C-level talks between Apple and Samsung will be needed
Apple may use components made by Samsung Electro-Mechanics for its folded zoom camera on iPhones launching in 2022, people familiar with the matter told TheElec.
Samsung Electro-Mechanics will supply components such as actuators and lens to LG InnoTek, a long-time supplier of camera modules to Cupertino. LG will use them to make the folded zoom camera module to supply to Apple.
Folded zoom camera is a kind of telephoto camera where the light absorbed by the image sensor is bent, or folded, to allow the cameras to become thinner. This helps in minimizing the camera’s protrusion in smartphones. Folded zoom technology is needed for optical zooms over 3x.
Samsung, Huawei and Oppo have already applied this technology into their flagship smartphones. Samsung Electro-Mechanics provided the folded zoom module for the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Apple is yet to apply this technology and is expected to do so between 2022 to 2023.
But Apple is behind in patents in actuators, the people said. Samsung uses ball guide actuators for its folded zoom camera __ the ball rolls around to move the lens barrel. Apple currently uses springs to move the lens barrels, which falls behind in speed and accuracy to ball guides. Ball guide method also uses less power and is more durable. This becomes important as more lens are used and bigger image sensors are used in cameras.
Apple can technically secure folded zoom modules directly from Samsung Electro-Mechanics. However, this may hurt its relationship with LG InnoTek, its long-time supplier of high-end camera modules.
Samsung Electronics will also unlikely allow Samsung Electro-Mechanics to supply the modules directly to Apple. Some of the patents related to actuators and other components are also co-owned by Samsung Electronics, Jahwa Electronics and other suppliers.
Apple can bypass these issues such as patents by having LG InnoTek secure the components from Samsung Electro-Mechanics.
C-level meetings between Apple and Samsung Electronics will also likely needed to iron out the deal properly.
If this potential deal pulls through, Samsung Electro-Mechanics will likely replace Japanese companies Mitsumi Electric and Alps Alpine as the actuator supplier to Apple.
Since last year, Cupertino has contacted multiple South Korean camera module makers to discuss the supply of actuators.
Meanwhile, the patent dispute between Israel-based Corephotonics, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, and Apple continues in the US. Corephotonics is also embroiled in patent lawsuits with LG InnoTek. Corephotonics have multiple patents in folded zoom structure and software.
China’s O’Film Group has recently been kicked out of Apple’s camera module supply chain. The iPhone maker is in need of new suppliers of camera modules.