The competition between smartphone manufacturers are still ongoing but evidently on a different front. In the past, what mattered was processing power, internal storage capacity, battery life, and features. Now, it seems that that battle has shifted to which handset has the greatest number of cameras and imaging capabilities. As such, Sony, which supplies the essential components for mobile phone photography to most brands, is overwhelmed by the demand. Its factories are reportedly operating for 24 hours. Yet, it is unable to meet the numbers required by its clients.

Therefore, it seems that the Japanese consumer electronics group might need to upgrade is manufacturing capacity. The Los Angeles Times notes that this is already the second year wherein Sony's factories are working overtime during the holidays to fulfil orders made for its camera sensors. Nevertheless, it appears the only workaround available for the company is to set up another facility that can ease the pressure on its existing workshop.

Sources indicate that Sony is adjusting its capital spending up to $2.6 billion in order to construct another manufacturing plant. It is estimated to become operational by April 2021 and will be located in Nagasaki. "Judging by the way things are going, even after all the investment in expanding capacity, it might still not be enough," elaborated Terushi Shimizu, the company's semiconductor unit head. "We have to apologize to customers because we just can't make enough," he added.

A trend noted by industry analysts shows that the latest mobile phones are equipped with at least two or three lenses for its main camera module. Meanwhile, there are even other models that go beyond that. Most of the top brands right now are competing against each other via imaging features.

As pointed out by Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Masahiro Wakasugi, "The camera has become the biggest differentiator for smartphone brands, and everyone wants their social media pictures and videos to look nice." This puts image sensors close behind the PlayStation platform as Sony's most profitable endeavours. The only direct competitor recognized by the industry is Samsung, which also supplies the imaging components to other smartphone companies. However, data shows that the former is still the market leader when it comes to camera sensors.

Sony Logo
Pedestrians are reflected in a logo of Sony Corp outside its showroom in Tokyo, July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino