Now that the Galaxy Fold is on hold, Samsung should wait for Android Q

Samsung Galaxy Fold ope side on table

Opinion post by
Justin Duino

After the events of last week, Samsung decided to push back the release of the Galaxy Fold for at least a month. While this delay is due to both user and mechanical issues, I’d suggest Samsung hold off on selling the device until it’s running Android Q.

When Samsung has shown off the Galaxy Fold in demos, the software experience has always appeared seamless. But those are controlled situations where the company has worked to make sure everything is nearly perfect. 

Now that we’ve been able to go hands-on with the foldable — hardware issues aside — it’s pretty clear that the software needs some more work. Before the phone was even in reviewer’s hands, we knew that apps not built with the new form factor in mind would launch with black bars on either side of the interface.

Editor’s Pick

What’s worse than that is the fact that most apps haven’t been updated to work with what Samsung is calling App Continuity. Instead of being able to flip open the Galaxy Fold and have the app that was open on the smaller screen instantly resize for the tablet display, users were stuck with the phone interface. To get the app to resize (if it even offered a tablet form factor), users would have to restart and relaunch the app.

And thus, the reason why the Galaxy Fold should be held until Android Q is available. With the release of the second beta build of the Android Q, Google made a foldable emulator within Android Studio. While developers can now start building their apps for the form factor, that won’t make them ready for a product that was destined to be released to the masses in a week.

Android Q Foldables App Development Google

Samsung has already stated it knows that the Galaxy Fold is a luxury product and plans to launch a concierge-like service to assist customers with problems. But despite the price tag, pre-orders of the device were already selling out. With that much demand, Samsung is selling this first-generation product to regular consumers, not just technical users who will be comfortable dealing with bugs and other issues.

Samsung is selling this first-generation product to regular consumers, not just technical users.

I’ll end this article as I started it: Samsung should hold off on releasing the Galaxy Fold until Android Q is released. Only at that time will developers be able to properly build apps for the device. If the app experience is solid even 80 percent of the time, the average owner would be more inclined not to view the foldable as a prototype or beta product.

What do you think? Is Samsung using early adopters as beta testers? Do you think Samsung is rushing the Galaxy Fold out the door to be first onto the market?

Twitter likely won’t add an edit button until it starts bleeding users

Twitter app

Opinion post by
Justin Duino

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But what if I told you that there was one other truth in life? That certainty, as you might have guessed by this post’s headline, is that Twitter will likely never add an edit button to its social network.

Twitter, like many other social networks, provides users the ability to type out statuses in the form of tweets. And because everyone is human, it’s inevitable that someone will make a spelling or grammatical error.

But unlike many other platforms, Twitter has so far refused to allow its users to edit tweets. And unless something significant happens, there’s probably not much chance the service will ever add one.

Why isn’t there a Twitter edit button?

When Twitter was founded, it relied on its users sending messages via SMS. It was this instant and raw posting that helped the social network take off the ground.

The site has grown immensely in its 13 years, but the history of the site can still be found in the foundation of the platform. Despite now accepting various forms of media on the social network, the core feature of Twitter is still text-based tweets that include the publisher’s thoughts on a subject.

Editor’s Pick

So although users see the usefulness of being able to edit a tweet after spotting a typo quickly, Twitter retains that there is value in having whatever posted stay online. Of course, someone could delete the tweet and reshare it with any corrections, but that defeats the user’s desire to quickly edit a message and the company’s belief that errors are a part of life.

Twitter has considered editing options

For years now we’ve heard rumors and seen hints that Twitter might be working on an edit button. Unfortunately, none of these have come to fruition.

One of the most recent pieces of evidence that have come to light came straight from Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey. In a recent podcast interview, the social network founder talked at length as to potential ways it could implement an edit option.

Dorsey goes into detail on how the edit button might work on Joe Rogan’s podcast at the 1:19:50 mark:

Specifically, in the interview, Dorsey suggests that Twitter could offer a five to 30-second window in which a tweet would be delayed from sending and allow users to spot any errors. He then follows this up by stating that by adding this feature, it would remove the “real-time nature and conversational flow out of the tweet.”

It’s clear to me from this interview that the company is at odds with itself. While the site appears to see the benefit of allowing its users to fix their tweets, it also disrupts the fast-paced sharing of thoughts and information that makes the platform unique.

What are other social networks doing?

Social Media Android Apps

Two of Twitter’s biggest social media rivals are Facebook and Instagram. As you likely know, both platforms allow its users to edit postings days, months, and even years after a status is shared.

To make it clear to third parties reading someone’s edited status, both Facebook and Instagram include an “Edited” icon next to the status. On Facebook, you can click on this icon and compare the original content versus the edited post.

Facebook and Instagram show when a post has been edited

On Instagram, you have to click into the comment section to see the icon. Unfortunately, you cannot see the revision history.

The addition of this feature to Facebook was a big thing when it happened in 2013. Finally, users could share long and detailed statuses that they could easily correct or add to later without having to go through the hassle of deleting and reposting.

Twitter needs motivation to add an edit button

So if other sites have figured out a way to edit statuses far beyond a set time limit, why won’t Twitter? If you ask me, it’s because the company currently doesn’t have a reason to offer it to its users.

As with most people or corporations, you have to provide Twitter with a clear benefit for them to change. As it stands today, users are continually tweeting about wanting an edit button, but in the grand scheme of things, the lack of one isn’t hurting anyone.

Twitter doesn’t even try to hide the fact that its users are demanding an option to edit tweets. As you can see below, its official account routinely mocks the idea of an edit button:

In my opinion, the only reason why Twitter will ever add an edit button is if users start leaving the social network. In this scenario, though, the reason for the loss of users would have to be from them losing interest in the platform based on a lack of new features or other social media sites offering them incentives to use its service.

Even if that day comes, Twitter might still hold out. At this point, an edit button has become an inside joke for the site and its users. While almost everyone will almost universally agree that an editing option would be nice, it won’t be a make-or-break feature for most.


Do you think Twitter will ever let users edit their tweets? How should the social network implement an edit option? Let me know your thoughts itn the comment section.

Smartphone stills are getting so much better, but what about video?

Xiaomi Mi 9 three triple camera details

Opinion post by
C. Scott Brown

If you watch any smartphone launch event from the last few years, chances are exceptionally good that a large part of that presentation will focus on the phone’s camera. The phone will likely have multiple lenses, state-of-the-art sensors, and software tweaks that will make your photos really pop.

However, you likely won’t hear much about the smartphone video capabilities of the device. If it is even mentioned at all, it’s likely it will be just a brief statement and that’s it.

When it comes down to it, the video capabilities of smartphones appear to be more of an afterthought than anything else.

Yes, most every smartphone will shoot high-definition video — likely in 4K — and feature settings tweaks that will allow you to get some pretty decent footage. When you compare smartphone video features to smartphone still photography features though, there’s likely no comparison. Why is that?

A very common omission

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs OnePlus 6 camera

To illustrate how prevalent the omission of smartphone video capabilities really is, take the camera review site DxOMark. However you might feel about DxOMark’s reviews, the organization is a common starting point for many people when it comes to determining the “best” smartphone camera.

Editor’s Pick

If you pick any of DxOMark’s reviews at random, you’ll likely find that the overwhelming bulk of the page — let’s say over 80 percent — will be devoted to the still photography capabilities of the phone. The video capabilities will be nestled at the bottom of the page, taking up maybe only a few paragraphs of space. If you want to see for yourself, check out the DxOMark reviews for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the HTC U12 Plus.

If DxOMark — one of the leading smartphone camera analysts — is all but ignoring video capabilities, what kind of message does that send?

Let’s move to another example — take a look at this official promotional video for the Google Pixel 3:

The camera has always been the crown jewel of the Pixel line, and the first third of this video is all about the Pixel 3’s camera — but only when it comes to taking still pictures. The only thing in the promo that references video capabilities of the device is when it mentions Google Playground and its AR characters. Even that is not really “video” related — it’s more of an AR feature than anything else.

Here’s a further example of this: the launch video for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. In this video, Samsung pushes smartphone still photography pretty hard in the middle of the promo, but makes no mention at all of its video capabilities:

If smartphone manufacturers are also all but ignoring the video capabilities of their own products, why should consumers care?

It’s not just the smartphone manufacturers or the camera analysts that are guilty of ignoring video features — it’s review sites like ours, too. If you read a smartphone review here at Android Authority, you won’t find much about how well the smartphone shoots video.

Editor’s Pick

In our review for the OnePlus 6T, for example, there’s no mention at all of the phone’s video capabilities while there’s plenty of talk of its photo features and upgrades as compared to the OnePlus 6 (the review for that phone has two sentences on video shooting). I’m sure if you go to other smartphone review sites, you’ll find similar omissions.

While it’s certainly not the end of the world, it is quite perplexing that video creation — one of the hallmark features of any smartphone — is brushed aside by the media, the analysts, and even the smartphone manufacturers themselves. Why does video get the cold shoulder?

The likely explanations

A photograph of the Google Pixel 3 XL taking a picture of a cat on a bed.

There isn’t really a “smoking gun” explanation for why smartphone video capabilities aren’t more prevalent, but there are a few big reasons why this happens.

The first and likely most important reason is marketing jargon. When companies are trying to push a new phone, they need simple, easy-to-explain reasons why their product is better than another brand’s product. In most cases, still photography features are simply easier to explain over video capabilities.

Editor’s Pick

As an example of this, take Google’s Night Sight, the camera feature that makes a photograph taken in the dark magically look like it was taken with perfect lighting. This feature is incredibly easy to explain just with the name alone, and it’s a feature that most everyone who’s taken a picture in the dark with a smartphone will appreciate. It’s an easy sell that’s easily explained.

On the flip side, imagine a marketing campaign trying to explain why shooting at 60fps is better than 30fps. Sure, 60fps is twice as many frames per second, but how would you explain that to someone who has absolutely no idea of why the number of frames in one second of video footage should matter? It’s not an impossible task, sure, but certainly not as easy as “This phone takes good pictures in the dark.”

