BoM Analysis: Xiaomi’s 12S Ultra Costs $516 After Camera, SoC, Display Upgrades to 11 Ultra

With the release of the Xiaomi 12S series in early July, Xiaomi has further expanded its flagship portfolio in its home market. The new series is also being seen as an extension of the Xiaomi 12 series, aimed at consolidating the brand’s presence in the $600 and above wholesale price band through the second half of 2022.

Xiaomi 12 Series Failed to Strengthen its Share in Premium Segments (>$600)

Counterpoint Research Xiaomi 12 Series Failed to Strengthen its Share in Premium Segments (>$600)

Thanks to promotions during the 2022 Xiaomi Fans Festival, Xiaomi managed to improve its sales share in the flagship battlefield in April. However, the brand desperately needs new flagship models to replace the Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro, whose performance has been far less than expected. Against this backdrop, Xiaomi has introduced the new Xiaomi 12S line-up with optimized user experiences.

Sitting at the top of the new series, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is a successor of the Xiaomi 11 Ultra. The latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus platform, the all-new Samsung E5 LTPO 2.0 OLED display and the industry-leading 1-inch 50MP main camera, as well as a tie-up with Leica, represent the major areas of upgrades.

According to Counterpoint Research’s BoM Analysis Practice, producing a Xiaomi 12S Ultra equipped with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage costs around $516. The market price of the model is RMB 5,999 or around $899. The processing, display and image sub-systems, along with memory, contribute nearly 67% of the total manufacturing cost. Below is the functional cost structure of the ultra-premium model.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra BoM Cost Increases to $516

Counterpoint Research Xiaomi 12S Ultra BoM Cost Increases to $516

In terms of suppliers, Qualcomm, Samsung and Sony are among the beneficiaries. Qualcomm has a wide range of design wins, from the SoC and paired power management and RF transceiver to RF front-end components, connectivity IC and audio codec. The latter two vendors provide the display panel and LPDDR5 RAM, and image sensors respectively.

Xiaomi has shipped more than 2 million Xiaomi 11 Ultra smartphones so far at the same starting price of RMB 5,999 or around $899. The Xiaomi 12 Ultra is expected to take the baton from here and help improve Xiaomi’s profitability in the ultra-premium segment.

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HONOR Magic4 Ultimate Review: Impressive Camera Capabilities, Smooth Gaming Experience

  • The HONOR Magic4 Ultimate has a curved 6.81-inch LTPO screen and a Penta-camera setup at the back.
  • Under the hood is a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, a customized AI ISP, and a standalone security chip, jointly delivering flagship experiences in display, photography, videography, gaming and privacy.
  • The premium flagship smartphone supports 100W fast-charging and 50W wireless-charging speeds.

Amid the intensifying premium smartphone battle in China, HONOR has successfully upgraded its flagship lineup with the Magic4 Ultimate. Sitting at the top of the Magic4 series, the Magic4 Ultimate, like its predecessor, brings great innovations in hardware and software.

Equipped with 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, it is still priced at ¥7,999 or around $1,230 for the China market. The model’s performance is comprehensively improved with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and a customized AI ISP. I have been using the smartphone for a while and it impressed me in three key areas:

  • The Magic4 Ultimate strives to present a combination of beauty and advanced technologies. Its exterior consists of a 6.81-inch bezel-less quad-curved screen, a flashy stainless steel middle frame, and a refined nanocrystal ceramic shell that creates a sense of elegance.
  • The gaming experience, built on the fourth-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming engine and HONOR’s enhanced GPU Turbo X technology, is smooth and enjoyable.
  • The last but the most important is the sophisticated and powerful imaging system. The rear penta-camera setup is led by a 50MP, 1/1.14-inch large main camera and performs extremely well in capturing true-to-life images with superb clarity and rich details day and night. I will discuss the three highlights and other features in detail in my review below.

HONOR strengthens its presence in China’s flagship battle with Magic4 Ultimate

In 2021, China’s premium smartphone market recorded significant YoY growth with nearly one out of four smartphones being sold at above $600. This lucrative segment is becoming ever more important, particularly for China-based brands looking to improve their product mix and achieve meaningful earnings against the overall decline in smartphone sales, while enhancing their brand image.

The new round of competition started following the announcement of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC in December 2021. Soon after the availability of the vivo X80 Pro in late April 2022, major Android brands launched 25 premium models with the flagship SoC inside. To stand out from the crowd, HONOR made great efforts in unleashing the full potential of the system by leveraging its self-developed Turbo X technologies, and also implemented multiple heat dissipation solutions, including the graphene film and VC plate, to maximize the computing power. In addition to the cutting-edge SoC, HONOR empowers the Magic4 Ultimate and other models from the Magic4 series with a brand-new LTPO display and upgraded imaging system. According to Counterpoint’s China Smartphone Weekly Tracker, the monthly sales of the Magic4 series quickly crossed 200,000 units in April, having been among the best-selling Android flagship phones in China since March.

