China’s Sunny Optical is in the final stages of certification for supplying Time of Flight (ToF) 3D sensing lens for Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy smartphones, according to industry sources on Aug. 26.
ToF is a camera technology that allows for 3D viewing that can be applied to VR, AR and 5G. South Korean manufacturer Kolen is currently supplying the lenses to Samsung.
ToF has so far been applied only to Samsung’s flagship smartphones the Galaxy S10 5G, Galaxy Note 10+, along with the highest trim among the budget phones, the Galaxy A80. But the South Korean tech giant appears to have now chosen the technology for its flagship phones ahead of the launch of 5G in earnest next year.
With Sunny on the scene, industry watchers expect Samsung to diversify its camera lens sources.
"Sunny Optical is becoming a bigger source for Samsung,” said an industry watcher knowledgeable on the matter. “Given the firm’s overwhelming lens production capacities, Sunny may soon pose a huge threat to local suppliers.”
The Chinese company is likely to handle the orders leftover from Kolen, which had been the sole supplier for the ToF lens fitted in the Galaxy S10 5G.
Kolen is now poised to secure facilities in Vietnam with a capacity of producing a monthly 5 million of ToF lens. This would add to the current facilities in the Philippines with a monthly production capacity of 3 million.
For Sunny, partnering would give it a boost in both sales, according to market watchers, as ToF lens are about 1.5-2 times more expensive than ordinary lens.
The Chinese supplier has been increasingly partnering with Samsung ever since providing its lens to Samsung’s flagship smartphone the Galaxy S9 last year. It also supplied camera modules to Samsung’s budget phones.
Revenues that Sunny Optical raked in from Asia other than China in the first half of this year stood at 2.3 billion yuan (400 billion won), up 139.6% the same period last year. Total sales in 1H reached 15.5 billion won (2.6 trillion won), up 30% on-year. Among them, sales from supplying smartphones hit 13.4 billion won (2.2 trillion won), up 31.6%.
Some industry experts say it makes more sense for Samsung to maintain a steady supply on its home turf, meaning it won’t go overboard in the partnership with Sunny Optical.
South Korean firms like Namugawa and Partron are supplying ToF modules for Samsung’s smartphones. Another firm, MCNEX, will be completing its ToF module production lines in October. It will receive the ToF lens from Kolen to manufacture the modules.
US-based Apple also plans to adopt the ToF module for the first time in its tablet, the iPad Pro, early next year. The ToF function will be available for the iPhones beginning in the latter half of next year.
The Elec is South Korea’s No.1 tech news platform.