Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is the megapixel arms race officially over? The latest flagship smartphones don’t go overboard. A positive development.

0.3, 1, 3.2, 5, 8, 12... STOP! BACK IT UP A BIT NOW... Perfect.

Is the megapixel arms race officially over in the smartphone market? It seems that way. It’s shutter speed, it’s sharing features, it’s the pure quality of the imaging experience. The numbers game is over — for now.

The other night, the Motorola DROID RAZR had the honor of being the global flagship Android handset — for about five hours. Then came Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, the first commercial handset to run Android 4.0. This new build of Android is looking very smart.

Of particular interest are the imaging specs of the Galaxy Nexus. A 5 megapixel camera on a flagship device is counter intuitive, especially coming from Samsung, the vendor which has always been among the fist to boast of big numbers. Component vendors are already talking of megapixels in the 20s. Canon even showed off a 120 megapixel CMOS sensor last year. But now the cart has been put in back of the horse again with the camera on the Galaxy Nexus.

The focus was on the features and usability with the device: shutter speed appeared fantastic, there were a series useful of real-world features demonstrated, sharing was always one click away, and the panorama mode added some wow. (Although it doesn’t beat Microsoft’s "Photosynth" app in my opinion.) Galaxy Nexus also records video in 1080p@30fps HD.

Looking at the DROID RAZR and iPhone 4S, two other flagship products floating around, both have an 8 megapixel camera. Considering 8Mpix smartphones have been around for several years and some other vendors are above 12, we see that both Motorola and Apple also saw little need to challenge with numbers.

When it comes to imaging, it’s nice to see that the focus has turned to real-life use cases. This is a smart development: brains over brawn. Smartphone vendors: it’s time to get some pretty smart imaging features working. The numbers game is over.

Demo of Ice Cream Sandwich’s imaging features using the 5Mpix camera on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus

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