If you’re buying a typical cheap smartphone, you’ll often see triple or quadruple cameras touted as a feature, with two of those cameras being nigh useless. A report from analyst firm Trendforce sees this as a trend that’s unlikely to go away soon, though, noting: “Growth momentum in mobile phone camera module shipments in 2022 will come primarily from additional numbers of low-pixel cameras prompted by the three-camera design.”
The past five years have given rise to a new trend where phone brands compete on the number of cameras in their devices, with one even offering as many as five at one point. In 2022, a typical mid-range Android phone comes with at least three cameras, out of which only the primary sensor is useful and the other two are also present. By now, a lot has been said about how useless 2MP macro and depth sensors are on a modern smartphone. But unfortunately, they are here to stay.
A high-resolution main camera with better specifications undoubtedly allows mobile phone brands to provide better camera performance when compared to a low-resolution second or third camera. It’s also cheaper than equipping multiple-high resolution cameras as you’d find on your typical flagship. So to keep the hardware costs in check while also providing a handful of cameras, smartphone companies will continue to choose a high megapixel primary camera alongside two 2MP sensors.
“The three-camera module remains the mainstream design this year and is forecast to account for more than 40% of total shipments. Only some smartphone models will adopt a four-camera design to differentiate their specifications, while the number of products with dual-cameras or less will fall, with entry-level models being the primary candidates,” Trendforce says.
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Going forward, you can expect to see more smartphones with triple and quad-camera setups bolstered by nigh-useless ancillary cameras. The only significant smartphones that are expected to house a dual-camera setup — primary and ultrawide — are the upcoming non-Pro iPhone 14 models, the Pixel 6a, and Pixel 7. By and large, Android manufacturers will continue to use 2MP camera sensors to boost the hardware appeal of their mid-range and low-end devices.
It’s not all smoke and mirrors with mobile photography though. While phone brands continue to compete on hardware specifications, they are also focusing on software optimization to emphasize dynamic photography, night photography, and more. As a result, we are seeing more smartphone manufacturers dive into chip-making to enhance image processing performance. For instance, Vivo uses a V1+ chip in their high-end phones to optimize the resulting pictures. However, don’t expect these chips to be of any help to the 2MP sensors or the cheaper phones that employ them.