Galaxy S20 Ultra’s problematic camera autofocus should qualify it for refunds


Last updated: August 31st, 2020 at 12:03 UTC+02:00

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has the ultimate camera specs on paper, but we all know that the real-life experience is far from perfect. I am talking about the S20 Ultra’s camera autofocus issues, of course. Samsung’s shift to a 108MP camera sensor for its top-of-the-line flagships this year came at the cost of the camera’s focusing capabilities. The 108MP camera uses standard phase detection autofocus, which is a considerable step down from the Dual Pixel autofocus that Samsung has been using for flagship phone cameras since 2016.

But, somehow, the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s phase detection autofocus performs worse than that tech actually should. In fact, Samsung’s $1400 phone had more issues with focusing on the subject than many mid-range Galaxy devices, until the company ironed out the kinks with multiple software updates. But it’s still not perfect and probably never will be. Video recording is where the Galaxy S20 Ultra falters most, with repeated loss of focus while you’re shooting a video and visibly slow focus switching between different parts of the scene, and it all feels embarrassingly bad for a device that costs as much as the S20 Ultra does.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra more or less doesn’t have those issues thanks to its laser sensor, and after using it these last few weeks, I really feel Samsung should be offering refunds to Galaxy S20 Ultra owners or at least letting them replace their phone with the Note 20 Ultra without charging them anything for it.

Galaxy S20 Ultra owners are stuck with crappy autofocus until they upgrade

The reason is simple: Unless you change phones often, you will be using the Galaxy S20 Ultra and its problematic camera for a couple of years. I understand not every smartphone can be perfect, but in Samsung’s case, it really seems like improper testing is the reason why it’s messing up so often these days. We’ve talked about this before: When you’re making three flagship devices a year (four if you count the Galaxy Z Flip), you’re reducing the time you can spend on testing those devices. Or Samsung is simply not being as meticulous as it should be, or it wouldn’t have tried to get away with selling a foldable phone without testing it in the real world and hoping customers wouldn’t notice.

If Samsung had been upfront with us that its new ‘Ultra’ flagship offers fantastic zooming capabilities but can’t get something as basic as autofocus right, I wouldn’t complain too much. But the company misled us by keeping quiet about it. Or if the Fold’s initially botched design is any indication, Samsung’s engineers probably didn’t even know the S20 Ultra had focus troubles until it started selling the phone and reports started coming in.

Of course, what’s done is done, and there’s no fixing the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s underlying hardware issues, not without a recall anyway. But maybe Samsung can set things right by letting Galaxy S20 Ultra owners trade in their phone for a Note 20 Ultra free of charge, get a full refund, or perhaps announce that they will be able to replace their phone with the Galaxy S21 Ultra next year without paying a dime? Yeah, I know that’s not something the company will do, especially given the financial duress it’s under because of the coronavirus pandemic, but a guy can wish, right?

Do you have issues with your Galaxy S20 Ultra camera’s autofocus, or are you okay with how it performs? Does the idea of a no-charge replacement or a refund sound good to you? Let me know down in the comments!

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