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Smartphone Sensor Evolution Rolls Rapidly Forward

December 11, 2015 By: Darrell Benke, Advanced Optical Solutions Division of ams AG

Sensors Insights by Darrell Benke

Smartphones now represent 85% of the 1.8B units of world-wide handset shipments and projected to be over 97% of the shipments by the year 2020. This may not be a shocking statistic but given the total worldwide smartphone shipments were less than 200M units in 2009, it clearly indicates the explosive growth enjoyed by the handset industry. The market data indicates that in the last five years, the smartphone compounded annual growth rate was greater than 45%

Many factors have contributed to this tremendous increase in unit shipments but three elements are the cornerstones of the market growth. Firstly, the expanded coverage of mobile networks, and more importantly, the rapid growth in bandwidth have provided the enabling backbone for growth. Secondly, the fundamentals of Moore's Law and the semiconductor market have enabled the net-work growth while also providing communication, computing and storage devices with continually increasing capacity. Thirdly, the smartphone's adoption of sensor technology and complementary software applications save continually improved and expanded their usage-model, while making their interactions with consumers more intuitive, real-time, immersive and simply more beneficial, enjoyable, and valuable to consumers.

As you can see in figure 1 below, the quantity and applications of sensors in smartphones has expanded across a wide range of applications with many new device and applications coming soon (highlight the 'future' sensors/technology in the list). In fact, most consumers are probably not aware of the complexity and quantify of sensors within their phone today. The processing power and never-ending need for handset manufacturers to differentiate and bring additional features and value to consumers been a driving force behind this trend.

Fig. 1: Today's smartphone's sensor.
Fig. 1: Today's smartphone's sensor.

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