Samsung is still betting on a future where smartphones fold in half. But first it must convince users that’s a future they want.
At its annual Unpacked event on Wednesday, Samsung will focus on its foldable smartphones instead of its flagship Note devices — despite lackluster sales for foldable models and a PR crisis in 2019 concerning earlier versions breaking.
Samsung announced two new foldable smartphones coming later this month: the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, a smartphone that opens outward like a book to form a tablet, and the clamshell-like Galaxy Z Flip3 5G, with a design reminiscent of flip phones from the early 2000s. While the company dropped the prices for its third-generation foldables, these products will still cost buyers at least four figures.
Samsung said the Z Fold3 and Flip3 are slimmer, lighter, more durable and water resistant than its previous foldable models. These improvements follow hiccups in earlier versions that couldn’t handle drops, dust and water, and presented significant issues with the screen. The devices also feature new ways to multitask, support for the Note’s signature S Pen and an under-screen camera — yes, a camera that lives under the screen that could someday spell the end of the hated notch.
Even with those updates, Samsung has a long hill to climb. According to data from market research firm Canalys, Samsung shipped just 257,000 foldable phones in the three months ending in June, compared with nearly 58 million non-foldable phones. The company’s offerings make up 66% of the total 3.4 million foldable devices shipped since 2019. As Ben Stanton, research manager at Canalys, puts it: “It is still niche … but Samsung envisions this as a new paradigm for the industry — with itself at the center.”
Samsung also may not have had much of a choice this year. The company has been hit with a reported delay in Note manufacturing due to the global chip shortage./ (A spokesperson told CNN Business the company’s decision to focus Unpacked on foldables was unrelated to the shortage.)
The Z Fold3
Samsung touted the Z Fold3 as more durable and dependable than its predecessors. Its 7.6-inch Infinity Flex display is layered to protect against daily wear and tear and features scratch resistant Gorilla Glass. The outer frame is made of 10% stronger aluminum than previous models, and the infamous hinge, where the smartphone folds, is designed with shorter internal bristles to better repel dust and other particles.
Those features could be key to building up trust in what is still a new design. In 2019, some early reviewers of its first foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, reported flickering and broken displays and a screen bulge. Even after its official launch was delayed for months to address the issues, user reviews were mixed.
But at least one big obstacle remains for wider adoption: the price. The new Z Fold3 is $1,799, nearly $200 less than its predecessor but still a staggering sum even compared to other premium devices. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G starts at $799, the Galaxy Note20 starts at $999 and the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999.
To help entice buyers, Samsung is taking a risk by trying something new with this product. In addition to the three cameras on the back (a wide angle, an ultra-wide angle and tele-photo lens), the company teased its first ever under-screen camera. The hidden front-facing camera is built under the display so a notch won’t get in the way of what a user sees on screen. Considering the technology is still in its infancy, it’s possible issues could surface, but Stanton said the Fold3 is the “perfect test bed” for this type of tech because it’s more of a prestige device than a mass market product.
The Fold3 also supports S Pen functionality, allowing users to make the most of its massive screen. For example, notes can be taken on one side of the device while doing a video call on the other side, or a to-do list can be checked off while reading emails. The Z Fold3 is available in black, green and silver.
Foldable displays still lack a solid use case to make them a must-have feature in 2021, but both the Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 have elements that nod to their unique potential.
The Z Flip3, which opens and closes vertically like a traditional flip phone, now comes with a thinner hinge and redesigned cover screen that is four times larger, correcting one of the biggest complaints about the Flip2. It’s now easier to view notifications, widgets and messages, and users will have the ability to eyeball their schedule, purchase a coffee via Samsung Pay, check the weather and monitor their daily step count without ever opening the phone.
Flex mode lets Z Flip3 users take a photo or video from the cover screen. When kept partially folded, users can move a video to the top half of the screen and allow the bottom area to serve as a remote to control the brightness and volume.
Both the Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 include partnerships with Google, Microsoft, and others, so apps better fit the screens. For example, Microsoft Outlook’s dual-pane mode for Samsung foldables lets users read a full email while previewing others on the side, similar to a desktop experience.
Tuong Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner, said much of the success of these products will depend on the apps that developers create to showcase innovative use cases for the extra real estate a foldable screen provides. But convincing developers to spend time creating apps for foldable devices with low user adoption rates will present a challenge.
“It’s a bit of a chicken-egg dilemma,” he said.
The Z Flip3, which comes in cream, green, lavender and black, costs $999 — or $400 less than last year’s model, but nonetheless at the high-end for smartphones.
Smartwatches and wireless earbuds
In addition to foldables, Samsung’s wearables lines got a refresh on Wednesday. Its new Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic — the company’s first smartwatches to run on the Wear OS co-created with Google — promise an even deeper look at a user’s health profile.
The watches are faster, the display’s resolution is crisper and the battery charges faster (the company says a 30 minutes boost will get users 10 hours of battery life). But the real innovation is packed into a new chip with three health sensors. Samsung said the sensors can now assess body composition by measuring skeletal muscle, basal metabolic rate, water retention, and body fat percentage. It also comes with advanced sleep tracking features, such as the ability to monitor snoring.
The Galaxy Watch4, which features an aluminum frame, a sweat-proof sport band and a digital bezel, is available in two sizes, an assortment of colors and starts at at $249.99 for Bluetooth versions and $299.99 for LTE models. The higher-end Watch4 Classic features luxury materials such as stainless steel, and offers a rotating bezel, two size and color options. It starts at $349.99 for Bluetooth versions and $399.99 for LTE models.
