Apple is running into a few Supply Chain snags for their 2023 iPhone that will introduce a Foldable Periscope Camera Lens
A new supply chain report posted this morning claims that Samsung Electro-Mechanics may be excluded from Apple’s supply chain for folded zoom camera modules for iPhones launching in 2023.
Samsung had used Samsung Electro-Mechanics’ folded zoom technology for the Galaxy S20 Ultra for the first time. Apple is planning to apply the technology for iPhones launching in 2023, but patents are getting in its way.
Samsung Electronics had secured the patents needed for the technology by acquiring Israel-based Corephotonix in 2019. Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Jahwa Electronics, which are part of Samsung’s supply chain, also owns patents related to actuators used in folded zoom lens barrels.
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 on the cameras for its iPhones.
Folded zoom can accommodate more lenses and larger image sensors, which requires precise control of them which the ball guide method is more advantageous in.
Apple was expected to secure supply of the folded zoom modules from its long-time supplier LG InnoTek while procuring the ball guide actuators from Samsung Electro-Mechanics.
If Cupertino have chosen this rout, it would have replaced its actuator partners Alps Electric and Mitsumi Electric with Samsung Electro-Mechanics.
Meanwhile, Apple reviewed Jahwa Electronics’ optical image stabilization module factory during the first half of the year.
OIS are conventionally integrated with autofocus actuator to form one module. The integrated module is Jahwa’s main product. Combining it with an image sensor and a board completes a camera module.
However, 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. Patently Apple reported back in June that Apple had wrapped up is review of Korea's Jahwa for periscope lens components.
At present, Apple seems positioned to procure OIS from Jahwa, while it will looking for alternative ways to handle the patent problem this poses.
The report noted that Apple likely has its own workaround for the patents or will pay licensing fee to Samsung. In fact, Patently Apple already has reported on a few granted patents on a folded periscope lens system (01 & 02) with two additional patent-pending inventions for such a lens (01 & 02) on record. Below is one of Apple's patent figures regarding a folded zoom lens system.
For Apple to adopt folded zoom for iPhones in 2023, it needs to finalize the specs and suppliers within this year. LG InnoTek is currently developing its own folded zoom technology. Any snag in the supply chain will delay the debut of such a new camera lens.
At present, LG InnoTek and Corephotonics are embroiled in a patent infringement lawsuit, but the former has successfully nullified the latter’s telephoto lens patent in South Korea in July through the local patent board. LG InnoTek also won the lawsuit at the local patent court last month which could clear the way for working with Apple.
Apple may also be working on another work around with LG InnoTek in respect to the use of a "Liquid Lens" that could replace the need for a traditional periscope lens. So there are many options open to Apple to keep this project on track for their 2023 iPhone.