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Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is the first foldable with a flexible glass cover

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Take a Samsung phone, bend it in half, and what do you get? The Galaxy Z Flip! Alongside the Galaxy S20, Samsung is also introducing its second-ever foldable smartphone. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, which was a tiny tablet that folded in half, the Galaxy Z Flip is closer to a normal-size smartphone that folds into a tiny square, making it Samsung’s competitor to the Moto Razr.

When open, the Z Flip is about the size of a Galaxy S20+. You get a 6.7-inch, 2636×1080 OLED panel with a hole-punch camera, the usual Samsung interface, and slightly thicker-than-normal bezels. Close the phone and you’ll see a tiny 1.1-inch, 300×116 display on the front, which is just big enough to display the time, date, battery status, and any incoming notifications.

While the Galaxy Z Flip has plenty in common with the Galaxy Fold, one big improvement is that it’s the first foldable smartphone with a glass display cover. That’s right, glass that can fold in half. Previous foldable smartphones used a plastic display cover, which introduced all sorts of problems. Plastic is delicate and easily scratched, which limits many of the design possibilities of foldable devices. Designs like the Huawei Mate X, with a wraparound display on the outside, are not going to last long with only plastic for protection. Plastic is also not a great material when it comes to sliding your finger across the display. The Galaxy Fold had a big indent in the middle of the display where it folded in half, creating a valley for your finger to get stuck in. For the new Moto Razr, Motorola warns “bumps and lumps are normal” in the plastic-covered display. Samsung’s flexible glass is the first step toward more durable, practical, better-feeling foldable devices. Samsung says the phone can survive 200,000 folds.

The hinge of the Z Flip still doesn’t fold completely flat, though. Like the Galaxy Fold, the hinge closes with a small gap on the crease of the display, which limits the amount of stress the display and the glass have to go through. The hinge looks just like the Galaxy Fold’s hinge, complete with “T”-shaped hinge covers that were added to the post-delay revision of the Galaxy Fold. Also like the Galaxy Fold, the bezel is raised plastic, which keeps the two halves of the display separated when the phone is closed. On the Fold, this raised plastic got in the way of Android’s numerous edge gestures.

The Galaxy Fold hinge had trouble with debris ingress, and Samsung attempted to address that with the Galaxy Z Flip. Samsung says the hinge features “nylon fibers crafted by micro-height-cutting technology to repel dirt and dust.” It looks like it has brushes around the hinge to keep dust out.

One new trick in the Z Flip’s hinge is the ability to sit on a table half-open in an “L” shape, making the phone look a bit like a makeup compact. In this “L” shape, the phone can freely stand up on a table, and Samsung’s Android skin will split the software between the top and bottom half of the display, letting you do things like have a video call in the upright, top portion of the display. Neat!

The Z Flip specs aren’t up to the same 2020 flagship standards as the Galaxy S20. Instead, this is more like a phone from last year. You get 2019’s Qualcomm chip (the Snapdragon 855+) instead of the newer Snapdragon 865 launching with the S20. After the delay of the Galaxy Fold, we’ve got to wonder if this phone was also delayed. A launch next to the Galaxy Note 10 in August would have made much more sense for a Snapdragon 855+ device.

The phone has 8GB of RAM, 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage, a MicroSD slot, and a 3300mAh battery. That battery shows the tradeoff you’re making with foldable devices. The similarly sized Galaxy S20+ has a much bigger 4500mAh battery—the hinge in the middle of these foldables takes up a lot of space that would otherwise be used for battery.

The camera package is a step down from the S20, too. You’re getting a 12MP main camera and a 12MP wide-angle camera on the rear, and that’s it. Instead of an in-screen fingerprint reader, the reader is mounted on the side of the phone. The Z Flip has wireless charging, a USB-C port, and no headphone jack.

The Z Flip will retail for $1,380, putting it at basically the same price as the highest-end Galaxy S20, the $1,399 Galaxy S20 Ultra. The two phones will offer an interesting question to consumers. Do you want the standard form factor Galaxy S20 with a better camera and faster SoC, or do you want the slower, less capable phone that comes in a wild new form factor? So far, every foldable has had durability issues that crop up quickly after launch, so even if you’re interested in the Z Flip, it’s probably best to wait for initial reports on the device.

The phone ships February 14.

Listing image by Samsung

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The MacBook Pro will soon get a resolution bump, macOS beta suggests

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Enlarge / The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Samuel Axon

The seventh beta of macOS Monterey contains what appear to be references to new screen resolutions suitable for the MacBook Pro line, as discovered by MacRumors.

In a list of supported graphics resolutions within macOS, there are two new resolutions: 3,456 by 2,234 and 3,024 by 1,964. Each carries a “Retina” marker, which Apple typically only applies to its own devices’ screens.

The aspect ratio for these new resolutions is very close to the current aspect ratios on the MacBook Pro computers sold today, but they’re lower than what we currently see in the iMac line, suggesting that they aren’t for Apple’s desktops. Further, the numbers fit nicely with a move to true 2x Retina, as opposed to the scaling approach presently used for Retina displays.

It is possible that this is a mistake, but the timing is convenient. macOS Monterey is expected to launch this fall alongside new MacBook Pro models featuring custom-designed Apple silicon that would be faster successors to Apple’s much-lauded M1 chips found in lower-end Macs and the most recent refresh of the iPad Pro.