Samsung also unveiled its second-generation wireless Galaxy Buds2, its smallest, lightest and most affordable earbuds ($149) to date. Buds2 comes with active noise cancellation, three sizes of soft, flexible tips that users can choose find the most comfortable fit. It’s available in graphite, white, olive and lavender.
Alberta doctors raise alarm on specialist staff shortages in intensive care wards – Saanich News
The Alberta Medical Association says the province’s high COVID-19 numbers are behind a desperate shortage of specialized staff to care for critical care patients.
“The demand for (intensive care unit) nurses is currently so high that we need to increase the number of patients assigned to each nurse,” the medical association said in a public letter Monday.
“This reduction in staffing ratio is well below our normal standard of care. This will jeopardize the quality of ICU care that we are able to provide.”
The letter was signed by members of the group’s intensive care section.
Alberta’s hospitals and intensive care wards are overwhelmed by critical care patients, most of them stricken with COVID-19. The overwhelming majority are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Alberta Health Services has been briefing doctors on criteria to use should the health system collapse and they have to make on-the-spot decisions on who gets life-saving care.
Last week, Dr. Paul Parks, the medical association’s head of emergency medicine, said the staffing shortage is affecting care in other ways. Parks said some critical care patients are not being put on available ventilators because there aren’t enough nurses to monitor them.
Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says while typical ICU care is one nurse per patient, an alternative model, known as a hub, is being used to adapt to the pandemic while ensuring care is delivered.
Each hub includes one or two trained intensive care nurses and two to four registered nurses.
“This model partners registered nurses from other areas with existing trained ICU (nurses) to expand the availability of the critical-care nursing skill set to more patients,” said Williamson in an email.
“ICU patients are never cared for by nurses alone. Whole teams work with nurses in ICU, including respiratory therapists and many others. “
In recent weeks, the province has scrambled to create more ad hoc intensive care beds, effectively more than doubling the normal total of 173 to accommodate 312 patients currently receiving critical care.
Staff have been reassigned, forcing mass cancellations of surgeries, including cancer procedures.
Alberta has asked the federal government for help, and the Canadian Armed Forces has said it will respond with eight more intensive care nurses and air transport to take critically ill patients to other provinces.
Almost two weeks ago, Alberta reintroduced gathering restrictions and brought in proof of vaccination requirements for entry to restaurants, bars, casinos, concerts and gyms to try to reduce spread of the virus.
Daily case counts remain well over one thousand and a growing number of doctors and infectious disease specialists are calling for a “firebreak” lockdown, which would include a shutdown of schools, businesses and other activities.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, in a weekend radio interview, rejected a lockdown. He said it would make “no sense for the 80 per cent of the population that is vaccinated” and who are much less likely to transmit the disease and be hospitalized.
Alberta has lagged behind other provinces in vaccination. Kenney and his United Conservative government have been trying to persuade more people to get their shots by offering $1-million prize draws, other gifts and, more recently, $100 debit cards.
About 73 per cent of eligible Albertans, those 12 and over, are fully vaccinated, while 82 per cent have had at least one shot.
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said it’s time to partner with community groups and health-care professionals to go door to door and help those who are not vaccinated due to health or work concerns or a language barrier.
Those groups could be “having conversations and offering Alberta vaccines right there on people’s doorsteps,” Notley said in Calgary.
—Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Face ID stops working on iPhone 13 after any third-party screen replacements – XDA Developers
Apple just released the iPhone 13 series earlier this month, with four models to choose from: the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The phones are a step up from previous models, with smoother displays and enhanced cameras, but the iPhone 13 series appears to be a downgrade from earlier iPhones in at least one regard — Face ID will stop working after anyone except Apple (or an Apple-authorized repair center) replaces your screen.
The below video from Phone Repair Guru (via MacRumors) shows the displays on two iPhone 13 phones being swapped. Even though the displays are genuine Apple parts, and the screen assembly doesn’t contain any components directly related to Face ID, the result is that Face ID no longer works.
It’s not clear at the moment if this is a software bug, or yet another measure against unauthorized iPhone repairs. Apple has become increasingly hostile to third-party repairs over the past few years. Apple has its own Independent iPhone Repair Program, which provides select companies or third-party repair centers with genuine Apple parts and repair manuals. However, an iFixit report from last year pointed out that it can take several months for repair centers to join the program, and Apple often sells parts to repair centers for high prices. In some cases, the cost for parts exceed what Apple would charge to perform the entire repair.
Apple has not yet published a statement about Face ID and third-party repairs. If Face ID is intended to break, it would likely only give more momentum to the ‘Right to Repair’ movement, which has pushed governments around the world to force electronics manufacturers to make replacement parts and repair manuals readily available. U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in July that called for the FTC to establish guidelines for device repairs, and other countries around the world are in various stages of crafting similar legislation.
Signal, the encrypted messaging app, is currently down for many users (Update: it's back) – Yahoo Canada Shine On
Update 2: Signal is now back up for “99% of users,” according to its Twitter account.
Update: In a tweet, Signal said the disruption is due to a hosting outage.
Signal is down for many users right now. Its status website says the encrypted messaging app is “experiencing technical difficulties” and many people are getting an in-app error message that says the same thing. The company says it is “working hard to restore service as quickly as possible.” TechCrunch has contacted Signal for comment.
Signal’s in-app error message
According to Downdetector.com, users started reporting outages around 11:05 PM Eastern Standard Time this evening, and it appears to be affecting people around the world.
Over the past few months, Signal has continued to build out its feature set, adding a default timer for disappearing messages that automatically applies the settings to all new conversations.
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