Commenting on the upgrades from the Magic3 Ultimate, Research Analyst Mengmeng Zhang said, “The Magic4 Ultimate undoubtedly has greater computing capabilities, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 promising 20% faster CPU, 30% faster GPU and 4x faster AI performance compared to the Snapdragon 888. On top of the industry-leading 5G mobile platform, three standalone processors, represented by the dedicated AI ISP, play an important complementary role and allow users to explore more premium and unique experiences. Besides, the improvements in display, camera, security and battery life also stem from using the advanced LTPO technology, improved camera setup, and more secure fingerprint and faster-charging solutions.”

Magic4 Ultimate vs Magic3 Ultimate

Design: Emphasizes sense of harmony, symmetry, elegance

The Magic4 Ultimate largely inherits design characteristics from its predecessor. The front side of the 163-mm-long body is fully covered by a super-curved nanocrystal glass, which is engineered for more comfortable single-handed use and better protection from damaging drops. The redesigned iconic Eye of Muse is still an eye-catcher but creates greater symmetry and balance with the periscope camera relocated to the center, and the new pattern looks more modern and attractive. The Magic4 Ultimate also blends more streamlined styling into the new nanocrystal ceramic back, on which the runway-like protrusions neatly surround the camera bump.

Display: Smooth, vivid, immersive visual experiences

The Magic4 Ultimate is equipped with a flagship-level, HDR10+ OLED display supporting the best-in-class color accuracy. It has a resolution of 1312×2848 pixels (around 460ppi density) and allows users to view pictures and videos with sharp details. The display also realizes the combination of LTPO-based 1~120Hz adaptive refresh rate and 1920Hz PWM dimming technology, which provides double-edged benefits – better eye protection and power saving by switching the refresh rate to the lowest possible when displaying static content.

On top of these, HONOR, together with Pixelworks, enables premium viewing experiences leveraging technologies such as “Always-on HDR” and MEMC (Motion Estimation and Motion Compensation). Powered by the dedicated display processor, the Magic4 Ultimate supports on-the-fly conversion of SDR videos to HDR quality and intelligent increasing video frame rate to eliminate motion blur, leading to a more vivid and fluid display.

Gaming: Ultra-smooth, realistic experience

The fourth-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming engine is designed to push the limit of mobile gaming experience. It features more than 50 enhancements, in which technologies such as “Adreno Frame Motion Engine” and “Variable Rate Shading Pro” can effectively alleviate the GPU load, thus improving frame rate, picture clarity and power consumption while gaming.

The powerful engine is well complemented by the latest GPU Turbo X technology. By implementing the mobile gaming-oriented “AI Super Rendering” and fully taking the advantage of multiprocessor synergy, the upgraded GPU Turbo X can highly improve the graphic processing efficiency and also elevate the gaming performance. Consequently, we can play the graphically demanding game titles with less power but without compromising the visual quality.

In addition, the ultra-high-speed 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connection, paired with HONOR’s LINK Turbo X technology, provides a lag-free gaming experience.

Photography: Industry-leading performance

The biggest highlight of the Magic4 Ultimate is the versatile world-facing “Eye of Muse” system. Its flagship-grade main camera is powered by the Samsung ISOCELL GN2 and a customized 8P wide-angle lens set. With 50 million 1.4μm-sized pixels and a large aperture of f/1.6, the default camera can take in more light and offers great low-light performance and dynamic range.

To better restore what you see, the Magic4 Ultimate adds another 50MP camera, especially for spectral enhancement, with which it can reproduce more accurate colors, textures and real-light and shadow effects.

Below is a good example of how the Magic4 Ultimate restored the color on the glass and retained the decorative details without overexposing them.

The above image was shot in default mode. The colors of lights, plants and flowers are very close to reality and the dynamic range is well balanced, retaining good details in the indoor areas.

In addition, the rear camera system includes a 3.5x optical zoom periscope camera and a 126-degree ultrawide camera. The two 64MP auxiliary cameras are located close to the main camera, forming a triangular arrangement that is designed to facilitate the implementation of HONOR’s “Ultra Fusion Photography”.

The technology provides an innovative approach for cameras to work together, thus maximizing image quality by fully utilizing the strength of different lens modules. As shown below, in the overlapped zoom range, the process has two steps. First, multiple frames shot by each camera are merged, respectively, and then the resulting images are further aligned and combined into a single photo.

