Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Samsung tries to deliver a big innovation and fails miserably.
A big story this week on TechCrunch was that in the buildup to the release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, potentially one of the weirdest, most innovative, most expensive phones shipped in the past decade, there are some signs that this could be a momentous failure. Samsung only sent out about a dozen review units to press outlets, and three of them seemed to fail for three distinct reasons.
Does this inspire much faith in the durability of the $1,980 hardware (which has already sold out in pre-orders)? Not quite.
“A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter,” a Samsung spokesperson publicly detailed, responding to the issues.
This nascent scandal may lead you to recall the Note 7 debacle, which earned Samsung what was perhaps the worst free advertising ever, with the FAA mandating just about every domestic flight begin with the pilot ensuring that the plane was Note 7-free. A phone spontaneously dying is a cake walk compared to a phablet bomb, but we’ll see whether this was just a big pre-release fluke and the consumer units prove more durable. That said, a failure rate of around 25 percent for models sent to journalists after a few days doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence.
Brian seemed to have some pretty nice things to say about his early time with the device:
I will say I did get a chance to fumble around with the Fold this week while our hardware editor Brian Heater was in town, and I personally found the device pretty inspiring. The screen on his still-functioning device is really quite beautiful and it all just feels like an innovative approach, even if it’s very first-gen at its heart.
Its good qualities all rely on the device continuing to function though, so I won’t get too complimentary until we get some further clarity on that.
Trends of the week
Here are a few big news items from big companies, with links to all the sweet, sweet added context.
- Apple +
IntelQualcomm = best friends
The two companies finally put aside their royalties and patent troll skirmishes, and various media reports suggest Apple’s mobile mea culpa was all about accepting Qualcomm’s command on 5G modems — something the iPhone giant really couldn’t afford to overlook. It was great news for Qualcomm, which had a major stock rally this week, but probably bad news for Intel, which seemed to be embracing a renewed and improved relationship with Apple as it tried to replace Qualcomm’s tech. Oh well.
- TikTok’s shock block
Chinese company ByteDance’s cross-border hit TikTok hit a major stumbling block in India after a judge there ruled that app downloads had to be halted on iOS and Android following a number of issues regarding porn and other “illegal content.” There are 120 million existing TikTok users in India, but they shouldn’t be affected, as the service itself has not been banned — you just won’t find them in the app stores there.
- Move slow, still break things
Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey continued his ill-advised public speaking tour with a chat at TED, where he first said he isn’t sure he’d build Twitter the same way if he got a second shot. “If I had to start the service again, I would not emphasize the follower count as much … I don’t think I would create ‘likes’ in the first place.” In response to a question about his lack of urgency in fixing some of Twitter’s more egregious problems, Dorsey said, “We are working as quickly as we can, but quickness will not get the job done… It’s focus, it’s prioritization, it’s understanding the fundamentals of the network.”
- Sony teases an 8K PS5… Xbox loses a slot
While Google is betting on a world without dedicated high-end gaming hardware with its Stadia game-streaming platform, Xbox is betting on a future without physical media. Microsoft released the Xbox One S “All-Digital Edition” this week for $249. The company has been piping out mid-generation upgrades for Xbox One, and this is its most minor hardware update — there are almost no differences beyond the disc drive. Meanwhile, PlayStation kind of stole Xbox’s press lunch by giving some details on the PS5. Also on the gaming front, a report suggests Apple is spending more than $500 million on its Arcade gaming subscription service.
Shoot me tips or feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
How did the top tech companies screw-up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:
- Facebook elaborates more on that “screwing over users’ privacy” thing it does from time to time:
[Facebook now says its password leak affected ‘millions’ of Instagram users]
- YouTube managed to add its own conspiracy to videos of the Notre-Dame fire:
[YouTube’s algorithm added 9/11 facts to a live stream of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire]
Our premium subscription service has been off to a great start. I just kicked off my new series this week, “The Exit,” where I interview a lead investor in a recent exit. I talked to Bessemer’s Adam Fisher, who led Bessemer’s investments in Dynamic Yield, which McDonald’s bought last month for $300 million.
“The pivot from courting the grey lady to the golden arches isn’t as drastic as it sounds. In a lot of ways, it’s the result of the company learning to say ‘no’ to certain customers…”
Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers —
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Beeper is a catch-all app by the Pebble guy with iMessage, Telegram, WhatsApp, and more
Beeper is a new app from the guy (Eric Migicovsky) who founded Pebble, one of the first very interesting smart wearable devices in the modern smartphone age. The app Beeper “gives you a unified inbox for 15 chat networks” and makes the whole process relatively simple. This app connects to Signal, Discord, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Android Messages (SMS), Telegram, Twitter, and a whole lot more.
