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Samsung's less expensive Galaxy S20 FE is 'very much a response' to the pandemic – CNET

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Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE starts at $699, which is $300 less than the regular S20.


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Samsung’s got another Galaxy S20 in store for its fans, and the device has been tailored for our unusual times. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, also known as the Galaxy S20 FE, packs some high-end features found in the rest of the S20 lineup — like low-band 5G connectivity — but at a starting price of $700 (£699, AU$999). That’s $300 less than the regular Galaxy S20. Adding super-fast millimeter wave 5G connectivity for the Verizon model brings the price up to $750 (though the carrier is currently offering a promotional $50 discount). 

The 6.5-inch S20 FE has the same Snapdragon 865 processor as the rest of the lineup and includes IP68 water resistance. It sports three rear camera lenses, including a 30x Space Zoom like what’s featured in the S20 and S20 Plus. It’s available in six bright colors. One of the device’s biggest differences from the rest of the lineup: The back is made of plastic instead of glass. 

Samsung, which unveiled the FE on Wednesday during its third virtual Unpacked event over the past two months, hopes to attract people who shy away from a $1,000 phone but still want flashier features of the company’s Galaxy S lineup. And it’s those people who want that Galaxy S brand instead of the cheaper but lower featured Galaxy A devices. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, that could turn out to be a lot of potential buyers. 

“It’s very much a response [to the pandemic],” Drew Blackard, vice president of product management for Samsung Electronics America, said in an interview ahead of the news. “We’ve seen the need for a really more value segmented offer that focuses on those core features that we know our users love the most and prioritize the most.”


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The company had considered introducing a device that fell between the A Series — which ranges from $110 to $650 in the US — and the bottom end of the S Series, which starts at $999, Blackard said. It’s done something similar in the past, like introducing the $650 Galaxy S10 Lite in January at CES 2020

But the pandemic caused Samsung to speed up the FE’s development and release, something it could do because it controls many parts of its supply chain. The FE, which goes on sale in the US on Oct. 2, arrives about seven months after the other S20 phones hit the market, whereas the S10 Lite became available in the US over a year after its siblings went on sale

“One of Samsung’s core advantages and competitive advantages in the market is speed,” Blackard said. “We can very quickly design new products and get to market.”

Samsung, which lost its crown as the world’s biggest phone maker to Huawei in the second quarter, has been introducing its new devices in a difficult environment. Instead of facing a strong market for phones, with 5G and foldable screens getting people to upgrade their devices, most handset makers are seeing lower demand amid the raging novel coronavirus pandemic. Nearly a million people have died, over 31 million have been infected and millions more are out of work, unsure when they’ll next earn a steady paycheck. 

While tech overall has seen a spike in demand during the pandemic, the phone market has struggled. Consumers are opting for less expensive devices, saving their money altogether or spending their cash on PCs and other work-from-home and entertainment supplies. This year, smartphone sales are expected to hit a 10-year low because of the pandemic, according to CCS Insight. 

Samsung, despite launching its new Galaxy S20 lineup in March and its less expensive Galaxy A phones over the following months, saw the biggest year-over-year drop of the world’s top five phone makers in the second quarter, Canalys said. Samsung’s 30% decline allowed Huawei to leapfrog it to become the world’s biggest smartphone vendor for the first time, the firm noted. It was the first time in nine years that a company other than Samsung or Apple shipped the most phones.

Samsung now hopes the S20 FE helps turn things around. 

“The new Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is ideal [for the current environment],” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential. “It gives people differentiated features … all at a price people are looking to pay.”

Pandemic problems

Samsung was counting on this year’s Galaxy S20 lineup — its first crop of phones that all feature 5G connectivity in the US — to woo buyers who’d been waiting to upgrade their devices. Then COVID-19 swept across the globe. The US went into lockdown about a week after Samsung’s Galaxy S20 lineup hit stores. Because consumers were worried about money — and couldn’t see the new devices in person — demand fell. In July, Samsung said its mobile business revenue tumbled 18% from the previous year. 

