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Samsung upgrades image sensor for smartphones

Samsung Electronics has introduced its 200-megapixel (MP) ISOCELL HP3 image sensor with a 0.56-micrometer (μm)-pixel for smartphones. Claiming the industry’s smallest pixel, the upgraded ISOCELL HP3 image sensor is expected to deliver ultra-high resolution in smartphone cameras.
Samsung’s ISOCELL HP3 image sensor.

(Source: Samsung Electronics)

Since its first 108-MP image sensor roll-out in 2019, Samsung has continued to launch new image sensors with improvements in performance. The ISOCELL HP3, with a 12 percent smaller pixel size than the predecessor’s 0.64 μm, delivers 200 million pixels in a 1/1.4” optical format, translating into about a 20% reduction in camera module area, said Samsung.

The ISOCELL HP3 features a Super QPD auto-focusing solution, which uses a single lens over four-adjacent pixels to detect the phase differences in both horizontal and vertical directions. This enables a more accurate and quicker auto focusing for smartphone camera users, said the company.

The sensor supports videos in 8K at 30 frames-per-second (fps) or 4K at 120 fps. Samsung said there is a minimal loss in the field of view when taking 8K videos, and when combined with the Super QPD solution, it creates movie-like cinematic footage.

Thanks to the Tetra2pixel technology, the ISOCELL HP3 sensor can simulate a large-sized pixel sensor to take brighter and more vibrant images even in low-light conditions or at night. The technology combines four pixels into one to transform the 0.56-μm 200-MP sensor into a 1.12-μm 50-MP sensor, or a 12.5-MP sensor with 2.24-μm pixels by combining 16 pixels into one, said the company.

The ISOCELL HP3 also uses an improved Smart-ISO Pro feature to maximize the dynamic range of the mobile image sensor. The technology merges image information from the two conversion gains of low and high ISO mode to create HDR images. The upgraded version of the technology comes with a triple ISO mode — low, mid and high — that further widens the sensor’s dynamic range. It also supports over four trillion colors (14-bit color depth), 64 times more colors than the predecessor’s 68 billion (12-bit).

In addition, by supporting staggered HDR together with Smart-ISO Pro, the ISOCELL HP3 can switch between the two solutions depending on the environment to produce high-quality HDR images, said Samsung.

Samples of the Samsung ISOCELL HP3 are currently available. Mass production is scheduled to begin this year.

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Electronic Products: Top 10 articles of 2020

Articles related to power issues as well as big industry trends were top of mind for Electronic Products’ readers in 2020.

top 10As we say good-bye to 2020, Electronic Products takes a look back at some of the most-read articles of 2020. Power and storage topics, from replacement batteries for lithium-ion technology to smart grid power challenges, dominated our readers’ interest last year. There is a good reason why. Power is related to big design challenges around efficiency and cost as well as size.

There is also continued interest in big industry trends such as artificial intelligence, IoT, IIoT, and mobile and wearable designs. As for components, batteries, AI processors, DC/DC converters, RF converters, and electromechanical switches were among the top 10. For those of you who think electromechanical devices like switches are a low priority in new designs, just remember you wouldn’t be able to power on many of the devices that you use at home and at work without them. The top 10 electromechanical switch article comes in at number eight.

Here’s our top 10 most popular articles posted in 2020.

Potassium-metal batteries: A promising replacement for lithium-ion technology

A team of researchers at Rensselaer said that it has solved the technology challenges associated with potassium-metal batteries, making them potential replacements for Li-ion technology.

Top 10 processors for AI acceleration at the endpoint

Specialized processing power for AI and ML workloads is available for almost every application, from machine vision to voice interfaces

TrendForce: Top 10 technology trends to watch in 2021

Market researcher TrendForce shares its forecast of the top 10 key technology trends for 2021, ranging from memory devices to microLED displays.

