With the Galaxy Note 20 now out in the wild, we can turn our attention to the next flagship due to arrive from Samsung – namely the Galaxy S21 or S30. According to reports, a key decision about the on-board camera technology has already been made.
Sources speaking to The Elec (opens in new tab) have indicated that the Galaxy S30 series camera won't have a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor on board, as the Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra do: that's the sensor that uses infrared light to measure how far away objects in a scene are, enabling portrait blur effects as well as more accurate augmented reality (AR) renderings.
The reason is two-fold, apparently. One, Samsung thinks it's too far behind Apple at the moment to be able to compete; and two, it doesn't see any compelling AR experiences out there for consumers to make use of.
However, the report makes clear that Samsung hasn't given up on the technology completely, and is now turning to its own semiconductor engineers to produce an improved ToF sensor ready for future Samsung smartphones.
Timing is everything
If Samsung does drop the ToF sensor from next year's Galaxy S30, it won't be a huge surprise: while there was one inside the two most expensive S20 phones, a ToF sensor wasn't included in the recently released Note 20 handsets.
Both Samsung and Apple buy their ToF sensors from Sony, but Apple has a deal for 'direct' sensors incorporating LiDAR – they're in the latest iPad Pros and are rumored to be coming to the iPhone 12 too. Samsung makes do with inferior 'indirect' sensors from Sony, which have about half the range.
Phones without a ToF component can still add portrait blur effects and handle AR – but the results aren't quite as impressive. It would seem that Samsung is holding back on the technology until it's able to put out something that really makes a difference.
If Samsung sticks to its normal scheduling, then the Galaxy S30 phones should be with us in February 2021. Even if it does skip the ToF this time around, there's still plenty to get excited about – the new series is rumored to be bringing with it a major performance boost and up to six cameras on the rear.
Via Android Central (opens in new tab)