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May 18, 2021

👋 Good morning! A bustling day of tech, including Google I/O kicking off later today. But before we get into it, we’d like to give a word of thanks to today’s sponsor, Verizon Fios.

Verizon logo

Verizon has a couple of new offers on Fios plans that can ease the load on your network! The offers start with a 200Mbps plan for $39.99 p/m with AutoPay, with three months of Discovery Plus sprinkled on top if you have an existing Optical Network Terminal. For a family of devices you can double it to 400Mbps for $59.99 p/m with AutoPay, with Fios including an Echo Dot and a Blink Mini just for signing up. Then there’s Gigabit! Up to 940Mbps for $79.99 p/m with AutoPay, plus Fios will add Amazon Prime to the mix for one year, an Echo Dot, and more.

There are also Fios TV offers to add to your Wi-Fi plan too: through September 15, you can hop into Your Fios TV or the Fios TV Test Drive plan for just $50p/m. If you commit to More Fios TV for $70, you’ll get a $50 Verizon e-gift card or a $150 e-gift card with the $90 Most Fios TV plan.

Google I/O starts today
Google I/O 2019 Shoreline Sign

The Google I/O 2021 keynote kicks off at 1PM ET today, where we’re extremely likely to see a bunch of new Google things including products and services, and without doubt, Android 12 details and a first beta, not just a developer preview.

  • Google’s own Keynote description says: “Tune in to find out about how we’re furthering our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Which is a lot of words, and no detail.

So, in brief, here’s what’s expected and what to watch out for:

  • Let’s start in an unexpected place: Wear OS. Google just teased a big Wear OS update for smartwatches which is massively overdue and unexpected. It seemed like Wear OS was on life support, with new devices avoiding the platform. Google’s acquisition of Fitbit and Fossil’s smartwatch tech suggested a wearable push, but there’s been a lack of clear software direction.
  • Of course Android 12! Expect at least moderately big things. I’m seeing a lot of hype around leaks as we head into the show. The developer previews have given us insights into new back-end features, but Google will be amping up what matters to users, including what seems to be a big round of interface updates and maybe stacked widgets. Our ever-updating list of confirmed and rumored features hold plenty of clues, but I’ll break down what matters tomorrow.
  • New Pixel products: The Pixel Buds A seem likely to be announced, while the Google Pixel 5a could be unveiled as well. It’d be fun to see if Google announces anything about its custom silicon project called Whitechapel, which is supposedly set for the Pixel 6 series. I’d be surprised if we do see much about Google’s smartphones though, given they’re scheduled to come out much later in the year.
  • Services: There’s a chance that the likes of Assistant, Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and/or Android TV will see a new feature or update unveiled.
  • Watch for any word about Google Stadia, which needs some good news after its dedicated studios were closed down.
  • Best case scenario: we get a surprise. Something new out of Google! Google Meet hardware? A satellite constellation for broadband? A new messaging app?

📂 Watch Samsung show off that Z-folding foldable design in a new video — we talked about this yesterday! (Android Authority)

🧱 New Xiaomi patent suggests modular phones aren’t dead just yet (Android Authority).

🍎 Unannounced Beats Studio Buds, an upcoming set of stemless true wireless earbuds, exposed by …Apple (Android Authority).

🔐 Famed Magisk developer John Wu leaves Apple to join Android’s security team (Twitter).

🔊 Apple announced Apple Music will support spatial and lossless audio at no extra charge, and Amazon jumped in to offer high-quality HD streaming at no extra cost, too. Spotify was probably hoping to charge more for its Spotify HiFi feature, but may not be able to do so now against the behemoths (Android Authority). Oddly, the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max don’t support Apple Music’s lossless streaming, even when plugged in, but Apple’s Spatial Audio is supported which seems like a bigger deal.

📉 New iPad Pro shipments continue to slip as Apple faces display production issues (Engadget).

🍏 And a detailed report from the New York Times around how Apple deals with demands in China, making concessions on data privacy and security. Detail via “17 current & former Apple employees and 4 security experts.” Ouch. Reporter Jack Nicas said on Twitter: “China made Apple very rich — and now it’s making it undercut its values.” Also, to beat aggregators, the Times published the five takeaways you need to know in case you just want the short version.

🪓 AT&T to spin off WarnerMedia into Discovery, basically admitting giant merger was a mistake (Ars Technica).

💰 Amazon said to make $9B offer for one of the oldest major movie studios, MGM, which has a rich library of classics including James Bond films, Ben Hurr, and Gone with the Wind (Variety).

🥽 Oculus will soon let you see how silly you look while playing VR games (Engadget).

🌞 Sun-orbiting spacecraft takes fascinating images of a coronal mass ejection (Gizmodo).

🔴 “Nüwa seeks to become first sustainable city on Mars with 1 million residents.” Ok. (CNET).

🦶 “ELI5: What is happening to your skin when a callus forms?” (r/explainlikeimfive).

Chart Tuesday

Bad news. Droughts in California and Taiwan are worsening. I’ve picked out these two places because the former looks like its heading into a tough drought as summer approaches, while Taiwan’s drought has stretched its supply, and may even impact the chip shortage.

First, California, which last experienced a severe drought between 2011 and 2017. Now, things are looking bad again:

california rains
  • Image above via the FT.
  • And there’s quality data available at detailing all manner of insights into the relative length of the drought situation.

And in Taiwan, the world is watching because the primary water sources for Taiwan’s $100bn semiconductor industry are under dire pressure. Baoshan No. 2 Reservoir in Hsinchu County shows a water level at the lowest it’s ever been – at last check, down to 3.68% full.

taiwan water levels
  • Taiwan is one of the world’s wetter countries, with seasonal rains and typhoons regularly making landfall.
  • But for the first time in 56 years, no typhoon made landfall in Taiwan in 2020, but even then, storages were at high levels heading into 2021, before less than average rainfalls saw storages plummet (The News Lens).
  • And in direct relevance: the largest chip manufacturer in the world, TSMC, uses 156,000 tonnes of water each day (or 60 Olympic size swimming pools) to produce chips, per AFP.
  • TSMC says it is already trucking water in and has contingency plans.

Some rain would be good.

All the best,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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