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⚡ 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!
- 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.
- The Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 was announced on Wednesday, and though it’s no Tab S7 Plus, it’s got plenty of storage (up to 128GB) with a 7,040mAh battery and 10.5-inch screen, landing in the US in January in grey, silver, and new color Pink Gold.
- Samsung’s named its new phone and appliance division its DX division: “Device eXperience,” to “reflect the company’s focus on targeting consumer demand in a variety of electronics.”
- A Samsung 25W wireless charger exists: None of its current devices support that speed, so does this mean fast charging’s on the way for the Galaxy S22?
- Also, the Samsung Galaxy S8 just won’t stop getting updates — did Samsung forget it isn’t supposed to get updates anymore?
- The Dimensity 9000 will land inside two high-profile flagship lines: Oppo and Redmi said the chip will be used in the Find X and Redmi K50 series respectively.
- The Huawei P50 pocket is coming next week: Teaser images leaked on Weibo show a Galaxy Z Flip-style device, launching December 23.
- A fix landed for the weird Google Pixel 911 calling bug: Microsoft released a Teams update to solve the problem, Google to issue its own update as part of the January 2022 security patch.
- Meanwhile, in other weird Google news, a strange Pixel alert went out warning users of a storm in the Philippines, though many users lived nowhere near the area, and Google has yet to explain the glitch.
- And Google’s Android 12 Go brings privacy and speed boosts to low-powered phones — the first devices running it will launch in 2022.
- The OnePlus Nord 2 CE specs may have just leaked: main upgrades seem to be a MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset and faster wired charging (65W), plus renders leaked this week too, though don’t expect an alert slider…
- And unless OnePlus steps in, Oxygen OS 12 won’t support GCam mods and other third-party camera apps — Color OS 12 has the same limitation.
- The OnePlus 10 Pro could have slower charging than first rumored — leaks claim 80W charging, though we were expecting 125W.
- Meanwhile, OnePlus released “Never Settle,” a book collating stories from OnePlus staff and fans.
- Also this week: Oxygen OS 12 rollout starts again for OnePlus 9 series following the previously canceled rollout — the changelog seems pretty small but OnePlus says it addresses major issues from the previous release; let’s hope so!
- Finally, OnePlus Buds Z2 are now available in the US and Canada.
- 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 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’s new free Tracker Detect app for Android helps you keep track of nearby AirTags — it’ll ping you if you’re near an AirTag that’s not yours (that’s been separated from its owner) for at least 10 mins.
- And a financial analyst thinks up to 1.4 billion Android users could switch to the iPhone SE (2022) — that’s half of all Android users globally, which seems unlikely.
- Apple is reportedly going to make more of its own chips, supposedly developing a new office that will focus on “wireless radios, radio-frequency integrated circuits and a wireless system on a chip,” plus semiconductors for connecting to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.”
- Plus rumors say LG is possibly developing three new Apple displays, one based on the current 24-inch Mac, one based on the upcoming 27-inch Mac, and a 32-inch model that could be a new Pro Display XDR with Apple Silicon Chip.
- For the first time ever, a NASA spacecraft has “touched” the Sun: The Parker Solar Probe reached the Sun’s upper atmosphere, known as the corona, in a monumental moment for solar science.
- 2021 was the weirdest year in space ever: Billionaires in space, space stations performing backflips, and space junk-related near-disasters.
- Amazon explained last week’s outage that took out a large chunk of the internet: and AWS went down again this week due to “network congestion.”
- The Redmi K50 Gaming Edition’s tipped to be on the way, supposedly with similar shoulder buttons to the Poco F3 GT.
- Garmin Venu 2 Plus renders leaked: looks like a 43mm size and three side buttons on offer.
- Sony announced a stacked camera sensor for smartphones, promising wider dynamic range and reduced noise.
- And LG announced the LG Soundbar, ahead of CES 2022, with five upward-firing channels and the first center upward-firing speaker.
- The race to patch the Log4Shell bug is on: Exploitation of the zero-day vulnerability supposedly began over a week ago, with Minecraft outed as the first big victim, though there’s evidence it was first exploited two weeks earlier.
- Meanwhile, Candela’s hydrofoiling electric boats attract $24M investment: The boats glide above the sea on fins and are electrically propelled for smoother cruising — pretty cool, even if they do look a bit odd.
- There’s still time to nail your holiday gift-giving with our roundup of the best holiday gifts for 2021.
- 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.
- PlayStation 5 sideplates are coming! Sony’s set to release $55 sideplates in January in Midnight Black and Cosmic Red, with Nova Pink, Starlight Blue, and Galactic Purple coming later in the year.
- The Analogue Pocket was worth the wait: Fans of retro gaming, rejoice! Preorders are arriving in the next few week — the screen’s probably the best included on a handheld console to date.
- Ubisoft’s releasing a small, free expansion to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey as part of a crossover with newer Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
- Speaking of Ubisoft, one of its in-game NFTs will only be available to people who’ve played Ghost Recon Breakpoint on PC for over 600 hours: The Wolf Enhanced Helmet could become scarce, jacking up its price.
- Nintendo held a 20-minute upcoming indie games showcase and Nintendo Life has a round-up of every Switch game announced — Sea of Stars and Omori are two we’re definitely looking forward to.
- Meanwhile, super-powered Android gaming consoles are on the way, but do we need them?
- The PS Vita turned 10 years old on Friday, and Game Informer looks back at some of its best games.
- Finally, Kotaku’s got some of the best video game surprises of 2021.
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review: USB-C is only half the story — “The Kindle Paperwhite (2021) is one of Amazon’s best Kindles yet.”
- Anker 637 Magnetic Charging Station (MagGo) review: Thunder ball — “Why charge one device when you can charge eight at once?”
- Tile Sticker (2022) review: A few sticking points — Longer battery life and improved Bluetooth range are great, but it’ll only stick to flat, smooth surfaces…
- The MacBook Pro (2021) is proof the customer is always right — Addresses almost all the complaints of recent years, it’s the best MacBook in years and lives up to its Pro moniker, and price tag.
- This is the Oppo Find N: Another one joins the fold — “The Oppo Find N is incredibly stylish for a smartphone, let alone a foldable” (Android Authority).
- The ultimate guide to Gmail: Do you know about all of these features? Recovering an account, bypassing sending limits, encrypting emails, and more (Android Authority).
- A Tribute to the Nintendo Engineer Masayuki Uemura: The designer of the Family Computer, which became the Nintendo Super Entertainment System, died December 6, aged 78 (The New Yorker).
- I Accidentally Hacked a Peruvian Crime Ring — “I arrived in paradise. I got a new phone number. Then the eggplant and gun emojis started pouring in” (Wired).
- Something extra: The Lost World of Wonderful Wooden Bowling Alleys — A peek at what’s hiding inside the mansions of America’s Gilded Age (Messynessychic.com).
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.
- 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.Enjoy:https://t.co/MwujUb0tp9— 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.