An Analysis of Todays Smartphone Camera Technologies

Time when we were buying SLR and digital SLR cameras for capturing various moments in our lives is gone. Now, those special moments are captured right from within your smartphones. Most of these smartphones have evolved to the point that it is right to say the best camera in the world is the one in your hands.

The time of puny 1 MP and 3 MP cameras is gone, and now it is time for 8 MP, 12 MP, 13 MP, or 41 MP cameras among smartphones. In this article, lets look at the major technologies used in the cameras of our favorite smartphones.

According to research firm NPDs statistics, in 2011, over 27 percent of the photos were taken by smartphone cameras. Also, this zest for camera phones is negatively affecting the point-and-shoot camera market.

NPD statistics of mobile camera usage

 

The Basic Technology

Digital cameras have thesea lens, an image sensor technology, and the image signal processor. When you are taking videos with these digital cameras, one additional component called video encoder also comes into play. Here is a basic diagram showing what is happening in a smartphone camera.

Basic technology of smartphone camera

As you can see there is communication between the CMOS sensor and the ISP to better interpret the scene captured with the lens. The sensor and the ISP may reverse-communicate to make the image better, as represented by the double arrows. During video-capture, this is how the video encoder comes into play.

Technology in smartphone camera during video capture

Within smartphone cameras, we use the Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology for the sensor. In other high-end digital cameras, the sensor uses a different technology known as CCD (Charge-Coupled Device). Both these technologies are identical in that they convert light into electric signals (similar to the solar cells).

CCD is more of a traditional kind of image sensor. It has a capacitor array that captures each pixel in the image, and the data is converted into an electric charge. These charges are then transferred through a shift register and converted into a voltage sequence that can be stored as a digital image.

progressive scan
A representation of progressive scan in displays

CCD is an analog device, and it captures more natural images than the CMOS technology does. While in CCD, the entire image is converted into one sequence of voltage, within CMOS, each pixel has its own circuitry to create its own voltage sequence.

In essence, CCD captures the image in one shot, while CMOS captures it in sort of a scan, either vertically or horizontally (just like progressive scan). Hence, the CMOS sensor doesnt get the entire image in a single instance.

I will not go into the details of these technologies.

The basic difference between CCD and CMOS is that CMOS uses much less power than CCD. This makes it perfect for handheld devices.

However, CMOS suffers from an issue known as rolling shutter effect, since it doesnt take a picture in a single instance, but rather in a scan. When a CMOS sensor interprets a moving object, the image gets skewed. This is caused by the kind of shutter it useseither global or rolling. If it uses the global shutter, the sensor wont cause this issue. CCD sensors exclusively use global shutter and hence they are not affected by this issue. CMOS sensors commonly use the rolling shutter that causes the effect.

rolling shutter effect

Your smartphone cannot house a larger CCD sensor as there are quite a few limitations, such as cost, materials used, the conditions in which the smartphone is used, etc. Hence, a CMOS sensor is usually regarded to be the best for tiny smartphone cameras. However, there have been CCD cameras on phones, such as this Sharp Aquos 933SH.

Sharp Aquos smartphone with CCD camera

 

The Megapixel Myth

 

HTC Titan II smartphone's camera
HTC Titan II used 16 MP camera

During the last two years or so, smartphone manufacturers have been on a rat race to build cameras with the highest megapixel count. They simply upgraded the cameras up until they hit 16 megapixels.

That was supposed to be the limit, but then Nokia came up with its PureView 808 smartphone with a whopping 41 megapixel camera.

PureView 808
Nokia PureView 808 with 41 MP image sensor

Lets analyze why megapixel count after a certain limit does not represent image quality.

The number of megapixels on your phones camera represents the actual size of the image. For instance, Titan IIs 16 MP sensor can print an image at the size of 23.2×17.4 inches. And taking it further, the Nokia PureView 808s camera (with 38 MP of effective pixels) will make an image of the size 35.76×26.84 inches or about 3×2 feet in size. This calculation is considering the 200 dpi resolution of a printer. If you consider an LCD screen of about 100 ppi resolution, the size will go up to twice as much.

Imagine how much disk space a large image would take. It will be much larger than the regular 8 MP image. This is the reason why Nokia PureView 808s camera by default shoots images only at 5MP. What a waste of pixels! With your smartphones camera, you absolutely dont need to create images of huge sizes. An 8 MP or a 10 MP camera can provide you with exactly what you want.