One of the big reasons for this is the simple fact that selling a photography feature is more straightforward than selling a video one.

The second of the three main reasons that video capabilities tend to be ignored is the technical difficulties of creating really cool features for video shooting. R&D teams working for smartphone manufacturers will likely have a much easier time creating the next-big-feature for smartphone still photography than they would creating something similar for video. The reasoning for that is pretty simple: a photograph is one static image, while video is far more complicated.

As such, you can imagine a smartphone OEM seeing that it will spend more time and money on one tough video feature than it would spend on several still features. In that case, the decision of what to do going forward becomes pretty clear.

RELATED: Here’s how Night Sight on the Google Pixel 3 works

When it comes to reviews sites like Android Authority or analyst sites like DxOMark, the most likely reason for the omission of video functions in reviews is that readers don’t seem to mind that the topic is omitted. Here at Android Authority, we don’t see many comments from readers asking about video features, and we imagine DxOMark might have noticed similar trends.

Video can’t be ignored forever

Despite the current shortcomings when it comes to smartphone video, it won’t be like this for long.

Head to a public park on the next nice afternoon and take a look around. Chances are good you’ll see at least a few people taking video footage of some kind, whether it’s filming their children playing, vlogging, or trying to nab a cool slo-mo image of a skateboard trick.

Editor’s Pick

After the park, head to a local nightclub and see how many people take video of their adventures to post on social media. You’ll likely see quite a bit.

It’s clear that people are already heavily integrating video in their lives, and that’s a trend that isn’t going away. With 5G service on the horizon, it’s going to be easier than ever for people to transfer and upload high-definition video content to social platforms or directly to friends and family. With internal storage on smartphones getting bigger and bigger — and cloud backup platforms getting cheaper and cheaper — people also won’t need to worry as much about “space” when filming.

It’s clear that people are only going to be using video features more going forward, not less. OEMs will have to respond to this trend.

It should also be mentioned that most social media platforms are pushing for more video content creation on their platforms. Just look at the popularity of Instagram Stories or Facebook’s push for more video content appearing in people’s feeds.

Also, YouTube is only getting bigger and a new generation of YouTube stars is just around the corner. Those stars are going to want access to the best video-creation tools they can get, and they are going to be looking for them from smartphones. It’s in every OEM’s best interests to create those products for them.

It should also be acknowledged that new video features are appearing on devices, despite the fact that few OEMs are heavily promoting them. For example, LG has manual video controls (letting you adjust bit rate, audio levels, etc.) while Sony offers 4K HDR video recording. Huawei has video bokeh as well as color pop (which films in black and white but certain objects are still in color) and Pixel devices have motion autofocus. You may or may not have known these features exist, but they do.

This lack of promotion is changing, though. Remember those promotional videos I shared earlier in the article? Check out the one below which is for the just-released Samsung Galaxy S10:

This promo video contains a huge chunk on the video capabilities of the Galaxy S10, including filming HDR10+ footage, optical image stabilization, and automatic filtering and retouching. This is just the beginning — expect more companies to start pushing smartphone video capabilities going forward.


Tell us what you think! Would you like to see Android Authority reviews focus more on smartphone video capabilities? Let us know by casting your vote in the poll below!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

NEXT: 10 best video editor apps for Android

The Samsung Galaxy S10 might just steal this OnePlus fan’s money

The distracted boyfriend meme with the girl in the red dress being the Samsung Galaxy S10, the man being the author, and the girlfriend being OnePlus.

Opinion post by
C. Scott Brown

It’s no secret I’m a fan of OnePlus phones. I appreciate the company’s attention to design detail and how it offers flagship features at much lower prices than most of the competition. I also am absolutely in love with OxygenOS, the company’s beautifully simple Android skin.

But I gotta tell you: the Samsung Galaxy S10 is looking mighty fine.

I recently had the chance to visit one of the three brand new Samsung Experience Stores here in the U.S. While I was there, I got to play with three models in the new S10 lineup: the Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus, and Galaxy S10e. All three devices left me very impressed.

As I left the store, I found myself imagining buying one of the phones. I won’t lie: I haven’t seriously thought about buying a Samsung phone in years. It was like running into an old flame and finding myself imagining getting back together, even though my brain is saying, “Don’t do it! It’ll be a mistake!”

Let me tell you why the Samsung Galaxy S10 is enticing me away from my beloved OnePlus — and talk a bit about why I might not make the switch.

Why I might buy the Samsung Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs OnePlus 6T camera

Just for a little backstory here, the last Samsung phone I owned was the Samsung Galaxy S4 which I bought in 2013. Prior to that, I owned the Samsung Galaxy S3 (one of my favorite phones ever) and before that, I owned the original Samsung Galaxy S. I am no stranger to Samsung phones.

While I loved the form factor of its devices and the myriad cool features they offer, I absolutely loathed TouchWiz, Samsung’s original Android skin. I hated it from the very beginning but kept giving it new chances with each new device.

Inevitably, with almost all my Samsung phones, I flashed CyanogenMod as soon as I could to avoid using TouchWiz. This worked, for sure, but was also a huge pain.

