The pace of 5G commercialization continues to make the quiet smartphone market come back to life. As terminal manufacturers plunge into the exploration of 5G application scenarios, the supply chain is about to usher in a new turning point in performance.
Among them, AI photography is one of the applications that the world's first-line terminal brands continue to tap. In the 5G era, this application has also become a major focus for the industrial chain to cooperate with mobile phone brands to achieve upgrades. In addition, Apple, one of the industry giants, has repeatedly stated that AR will become a development direction for future smart phones.
It is worth noting that the upgrade of the two application scenarios mentioned above is inseparable from the blessing of 3D vision technology. At the same time, the news that Apple will adopt 3D ToF on the new generation of iPhone has also heated up the industry's discussion on this topic.
LG / Sharp split new iPhone ToF module orders
A few days ago, Barclays analysts released a report after meeting with Apple's supply chain manufacturers in Asia. The report shows that both Pro and Max versions of Apple's next-generation iPhone series released in 2020 will be on Equipped with a rear 3D camera (ToF).
In fact, the news that ToF will be adopted in the new iPhone has long been rumored. Jiwei also verified the supply chain and learned that Apple will indeed add a ToF lens to the new rear camera, while the front face recognition camera is still The technology of 3D structured light is used.
According to people familiar with the matter, Apple plans to carry four rear cameras in two versions of the new iPhone series, including an AF lens, a wide-angle lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens, and a 3D ToF lens.
It is worth mentioning that after cutting into the iPhone camera supply chain, after years of precipitation, Ophelia successfully obtained an order for the rear camera of the new generation iPhone. However, the 3D ToF module used in the new iPhone is still provided by Sharp (Hon Hai) and LG, and the VCSEL laser used in conjunction with ToF is independently designed by Apple Inc.
However, the increase in demand may not play a significant role in boosting supplier performance.
It can be imagined that, apart from the application itself, one of the main reasons why Apple Inc. chooses a 3D ToF camera is that ToF has a more cost-effective advantage than 3D structured light.
Jiwei.com knows from the market that the current average price of a 3D structured light module almost reaches more than 20 US dollars, while the unit price of a ToF module is basically maintained at about 10 US dollars. From the perspective of terminal manufacturers, reducing the cost of $ 10 on a mobile phone is of great benefit to overall cost control.
In recent years, with the iPhone market's sales volume declining, Apple has to improve by reducing prices, which also means that the company's supply chain price control will become more stringent. It is reported that this time Apple has specified the material procurement of the new generation iPhone, and the assembly plant only needs to report the assembly price based on the basic information.
Earlier, Tianfeng Securities had statistics that from 2008 to 2018, the revenue of many domestic A-share Apple suppliers increased year by year, but the gross profit margin decreased year by year. The operating income of Apple's major suppliers increased from 625 million yuan to 19,603 million yuan, with a CAGR of 41.13%; gross profit margin decreased from 31.65% to 20.22%, and the CAGR was -4.38%. Competition has intensified, and more assembly business has been undertaken.
Demand may erupt in the second half of next year
In addition, aside from the advantages of cost-effectiveness, one of the shortcomings that ToF has been criticized for previously is that the recognition accuracy in a short distance is slightly worse than structured light.
In response to this problem, Jiwei.com learned from interviews with leading domestic ToF module manufacturers that although TOF does not perform as well as structured light at short distances, it performs well at long distances, except that it can meet the requirements of rear camera applications Demand, the face unlock accuracy of ToF used for the front camera is also satisfactory.
It is also pointed out that in addition to the iPhone, Apple will also extend the use of 3D ToF technology to other product lines. The reason is that compared to ordinary camera technology, ToF can change the screen from a pure 2D picture to a more spatial 3D picture. Through the combination of the ToF module and the rear lens, ToF can more specifically meet the security and experience requirements of specific application scenarios.
Therefore, a source said that Apple plans to release a new iPad Pro equipped with a 3D sensor rear camera in 2020. If ToF is adopted in Apple's multiple product lines, domestic suppliers' chances of getting orders will also increase.
The industry believes that although ToF has a small base in the entire camera market and its proportion is not high; however, with the adoption of the iPhone and the promotion of first-line terminal brands such as Huawei, OPPO, vivo, and Samsung, the industry's market for ToF The outlook is quite promising, and it is predicted that there will be a significant increase in the second half of next year.
Although the iPhone ’s influence on product innovation has declined significantly in the past two years, it is undeniable that Apple still outperforms most terminal brands in this regard. Now that the ToF camp has the blessing of the iPhone, the chances of achieving large-scale popularization next year will also increase, but it may also be accompanied by a drop in product costs and selling prices.