HONOR’s Fusion Photography Technology Fits into Magic4 Ultimate’s Impressive Zoom Range

Source: Counterpoint Research, HONOR

Benefiting from the enhancement of “Ultra Fusion Photography”, we can capture moments more sharply and clearly than ever. The photo below presents clear details of the leaves in the foreground and the building at the far end.

When working alone, the ultrawide and periscope cameras also show great performance. The former has a 7P lens set supporting a 126° field of view and is among the best choices for grand landscape photography. It also incorporates two pieces of the free-form lens, which significantly improve edge distortion. Below is a photo shot at 15 mm equivalent focus length where the straight lines on the wall look quite natural.

With the support of autofocus, the ultrawide camera can also be used for close-up shots, allowing you to click stunning photos of flowers as shown below.

The periscope design supports up to 100x hybrid zoom capability, making it a perfect fit for long-distance shots. Below is a photo captured at the 7x zoom level. It still retains rich details while minimizing the noise and the words on the poster are quite readable.

The camera system is not only a real success in daylight conditions but its performance in low-light environments is also great, and this is largely due to the adoption of the independent AI ISP. The customized chipset has up to 28.8TOPS computing power and supports the nearly real-time process of a burst of raw images at different exposure settings, leading to a greater night photography experience, including the support of 4K Super Night mode videos.

The image below was captured using night mode, where the pink light falling on the glass ceiling and tree leaves were accurately reproduced with little noise in the sky area. Thanks to the support of OIS optical stabilization for both the wide and telephoto cameras, it is much easier for us to shoot great night photos, no more worrying about unintentionally blurring them with a hand jitter.

The camera system has more to offer. To suppress lens flare and improve the image quality against the sunlight, HONOR applies the super anti-flare coating technology to the lens surface. Besides, the flicker sensor and 8×8 dToF sensing camera are preserved. The latter can effectively help improve the autofocus speed and accuracy, especially in low light. Combining with the large aperture of the main camera, it also brings better bokeh effects like in the picture below which presents a gradually blurring foreground and background.

Video performance

The Magic4 Ultimate also provides impressive video capabilities. Thanks to the “Dual Chain Computational Photography & Videography” algorithm, we are allowed to capture high-quality photos while recording a 4K video with little compromise. The AI-based “Magic Take” function can automatically identify highlight moments when recording and transform them into short clips or dramatic pictures. Moreover, the Magic4 Ultimate further extends its 4K 60FPS video capability to the Night and Magic-Log mode, and the outputs are relatively smooth even when you are moving.

Front cameras

Moving on to the front side, the dual-camera system sits in a hole-punch cutout on the top left. It consists of a 12MP selfie camera and a 3D depth camera primarily for face unlocking. The former features a 100° field of view to make taking a group selfie much easier. It is enhanced by a number of AI-based features such as portrait beautification, background blurring and anti-distortion, and also supports 4K video shooting.

High security and long battery Life

The Magic4 Ultimate also makes decent improvements in security and battery life. For a safer but more convenient user experience, HONOR not only upgrades the fingerprint solution from optical to more accurate ultrasonic technology but also applies an independent security chip to provide hardware-level protection. All of this, combined with the “Dual TEE Security OS”, makes the Magic4 Ultimate a highly secure flagship model.

Moreover, HONOR introduced a practical feature, “AI Privacy Call”, to address the pain point of sound leakage when making a phone call in crowds. The new feature supports intelligent sound direction control, and can significantly reduce sound leakage while maintaining a clear voice.

To further ease battery anxiety, HONOR increases the fast-charging speed with the support of the 100W wired charging. Tests show the Magic4 Ultimate’s 4,600mAh battery can be charged to 100% within half an hour.


As a top flagship offering, the Magic4 Ultimate is armed with a valuable package of hardware components and features, with the camera system being the biggest bright spot. Although there is space for improvement, such as a smoother preview when switching the lens, its overall performance is rated as the best by DXOMARK. By combining the evolving “HONOR Image Engine” and powerful AI ISP, the Magic series is set to fully harness the power of AI and push the boundaries of mobile photography.

Smartphone Cameras Continue Steep Advances as Software Drives Innovation In New Directions

Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – June 8, 2022

  • Counterpoint Research hosts webinar around innovation in smartphone imaging systems.
  • Guests HONOR, DXOMARK, Qualcomm and director/photographer Eugenio Recuenco discussed topics including the best smartphone camera features and the evolution of imaging.
  • Key themes: Smartphone camera trends, OEM imaging comparisons, measuring quality and capturing life’s magic moments.
  • Watch the full webinar here or download the accompanying Whitepaper.