When OnePlus came around and announced the OnePlus One, it was like my prayers had been answered: a device with almost all the specs of a Galaxy S device pre-loaded with CyanogenMod — and it only cost a measly $300.

As soon as I got an invite for a OnePlus One I bought it and never looked back — I was officially done with Samsung.

Samsung has made huge strides in software with One UI and offers hardware features OnePlus phones don’t have.

Fast-forward to today, and we have the brand new One UI, a different kind of Android skin from Samsung. While it is still a little too cutesy for my tastes, it is light years ahead of TouchWiz and Samsung Experience (TouchWiz 2.0).

I appreciate how One UI is cleaner, simpler, and more intuitive than anything Samsung’s done in the past. I also appreciate how Samsung is looking at how we use our phones today and modifying the software to accommodate — a true “customer first” approach.

Editor’s Pick

Along with One UI, the Samsung Galaxy S10 features an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, which is perfect for me. As I discuss in my smartphone essentials article, I hate having to pick my phone up off my desk to unlock it using a rear sensor. The in-display fingerprint sensor on my current daily driver — the OnePlus 6T — is one of my favorite features. From everything I know so far, it appears Samsung’s ultrasonic sensor is even better.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 also features a remappable hardware button, something OnePlus doesn’t offer. The button opens Bixby by default, but Samsung is finally listening to users and letting them map it. A single press could launch just about any app, while a double-press could do something completely different. I would have so much fun playing around with this.

Lots of little things make the Galaxy S10 pretty enticing, such as the headphone jack, wireless charging, and a triple camera setup on the rear — all of which the OnePlus 6T doesn’t have. There’s also a wide variety of specs configurations to choose from, including a Plus model with a totally bonkers 12GB of RAM and 1TB of internal storage.

All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S10 packs a lot of punches the OnePlus 6T can’t counter.

Why I might stick with OnePlus

OnePlus 6T vs Samsung Galaxy S10e

One UI and the ultrasonic sensor are awesome, and the other new features in the Samsung Galaxy S10 are quite enticing, but a few things still make me nervous about switching.

The most glaringly obvious thing OnePlus has over any Galaxy S device is price. I got the maxed-out version of the OnePlus 6T with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and it cost me $630. The cheapest variant of the Samsung Galaxy S10e still costs over $100 more, at $749. If I wanted to get a Galaxy S10 model with an equivalent RAM and storage configuration to my 6T, I’d have to spend at least $850 on an S10e.

Related: Who is the Samsung Galaxy S10e for?

Of course, the S10e wouldn’t get me the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor (the S10e has a side-mounted sensor), so I would have to spend a whopping $1,150 to get the standard Galaxy S10 with 512GB of storage to avoid downgrading my current storage level.

When it comes to price, OnePlus can deliver a device very close to what Samsung offers at literally half the cost.

If I decided to do that, I would be getting a smaller device, as the OnePlus 6T is bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10e. I would have to get a Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, which would cost me an absolutely jaw-dropping $1,250 — about double what I paid for my OnePlus 6T.

Editor’s Pick

To quote The Big Lebowski: “The Dude does not abide.” I can’t imagine spending that much on a smartphone. Even if I sold my OnePlus 6T to help pay for the S10 Plus, I’d still be on the hook for $700, assuming my 6T sells for $550, which is what I’m seeing now on Swappa.

To be fair, the Galaxy S10 family does feature microSD expansion, something that OnePlus doesn’t. Obviously, microSD has it’s own limitations when it comes to speed and performance, but if I just wanted the same amount of space as my 6T I could get a base model S10 device and pick up a memory card.

Aside from price, another thing holding me back is software updates. Yes, Samsung is doing a much better job rolling out Android updates these days, but OnePlus is doing so much better. It took OnePlus all of 45 days to release a stable version of Android 9 Pie to the OnePlus 6, while Samsung took over six months to do the same for the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S9. Even if Samsung halves that for the upcoming release of Android Q, I’d still probably be waiting months longer than OnePlus users.

Until Samsung proves it can work on par with OnePlus in this respect, it’s difficult to see myself making the switch.

An important question becomes: how long will Galaxy S10 owners have to wait for Android Q?

The OnePlus 6T’s waterdrop notch is a lot nicer, in my opinion, than the punch hole cutouts on the Galaxy S10 line. This isn’t a deal-breaker or anything, but the Infinity-O display design is kind of “meh” to me. I certainly don’t hate it as much as I do the iPhone XS-style notch on the OnePlus 6 (or the godawful “bathtub” on the Google Pixel 3 XL), but I’m not a fan of it, either. In my opinion, the waterdrop notch makes the OnePlus 6T look more symmetrical and thus more appealing.

Despite my concerns with pricing, the big takeaway is that Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has a level of polish that is hard to ignore. If it’s been a while since your last encounter with a Samsung, it’s worth giving the Galaxy S10 a closer look. Today’s Galaxy is clearly a different beast from the one you might remember.

Can OnePlus win me over with the OnePlus 7? If it can’t, I might just have to keep my eye out for future discounts on the Galaxy S10 Plus.