By the end of 2012, people as well as smartphone manufacturers started realizing that this industry talk about megapixels is quite a bit unnecessary. That has caused HTC to come up withHTC One smartphonethat is barely 4 MP, but uses a different technology known as UltraPixel to capture more light through those pixels.

The size and quality of the cameras lens is another factor that determines the image quality. A large diameter lens can produce much better images. With this in mind, Nokia has gone with Carl Zeiss optics for most of its smartphones. Carl Zeiss is a leading German manufacturer of lenses for various DSLR film cameras. Their optics finds uses in various industrial applications in metrology, medical technology, microscopy, etc.

Use of Carl Zeisss high quality optics has clearly increased the quality of images captured by Nokia smartphones. LG Optimus G also has a larger camera lens that makes its images much better.

If the camera is naturally capable of optical zoom, that is another aspect that will improve the quality of the image. An example is the Samsung Galaxy Camera that has a smartphone at the back.

Samsung Galaxy Camera

This particular device has a 16 MP camera and 21x optical zoom (look at the size of that camera housing) and uses a BSI CMOS sensor. BSI is for Backside Illumination. This is a technique used to increase the amount of light captured, and thereby improve the low-light photographs.

Trademarked Camera Technologies

Now, we will take a look at the current technologies that we hear about in popular smartphone cameras. Some of these technologies are Nokia Lumia 920 smartphones PureView technology and Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), HTCs UltraPixel technology, Sony sensor within iPhone 5, Sonys own Exmor R and RS sensors, BlackBerry Z10s Time Shift camera, etc.

Nokia PureView Technology

The current top of the line smartphone from Nokia isLumia 920. It has two major technologies built in, Optical Image Stabilization and PureView. The first device to come up with PureView technology was last years release, Nokia PureView 808 with 41 MP camera, giving a resolution of 7728×5368. However, the default capture in PureView 808 camera is only at 5 MP. At 41 MP, the camera can take a huge image, while at 5 MP, only a part of that huge image is shown to the user. As a result, a user can easily zoom in up to 3x without losing quality as in digital zoom.

Digital zoom used in your smartphones camera has nothing to do with lens movement. It cannot give the clarity and detail as given by actual zooming, which has to be optical. In order to do optical zooming, you have to have a zoom lens in a larger camera housing as found in Samsung Galaxy Camera. With Nokia 808 PureView, the sensor itself is pretty large and capable of shooting a large image, and only a portion of that image is shown to you. Hence, a 3x lossless zoom asmaintained by Nokiais possible.

In PureView technology, it uses something known as pixel oversampling. This means, the data from several pixels are used to form something Nokia calls a super pixel. As a result, the camera is able to capture more light, and come up with a HDR effect on its images. This is one of the reasons why Nokia Lumia 920s camera has been regarded as one of the best in the industry today.

The PureView technology is capable of shooting images with unmatched clarity in low light situations. Here is a comparison shoot:

Camera comparison

More of such low light photographs can be found in Engadgetsgallery.

Earlier, around the time Nokia released Lumia 920, they came up with an ad supposedly shot with the camera, but was actually shot with a DSLR camera. It wasa mistake.

Optical Image Stabilization

Nokias camera supports another technology known as Optical Image Stabilization. Unlike PureView, it is not a Nokia trademark, though. HTC phone, the latest HTC One, also supports OIS. It is also available in most of the high end cameras.

Imagine you are shooting a casual image, and you tripped and went out of focus for a moment. On a regular phone camera, you can imagine what would happen. The image would be out of focus and useless. On Lumia 920s camera, it is a different story altogether. Lumia 920s camera has something built into it known as OIS. It is a little piece of hardware that utilizes one of thephones sensors, the gyroscope.

A smartphones gyroscope is an MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System). This means, it is an electronic component with extremely tiny mechanical parts (moving parts). The gyroscope is an orientation element in the smartphone. This means, your smartphone feels the gravity and the angle in which you are holding it. It is also the technology behind display autorotation. Pretty smart, huh?

With the help of the gyroscope, the smartphone understands when you are shaking the camera during image capture. It just moves the lens to adjust focus. Take a look here, taken fromHTCs pageon OIS.

Optical image stabilization

Another way to stabilize the image is by software, aka Digital Image Stabilization (DIS). The difference is pretty much similar to optical zoom vs. digital zoom. Digital image stabilization also uses the gyroscope, but instead of moving the lens, it adjusts the data processed by the pixel array of the sensor to get a more focused image.

