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🧭 Good morning! Nothing better than busy months like March, with no shortage of good, fascinating, and intriguing tech. And cheap electric boats. Read on!

March 10, 2021
What's being Unpacked?
samsung unpacked awesome
Samsung

Samsung has announced its next Unpacked media event, circling Wednesday, March 17, at 10 AM EDT on the calendar for its launch. 

…Launch of what?

  • Samsung said the event was called “Awesome Unpacked,” and the only conclusion here is that the South Korea manufacturer is giving (unusual!) airtime for its Galaxy A series phones, which we’ve seen leak in the past weeks.
  • Those are expected to be the Galaxy A52 and Galaxy A72 smartphones, mid-rangers that tend to have importance on the global side along with the US as competition against the most-value iPhone offerings, which include the iPhone SE and older/refurbished models that are still available. 
  • The A51 in particular sold well everywhere, a real hit. And the A52 will be a big seller if Samsung gets it right, and maybe this event says that it will.
  • By the way, the leaks include, ahem, Samsung’s official website publishing images, and this week a YouTuber even uploaded an unboxing video for the Galaxy A52

A52 expectations — two models

  • We expect two 6.5-inch models: a 5G option with 120Hz refresh and Snapdragon 750G chipset, and a 4G LTE-only model with 90Hz refresh, and a Snapdragon 720G chipset.
  • Both will come with headphone jack and microSD card slot, with IP67 water resistance, and a 4,500mAh battery will power both.
  • On the camera front, it looks like Samsung may go for quad-sensor setup, with a 64MP main shooter with OIS (an upgrade from the A51’s 48MP shooter), 12MP ultra-wide and 5MP macro cams, plus 5MP depth sensor for portraits shots. The same 32MP selfie cam is on the front.
  • So, it comes down to pricing. The success of the A51 was it started at $400 with deals that dropped it further into the $300 range. Rumors out of WinFuture.de suggest the 4G-only Galaxy A52 is priced at around €349 in Europe, while its 5G counterpart would cost €429.
  • It’s always hard to stack up those figures with taxes included against US-pricing which doesn’t include sales tax. I’d be amazed if Samsung went over the $399 figure for its 4G phone, while the 5G A51 was $500. 
  • Could Samsung go cheaper, as it did with the S21?

A72:

  • The other A-series phone getting an update is the A72. The A71 was a larger, spec’d up, and pricier version of the A51, but still firmly mid-range.
  • We should again see two models of the A72, with 5G and without, following the same kind of specs as the two versions of the A52.
  • The difference may be the quad camera setup with a telephoto lens, and a 500mAh bigger battery, at 5,000 mAh.
  • The A71 5G was priced at $600 which started to push it into close competition with Samsung’s own S and Note range, especially the previous generation models.

And is there enough time from the release of the S21 series for the new A-range? Samsung’s own battle between the S21 range and the new A-range will be keenly watched.

ROG Phone 5 launch
Asus ROG Phone 5 product shot of the top of the home screen
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

The Asus ROG Phone 5 is launching as I type this newsletter, and I enjoyed watching the presentation in the background, with its overt focus on the gaming aspects of the device, and accessories, rather than the usual new phone presentations we sit through.

I haven’t caught it all, but the team have already reviewed the ROG Phone 5 and certified it as the best gaming smartphone right now, with some of the best speakers on a phone, among other good things.

  • The new phone sports a Snapdragon 888 platform as you’d expect, along with a ​6.78-inch OLED 144Hz display, with a small display on the back.
  • It’s big and heavy: it has everything. There’s a return of the headphone jack with Quad DAC, re-aligned air triggers, motion control, and haptic feedback aligned to audio, and its 6,000mAh battery, split into a 2x 3,000mAh design. The Pro and Ultimate versions of the phone come with a clip-on fan.
  • It starts at €799 with 8GB/128GB storage, and tops out at €1,299 for the Ultimate edition, with full 18GB RAM/512GB storage.
  • On the downside, it’s more tailored to gaming than ever, and maybe even less appropriate for those who want a beast phone but aren’t huge on gaming. It still lacks wireless charging, no IP rating, and the fingerprint reader is awful. 
  • The camera retains the ROG Phone 3 camera which was surprisingly good, though the ultra-wide isn’t quite as good as the main 64MP shooter.
Roundup

🔓 Cloud “security” camera vendor Verkada, which is installed at the likes of Tesla, Cloudflare, schools, bars, prisons, stores, and other businesses, was really, really hacked. Hackers gained access to live feeds of 150,000 surveillance cameras! The hackers say they also have access to the full video archive of all Verkada customers! Shocking. This also shows that facial recognition has gone further than many would believe (Vice).

📸 OnePlus is stepping up the ultra-wide game with a 50MP camera on its OnePlus 9 series (Android Authority).

🎂 Chrome OS receives a host of new features on its 10th birthday: New Phone Hub lets you control your Android phone from the laptop, quick access to files, music, easier setup for kids, improved Wi-Fi Sync, and more. (It’s just a tiny bit weird these useful features have to wait for a birthday to be launched, but ok) (Android Authority).

📆 Possible launch date for the Pixel 5a leaked, keyword being ‘possible’: June 11? Also, on the Pixel front, new evidence suggests Google Pixel 6 could have centered 4K selfie cam (Android Authority)

📦 Amazon’s long-rumored, secretive Vesta home robot project has leaked: 800 people are working on this, but concerns are it may be too niche (Business Insider).

🔊 The Sonos Roam is the smallest and least expensive Sonos speaker to date: $169 smart speaker, streams over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, ships next month (Ars Technica).

🥽 Facebook details a 10-year vision for its AR glasses: gestures will work alongside a wristband-type device with haptic feedback (CNET).

💧 A hydrogen startup got $22M from Bill Gates-led investors: new tech can split water at cheaper rates, but it’s only in the lab for now (Tech.eu)

🚀 Elon Musk reveals why the SN10 Starship exploded, and it’s a little complicated, but the legs couldn’t hold the load (Engadget).

🌠 “Astonishingly rare” fireball meteorite found in UK driveway (CNET).

Weird Wednesday
EV boat

Here’s some fun weird today: you can buy your very own electric boat from Alibaba for $1,035!* (*Plus import duties, batteries not included.)

Electrek has the fun scoop on the 14-foot “Fiberglass 4 person automatic drainage electric boat,” sporting a 500W inboard electric motor, which is only just above half a horsepower, but yet is allegedly enough power to a committed jogging pace of around 6.5 knots. 

  • That may be without anyone in the boat, and going with the breeze, dead still water, and the lightest batteries you can find… 
  • …but hey, you’re going to be on a lake with this anyway, right? Right?
  • A bunch of people pointed out that many small lakes and waterways have electric-only restrictions, so this can get you in the water

And the batteries are a heavy factor:

  • The manufacturer recommends a pair of 200Ah packs or around 5 kWh. 
  • Light lithium packs start at around $800-$900! Almost the price of the fine probably-not-sea-going vessel. 
  • You can do cheaper with heavy old lead-acid marine batteries… but then again, you’ll have to really trust this thing floats.

Cheers,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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