The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G isn’t short of features to justify its “Ultra” name, but you don’t need to look much further than the new smartphone’s cameras to see why it’s a worthy title. From features like the entertainingly-named Space Zoom, to 8K video recording and a hefty 108-megapixel sensor, here’s what you need to know about Samsung’s pride and joy.
Three cameras. Well four. Okay, five
One thing today’s smartphones aren’t short of is camera sensors, and the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G is no different. Samsung’s 2020 flagship may only have a single selfie camera – though with 40-megapixels to play with it’s not exactly low resolution – but there are four sensors on the back. As you’d expect, each is tailored for different things.
The most ordinary is the ultra-wide camera. That has a 12-megapixel sensor with a 120-degree, f/2.2 lens. There’s also a time-of-flight sensor, which measures depth, and which Samsung is using both for augmented reality and to improve its autofocus.
For sheer resolution, the 108-megapixel wide camera will take some beating. It’s paired with a 79-degree, f/1.8 lens. By default, it’ll capture 12-megapixel images: Samsung is using a technique known as Nona Binning, which effectively clusters 9 pixels at the sensor level together and uses their combined data for a single pixel in the final image.
The result, Samsung says, is 3x the light data as the S10’s primary camera could rely on. Alternatively, you’ll be able to switch to full resolution mode, and snap a whopping 108-megapixel image. Be warned, though: file sizes could easily reach 45MB a shot, Samsung suggests.
Finally, there’s the telephoto camera, and here things get really interesting. At 48-megapixels it’s actually lower-resolution than the telephoto sensors on the S20 5G and S20+ 5G. They clock in at 64-megapixels. That difference is because Samsung is handling zooming in two very different ways.
With its 64-megapixel sensor, to zoom Samsung does a basic crop: taking a section of the overall frame. That way it can boast of up to 3x lossless zoom, or up to 30x with the possibility of pixelation.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G’s telephoto sensor is combined with an actual optical zoom lens. It’s a folded 4x zoom, that runs horizontally across the back of the handset. Prisms redirect the light.
As a result, the flagship can promise a 10x lossless zoom, and a faintly ridiculous 100x maximum zoom. Like you’d expect, even with AI doing some massaging, images at the full zoom do show a fair amount of pixelation. They can be tricky to aim, too – Samsung offers a little zoomed-out preview to show where you’re actually pointing the camera in real-time – but for bragging rights it’s hard to argue.
Single Take Mode bypasses all that complexity
Shifting between the zoom levels and finessing the various settings is fairly smooth and straightforward. All the same, if you want the very easiest route to a handful of good photos and videos, Single Take Mode could do the trick.
After you hit the capture button, you aim the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G as though you’re shouting a video. In reality you’re showing Samsung’s AI just what there is to see in the area. It then pulls out the best frames and clips, generating as many as ten images and four 1080p videos for you to scroll through.
Filters may have been applied, or live focus; it could’ve spotted a person and grabbed a moment when they had their eyes open and were smiling. Videos might be looped or otherwise edited. You trade manual controls – you can’t zoom in Single Take Mode, for instance – for Samsung generating a few key moments it reckons you’ll be eager to share on your social network of choice.
Night Mode gets brighter
2019 was the year when smartphones really started competing on their low-light performance, and Samsung is aiming to set 2020’s bar high with its improved Night Mode on the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. As before, the principle is straightforward. Capture multiple shots of the scene, with varying settings, and then combine them into a single image with much richer light data.
The difference is just how many shots are now used, and how they’re different from each other. Samsung has doubled the number of pictures it relies upon for its Night Mode, compared to last year’s S10, increasing it to 30.
It’s also varying the ISO settings. With multi ISO composition, Samsung’s new system can tweak the individual light sensitivity of each frame, giving it more data to work with for the final shot. The end result should be greater detail, without blowing out the brighter parts of the scene, though as with all night modes you’ll need to hold still for anything from a few seconds upwards in order to get an image without blurring.
An 8K phone
It’s not just stills, of course. The Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G can also shoot at up to 8K resolution, and Samsung has added on-device trimming and downscaling for more sharing-friendly 1080p and 4K file sizes.
Arguably even more useful is the updated Super Steady stabilization. Previously, that could smooth out movement in two axis: shifting the camera up and down, or left and right. Now, it can also handle roll.
Tilt the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G up to 60-degrees left or right, and Super Steady can deal with that, too. Performance in low-light conditions has been improved as well, Samsung says.
