Triple-camera models take the lead in the smartphone market in the fourth quarter

March 16, 2020: Apple lags as Android and Chinese OEMs adopt multi-camera configuration

Triple-camera smartphones became the most popular type of model on the market in the fourth quarter, exceeding dual-camera devices for the first time as Android and Chinese OEMs moved aggressively to offer more products with multiple cameras.

Models with three cameras accounted for 31 percent of global smartphone shipments during the final three months of 2019, according to the Smartphone Model Market Tracker report from Omdia. This total slightly exceeded the 30 percent share held by dual-camera smartphones. Single-camera phones ranked third, with a 23 percent share, while four-camera devices were in last place, at 15 percent of shipments.

As a result, multi-camera devices accounted for 77 percent of smartphone shipments, up from 54 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“Consumers use their smartphones for practically everything these days—but the most commonly utilized feature on these devices remains the camera,” said Jusy Hong, smartphone research and analysis director at Omdia. “New smartphones launched over the past few years have been increasingly highlighting camera capabilities. As a result, consumers are gravitating toward smartphones with higher camera counts.”

Dual-camera smartphones retain leadership in 2019

For the entire year of 2019, dual-camera devices still accounted for the largest share of smartphone shipments, at 40 percent. However, considering the rapidly rising penetration of triple and quad cameras, triple cameras are destinated to overtake dual-camera devices to claim the biggest share for the year 2020.

Apple kicks off the multi-camera game—but Android brands take the lead

Apple first adopted dual cameras with the launch of the iPhone 7 series in 2016, but the feature was limited to the company’s more expensive Plus models. Since then, Apple has offered dual cameras only on its high-end models.

However, starting with last year's iPhone 11 series, Apple’s cheapest model has joined the trend of increasing camera lenses by adopting dual cameras. Triple cameras finally arrived with the company’s Pro models. Apple’s new iPhones set to be released this year are expected to come with an additional time-of-flight (ToF) camera.

In contrast, Android-based smartphone makers have been spreading multi-camera capability throughout their product lines more rapidly, expanding from high-end devices to mid-priced and low-cost models.

Leading Android smartphone brand Samsung has already installed four cameras on the S20+ and S20 Ultra version of this year's Galaxy S20 series. Meanwhile, Huawei is moving to a five-camera configuration with its new P40 series. Second-tier brands such as Oppo, vivo and Xiaomi are rapidly expanding their adoption of quad cameras rather than triple cameras for their latest flagship smartphones.

Chinese smartphone makers join the multi-camera craze

Cameras have become a critical marketing point for Chinese smartphone OEMs. Among the top-six OEMs, Oppo is the most aggressive in offering multi-camera devices, with single-camera products accounting for only 6 percent of the company’s total shipments in the fourth quarter. Moreover, Oppo boasts the highest share of quad cameras of any OEM, with 59 percent during the same quarter.

Apple is the most conservative smartphone brand when it comes to multi-camera adoption, with 45 percent of iPhones shipped in the fourth quarter of 2019 still using dual cameras. While its competitors in Android already moved to triple and quad camera with higher share.

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