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Facebook is building an operating system so it can ditch Android – TechCrunch

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Facebook doesn’t want its hardware like Oculus or its augmented reality glasses to be at the mercy of Google because they rely on its Android operating system. That’s why Facebook has tasked Mark Lucovsky, a co-author of Microsoft’s Windows NT, with building the social network an operating system from scratch, according to The Information’s Alex Heath. To be clear, Facebook’s smartphone apps will remain available on Android.

“We really want to make sure the next generation has space for us,” says Facebook’s VP of Hardware, Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth. “We don’t think we can trust the marketplace or competitors to ensure that’s the case. And so we’re gonna do it ourselves.”

Eye OS

By moving to its own OS, Facebook could have more freedom to bake social interaction — and hopefully privacy — deeper into its devices. It could also prevent a disagreement between Google and Facebook from derailing the roadmaps of its gadgets. Facebook tells TechCrunch the focus of this work is on what’s needed for AR glasses. It’s exploring all the options right now, including potentially partnering with other companies or building a custom OS specifically for augmented reality.

One added bonus of moving to a Facebook-owned operating system? It could make it tougher to force Facebook to spin out some of its acquisitions, especially if Facebook goes with Instagram branding for its future augmented reality glasses.

Facebook Portal Lineup

Facebook has always been sore about not owning an operating system and having to depend on the courtesy of some of its biggest rivals. Those include Apple, whose CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly thrown jabs at Facebook and its chief Mark Zuckerberg over privacy and data collection. In a previous hedge against the power of the mobile operating systems, Facebook worked on a secret project codenamed Oxygen circa 2013 that would help it distribute Android apps from outside the Google Play store if necessary, Vox’s Kurt Wagner reported.

That said, its last attempt to wrestle more control of mobile away from the OS giants in 2013 went down in flames. The Facebook phone, built with HTC hardware, ran a forked version of Android and the Facebook Home user interface. But drowning the experience in friends’ photos and Messenger chat bubbles proved wildly unpopular, and both the HTC First and Facebook Home were shelved.

Investing in tomorrow tech

Now Facebook is hoping to learn from past mistakes as it ramps up its hardware efforts with a new office for the AR/VR team in Burlingame, 15 miles north of the company’s headquarters. The 770,000-square-foot space is designed to house roughly 4,000 employees. Facebook tells TechCrunch the team will move there in the second half of 2020 to make use of its labs, prototype space and testing areas. The AR/VR team will still have members at other offices across California, Washington, New York and abroad.

TechCrunch asked for more info about the space, and Facebook revealed that it’s planning to open a public-facing, experiential space — possibly the first Facebook-branded permanent location that anyone can visit. There, people will be able to come play with its augmented reality and virtual reality products. Those could range from the Oculus Quest headsets and Facebook Portal smart displays it currently sells to potential future products like the camera glasses it’s reportedly building with Ray Ban-maker Luxottica and eventually its full-fledged AR eyewear.

A rendering of Facebook’s under-construction new space in Burlingame, Calif.

Facebook says it’s considering building true retail space into the Burlingame office to let people try and then buy its hardware products. This would be a significant first step toward self-branded Facebook retail spaces in the vein of Apple and Microsoft’s stores.

Interested in potentially controlling more of the hardware stack, Facebook held acquisition talks with $4.5 billion market cap semiconductor company Cirrus Logic, which makes audio chips for Apple and more, The Information reports. That deal never happened, and it’s unclear how far the talks went given tech giants constantly keep their M&A teams open to discussions. But it shows how serious Facebook is taking hardware, even if Portal and Oculus sales have been slow to date. Facebook declined to comment on the matter.

That could start to change next year, though, as flagship virtual reality experiences hit the market. I got a press preview of the upcoming Medal of Honor first-person shooter that will launch on the Oculus Quest in 2020. An hour of playing the World War II game flew by, and it was one of the first VR games that felt like you could enjoy it week after week rather than being just a tech demo. Medal of Honor could prove to be the killer app that convinces gamers they have to get a Quest.