UltraPixel Technology

UltraPixel technology has been put forward by HTC through its HTC One smartphone. The technology is in many ways similar to Nokias PureView.

HTC One smartphones camera has a resolution of only about 4 megapixels. But these pixels are much larger than the regular pixels found in other smartphones. While iPhone 5s pixels are 1.4 microns in size, HTC Ones pixels are as large as 2 microns. HTC calls them UltraPixels. These UltraPixels are capable of bringing in more light through each pixel, so that the picture is much better in low light conditions.

In PureView, the data from a number of pixels are used to form a super pixel that improves low light photography, while in UltraPixel technology HTC has made pixels themselves large enough. In essence, both these technologies should have almost the same end result.

Apple iPhone Camera

There was arecent news storyin Business Insider about ARGUS (Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System), which is a surveillance camera that can be attached to drones like the Predator and the Global Hawk.

Global Hawk drone

The interesting thing about this camera is that it uses the tiniest cameras possible, such as those inside iPhone 4S, shown here.

tiny iphone camera

With many of these tiny cameras, ARGUS can achieve a whopping 1800 megapixel resolution in its images. That is an interesting story of how many small things can constitute one huge thing.

Apple iPhone 5s camera has been touted far and wide as one of the best out there. Recent camera tests show it performing brilliantly in all kinds of lighting conditions. Apple calls its camera iSight, and it is almost as great as Nokia Lumia 920s camera.

Apple has standing contract with Sony, which manufactures iPhone 5s camera sensor. This was revealed in ateardowndone by Chipworks.

iPhone 5 uses a faster shutter speed, up to 40 percent faster than iPhone 4S, and this has improved the quality of its images a lot. To protect the camera lens, Apple uses sapphire crystal, an extremely hard material that is highly scratch-resistant. iFixit did ateardownof the iPhone 5 and they found the camera to be well protected and clear.

BlackBerry Z10s Camera

The recently releasedBlackBerry Z10smartphone, marking sort of a rebirth for BlackBerry, uses a camera technology known as Time Shift.

This is a simple method in which the camera captures a short video instead of an image, and then it allows you to edit a face within that to get the best shot possible. This video explains it better:

Sonys Exmor RS

Sonys flagship smartphone,Xperia Zutilizes a technology known as Exmor RS. In August, last year,Sony announcedthis new sensor technology, in which CMOS sensors are placed in a stacked structure.

Exmor RS sensor in Sony cameras

This particular technology is supposed to give supreme image quality in low light situations, and the camera module takes less space as compared to other smartphones since the sensor is much smaller.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are quite a number of camera technologies in the world today. Small cameras were big a few years ago. Even the Mars Rover Curiosity uses a 2 MP camera due to a number of reasons you can readhere. But now is the time of high resolution cameras with great technologies. Going forward, you may get to see more and more technologies in smartphone photography.

[Image: Gizmodo, Akihabaranews, ePhotozine, GSMArena, Engadget, Strikefighterconsultinginc]

Top 5 Most Durable High-end Smartphones You Can Buy

There are a number of factors affecting the purchase of a smartphone, such as the display, operating system, processor power, and price. Among them, I believe durability is also pretty important. There are protective cases for all types of smartphones, although they more or less make the phone look weird. I have never used protective case on my smartphones, although some of them have really needed them.

A few days ago, I picked up one of the most popular smartphones in the industry—Samsung Galaxy S3. I was impressed by the amazing hardware features it offered. However, when I picked it up, I could immediately feel the cheap plastic build of the phone that turned me off a bit. Many of Samsung’s phones lack in build quality, and that is the reason why none of the Samsung smartphones is there in this list. In the low end, probably the only Samsung device that can withstand any wear and tear is X-Cover Xtreme.

The same is the case with Sony. Xperia line of smartphones contains devices mostly of plastic build, save for Xperia P that has an aluminum unibody design.

Compare Samsung devices with those of some other manufacturers in the industry, and you will immediately feel the difference.

There are a number of water-resistant smartphones out there, including the upcoming Sony Xperia Z. However, water-resistance is definitely not the only attribute of durability. How more often do you swim with your smartphone than drop it?

In the following count-down, we have five high-end smartphones, and we will be discussing body-specific features.

6. LG Optimus G & Google Nexus 4

LG Optimus G

Optimus G is LG’s most advanced smartphone to date, and it is built with superb quality. The back of the device is made of tough DuPont Kevlar fiber and it is reinforced with a thin film of Corning Gorilla Glass. You may have heard of Kevlar; it is the same material used for building bulletproof vests.

