The Sony smartphone business has been struggling for a while now, to a degree that company leaders are publicly thinking about selling the division. The Japanese electronics manufacturer's camera business has not been able to catch up with rivals Canon and Nikon either. However, Sony is still making significant profit from smartphone and digital camera markets by providing its rivals with image sensors, as the Wall Street Journal reports. 

According to market research estimates, in 2014 Sony made 40.2 percent of all image sensors, leaving its rivals in the sector far behind. Presumably, this figure includes sensors made for things like automotive and industrial uses, but there's no doubt that it also accounts for the front and back sensors in Apple's iPhone 6 models, both made by Sony. Those sensors earn approximately $20 for the company for each iPhone sold. Underscoring just how important the Apple contract is, in March OmniVision was ordered to pay a $12.5 million settlement to its investors when it failed to disclose that it had lost the contract. Sony's own financial reporting shows a 40% increase in image sensor sales from 2013 to 2014, likely owed in most part to the Apple deal.

Even Samsung, which designs and makes its own sensors, is using Sony chips in its brand new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge models. Sony sensors can be found in many other manufacturers' products as well, for example Motorola smartphones and Nikon DSLRs.

In fact, the image sensor business is doing so well that internally it now has a higher priority than some consumer electronics divisions, for example digital cameras. Accordingly Sony is investing significantly into its image sensor manufacturing facilities. It remains to be seen if in the long run Apple and others want to rely on third party providers for components as important as image sensors or will be looking into making their own chips. However, for now it seems Sony is successfully converting itself from consumer electronics manufacturer to component provider.

Source: WSJ | Via: PetaPixel