Ellen celebrity selfie at Oscars 2014

Sony is a shadow of its former self, but it still has a few strengths it can play, and its sensor business is one of the biggest. The Japanese company is the world’s largest maker of camera sensors, and, thanks to our collective obsession with selfies, Sony’s sensor business is set to grow even more.

Over the next two years, Sony is planning to invest 35 billion yen ($345 million) in opening two new factories in Japan and revamping a third one that it recently acquired from semiconductor maker Renesas.

The goal? To attract more business from smartphone makers, with a focus on the fast growing front-facing camera sensors segment.

Currently, rival Omnivision Technologies – the world’s second largest sensor maker – has the upper hand in the front-facing camera business, where cost, not high-end specs, matters the most. But Android phone makers increasingly use larger sensors for front-facing cameras, opening up a lucrative opportunity for Sony.

If you need convincing that selfies are driving the trend of nicer front-facing cameras, just open up your Facebook feed. But it’s just not self-portraits – we increasingly use our devices for video calling as well.

A wave of recent smartphones boast 5MP or higher front-facing cameras. These include the Oppo Find 7 and Find 7a, the Ascend P7 (which, Huawei boasts, can take “groufies”), the HTC One Mini 2, Sony’s own Xperia C3 (the self-dubbed “world’s best selfie phone”), and more. Just yesterday, Chinese prodigy Xiaomi upped the ante with an 8MP front-facing camera on the Mi 4. And it’s only a matter of time until the big boys jump on the bandwagon.

Would you prefer a higher resolution front-facing camera on your next phone?

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