Google Nexus 4

The smartphone’s display is protected by Gorilla Glass 2. Google Nexus 4 is also manufactured by LG and has similar hardware specifications and build quality. The Gorilla Glass at the back may be susceptible to somewhat rough use. But overall, both of these smartphones are really durable.

Buy Optimus G from Amazon or Best Buy.

5. HTC Windows Phone 8X

HTC 8X

The smartest thing about this phone is that it is pretty thin and light-weight. Coupled with its unibody design makes Windows Phone 8X one of the most durable. On the front, you have Corning Gorilla Glass 2, and the back is made of tough polycarbonate, making it suitable for rough usage.

You can get the phone at Amazon or Best Buy.

4. Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD

In terms of build quality, Motorola keeps a very high standard. Razr Maxx HD is a smartphone with a huge 4.7 inch screen and amazing hardware features. It is also slightly heavier than its competitors. It uses the first edition of Corning Gorilla Glass (the version 2 and now 3 have come out) to protect the display. This makes the glass less scratch-resistant than some other devices out there.

What really separates Razr Maxx HD is its back, which is not plastic or metal. It is made of DuPont Kevlar synthetic fiber as in Optimus G. This doesn’t make the device essentially bulletproof though! It however survives extreme levels of rough usage.

The only disadvantage is that it uses Gorilla Glass 1, and the glass could break on a six-foot drop.

Get Verizon Droid Razr Maxx HD at Verizon Wireless or Best Buy.

3. HTC One

HTC One smartphone

This is an update. HTC One is one of the most awesome Android smartphones to hit the market. It has experienced a drop test too. In an XDA Developers Forum thread, a user accidentally dropped the phone and posted about it. The phone did have a few chips on its aluminum sides. One thing that places HTC One right below iPhone 5 is the fact that it has a regular aluminum body, rather than an anodized aluminum in case of iPhone 5. The front of the phone is well protected with Gorilla Glass and that will not scratch on your occasional drops.

HTC has done a great job with the design of the phone as well. It is one of the most gorgeous Android phones in the market, and could rival the iPhone in terms of aesthetics.

The phone is available at Amazon

2. Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5, just as all of the previous iPhone versions, comes with pretty amazing build quality. It is very thin and probably the lightest of all high-end smartphones. Its unibody design is made using anodized aluminum, and it is slightly different from iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, which had their back covered by tough scratch-resistant glass.

We don’t have any indication that Apple is using Corning Gorilla Glass for screen protection. But on multiple drop tests, the iPhone screen didn’t show any sign of wear and tear. However, there have been complaints about scuffs on the edge of iPhone 5 after a few days of rough use. This has been identified by many users. The black ceramic finish of the phone slowly fades away to reveal the underlying silvery aluminum.

Still, we recognize iPhone 5 at the top, because you can drop it from a very tall level and you will still not break the display or the internal hardware. Another important thing is that Apple does have a patent on protecting the device, which does include an orientation device that changes the orientation of the iPhone during a free fall to make sure the phone’s most impact-resistant side hits the ground first.

Buy from Apple or Best Buy (several carrier options).

1. Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920 is the toughest of all smartphones out there today. Being the heaviest smartphone could have made Lumia 920 fall behind in terms of wear resistance. However, the thickness of the Gorilla Glass 2 on top of the screen protects Lumia 920 from even tall drops. It has a unibody design with the back made of polycarbonate. Read our review of Lumia 920 which offers scratch and drop tests for the device.

Lumia 920 is available from AT&T (through Best Buy) or Amazon.

Conclusion

Durability is one of the important factors that you should look for on a smartphone. With Optimus G, LG has also proved its presence among the most durable smartphone manufacturers. Apple, HTC, Motorola, and Nokia have always excelled at building phones with high-quality materials. On the other hand, Samsung and Sony have given us somewhat substandard build quality.

[Image: PhoneArena]

Whether-or-Not-to-Buy: Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 920
If you are looking for a Windows Phone 8 device, look no further than Nokia Lumia 920 (Check at Amazon or Best Buy). Two of the major handsets running Windows Phone 8 are Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X. Here, we will have a deeper look at Lumia 920 and see why it is a very good buy.

The Technical Specifications

 

We will begin with the technical specifications of the device.

