Tiny Sensor During the sixth annual Samsung Mobile Solutions Forum that was held at the Westin Taipei Hotel on September 21, 2009, Samsung announced its S5K4EA, a quarter-inch optical format, 5 megapixel system-on-chip (SoC) image sensor targeted at high-end mobile phones. The S5K4EA combines a CMOS image sensor and an image signal processor. Samsung used its advanced pixel shrink technology called Samsung Enhanced Energy Steering (SEES) to achieve a tiny, ultra-sensitive 1.4-micron pixel size in the S5K4EA allowing for integration into slimmer mobile phones.
Better Photos One of the interesting features of the S5K4EA is its “regionally adaptive dynamic range expansion” that brightens shadowed areas of a picture and intensifies the clarity of brighter regions. Expect better photo quality straight out of future mobile phones without the need for much post-processing. Additional features include:
- Built-in anti-shake control technology
- Fast-frame capture allowing 1080p at 30 fps
- Noise removal logic
- Xenon flash
- Mechanical or electronic rolling shutter
- YUV output interface over MIPI2 or parallel
- JPEG with thumbnail output
- Module dimensions: 8.5 x 8.5 x 6mm or smaller
Samples are currently available and mass production is expected in the first quarter of 2010. Keep reading to find out what impact Samsung’s S5K4EA might have on future Apple products.
So What? I like and use Apple products (MacBook Pro and iPhone 3G) so I will focus on the implications of Samsung’s S5K4EA announcement on future Apple products. Before the new iPod touch was announced by Apple, many were expecting a camera that could take great pictures as well as video, just like the iPhone 3GS. Apple’s iPod event held on September 9 came and went without an iPod touch with a camera. Instead, we got the fifth generation iPod nano with a video-only camera, but no photos. The iPod touch is camera-less, not even video. So should we expect an iPod touch with an iPhone-like camera in 2010?
It’s The Thickness The iPod touch is very slim at just 0.33-inch (8.5mm) at the thickest portion. Since the design is tapered at the edges, where the camera module is fitted, there is even less space. iFixit did a nice teardown of the third generation iPod touch and found out there is actually room for a camera. The dimensions of that space are 6 x 6 x 3mm–not large enough! The 8.5 x 8.5 x 6mm S5K4EA would be too big and too thick. Based on the current design of the iPod touch.
Rectangle is Good I think Steve Jobs need to exert a bit more influence in the design of Apple’s products. The design of the NeXT Cube and the Power Mac G4 Cube was brilliant: the shape was a simple square. The current products are nice, but I think it has become a bit too rounded. My personal preference would be for Apple to infuse a bit of angularity and a bit less roundness, especially in the iPhone and iPod touch. Make it a simple rectangle. Let me tell you why.
A lot of you guys own iPhones and iPod touches. You have downloaded a ton of games and apps into them. But you also like sipping a latte or reading a book and keeping the iPhone or iPod touch on the table. The first generation iPhone was perfect for this situation since it was flat. You want to play games or work on some apps on the first generation iPhone and as you touched the screen it was rock-solidly planted on the table. Not so for the newer ones. The iPhone 3G or 3GS and the iPod touch act rather clumsily rocking left and right every time you touch the screen. It is a terrible experience. Microsoft seems to have gotten this message with its new Zune HD. But it isn’t just a matter of external design. Making it more rectangular will provide more space internally.
More Internal Space With a more rectangular design, Apple’s internal designers can make use of the entire thickness of 8.5mm near the edges. The 6mm-thick S5K4EA would fit. Making use of more space would mean internal components can get pushed out toward the edges and making an additional 2.5mm to the left/right and top/bottom would not require rocket science and would be quite possible!
2010 iPod touch If Apple is willing to change the external design to be a bit less curvy and more angular, something like Samsung’s S5K4EA image sensor can fit into the iPod touch. That means you can expect the iPod touch to sport a 5 megapixel image sensor with an auto-focus camera and the ability to capture 1080p video at 30fps. Yes!Â Most definitely, the next iPhone, with or without any external design changes, will have a better image sensor with the possibility of 5 megapixels and 1080p at 30fps video capture.