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Don't expect the best cameras on Google's folding phone
Apologies to anyone who thought Google would include the Pixel 6's cameras on its first foldable.
If there’s one big gripe I have with the current landscape of foldable phones, it’s the fact that none of them have an exceptional camera. For being devices that strive to replace your current non-foldable phone, not having a great camera can be a real dealbreaker if you care about photo quality. I felt this way when I reviewed the Galaxy Z Flip 3 over the summer, leading to serious temptation to move my SIM back into my iPhone with its much better camera system.
At some point, I’d like to see a company who makes foldable phones actually set out to achieve the same camera quality as a traditional flagship. I understand that all the same parts can’t physically fit into a foldable phone with its unique screen tech and conservative tendencies toward maintaining a relatively thin profile, but if I’m ever going to replace my phone full-time with a folding one, I’m gonna need a camera that won’t disappoint me.
I’ve been holding out hope that Google’s upcoming foldable would be the one to do that. The company has always impressed with its incredible software capabilities in the photography department, and the Pixel 6 finally took the hardware to the next level with a new main sensor with better light intake. I’ve heard it’s a terrific camera system, and I was crossing my fingers that it would make it onto the Pixel Fold (or whatever Google calls it).
But low and behold, it seems that Google will be sticking with a camera system that’ll be four years old come the foldable Pixel’s release.
The folks over at 9to5Google have done some digging in various APK files, looking for any signs of the folding Pixel phone and what it might feature. A couple of days ago, the publication put out an article that covers some of its most recent discoveries, and those discoveries surround the camera system.
For one, the ultra-wide and selfie cameras on the foldable Pixel don’t seem to be anything special. 9to5Google says Google will use the 12MP Sony IMX386 with an ultra-wide lens. In a similar vein, there will be two 8MP IMX355 sensors for selfies, with one on the front and one on the folding screen inside. It’s unclear if that particular sensor will be underneath the display, but my money would go toward a hole-punch cutout for both sensors.
These Sony cameras aren’t the best in terms of quality, especially compared to the Pixel 6’s new array of sensors within its camera bar on the back. But the most disappointing camera of all on the folding Pixel will undoubtedly be the main sensor, which will reportedly be a 12.2MP IMX363.
If you’re unfamiliar, this is the same sensor that was found on the Pixel 3 from 2018. That means the hardware Google will use on its first foldable for photography will be four years old by the time its released, which is pretty ridiculous.
When the Pixel 3 came out, many pointed out how similar its main camera was to the Pixel 2’s, making the IMX363 feel even older than it is. Over the years, Google didn’t bother to upgrade it either, instead leaning on improvements to its software for year-over-year camera updates.
In the case of the Pixel Fold, Google will essentially take what was on the Pixel 5 and make it slightly better. It’ll forget about the improvements in resolution, light intake, and overall clarity introduced by the Pixel 6 and strive to offer a slightly better photo than a $699 phone from 2019.
That’s not a terrific story to tell about a phone that’ll undoubtedly be important for Google and its smartphone strategy. For years, the company was widely regarded as being the top dog in terms of camera quality. In the past year, however, it’s fallen behind Apple and even Samsung in some instances thanks to advancements in camera hardware by its competitors.
For what will surely be an expensive device, the foldable Pixel won’t change that, and it’ll take a step down in the quality department as a result.
Whenever I hear someone dismiss a disappointing camera on a foldable phone, they usually say something like “you’re not buying it for the camera; you’re buying it because it folds in half.” That might be true for some people, but I don’t think it is for everyone. To me, if I’m gonna replace my current phone with one that folds, I’d want the camera to be up to snuff so I feel confident carrying it everywhere I go.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like the foldable Pixel will achieve that for me. The photos it’ll take will likely fall behind the latest iPhones and Galaxies, and even Google’s own Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. For a first-gen product, I suppose this isn’t that big a deal, but it’s a dangerous road for Google to go down. I don’t see how they couldn’t offer major camera improvements on the second generation.
Of course, none of this information has been confirmed by Google, and things could change as we get closer to the device’s release date. That being said, if you were hoping for a foldable Pixel with the best cameras Google has to offer, readjust your expectations - it’ll save you some heartache.
The tale of two critical patch jobs
I love a good software patch that fixes an issue that shouldn’t be present in an operating system in the first place, and we got two of those last week from Apple and Microsoft.
Apple’s was the more serious patch that was released, fixing an issue where those with Intel Macs could have their computers bricked by upgrading to macOS Monterey. An issue with the firmware for the T2 chip inside the machines caused startup to fail, therefore creating a bunch of very expensive paperweights. The update is rolling out now (via MacRumors) to all Intel Macs affected by the issue, while those who have a now-bricked Mac will need to contact Apple to get it working again.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s issue involved a certificate within Windows 11 that expired on October 31st and broke a bunch of utilities like the Snipping Tool, emoji and touch keyboards, voice typing, and more. The company confirmed early this week that they were aware of the issue and have since rolled out a fix in the form of update KB5008295.
Microsoft is hosting an education-focused event on November 9th at 12 p.m. ET. Not much is known about what they might announce, but there’s a chance we could see education-focused hardware and software updates for Windows 11.
Nintendo teased its next-generation gaming console during a call with investors, but they’re being super coy about it. One of the company’s slides literally says “Next gaming system 20XX” which could mean anything. So far, there’s been no indication of where the company will go once it’s done with the Switch, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what Nintendo does next. Liam Doolan at NintendoLife.com has more details.
T-Mobile will give new and existing subscribers a free year of Paramount Plus beginning November 9th. The deal will only get you the Essentials plan which usually costs $4.99/month and includes occasional commercial breaks. That being said, it’s always nice to get a freebie once in a while. For those curious, the Uncarrier has more details about the promotion on its website.
Despite what Google wants you to think, the Pixel 6 doesn’t seem to charge at 30W. Android Authority did a test and confirmed that both the 6 and 6 Pro only reach around 22W while charging from zero to 100 percent. This definitely sucks given how much Google is pushing its new $25 30W charger for its flagships. I recommend reading their post because it’s chock-full of information.
Asus has announced slight upgrades for its ROG Phone 5 series in the form of the ROG Phone 5S and 5S Pro. Both phones offer excessive specs as usual, gamer-focused designs, and high price tags. Cam Bunton at Pocket-Lint has more information for those interested.
Apple might introduce new 3-nanometer M-series chips in 2023, according to a report from The Information. The company is expected to announce a slight upgrade to the M1 next year in the form of the M2 processor, but 2023 will bring much more significant improvements with 3nm designs, the potential for up to 40 CPU cores, and up to four dies which would quadruple the performance of, for example, the M1 Max. That’s freaking fast.
Twitter has begun rolling out a new search button in its app that makes it easier to search through the tweet history of an account. Mahmoud Itani at XDA-Developers was first to report on it, and I’ve gotta be honest, it feels very Twitter Police-y. That being said, I’ve wanted an easier way to search through my own tweets on my phone for quite some time, so I’m sort of glad the feature’s here.