Last week was supposed to be the calm before the storm, with major product announcements from Apple, Google, and Samsung expected to happen over the next few days. However, we did have a few key developments that should have major ramifications in the coming months and years. In this week's edition of winners and losers, the spotlight is clearly on the three tech giants, a look at advances in megapixels in camera smartphones, and less pleasant news for app stores.
However, before we present the winners and losers of the week, let us take a quick look at some of the most important events that happened over the past few days in the tech world.
Telegram is now at version 8
On Tuesday (31 August), Telegram released its eighth version. However, the changes introduced in this version were a little bit more muted than the jump in its version number suggests. The main highlight of the instant messaging app was the removal of the participant limit when it comes to group video calls.
The previous limit of 30 people may no longer be there, but some people are still wary about the definition of "unlimited" – and the capacity of Telegram's servers to accommodate so much traffic.
Telegram has also included an option to remove the original author's link of the message when using the forwarding feature. This does away with the tricky problem for those who want to remain as anonymous as possible on the app.
Qualcomm promises CD-quality audio via Bluetooth
Unsatisfied with the sound quality of your Bluetooth headphones? Qualcomm seems to have listened to the public's complaints and announced a new aptX Lossless codec. This audio format promises lossless CD-quality sound at 16-bit 44.1 KHz via BT.
The standard's bandwidth can reach 1 Mbps, but relies on techniques to adapt the data rate according to the quality of the connection between the headset and the device.
The US manufacturer has announced that this technology will hit the market by the end of 2021. However, since it requires to be supported in the smartphone as well as in the headset, there's still time to save up some money and wait for the first impressions and initial reviews.
iPhone 13 with satellite connectivity
One of the most interesting rumors of the week was how the iPhone 13 lineup is said to come with a satellite communication system. According to well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, this feature would be available thanks to a customized version of the device's Snapdragon X60 modem, a 'successor of sorts' to the X55 modem that powers the iPhone 12 line just so that you know.
According to the analyst, this component would allow the iPhone to connect to one of the constellation satellites in low Earth orbit (known as LEO by its English acronym), provided that both support the same transmission frequency.
Such a rumor sounds like an Apple and Elon Musk/Starlink fan fiction, but it could have major implications during natural disasters, when you travel through remote locations, or simply experience a regional power outage. Regardless of whether it is fact or fiction, there are only a few days left before we find out whether the rumor is true.
Winner of the week: Samsung announces 200-megapixel sensor
On Thursday (2 September), Samsung finally unveiled its Isocell HP1 sensor, confirming months of rumors about the arrival of a 200-megapixel photo sensor for smartphones. The component would nearly double the current record found in smartphones at 108 MP, which saw its debut by Samsung Semiconductors having equipped the Xiaomi CC9 in 2019 with the Isocell HMX.
The Isocell HP1 is larger than the main HM series models at 1/1.22", compared to 1/1.33" for the HM3, HM1 and HMX, which minimized the impact somewhat for placing so many megapixels in a compact component. Each pixel on the new sensor measures 0.64 µm, compared to 0.8 on the three models mentioned.
Another change from previous generations is that the pixel combination system – Tetracell for four points or Nonacell for nine – has been further expanded yet again. The ChameleonCell gathers light captured by 16 pixels (hexadecacell is really a poor marketing name) to generate a final 12.5-megapixel image, with "pixels" each measuring "2.56 µm".
Despite the apparent race between smartphone manufacturers to cram as many pixels into their smartphone cameras as possible, Samsung Semiconductor seems to be the only supplier of photo sensors interested in pulling ahead of the competition. Its main rivals Sony and OmniVision, follow up slowly with their components and are currently "stuck" at 64 megapixels.
According to the South Korean conglomerate, samples of the component are already available to interested manufacturers and should hit the market next year. Which device will debut with the new sensor? Leave your guess in the comments below!
Losers of the week: Google and Apple may have to open their app stores to competing payment systems in South Korea
The losers of the week are two: Apple and Google. The two tech giants will be the main ones affected by a bill that was tabled by South Korea's parliament for approval by the country's president.
According to The Wall Street Journal, one of the immediate and main impacts of the amendment made to the law is this: The app store owners will not be able to force users to utilize their payment systems. In other words, app and game developers could rely on other competing payment services to process in-store sales. If that were to happen, this could potentially result in bypassing the 30 percent commission (maximum) charged by the Play Store or App Store.
If President Moon Jae-In approves the bill, the parties who are most affected will probably be Google, having benefited by the dominance of Samsung in the South Korean market, where the manufacturer of the Galaxy line commands close to a two-thirds share in the smartphone segment.
Apple, meanwhile, had some negative news attached to it as well, having arrived at a settlement with Japan's antitrust commission. In a press release, the App Store owner disclosed that "reader" apps will be able to include links to external sites to create and set up or manage user accounts.
Although there is now an agreement with the Japanese antitrust commission, the decision has a global implication and will end with unusual situations, as applications such as Netflix and Spotify which only offer the option to log in, would require potential subscribers to open a web browser to subscribe to the respective service (without having Apple retain 30% of the monthly subscription fee to boot).
Much to the chagrin of those looking forward to play Fortnite on iPhone, however, the decision only applies to "reader" apps (based on Apple's very own quotes), defined by the company as:
Reader apps provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video.
Apple mentioned that the change will take effect in early 2022, following changes to the rules and process for evaluating apps in the App Store.
When looked at it separately, the news may not impact our daily lives directly, but it is worth remembering that commercial practices in both app stores are also targets of investigations by the U.S. government and the European Commission.
Are you curious to know just what manufacturers will do with 200-megapixel cameras? Do you disagree with our choices this week? Share your opinions in the comments section and see you next week!