ST Q2 Earnings Call: Structured Light vs ToF in Smartphones

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SeekingAlpha: ST updates on its Q2 imaging business results:

"During Q2, we had at least an Imaging sensor and/or a MEMS device in all of the top 10 smartphones currently on this market. We also continue to earn design wins and ramp shipments for our time-of-flight sensor, analog products and RF products for 4G front-end modules.

Clearly, in Q2, the performance of growth which was higher than the midpoint of our range is mainly related to specialized imaging product.

Well, about specialized imaging also, again, I will not comment on our competitor, but I will comment, okay, the visibility we have and what ST is doing. Well, it is clear that you know that ST is a key player in the 3D sensing for the face recognition. Since 2017 second half, the unique foolproof technology is based on what we call structured light where ST is a key player, and we are still, let's say, growing in this kind of application.

In parallel, components in the smartphone, there is clearly some other components like ambient licensing or, let's say, Time-of-Flight based proximity sensor or autofocus assist or ranging sensor. And clearly, okay, I repeat that we have accumulated a huge volume in this Time-of-Flight and we continue. That's the reason why, as I told you, in the top 10 smartphones on the market today, we have either a special imaging sensor, including this Time-of-Flight or a MEMS sensor. Also, we disclosed to you during the recent quarter that now ST is important player on imaging licensing on the smartphone or, let's say, other wearable application. Now in term of trend of the industry, it is clearly that one trend we are seeing is introduction of indirect Time-of-Flight for the world-facing camera first, which certainly will be, let's say, a future competitive solution to address the depth map sensing. Now ST here, I confirm to you that we have a very strong road map with a very competitive and high-performing product that we will deliver to the market, whatever in iOS or Android phone. So, this is, let's say, the dynamic specific to ST we have on this application for the smartphone.

I confirm to you that we are in competition -- for the time, you have only one unique solution for face recognition 3D sensing, it is the structured light. The other, let's say, architecture in term of system are, let's say, less foolproof. Well -- and again, this is what we confirmed. We said to the Capital Market Day and we know that in the near future, certainly, architecture like structured light improved and indirect Time-of-Flight will be in competition. ST addressed the two technology architecture. And for sure, certainly, Sony is more addressing the indirect Time-of-Flight kind of architecture, and we will be in competition. But we do not see, let's say, dramatic or material change in the dynamic for the short term."

...for the time being, the structured light for the front-facing is a technology, okay, again, since H2 2017 and certainly will continue for a while. As we disclosed to you, we do believe that at a certain moment of time, indirect Time-of-Flight base architecture will certainly come up on this kind of application. Presently, as far as the performance is, let's say, consistent with the structured light. Presently, okay, some advantages in form factor or something like that. Well, this trend, okay, is confirmed and ST will compete overall on both architecture. And then you know that as, let's say, generic trend for semiconductor, the challenge will be always to reduce the form factor to improve the sector offering and to reduce the cost of ownership.

Then on the world-facing, it is clear that indirect Time-of-Flight based solution will be certainly the winning architecture. And again, okay, here, you will see maybe this year and certainly next year introduction of this kind of technology. For the short term, I mean this year, it is not revenue for ST, but we are offering a solution for 2020 and beyond and we will be a key competitor in this market. Now then other competitors like ambient licensing or, let's say, ranging sensor based on direct Time-of-Flight will continue as the RGB camera will have more and more pixel and you need to have to focus assist and this kind of stuff. So, no major change, no change compared to what we said at Capital Market Day.

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