Counterpoint Research hosted a webinar today entitled Smartphone Imaging Trends: New Directions Capturing Magic Moments which included speakers from leading smartphone manufacturer HONOR, scientific testing firm DXOMARK, semiconductor company Qualcomm and renowned director and photographer Eugenio Recuenco.

Key themes covered during the event included trends around smartphone camera hardware and the increasing influence of software on innovation, how quality is measured, and the most important elements of user experience.

Imaging systems have always been measured by hardware specifications, which continue to be a foundation for innovation. However, at the upper end of the market, flagship camera counts are flattening, lens focal lengths are being stretched, and image processing demands are pushing chipset makers to keep pace with Moore’s Law.

Exhibit 1:  Global Smartphone Unit Sales by Rear Camera Module Count

Counterpoint Research Global Smartphone Unit Sales by Rear Camera Module Count
Source: Counterpoint Research Quarterly Smartphone Sales Tracker, March 2022.

Of all smartphone specs, camera counts have reached the most obvious plateau, with average number of cameras per smartphone hovering just below three for over a year. Nevertheless, leading vendors like HONOR are employing increasingly sophisticated computational photography techniques to keep up the rapid pace of advancement.

“Megapixels and camera counts are important to a degree, but it’s not just about hardware specs when we talk about and compare camera systems. What happens behind the scenes is just as, if not more, important than what is listed on a smartphone’s spec sheet,” states Jan Stryak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research.

This is due to the increasing importance of software, which brings to the fore advanced technologies like multi-frame and multi-camera fusion techniques. Dr. Hou Weilong, Technical Expert for HONOR Imaging, muses, “there is a lot of science behind our cameras, but our objective is to remove as much complexity as possible so that our users can simply take great pictures.”

The pivot to software and algorithmic photography means processing power is paramount for smartphone camera performance to deliver “extreme image signal and neural processing, creating challenges on the chipset side,” says Judd Heape, Vice President for Product Management at Qualcomm. “We see it as a tremendous opportunity to work with our OEM partners to help deliver amazing imaging experiences.”

And this is more than just enabling the perfect shot. “A good smartphone camera makes taking great pictures easy by understanding intention and providing ‘all-in-one’ in the default mode,” observes Herve Macudzinski, Director for Image Science at DXOMARK. ”Multi-camera fusion computational photography is the bleeding edge technology helping to make that happen, and HONOR does it most elegantly with the Magic4 Ultimate.”

As a testament to how far today’s smartphone cameras have come, photographer and film director Eugenio Recuenco recently shot the short film Kaleidoscope with the HONOR Magic4 Pro, stating, “it thrilled me to see how the technology of today is giving us more methods and possibilities to create and express.”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

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White Paper: Smartphone Imaging Trends: New Directions Capturing Magic Moments

Smartphone Imaging Trends: New Directions Capturing Magic Moments


PDF | 15 pages
Published date: June 2022

The camera has always been a major component of the smartphone and a key selling point among consumers. In the past, smartphone cameras lagged far behind even the most basic DSLRs as form factor and size constraints impacted picture and video quality. But technology has now advanced to the point where today’s top flagship devices are capable of delivering DSLR-like performance.

The rise of AI algorithms, advancements in multi-frame/multi-lens computational photography, more powerful processors, the addition of dedicated image signal and neural processing units and, of course, the compounding of R&D experience has resulted in today’s smartphone cameras rivalling dedicated imaging devices.

In fact, the smartphone’s comparatively compact form factor is an advantage, as clicking pictures and recording videos are becoming integrated into our daily lives through the growth of social media. The role of the camera has shifted to become a life tool, as end-users migrate from being simply consumers of content to creators.

This new direction that imaging has taken warrants further advancements in smartphone cameras, as we lean on technology to make the experience easier while allowing all of us to be more creative.

  • Introduction
  • Smartphone Imaging Trends
    • Megapixels: More is not necessarily better
    • Multi-camera modules: Covering all scenarios
    • Image processing: Pushing the laws of physics
  • OEM Imaging Comparisons
    • As hardware slows, innovation grows
    • Where the magic happens
    • New magic, new directions
  • Measuring Quality
    • Components of an exceptional smartphone camera
    • Image processing innovation
    • DXOMARK Readout
  • Capturing Magic Moments
    • Powering art through technology
  • Conclusion



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Smartphone Imaging Trends: New Directions Capturing Magic Moments

Over the last few years, steady upgrades in CMOS image sensor (CIS) technology combined with the evolution of chipsets – and the improvements in AI they enable – are bringing step-change improvements to smartphone camera performance.

Counterpoint Research would like to invite you to join our latest webinar Smartphone Imaging Trends: New Directions Capturing Magic Moments which will be attended by key executives from HONOR, Qualcomm, and DXOMARK as well as a renowned professional photographer and director Eugenio Recuenco.