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Huawei indicted, China responds. Should consumers worry?

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs P20 Pro Camera

The U.S. socked Huawei right in the mouth with the power of a heavyweight boxer. The Department of Justice this week filed indictments against the company, alleging it stole trade secrets, violated trade sanctions against Iran, and committed fraud. Everyone knew the hit was coming, but that doesn’t stop it from smarting.

The indictments are part of a years-long campaign by the U.S. to minimize Huawei’s reach in the telecommunications market over what it says are legitimate security concerns. Some believe the Chinese government has a backdoor into Huawei’s telecommunications gear that could be used for spying. The company has long denied any wrongdoing and asserted those claims once again in the wake of the latest action.

“Huawei is disappointed to learn of the charges brought against the company,” said the company today in a statement. The charges are aimed at Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng, who was arrested in Canada last year. The U.S. hopes to extradite Meng and force her (and Huawei) to face trial. Huawei says it reached out to the U.S. after Meng was arrested, but was rebuffed. “The company … is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng, and believes the U.S. courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.”

The Chinese foreign ministry also leveled a new complaint against the DoJ. “We strongly urge the United States to stop the unreasonable crackdown on Chinese companies including Huawei,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a statement. The Ministry further urged the U.S. to “immediately withdraw the arrest warrant” and “stop making such kinds of extradition requests.”

The charges

Huawei has to play the short and long game at the same time, and navigate both skillfully if it wants to extricate itself from this ever-growing threat.

The U.S. case focuses on some fairly specific incidents. It alleges that a Hong Kong-based subsidiary, Skycom, acted as a front for Huawei’s activities in Iran. Skycom’s Iran offices were staffed by locals, but acted at the behest of Huawei to strike deals in violation of international trade sanctions in place against Iran. Bank fraud is lumped in with this charge. Meng was roped in due to her role as chief financial officer, a position that would have allowed to her to oversee such behavior.

The U.S. also says Huawei engineers in the U.S. attempted to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile. This case, settled some time ago, involved a testing robot called Tappy. A jury has already awarded T-Mobile $4.8 million.

Huawei claims its employees acted on their own (lone wolf defense), while the U.S. says it can prove the employees acted on the company’s behalf.

The actual theft of Tappy secrets isn’t that important, noted Tim Culpan, a Bloomberg contributor, via Twitter. It’s more important to learn whether company management was part of the plot and whether its lone wolf defense is legit. This will eventually establish — or strip away — trust in Huawei’s leadership.

Consumer impact

Can Huawei counter this in a meaningful way, and what might the impacts be on consumers?

While the company’s telecommunications gear has been banned in the U.S. for some time, Washington has only recently succeeded in making other countries question Huawei. Vodafone in Europe, for example, said it would pause purchases of Huawei equipment while it reevaluates its relationship with the company. Vodafone is one of the biggest carriers across the continent.

This shows things are beginning to turn south for Huawei’s telco biz.

Should carriers begin to source equipment from Huawei’s competitors, it will affect global 5G build-outs eventually. Carriers are set to begin deploying 5G in earnest over the next six to 18 months. Losing a major supplier could slow things down. This isn’t the worst possible outcome.

Then there’s Huawei’s other business: mobile phones. There’s still time for the company to shield its handsets from the fallout.

“Huawei really needs to separate its devices business from [its] telecom infrastructure,” recommends Avi Greengart, research director, consumer platforms & devices, at GlobalData.

Huawei has in the last year become the world’s second-largest supplier of cell phones. This includes its Honor-branded devices. Huawei sits between number one Samsung and number three Apple. It might consider divesting the business entirely. Maybe rebrand the entire phone business under the Honor umbrella, or come up with a new brand. Put a clear, internal wall to separate the telecommunications business from the phone business. Doing so might ease some minds and allow Huawei’s phone unit to continue innovating.

Innovation is key. With 5G around the corner, phones are about to get exciting again. It would be a shame to see the number two player, which has delivered some of the most compelling phones in the last year, knocked down. 

Huawei’s path forward is a bit murky. It must first prevent Meng’s extradition to the U.S. If it cannot, it needs to mount a successful lone wolf defense for those accused of breaking the law. Should Huawei lose the case entirely, its reputation will suffer severely and its telco business may be in immediate most danger. Consumers needn’t worry overmuch for the time being. 

Portless phones: Dumb gimmick or inevitable future?

Meizu

Meizu and Vivo, both of which recently announced phones with no ports, are seeking the answer to an age-old question: do people prefer function or form? The answer, as always, is “it depends,” but in this case Meizu and Vivo are asking consumers to vote with their wallets. Should they?

In September 2016, Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone and the internet lost its mind. A number of scathing editorials burned red hot across the web, with the move called “user-hostile and stupid.”

The trusty headphone jack has been a staple in consumer electronics since it was designed in the 1950s. The standard 3.5mm jack got its start with transistor radios, and it later showed up in nearly every type of media device over a six-decade span, including WalkMan radios, cassette and CD players, laptops and PCs, mobile phones and tablets, gaming consoles, and much more. The jack is functional across devices and form factors, making it a must-have. Apple disagrees.

“Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analog, big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium,” said Phil Schiller, Apple COO, at the iPhone 7’s launch. Schiller claimed Apple needed to lose the headphone jack in order to waterproof the iPhone 7, and even said it took “courage” to be among the first phone makers to take this step. The company continues to sell lots of iPhones.

USB-C, headphone jack: Samsung S9 lilac and Google Pixel 3 with bases showing to reveal headphone jack and lack thereof.

Any port in a storm

Like it or not, Apple set a precedent and other phone makers followed. Google ditched the headphone jack in favor of USB-C audio, as did Motorola, Huawei, and OnePlus, among others. In each case, the phone maker provided a pair of USB-C headphones or a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter. The trend is slowly catching on, but that doesn’t mean people are happy about it.

What Meizu and Vivo are doing is next-level user hostility.

The front and back of the Meizu Zero. Meizu

The Meizu Zero has absolutely no ports. None. It drops the headphone jack, the USB-C port, the SIM card slot, the memory card slot. Need to power up your phone? The Zero sports wireless charging. Want to listen to music? Bluetooth, my friend. What about transferring files? Use the cloud! Need wireless service? An eSIM is inside. While Meizu has an answer to all these nagging everyday needs, you shouldn’t be convinced of Meizu’s logic. At least, not yet.

“Designers dream of clean, port-free lines, but smartphones need to live in the real world, where consumers cannot always expect wireless connections,” quipped Avi Greengart, research director, consumer platforms & devices at GlobalData, to Android Authority. “The loss of the headphone jack at least can be countered by dongles, but until wireless charging spots are ubiquitous, asking consumers to go without a charging cable — which is also used for data transfer and other purposes — simply is not practical.”

Mainstream, here we come?

Charging pads may be available at some Starbucks locations and in some cars, but wireless power is still a niche technology that has yet to be widely adopted. Until every phone ships with a wireless charger by default, consumers will continue to expect to plug their phones in for charging purposes. Moreover, wired charging is still faster than wireless charging.

The idea of phones without physical SIM cards is also problematic. The promise of eSIM, wherein an electronic SIM card can be programmed for network access, has yet to be fully realized. It should be easy, but apparently it’s not.

Apple’s rollout of eSIM in the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, for example, was slow to be adopted by carriers in the U.S. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless added support for the tech months after the phones reached store shelves. Sprint still doesn’t support Apple’s eSIM. Multiply this by hundreds of carriers around the world and you see where this is going.

Then there’s the Meizu Zero’s lack of physical buttons. The Zero features pressure-sensitive edges that are used to manage functions such as adjusting the volume. HTC’s U12 flagship phone was largely panned by reviewers due to its incredibly frustrating pressure-sensitive buttons. Can Meizu succeed where HTC failed? Hard to say.

Like it or not, phone makers are headed in this direction.

“Apple designers eventually hope to remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone, including the charger,” reported Bloomberg last year. Apple weighed making this radical move while developing the 2017 iPhone X. It later scaled back those ambitions due to the cost of wireless charging. That means we’ll see an iPhone with no ports or buttons at some point, and we can expect the same from Apple’s competitors.

Meizu and Vivo are clearly way ahead of the curve, dancing on the bleeding edge for the spectacle alone. Will people buy these portless phones? Sure. Should they? Probably not yet, but we all will at some point down the road.

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How much does the RAM and storage in your phone actually cost?

An image showing the front and back of the new Samsung LPDDR5 DRAM chip. Samsung

I’m sure my eyes weren’t the only ones watering at the leaked price for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S10.

The report suggests that the most expensive S10 Plus model, which packs 12GB RAM and 1TB of internal storage will cost 1,599 euros (~$1,818). It wasn’t long ago that smartphones controversially passed the $1000 mark and it appears that we could soon be at the $2,000 milestone. Ouch!

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The only extra you get when you opt for the top variant is more RAM and more storage. As far as we know, nothing else about the smartphone’s specs change. However, the premium paid for this extra memory appears to rise exponentially.

Here’s a breakdown of the European leaked prices, converted to U.S. dollars:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 6GB RAM/128GB storage: $1,193
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 8GB RAM/512GB storage: $1,477
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 12GB RAM/1TB storage: $1,818

(In the United States, Galaxy S10 Plus prices are likely to be lower, but still nowhere near affordable.)

The difference between the 6GB/128GB Galaxy S10 Plus and the 8GB/512GB model is $284. In other words, you’ll pay $284 for the extra 2GB of RAM and 384GB of storage space.

That’s already expensive, but the move from 8GB/512GB to 12GB/1TB could cost a further $341. In this case, $341 gets you 4GB of RAM and 512GB of storage space.

Memory isn’t usually the most expensive component in a smartphone, that’s usually the display and application processor. Although, to be fair to Samsung, cutting-edge memory in a very high capacity can often cost a premium. But is there some level of price gouging going on here?

How much does memory really cost?

Pinning down exactly how much RAM and NAND flash memory costs is a tricky business, in no small part because component prices are almost impossible to find. There are various capacities, technologies, and manufacturers to pick from, each charging slightly different prices. Not to mention that Samsung and other OEMs have much better bargaining power to negotiate prices below anything you’ll find online.

