Galaxy S21 to lack ToF sensor due to inferior performance compared to Apple

A new report from Korean publication The Elec suggests that the Galaxy S30 series, much like the recently-released Note 20, will eschew the 3D time-of-flight (ToF) sensor found in the Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra.

The publication cites the inferior performance of Samsung’s sensor compared to Apple’s offering in the iPad Pro and the upcoming iPhone 12 as the reason behind the move. Samsung also believes that there is no ‘killer content’ using the sensor for AR or VR applications at the moment.

On the technical side, the disparity between Samsung and Apple’s offerings stems from the underlying tech used by the sensor. While Apple uses a ‘direct’ ToF sensor with a LiDAR module, Samsung’s sensor uses ‘indirect’ ToF. As a result, Apple’s cameras have up to a 2x advantage in range, capably measuring distances up to six meters, while Samsung’s sensor can only achieve a range of about three meters.

Neither Samsung nor Apple directly manufactures their ToF sensors, instead buying the component from Sony. But Apple reportedly has an exclusivity contract with Sony for the direct ToF technology, leaving only the indirect variant available for Samsung and other manufacturers.

As a result, the South Korean giant is turning to its semiconductor division, which is now researching a new ToF sensor that will reportedly continue to use the indirect ToF technology but with a significantly better measurement range. If Samsung’s LSI division produces favorable results, and ToF applications in AR and VR improve substantially, the company may decide to bring the sensor back in future iterations of its phones.

The next-generation flagships from Samsung will have excellent imaging chops nonetheless, with the S20 Ultra successor rumored to feature a mind-boggling 150MP primary camera.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung’s most potent flagship to date, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra packs quite the punch, with a Snapdragon 865+, a 4,500mAh battery, and an amazing screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s no slouch in the camera department, either, with three sensors that can match any phone out there.

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