The webinar is a complement to an upcoming Counterpoint Whitepaper (also to be released on June 8) which will cover smartphone imaging trends, OEM strategy comparisons, the key components of a great camera and show how technology is helping to unlock creative expression.

RSVP today via the link below to secure your spot at this event. A media Q&A session is scheduled for after the panel discussion. Please feel free to submit your questions to in advance.

Host and speakers:



Vice President,


Dr. Weilong


Technical Expert,




Vice President,

Product Management




Image Science



Photographer and

Film Director

Cannes Lions Award 2006 and 2013

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50MP Image Sensors to Retain Growth Momentum in 2022

Beijing, Boston, San Diego, Buenos Aires, London, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Seoul – April 6, 2022

Huawei’s P40 series was the first to use 50MP image sensors in premium smartphone design in March 2020. Other OEMs, including vivo and OPPO, quickly caught up and launched premium phones featuring 50MP sensors. By the second half of 2021, when Samsung’s 0.64µm 50MP S5KJN1 entered mass production, 50MP sensors had become a hot item. The sales share of smartphones featuring a 50MP rear primary camera jumped to 5.6% in Q4 2021 from 1.7% in Q2 2021.

Smartphone 50MP Rear Primary Camera Penetration by Sales

Now, large-pixel 50MP (1.0µm and above) sensors have started to penetrate the mid-to-high-end market due to price cuts. In February 2020, Sony released its custom 50MP IMX700 for Huawei, after which Samsung and OmniVision also launched their 50MP sensors. This led the price of large-pixel 50MP sensors to record a high double-digit drop compared to Q2 2020. As a result, more and more mid-range models, such as the realme GT Master Explorer Edition, started adopting big-pixel 50MP sensors, pushing up the share of 50MP in the $400-$599 segment to 11.7% in Q4 2021 from 4.2% in Q2 2021.

Smartphone 50MP Rear Primary Camera Penetration by Price Band, Q4 2021

Counterpoint Research Smartphone 50MP Rear Primary Camera Penetration by Price Band, Q4 2021

Samsung unveiled its small-pixel 50MP S5KJN1 (0.64µm) in June 2021, further bringing the price down to under $5. This convinced OEMs such as vivo, OPPO and Xiaomi to actively deploy the S5KJN1 in their low-to-mid-end models. As a result, the proportion of smartphones with a 50MP rear main camera in the $200-$399 and < $200 segments surged to 3.6% and 6.1% respectively in Q4 2021.

Additionally, there is an emerging trend of OEMs strengthening the ultrawide camera performance by increasing the resolution to 50MP to deliver superior landscape shooting.

Looking into 2022, SK hynix and SmartSens are expected to start mass production of their 50MP image sensors during the year, which will intensify competition and bring prices down. Therefore, we expect stronger demand for 50MP image sensors, with sub-0.7µm offerings accounting for more than three-quarters of total sales.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Alicia Gong



Ethan Qi



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Cameras In Focus as Smartphone Image Sensors Hit Milestone

Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – November 18, 2021

Smartphone imaging systems will continue to see strong hardware upgrades this year, with Counterpoint Research’s latest Global Smartphone Camera Demand-Side Report highlighting CMOS image sensor (CIS) content per smartphone will expand to an average of 4.1. Despite the global components crunch, CIS growth is expected to grow by double digits to reach almost 6bn units in 2021.

“A big driver has been triple-and-above main camera setups, which accounted for two-thirds of all smartphones sold during the first half,” notes Tarun Pathak, Counterpoint’s director of smartphone research. “What’s really interesting is where a lot of that growth is coming from – Africa, Latin America, India and other emerging markets. As we move through post-COVID upgrade cycles, especially in Android heavy markets, we’re seeing OEMs offer increasingly sophisticated camera hardware to their customers across all segments.”

Counterpoint Research Average CIS Content Per Smartphone
Source:  Global Smartphone Camera Demand-Side Report, Oct 2021.

“High-resolution has also been an area of focus, with 48MP-plus becoming standard. Again, we’re seeing emerging markets lead in growth; and 64MP is starting to become a major segment too. High-res is very important for what is the most hotly contested price band globally – the wholesale $100-$399 category. During the second quarter, two-thirds of devices were high-res and we expect further share increases for the full year.”

During an upcoming webinar, Global Smartphone Camera Trends 2022: Innovation Talk, Counterpoint will discuss how camera systems are evolving, and how they have become critical for OEMs as consumers place increasing importance on image capture.

A confluence of factors like more powerful chipsets, breakthroughs in AI image processing and other hardware and software advancements are constantly delivering improved imaging experiences for consumers in all segments. Features that were once only available on ultra-premium devices are now emerging across OEMs’ broader portfolios – from contextual shooting, optical zoom and ultra-high res through to time-of-flight and macro capabilities.

