As Apple gears up for the predicted announcement of the iPhone 7, it looks as though its supply chain has been affected by recent earthquakes in Japan.
The internet is going wild over the next generation Apple smartphone, which is expected to be announced in September. Rumors are swirling about the possible features that it will include, and one of the more exciting relates to the camera module.
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Sony plants shut down after earthquake Saturday
It is thought that the iPhone 7 could feature a dual-camera design. However these plans could run into difficulty due to recent events in Japan. On Saturday the Kumamoto prefecture, which is known as “Silicon Island” for its manufacturing capability, was hit by a powerful earthquake which affected businesses.
Among the companies that have plants in the area is Apple’s image sensor supplier Sony, which has its main sensor production base in the area. Sony is the only supplier of CMOS sensors for the Apple iPhone. According to reports both of Sony’s plants in Kumamoto prefecture were offline yesterday.
“Sony plays an important role for both CMOS sensor and camera module for the upcoming iPhone 7,” writes Morgan Stanley analyst Jasmine Lu. “By far, yield rate has been low for modules. Risks are rising for a possible delay in launch if Sony doesn’t resume normal operations in the near term.”
Apple supply chain could be disrupted
In an apparent attempt to mitigate for events such as this, Apple has been taking on additional suppliers in an attempt to de-risk its supply chain. However Sony remains the only supplier for the CMOS sensor.
However Sony has not revealed which, if any, production equipment was damaged by the quake. The plants could have remained offline yesterday as a precautionary measure and some analysts believe that Morgan Stanley has jumped the gun in suggesting delays to the iPhone 7.
Earthquakes have previously played a role in the production of the iPhone 7. In February an earthquake damaged a factory owned by A10 chipmaker TSMC in southern Taiwan.
Apple must be hoping that Sony is simply taking precautionary measures in closing its Kumamoto plants. If the rumors are to be believed, Apple is set to make some major changes to the camera on the iPhone 7.
iPhone 7 could get a dual-camera module
Analysts believe that the tech giant is going to introduce a dual-camera system that would dramatically improve performance in low light. It is not yet clear whether the camera would be introduced on both the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, or solely on the larger model.
Some believe that by bringing the dual-camera system exclusively to the larger handset Apple could drive sales. As it stands sales of the iPhone 6s Plus lag way behind the standard iPhone 6s, and one way of making these figures more comparable could be to offer exclusive hardware on the larger handset.
Another theory is that Apple might be about to introduce a halo model known as the iPhone 7 Pro. This would bring the iPhone range into line with the MacBook and iPad ranges.
If this were to be the case it seems likely that the new camera module would be restricted to the most expensive handset. This could also ease pressure on the supply chain by ensuring that the camera modules only shipped on a small percentage of handsets.
Apple is expected to make an announce on its next generation smartphone around September this year.