Social hardware

Facebook has also been working on hardware experiences for the enterprise. Facebook Workplace video calls can now run on Portal, with its smart camera auto-zooming to keep everyone in the board room in frame or focused on the action. The Information reports Facebook is also prototyping a VR videoconferencing system that Boz has been testing with his team. Facebook tells TechCrunch that Boz hosted two internal events where he videoconferenced through VR to about 100 of his team leaders using virtual Q&A software Facebook is prototyping internally. It’s hoping to learn what would be necessary to consistently hold meetings in VR.

The hardware initiatives, meanwhile, feed back into Facebook’s core ad business. It’s now using some data about what people do on their Oculus or Portal to target them with ads. From playing certain games to accessing kid-focused experiences to virtually teleporting to vacation destinations, there’s plenty of lucrative data for Facebook to potentially mine.

Facebook tells TechCrunch that Portal currently takes data — like if you log in, make calls or use certain features — to inform ad targeting. For example, it could show you ads related to video calling if you do that a lot. With Oculus, if you connect your Facebook account, then data about apps you use or events you join could be used to tune its algorithms or target ads.

Facebook even wants to know what’s on our mind before we act on it. The Information reports that Facebook’s brain-computer interface hardware for controlling interfaces by employing sensors to recognize a word a user is thinking has been shrunk down. It’s gone from the size of a refrigerator to something hand-held, but is still far from ready for integration into a phone. Facebook tells TechCrunch it’s making progress, improving the word error rate significantly up the state-of-the-art research and expanding the dictionary of words that can be recognized. Facebook can now decode brain activity in real time, and it’s working on an intermediary system for identifying single words as it pushes toward 100 words-per-minute brain typing.

Selling Oculus headsets, Portal screens and mind-readers might never generate the billions in profits Facebook earns from its efficient ads business, but they could ensure the social network isn’t locked out of the next waves of computing. Whether those are fully immersive like virtual reality, convenient complements to our phones like smart displays or minimally invasive sensors, Facebook wants them to be social. If it can bring your friends along to your new gadgets, Facebook will find some way to squeeze out revenue while keeping these devices from making us more isolated and less human.

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MediaTek taps TSMC 6-nanometer tech for new flagship 5G phone chips – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – MediaTek Inc on Wednesday said it would use Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s 6-nanometer chipmaking technology for its newest chips aimed at premium 5G smartphones.

Taiwan’s MediaTek appears to be one of the first high-volume customers for the technology and is among a handful of companies with modem technology to connect phones to mobile data networks, competing against Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. The new chips announced Wednesday, called Dimensity 1100 and 1200, build on MediaTek’s efforts to go after higher-priced handsets where Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips have historically had stronger market share.

Like Qualcomm and Apple, MediaTek designs chips and then contracts out production to outside firms. The newest chips will be made at TSMC, on a chipmaking technology called 6-nanometer. Qualcomm’s chips are being made by Samsung on 5-nanometer technology while Apple Inc uses TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology.

Smaller chipmaker technology is faster and more power efficient. MediaTek’s previous chips used a 7-nanometer process, and moving to newer manufacturing technology along with advances in the chip’s design make it 22% faster at computing tasks while consuming 25% less power, Finbarr Moynihan, general manager of international corporate sales, told Reuters in an interview.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Galaxy S21 Plus specs vs. S21 Ultra vs. S20 Plus vs. S20 Ultra: Samsung S phones compared – CNET

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samsung-galaxy-s21-plus-ultra-06176

Drew Evans/CNET

Samsung’s trio of phones that make up its flagship S21 lineup have arrived — and the higher-end S21 Plus and S21 Ultra come packed with all the trappings you’d expect from a premium Android phone. All three are available to preorder now, and will ship on Jan. 29.

If you’re in the market for something fancier than the base model, it’s probably a good time to take a closer look at how Samsung’s pro phones, the S21 Plus and the S21 Ultra, compare with each other, and how they differ from their predecessors.

The standout change to the S21 is the price tag. Following lackluster sales of the S20 family, the South Korean company slashed prices by $200 across the S21 line, with the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra starting at $1,000 (£949, AU$ 1,549) and $1,200 (£1,329, AU$1,849) respectively.