In the US, Samsung sold about 44% fewer Galaxy S20 models in the first four months of sales than the Galaxy S10 last year, according to M Science, a data analytics provider that tracks stats like mobile adoption. 

galaxy-s20-fe-cameragalaxy-s20-fe-camera

The Galaxy S20 FE comes in six colors, including Cloud Mint. 


Samsung

What Samsung has found is that its less expensive S20 model has attracted the most buyers in recent weeks. In a normal year, it’s the priciest Galaxy S or Note phone that sells in the highest numbers, at least at first, Blackard said. About six to eight weeks later, after the mega fans have made their purchases, the lower end models sell better. 

That happened this year but in a more pronounced way, Blackard said. The Galaxy S20 Ultra was the top-selling device of the lineup at launch, he said, just as the Note 20 Ultra surpassed sales of the cheaper Note 20. But then the less expensive models became more popular. 

“Within the first six to eight weeks [after] launch, you start to see that transition happen,” Blackard said. “And in this case, it just happened more sharply than it did the year before.”

Cheaper is king

Phone makers have responded differently to the pandemic. In the case of Apple, it likely developed the iPhone SE well before the coronavirus spread widely, but its launch timing proved to be fortuitous. At $399, the SE is the cheapest new phone in Apple’s lineup, and it includes a feature that’s perfect for the times: a Touch ID fingerprint reader. That makes it easier to unlock the device while wearing a mask, versus the Face ID technology in Apple’s pricier phones. 

That device helped Apple report strong financial results, even as the company delayed its high-end iPhone 12 lineup, in part because of pandemic-related production issues. Instead of arriving in September, as iPhones normally do, the devices will likely launch in October.  

Samsung’s answer to the iPhone SE was its Galaxy A lineup, a batch of devices available overseas for years but arriving in the US for the first time. The four new 4G LTE models ranged from $110 for the Galaxy A10 to $400 for the Galaxy A51. Samsung even introduced two 5G devices, the $500 Galaxy A51 5G and the $600 to $650 Galaxy A71 5G, giving the South Korean company two of the cheapest 5G phones in the US.

The Galaxy S20 FE falls more in line with Apple’s iPhone 11. It’s part of the premium range but lower priced. The iPhone 11 has been one of Apple’s top sellers over the past year.

Samsung hopes the FE performs the same way. 

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PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan on making PS5 more successful than PS4 – GamesIndustry.biz

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Over the past few weeks, PlayStation head Jim Ryan has received more than his usual share of emails.

From the moment PS5 sold out (within minutes), there’s been people clamouring to get hold of one for launch day, and who better to help them get one than the guy in charge? That bit is not surprising. Ryan has been around for the launch of every PlayStation there has ever been — he’s used to this.

But what has taken PlayStation’s CEO by surprise are the types of people who are sending the emails.

“Since the pre-orders went live, every day I open my inbox to some very emotional and heart-wrenching emails from lots of people,” Ryan says. “But so many of them are from people in the mid-50s, who say they’ve been a PlayStation gamer since 1995, and they’re asking us to help them get hold of a PS5.

“With PS4, we were coming out of a very lacklustre PS3 platform… Now we are starting with 100 million gamers”

“I am astonished at the number of people who are like that and writing to me. It’s really taken me back. It’s indicating that demographically the age profile is expanding rapidly with each generation. And at the same time, I get emails from really young gamers, frequently beautifully written… better written often than the 53 year-old gamers. They’re just as passionate, just as interested and just as excited by PlayStation as somebody who is old enough to be their father, maybe even their grandfather.”

This isn’t Ryan gloating about the sheer popularity of the PlayStation brand; it’s actually part of a conversation about how PlayStation 5 might be able outsell PlayStation 4, which has now shipped almost 114 million consoles worldwide. Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki said during the company’s second quarter earnings call that the company is “committed” to surpassing what PS4 has achieved. That’s not going to be an easy feat.

