Has Samsung Just Snookered Apple’s Plan For The iPhone
A move by Samsung to secure the patent rights for a new camera technology that was initially used in the Galaxy S20, is causing problems for Apple, who has a reputation for stealing patents when they don’t want to pay for them.
What’s been revealed is that Samsung Electro-Mechanics will be excluded from Apple’s supply chain after Samsung acquired Israel-based Company Corephotonix in 2019 who own the patents to a new camera technology that Apple desperately wants for their next generation iPhones.
This is a damaging move for Apple who was planning to use ‘folded zoom prism technology, that bends light before it reaches an image sensor, it’s been described as a periscope-like telephoto camera technology that allows smartphones to be designed so that camera modules don’t protrude on the back of a device.
The technology allows camera modules to be made thinner so that they don’t stick out of the back covers of smartphones.
Samsung used folded zoom technology in the Galaxy S20 Ultra for the first-time last year.
Apple was planning to apply the technology for iPhones launching in 2023, but now their lack of access to patents for the technology are getting in its way.
Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Jahwa Electronics, which are part of Samsung’s supply chain, owns the patents related to actuators used in folded zoom lens barrels.
According to The Elec a South Korean web site, Samsung Electro-Mechanics uses a ball guide actuator to move the lens barrel.
This is considered more advanced than spring actuators that Apple is currently using in iPhone cameras.
Folded zoom can accommodate more lens and larger image sensors and requires precise control which is where the ball technology comes into play.
Apple was expected to secure supply of the folded zoom modules from its long-time supplier LG InnoTek while procuring the ball guide technology from Samsung Electro-Mechanics.
It now appears that they are going to have to fall back to trying to use Jahwa Electronics’ optical image stabilization module in their new iPhones.
OIS are conventionally integrated with autofocus actuator to form one module.
The integrated module is a combination of image sensor and a board that is then built into an iPhone.
Jahwa co-developed the OIS technology with Samsung and Samsung Electro-Mechanics, raising concerns that it may not be able to supply them to Apple going forward.
However, Apple seems positioned to procure OIS from Jahwa, while it will be looking for alternative ways to handle the patent problem this poses.
Apple’s only way out legally is to pay a license fee to Samsung.
For Apple to adopt folded zoom for iPhones in 2023, it needs to finalize the specs with suppliers this year.
LG InnoTek is currently trying to develop its own folded zoom technology.