“Whether it’s a regional leader like TECNO catering to Nigerian youth, or Apple delivering DSLR quality pics for SoCal influencers, imaging has become an even more core feature for all OEMs,” observes Yang Wang, Senior Analyst for Africa. “And the bar being set in terms of the camera only gets higher.”

“If you’re a product manager today delivering a quad cam device, then you’re probably thinking of configuring wide + ultrawide + macro + depth. But the playing field changes quickly, and we’re likely to see macro and ultrawide merge, leaving room for even more options like telephoto or time-of-flight. Increasing choice and complexity is why algorithm development has become such a critical factor in the success of camera systems,” states Ethan Qi, Counterpoint’s lead camera components analyst.

“At the end of the day it’s not about camera or mega-pixel counts or how powerful your processor is. It’s a combination of things:  How good is the integration? The AI algorithms? Is tuning tweaked appropriately for the market?  It’s the sum of parts that delivers the experience,” according to Neil Shah, Counterpoint’s Vice President of Research. “OEMs understand this, but it’s difficult to get right. It’s as much art as it is science.”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.


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Smartphone Brands Bet on Under-display Camera for Full-screen Display

Beijing, Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul – July 30, 2021

  • Under-display camera technology is at the core of the pursuit of a true full-screen display.
  • The shipments of smartphones featuring under-display cameras will reach around 15 million and 110 million in 2022 and 2025, respectively.

Smartphone makers have introduced a variety of screen innovations since the implementation of notch design in the iPhone X in 2017. The aim is to increase the screen-to-body ratio and enable a more immersive display experience. With the pursuit of full-screen display being at the core of smartphone evolution, this trend is expected to pick up pace in the near term.

Under-display Camera Recipe for Full-screen Display

Counterpoint Research Under-display Camera Recipe for Full-screen Display

Although the front camera system with pop-up, rotating or sliding mechanics had emerged as a compromise solution to remove the cut-out, it is the under-display camera technology that represents the development direction of future full-screen display.

Commenting on the commercialization of under-display cameras, Research Analyst Alicia Gong said, “Together with Visionox, ZTE has released its second-generation under-display camera solution for the Axon 30 5G, which is expected to deliver more consistent display performance through algorithm and hardware optimization (the resolution of display area above the camera has doubled from 200ppi to 400ppi). Besides Visionox, solutions from other leading panel makers like Samsung Display, BOE and CSOT are close to commercialization. CSOT can also hide the front camera under an LCD screen. Therefore, a solid foundation is being laid for the increasing adoption of such solutions by smartphone OEMs like Xiaomi, Samsung and OPPO.”

However, large-scale commercialization of under-display cameras still faces challenges, which make its mass-market penetration difficult before 2023:

  • Increase in display panel cost due to new materials and additional process steps.
  • Lower yield rate during the ramping-up period and supply capacity constraints before 2023.
  • Deterioration of image and display quality, particularly the loss of image clarity.
  • Differences between under-display camera solutions demand OEMs collaborate with an exclusive display vendor.

Despite the abovementioned barriers, we expect the entry of major OEMs to accelerate performance improvement of the technology and make it mature. Growing investments from all industry stakeholders, right from panel makers to image sensor and chipset vendors, hold the key here. The migration to full-screen display will not only enhance smartphone appearance and experience but also bring new opportunities for the supply chain.

According to Counterpoint’s Smartphone Camera research, the shipments of smartphones featuring under-display cameras will surpass the 10 million and 100 million milestones in 2022 and 2025, respectively.

Under-display Camera Smartphone Shipments, 2021 vs. 2025

Counterpoint Research

In terms of smartphone brands, the upcoming MIX4 marks Xiaomi’s entry into the under-display camera segment. The brand is aiming to expand its presence in the segment and likely spread the technology to more premium models during the forecast period. Samsung, leveraging its in-house capabilities, is expected to lead the deployment of under-display cameras in smartphones, and gradually apply the design across its Galaxy Fold and S series. Besides, OPPO and HONOR may also embrace the technology next year. For Apple, the implementation of under-display cameras is likely to start in 2024, when the technology becomes mature with little loss of display and image quality.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Ethan Qi


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Smartphone Primary Camera Resolution Continues to Improve Amid Growing Pressure on BoM Cost

Beijing, Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul – July 6, 2021

  • For the rear main camera, demand for 48MP and above resolution returned to growth, collectively accounting for 38.7% of total smartphone shipments in Q1 2021.
  • For the front main camera, the share of 16MP and above megapixel counts edged down to 33.2%, down 0.7 percentage points from Q4 2020.

