Monday, October 11, 2010

Your Smartphone Will Soon Have a 16 MP Camera

Sony's 16 MP smartphone camera module (left)
Sony last week announced a significant upgrade to its CMOS image sensor line. The company will begin producing 16.41 megapixel sensor by the end of the year, which means that you can expect 16 MP cameras to surface in late 2011 or early 2012.

You may be questioning the value of 16 megapixels in a smart phone camera, especially if the image quality does not keep up with the sheer size of the image itself. Compared to the sensors in regular digital still cameras, the tiny pixels on small CMOS sensors are at a severe disadvantage as far as light exposure is concerned, but that circumstance does not keep sensor developers to shrink those pixels and increase the overall image resolution provided by such a chip.

If Sony ha sits way, then we will be taking 16.41 MP snapshots with our smartphones sometime in 2012. The company today announced a 1/2.8 back-illuminated CMOS image sensor that is the technology foundation for such monstrous pictures. The chip will carry pixels with a size of just 1.12 μm. There is also a modest version of the chip that provides a resolution of 8.13 MP and a pixel size of 1.4μm. Sony says that the sensors are “highly sensitive” and can take high quality photos and videos even in low light settings – without a flash.

There are also two new auto-focus lens modules that are compatible with the back-illuminated CMOS image sensors, which will be released under the Exmor R brand. Sony claims that the IU081F for the 16.41 MP sensor is the industry’s smallest and thinnest auto-focus lens module (10.5 x D10.5 x 7.9 mm). The 16.41 MP chip will ship beginning in January 2011, the 8.13 MP chip will follow in April.

A Preview Of Chrome 8

It was a bit surprising to see Chromium 7 (Chrome 7 nightly build) to be switched to Chromium 8 (Chrome 8 nightly build) early this morning, as we were just told that the switch was scheduled for next week. The launch of Chromium 8 closes the feature set for Chrome 7 and opens a wave of cloud features that is quite obviously planned for Chrome 8.

With the release of Chrome 8 as a nightly build, we now know the final feature set of Chrome 7, which should be released as a final version within the next 4 weeks. Compared to the current stable version of Chrome 6, Google will add

-          Hardware acceleration, which accelerates the browser in complex graphics scenarios by about 225x and closely matches Firefox 4 Beta and IE9 Beta. While Google was late with this feature in a beta browser, it is interesting to note that it will be first to offer this feature in a final version of a browser.

-          Instant Search integration, which brings the website feature to the browser and virtually eliminates the need for you to visit the Google homepage as Google Search is available from at any location from the URL bar.

-          UI Tabs, which moves the content of traditional Windows to browser tabs, including the Options window.

-          Performance improvements. Using our own CT Mark, Chrome 7 will be about 3% faster in JavaScript than Chrome 6, about as fast in general website loading performance, about twice as fast in HTML 5 content rendering, and slightly faster in Flash.

Chrome 8 is very early in its stage, but as it was clear with Chrome 7 that it would focus on hardware acceleration from the very beginning, Google has already built some features into the browser that indicate that Chrome 8 will be much more tailored to the upcoming Chrome OS than any other browser before.  The 8th generation will get a huge array of cloud features that will enhance Chrome OS as an operating system that will mainly operate in the cloud and tie multiple PCs, handheld devices and tablets together.

Among the features are support for background web applications, host remoting, which enables users to centrally control features and settings that are distributed to other computers, as well as Cloud Print, which enables users to access a printer that is connected to a computer via a Google account. These features are already accessible via the Labs feature of Chromium 8 (type about:labs in the URL bar), but they are not functional yet.

We expect Chrome 8 to debut as final version before the end of the year.