If reports in Bloomberg and elsewhere are to be believed, the new laptops would also include Mini LED displays, which provide better contrast than the display technology currently used in Mac laptops, as well as additional ports like HDMI or an SD card slot. These devices would also drop the Touch Bar, which some users like but others hate, in favor of a return to physical function keys. The 13-inch MacBook Pro would probably see reduced bezels, making it a 14-inch MacBook Pro. (A similar change replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 16-inch model a couple of years ago.)

So increased screen resolutions join a plethora of other likely changes that would make for the most significant redesign of the MacBook Pro since the first Touch Bar models in 2016.

Leaks have also pointed to an upcoming MacBook Air redesign, but that laptop is unlikely to come until later.

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The Surface Duo’s two-year-old Android OS will be updated sometime this year

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If Microsoft wants to be taken seriously as an Android manufacturer, one of the things it will need to establish is a track record of reliable, on-time software updates. But as the company launches a second generation of the Surface Duo and the company’s first Android phone turns a year old, so far Microsoft has failed to impress.

The Surface Duo 1 shipped in September 2020 with Android 10, which was a full year old at the time, and Android 11 had already launched. The hope was that Microsoft would quickly update the Duo to the latest version of Android, but that never happened. Today the device is still running Android 10, which is now two years old, and Android 12 is about to ship. Microsoft has finally broken its silence about Surface Duo 1 updates, and the company tells The Verge it plans to update the device to Android 11 “before the end of this year.”

Assuming Microsoft follows through on its promise, the company’s $1,400 flagship device will be updated from a two-year-old operating system to a one-year-old operating system. Microsoft committed to three years of updates, and it has been delivering monthly security updates. But this is still worst-in-class update support, especially for the price. Samsung usually rolls out Android to its latest flagship three months after Google’s release, while OnePlus usually takes around a month—Microsoft’s one-year timeframe is really bad.

Microsoft is, at least, communicating. Before, it never really let its customers know when Android 11 would be arriving on the Surface Duo until this latest report, leaving the rumor mill to fill in the gaps. It would be nice to get a timeframe for Android 12 releases, given the latest update will be out any day now. Perhaps Microsoft’s lack of communication was due to the company just not knowing when Android 11 would be done. The Android 10 build that shipped on the original Duo had all sorts of bugs, and the company is clearly having a hard time transitioning to Android.

Perhaps some of Microsoft’s update problems were caused by the Duo 1 originally being designed for a now-canceled mobile resurrection of Windows; Microsoft was essentially forced to switch to Android later in that product’s development life. Unsurprisingly, the Windows-maker didn’t have a lot of Android OS engineers on staff at the time, and Microsoft ended up outsourcing the Duo’s OS development to a company called “Movial.” Microsoft ended up acquiring Movial just two months before the Duo’s release date, which doesn’t sound like ideal timing.

The Duo 1’s Windows DNA resulted in a device with very different underpinnings from a normal Android phone, like a “custom engineered” Microsoft UEFI instead of the normal Qualcomm one. The Duo 2 should have been designed from the start with Android as the target, so maybe things will be better for the sequel?

Listing image by Ron Amadeo

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Windows 11 hits the Release Preview Insider channel as official release nears

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Enlarge / The “official” Windows 11 update, complete with the UI that regular people will see, is now available in the Release Preview channel for Windows Insiders.

Andrew Cunningham

Yesterday, Microsoft released a near-final build of Windows 11 to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview channel, which (as the name implies) is generally the last stop for a major new Windows version ahead of its release to the general public. The official release date for Windows 11 is October 5, but Microsoft is planning to roll it out gradually over the next few months to prevent widespread problems.

The build number in the Release Preview channel is 22000.194, the same version released to the Beta channel on September 16.

While Beta- and Dev-channel builds of Windows 11 are simply downloaded and installed like regular Windows Updates, the version in the Release Preview channel gives you the same upgrade message that will be offered to the public when Microsoft offers the Windows 11 upgrade for their PCs. This includes a system notification that users can click through to learn more about Windows 11’s new features and a special update message in Windows Update that will give you the opportunity to waive the Windows 11 upgrade and stay on Windows 10 (seen above).

Windows 10 can run on pretty much any PC that could run Windows 7 or Windows 8, but Windows 11 comes with stringent new processor and security hardware requirements that severely limit its compatibility. The most important is the CPU requirement, which generally mandates an 8th-generation Intel Core processor (introduced in late 2017) or newer or a 2nd-generation AMD Ryzen processor (introduced in mid 2018) or newer. There are only a handful of exceptions for older processors, including for Microsoft’s own Surface Studio desktop—Microsoft has the full list of Intel and AMD processors available on its documentation site.

If your PC can run it, Windows 11 includes a refreshed user interface, rescued from Microsoft’s failed “Windows 10X” project. The redesign overhauls the taskbar, Start menu, system tray, the Settings app, and Windows Explorer, as well as right-click menus and built-in apps throughout the OS. It also adds some gaming features and improvements to the Windows Subsystem for Linux, though some of these will be backported to Windows 10.

Listing image by Microsoft

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