Feature Value Notes
Display 4.5 inch LCD (IPS) Capacitive touch; 768×1280 pixels (WXGA HD+) Larger than Windows Phone 8X
Pixel density 332ppi Better than the iPhone’s Retina Display
Screen protection Corning Gorilla Glass 2 Highly scratch-resistant
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus (MSM8960) at 1.5 GHz (dual-core) The same processor used in Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE version, and HTC Windows Phone 8X
GPU Adreno 225  
RAM 1 GB  
Storage 32 GB  
MicroSD? Not available  
Connectivity HSPA+ at 42.2 mbps; LTE category 3 (50mbps up/100mbps down)  
Battery 2000 mAh (10 hrs 3G talk time)  
Camera 8 MP with Carl Zeiss optics; front-facing 2.1 MP Uses PureView technology and floating lens technology
Dimensions Height 130.3mm (5.13 inch) Pretty heavier than high end smartphones like iPhone 5, Windows Phone 8X, and Galaxy S3
Width 70.8mm (2.79 inch)
Thickness 10.7 mm (0.42 inch)
Weight 185 g (6.53 oz)
Other Features NFC, Supersensitive touch screen, Wireless charging, PureMotion HD+, PureView camera, etc.  

 

What do you feel after looking at the tech specs? We will look at the pros and cons of the device now.

1. The Build & Durability

 

Nokia Lumia 900 was the previous version in the Lumia series, and there were smaller Lumias too, with lower hardware specs. Lumia 920 is much heavier than all other Lumias. At 185 g, it is probably the heaviest of high-end smartphones. Windows Phone 8X and One X are only 130g, iPhone 5 is 112 g, HTC Droid DNA is 142 g, Motorola Razr Maxx HD is 157 g, LG Optimus G is 145 g, Google Nexus 4 is 139 g.

The huge Galaxy Note II with one inch larger display than the Lumia 920 is only 183 g. As you can see, there is no high-end device heavier than Lumia 920. It is the major disadvantage of the device.

The quality of the build is just perfect (as always among Nokia smartphones). Don’t take my word for that. Just look at this pretty amazing video created by PhoneBuff here:

Also check out the drop test video and the actual “cracking open the Lumia 920” video that follows this one.

Here’s another video by MobileSyrup that does fastball test on Lumia 920 and Samsung Galaxy S3 (which shatters, as expected):

Lumia 920 is a sturdy, durable device, albeit a little too heavy. But still, it is more durable than even the iPhone. Haven’t you heard about iPhone 5 shipping with scratches at the back?

If it is durability that you are asking for in a smartphone, then nothing gives it better than Lumia 920.

2. Display

 

Lumia 920 bright display

 

It uses LCD with In-Plane Switching (IPS). The screen has a wide viewing angle, just like iPhone 5’s display and gives natural colors. If you are confused about the Retina Display gimmick, don’t be. With this 4.5 inch display, Nokia has packed more pixels than iPhone 5’s 326ppi. Lumia 920 has a 332ppi screen, and as such gives unnoticeably smaller pixels.

The resolution given is 1280×768, which is slightly better than Windows Phone 8X’s 1280×720. And hence, the aspect ratio is 15:9.

Forbes’s hateful review of Lumia 920 talked a lot about the battery consumption of the device. One thing to note about the display is that it can consume a lot more battery than Lumia 900’s AMOLED panel. Lumia 920’s brightness factor is at 600 nits (brightness unit), while iPhone 5 stands at around 500 nits, and HTC One X, slightly above 500 nits. Screen on Lumia 920 is really bright, and it is in the order of some HDTVs. Also, it comes with new technologies, such as PureMotion HD+ and Nokia ClearBlack.

Due its screen brightness, Lumia may tend to consume a little more battery; however, if you place the display at the low brightness level, you can save much more battery.

PureMotion technology is a very important one. In regular smartphones, the display response time is in the order of about 23 milliseconds, while PureMotion in Lumia 920 gives 9 milliseconds. This extra-fast response time gives Nokia 920 display that extra edge. It looks much smarter than any other smartphone display, and does not blur on fast swipe actions.

Another important aspect of this display is the ClearBlack technology, which gives much better black levels on an IPS LCD panel. Although it is still not in the order of AMOLED’s perfect black levels, this is a great improvement indeed.

The touchscreen is extra-sensitive. You can use it with gloves on. This makes the smartphone kind of optimized for cold atmosphere where you may walk around with gloves.

Supersensitive touchscreen on Lumia 920

 

3. Camera

 

We did touch a little bit on the 8MP camera on the smartphone in our introduction to Lumia 920 article last year. The PureView camera on Lumia 920 uses its gyroscope to obtain image stabilization. It is hence called a floating lens technology. The gyroscope can provide stability to the camera app even if you shake slightly during image capture. This is the reason why the camera takes shake-free pictures with Lumia 920.