Top 10 DC/DC converters for compact applications

Highly integrated and miniature DC/DC converters are available for almost all applications, from data centers to medical products

Unraveling the full-scale mysteries of your RF converter’s analog inputs

Understanding the input drive and full-scale range trade-offs in ADCs can be vital when designing analog receiver front ends

How to prevent lithium-ion battery disasters

Here are several design approaches to reduce the possibility of severe failures caused by thermal runaway in lithium-ion battery packs

Meeting the power challenges of the smart grid

Using better power management techniques can improve energy designs and overcome the challenges of energy distribution automation systems

Top 10 electromechanical switches

Electromechanical switches used in extreme environmental conditions offer more than ruggedness and extended operating temperature ranges, including miniaturization and easy installation for space-constrained applications

Four mistakes to avoid in IIoT development

The Industrial Internet Consortium released a best practices white paper for developing and deploying IIoT solutions

Researchers advance micro-supercapacitor fabrication

UNIST researchers are using EHD jet printing to solve fabrication challenges when integrating micro-supercapacitors with other electronic components

There also were a handful of 2019 articles that continued to resonate with readers in 2020. These included:

Top 7 USB oscilloscopes for makers and pros

Top 10 5G chipsets

Top 10 wireless technology trends in 2019

The big problem with fast charging using USB Type-C cables

If you missed any of our issues this year, here are links to each one.

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5 problems USB-C needs to overcome

From messy USB-C cable types to problematic fast charging, the “one cable to rule them all” is still struggling to truly become universal.

USB-C is one of the most popular types of cable in the world, but this “universal” cable has a few key issues that need to be resolved. From messy USB-C cable types to problematic fast charging, the world’s “one cable to rule them all” is still struggling to truly become universal.
Shutterstock image of smartphone with USB-C cable.

(Source: Shutterstock)

If USB-C is going to be a truly universal cable, it will need to overcome these challenges.
1. USB-C isn’t actually standardized.

One of the most commonly praised benefits of USB-C cables is that users always know what they’re getting with USB-C. Any device that accepts USB-C cables can use any USB-C cable, right?

Unfortunately, this is not true. USB-C is not actually standardized, at least not at this level of universality.

There are several USB-C cable types that differ from each other in terms of data speed, power capabilities, and compatibility. Users can often confuse USB-C for specific types of data speed, such as USB 3.0. A USB-C cable certainly can be a USB 3.0 cable, but this isn’t always the case.

The same is true for the types of data a USB-C cable is capable of transferring. Some USB-C cable types can replace display cables, for example. This is not true for all USB-C cables, though. It is often hard to tell just from looking at a cable what specific USB-C cable type it is, whereas with older cables like USB-A, users know exactly what they’re getting just from looking at the cable.
2. USB-C cable types are confusing.

The lack of standardization creates the next problem: complete confusion about USB-C cable types. As mentioned above, there are no real standards for exactly what a USB-C cable is capable of doing. There are minimum requirements, but these simply establish basic functionality.

The result of the lack of standardization has led to a plethora of completely different, yet “universal,” USB-C cable types. Every device manufacturer that uses USB-C will have a totally different cable that ships with their products. Buying a new cable for those products could be a nightmare and may even be dangerous.

For example, laptops require much more power than a smartphone, so they need a higher-quality cable type capable of supporting that larger power transfer. As a result, experts stress that users should never charge a laptop with a low-power USB-C cable. Unfortunately, many users may not even notice or understand the difference between different USB-C cable types.
3. USB-C cable fast charging is a mess.

USB-C cable fast-charge capabilities were originally one of the greatest strengths of this cable. Unfortunately, fast charging has become mired in confusion and paranoia that is holding back the technology. Many consumers today are worried that fast charging will ruin their phone’s battery or possibly even cause the phone to explode or catch on fire.

These fears are mostly misconceptions. Modern smartphones with fast-charging capabilities are designed to be able to use that fast-charging feature completely safely. Every manufacturer has different tactics, such as splitting the battery in the phone into two smaller batteries.

However, fast-charge fears essentially eliminate one of the great benefits of USB-C, which is fast power transfer. To make matters worse, the above-mentioned confusing cable types can leave users anxious that they aren’t using the right cable for fast charging. If people remain too worried to actually use fast charging, USB-C will lose some of its appeal as a one-size-fits-all cable.
4. PCs still lack USB-C ports.

