Good cameras are ubiquitous with modern smartphones which normally offer picture quality that surpasses even what dedicated point-and-shoot cameras did years ago. As such the convenience of bringing your camera with you everywhere you go in the form of your phone has completely skewed the market towards the smartphone. As such suppliers of the parts that make up the smartphone are under ever-increasing pressure as sales continue to drive innovation and competition in the marketplace. Sony has made a name for itself as the best of the best when it comes to making smartphone camera sensors, powering nearly every big-name device from manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, LG, Huawei and dozens of other companies as well.
What happens when all the eggs are placed into one basket though? As we've seen with Qualcomm's fairly disastrous new chipset, the Snapdragon 810, one big misstep can lead to an array of problems for entire industries. Sony may not have had a misstep in sensor quality but it seems they are having issues with manufacturing enough of these sensors to meet demand, specifically the Exmor IMX214 13-megapixel sensor. Debuting last year with the OnePlus One Sony's latest and greatest 13-megapixel sensor now powers dozens upon dozens of devices and brings some of the finest image quality in the market. In fact the Xiaomi Mi Note that we just reviewed is yet another device that just launched and it's camera is powered by the Exmor IMX214 as well.
Now we're hearing from the supply chain and other sources, like Xiaomi's chairman Lei Jun, that Sony can't produce enough of these sensors to keep up with demand. Sony is trying to prioritize its shipments to more important customers to keep business lines with them solid, because as we've seen from Samsung and Qualcomm's relationship that one false move could mean manufacturers turn elsewhere for their components. Sources are estimating that Sony is only able to meet about 50 percent of its supply demand right now, a problem that will likely result in delays of upcoming smartphones, shortages and even price hikes of currently available phones as well. While there are plenty of other players in the camera sensor market like Samsung, OmniVision and Toshiba to name a few, Sony is the best by far and while it may be a painful couple of months until Sony can catch up it may very well be worth the wait.