In low light conditions, as promised, the camera performs really well. Also, the

Read further: Nokia faked a video (supposedly taken by 920), and got caught by the people at the Verge.

color and contrast of the pictures were of amazing quality. In a camera comparison by CNET, Lumia 920 performs better than Windows Phone 8X on most of the tests, and slightly worse as compared to iPhone 5. However, in low light conditions, Lumia 920 performs much better.

4. The Processor

 

Qualcomm Snapdragon

Have you read about what processor to look for on smartphones? In the current market, Lumia 920 doesn’t ace it, but it’s pretty close! Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 processor clocked at 1.5 GHz is a very fast processor. Snapdragon chip also has the LTE baseband built in, as Qualcomm is the industry leader in providing LTE baseband in the US.

This is the reason why Samsung Galaxy S3 uses the exact same processor in LTE markets, while it provides its own Exynos quad-core SoC on regular markets. There is no performance drop on Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor. It performs with the same agility of a quad-core Cortex-A9 processor.

5. Battery & Wireless Charging

 

Nokia Lumia comes with a 2000 mAh Li-ion battery that is expected to give around 10 hours talk time on 3G. There are a few tips that Nokia gives to save battery. It is important to follow these tips to get full power from Lumia 920’s battery.

Last year, in a review, Forbes mentioned how pathetic the battery was and how it did not last long enough to do most tasks. In our tests, we did not find any such issues. On proper full charge, the battery will definitely last a full day of usage. Also, a firmware update rolled out by Nokia in December last year, gives battery improvements.

The battery can be charged wirelessly with an induction pad that Nokia ships with the device. The charging pad is actually very convenient to use, and it can charge the phone as quickly as the regular wall charger does. Not only that, you can get charging accessories from other vendors, such as this JBL speaker that can charge your Lumia 920 through an NFC connection.

JBL Wireless charging speaker

 

Conclusion

 

Lumia 920 is an amazing phone. There is no downside to buying this smartphone, let alone its bulky build. It is the heaviest smartphone out there, and also it doesn’t come with an expandable MicroSD slot. Also, as in all Nokia devices these days, you cannot open it up to take the battery out.

Other than these minor issues, Lumia 920 aces in every aspect. For a mere price of 449 dollars, contract-free, you are getting one of the best Windows smartphones out there. HTC Windows Phone 8X is also an amazing choice, but Lumia stands one notch above it.

[Image credit: Nokia, Wmpoweruser.com, Qualcomm]

A History of Tech Company Mistakes and Apologies!

All the time, these companies out there, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and what not, come up with miscalculated product innovations and in some cases plain gaffes, and in the end, they end up apologizing to their customers for their mistakes. Let’s look at a few of the famous apologies in this post. We are not targeting regular apologies due to natural product failures, but outright gaffes and arrogant wrongdoings that caused companies to apologize.

Apple iPhone, the Original & Its Price

 

In 2007, Apple released its groundbreaking product, the iPhone for the first time and they set its price at 600 dollars. It should be noted that Apple iPhone became one of the hottest selling products in history, thanks to Apple fans that run into billions. Within two months, Steve Jobs, the deceased former CEO of Apple, slashed the price of iPhone from 600 to 400.

The millions and millions who purchased iPhone for 600 dollars stood with gaping mouths and fingers up their brain. They felt cheated in plain daylight. Apple CEO did not apologize, but he wrote to those customers.

steve-jobs-about-iphone-1-638

Mark Zuckerberg (CEO, Facebook) on Beacon, Facebook’s Ad Tool

 

In 2007, Facebook came up with a novel idea. That of letting your friends know of what you purchased online through Facebook. This app, known as Beacon was tremendously criticized by hundreds of thousands of users. Beacon program would simply talk about your purchases with your friends without your knowledge, and there was no proper way to opt out of this. Facebook said they made the program ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ because they wanted to enable people to share what they forgot to (amusing, isn’t it?) Here’s Mark’s apology:

zuckerburg-about-beacon-1-638

Nokia Lumia 920 Demo Video Fiasco

 

Nokia released Lumia 920 smartphone with a new camera technology known as PureView only a few days ago. They demonstrated the camera with a video (supposedly taken with Lumia 920). But if you look at that commercial, you will see a van with a regular film camera mounted that has captured the entire video. Here’s the video slowed down to show exactly what is happening (thanks to the uploader, smartypunk):

It proved to be such a shame to Nokia and they put up an apology soon enough. Here is the text:

nokia-lumia-920-apology-1-638

Google & Jews

 

Our search giant once returned results that insulted Jews in great detail. The first result for search term ‘Jew’ in Google was ‘jewwatch.com’, an anti-Semitic website proclaiming that they keep a close watch on Jewish communities. Google apologized soon enough. Here it is:

google-apologizes-jews-1-638

Other controversies were there with Google, including “she invented” (Google it), about 600 GB of private Wi-Fi data being taken by StreetView cameras, etc.

