Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, 20 October 2020.

1. Pixel 5 camera… problems?

The Pixel 5 camera may have reached its endgame. For the Pixel 5 camera is good, but it’s no longer the line in the sand it used to be.

  • The problems for Google: using the same image sensor for all this time just isn’t making the most of what’s available.
  • Google’s using the 12MP IMX363 sensor, which it has been using since the Pixel 3, and the Pixel 2 used almost the same module as well.
  • The competition has caught up.
  • It’s not all bad news: the same Pixel experience is possible on the Pixel 4a 5G, while at just $350, half the price of the Pixel 5, the Pixel 4a has the identical camera, just without the additional ultrawide lens.
  • Those still look like value, but at $700 the Pixel 5 has much tougher competition. And when the camera has been a pillar of the Pixel, any crumbling of its advantage is a problem.

What the reviews are saying:

  • CNET went pretty hard, with the piece “Google Pixel 5’s wimpy camera is driving me to the iPhone 12.”
  • The piece makes the point Google’s solid computational strengths remain, video stabilization looks good, Night Sight and astrophotography modes are still amazing, and the new HDR+ does work.
  • But on the hardware side, rivals are doing work. The iPhone 12 Pro photo and video abilities do look leaps and bounds ahead for photo-enthusiasts, including the CNET reviewer, although reviews are to come.
  • In a camera shootout between the Pixel 5, Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, Huawei P40 Pro, and Sony Xperia 5 II, our man Rob Triggs details in some depth how close the phones are, but where the Pixel 5 is being trumped now.
  • The wide-angle performance is surprisingly bad.
  • In short, the flaws in the older Pixel hardware are becoming more obvious. Don’t be alarmed: it still takes great snaps, especially in the dark, but noise, zoom, and lens quality are all becoming problems, and it’s the first time really that Google’s software prowess might not quite be bridging the gap anymore.
  • I asked Rob to give readers a short summary based on his time with the Pixel 5, and he wrote to me: “The Pixel 5 retains Google’s excellent image smarts for some great looking snaps, especially in low light. However, the unchanged hardware package is showing its age in an industry with larger high-quality sensors, sharper wide-angle lenses, and long-range periscope zooms.”
  • “What it means is that Google isn’t in the fight for first place this year. That said, I’m itching to see what Google could accomplish with newer camera sensors.”
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One more bit of insight:

  • Both the Pixel 5 and new Samsung Galaxy S20 FE are $699 and available now. A direct camera comparison between the two shows, more than anything, how much Samsung has closed the gap, but in most shots I still take the Pixel as the winner more often.
  • But the Galaxy S20 FE has a main shooter, ultrawide, and telephoto lens, plus a 32MP selfie shooter, which can also do 4K@60fps video, with the Pixel 5 only offering an 8MP selfie cam limited to 1080p@30fps video.
  • Google can’t take what it’s currently using further. Expect much more from the Google Pixel 6 or 5a, by the time we get there.

2. We asked, you told us: You’re not okay with OnePlus installing apps like Amazon via OTA updates (Android Authority).


3. Samsung seems to be exploring a phone with a pop-out display — the idea is to boost speaker performance (Android Authority).


4. Sony Xperia 5 II review second opinion: “…a very serviceable phone, cheaper than the Xperia 1 II, while offering many of its best features” (Android Authority).


5. Leaked Apple docs say 5G speeds are not supported on iPhone 12 when using two lines in Dual SIM mode. Apple will later enable this feature via software update. It’s a story but the truth is you might not even know, given 5G’s availability (MacRumors).


6. The iPhone 12’s OLED screen with ceramic protection will cost nearly $300 to replace (Business Insider).


7. The Verge has the most incredible deep dive on the Foxconn-Wisconsin disaster. Which is what it is, a disaster for both Foxconn and Wisconsin, with so much time, effort, and energy wasted on an abandoned front for tax credits and political wrangling. This will take you a while to read but holy moly: Inside Foxconn’s empty buildings, empty factories, and empty promises (The Verge).

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8. Apple Music TV is a new 24-hour music video channel. Apple has launched …MTV? (Variety).


9. PS5 will use downloadable updates to control game-by-game fan speed. Lots of questions about why not just adjust to load feedback, but building a cooling profile to supplement sensor data is definitely smart (Ars Technica).


10. Intel agrees to sell its NAND business to SK Hynix for $9 billion. Commentary suggests probably a good result for both, with Intel needing to spend billions to keep up, while struggling to get back to its best on its core focus: CPUs (TechCrunch).


11. The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda’s adventures continue in brand new look at season two: 10 days to go (The Verge).


12. I fully endorse this review after playing Retro Football last night: “This little football game on my phone is fun as hell” (Defector).


13. Don’t forget NASA is touching an asteroid space rock today! It’s happening about 10 hours after this newsletter is sent, or, 6:12 pm EDT. Tune in! (asteroidmission.org/).


14. InSight’s heat probe is now, finally, completely buried on Mars (Gizmodo).


15. “Why don’t they make screws stronger than screwdrivers so they don’t get stripped? Is it a physical limitation or is it just Big Screw trying to sell more screws?” (r/nostupidquestions).


The DGiT Daily delivers a daily email that keeps you ahead of the curve for all tech news, opinions, and links to what’s going down in the planet’s most important field. You get all the context and insight you need, and all with a touch of fun. Plus! Rotating daily fun for each day of the week, like Wednesday Weirdness. Join in!

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