After unveiling the Galaxy S20 Ultra with its monstrous (or ridiculous?) 108MP image sensor, Samsung has decided to pull back the curtain and reveal some details about this chip and the technology that made it possible.
At its core, the so-called ISOCELL Bright HM1 image sensor that’s inside the new Galaxy S20 Ultra is probably the same chip as the ISOCELL Bright HMX that Samsung first revealed in August of last year. There’s little reason to believe that Samsung developed a whole new sensor architecture in order to create the HM1. Instead, what they seem to have done is slap a new kind of bayer array on top that they’re calling “nonacell.”
As the simple graphic below demonstrates, the HM1 sensor takes the quad-bayer “tetracell” technology found in Samsumg sensors like the HMX—which lumps together four pixels into one—and increases the binning to a 3×3-pixel area. This is only really possible with a sensor with an absurd resolution like 108MP, which still drops all the way to 12MP in “nonacell” mode:
This helps Samsung to overcome the issues inherent in putting so many pixels on such a small chip. Even at 1/1.33-inch, the individual pixels are only 0.8μm, but when you lump 9 of them together into a single “photocell,” you can mimic the light gathering capability of much larger 2.4μm pixels—at the cost of resolution, of course.
According to Samsung, the main challenge of lumping more and more pixels together into larger pseudo-pixels is color interference. But thanks to its “ISOCELL Plus” tech, the company was finally able to do it.
“As the number of adjoined cells increase, so does color interference, making pixel-binning technologies more challenging,” writes Samsung. “While such difficulties had limited Nonacell to a theory, the HM1 was able to realize the method by adopting Samsung’s ISOCELL Plus technology, which dramatically reduces crosstalk and minimizes optical loss as well as light reflection.”
This breakthrough allegedly more-then-doubles the light gathering capability of even the “tetracell” tech in the ISOCELL Bright HMX, and leaves us hopeful that the S20 Ultra’s 108MP camera might actually be usable in low-light.
Additionally, it seems that the Nonacell tech also allows the sensor to capture 12MP photos at 3x digital zoom without upscaling, because the chip “directly convert[s] the pixels using an embedded hardware IP.” Another neat trick we could all use in a pinch.
All of this is fascinating, and might just offer a glimpse at the future of image sensor technology for larger cameras as well. Of course, we’ll have to wait until we have a Galaxy S20 Ultra in for testing, but we’re almost more excited to see if major camera companies like Sony decide to go all-in on quad-bayer sensors (and beyond) for their bigger chips, the way that Samsung has for smartphone sensors.
The evidence so far is promising.
Google tests moving Android's music controls to the quick settings menu – Android Central
Unlike iOS, Google has always had music controls in the notifications center alongside your messages, social alerts, etc. While this made finding music controls quite easy, it also meant that sometimes notifications could push media controls all the way down and out of sight.
With Android 11, there’s a very, very slight possibility that that may change. The team over at XDA has spotted a new feature Google’s built into the upcoming operating system.
In essence, the music controls have migrated out of the notification center to the quick settings menu, sitting alongside other controls like rotation lock and Wi-FI.
In order to accommodate the music player, the Quick Settings panel will expand from one to two rows and will display the Quick Settings toggles on one side, while the music player will take up the other side.
Opening the Quick Settings panel completely by swiping down once again will move the music player to the bottom of the panel, with all the toggles right above it. In a bid to accommodate the music player, the Quick Settings panel will take up more space than it does currently
From XDA’s screenshot, the change does look more than a little unfinished and out of place that it seems likely, this is just a test. Google has previewed features like screen recording and themes in Beta builds of Android before rolling them out in the next big update.
So while this could still come with Android 11, it’s much more likely to do so in Android 12.
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One year later, the future of foldables remains uncertain – TechCrunch
Yesterday, Samsung announced that the Galaxy Flip Z sold out online. What, precisely, that means, is hard to say, of course, without specific numbers from the company. But it’s probably enough to make the company bullish about its latest wade into the foldable waters, in the wake of last year’s Fold — let’s just say “troubles.”