We attempted to track down equivalent part prices from component retailers, including Mouser and DigiKey, but there’s a considerable markup applied on these sites that Samsung definitely isn’t paying.

We’re going to have to use a bit of intuition to figure this out.

According to this bill of materials (BOM) breakdown, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus‘ 6GB RAM cost Samsung just $39, probably because it was sourced in-house (Samsung is a leading RAM and flash storage manufacturer). Meanwhile, 64GB of UFS flash memory from Toshiba cost just $12.

Flash storage

We can extrapolate Samsung’s Galaxy S9 costs up to 512GB and 1TB of storage. Ignoring falling flash memory prices and savings by scaling up capacity, prices could be in the region of $96 for 512GB and $192 for 1TB. Actual costs are likely to be lower if we factored in the cost savings of scale. Industry estimates suggest that flash storage could cost just $0.08 per GB in 2019, which could halve our conservative estimates here.

RAM 

As for RAM, we can make a similar assumption. The move from 6 to 8GB should cost no more than 33 percent more. This suggests that an 8GB LPDDR4 chip should cost somewhere in the region of $52 for Samsung. Meanwhile, the 12GB chip should cost somewhere around $78.

Remember though, this is a very rough estimate based on extrapolating guideline prices. This gives us a very conservative ballpark, but actual prices that Samsung pays could be lower. And DRAM prices across the market are currently dropping due to oversupply and sluggish demand.

So what’s the markup?

Using these ballpark estimates will get us in the region of Samsung’s BOM.

  • The RAM and storage in the base 6GB/128GB Galaxy S10 Plus should cost around $63.
  • The RAM and storage in the 8GB/512GB model should cost around $148. That’s $85 more compared to the lower version.
  • The RAM and storage in the 12GB/1TB model should cost around $270. That’s $122 more compared to the lower version.

We calculate the estimated cost differences between models at $85 and $122 respectively. Certainly not the $284 and $341 price hikes that Samsung is rumored to be charging for the Galaxy S10 Plus models with more storage. We’re looking at a markup of around 179% to 234% on these parts, which could be potentially much higher if flash memory prices fall as far as expected.

Galaxy S10 Plus variant Estimated cost of memory Cost increase over lower tier Price premium over lower tier Markup
6GB RAM/128GB storage $63 N/A N/A N/A
8GB RAM/512GB storage $148 $85 $284 234%
12GB RAM/1TB storage $270 $122 $341 179.5%

Bear in mind, these rough calculations don’t take into account the full picture. There are other development costs, such as configuring drivers and other bits of software involved too. Even so, there’s definitely a significant markup applied by smartphone manufacturers for the privilege of owning larger storage capacities.

We’ll keep an eye out for a Galaxy S10 BOM after the phone launches on February 20. That will tell us how accurate our estimation was and how much of the price premium is just profit in Samsung’s pockets.

Why?

To be clear, we’re not singling out Samsung here. Higher markups for top-tier versions seem to be the norm, and not just in the mobile industry. From a consumer’s perspective, it seems greedy. But if you put yourself in a mobile CEO’s shoes, you may be less inclined to think so.

The high premium that customers pay for the higher-end versions of a phone may help “subsidize” the base models, which have lower profit margins. Furthermore, memory and storage is one of the few opportunities to upsell for a phone manufacturer. In an extremely competitive market, offering highly expensive, high-powered variants means companies can improve their margins without completely giving up on more budget-conscious buyers.

Let us know your thoughts!

Hey AT&T, stop lying to your customers about 5G

AT&T is at it again. A generation ago, AT&T began marketing 3G technologies as 4G in order to make up for its initial lack of 4G coverage. Fast forward to 2019 and AT&T is doing the same thing. The company is marketing LTE 4G as “5G E” on select Android devices in order to fool customers into thinking they’ve received some sort of upgrade. They haven’t.

This is pathetic, AT&T, and you should be ashamed. And yet somehow, you’re not.

AT&T’s 5G Evolution is simply rebranded LTE-Advanced. It relies on 256QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation to improve throughput and speeds on compatible devices. AT&T has increased the footprint of this LTE-A technology rapidly over the last year and it is now in more than 400 markets. That’s laudable, but 5G it ain’t.

AT&T coined the 5G Evolution marketing term in 2017. From Day One, the press has rightfully called out AT&T for its bogus and confusing nomenclature. This month AT&T took things to a new low: The company pushed a minor software update to nearly 20 different Android models. Those devices now show “5G E” in the status bar at the top of the screen instead of “4G LTE.”

Consumers who are paying attention know there is no technology improvement here, there’s no actual upgrade, they aren’t connecting to a real mobile 5G network. Not every consumer is as informed, and surely some believe their phones are magically faster. In other words, the change, which is a lie, may be confusing to some people.

AT&T doesn’t care.

Last week during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, AT&T executives doubled-down on the lie.

