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February 23, 2021
🎶 Sad about Daft Punk? Don't be. We'll get twice the music now from Daft, and Punk. Right? Right??
News by the dozen

A trio of leading stories today so here they are, fast and loud:

First is the Huawei Mate X2, which launched in China yesterday:

  • It’s Huawei’s first new foldable since its screen-on-the-outside Mate XS, and the Mate X2 is a complete redesign.
  • It looks a lot like the Galaxy Z Fold 2 now with an in-folding design. The inner display is an 8-inch OLED with a resolution of 2480 x 2200, while the exterior screen is an OLED at 6.45 inches with a 2700 x 1160 resolution, and both have high-refresh rates at 90Hz, and there’s no gap when it’s shut.
  • I want to talk more about this including the quad rear camera and specs, but because Huawei remains on the US blacklist, it runs EMUI 11.0 based on Android 10 without Google Mobile Services and won’t go on sale outside China. And the pricing is unreal: it’s listed at 17,999 yuan (~$2,785) for the 256GB storage model, and 18,999 yuan ($2,940) for 512GB.
  • Which is super expensive, especially considering the Galaxy Z Fold 2 goes for $2,000, and that pricing in China is usually a little cheaper than global pricing.
  • Now, Huawei said this phone will be one of the first to get Huawei’s new HarmonyOS, starting in April. Based on the first glimpses of that, it will look exactly like Android 10.

Second, there’s a big leak of the Pixel 5a, with renders from Steve “OnLeaks” Hemmerstoffer showing what looks exactly like the Pixel 4a 5G:

  • I own the Pixel 4a 5G and it’s pretty tough to spot any differences. Which is fine given Google’s reasonable pricing on these almost-flagships.
  • It’ll be a 6.2-inch FHD+ OLED if these leaks hold up.
  • The listed dimensions at 156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8 mm (9.4 mm at the camera bump) for the Pixel 5a does make it a touch taller, narrower, and thicker than the Pixel 4a 5g (153.9 x 74 x 8.2 mm), while the camera bump was only 8.5mm.
  • This is really an external view of the new phone — no details about specs like processor, RAM, storage, battery size, 5G, and so on.

Ambitious enough?

  • Hemmerstoffer points out some opinion we’re going to see a lot: can Google release a Pixel 5a and have it make sense? The 4a 5G already felt a little bit like the Pixel 5 Lite, the Pixel 4a also exists, and now a Pixel 5a might confuse the issue more, given how similar they all are.
  • That said, if Google can up the specs in a meaningful way, especially some improvements to the camera system, without raising the price, maybe there’s no reason to complain too loudly. 
  • Though, I do think there’s a potential problem that Google isn’t being more ambitious.
  • It’s possible this year’s expected Pixel 6 pushes flagship boundaries more, but that’s asking a lot of a Google team that stepped back from bleeding-edge after the flagship Pixel 4 series mixed a good phone with bad features including a stifled battery.

Third, all Samsung devices from 2019 or later will get four years of security updates.

Samsung Updates List 2021
  • This is a big deal — with Samsung guaranteeing four years of important updates to all its devices, including phones and tablets, that extends the life of its devices and means the company has thrown down a challenge in the world of Android.
  • It also beats Google at its own game — Pixel phones coming with a minimum of three years of software updates was best-in-class previously.
  • But why now? Samsung didn’t reveal too much, but we’re seeing that Android 12 shows even major updates will become easier, while both device security and long-term sustainability are both bigger concerns than ever. 
Roundup

🚀 There’s sweet, sweet video from Mars of a spacecraft landing for the first time ever, and there’s just something about seeing NASA Perseverance’s entry, descent and landing, including the full parachute and sky crane, that makes Mars really feel real. Images are one thing, decent quality video (out of about 30GB of data) is another! (YouTube). There are also some audio recordings, too (Soundcloud).

📈 Apple, not Samsung, was the top-selling global smartphone brand in Q4 2020: the first time Apple had claimed the lead since 2016 (Android Authority).

📸 Samsung Isocell GN2 announced: A new 50MP camera sensor with bigger pixels and a larger sensor size than its predecessor (Android Authority).

🔋 Oppo flaunts new mid-air charging tech on its Oppo X 2021 rollable phone (Android Authority).

🔊 Spotify announced Spotify HiFi, a new subscription tier for streaming lossless audio, instead of the maximum 320kbps it streams now. Great news, except we don’t know pricing, market availability (other than it will be limited, initially), and no word as to when. Also, it’s coming to 80 new countries, and there are more exclusive podcasts (Android Authority).

👍 Australia and Facebook are friends again! The Australian government revised its proposed laws, and Facebook gave it a like — news will once again be shared normally within a few days. What does it all mean? Not sure — Facebook has been given two months to make agreements with local media, and the social network says it’ll pull the plug again if it doesn’t feel it’s fair (ABC.net.au).

🥓 “A new entrant to the edible protein scene, Berkeley-based startup Air Protein makes a meat alternative using NASA-inspired fermentation technology to transform CO2… into a complete edible protein.”

📡 Elon Musk says Starlink internet speeds will double to 300Mbps this year (The Verge).

Beeple Mania (Esquire), Nyan Cat (New York Times) and NBA Top Shot sells $48M of digital collectibles in 24 hours (Twitter): What’s going on and how are they all linked? Digital art and collectibles are selling for crazy money on marketplaces for non-fungible tokens on blockchain. CryptoKitties started this but it mostly died down when crypto prices crashed, but the company behind it, Dapper Labs, is working with Top Shot.

🧠 Science says it is possible to communicate with dreamers (PBS).

Chart Tuesday

It’s a great day for charts and this one tracking Warren Buffet’s stock portfolio via Berkshire Hathaway, from 1994 to 2021, showing the astounding growth over the years, including most recently in its Apple holdings:

buffett apple
  • You can watch the whole thing (including his big losses in 2008) over about 4 minutes on YouTube.

All the best,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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