Response to the device has been positive. I wrote mostly nice things about the Flip, with the caveat that the company only loaned out the product for 24 hours (I won’t complain here about heading into the city on a Saturday in 20-degree weather to return the device. I’m mostly not that petty).
Heck, the product even scored a (slightly) better score on iFixit’s repairability meter than the Razr. Keep in mind, it got a 2/10 to Motorola’s 1/10 (the lowest score), but in 2020, we’re all taking victories where we can get them.
There’s been some negative coverage mixed in, as well, of course; iFixit noted that the Flip could have some potential long-term dusty problems due to its hinge, writing, “it seems like dust might be this phone’s Kryptonite.” Also, the $1,400 phone’s new, improved folding glass has proven to be vulnerable to fingernails, of all things — a definite downside if you have, you know, fingers.
Reports of cracked screens have also begun to surface, owing, perhaps, to cold weather. It’s still hard to say how widespread these concerns are. Samsung’s saving grace, however, could well be the Razr. First the device made it through a fraction of the folds of Samsung’s first-gen product. Then reviewers and users alike complained of a noisy fold mechanism and build quality that might be…lacking.
A review at Input had some major issues with a screen that appeared to fall apart at the seams (again, perhaps due to cold weather). Motorola went on the defensive, issuing the following statement:
We have full confidence in razr’s display, and do not expect consumers to experience display peeling as a result of normal use. As part of its development process, razr underwent extreme temperature testing. As with any mobile phone, Motorola recommends not storing (e.g., in a car) your phone in temperatures below -4 degrees Fahrenheit and above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If consumers experience device failure related to weather during normal use, and not as a result of abuse or misuse, it will be covered under our standard warranty.
Consensus among reviews is to wait. The Flip is certainly a strong indication that the category is heading in the right direction. And Samsung is licensing its folding glass technology, which should help competitors get a bit of a jump start and hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls of the first-gen Fold and Razr.
A new survey from PCMag shows that 82% of consumers don’t plan to purchase such a device, with things like snapping hinges, fragile screens and creases populating the list of concerns. Which, honestly, fair enough on all accounts.
The rush to get to market has surely done the category a disservice. Those who consider themselves early adopters are exactly the people who regularly read tech reviews, and widespread issues are likely enough to make many reconsider pulling the trigger on a $1,500-$2,000 device. Even early adopters are thrilled about the idea of beta testing for that much money.
Two steps forward, one step back, perhaps? Let’s check back in a generation or two from now and talk.
Pixel 4 car-crash detection can now be sideloaded onto older Pixels thanks to Android 11 Preview – Android Police
The first Developer Preview of Android 11 didn’t just reveal a barrage of new system features and tweaks to pore through. It also ushered in a dogfood version of the Personal Safety app that can enable crash detection on Pixel phones outside of the 4 and 4 XL. Here’s how to sideload the app and get it running:
First, you’ll need to download the Personal Safety app version “1.1.286909525.dogfood beta” from APK Mirror and install it — this is the release that came bundled into the Android 11 Preview, now extracted and ready to be shared. Next, follow the prompts to add your emergency contacts that would be notified if you were to get into an accident. Then fill out any pertinent medical information to help first responders understand your health profile.
Next, click the settings cog in the top left corner of the screen. From there, you will see a “Driving” section with a tab that says “Car crash detection.” Select that, toggle on the feature, and you’re all ready to go!
We didn’t actively attempt to wreck a car when testing out the Personal Safety app with crash detection, but we were successful in activating it on a Pixel 3a XL. We were also able to use the built-in demo button that ran us through the a digital crash simulation, and everything went off without a hitch.
If you’d like to try out the Personal Safety app for yourself, you can grab version “1.1.286909525.dogfood beta” at APK Mirror here. Keep in mind that the app will still not work on non-Pixel phones.
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