Ryan’s anecdote about his inbox highlights the opportunity he sees of different age groups playing on PlayStation. Yet I countered his story with one of my own. I’m in my mid-30s, and all of my friends who spent their youth playing Metal Gear Solid and Crash Bandicoot are now busy with careers and kids. Very few of them are even considering a PlayStation 5 as a result.

PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan

The phenomena of people ‘ageing out’ of games consoles is a very real one in my world right now, and that’s perhaps one reason why there hasn’t been a huge amount of audience growth for the console industry over the past 20 years.

“First of all, I think — and this is hypothesis — but maybe some of the 50 year-olds [who emailed me] did tune out for a few years while they were having their kids and growing up, and then came back to us when they had more time and money,” Ryan suggests. “A lot of this comes down to the stickiness and tribal nature of the community that we create. That sense of community probably didn’t exist to the same extent. It certainly existed, but it was more two mates sitting on a couch playing FIFA together, which by its very definition required a physical proximity, and was therefore harder to organise.

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PS5 launches next month

“We have the data to support this — the networked nature of entertainment these days allows for communities to be massively more sticky, and kind-of homogeneous. The concept of stickiness is that once you’re stuck it’s hard to unstick. That probably gives us an opportunity to retain those people, where in the past maybe they’ve gone.”

We have been speaking about how PS5 might outsell PS4, but install base is actually quite an outdated way of judging the performance of a console. If we measure success by install base alone, then PlayStation peaked over a decade ago with its PS2.

“It’s become a lot more nuanced,” Ryan agrees. “For example, one reference point, we sold a lot of PS2s, but many of them were at $99, on a format that was very, very heavily pirated. Right now the metric is engagement, and that obviously can be judged across two axis: the number of people who engage with you, and the amount of time that each of those people spend engaging with you.

“We are increasingly bullish in terms of the number of people that we think may engage with PS5. Firstly, because we don’t begin from a standing start like we did with PS4, when we were coming out of a very lacklustre PS3 platform, with a low level of networking across the community. Now we are starting with 100 million gamers, who we hope to transition very, very rapidly onto PS5. And it’s an engaged, tribal, networked community, who will be deeply and profoundly engaged with their PlayStation 5, we hope, from a very early moment.

“The work we’ve done with female protagonists, we see that resulting in increased presence of the female demographic within the PlayStation community”

“The second is that the PS5 has been built as a networked device, with features and functionality coming out of the experience from the last six or seven years, designed to give networked gamers a better, richer, deeper, faster, more seamless network gaming experience. I’m sure you’ve seen the [PS5] UX unveil — which is very difficult to do remotely, but I think the guys did a pretty good job… All of those adjectives that I used just earlier, they were in mind when we designed that UX.”

Install base isn’t the only measure of success for PlayStation 5, but it is clearly an important one. There is still that goal for PS5 to outsell PS4, and it’s going to be a challenge. PS4 may have arrived on the back of a disappointing PS3, but it also launched while its direct competitors at Microsoft and Nintendo were floundering.

Ryan says the expanding demographics and “stickiness” of the PlayStation experience is one way in which it’ll bring in more customers. But there are other opportunities.

“A lot of the work that we’ve done with female protagonists in gaming, we definitely see that resonating and resulting in increased presence of the female demographic within the PlayStation community,” he says. “And then there’s obviously geography. The PS4 generation saw us make huge strides in Germany and the Middle East, and I think there is further progress to be made in both of those areas. But equally, I think Asia — outside of Japan — has huge potential for us. And Latin America has huge potential for us.”

The geographical reach of PlayStation is already very strong. The brand has a significant presence in markets where its competitors barely touch, including parts of Eastern Europe. And it’s an advantage the business plans to make the most of.

“When I was in charge of Europe, we had a pretty clear template for the way that we would open up markets,” Ryan continues. “Some markets opened up faster than others. Germany took some time, but we got there. Middle East, some parts of that were very difficult, but we got there. Having very competent, on-the-ground teams with simple but focused distribution, and proper investment in the brand and proper marketing, can quite quickly yield significant dividends.

