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June 10, 2021
🌄 Good morning! It’s the annular eclipse day! By the time you get this newsletter, the partial eclipse (depending on your location) will be coming to an end.
Smaller isn't better
Samsung ISOCELL JN1 3
Supplied by Samsung

Samsung took the wraps off its new Isocell JN1 camera image sensor today, with the headline detail that it has the industry’s smallest pixel size. That isn’t strictly a good thing, though!


  • The new Isocell JN1 is a 50MP sensor with 1/2.76-inch sensor size. 
  • That means it packs in 50 million pixels at a tiny 0.64μm in size.
  • What’s odd about the new chip is that it’s actually a decrease in size from Samsung’s other flagship sensors.
  • Comparatively, the 50MP Isocell GN1 went for a pixel size at 1.2μm and the later 50MP Isocell GN2 went for an even larger 1.4μm, matching an industry trend towards larger pixel sizes. Sony’s IMX789 pixels measures 1.12μm by comparison.
  • Why? Samsung said it’s all about use cases: a smaller sensor may have some compromises on image quality, but the size makes it suitable for use as a telephoto, ultra-wide, or selfie camera.
  • That also means potentially smaller camera bumps on the rear of a smartphone, and thinner phones overall.

Smaller isn’t better:

  • In case you’re not a camera-tech-specs geek, one of the trends in recent years has been larger pixels in smartphone cameras.
  • I’d recommend jumping in to read why camera sensor size is more important than more megapixels if you don’t already know.
  • In short, larger sensors with bigger pixels let in more light. Generally, that offers higher dynamic range and cleaner images, especially in low-light conditions.
  • It’s a big part of what separates DSLRs from smartphone cameras: size matters!
  • Samsung knows all this, of course. It’s banking on this new smaller size sensor to be attractive for making smaller phones.
  • It also has its own mitigations in place: Samsung says its JN1 chip uses Isocell 2.0 tech, along with “added enhancements,” to improve light sensitivity by 16% on the JN1.
  • Add in four-in-one pixel binning, and Samsung is still hoping for solid performance.
  • It’s hard to know how this will turn out, without a smartphone sporting the new camera sensor.
  • The chip is in mass production though, so it may be packaged up in a new phone to try out within months.

👉 Android 12 beta 2 is here bringing its new design and Privacy Dashboard with it — and here’s a hands-on with Privacy Dashboard, one of Android 12’s best new features (Android Authority).

🔜 OnePlus Nord 2 specs leak in full, MediaTek Dimensity 1200 big headliner (Android Authority).

👀 Exclusive: Leaked photos show off BBK Electronics’ first laptop, the Realme Book(Android Authority).

🔎 Some coming MacOS Monterey features aren’t available on Intel Macs. This might make sense if the features were M1 chipset dependent, but it seems arbitrary (Android Authority).

Facebook is working on an Android smartwatch, that might include two detachable cameras, for reasons related to AR, said Facebook’s Boz. A 2022 release, perhaps? (Android Authority).

🍎 “This week, Apple doubled down on its vision of a seamlessly integrated ecosystem of products, software, and services. The catch? You need to be all-in on Apple” (Wired).

📵 Apparently, just one Fastly customer configuring their own settings broke 85% of the network, though details haven’t really been provided yet (Gizmodo).

🔫 Everything you need to know about EA and Dice’s upcoming Battlefield 2042(Engadget).

💱 What would you pay for autonomous driving? Volkswagen hopes $8.50 per hour, while you play games instead of man the wheel (Ars Technica).

🚁 Interview with a NASA helicopter pilot: What it’s like flying on Mars, the dangers, and the thankfully boring seventh flight of Ingenuity (Spiegel).

Wake Forest teams win a NASA prize for 3D printing human liver tissue, from a challenge that started in 2016 that NASA didn’t think anyone would win (Engadget).

🍃 This wind-powered car goes fast enough to …go faster than the wind? (Jalopnik).

📡 SpaceX’s Starlink is in talks with ‘several’ airlines for in-flight Wi-Fi (The Verge).

🔧 Giving this another run: “What’s the best Father’s Day gift idea?” (r/askreddit).

Throwback Thursday

Tetris! Back on June 6, 1984, 37 years ago, Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov had completed the first playable version of Tetris. 

  • He presented Tetris to his colleagues at the Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, “who quickly became addicted to it.” (Wikipedia).
  • 37 years later, Tetris Effect is the dominant Tetris game, and this week to celebrate the anniversary of the game, two secret levels in Tetris Effect were revealed.
  • Here’s how to unlock them (

By the way, did anyone else here play TetriNET? It was a kind of online/LAN multiplayer Tetris, and I played it as far back as 2000, and used to go to houses (lugging CRTs and all) to play all day and half the night.


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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