Whole Foods

 

The Whole Foods Market CEO, John Mackey was a well-respected businessman of his time. He, however, managed to get a wrong idea into his head that would kill his good name. He went into Yahoo! Finance forums, and created a pseudonym, ‘Rahodeb’ and started praising his company and criticizing the competitors. He had to apologize of course (in two sentences though). We couldn’t find the apology from the website, so we fished it out from Archive.org.

The Apple Maps Fiasco

 

Apple came up with Maps to use with iPhone’s iOS 6. Apple Maps was full of mistakes that anybody could spot. And now Apple fired the guy who worked on Maps, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, apologized. You can read about the complete Apple Maps fiasco here.

Microsoft’s Perverts

 

In June this year, Microsoft was releasing its cloud hosting platform, Windows Azure, in Oslo, Norway. And in the party that ensued, ‘cloud rap’ lyrics included “The words ‘Micro’ and ‘soft’ don’t apply to my penis & vagina.” MS had to apologize in these words:
Azure team:

This week's Norwegian Developer's Conference included a skit that involved inappropriate and offensive elements and vulgar language. We apologize to our customers and our partners and are actively looking into the matter.

 

And MS corporate communications team chief Frank Shaw tweeted:

This routine had vulgar language, was inappropriate and was just not ok. We apologize to our customers and partners.

 

At another time, Microsoft’s code implementation of HyperV virtualization product (read about this and others in Microsoft History) for Linux contained the term ‘Big Boobs’ in coded format. It contained “0xB16B00B5” and “0x0B00B135”. Since Linux code is open source, anyone could spot it.

Apple’s Poor Apology

 

In July this year, Samsung had a court case with Apple regarding design patent infringement of Apple iPad by Samsung products. Apple lost this case and the judge ordered Apple to post an apology. And Apple did. Here’s their apology. Tell me if it reads like one!

apples-fake-apology-1-638
Not only did Apple apologize like a moron, but also it hid the Apology well in the website so that no one could easily spot it. As expected, the judge did not approve the given apology. And Apple had to come up with a better one. (They removed the original apology and it is no longer available in the website, which is why I have saved this PDF.) They managed to come up with this one, and the text is as follows:

apple's apology to samsung

 

Still, what a pathetic apology, won’t you agree?

[Updated: Feb 17, 2013]

Google Doodle for Asteroid

 

CNET picked up this story. In response to the happy news that an asteroid called DA14 sped past the earth at nearly 17,000 miles overhead without causing any damage to our ecosystem, Google posted the following doodle above its search box.

Google Asteroid doodle

 

However, hours later, a meteor struck down on Russia injuring hundreds of people. Google's happy doodle immediately became a sadistic joke, and they removed it.

Conclusion

 

As you can see, the companies are not beyond errors. Some like Apple Maps are pretty funny mistakes indeed. When we see more of such gaffes, we will laugh out loud and will let you guys know here.

[Image: CNET]

What You Dont Probably Know About Lithium-ion Cell Phone Batteries

A number of Li-ion batteriesToday, most of the smartphones out there use rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. They are found not only on cell phones, but on digital cameras, portable music players, and a lot of other electronic gadgets. The major advantages of this type of phone battery are that they have high energy density, high power output, and long lifespan. These advantages make Lithium-ion batteries perfect for portable electronic gadgets. If you ever had confusion as to what these batteries are and what their specifications meant (stuff like mAh, charging time, etc), then let me clarify these details here.

The Basic Chemistry

 

Look at the image that illustrates the compounds within a typical Lithium-ion battery. I have tried to speak as low-tech chemistry as possible here.

At the base of all these batteries is the basic metal, Lithium (Li). This is a soft, light metal of the alkali metal group, which means this metal is very reactive and difficult to preserve. The optimum reactivity of Lithium makes it perfect among alkali metals (that include sodium, potassium, etc) to form a good battery.

Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2) is the most widely used compound on the anode. Cathode (negative electrode) is typically a carbon allotrope. During charging, as you can see, Lithium ions travel to the cathode along with an electron. Once fully charged, it can give out energy through a reverse discharge process illustrated in the picture.

Over-charging and over-discharging tend to create additional irreversible compounds that waste the chemical composition of the battery. It means, a part of the battery becomes pure rock if you continue to overcharge or over-discharge the battery.

Understanding Important Specifications

Lithium-ion battery technology is one of the most advanced and expensive among secondary batteries (those that can be used repeatedly after recharging). It is highly portable due to great energy density, and gives maximum power.

A. Capacity (Ampere-Hour [Ah] or Milli-Ampere-Hour [mAh])

Over time, the cellphone manufacturers have learnt to identify milli-ampere-hour (mAh) as the major measure of battery power. People who are looking for long-lasting efficient cell phone battery look at the mAh rating and talk and standby times given to purchase a device. Let me bust all the myths here. This is the measure that indicates the total charge-bearing capacity of a battery. It doesn’t indicate whether the battery has a long runtime or not.

For instance, 2000 mAh battery is capable of providing 2 ampere of current for 1 hour before fully draining or 0.2 ampere of current for 10 hours before draining completely.

This is also indicated with something called the C-rate of the battery. For instance, if 1C of a battery is 2000 mAh, it means the battery is capable of a maximum of 2000 milli-ampere of current for 1 hour. C/2 of the same battery should be 1000 mAh, and so on.

B. Specific Energy (Wh/kg)

This is an indicator of the power storage capacity of a phone battery. Also known as gravimetric energy density, this measure indicates the size-to-power ratio of a battery. Lithium-ion phone batteries have high specific energy making them perfectly portable. You can usually find the specific energy details on the battery pack itself. This can be also measured in terms of energy density (Wh/L).

C. Specific Power (W/kg)

This indicates the maximum power the battery dissipates from each kilogram of its mass. This is also measured as power density (W/L).

Specific energy and specific power can be balanced to achieve optimum results from a battery, such as high power or high durability at low power. As an analogy, think of a battery as a tank full of water. High specific energy on the battery is analogous to a big tank with small tap, while low specific energy is indicated by smaller tank with bigger tap. You cannot have both high.

Parameters of Typical Lithium-ion Batteries

Check out this table that lists important parameters of generally available Li-ion phone batteries

Specific Energy 110-200 Wh/kg
Voltage 3.7 volts
Temperature range -20 to 60 C
Specific Power 250-730 W/kg
Self discharge Full charge: 20-25 % at 25 C; 35 % around 60 C (monthly estimate) 40 % charge: 4 % at 25 C
Cycles 400 to 1000

Most of the manufacturers of cell phones and tablets equip their devices with batteries of appropriate power in order to have it running long. However, the sheer mAh rating of the battery doesn’t necessarily indicate a longer running battery. You have to look at the power requirement of the device itself. This is usually given within the device’s catalog. This is dependent on the electronics used in the phone.

Usually the power requirement is given within the battery compartment of the device itself.

This is the reason why a high-mAh battery gives less talk-time than a low-mAh one. Here are a few tips to make your phone’s battery run longer.

The Memory Effect

Memory effect is typically found on certain rechargeable batteries; this makes the battery run long or short on charging based on the charging history. Certain Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries retain less charge and drain faster if users charge them partially.

This has been a concern for owners of new types of batteries such as the Li-ion. However, Li-ion batteries are not affected by memory effect. You only need to charge it fully before the first use.

Tips & Guidelines

1. Do not overcharge the battery as it will lead to unnecessary irreversible chemical reactions, reducing specific energy of the battery.
2. Do not let the battery to drain the charge fully as it will again lead to unnecessary compounds being produced.
3. Dispose of Li-ion batteries very carefully. Either send the batteries back to the company on re-calls, or dispose them off carefully.
4. Do not let the battery operate beyond its mentioned temperature range. Placing the cellphone in direct sunlight or nearby hot equipment could cause dangers like explosion.
5. Li-ion batteries drain their total charge and lifespan over time whether you use it or store it. Hence, it’s not advisable to store them for prolonged periods of time (such as a year or two).

Conclusion

I have tried to give maximum useful information about Li-ion batteries. Most of the information presented here are fairly technical although care has been taken to incorporate laymen. These batteries power most of the smartphones and tablets available in the market today, and I hope people will find this article useful.

[Image credit: Panasonic]