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Sony announced it would acquire Insomniac last year

“Latin America in particular can be very difficult. Currencies, import tariffs… very complicated geopolitical situations in a lot of countries. I won’t pretend that it will be easy, but when you look at the statistics, the maths of it, there are definitely opportunities that we should seek to exploit.”

With the launch of PS5 just a few weeks away, much of the conversation has focused on the future of that platform. It’s going to be a big launch. Ryan reiterates the fact that there will be more PS5s at launch than PS4s — “Considering everything we’ve had to contend with, that’s a considerable achievement,” he says, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But PS4 will remain an important platform for a while yet. There are over 100 million customers on that device, and recent hits like The Last of Us: Part 2 show how engaged that audience remains. In fact, with the coronavirus pandemic, the PS4 install base is as engaged as it’s ever been. It’s no wonder that Sony is planning to make several of its upcoming titles playable across both PS4 and PS5.

“Obviously, our eyes and our horizons have lifted with regards to what’s possible with that PS4 community, based on what we’ve observed over the last six months,” Ryan says, referring to an increase in players as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. “That can be quite powerful, because in 2021, 2022… that PS4 community that we’ve spoken about, they will be the vast majority of people on PlayStations during that time. It is crucial that we keep them engaged and happy. And the last six months have demonstrated that we could do that to an extent that we didn’t think possible when we were setting our minds pre-COVID.”

“I invite anybody to look at the launch window line-up of PS4, or PS3, and compare it to what we are going to bring on PS5. There’s no comparison”

If launching a new console during a pandemic wasn’t tough enough, the other challenge for PlayStation is the competition. Nintendo is in a strong position right now, whereas Xbox has been rapidly buying new studios to ensure it can capture more customers for its Game Pass subscription service.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda for $7.5 billion raised a few eyebrows, but it’s really just a headline moment for an industry that’s been consolidating for some time. More games companies have been going public and using those funds to go and acquire, while giants like Microsoft and Tencent have been actively seeking teams to buy. Sony, too, has been getting involved with its $229 million acquisition of Spider-Man developer Insomniac.

Ryan says that more acquisitions are possible, but he was eager to remind us that Sony’s existing studios have grown considerably over the last generation.

“It’s probably not widely appreciated or understood, to what extent that we have grown our own game development capability organically over the course of this generation,” he says. “Obviously, it’s been helped by the acquisition of Insomniac, and it’s wonderful to have them as part of the family. I would just invite anybody to look at the launch window line-up of the PS4 generation, or PS3 generation, and compare it to what we are going to bring in the equivalent phase of PS5. There’s just no comparison.

“That is the fruit of not massive spending sprees, but of very, very steadily, carefully planned organic growth. Probably the best example I give… I could obviously talk about Naughty Dog, but they’ve always been making great games. But let’s talk about Ghost of Tsushima, which has been a critical delight and certainly a commercial delight to an extent that we didn’t think it would be. That speaks volumes to the work that Sucker Punch has done to build on their previous canon of work.

“We are lucky enough to have five or six studios who fall into that category… But it isn’t luck, because we’ve been working on this for years and years. Very quietly, in a very PlayStation way, we’ve been building something quite special with these studios. You can do it with frenzied acquisition, or measured acquisition, or you can do it organically.”

With changes across the industry, reinvigorated competitors, a global pandemic, and a troubling economic situation, PS5 arrives at a strange moment for the world and the video games business. But with a promising line-up for the next 12 months, and an engaged group of PS4 players to pull in, Ryan remains positive over what Sony’s new machine will deliver.

“It’s really exciting now,” he concludes. “We are right on the brink. Everybody is four or five years into this, and it’s really great to be so close to the big moment. You know, I’ve done them all, and this has easily been the most extraordinary of any of them.”

