The HTC One is one of the most anticipated phones of the year. The phone is a perfect blend of form and function with top of the line internals enclosed in a beautiful aluminium chassis. The most distinctive piece of hardware on this phone though is definitely the 4 megapixel camera, or what HTC have dubbed an ‘ultrapixel’ camera. This camera though has had its fair share of problems with software glitches causing subpar image quality as well as manufacturing shortages causing HTC to reel in their estimates on phone shipments. With all theses issues some are left wondering why HTC opted to use a 4 megapixel sensor instead engaging in the megapixel arms race with its competitors by using a 13 megapixels sensor.
Symon Whitehorn, HTC’s head of smartphone imaging and former executive at Kodak had a chat with Computer World and explained the reasoning behind HTC’s decision to use a 4 megapixel camera. Whitehorn noted that there are two major benefits with using a lower megapixel camera over a higher megapixel one. The first benefit is reduced noise around the image. The problem with just increasing the number of pixel sensors in a phone is due to the limited space for the sensor. Because all camera sensors have the same footprint, a higher megapixel will have smaller individual pixels than a lower megapixel one. The smaller pixel size means less light can reach each individual pixel leading to noise, therefore poor low-light performance. By using larger pixels, each pixel is able to capture more light and produce an image of greater clarity in low-light situations, albeit at the cost of pixel count.
The other major benefit is a reduced file size. Whitehorn noted that when most people use their phones to take picture they don’t actually require a 13 megapixel camera, especially when most images are uploaded onto social networks. According to Whitehorn a 4 megapixel image will fulfil 90% of the needs of the user, hence why they chose this particular sensor. The lower pixel counts also leads to a smaller image size which is crucial to the functionality of HTC’s Zoe camera software. Zoe captures a ‘moment’ by taking both pictures and video at the same time and intelligently processing them to create a living photo. If HTC used a 13 megapixel camera, Zoe would require a lot more system resources in order to work, choking up resources and not providing the smooth, seamless performance that users demand.
In conclusion, HTC’s decision to use a 4 megapixel camera was a practical one because it not only fulfils the needs for more users by providing equal or better performance than its competitors while enabling features that others can only dream of.