Samsung revealed its latest smartphone, the Galaxy A9, featuring the worlds first rear camera with four lenses.
The company Thursday said its latest phone will come with 128 gigabytes of storage and up to 512 gigabytes of expandable memory.
The phone also features its Bixby virtual assistant, payment service Samsung Pay and fitness tracker Samsung Health. It will come in three different colors — Caviar Black, Lemonade Blue and Bubblegum Pink.
“As a global leader in smartphone innovation, we understand the demand for meaningful innovation in a fast-paced world driven by visual communication,” said DJ Koh, president and chief executive of the IT and mobile communications division at Samsung Electronics.
“Building on our legacy in smartphone camera development were introducing next-generation technology across our entire Galaxy portfolio to give more consumers the opportunity to experience cutting-edge innovation.”
Earlier this year, Koh told CNBC the company was planning on including cutting-edge techin its mid-range Galaxy A line of smartphones, even before it does in its high-end ones. Koh also said the firm was set to reveal its rumored foldable smartphone this year.
Video: Samsung Galaxy A9 – The QUAD Camera Beast!
Many watchers of the company were also anticipating the unveiling of its quad camera. Leaks emerged showing a picture of the phones rear on Wednesday.
The phone includes a main rear camera with 24 megapixel resolution and autofocus, a telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom for detailed close-ups and long shots, an ultra-wide lens with scene optimization and artificial intelligence-powered scene recognition, and a depth lens aimed at letting users manage a photos depth of field and focus. The selling point of a camera with four lenses is that a photographer is able to alternate between different lenses that enable specific features, such as photos taken from a long distance or panoramic shots.
Samsungs Galaxy A9 is a step up from its A7 model, which was the companys first phone to include a triple-lens camera on the back. A number of competitors, including Huawei and LG, have also released triple-lens cameras on their phones.
Video: Samsung Galaxy A9 hits with quad camera, but the price misses the mark – Hands On Review
The announcement follows the release of Samsungs high-end Galaxy Note 9 in August, its most expensive phone to date, retailing at $999.99 for a standard version and $1,249.99 for one with more storage.
Last week, the firm released its earnings guidance, predicting it would be on track to score record profits in the third quarter. It has struggled due to a slowing global smartphone market, and said in its second-quarter earnings statement that operating profit for the mobile business dropped 34 percent from the previous year.
The likes of Samsung and U.S. rival Apple — which unveiled its new high-end iPhone models last month — have also faced increasing competition from rising Chinese competitors, such as Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE.
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The single camera on the back of the Pixel 3 makes a brazen statement. In a landscape in which most high-end phones worth their salt have two (iPhone XS), three (Huawei P20 Pro, LG V40) or possibly even four (Samsung Galaxy A9) rear cameras, Googles willingness to bet the farm on its Cycloptic lens is a play of confidence that says, “Our single lens is better than all your fancy cameras combined.”
Its worth noting that the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have two 8-megapixel front-facing cameras, but Ill get to that later.
Phone-makers, including Samsung and Apple, have been known to reserve a second lens for the higher-end model of a set. The Galaxy S9 has a single 12-megapixel lens where the Galaxy S9 Plus joins the dual-lens pack; the same goes for the single 12-megapixel lens on the forthcoming iPhone XR, versus the dual-lensed iPhone XS models. But both Googles 5.5-inch Pixel 3 and 6.3-inch Pixel 3 XL share the exact same 12.2-megapixel sensor. Theres no camera advantage to buying up.
Cameras are a big deal. Along with battery life, photography is one of the main reasons why people choose one phone over another. Phones with the brightest colors, deepest contrast, sharpest edges and brightest low-light shots can win the day. Extra features like portrait photos, dramatic lighting options, wide-angle selfies and automatic, AI-driven scene detection, can help phone-makers stand out from one another — or keep from falling further behind their competitors.
There are a few reasons phones have a second, or even third, rear lens. Many phones have a telephoto sensor, which can add depth for portrait photos and give you a better image when you zoom in. An additional monochrome sensor can take black-and-white photos without applying a filter, or be used to add details that enhance a color picture. The triple-lens Huawei P20 Pro has all three.
The LG V40s three rear cameras can simultaneously snap a photo from each lens, and you can pick your favorite. Thats more a software gimmick than an actual benefit. And the rumored Galaxy A9 is said to have an ultrawide lens in addition to a “depth camera,” a telephoto lens and the 24-megapixel “main” sensor.
The fact that Google only “needs” a single rear camera lens speaks to its software prowess. The tech titan, with its seemingly limitless resources, is far ahead of phone-makers when it comes to advanced image processing.
Now playing: Watch this: Pixel 3 and 3 XL: CNET editors react 9:52 Specifically, AI and machine learning are two cutting-edge efforts in helping computers make decisions on their own, for example brightening a photo based on dark weather conditions. And Google says its studied millions of photos on Google Images to rethink “how images are captured,” Google hardware SVP Rick Osterloh said in Tuesdays presentation.
Google has also outfitted its Pixel 3 phones with extra or enhanced camera modes. Super Res Zoom creates a zoomed-in shot from multiple photos. Portrait mode lets you fine-tune the focus point, depth of field and color saturation. And low-light photos promise to be even brighter and better than the Pixel 2s already lauded low-light capabilities, without you ever turning on the flash — a feature Google dubs Night Sight. Top Shot picks your best photo for you when you have motion mode on.
The Pixel 3 and 3 XLs two 8-megapixel cameras get more of your friends and your background in your shot.
Given Googles extraordinary confidence in its single rear camera, its interesting that the Pixel 3 phones follow handsets like LGs V40 to add a second camera on the face.
Last years single-lens Pixel 2 was one of the only phones I used in 2017 that accurately kept my curly hair in focus on a portrait mode shot. Google accomplished that feat with software alone, so why is a second lens necessary now?
Google says that the wide-angle selfie cam, which it claims is 184 percent wider than the iPhone XS front-facing shooter, is designed to fit more of your friends (or your landscape) into the frame. We managed to fit 13 CNET editors into a selfie shot on the Pixel 3, so its off to a good start.
The question on my mind — and everyone elses — is how well Googles Pixel phones succeed. Is the single camera really better than two or more? And which meaningful tricks and tools will the Pixel phones miss out on that other phones have?
Unfortunately, we have to wait. CNETs Pixel 3 reviews are ongoing, and those camera comparison deep dives you love take time. Besides that, two of the Pixel 3s camera features (Night Sight and Top Shot) wont be ready until after the phones go on sale.
Until then, Ill leave you with the reminder that Googles Pixel phones have an excellent photography track record. In fact, I cant think of a single mainstream phone playing at this high-end level that doesnt take terrific pictures overall.
In other words, if youre drawn to the Pixel 3 for its relatively lower price, timely Android updates and unlimited storage on Google Photos, its a safe bet that its photos will be good, even great. If youre looking for professional-grade photography and want to be completely sure, hold off ordering while we work on competitor comparisons.