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra renders revised, now there's an extra camera (or sensor) – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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While the S21 series is supposed to launch a month earlier than expected, it seems that the design is still being tweaked. OnLeaks is back with a revised version of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which has a different camera design from the original renders.


Revised design of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – note the extra camera/sensor

No, the camera island will still look like that, but there’s an extra module on the back. It’s not clear if this is a fifth camera or some sensor (a 3D ToF sensor, perhaps?). Also note that the position of the LED flash has shifted slightly.

The original Galaxy S21 Ultra render for comparison
The original Galaxy S21 Ultra render for comparison

According to rumors, the Galaxy S21 Ultra will keep using a 108MP sensor for the main cam and a 40MP sensor in the selfie camera, matching the S20 Ultra. Whether there are upgrades not related to the resolution is unknown as is the function of the other camera modules.

That said, it’s pretty clear that the 2021 model will have (at least) one more camera than the S20 Ultra. Other makers already include two tele lenses on their top of the line flagships, it’s not hard to imagine Samsung doing the same.

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Does an Apple Search Engine Make Sense? – Motley Fool

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“I think their search engine is the best,” Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook said nearly two years ago when asked about Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Google’s controversial role as the default search provider in Apple products. The long-standing arrangement, which dates to 2005, wasn’t always so controversial, but recent antitrust scrutiny of major tech companies has shined a light on the far-reaching implications of the partnership — and how critical it is to Google’s traffic.

With risks around the deal intensifying, it comes as little surprise that Apple is exploring the alternative option of creating its own search engine.

Image source: Apple.

Applebot has been more active lately

Financial Times reports that Apple is ramping up its development of a proprietary search engine that could theoretically displace Google as the default provider at some point in the future. Apple has historically outsourced embedded search functions to both Google and Microsoft Bing but has faced recent criticisms for partnering with Google while simultaneously bashing advertising businesses as part of its ongoing privacy crusade.

Years ago, Apple created Applebot, a web crawler that indexes web pages for Siri and Spotlight. It is similar to the technology that Google uses. Search pundits have observed a recent spike in Applebot activity, according to the report, which suggests that the Mac maker is scaling its efforts to index more websites as it builds a database.

Apple is also starting to increasingly display its own search results in certain parts of iOS 14, Financial Times notes.

The search partnership allegedly undermines competition

The Department of Justice filed a formal antitrust complaint against Google last week, alleging that Google engages in anticompetitive conduct, including its pact with Apple. The search leader uses the agreement to effectively block out competition, while Apple is paid handsomely (estimated at $8 billion to $12 billion per year) for its role, according to the suit.

“Google’s documents recognize that ‘Safari default is a significant revenue channel’ and that losing the deal would fundamentally harm Google’s bottom line,” the prosecutors wrote. “Thus, Google views the prospect of losing default status on Apple devices as a ‘Code Red’ scenario.”

The DOJ estimates that the deal covers approximately 36% of all search queries in the U.S. across mobile devices and desktop computers. The complaint also points out that Google estimates that nearly 50% of all search traffic came from Apple devices last year.

The payments from Google are one of the biggest growth drivers for Apple’s services segment, and there are now fears that regulators could push to dismantle the alliance. Google calls the DOJ’s arguments “dubious.”

Should Apple acquire a search engine?

Over the summer, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi suggested that Apple should acquire privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo in order to compete directly with Google in search. Apple could likely scoop up the smaller search company for less than $1 billion, according to the analyst’s estimates.

However, that theoretical acquisition would end up costing Apple a lot more — in the form of lost revenue from Google. Sacconaghi’s estimate for how much Google pays Apple is on the lower end ($7 billion to $8 billion). Somewhat undercutting the idea is the fact that DuckDuckGo licenses Bing’s web crawler technology, so purchasing the company may have limited strategic value, particularly if Apple is pushing forward with Applebot.

Apple has been aggressively insourcing “core” technologies in recent years in order to better differentiate itself from rivals. Should search be included on that growing list?

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