Apple is planning a major camera upgrade for iPhone in 2022, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, with that year's flagship handsets expected to sport a massive 48-megapixel lenser.
In a note to investors on Wednesday, Kuo predicts Apple's top-tier "iPhone 14" models to adopt a 1/1.3" 48MP CMOS image sensor for wide angle camera module duties. The company typically concentrates on wide angle camera technology first, with the benefits trickling down to telephoto and ultra-wide angle systems in subsequent years.
Interestingly, the sensor could support hybrid operating modes to maximize pixel size and capitalize on the hardware's light-gathering capabilities.
"We believe that the new 2H22 iPhone may support direct 48MP output and 12MP (four cells merge output mode) output simultaneously," Kuo says. "With 12MP output, the CIS pixel size of the new 2H22 iPhone increases to about 2.5um, which is significantly larger than the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, and larger than existing Android phones, and close to the DSC level."
Pixel size at native 48MP resolutions comes in at about 1.25um, Kuo says. For reference, iPhone 12's pixels clock in at 1.7um, while Kuo predicts this year's "iPhone 13" to sport a sensor with 2um pixels.
The high resolution sensor is expected to support 8K video recording, a substantial bump over iPhone's current 4K limit. Though frame rates were not mentioned in today's report, Kuo believes the addition will benefit recordings for augmented reality devices, a sector Apple is widely rumored to enter in the near future.
Existing supplier Sony will produce the forthcoming sensor, with LG working on the compact camera module (CCM), Kuo says.
Apple is anticipated to pay more per camera module with the move to 48MP. In addition to tilt control, calibration of the CCM will be more complicated than current iPhone models due to the sensor's increased surface area. The iPhone 12 Pro was the first to implement sensor-shift stabilization on the wide angle module.
Finally, Kuo suggests Apple will discontinue the iPhone mini line in 2022, offering only 6.1- and 6.7-inch variants of the base model and "Pro" series.