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Camera Module Comparison 2022 - Vol. 1 – Apple iPhone Evolution - System Plus Consulting

Camera Module Comparison 2022 – Vol. 1 – Apple iPhone Evolution

Product code
EUR 6990
Mobile & Consumer
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Evolution of the iPhone camera, from the iPhone 6S Plus to the 13 Pro Max.

In 2021, Apple sold around 250 million iPhones, representing about 18% of all smartphone shipments worldwide.  iPhone cameras are consistently ranked among the best in the industry, relying on both incremental improvements and groundbreaking innovations.

Continuing our series of camera module (CM) comparison reports, we summarize the results of detailed physical analyses and costing studies to compare the cameras in the iPhone 6S Plus, 7 Plus, 8 Plus, X, XS Max, 11 Pro Max, 12 Pro Max, and 13 Pro Max.  This report aims to offer insight into the physical and cost evolution of the CMs and CMOS image sensors (CIS) in the last seven years of iPhones, including the latest iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Our analysis covers both front and rear RGB CMs as well as the front-facing near infrared (NIR) CM in the Face ID system.  This includes the complete structure, design, and teardown of each CM, and the dimensions, technology node, and manufacturing processes of the CIS. The rear-facing LiDAR module is not covered, and only the light detection parts of the Face ID system are included.*

The iPhone series has followed the market trend of incrementally increasing rear CM quantity, lens count, and CIS size, but Apple is unique in having maintained a 12 Mp resolution while competitors have gone as high as 108 Mp. Apple has also stayed with very moderate zooms, maintaining 2 – 3x throughout the iPhone series while its competitors advertise zooms as high as 100x.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max introduced a triple rear camera, which the 12 Pro Max enhanced by adding an innovative sensor shift OIS and 7P lens system. The iPhone 13 Pro Max keeps this configuration, but makes several significant upgrades such as an enormous 1.9-µm pixel size in the main CIS, and the addition of autofocus and a 6th lens in the ultra-wide module.  The 13 Pro Max also introduces to the series the 7th-gen Sony Exmor RS CIS, where we observe for the first time the 28 nm technology node in a Sony CIS.  These CIS are significantly more costly for their size than previous CIS in the series. The larger main CIS necessitated a longer through-the-lens distance, and thus this is the thickest iPhone camera yet in the series.  Apple also decided to lengthen the telephoto module to match the main module thickness, affording a 3x zoom. Furthermore, the front camera has evolved from a single-module system to the dual-module ‘TrueDepth’ camera in the iPhone X. The iPhone 13 Pro Max introduces a new 2nd-generation Face ID solution that integrates the NIR CM and the NIR illumination subsystems in a single module, but this change did not affect the design of the NIR CM, nor that of the front RGB CM, which is unchanged since the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Camera Module Comparison 2022 - Vol. 1 – Apple iPhone Evolution - Exmor-RS-CIS-cross-section - System Plus Consulting Camera Module Comparison 2022 - Vol. 1 – Apple iPhone Evolution - iPhone-11-Pro-Max-main-camera-module-Cross-section - System Plus Consulting Camera Module Comparison 2022 - Vol. 1 – Apple iPhone Evolution - NIR CIS in the Face ID system - System Plus Consulting

* These systems are covered in detail in our existing reports SP20557 (LiDAR), SP17379 (1st-gen dot projector), SP18383 (1st-gen flood illuminator), SPR21576 (1.5th-gen flood illuminator), and SPR21642 (2nd-gen Face ID system in the iPhone 13).

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Overview / Methodology

  • Executive Summary
  • Reverse Costing Methodology
  • Glossary

Companies & Supply Chain

  • Apple, Sony, LG Innotek, STMicro
  • Players & Market Context
  • Supply Chain

Physical Comparison & Evolution

  • Camera Overviews
  • Physical Comparison
  • Overview of the Physical Analysis

Manufacturing Processes

  • Camera Module Structure
  • Image Sensor Manufacturing Processes

Cost Comparison

  • CMOS Image Sensor Costs
    • Front-End Comparison
    • Front Camera Die Cost Comparison
    • Rear Camera Die Cost Comparison
  • Camera Module Costs
    • Front Camera Modules
    • Rear Single and Dual Camera Modules
    • Rear Triple Camera Modules
  • Camera Cost Breakdown
  • Camera Price Comparison

Detailed Physical Analysis

  • Front Cameras
    • Near Infrared (Face ID)
    • iPhone 11, 12 & 13
    • iPhone XS Max
    • iPhone X
    • iPhone 8 Plus
    • iPhone 7 Plus
    • iPhone 6S Plus
  • Rear Cameras
    • iPhone 13 Pro Max
    • iPhone 12 Pro Max
    • iPhone XS Max
    • iPhone X
    • iPhone 8 Plus
    • iPhone 7 Plus
    • iPhone 6S Plus


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