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August 4, 2021
☕ Good morning! I’m at a completely decked-out coworking space today with a (free!) giant espresso machine (free!!), and accordingly I’ve had wayyyy too much coffee.
Tech's latest Me-Too game
Oppo under-screen camera (USC).

As Samsung gets ready to launch its Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Flip 3 range, likely sporting under-display cameras, everyone else is showing off their under-display camera tech hoping to get all the nice halo effects of the tech.

  • The short recap is ZTE was first to market with an under-display Axon 20, which was bad and more a technical demonstration for the market to see.
  • ZTE’s now at second-gen tech with the Axon 30, which launched on July 27, though we haven’t seen reviews yet.

Now, Oppo and Xiaomi are trying to muscle in, with the game of me-too being playing out:

  • We’ve seen this game plan before. Ahead of the first Fold release, Oppo and Xiaomi showed off their own folding tech, and then did nothing for years, until Xiaomi brought something to market. (Oppo went for rollable over foldable).
  • We’re at a similar stage: ahead of the biggest company in Android making noise in one week, Oppo and Xiaomi are trying to get in first.
  • First, Xiaomi, which will launch the Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 on August 10. Details discovered in MIUI 13 code suggests a flagship with an under-display camera is coming soon. A “leaked” Mi Mix 4 video shows a pretty crazy, super flexible screen, with under-display camera as well — and it’ll probably not be anything like the final product.
  • And from Oppo, there’s a more official unveiling of its “next-generation under-screen camera technology,” including a helpful sample photo and a bunch of tech insights.
  • Those include: shrinking the size of the pixels on the display without reducing the number of actual pixels, meaning enough of a gap for sufficient light to hit the camera, while retaining a 400 PPI display. 
  • There’s also a swap from traditional screen wiring for thinner, transparent wiring, for “much finer display quality,” and further tweaks for the area directly above the camera.
  • So, that’s a lot of promises. The sample image looks like this:
  • Which is decent, in broad daylight, though clearly worse than a normal selfie cam, and you’ll spot lens flare. Low-light will be a further test.
  • But who knows when Oppo’s tech it coming. It first talked about this in 2019, and it said it’s still working on the hardware and algorithms now.
  • We don’t expect a new Oppo flagship (X4 Pro?) until 2022, so …maybe then?
  • Meanwhile, Xiaomi and Samsung will show off their tech next week.

📎 WhatsApp news: WhatsApp’s View Once messages feature is finally live: How to use it (Android Authority). In less good news, a report from The Information says Facebook wants to analyze encrypted WhatsApp messages for ads, introducing us all to the idea of homomorphic encryption, which is analyzing encrypted data without decrypting it (Android Authority).

🥇 We asked, you told us — from our deep dive camera comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra takes the best shots so far in 2021. Plenty said the iPhone 12 Pro Max wins video by miles, which wasn’t part of the test (Android Authority).

🍎 Apple begins selling Touch ID-equipped Magic Keyboard ($149), new Mac Pro GPUs for professionals who need to upgrade, starting at $2,400 for a Radeon Pro W6800X with 32GB GDDR6, though more as a standalone. Incredibly, those prices seem … ok (Ars Technica)

🎨 MS Paint is good now and is getting a new look in Windows 11 (Gizmodo). There’s also a major redesign of Apple’s online store at

🤖 An Australian Federal court has ruled that AI can be named as the inventor of a patent, which seems to be a first for the world (InnovationAus).

🤔 Facebook will host a paid movie premiere this month (Engadget).

😬 The reckoning at Blizzard has come: Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and SVP of global HR Jesse Meschuk, have both quit, as culture problems, ignored complaints, and the troubling response to ignored complaints, play out in a very public manner (The Verge).

🛰️ Russia’s latest space station incident points to larger issues (Wired).

🚀 The Boeing/NASA rocket didn’t fly yesterday due to “unexpected valve position indications” that couldn’t be fixed. It was rescheduled to today, but that’s now been scrubbed, and the whole thing will be wheeled back for checking. Could be a while before everything is sorted out.

🔋 Nikola shows its truck going uphill, for a change (The Verge).

🧯 “ELI5: Why do “flammable” and “inflammable” mean the same thing, or is there a difference?” (r/explainlikeimfive).

Wednesday Weirdness
Realme XT shot of a pool using standard camera

An Airbnb for swimming pools is here, and it’s called Swimply.

  • It’s pretty simple: monetize swimming pools and give people access to more pools — and there are some 13,000 pools on the app across North America and Australia. Maybe elsewhere, but none in Germany yet.
  • CNET took it all for a ride and said it was less weird than you think, and somewhat economical: “At $20 an hour, it was less expensive than full-sized pools in the area, which can cost more than $100 an hour to rent. The average rental cost for a Swimply pool in the US is about $40 to $45 an hour.”
  • That said, pools feel like one standalone thing you need a few extras with. People need bathrooms, easy access, chairs, pool toys, water, etc., and that seems to be an issue at times for some pools — owners can be home and might not want a bunch of soaked people in the house, which is more Airbnb style. And let’s not talk about insurances…
  • I don’t know, it makes sense for some people, and people with backyard pools and such, I guess? It does feel a little bit like everything has to be monetized, butttt that’s late-stage capitalism…


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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