One of the benefits of 8K is the ability to pull out usable stills from video. Unlike lower-resolution video, which are only good for lower-resolution photos, the new Galaxy can deliver 33-megapixel stills from its footage.
With iPhone 13 in hand, I miss Touch ID more than ever
I’ve been traveling this past week, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max has been my trusty sidekick. Whether it’s boarding passes, camera duties, messaging, or keeping me occupied with ebooks and music, I’ve found myself staring at the excellent 120Hz ProMotion display a whole lot. Problem is, when the sensors above that screen stare back, they’re not seeing what they want to.
Face unlock – Face ID in Apple-world – has been a side victim of the coronavirus pandemic. Consistently wearing masks (along with regularly washing your hands, and being vaccinated) is one of the CDC’s big recommendations for avoiding COVID-19, and it’s a legal requirement when you’re in airports and on trains.
Having half your face obscured isn’t especially helpful to a system which relies on scanning it in order to unlock your iPhone. And, with how much I’ve been using the iPhone 13 Pro Max this week – and enjoying it, too, particularly the excellent cameras – its a hurdle I’ve been running into hundreds of times a day, if not more.
Apple’s workaround, of course, is a singularly Apple-y way of dealing with half-masked faces: you need to have an iPhone and and Apple Watch. The feature, launched earlier this year as an iOS 14 update, allows you to bypass security on the iPhone just as long as your Apple Watch is on your wrist and unlocked.
Now, leaving aside the fact that clearly not everyone who has an iPhone also has Apple’s smartwatch, this workaround actually held up pretty well. I’ve been using it on an iPhone 12 Pro Max since it was released, and while there were times it simply didn’t actually unlock, or would unlock without my intending it, it did make using iOS while masked more streamlined. Unfortunately, it’s not working any more.
Since switching to iOS 15 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I’ve lost the ability to unlock with Apple Watch. Trying to turn the feature on in the iOS settings simply gets me a “can’t create a secure connection with the Apple Watch” message. A quick search online confirms I’m not alone.
It looks to be an iOS 15 issue, not an iPhone 13 one, but since Apple’s latest version comes preloaded and you can’t downgrade it, anybody in the same situation as I am will probably find that distinction little comfort. I’ve tried all the “fixes” and suggestions listed online – rebooting the phone and the watch; updating to the latest software version of each; even unpairing the Apple Watch and then repairing it from scratch – and nothing works.
I’ve been traveling this week, so wearing a mask a whole lot, and it’s been a reminder of just how many times you need to unlock your phone. Even just checking the latest notifications, if you have iOS’ privacy feature which only reveals their content on the lock screen when iOS is unlocked, requires a PIN now. The iPhone 13’s screen notch may be smaller this generation, but that doesn’t really matter when Face ID can’t see enough of you to do its thing.
Meanwhile, I’m looking enviously over at devices like the new iPad mini, and its Touch ID sensor built into the power button. I can understand why Apple shifted away from a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone, and – when unmasked – I’m a big fan of Face ID. I particularly enjoy how it makes logging into apps, and unlocking payments, simple. Honestly, it took a global pandemic to get frustrated by it.
Rumors of a return of Touch ID to the iPhone have given plenty of people – myself included – a glimmer of hope about striking that balance of security and convenience again. Unlock with Apple Watch was generally functional, but still could be clunky in the same way that anything wirelessly-dependent (I’m looking at you, AirDrop) can periodically leave you longing for a physical alternative. Just as even that took its time arriving in iOS, however, it always seemed a fact of reality that if Apple really was intending to return a fingerprint sensor to its phones, that wouldn’t be in time for 2021.
SEE TOO: The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 120Hz ProMotion Display is the real deal
As it stands, for a variety of reasons – not least vaccine holdouts – it looks like we’ll be masked-up well into 2022 and probably beyond. An iPhone 14 with a built-in Touch ID sensor probably will be just as relevant as an iPhone 13 would’ve been with that today. Talk about disheartening.
Security is, of course, one thing you should never compromise on. Tempting as it is to change the settings on my iPhone so that it waits a little longer to unlock, or shows the content of my notifications for anyone who glances at them on the lock screen, I know that’s a foolhardy thing to do. Instead, I’ll wait (semi) patiently for the inevitable iOS update which hopefully fixes iPhone unlock with Apple Watch, and punch in my regular PIN until that arrives.
All the same, I can’t help but wonder whether, as we rush to embrace new technology, being equally quick to leave behind what came before it might be a missed opportunity. I’m not someone who particularly mourns the loss of the headphone jack, but these past few days have certainly left me more sympathetic to those who discovered the tech world changed and, in the process, decided something that was important to them could actually be left behind.
