Could iPhone 5 be delayed due to crippled Sony sensor factory?

Your guess about next Apple iPhone is as good as anyone's

Cryptic comments by Sony's CEO have sparked rumors that iPhone 5 will upgrade to an 8-megapixel camera from Sony, but also might be delayed due to earthquake damage at the Sony factory that makes the components.

Apple's iPhone 5 will have an 8-megapixel Sony camera and could be delayed, depending on how you interpret some cryptic comments made by Sony CEO Howard Stringer.

If the camera information is true, it could mean a nice improvement in image quality for iPhone users. Currently, iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel still camera with LED flash.

Stringer talked onstage at Carnegie Hall last Friday evening with The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg. One person watching the exchange was 9to5Mac's Seth Weintraub, who liveblogged the event.

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Here's Weintraub's account: "Stringer just said that their camera image sensor facility in Sendai was affected by the recent tsunami/quake. In the next breath, he said something to the effect of getting image sensors to companies like Apple will be delayed. Paraphrased: 'Our best sensor technology is built in one of the (tsunami) affected factories. Those go to Apple for their iPhones ... or iPads. Isn't that something? They buy our best sensors from us?'"

So "Stringer appears to have confirmed an earlier rumor that an upcoming iPhone 5 will have an 8MP digital camera with a sensor made by Sony," concludes Art Technica's John Stokes.

But a Wall Street Journal blogger Jessica Vascellaro, also covering the Carnegie Hall event, noted that Sony isn't a current supplier to Apple. "It is unclear what devices he was talking about as Sony isn't known to supply key camera components, known as image sensors, to Apple; a Sony spokeswoman declined to comment and an Apple spokesperson couldn't be reached for comment."

TheStreet.com reported a year ago that Apple had chosen Sony for the 8-megapixel camera chip for the 2011 iPhone (presumably iPhone 5), replacing current supplier OmniVision. The story was based on a prediction by Rodman Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar, who cited supplier and manufacturer sources.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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