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December 18, 2021

⚡ Welcome again to The Weekly Authority, the Android Authority newsletter that breaks down the top Android and tech news from the week. The 173rd edition here with Oppo Inno Day, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8, PlayStation 5 sideplates, and more.


🎅🏻 The Weekly Authority's hitting your inbox as usual over the holidays. Strange to think that this time next week Christmas will be over for another year. I'm hoping Santa brings me a new Kindle Paperwhite!

Popular news this week

Oppo Find N dual window mode
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Oppo:

  • Day one of Oppo Inno Day revealed Oppo’s new chip: MariSilicon X is a custom image signal processor, or imaging NPU, loaded up with what Oppo says is its machine learning algorithms and tech — and it’ll be in Oppo’s next Find flagship, expected in Q1 2022.
  • The other big announcement was Air Glass, Oppo’s “assisted reality” glasses with a heads-up display offering relevant, real-time data on the fly, like data from some apps (weather updates, your daily agenda, shopping list, etc.) and what’s on your phone’s homescreen.
  • Day two saw the launch of the Oppo Find N, a more compact Galaxy Z Fold 3 for $1,200, with a 5.49-inch display that unfolds to a 7.1-inch 120Hz screen using ultra-thin glass, Snapdragon 888 SoC, and a display crease supposedly up to 80% smaller than unnamed rival foldables. Our comparison pics show just how small it is. It’s a China-only launch for now, though.
  • This week Oppo also shed some light on its retractable camera: a longer video shows off the tech and confirms a 50MP Sony IMX766 camera sensor, the equivalent of 2X optical zoom when extended, and the ability to retract in 0.6 seconds if the phone is dropped.

Samsung:

 Mediatek:

Huawei:

Google:

OnePlus:

Realme:

  • The Realme GT 2 Pro launch is confirmed for December 20, the company’s first premium flagship and most premium phone to date — could have a 6.8-inch 120Hz display with QHD+ (1440p) resolution, and a triple camera setup with a 50MP primary sensor, a 50MP ultrawide, and an 8MP telephoto lens, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Xiaomi:

  • Xiaomi 12 renders and video leaked, showing a center-mounted punch-hole camera and curved screen, plus looks smaller than the Xiaomi Mi 11.
  • And the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is here with 4K support, Android 11, and a remote, a competitor for Google’s own Chromecast with Google TV, but no word on pricing or availability yet.

Apple:

Space:

Elsewhere:

Movies/TV:

  • The Witcher Season 2 hit Netflix on Friday — check out IGN‘s interview with Henry Cavill before you start the inevitable bingeing.
  • YouTube’s agreement with Disney ended on December 17 and no new deal was agreed, with networks including ESPN, ABC, and the Disney channels removed from the service as of December 18 — and YouTube TV subscription price dropped to $50 per month. 
  • You can watch the first five minutes of Moonfall now: Roland Emerich’s latest disaster movie stars Halle Berry and is out February 4.
  • Or dive into the best alternative Christmas movies that aren’t Die Hard.
  • Meanwhile, Spider-Man: No Way Home reviews are in: Ars Technica says it’s “the best superhero film of the year,” Digital Spy says it definitely lives up to the hype, and Empire gives it five stars, while we’ve ranked the best Spider-Man movies.
  • Hate TVs? LG’s new Objet TV is a 65-inch TV with a remote-controlled fabric cover that can be adjusted to different levels, comes in a range of different colors, though it’s a little strange it’s designed to lean against a wall. 

Gaming:

Reviews
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 with the screen showing the display warmth temperature settings
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Features

Weekly Wonder

In this edition’s Weekly Wonder, we’re wondering, is a lithium shortage coming, and are we prepared?

It’s an important question that we’ll try to answer, but first a look at some lithium facts:

  • Lithium is the world’s lightest metal and the lightest solid metal.
  • It appears silvery white.
  • The metallic compound part of lithium is used for batteries to power gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and laptops, as well as electric vehicles (EVs).

