iPhone: Sony reportedly to provide sensor for improved front-facing camera

Apple looks set to deepen its relationship with Sony with news that the pair are in talks that could result in the Japanese tech giant supplying high-performance sensors for the front-facing camera on a future iPhone.

According to major news site Nikkei, Sony is negotiating with the Cupertino company with a view to doubling its supply of camera components for a future iPhone “slated to roll out as early as next year,” suggesting that the device may be the one after the iPhone 6, which is expected to launch some time this year.

Sony reportedly supplies almost all of the sensors for the current iPhone’s 8-megapixel rear camera, while suppliers in the US and other locations deal with the 1.2-megapixel front-facing shooter.

Apple has apparently been prompted to make improvements to its screen-side camera as an increasing number of people use their mobile devices for video calls, Nikkei said in its report, while the rapid rise in popularity of the selfie has also elevated the importance of the front-based camera.

To fulfill Apple’s order, Sony last month bought a manufacturing facility from a major Japanese chipmaker, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The tech company will reportedly invest 35 billion yen ($341 million) in the facility, which will see its monthly output capacity rise by 25 percent.

Sony’s strong reputation for camera components helped it grab the largest share of the global CMOS sensor market (32.1 percent) in 2012, data from Techno Systems Research showed.

Nikkei’s report suggests we won’t see any major changes to the front-facing camera on the iPhone 6, which will likely land this year, though recent rumors claim the new handset’s rear-based camera could come with as many as 13 megapixels and improved auto image stabilization. Others, however, suggest a 10-megapixel snapper with an f/1.8 lens, an improvement on the current f/2.2 offering, making it better suited for low-light photography.

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