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The 3-D Hero That Saved Sony

Tim Culpan

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Smartphone makers are so desperate to lure unenthusiastic shoppers that they’re throwing all sorts of novelties into their gadgets. Just witness Samsung Electronics Co.’s bumbling attempt to bring out a foldable device.

But as long as the likes of Apple Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. keep this up, manufacturers of that “wow factor” technology can make a pretty penny.

Sony Corp. just posted operating income that beat estimates by around 30%, largely thanks to the division that makes 3D sensors for smartphone cameras.

While the Japanese company is best known for its games, music and movies, it’s the imaging and sensors unit that outshone all others. Earnings for the business shot up 70% from a year earlier, the largest percentage increase for any of the company’s divisions. 

Back in December, Sony executive Satoshi Yoshihara foreshadowed an increase in output of 3D sensors, a subset of the various image sensors that the company offers. Since then, Huawei has been reported to choose Sony imaging components for both its Honor 20 Pro and Mate P30 handsets. Apple also showed interest in the company’s 3D sensors, according to Bloomberg News. 

This desperation to be fresh could be a welcome development for Sony. Its games division is looking weaker – the company just trimmed the unit’s full-year sales forecast – so executives will be relying more heavily on smartphone makers. 

Apple and Huawei may be hoping that augmented reality and 3D give their devices just enough zing to convince folks to part with their money. For now, focusing on sensors could be Sony’s sharpest strategy. 

To contact the author of this story: Tim Culpan at tculpan1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.

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