CMOS image sensor (CIS) market is expected to contract for the first time in 10 years in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the virus outbreak, it was expected that 5G smartphones would lead to rise in demand for CIS. Market leader Sony spent 1 trillion won in October last year to expand its capacity in preparation of the anticipated the surge.
But smartphone market has been hit hard by the pandemic. Research firm Canalys said smartphone shipment in the second quarter dropped 14% from a year prior. First quarter shipment was also lower than the same time period a year ago.
Sony’s performance in CIS also fell. The company said sales from its CIS business for the for the fiscal year of 2019 stood at 1.071 trillion yen, lower than its earlier forecast of 1.09 trillion yen. The company expects annual sales for fiscal 2020 to drop to 1 trillion yen due to slowdown in the smartphone market. The demand from premium phones shifting to mid-tier ones was also another factory, Sony has said.
South Korean analysts agreed. Cape Investment & Securities analysts Park Sung-soon said Sony, which was traditionally strong in the high-end market, suffered sales decline from demand shifting to low- to mid-tier phones.
The trade dispute between US and China was also looming over the outlook of Sony’s CIS business. Japanese media Nikkei said Chinese companies’ inventory of image sensors have reached their all time high.
Research firm Omdia is expecting image sensor market this year to be worth US$15.423 billion, a slight drop from US$15.451 billion a year ago.
IC Insights said in June that it expects image sensor market to contract 3.3% this year. It will drop to US$17.8 billion from 2019’s US$18.4 billion. Image sensor has grown thanks to new applications such as medial device and virtual reality but couldn’t withstand the economic downturn from COVID-19 in 2020, the research firm noted.