Where does lithium come from?

Most lithium is mined in Latin America and Australia.

  • We produce over 80,000 tons of lithium annually.
  • And there are reserves of almost 80 million tons.
  • However, 60% of those reserves are in China, creating concerns over how secure supplies are for the USA, Europe, and the rest of the world. What happens if China decides to hang onto its lithium reserves?

How much does lithium cost?

Huge price rises have seen lithium prices reach record highs:

  • In March 2021, lithium prices were over $12,600 per ton.
  • That’s an 88% increase since the start of 2021 and the highest price seen since March 2019.

So is there actually a lithium shortage?

Technically no, there’s not a major shortage right now, but with demand for EVs growing — not to mention the increase in demand for smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. — lithium prices are set to soar, and manufacturers will pass those price increases onto customers.

  • A lithium deficit of between 455,000 and 1.7 million metric tons each year is predicted by experts.
  • Reuters reported that market analyst Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (BMI) predicted an “acute” shortage of lithium from 2022 onwards.
  • Then there are those who say things will be fine in the long-term, like Simon Moore, CEO of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence: “Long-term, it will be fine. The price will be fine. There’s no geological shortage.”
  • You can read a full interview with Simon Moore over at Morning Brew.

So, it seems like the shortage is a supply and logistics issue rather than an actual shortage of the metal compound itself. There are a few reasons behind this:

  • Building a lithium mine takes between five to seven years.
  • Complications with opening new mines can mean things take even longer. Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining companies, recently planned a new lithium mine in Serbia, but plans have been suspended after protests from locals.
  • We’re building gigafactories — huge factories that produce batteries for EVs on a gigantic scale — in as little as 24 months, and at the rate these are springing up, we should also be opening new lithium mines or announcing new lithium-refining capacity, but we’re not.
  • This leads to what’s known as a “structural shortage” where there’s simply not enough capacity to meet demand.
  • We’re also not recycling batteries as much as we could be.
    In the EU, companies are required to collect up to 45% of batteries at the end of their life, for repurposing or recycling — but few of these batteries are lithium-ion ones. That’s because they’re often built into devices, making them hard to dismantle, or the devices they’re in are valuable, so likely to be exported for resale.

What does this mean for the future of EVs?

A report from the Center for Automotive Research, or CAR, predicts that between 2022 and 2029, we’ll see a shortage of the supply of new vehicles totaling 18.7 million cars due to the limited capacity for lithium-ion battery cells. After 2029, we should supposedly be back on track in terms of lithium supply and battery production.

The good news is that the lithium shortage isn’t likely to affect the availability of your favorite gadgets, although we may see price increases. But it’s possible that moving to fully electric vehicles might not be the best way forward:

  • There are those who say we should be moving to hybrid vehicles rather than the entire planet shifting to EVs. And when considering how much of the planet’s lithium is held in China, and what that could mean for the security of our supply, that certainly makes sense.
  • But hydrogen’s expensive to make, store, transport, and distribute.
  • It’s also too inefficient, according to experts.
  • Elon Musk also described hydrogen power as “stupid.” Hmm.

There are pros and cons to both sides, but the good news is that, provided we can overcome short-term structural shortages, things should be fine in the long term. And we’re already researching other battery compounds that could replace lithium, as well as other lithium compounds we could use instead of lithium-ion.

Tech Calendar
  • December 20: Realme GT 2 Pro launch
  • December 22: The Matrix 4 release date
  • December 23: Huawei P50 Pocket launch
  • December 24: Don’t Look Up hits Netflix
  • January 5-8: CES 2022
  • January 28: Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection comes to PS5

Tech Tweet of the Week

My cousin just pulled the most-faved memes from @elonmusk Twitter account in 2021.
— Trung Phan 🇨🇦 (@TrungTPhan) December 13, 2021

Bonus: There are rats out there that can probably play Doom II better than most of us…

🎄 Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and see you next weekend!

Looking forward to the eggnog and mince pies,

Paula Beaton, Copy Editor.

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