Smartphones record HD videos

By Peter Zschunke, IANS
Sunday, November 21, 2010

BERLIN - Pixilation, trailing, colour mishmashes: recording video with a cell phone camera was long considered more of a gimmick than a serious function. But times have changed. Smartphones are now capable of recording films in HD quality.

The scene: a rock concert in Berlin’s Columbia Halle. American hard rock band Korn is playing its song “Falling Away From Me”. The audience is awash with arms held high. Many of them are holding cell phones, taking snapshots as well as home videos.

And while the sounds and images from that kind of recording have traditionally been disappointing, times are changing. Smartphones now offer high definition videos for watching later on the television, and several even offer Dolby surround sound.

The connection between smartphone and TV is often established via HDMI cable. The films can usually be transferred to computers via USB, either directly or using special software specific to the devices.

The clips are typically encoded in the MPEG4 format and can be edited later using video editing software. One minute of HD film eats up around 90 megabytes of storage. This applies to HD video with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels using the progressive scan process (720p), which is what HD-ready mobile phones currently offer.

There are very different HD smartphones running different operating systems (OS) on the market right now. Sony Ericsson issued an HD-ready phone some time ago, the Vivaz. Available from $250 in online shops, the device runs on the Symbian OS, with a touchscreen and 8 megapixel camera. The Vivaz Pro ($260) has a slide-out keyboard as well. The Satio model ($320) works with Symbian and has a 12 megapixel camera.

Samsung also relies on Symbian for its OmniaHD i8910 8GB ($390, eight megapixel camera). Its Galaxy S i9000 8GB ($450), by contrast, runs on Android and offers a five megapixel camera capable of taking HD videos.

Nokia’s N8 ($460) works with the new Symbian 3 operating system and stands out for its 12 megapixel camera. Almost three hours of film in HD quality will fit onto the installed 16 GB of memory. When the battery is full, the Finnish company promises three hours and 20 minutes of recording time.

HTC offers a bevy of solutions. It features two Android models: the Desire HD ($560) and the Desire Z 8510, a similar model with a keyboard and a five-megapixel camera. HTC is also marketing devices running Windows Phone 7: both the Trophy ($460) and the HD7 ($560) shoot images and HD films with a five megapixel camera. The same is true for another Windows Phone 7 device, the E900 Optimus 7 ($470) from LG.

Before you buy one of these mobile mini-computers with a built-in camcorder, you should try to get your hands onto the device to determine whether you like the way it feels. “There are users that purchase just because of the hardware itself and don’t care so much about the user-friendliness and software,” says Carolina Milanesi from marketing research institute Gartner.

The HD quality found in the current crop of mobiles, typically offering a vertical resolution of 720 lines, marks the lower end of the HDTV standard. Sony has now announced a 16.4 megapixel sensor for smartphones, which will make HD videos with 1080 pixels possible.

“I can’t say yet when and how we’ll be integrating it,” explains Sony-Ericsson spokesman Susanne Burgdorf. Perhaps the first smartphones capable of producing higher-end HD video will show up for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2011.

“Mobile end devices represent an important platform for access to video content and films,” explains David Cook, manager at RoxioNow, a video hardware company. The demand for video mobile phones will grow rapidly in the next twelve months, the experts expect.

Filed under: Science and Technology

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