Samsung can credit the Galaxy S line with securing its place as the world’s top smartphone brand. But after more than a decade, rumors say the company is almost certainly shaking up the way it names its Galaxy S devices. The Galaxy S11 could become the Galaxy S20, with next year’s phone going by the name Galaxy S21 and so on, to match the calendar year.
Sure can’t wait for 2051.
As a writer, I think that names matter. No, not as much as the specs inside the phone, but enough that they can convey what a brand is about. It isn’t just me, either: companies spend millions of dollars on focus groups and marketing strategies when choosing a phone name.
A month away from Samsung’s Unpacked event on Feb 11, I’m not sure whether this proposed naming convention is good or bad. I’m not convinced that Samsung would stick with the plan to name its phone after the year, and if it does, it could be a missed opportunity for the brand to rededicate the phone as memorable and creative.
Let’s consider a few options. Say Samsung follows in the footsteps of Apple’siPad (e.g. iPad 2019) and most car manufacturers by matching each phone name with the corresponding year. There’s some logic to this strategy — you’ll always know where you are with a Samsung Galaxy S23, and I welcome bringing a little order to a portfolio brimming over with Galaxy phones.
I’m sure it’s also cheaper and easier for brands not to have to worry about finding a unique name that resonates with the public in multiple languages, and that also isn’t already earmarked by rivals.
On the other hand, the numbering game tends to feel unruly and meaningless, especially when you get into the higher digits. Would Samsung really commit to this plan long enough to reach the Galaxy S51, assuming we still use phones by then and not chips implanted into our arms?
The time to reinvent the brand is now
If Samsung thinks it hit a natural limit after the Galaxy S10 and wants to liven up the franchise, I’d be happy if it used the moment to reinvent the brand with a new name that stands for an updated set of values. (Of course, we don’t know what Samsung will actually do until its big reveal.)
For an example, look no further than the iPhone X. Apple seemed to have changed the name when it unveiled a new type of iPhone, one that overhauled the design, removed the fingerprint scanner and boldly adopted face unlock with an approach that had never before been used in a phone. Apple pronounced the model iPhone “Ten”, but many people referred to it as the iPhone “Ex”.
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The next Galaxy S phone may have leaked in pictures
And then Apple ruined it by moving on to the iPhone 11 two years later. At some point, the iPhone’s name is going to have to change again, because in my mind anyway, the iPhone 18, 21 and 34 seem too ridiculous to exist. I’m reminded of every Mission: Impossible reboot, or that classic line from a fake newscast in Spaceballs (the movie, not the flame thrower), “Rocky V…thousand.”
I suppose the heart of my thinking is that part of me misses the more fanciful names of a decade ago and more, when a phone name stood for some intrinsic value or feature that the device possessed, like the powerful and mysterious Samsung Omnia, or the zesty, flippy Motorola Citrus. (I’ll probably never forgive the LG Chocolate music phone for having nothing to do with actual chocolate.)
There’s a benefit to giving a phone a meaningful name. Just look at Android OS. Google was able to gain a hugely invested Android following that avidly followed and excitedly guessed each year’s dessert-themed code name… until the fun ended this year with Android 10. While dry names haven’t hurt the iPhone’s success, Samsung has a chance to be more meaningful.
If the S20 does indeed mark a brand-new direction — 5G, a new camera philosophy, and bold design — then a new name makes sense. I just hope it’s more interesting than “S20.”
I concede to being in the minority here. Today, straightforward phone (and OS) naming seems to mostly be about maintaining order amidst the chaos — as much to keep models clear on the sales and distribution end, I suspect, as for keeping a sea of variants straight in customers’ minds.
Then again, there’s such a thing as too much simplicity. I cringe just thinking about the Motorola Moto G, which at one point had at least three different models going by the same name with different carriers. Even Motorola’s PR team didn’t immediately know which was which until we compared the specs.
Of course, when all is said and done, it’s these specs that matter most. The way that a phone works is far more important than how it rolls off the tongue, and that’s where companies should absolutely spend their time and attention.
Would a phone’s inner workings sound as tempting by any other name? Sure, but if it came down to the Samsung Galaxy Sonic and the Samsung Galaxy S28, I know which one I’d want more.
Apple dropped plans to offer end-to-end encrypted cloud back-ups to its global customer base after the FBI complained, a new report has claimed.
Citing six sources “familiar with the matter,” Reuters claimed that Apple changed its mind over the plans for iCloud two years ago after the Feds argued in private it would seriously hinder investigations.
The revelations put a new spin on the often combative relationship between the law enforcement agency and one of the world’s biggest tech companies.
The two famously clashed in 2016 when Apple refused to engineer backdoors in its products that would enable officers to unlock the phone of a gunman responsible for a mass shooting in San Bernardino.
