Apple Buys Image Sensor Startup InVisage

The acquisition could help Apple reclaim its lead over Samsung and Google in mobile phone photography.
Matthew HellerNovember 9, 2017

Apple has acquired startup InVisage Technologies, the developer of image sensor technology that could improve the quality of iPhone camera images.

InVisage’s key product is called QuantumFilm, which, according to TechCrunch, combines software technology and material science to create smaller imaging technology that is better at taking high quality pictures in a variety of non-optimal lighting conditions.

“Competitors like Samsung and Google may have caught up to Apple when it comes to mobile phone photography, but iPhones might reclaim their lead if [the Invisage] acquisition works out,” CNET reported.

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Apple currently uses back-illuminated images sensors purchased from Sony and other suppliers in its iPhones.

But as Business Insider reports, it has recently “placed an emphasis on building its own core technologies, such as graphics processors and Bluetooth chips. It’s not a stretch to think that Apple may be planning to build its own image sensor, too.”

Conventional sensors rely on a photosensitive layer made of silicon. According to InVisage, QuantumFilm is able to absorb the same amount of light as silicon, but in a layer that is ten times thinner and made specifically to absorb the full spectrum of light, allowing for more efficient and complete processing.

“QuantumFilm is a photosensitive layer that relies on InVisage’s newly invented class of materials to absorb light; specifically, the new material is made up of quantum dots, nanoparticles that can be dispersed to form a grid once they are synthesized,” the company says on its website. “Just like paint, this dispersion of solid materials can be coated onto a substrate and allowed to dry.”

InVisage was founded in 2006 and had raised $98 million from investors including Intel Capital, Nokia Growth Partners, and GGV Capital. Terms of the Apple acquisition were not disclosed.

“Delivering new technology can be tough — especially at the scale required by a widespread product like the iPhone,” CNET said. “Such bets have paid off for Apple in the past though, with, for instance, its 2009 acquisition of the chip design team at PA Semi, which has been responsible for a series of impressive iPhone processors.”

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