Yesterday, Sony lifted the lid on a new camera technology that could change what's expected from our pint sized mobile sensors, both in terms of size and quality, potentially allowing hardware manufacturers to make thinner phones and allowing for decent quality camera sensors to make their way onto even more devices such as USB keys, pens and watches.
While the standard composition for a CMOS sensor places the circuitry and pixel section atop a supporting substrate, thus requiring the surface area to accommodate for both pixel and circuit section, Sony's latest solution appears to treat the circuit section as the supporting substrate, in turn leaving the surface area for just the pixel section of the sensor.
What does this mean for you?
Potentially two things:
Firstly, smaller phones with the same image quality as current generation phones. The sensor is a key factor in determining the design and size of camera phones, so naturally, with a smaller sensor, there's every likelihood we'll see phones that make the skinniest of todays high-end models look a little on the tubby side.
Secondly, this could also mean physically larger pixel sections on the same sized sensor. With a physically larger pixel section, 8-megapixels (8 million pixels) could be spread far less densely, potentially resulting in improved noise handling and image detail with no increase to overall sensor size.
The 8-megapixel variant will be landing on the laps of hardware manufacturers in March with a 13-megapixel sensor expected in June, both probably too early to make any impact on key handsets due before winter 2012. Still, if successful, there's every chance the fruits of Sony's labour could end up on the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5S or iPad 4 next year. Time will tell.