The S21 Pro and S21 Ultra also have the expected incremental upgrades working in their favor: Processors are speedier, the displays have been upgraded and the cameras have been improved to take crisper photos and videos. The S21 Ultra now also supports Samsung’s stylus, the S Pen (sold separately), which blurs the line between the S series and the more professional Note series. 


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Samsung has also packed some refinements into the S21 Ultra’s camera system, but it hasn’t updated headline features such as 8K resolution and the phone’s 108-megapixel shooter. If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll likely care that the S21 Ultra comes equipped with two telephoto lenses (as opposed to one in the S20 Ultra) that offer 3x and 10x optical zoom, instead of digital zoom. Plus the main image sensor is apparently larger, which will allow it to capture photographs with improved dynamic range.

It’s also important to highlight the features Samsung removed to allow it to start at those lower prices. Because Samsung slashed prices of all three of S21 phones, it needed to save on costs by eliminating expandable storage entirely and ditching the in-box charger and earphones. The pricier S20 Pro and Ultra meanwhile, let you add up to 1TB storage and include those bundled accessories.

For more details on the differences between the S21 Ultra, S21 Pro, S20 Ultra and S20 Pro, take a look at our specs chart below.

Galaxy S21 Pro vs. S21 Ultra vs. S20 Pro vs. S20 Ultra

Galaxy S21 Plus Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Display size, resolution 6.7-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (2,400×1,080 pixels) 6.8-inch Edge WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3,200×1,440 pixels), 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Pixel density 394 ppi 515 ppi 525ppi 511ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.97×6.35×0.30 in 2.97×6.50×0.35 in 2.9×6.37×0.30 in 2.99×6.57×0.35 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 75.6×161.5×7.8 mm 75.6×165.1×8.9 mm 73.7×161.9×7.8 mm 76.0×166.9×8.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 7.12 oz; 202g 8.07 oz; 229 g 6.56 oz; 186g 7.76 oz; 220g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 11 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide) 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 10-megapixel (telephoto), 10-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 40-megapixel 10-megapixel 40-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 888 or 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 2.8GHz (Max 2.4GHz +1.8GHz) Snapdragon 888 or 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 2.8GHz (Max 2.4GHz +1.8GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)
Storage 128GB/256GB 128GB/256GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB
RAM 8GB 12GB, 16GB 12GB (5G), 8GB (LTE) 12GB, 16GB
Expandable storage None None Up to 1TB Up to 1TB
Battery 4,800 mAh 5,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 5,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No No No
Special features IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 30X Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100X Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,000 (128 GB)  $1,200 (128 GB)  $1,199 (128 GB) , $1,349 (512GB) $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £949 £1,329 £999 (5G) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,549 AU$1,849 AU$1,499 (4G), AU$1,649 (128GB), AU$1,899 (512GB) AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB)

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LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone – MacRumors

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LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald).

lg wing

LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry:

Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice. The company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business.

He added that regardless of any change, the company will retain its current employees from the smartphone division and reassign them elsewhere.

LG has seen rapidly declining smartphone shipments in recent years, and the company is now believed to hold a market share of just two percent. LG has posted major financial shortfalls in its smartphone segment for 23 consecutive quarters, reaching a total loss of $4.5 billion.

When taking office as CEO in January 2020, Kwon pledged to turn the company’s smartphone business around. The CEO’s latest comments therefore appear to be an admission of failure to make the segment profitable.

At the same time, LG is reportedly ending its production of LCD displays for the iPhone, according to The Elec. LG Display had previously attempted to supply LCDs for the second-generation iPhone SE, but failed to meet Apple’s requirements, leading to Japan Display and Sharp being selected as suppliers instead. LG’s factory that previously made the components will be repurposed to manufacture automobile display panels.

Earlier this month, LG unveiled one of the world’s first rollable smartphones at CES, as the company has endeavored to explore unusual designs to lure in customers. The future of this device, and other LG smartphones such as the LG Velvet and LG Wing, are now highly uncertain.

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