Igal Elbaz, AT&T senior vice president for wireless technology, told Tom’s Guide, “What we’re trying to do is two things. One is to let the customer know that they are in an enhanced experience market or area. So we’re letting them know this on the device.”

When pushed about the misleading marketing, Elbaz replied, “Our customers will love it.” (Psst, Elbaz, as an AT&T customer I can tell you I’m not lovin’ it. In fact, quite the opposite.)

John Donovan, AT&T Communications CEO, also defended the lie saying, “We felt we had to give [customers] an indicator of when they getting twice traditional 4G speeds.” While LTE-A does provide faster speeds than LTE, it’s still 4G. Calling it anything else is just plain wrong.

AT&T defended the lie.

Eric Zeman

Why is AT&T lying like this? Perhaps the answer is perception. All the major networks are scurrying to launch mobile 5G as rapidly as possible. Each wants to scream “First!” like a 12 year old YouTube commenter.

In October, Verizon launched a non-standard, fixed 5G network in a handful of markets. This is specifically an in-home broadband replacement service. In December, AT&T launched standards-based 5G in a handful of markets. A single device, a $499 mobile hotspot, can access that mobile 5G service. Sprint and T-Mobile are still working on their 5G plans and expect to get things up and running by mid-year.

AT&T’s competitors lashed the company for its approach. Verizon took out a full-page ad bashing AT&T, while Sprint, and T-Mobile also derided the company.

What bugs me most about this is AT&T’s complete and utter disregard for the truth. The company is intentionally misleading its own customers. It makes me sick.

Mobile innovation: Things will get worse before they get better

royole flexpai foldable smartphone display

After a couple of flat years, the mobile industry is abuzz, flush with innovation. 5G will arrive in 2019 to transform the way we consume data, while flexible, foldable smartphones will reshape the way we interact with technology — or so various manufacturers and industry pundits would have us believe.

Our industry needs some optimism to relieve its current funk, but everyone seems to be forgetting the number one rule of cutting-edge technology: It takes years, not months, for bleeding-edge innovations to meaningfully change the typical consumer’s life.

Read: The most important news from CES 2019

The numbers don’t add up

Case in point, the first 5G networks and smartphones should be with us by mid-2019, but they won’t be so widespread that everyone can buy into them. Only a few global carriers offer 5G and in just a few cities, making coverage spotty at best. Furthermore, most won’t rush out to spend ludicrous money just to be first, even if they can.

Opinion post by
Robert Triggs

Research from Deloitte Insights predicts just 1 million 5G smartphones will be sold in 2019, out of an estimated 1.5 billion phones sold throughout the year — that’s not even 0.1 percent. It’s under 3 percent of the total number of smartphones currently in use in the United States. This will improve in 2020, with an estimated 15 to 20 million 5G global sales.

However, even by 2025, just 14 percent of worldwide connections are likely to be based on 5G compared to 53 percent on 4G, according to data from GSMA.

The bottom line is this year’s 5G efforts will be reasonably muted in terms of real impact, just like the first few years of 4G were. Manufacturers are keen to be first, with the glaring exception of Apple, but this fanfare needs a reality check.

Trying to provide more tangible innovations to consumers, Royole, Samsung, Huawei, and others are planning to launch smartphones with flexible displays sometime in 2019 too. Again though, industry sales expectations peg this with niche appeal rather than a real revolution.

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Flexible AMOLED display shipments are only expected to top 50 million by 2025. That’s clearly a long way down the line and that figure would only account for a little over 3 percent of today’s entire global market. In 2019, the number is expected to sit somewhere around 1.4 million. It’s not exactly predicted to be the next must-have technology then, though perhaps supply will ramp up if the first products prove to be a hit.

Ultimately the big hitters this year won’t be the first 5G or bendable phones. Instead, the regular Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10, Huawei P30 and Mate 30, Google Pixel 4, and a selection of other fan favorites will no doubt continue to sell in the most meaningful numbers.

5G signal on Galaxy Note 8

What does this all mean for 2019?

Most 2019 smartphones, for better or worse, will probably end up resembling 2018 handsets (albeit probably with a sprinkling of novel announcements to liven things up). That’s not a bad thing — lots of 2018 smartphones were really impressive. You might even say a number of companies finally nailed the smartphone formula last year.

That said, we’re probably going to see a number of more questionable “innovations” this year too. More cameras are almost certain, as are a myriad of phones hiding cameras in pinhole display cutouts. We may also see more in-display fingerprint scanners, weird and wonderful notch designs, novel ways to make bezels even smaller, and even stranger uses for “AI.” Sadly none of that is particularly new.

Read: What about 9G? T-Mobile ridicules AT&T for using fake 5G logo on 4G phones

Worse for the industry, 5G and flexible displays are unlikely to spur growth. From Apple to ZTE, phone makers — and their suppliers — are bracing for another tough year marked by market saturation, trade conflicts, and a possible widespread economic downturn.

If you’re looking for exciting and interesting products, 2019 will certainly have a few. You might even buy one of them if you’re prepared to stump up the early adopter fee. However, most consumers won’t be joining the 5G or flexible bandwagons any time soon. It’s going to take a couple more years before the mobile market looks any different to how it does today.