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Galaxy S21 will lack ToF but Samsung hasn’t given up on the ToF concept

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Last updated: August 14th, 2020 at 14:55 UTC+02:00

Samsung abandoned the Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor with the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 series and the technology won’t be making a return alongside the Galaxy S21 lineup next year, according to industry insiders cited by The Elec. The company has reportedly decided against using ToF on the Galaxy Note 20 duo and the upcoming Galaxy S21 series because it doesn’t have enough use cases. In addition, the ToF technology Samsung has access to isn’t powerful enough to compete with the solution employed by Apple.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), together with ToF technology were supposed to become killer features in the wake of 5G. However, not much has happened with ToF technology in conjunction with AR and VR over the past year and it might take a while longer before ToF sensors will be used to their full potential in these areas.

More importantly, the ‘indirect ToF’ technology that a few of Samsung’s phones have is not as powerful as ‘direct ToF,’ the latter of which has been exclusively reserved by Apple from Sony. Given these technical limitations, Samsung decided to abandon the ToF game, at least for the time being.

Samsung is reportedly developing new ToF technologies

Although the Galaxy S21 might not have a ToF sensor, industry insiders claim that Samsung hasn’t entirely given up on the concept. The company’s System LSI Division is reportedly developing an image sensor that could greatly improve the capabilities of indirect ToF technology, but whether or not it will be used in a consumer product depends on a few factors.

Firstly, whether or not the Korean giant will rejoin the ToF game will depend on the technological advancements that will or won’t be made by Samsung in this area. Secondly, Samsung has reportedly decided to watch the evolution of ToF sensors and their applications from the sidelines. Because Apple has an exclusivity deal with Sony on direct ToF sensors, Samsung will wait for Apple to implement this technology in an iPhone and decide whether or not it will reveal its own solution based on the market’s response towards Apple’s product.

But even if Apple’s implementation becomes popular, Samsung’s improved ToF sensor might not be ready by the time the Galaxy S21 hits the market. At the earliest, the company might reintroduce ToF sensors along with the Galaxy Note 21 a year from now.

Phone AppleGalaxy Note 21Galaxy S21
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