backside illumination component and image processing chip also can be considered camera parts.
The Usual Suspects
Tear-down of the rear-facing camera revealed a tiny but unmistakable inscription confirming that Sony manufactured the 8-megapixel sensor, while the front-facing sensor was likewise shown to be by Omnivision. The lens modules themselves bear no such identification, but Taiwanese manufacturers Largan Precision and Genius Electronic Optical have been named as suppliers for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 -- with the iPhone 5 manifests also listing Japanese optical manufacturer Kantatsu.
James Lee Phillips has been a writer since 1994, specializing in technology and intellectual property issues. He holds a Bachelor of Science in communications and philosophy from SUNY Fredonia.