The fact that many personal computers lack USB-C ports in the 2020s is shocking, especially considering some USB-C cable types are capable of replacing larger, older cables like HDMI and VGA cables. Some PCs and Macs have adopted USB-C cable support, but this is mostly present on laptops. Even when support is included, it is often limited to one, maybe two, ports.

However, built-in USB-C ports are hard to come by on desktop PCs. Even for users who want to build their own gaming PC and customize all their parts, finding a motherboard or a case with a USB-C port may be challenging. This makes it practically useless for USB-C cables to have the capability to do things like replace a clunky display cable.

If no one can find a PC that has a single USB-C port, why bother switching from a much more widely compatible display cable? Until USB-C ports become a standard feature on PCs, it will be difficult for USB-C cables to become the universal king of the cables.
5. The iPhone doesn’t use USB-C.

Apple’s relationship with the USB-C cable type is a sticky issue but an important one. Apple does use USB-C in its iPads and Macs but persists in excluding it from the iPhone lineup. The iPhone is the undisputed most popular line of smartphones — possibly even personal electronics in general — in the world. As long as this massively popular product family continues to use Apple’s Lightning cable, there will always be a competitor for USB-C cable types.

There are a few reasons why Apple doesn’t use USB-C cables. Fans of USB-C cable fast charge are annoyed by the design choice, for obvious reasons. Originally, though, Apple went with the Lightning cable because there wasn’t a small, fast cable around to fit their needs when the iPhone 5 was released. iPads and Macs didn’t have this problem, so they got USB-C when it came out.

The iPhone was left in a complicated position because, at this point, switching to USB-C would force millions of iPhone users to get all-new accessories and chargers. As a result, the Lightning cable remains USB-C’s biggest competitor in the smartphone industry.
Will USB-C cables ever be universal?

USB-C is not yet the universal or perfect cable for every electronic device. Confusing cable types and compatibility issues mean the universal form factor of USB-C doesn’t match up with the non-universal capabilities of other cables. Plus, a lack of support from popular devices like PCs and iPhones makes it difficult for this cable type to gain universal adoption. If USB-C is ever going to truly be a universal cable, developers need to face these issues.

About the author

Emily Newton is a technical writer and the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized. She enjoys researching and writing about how technology is changing the industrial sector.

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Board-to-board connectors fit into wearables

Molex claims the industry’s smallest board-to-board connectors, targeting space-constrained designs such as wearables and smartphones.

Molex has announced commercial availability of its quad-row board-to-board connectors, targeting space-constrained designs such as smartphones, smartwatches, wearables, game consoles, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) devices. They can be used across several market segments including automotive, communications, consumer electronics, defense, and medical, as well as IoT.
Molex’s quad-row board-to-board connectors.

(Source: Molex)

Claiming the industry’s first staggered-circuit layout, the design delivers a 30% space savings over conventional connector designs. The staggered circuit layout is thanks to Molex’s collaboration with a major smartwatch manufacturer and a leading developer and manufacturer of flexible printed circuits (FPCs). This layout positions pins across four rows at a signal contact pitch of 0.175 mm, resulting in space savings and high-density circuit connectivity.

The quad-row board-to-board connectors offer a 3 A current rating, meeting customer requirements for high power in a compact form factor. It also provides a standard, soldering pitch of 0.35 mm for volume manufacturing using surface-mount technology (SMT) processes.

Other features include an interior armor and insert-molded power nail, which safeguard pins from damage during volume manufacturing and assembly. Together, with a wide alignment, these features enable secure mating and lower fallout rates, said the company.

Other specifications include a dielectric withstanding voltage of 250 V and an insulation resistance of 100 Megohms. The operating temperature range is -40 to 85°C.

The quad-row board-to-board connectors are available in 32- and 36-pin configurations with 20- and 64-pin configurations coming soon. A 100-pin configuration is planned. All connectors are RoHS compliant and halogen-free.