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1. Sony finally explains why its smartphone cameras aren’t good

A picture from Sony's DepthSensing website.

Something that’s never been easy to understand is why Sony Xperia smartphones don’t have great cameras, but yet its DSLR cameras are exceptional.

Sony’s best-in-class image sensors:

  • Sony is the global leader in imaging sensors for DSLR, mirrorless cameras, and smartphones.
  • But its own smartphone cameras have never been best in class despite the hardware backing.
  • Sony has long supplied the likes of Apple with its IMX image sensors for iPhones, along with smartphones from Samsung, Google, LG, Oppo, Huawei, Honor, and more.
  • The latest and greatest technology is Sony’s IMX586 sensor, capable of highest-ever resolutions at 48MP.
  • We’ve seen numerous smartphones now marketing this technology, with Chinese brands getting the jump, including the Honor View 20 and Redmi Note 7 Pro.

But Sony’s own range of Xperia phones have never been leaders in smartphone camera quality. That curious problem shows how much camera quality relies on both hardware sensors and software processing.

And now, we know why:

  • And now we know why, thanks to a TrustedReviews interview with Adam Marsh, SONY’s Senior Manager of Global Marketing. Marsh revealed what we might’ve suspected all along:
  • Marsh explained “internal barriers” meant the Alpha mirrorless camera division, where Sony is the absolute global leader and has been for years, didn’t want to help the Xperia mobile division.
  • Here are the key quotes:
  • “Even though we’re one company, there are still sometimes barriers that Alpha doesn’t want to give Mobile certain things, because all of a sudden you have the same as what a £3,000 camera’s got.”
  • “Now that barrier’s gone a little bit. They’re saying ‘okay, we see that having a smartphone and camera that gives you the same experience is a good thing’.”
  • Isn’t that something? Isn’t it fun that the classic ‘big business’ line of thinking still exists today? (Never mind that poor smartphones device sales are costing your company hundreds of millions of dollars a year.)
  • Not that it matters now, because Sony is back to being one big happy family!

The TrustedReviews interview has a few more gems, including an explanation as to why Sony’s latest (and tallest) smartphones don’t use its own 48MP sensors:

  • “The Tokyo camera team said ‘okay, because of what we want to achieve from a quality point of view, three 12-megapixel cameras will provide us with much better quality than one 48-megapixel camera’. The 48-megapixel module is, for example, not memory stacked, so you can’t do the 960fps super slow motion that we can do on the 12-megapixel sensor. So that’s one example where they went ‘okay, you can have this, but actually we then lose this’.”
  • That’s an interesting insight into Sony’s (now seemingly) trustworthy camera team, and would be at apparent odds with what we’re seeing out of China.
  • It’s a reminder that hardware specs often drive marketing hype, but it’s the substance and software behind a camera that matters.

And while we’re here, we might as well give Sony a chance to explain why people should buy its latest Xperia smartphones:

Sony Xperia 1 Sony Xperia 10 10 Plus

  • “Sony as a brand is not going to appeal to everybody. We’re not a Samsung, we’re not a Huawei. But what we will appeal to is people who want quality products where they are able to take amazing pictures or a video, or do something different.”
  • Our key USPs will be the screen and the camera. The screen thanks to Bravia, the camera thanks to Alpha. Competitors have different key USPs, which may attract certain customers. But for us, people who know their photography and people who want to buy into that Sony ecosystem of interchangeable lenses, will buy an Xperia 1.”
  • That will make reviews of the new (tall!) Xperia 1, 10 and 10 Plus fascinating – expect detailed reviews and insights sometime around the end of March or early April.

2. New Oppo F11 Pro announced (and yes, it has a 48MP shooter) (AA).

3. Jobless Chinese man hacks payphone for free internet, becomes slacker hero (AA).

4. The NSA’s controversial domestic metadata collection system isn’t being used and may be discontinued (NYTimes).

5. USB4! The USB Implementers Forum announced the upcoming release of the USB4 specification, which means insanely capable speeds and power, plus Thunderbolt 3.0 compatibility, coming late 2019/early 2020 (Anandtech). And yes USB 3.2 was just announced, and it’s very confusing, but USB4 proper is a big deal.

6. Tesla’s announcement that the company would close all retail stores blindsided staff working at those stores (Bloomberg). Personnel found out via the Tesla blog post.

7. From the Geneva motorshow: BMW’s latest plug-in hybrid is the all-new X3 xDrive30e (Engadget).

8. There’s also a Mercedes electric minivan (Wired).

9. And finally from Geneva, Goodyear has a new tyre that acts as a propeller, for flying cars (CNET).

10. Google selectively disclosed yesterday that some of its men were underpaid when compared to women, and social media went crazy. Here’s a sensible discussion of the entire issue, including underlying gender and race gaps: “Are men at Google paid less than women? Not really(Wired).

11. If you bought social robot Jibo, backed by around $76M in funding, and sold for $899 since 2017, the servers are being turned off. The robot is telling people it’s bricking itself, and it’s sad and a sign of the IoT times (Twitter thread).

12. “A ghost will haunt you forever, but you can choose who it is. Who’s your ghost?” (r/askreddit)

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