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating 5G penetration in affordable smartphones, the mobile camera specifications continue to improve with the ever-increasing adoption of high-resolution and large-area imaging sensors in both rear and front cameras.

Commenting on the shift towards higher megapixel counts, Research Analyst Alicia Gong said, “With 5G capability spreading to lower price segments, the cost of a smartphone RF front-end subsystem alone has increased by 50% with additional frequency band support. The increase in bill of materials (BoM) cost, particularly for low-end to mid-end smartphones, had temporarily slowed down the resolution improvement in Q1 2021. However, the demand for high-resolution main cameras will continue to increase. The upward trend is expected to accelerate with the mass production of sub-7µm image sensors by the year end.”

  • Smartphone Rear Main Camera Trends

Exhibit 1: Composition Ratio of Smartphone Rear Main Cameras by Resolution (%)

Counterpoint Research Composition Ratio of Smartphone Rear Main Cameras by ResolutionAccording to the findings from Counterpoint’s Smartphone Camera Tracker, Q1 2021, the shipment share of 108MP jumped to over 3.4% in Q1 2021, primarily driven by the implementation of 0.8µm-pixel-based Samsung S5KHMX and S5KHM3 in the Xiaomi Mi 11 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The more affordable 0.7µm-based S5KHM2 sensor will further push up the 108MP share with growing adoption by value-for-money models from Redmi, HONOR and realme.

The demand for 64MP continues to increase as it has become a sweet spot for the wholesale price band of $300-$499. This resolution also expands its share in lower price segments like $200-$299 and even $100-$199, although the shift to 64MP from 48MP slows down due to the BoM cost increase, particularly in 5G smartphones.

The 50MP share temporarily declined primarily due to the decrease in Huawei’s premium smartphone shipments. However, we expect the share to return to growth from Q2 2021 as more Android brands start equipping their flagship models with big-pixel (1.2~1.4µm 50MP) and large-area image sensors.

With a good cost performance balance (0.7/0.8µm sensor alone costs $4-$5), 48MP is taking much of shipments across multiple price segments. Within the $100-$199 price band, the collective share of 48MP and 64MP reached 46% in Q1 2021. Both resolutions are becoming mainstream and will have a long-lasting impact on the rear camera design.

There is little room left for the 20MP-44MP zone and the proportion of 16MP also tends to decrease.

Regarding 13MP and 12MP, the two still commanded the largest shipment share in Q1 2021 with 25.5% and 24.6% respectively. 12MP has a broad mix of offerings, and the 1.4~1.8µm 12MP-based rear primary cameras have been in great demand in mid-to-high smartphones (wholesale prices above $300).

The proportion of the 8MP and below segment edged down to 6%, as demand for low-end smartphone (wholesale prices below $100) rear cameras continued migrating to 1.22/1.25µm 12MP or 1.12µm 13MP.

  • Smartphone Front Main Camera Trends

Exhibit 2: Composition Ratio of Smartphone Front Main Cameras by Resolution (%)

Counterpoint Research Composition Ratio of Smartphone Front Main Cameras by Resolution

The resolution of the front-facing camera is also improving continuously to shoot super-clear selfie images. In Q1 2021, the collective share of 20MP and above resolutions was back above 20%, and the high demand will continue with widespread adoption across multiple price segments.

The trend is expected to accelerate on the back of advancing pixel technologies. In June 2021, Samsung released the world’s first sub-7µm (0.64µm) pixels-based 50MP image sensor, ISOCELL JN1, with a 1/2.76-inch optical format. The sensor can fit in small head cameras.

The share of 16MP came down to 12.9% in Q1 2021, as many low-end to mid-end 5G models adopted 13MP (1.0/1/12µm) or 8MP (1.12/1.22µm) to offset the cost increase. However, the demand for 16MP@1.0µm sensors is expected to revive, particularly within the $100-$299 price segment.

In Q1 2021, the collective share of 10MP-13MP was almost flat at 24.4% compared to the previous quarter. It was backed by strong sales of the Apple iPhone 12 series, Xiaomi Redmi and Samsung Galaxy models across multiple price bands. As the volume of 12MP front cameras is heavily dependent on Apple’s performance, a V-shaped trajectory of share change is expected through 2021, with the forthcoming Apple launches likely to stick to the resolution.

The collective share of 8MP and below slightly increased to 42.4% in Q1 2021, up around 1 percentage point from Q4 2020. 8MP alone accounted for 23.7% of total volume and remained the most adopted resolution for front camera design in terms of smartphone shipments.

Moving forward, the share of 16MP and above resolution will further increase and the demand for low pixel sensors (≦8MP) will gradually decrease.

