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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The Dodge M80 Was A Throwback Truck Concept Ahead Of Its Time
If Fisher-Price made combat vehicles in World War II, it might look like the Dodge M80 concept. The M80 was a retro-inspired vehicle in the same way that the PT Cruiser and Plymouth Prowler harkened back to the old days of motoring. Although unlike the PT Cruiser and the poor Prowler, the M80 didn’t make anyone who looked at it think cars in general were a bad idea.
As reported by Canadian Driver in 2002, the Dodge M80’s exterior was entirely new, but it had familiar bones as it was based on the Dodge Dakota and was powered by a 3.7-liter 210-horsepower V6. With an estimated weight of just 2,500 pounds, it would have been a featherweight next to other trucks at the time. For comparison, a Ford Ranger from the same year had a curb weight of 3,085 pounds (via Edmunds). Where the M80 really shined was its proposed simplicity and capability. The interior was spartan and therefore easy to clean. Pictures of the concept show compartments galore, including a rear window that allowed either access to the bed while in the truck or effectively lengthened the truck bed. GMC is currently putting a similar feature to use in the EV version of the Sierra.
The Dodge M80 unfortunately never came to pass. As such, it was not able to breath life into the floundering compact truck market at the beginning of the new Millenium. Fortunately, the future is bright for small trucks with the introduction of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Why You Need To Use Google Chrome’s Enhanced Safe Browsing Mode
First, the basics. Activating Enhanced Safe Browsing in Chrome is a simple process: just click Settings, scroll to Privacy And Security > Safe Browsing, and select the Enhanced option. The importance of Enhanced Safe Browsing is a somewhat longer story. In short, no security is foolproof, and Google has historically erred on the side of making simple, accessible tools for consumers. Incognito Mode in particular is allegedly considered a bit of a joke over at Google HQ; some users are even suing over its limitations.
By contrast, Enhanced Safe Browsing focuses on the security holes hackers are most likely to exploit. Per Google, Enhanced Safe Browsing uses multiple strategies to guarantee user safety: it checks websites against a constantly updated list of unsafe locations, examines unusual URLs for potential phishing scams, and inspects downloads for dangerous or corrupted files. It even takes a sampling of potential threats a given user has encountered and syncs it with their Google Account, allowing for personalized security focused on the risks that the user is most likely to face. All this happens in real time, as the user goes about their browsing session.
Note that Enhanced Safe Browsing’s real-time service means sending more user data to Google than browsing in normal or Incognito Mode. That’s a concern worth being aware of: big companies have security breaches, too, and are by no means universally trustworthy when it comes to user data. That said, participating in the digital world more or less requires users to operate within the ecosystem of one of a handful of large companies. If your home or office is a Google shop, Enhanced Safe Browsing is unquestionably the most secure option available.
Musk Announces Twitter Ad Sharing Program For Creators, But There’s A Big Catch
While Musk’s plan for ad revenue sharing sure sounds like a desperate attempt to lure creators as well as advertisers onto the platform, there’s a huge caveat. Only accounts subscribed to the Twitter Blue service will be eligible for an ad money cut. In a nutshell, if you seek to make money from reply section ads, you will first have to pay a sum of $8 per month to the company.
Musk also clarified that legacy verified accounts will have to pay for a Twitter Blue subscription in order to retain the blue check mark and command a cut from ads popping up in their reply sections. He has previously stated that a Twitter Blue subscription will be mandatory for retaining the coveted blue tick following a grace period.
Twitter’s legacy Blue Verified is unfortunately deeply corrupted, so will sunset in a few months
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2023
“Twitter’s legacy Blue Verified is unfortunately deeply corrupted, so will sunset in a few months,” he wrote earlier this week. However, Musk’s announcement hasn’t really won a lot of fans. Plus, it also portends that ads will soon be a commonplace in the replies, opening a whole new universe for spammy ads and making it an even less desirable place to look for meaningful user interactions.
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