Samsung's top-tier devices are generally up there with the Pixel and the iPhone when it comes to camera quality, and the Korean electronics manufacturer seems set to further step up its mobile photography game. The company has announced that it's developed new 48- and 32-megapixel smartphone camera sensors which it expects to be in mass production later this year.
The 48-megapixel Isocell Bright GM1 and 32-megapixel Isocell Bright GD1 are about the same size as the camera sensors used in existing smartphones. Generally, more megapixels mean a bigger sensor, but Samsung was able to cram more into a smaller footprint by using really, really little pixels — just 0.8 μm. For comparison, the Galaxy S9's sensor has 1.22-μm pixels.
The downside? Smaller pixels have less surface area to gather light, meaning poorer performance in the dark. Samsung's new sensors combat this shortcoming by having adjacent groups of four pixels act as 1.6-μm pixels, cutting resolution by 75 percent, but boosting detail. So images taken in well-lit settings will be exceptionally large, whereas ones with less light will be more standard sizes — either 12 or eight megapixels, depending on the sensor. (If this all sounds familiar, it's because Sony announced a 48-megapixel sensor earlier this year that functions in much the same way.)
While Samsung didn't claim that the new sensors will be used in its next generation of devices, it'd only make sense. The GM1 and GD1 are expected to enter mass production this quarter, and Samsung historically launches new entries in its Galaxy S series in the spring — those big camera numbers would certainly be a compelling point for marketing.