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Despite the global components crunch and supply constraints, the CMOS image sensor (CIS) or smartphone camera growth is expected to be in double digits to reach almost 6 billion units in 2021, according to a new report.

Smartphone imaging systems will continue to see strong hardware upgrades this year, with CIS content per smartphone expanding to an average of 4.1, according to Counterpoint Research.

“A big driver has been triple-and-above main camera setups, which accounted for two-thirds of all smartphones sold during the first half,” said Tarun Pathak, Counterpoint’s director of smartphone research.

“What is really interesting is where a lot of that growth is coming from – Africa, Latin America, India, and other emerging markets,” he said in a statement.

High-resolution has also been an area of focus, with 48MP-plus becoming standard in the smartphone industry.

“Again, we’re seeing emerging markets lead in growth; and 64MP is starting to become a major segment too. High-res is very important for what is the most hotly contested price band globally – the wholesale $100-$399 category,” Pathak noted.

During the second quarter, two-thirds of devices were high-res and we expect further share increases for the full year, the report mentioned.

At the end of the day, it is not about the camera or mega-pixel counts or how powerful your processor is.

“It is a combination of things: How good is the integration? The AI algorithms? Is tuning tweaked appropriately for the market? It is the sum of parts that delivers the experience,” according to Neil Shah, Counterpoint’s Vice President of Research.

“OEMs understand this, but it is difficult to get right. It is as much art as it is science,” Shah added.

Features that were once only available on ultra-premium devices are now emerging across OEMs’ broader portfolios – from contextual shooting, optical zoom, and ultra-high res through to time-of-flight and macro capabilities.

“Increasing choice and complexity is why algorithm development has become such a critical factor in the success of camera systems,” said Ethan Qi, Counterpoint’s lead camera components analyst.

According to Pathak, as we move through post-Covid upgrade cycles, especially in Android heavy markets, we’re seeing OEMs offer increasingly sophisticated camera hardware to their customers across all segments.

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