Sony Announces the Exmor RS IMX230

Yesterday, Sony has announced "the commercialization of the Exmor RS™ IMX230 for smartphone cameras and other devices requiring increasingly sophisticated image-capture functionality. With 21 effective megapixels, this stacked CMOS imaging sensor features compact size, higher image quality, and improved functionality."

This is something for those readers who understand more about the technical background of camera sensors than I do - my theoretical knowledge on this matter is still under development in fact, I use smartphones as most of their owners would and share the results. But I have read Sony making claims before without really blowing me away with the results later on. So I wonder what you make of this: is it an interesting development or might it be a breakthrough? In all modesty I think the first, but I'll quote some more from the source (mind you, its a press release):

This is the industry's first CMOS image sensor for smartphones to be equipped with an onboard image plane phase detection AF signal processing function to achieve excellent focus tracking of fast-moving subjects. The High Dynamic Range (HDR) function, which captures both backgrounds and subjects clearly and vividly even in high-contrast scenes such as backlit locations, now supports high-resolution still images and 4K video recording.

Image plane phase detection AF
This function enables the camera to capture quick-moving subjects and makes accurate, high-speed autofocus tracking possible when shooting still images and videos, such as kids and animals constantly on the move and other fast subjects including athletes at sporting events.

Dedicated image plane phase detection AF pixels are discretely incorporated into the screen of the image sensor, and the distance to the subject (range) and lens position for focusing are calculated based on the information obtained from these dedicated pixels. Up to 192 AF points can be used. All of this is instantaneously carried out by the stacked CMOS image sensor's internal image processing circuits, making it easy to enjoy shooting photos and videos of fast-moving subjects on a smartphone or other device.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging
This function enables the camera to record still images and videos that reproduce details and rich gradations in the highlights and shadows of high-contrast scenes, such as those found in backlit environments. This is made possible by setting two different exposure conditions and applying the appropriate signal processing to the image information obtained from each condition.

Through improved pixel placement and signal processing, this new HDR imaging function is now compatible with both video recording and, by popular demand, still image capture, the latter a feature that was not available previously*3. The enhanced resolution and generation of images with a wide dynamic range enable a high level of visibility and the production of images with vivid backgrounds and subjects, even in backlit conditions. This function is also compatible with 4K (4096 x 2160) high-resolution video recording.

HDR imaging sample (right) with the IMX230 type 1/2.4 21 effective megapixels*2 stacked CMOS image sensor
Traditional HDR movie                        New HDR imaging

Key specifications

Again, everthing you read here was quoted from Sony's press release. Do you expect impressive improvement in next year's Sony Xperia Z4? Will the new sensor find its way to other smartphone brands like Samsung? I'm looking forward to your expert opinions.