When explaining what four rear cameras will bring to the S10 5G
, Samsung snuck the enigmatic "better spatial perception". Now that its top-shelf model is a fact, we realize that it meant the time-of-flight (ToF) camera sensor.
The phone used to be exclusive to Korea at first but then trickled down to Europe and US carriers like Verizon. Besides the 5G connectivity and large memory/battery capacities, the unique feature of this particular S10 variant is a quad-camera kit at the back, in addition to the dual selfie camera, for a complete six-banger set.
Korean media reports
today that Samsung is actually planning to make the time-of-flight sensors mainstream for its phones, starting with the Note 10
in August. Samsung is so bent on employing this camera technology going forward, tip industry sources, that it has allegedly secured a second supplier of ToF sensors just to be on the safe side. The main one, MCNEX, is now building an $11 million facility in Vietnam that will be dedicated to ToF sensor production. It's expected to ramp up in the August-September period, or just around the initial Note 10 sales push.
In addition, we learn that another supplier - Patron - will be delegated additional production of ToF sensors for the Note 10. The reason that Samsung will need way more time-of-flight cameras is not only because the Galaxy S10 5G
is ready to take the world by storm with much wider global availability than at launch, but also because the Note 10 will reportedly have two ToF sensors.
That's right, the industry insiders claim that Samsung will employ a quad-camera setup on the back of the Note 10 that is similar in specs to the one in S10 5G, but at the front there will be a true ToF sensor instead of the RGB depth one on the S10 5G.
Note 10 will have a second ToF sensor for better selfie portraits
The time-of-flight tech is different than the 3D structured light face-reading kits on the front of phones like the iPhone XS
or Mate 20 Pro
in that it can map a whole room full of objects for you, instead of acting from a foot or so distance. Look no further than the LG G8
that has a ToF sensor as part of its front camera set.
There are already plenty of phones on the market with a ToF rear sensor, like the S10 5G, Oppo R17 Pro
, or Vivo NEX Dual Display
edition. The TrueDepth camera setup on the iPhones uses 30,000 points to develop your 3D face matrix, while the ToF cameras use a sensor and auxilliary light kit that can detect and map up to 300,000 points at a distance of about ten feet, bringing about more opportunities in 3D space sensing.
The smallest Time-of-Flight sensor from Infineon/PMD is already available in phones and has better performance, smaller size, and gentler power draw than the TrueDepth set, so it's not hard to imagine Apple using this technology for a rear 3D-sensing camera, too, and the source reiterates that rumor.
Samsung's ToF camera sensor may have debuted with the most souped-up Galaxy S10
model in a mid-February Unpacked event, but the Note 10 is next in line with two such sensors, and they will actually trickle down to the midrange A-series, too, tip insiders.
Apple is also rumored to equip some 2019 iPhones
with a 3D-sensing rear sensor for better portrait shots and AR/VR purposes, so the time-of-flight camera fights may officially begin this year. The thing is, however, that on the G8, LG uses the time-of-flight camera for palm and gesture recognition as well, in its unique Multi ID
biometry. Could the Note 10 be employing something in that same vein (pun intended)?