Note: The price segments appearing in this article are based on wholesale prices and not retail prices.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Ethan Qi


Alicia Gong

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Technology Convergence Clicks in Smartphone Cameras

Beijing, Boston, San Diego, Buenos Aires, London, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Seoul – April 21, 2021

Smartphone cameras have become an integral part of everyday usage and one of the most desired features users look for. Therefore, smartphone makers in collaboration with the camera ecosystem have been striving to level up the mobile photography performance with breakthroughs in both hardware specifications and AI-backed software and algorithm development.

Hardware Upgrades in Smartphone Cameras

Ever since the introduction of camera phones in 1999, there has been constant development and improvement in mobile camera performance and specifications, ranging from resolution and pixel technology to multi-lens combination.

  • High-resolution Trend

Through the past 20 years, the resolution of handset cameras has increased nearly thousandfold, which represents a major trend in camera upgrades. In 2020, smartphones adopting 32-108 megapixels-based rear cameras made up more than one-third of global shipments, and we expect this high-resolution trend to continue.

Exhibit 1: Camera Resolution Development in Mobile Phones

  • Counterpoint Research Resolution Advancement in Camera Phones, 1999~2019Big-pixel Trend
  • The smartphone market has also seen the increasing uptake of big-pixel, large-area sensors in mid-to-high-end smartphones from Huawei, OPPO, vivo, TECNO and other brands. Thanks to the enlarged optical sensing area, each pixel can take in more light, leading to excellent performance with extremely low noise, greater dynamic range and super-clarity.

Exhibit 2: 50MP 1.2μm Big Pixel Can Highly Enhance ISO Range and Noise Robustness

Counterpoint Research 50MP 1.2μm Big Pixel Can Highly Enhance ISO Range and Noise Robustness

  • Multi-camera Trend
  • In addition to the advance in camera resolution, multi-lens deployment in smartphones has become another irreversible trend. In 2020, average CIS contents per smartphone reached over 3.7, with the quad and above camera setup accounting for 29% of the smartphone market. As the multi-camera trend penetrates deeply into lower price segments, the composition ratio of multi-rear cameras is expected to reach over 90% in 2023.

Exhibit 3: Multi-lens Trend Leads to More CIS Contents

AI is Transforming Mobile Photography Experiences

Along with the constant development of camera specs, smartphone brands are also embracing AI to further enhance and enrich mobile photography and videography experiences. TECNO, for instance, with its flagship camera phone CAMON 17 to be launched in May, has been a leading player in combining AI with mobile camera innovations. It has developed an advanced image signal processing system TAIVOS (TECNO AI Vision Optimization Solution), which can enhance photography effects under complex light conditions.

Commenting on the impressive AI enhancements in smartphone cameras, Senior Analyst Ethan Qi said, “AI has enabled a series of exciting camera features such as dynamic object and facial recognition, light recognition and lighting effects, night mode enhancement, AI-based anti-distortion, AI-based stabilization, as well as an intelligent combination of multi-camera lens. With the support of AI, a camera can capture every moment with optimum clarity and richness in detail and colors even in the most challenging environments.”

AI now sits at the heart of portrait and landscape beautification. On top of massive data analysis of human features and life scenes, AI allows a camera to better recognize and understand different scenes and subjects, and deploy adaptable algorithm and optimized camera settings to enhance the image quality. Personalized beautification is also enabled to reflect individual variation with more natural effects.

In the following picture, the AI recognizes the woman and enhances her facial features, increasing sharpness and clarity while softening the intensity of sun rays falling on her face. It also adds a nice bokeh effect to the background, offering a more artistic feeling.

Counterpoint Research Technology Convergence Clicks in Smartphone Cameras Image

Moreover, new lines of thinking like AI-powered 4K time-lapse video-shooting, “single take” and cinema mode have sprouted to make shooting of photos and videos more fun, flexible and personal, greatly enriching the experience of mobile photography.


We expect the high-resolution and multi-camera trends to continue in 2021, with more sensors featuring 100 million-plus pixels. Meanwhile, AI is also bound to bring massive innovations and new features to smartphone cameras. Regardless of whether mobile phone manufacturers prioritize high-resolution or AI-backed algorithms, or both, consumers can always enjoy an ever-improving user experience.

For more details, download the report ‘Technology Convergence Clicks in Smartphone Cameras’. The report contains three main sections which provide in-depth insights on how AI and camera spec evolution is transforming mobile photography experiences.

Section 1 – Camera Function Advances in Smartphones

Section 2 – Enhancing Mobile Photography and Videography Experiences with AI

Section 3 – AI and Big Data Power Personalized, Contextual Experience


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Ethan Qi

Ritesh Bendre

Minsoo Kang

Alicia Gong

Counterpoint Research

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