First iPhone 4S Image Sensor to Be Identified Comes from Sony

iphone 4s camera sensor sony
Sony markings on iPhone 4S camera sensor die

While iFixit performed the first thorough teardown of the iPhone 4S yesterday, Chipworks has now turned its more powerful equipment on the chips themselves, notably identifying Sony as the manufacturer of the 8-megapixel camera sensor in the first iPhone 4S they examined.

In order to get our readers the device manufacturer as soon as possible, rather than going through a fuming sulfuric acid chip deprocessing we chose to use our infrared microscope to look through the structure of this image sensor. What you see are the die markings on the base layer of the image sensor. The image isn’t beautiful, but it’s enough to tell us that Sony is in our particular iPhone 4S.

OmniVision has historically been the supplier for the image sensor in the iPhone, but comments from Sony CEO Howard Stringer earlier this year started rumors that Sony might take over production for the iPhone 4S. Later reports had said the two companies would be splitting the load with OmniVision handling up to 90% of production, but issues at OmniVision were later said to have led to Apple shifting orders to Sony. Weak financial guidance from OmniVision further fueled rumors that it had lost at least a substantial portion of the iPhone business.

As Chipworks notes, a single test unit is not sufficient to establish the balance of production should Apple be employing a dual-supplier solution for the iPhone 4S camera sensor. But Sony is at least involved in production this time around, and additional results should give a better picture of where Apple's orders have fallen.

Related Forum: iPhone

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Top Rated Comments

GabrielF Avatar
166 months ago
So for those keeping track:
[LIST=1]
* CPU Design - Apple A5 - US
* CPU Manufacturing - Samsung - Korea
* Battery assembly - Foxconn? - China
* RF Transceiver - Qualcomm - US
* Power Amplifier - Skyworks - US
* Power Amplifier - Avago - US
* SAW Filter - TriQuint - US
* PA Duplexer - TriQuint - US
* Power amplifier - Avago - US
* WiFi/Bluetooth Design - Broadcom - US
* WiFi/Bluetooth Manufacturing - Murata - Japan
* Flash memory - Toshiba - Japan
* RAM - Samsung - Korea OR
* RAM - Elpida - Japan
* Accelerometer - STMicroelectronics - Switzerland
* Gyroscope - STMicroelectronics - Switzerland
* Power management - Dialog - Germany
* Camera - Sony - Japan
* Touch sensor - Texas Instruments - US
* Vibrate motor - Samsung (likely) - Korea
* Audio codec design - Cirrus - US


So US companies are still doing the bulk of the component design work.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bertman Avatar
166 months ago
This is an interesting turnout.
It's interesting that Sony is, in essence, directly helping their competitor succeed. But then again most Nikon cameras use Sony sensors.

After seeing all the crappy cameras that Sony makes, how did they manage to slip into my beautiful 4S and produce such wonderful pictures? Oh... Well, cause it's apple, duh! :)
Dare I feed the troll? OK...

1) What crappy cameras are you referring to, being sure to compare the referenced camera(s) to the comparably-priced competitors*, and,

2) How, specifically, does an apple logo on the enclosure make it not crapy?

This should be good...

*Feel free to compare the A77/NEX-7 with cameras costing 2x-4x as much...
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mikefla Avatar
166 months ago
Thank god for the Sony optics they are long overdue on the iPhone, they make some of the best optics in the World.

-Mike
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bertman Avatar
166 months ago
But note that it's using Apple's own lens and software.

Lens; No. It is a 5-element design which is coupled tightly to the sensor - I cannot believe the whole assembly is not made by Sony. As an optical designer, I would love to get the optical design and analyze the limits of the imaging performance, but I can tell you it has improved distortion, sharpness, and color correction over the 4.

Software; Yes.

----------

Ugh Sony doesn't know how to make good cameras and video.

- Milk shoots out nose -

Don't DO THAT while I'm eating my milk and cookies!!!

- Wipes tears of laughter from eyes, still cleaning out nostrils... -
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JAT Avatar
166 months ago
This is an interesting turnout. After seeing all the crappy cameras that Sony makes, how did they manage to slip into my beautiful 4S and produce such wonderful pictures? Oh... Well, cause it's apple, duh! :)
Sony has made (and most likely will going forward) most of the digital camera sensors in the world. In all kinds of cameras. In Sony, Apple, Canon, Nikon, everybody.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
portishead Avatar
166 months ago
Ugh Sony doesn't know how to make good cameras and video. They should have partnered with Canon.

You have no clue.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)