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Sony prioritizing Apple's supply of iPhone cameras, cutting back on other vendors

Reports from the supply chain suggest that Sony is giving priority to CMOS image sensor production to Apple, forcing other vendors to source smartphone camera components elsewhere.

As a result of Apple's demand for the iPhone 7, and future iPhone models, supply from Sony to second-tier vendors is heavily constrained, according to a report from DigiTimes. Sources claim that Sony is focusing its output on Apple, Huawei, and Oppo for the vast majority of its supply.

Apple is Sony's largest customer for CMOS image sensors. Sony focuses on mid-range and high-end smartphones, and is one of the only suppliers for the quality of sensors that Apple needs.

Because of Apple's peak and dips in demand for sensors depending on sales and production needs, Sony profits are periodically impacted by Apple. While not naming Apple directly, Sony Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said in January 2016 that "certain customers" ordered fewer CMOS image sensors in the previous quarter, forcing a 13 percent drop in quarterly sales, contributing to a quarterly loss.

Sony also has a new CMOS sensor package in production. The new technology will have an effective resolution of 21.2 megapixels, and will be able to capture still images at 19.3 megapixels at 30fps, 4K video at 60fps, and Full HD at 240fps in a slightly thinner package than its 12MP sensor it uses in the iPhone 7.

Samsung generates its own CMOS image sensor supply and has little in the way of sales to other vendors.

DigiTimes does generally provide accurate information from within Apple's supply chain — which is precisely what Thursday's report is. However, the publication has an unreliable track record in predicting Apple's future product plans. often predicting both timing and features incorrectly for upcoming products.