Peak Design Mobile modular magnetic accessory line launches in time for iPhone 13
Peak Design released their full mobile ecosystem of magnetic and protective accessories today, coordinated with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 13. This collection was part of a Kickstarter back in December of 2020 and rolled out for general availability for the first time today. The mobile line starts with the “Everyday Case”, available for iPhone 11, 12, 13, and Samsung Galaxy S21.
Peak Design has a brand for name for the magnetic system they use with their smartphone case and accessories: SlimLink. SlimLink is a ceramic zirconia insert surrounded by custom tuned magnets that are inserted into each Peak Design Everyday Case.
This SlimLink system does not prohibit Qi standard wireless charging – so users will not need to remove their case in order to use a wireless charging pad. The Everyday Case is thin enough that wireless charging will work, and thick enough that it’ll protect a smartphone from harm.
Included in the launch collection of accessories are the Everyday Case, the Everyday Loop Case, and a wide variety of connecting peripherals. There is also a Universal Adapter that can be attached to third-party phone cases.
In the Peak Design Mobile collection at launch, there is a Car Mount, Motorocycle Bar Mount, Motorcycle Stem Mount, Out Front Bike Mount, Universal Bar Mount, and a Wall Mount. You’ll also find a Creator Kit, Mobile Tripod, Mobile Wallet, and a Wireless Charging Stand, right out the gate.
Take a peek at our previous features with Peak Design and let us know if you’re planning on attaching this series of accessories to your brand new device. We’ll be back with reviews of the lot once we get up close and personal with the cases and the accessories of all sorts!
Five features to un-do in iOS 15 for your iPhone
Today we’re taking a peek at iOS 15 and a few ways in which it’s changed some very basic features in your iPhone. If you’ve been using your iPhone for quite a few years and have gotten used to the way you’ve done business, chances are the update to iOS 15 threw you for a bit of a loop. The good news is, nothing is set in stone, and basically everything that’s changed can be effectively un-changed.
Much like Shared with You (which we’ll get to later), the Widget Suggestions system in iOS 15 might not be particularly beloved by all users. If you’re seeing Widget Suggestions in iOS 15 and you’d rather not, you’ll need to tap and hold a widget, and tap “Edit Stack”.
If you have Smart Rotate enabled and Widget Suggestions enabled, you’ll likely see options for Smart Rotate (On/Off), and Widget Suggestions (On/Off). You know what to do!
After updating to iOS 15, you may find that you accidentally trigger the Spotlight Search feature from your lockscreen. If you do not want to continue seeing this Search system every time you swipe down on your locked iPhone, no worries!
Open Settings – Face ID & Passcode – Today View and Search. Disable Today View and Search and bang! No more accidental search system when you run your finger across the locked phone screen.
Safari Window Tinting
If you’re looking to remove the Website Tinting element in iOS 15 inside your Safari web browser, the pathway to a fix is simple. You’ll need to back out of your Safari app, back to your main iOS Settings. Tap Safari and flip the switch for “Allow Website Tinting.”
Bonus! This is also the place you need to go to find Safari’s Tab Bar / Single Tab, and the Landscape Tab Bar. You can also choose where you open links and when tabs will close.
If you have more than one iOS device – like an iPhone and an iPad – iOS 15 might start to send you Separation alerts. This system can be great – especially if you’re the sort of person who forgets their iPad under a stack of newspapers, or if you tend to leave at least one device behind whenever you visit your relatives’ house for the holidays.
If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you’re being alerted when you’ve left a device in one location on purpose, you have options. Probably the best option for you – to start – is to add “New Location” to your list with the “Find My” app.
Open Find My, tap your device under “Devices”, tap “Notify When Left Behind”, tap “New Location.” You could also just turn the “Notify When Left Behind” option off entirely if you do so wish.
End Shared With You
If you find the new Shared With You sections less than appealing in apps like Photos, Podcasts, Music, News, and Safari, you can flip them off completely. Each individual app will have a switch to turn off Shared With You. If you’d like to turn off ALL the Shared with You at once, head to Settings – Messages – Shared with You, and disable Automatic Sharing.
OR if you’ve not yet upgraded to iOS 15, take a peek at the timeline of links below to see the path you’ll likely take. This software update is available now for quite a few iPhone devices from the past few years. The same is true of iPad devices and iPadOS 15 this week too!
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