The full Beeper support listing also includes Slack, Hangouts, Instagram, Skype, IRC, Matrix, and the Beeper network. And it’s not free. It’ll cost you approximately $10 per month to use.
Beeper opened sourced all of its bridges to allow users to audit how the app connects to each chat network. Each user can verify the security of their own data, and self host if they prefer.
If you wish to self host, you’ll either self-host with the full Matrix+bridges stack, or you’ll run the Beeper install script on your amd64 server of 4GB Raspberry Pi and “run all bridges locally on your own hardware.” This version requires a Beeper subscription, too.
With Beeper, iMessage works on Android, Windows, and Linux. To make this work, Beeper suggests the following. “We send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage,” wrote a Beeper representative. “Or if they have a Mac that is always connected to the internet, they can install the Beeper Mac app which acts as a bridge. This is not a joke, it really works!”
At the moment, Beeper is holding a line, as is the general best way to get people interested in a product or service here in modern times. As the sign-up process suggests, “Thanks for signing up for Beeper! Over the last 24 hours we have had a record number of people interested in using Beeper.” That could mean so very many things, but for now it means we’re just going to have to sit and wait.
Samsung Display will mass-produce the first 90Hz OLED laptop screens
Samsung Display has announced that it will mass-produce the world’s first 90Hz OLED laptops starting in Q1 of 2021. Initially, the company will produce “very large quantities” of 14-inch 90Hz OLED displays aimed at laptops and notebooks. According to Samsung Displaying CEO Joo Sun Choi, the screens will start production in March.
A 90Hz refresh rate is a significant improvement compared to most laptops and notebooks that currently offer a 60Hz refresh rate. Samsung Display says it’s collaborating closely with global computer manufacturers to usher in a new level of excellence for refresh rates. Samsung believes the adoption of the new OLED panels will happen quickly despite the fact that the panel requires the use of a “high-spec graphics card.”
The faster refresh rate updates static images 90 times per second, making the movement on-screen look more lifelike. Faster updates for changes in motion on screen provide smoother visuals appearing more seamless to the viewer. OLED screens can transition between scenes more quickly than LCD screens with the same refresh rate.
Samsung Display says its 90Hz OLED refresh rate is ten times that of the fastest screen response time on the market today. The company notes its 90Hz OLED offers speed on par with 120Hz LCD screens. The high refresh rate of OLED screens makes them particularly well-suited to gaming and watching movies.
In testing, Samsung Display tested blur length using the same motion picture of a car driving fast and found image drag for a 90Hz OLED and a 120Hz LCD measured 0.9mm and 1mm, respectively. Samsung says that its OLED screens smear very little and offer practically the same rate as faster LCDs. It’s unclear what sort of pricing the new OLED will enter the market at.
iPad Mini 6 leak sounds almost too good to be true
While Apple continues to push the iPads as the next generation of computers, that rhetoric really only applies to its iPad Pro line. The lines between its various iPads, however, have started to blur, especially with the addition of Apple Pencil support all the way down to the bottom. The iPad Mini, however, still remains Apple’s simplest and most affordable entry point, making these details about the alleged iPad Mini 6 sound more like a wishlist.
Right off the bat, the thought that Apple would even dare mar any of its screens with a punch-hole cutout sounds almost insane, given the company’s attention to design and details. Then again, it did introduce a rather large “bucket” notch and never backed out from that design on the iPhones. It’s exactly because of that stubbornness that it feels almost unlikely that the iPad Mini 6 would sport such a hole.
Pigtou, collaborating with @xleaks, still has more to share, though. The iPad Mini 6, the site claims, will have Apple’s first-ever in-display fingerprint sensor, something the company has been rumored to be working on for years. Given the criticism of the technology and praise for Apple’s Face ID, that again sounds like a step backward.
The rest of the iPad Mini 6 will remain the same, though. The camera will still be small and probably negligible affair while the edges still bear the soft curves of previous iPad Minis. In other words, it won’t be adopting the new iPad and iPad Pro appearances anytime soon.
If these do come to pass, the iPad Mini 6 will have a very competitive screen that will be larger than its predecessors without actually increasing the size of the device. This, however, doesn’t sound like the Apple we know but, to be fair, the company has managed to shock everyone from time to time, for better or, sometimes, for worse.
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