Employees walk past a Samsung sign in Seoul, South Korea. Picture: REUTERS/KIM HONG-JI
Employees walk past a Samsung sign in Seoul, South Korea. Picture: REUTERS/KIM HONG-JI

Beijing — Samsung Electronics scored a victory over Sony after a major Chinese customer declared it was going with the Korean company’s camera sensors in future smartphones.

On Wednesday, Xiaomi said it will turn to Samsung for a future line of its mainstream Redmi smartphones with an impressive 64-megapixel camera. That’s part of a strategic alliance under which the two companies will collaborate on developing next-generation camera technology, Xiaomi co-founder Lin Bin told reporters in Beijing.

Until now, the smartphone brand had relied mainly on global leader Sony for the sensors that power its digital cameras, though it does also buy some from Samsung as well. While it is  unclear how much business Xiaomi’s decision would translate into, the move is an encouraging sign of competition for a mobile imaging sensor market that Sony has dominated in recent years. And it’s a way for Samsung — whose smartphone sales have all but evaporated in China — to tap the world’s biggest mobile arena by selling components instead of devices.

The new tie-up adds an intriguing competitor for budget devices. Xiaomi and its partner are working on technology capable of capturing images as large as 108 megapixels, Lin told a news briefing. This is typically done by using software to stitch together multiple exposures, and there is as yet no mobile camera sensor with such an extreme resolution. The technology will be deployed across Xiaomi phones “soon enough”, Lin added.

Current top-tier Xiaomi devices, such as the Mix 3 and Mi 9, are equipped with multiple cameras with up to 48 megapixels of resolution, serviced primarily by Sony technology.