Samsung might enter the “camera smartphone” battle that should begin this year with the Sony Honami and Nexus 5 sooner than I expected, with this new patent of theirs showing they are designing a phone with optical zoom and what looks to be a huge sensor (seemingly even bigger than the one in Sony Honami). The patent also shows curved screens in their future smartphones, but that should’ve been expected with the arrival of their flexible YOUM display.
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With smartphones becoming too similar at the high-end (now most even use the same Qualcomm processor), it’s going to be a challenge for smartphone manufacturers to differentiate, and I believe the next area of competition is going to be “cameras”. As such, I expect OEM’s not only to focus on making “regular” smartphone cameras as good as possible, and with the best software they can write for them, but I expect them to even “go overboard” and try to test the limits of what the consumers might like, just like they did with the smartphone screens over the past few years.
Make no mistake – this is a good thing! Sometimes this is how innovation is born, by having companies try all sorts of crazy things, until they hit the “sweet spot”. The OEM’s have raised the bar on what a “standard screen size” should be for a smartphone from 3.7″ to 5″, and on some devices have even gone beyond that, and making 5.3″, 5.5″, and now some even some over 6″, which is starting to completely blur the line between smartphones and tablets.
In the same way, I expect OEMs to start using bigger and bigger sensors in their cameras, and try all sorts of camera technologies that have only been used in point and shoots and even DSLR’s in the past. I expect the lines to blur between smartphones, point and shoots, mirrorless cameras and regular DSLR’s over the next few years. The “higher” you go, the longer it will take to happen though. But I do expect smartphones to almost completely wipe out the point and shoot market within 5 years.
As for this possible future Samsung camera smartphone (Galaxy Zoom), while I’m optimistic about it having such a large sensor and lens, at the same time I’m trying to be cautious, because Samsung kind of disappointed with their “Galaxy Camera” before. The quality simply wasn’t that good for the price they were charging.
I also don’t think they should focus so much on offering “10x-20x” zoom. That zoom is not of very high quality anyway, and I’d rather they’d kept it at 3x-5x, which could be more or less achieved with a pixel-binning camera, that doesn’t need a huge objective, because it would simple reduce the resolution from the 20-40MP it has, to something like 8MP when it’s zoomed to the max. But again, experimenting is good, and maybe it’s for the best that different OEM’s are choosing different paths for making the best camera smartphone.
However, if I were to buy a phone that looks like a very thin point and shoot, I will need it to be not just 50-100% better than competing smartphones that don’t have such a large hump, I will need it to be closer to 5x better. It would need to be closer to high-end point and shoots in performance, otherwise it might not be worth all the drawbacks.
In the end, I think this is exactly the path Android OEM’s should take, and it’s about time they started being serious about camera performance. For people who love having good cameras in their phones, the future is going to be very exciting, and it hasn’t even started yet.