Since then, both FBI boss Christopher Wray, attorney general William Barr and most recently Donald Trump have taken Apple and the wider tech community to task for failing to budge on end-to-end encryption.
Silicon Valley argues that it’s impossible to provide law enforcers with access to encrypted data in a way which wouldn’t undermine security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers around the world.
Apple’s decision not to encrypt iCloud back-ups means it can provide officers with access to target’s accounts. According to the report, full device backups and other iCloud content was handed over to the US authorities in 1568 cases in the first half of 2019, covering around 6000 accounts.
Apple is also said to have handed the Feds the iCloud backups of the Pensacola shooter, whose case sparked another round of calls for encryption backdoors from Trump and others.
It’s not 100% clear if Apple dropped its encryption plan because of the FBI complaint, or if it was down to more mundane usability issues. Android users are said to be able to back-up to the cloud without Google accessing their accounts.
If you’re a Sonos fan from way back, then you probably have an older Play:5, Bridge or Zone player laying around, and now the company is telling you that it won’t get any more updates — ever. Even worse, simply continuing to use one of them could hold back your entire setup, new devices included, from receiving future updates. While the company says it’s working on a way to segment older hardware and avoid that situation, there’s enough bad news and uncertainty going around to make the situation real uncomfortable.
However things shake out for Sonos, I’m just looking around the room at various TV boxes, speakers and wristbands, trying to figure out how much time they have left.
Now we’ve seen the next Xbox from the front, everyone is wondering what’s hiding on the other side. Pictures posted to gaming forum NeoGAF appear to show an Xbox Series X development kit in the wild, complete with a back plate lacking the Xbox One’s HDMI-passthrough setup. We’ll see if this alleged prototype holds up when the real hardware ships later this year, but for now all we have are rumors and speculation.
Apple might launch a new low-cost iPhone very, very soon. According to Bloomberg, the tech giant’s suppliers will start assembling a more affordable iPhone model, the first since the iPhone SE, as soon as February. Apple will reportedly unveil the cheaper-than-an-iPhone 11 device in March. Sources expect it to look like the iPhone 8, with a 4.7-inch screen and a current generation A13 chip, like 2019’s iPhones. Expect a return of the home button, and no Face ID.
After years of resistance, Studio Ghibli is bringing its works to streaming services. In the US, it will launch in HBO’s Max service, while Netflix will stream the Japanese animations everywhere else, except Japan. Nick Summers explains why this is good news for all.
Activity Bubbles, Screen Stopwatch and Envelope are all part of the latest push from Google to get you to put your phone down (after you finish reading this, of course). The first two add on-screen reminders of how much time you’ve spent staring at a screen, while Envelope creates some physical separation. Do the apps go too far? Do they not go far enough? I can’t stay off my phone for long enough to check.
Uber is testing another new feature in what is presumably a bid to help mitigate the restrictions of Assembly Bill 5, which requires the company to treat its drivers as employees, not independent contractors. Some drivers in California will now have the ability to set their own fares.
Apple may encrypt your iOS device’s locally stored data, but it doesn’t fully encrypt iCloud backups. According to Reuters sources, Apple dropped end-to-end encryption plans for iCloud, fearing another FBI confrontation. (This was following the debate over unlocking Syed Farook’s iPhone after the San Bernardino shooting.) One former Apple worker said the company might have ditched the plan over concerns customers could be locked out of their data more often.
That doesn’t mean your iCloud backup is open to all — anything in your Keychain, including passwords, as well as health data and payment information are all end-to-end encrypted.
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President Donald Trump, in a CNBC interview Wednesday, stepped up his pressure over Apple‘s refusal to unlock iPhones for authorities in criminal cases.
“Apple has to help us. And I’m very strong on it,” Trump told “Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernen from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “They have the keys to so many criminals and criminal minds, and we can do things.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been credited with being able to work with the president and his administration in a way other Silicon Valley companies have stumbled. In November, Cook toured Apple’s Austin campus with Trump.
Trump told CNBC he’s helped Apple a lot.
“I’ve given them waivers, because it’s a great company, but it made a big difference.” The president was referring to waivers from tariffs put on Chinese-made imports in the trade war between Washington and Beijing.
Last week, Trump slammed Apple for declining the government’s request to unlock password-protected iPhones used by the shooter who killed three people in December at the Pensacola, Florida, Naval Air Station before being fatally shot.
In a statement, Apple said it provided gigabytes of information to law enforcement related to the Pensacola case but that it would not build a “backdoor” or specialized software to give law enforcement elevated access.
Trump told CNBC on Wednesday: “They could have given us that information. It would have been very helpful.”
The president said he’s not concerned about his relationship with Cook or Apple because the stakes are so high.
“You’re dealing with drug lords and you’re dealing with terrorists, and if you’re dealing with murderers, I don’t care,” Trump said.
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