Here’s your daily tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Thursday, August 8, 2019!

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1. Samsung Galaxy Note 10: When unexciting doesn’t mean bad

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Screen and selfie camera macro

Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 10 series devices last night, going all out with a stylish screen-in-a-tent stage production (rewatch the full thing here) to unveil the only major device sticking with a stylus, or S Pen.

The problem for Samsung isn’t that these are not good phones. The problem is they’re not exciting, they’re pricey, and the essence, soul, or character of what made the Note series interesting might have been either lost, temporarily misplaced, or changed forever.

Previously the Note was the recommended device to do everything. It was never cheap, but it was a true flagship that cut no corners. That’s changed now.

First, the devices and specs:

  • The Galaxy Note 10 is a 6.3-inch device, with a triple-camera setup including wide-angle and telephoto rear cameras, 3,500mAh battery, with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.
  • It has a 1080p display, no headphone jack, and no expandable microSD card slot.
  • The Galaxy Note 10 Plus shares many of the same specs, but packs a 6.8-inch display, a 4,300mAh battery, 12GB of RAM, and 256 or 512GB of storage.
  • The display has a more pleasing Quad HD+ resolution, and does come with a microSD card slot, but still no headphone jack.
  • Both have a new Infinity-O display, with a small camera cutout at the top-middle part of the display which looks fine and is distinctive. Both have a new stainless steel frame, too, replacing the previous aluminum design.
  • The Note 10 series hits stores Aug. 23, with the Note 10 Plus starting at $1,099, and the Note 10 alone at $949.
  • There is a Note 10 5G, exclusive to Verizon, coming later — no announcements there, but there are plan details from Verizon for now.

Second, new features:

  • The big new features from the Note 10 are found in the S Pen, which can be used like a magic wand for taking photos and navigating through the device, a nice touch.
  • Now, Samsung Dex, which is where you can plug your phone in and use it as a computer, can do more, and can plug into any PC with a USB-A port. That makes transferring files easy, and you can run apps in a window on your PC which is nice.
  • Samsung and Microsoft have collaborated closely, with new tight integrations.
    • For example, jot a short note on your Note 10 with the S Pen and it’ll save into Word automagically, if you like.
    • And there’s an app bundled on the Note 10 from Microsoft that lets you mirror Android text messages, notifications, and even your entire screen if you have a Windows 10 PC.
    • It’s the start of a bigger Samsung/Microsoft alignment and where that leaves Samsung and Google is kinda unknown. (I don’t think Samsung said the word Android at all in the presentation, and it definitely didn’t say Bixby either.)
  • Notice these are all geared towards very sensible productivity improvements, implying the Note is aligning as the office champion for getting stuff done.

Finally, what do we make of this?

  • David Imel, one of two lovely folks on the ground for Android Authority, has some thoughts for the DGiT Daily podcast which you’ll hear later today.
  • I caught the audio in advance and hearing his words and listening to his voice, you get the sense that everyone at the Note 10 launch was… whelmed.
  • The excitement for the Note range isn’t really there.
  • There’s not a lot of outrage over design decisions like the headphone jack because while it’s a bother, everyone’s tired of fighting the fight. My colleague Lily Katz from SoundGuys has a good bit of insight there.
  • It seems more like Samsung really wants people to buy the Note 10 Plus, and that the next step in the Note range is all about being sensible, rather than the Swiss Army Knife it once was (credit Joe Hindy).
  • And while it’s more than just the S10 series with an S Pen, it’s also not substantially different, and it’s also a smartphone at more than $1,000.
  • Now, Apple is shipping $1,000 phones with 64GB base storage while Samsung with 256GB, so this isn’t to say Samsung has gone crazy.
  • It’s just that the Note range, once the pioneer, doesn’t push boundaries in terms of features. The specs are true flagship-level for power users, but it’s not a merchant of hype.
  • Perhaps one problem for Samsung is itself.
  • Even outside of the array of competitors, last year’s Note 9 remains a ridiculously good phone, and it’s looking like a bargain.
  • A new Note 9 starts for around $740 retail, and there have been past deals dropping it further if you went for a carrier-locked version, and refurb models are cheaper again.
  • Here’s the Galaxy Note 10 vs Galaxy Note 9 comparison.

Other Samsung bits and pieces:

2. “We asked, you told us: There’s no doubt about the best Chromebook so far in 2019” — a big win for the Asus Chromebook Flip C434 (Android Authority).

3. Google Pixel 4 will have a 90Hz display and 6GB of RAM (Android Authority).

4. Apple has released four ASMR videos to give you some relaxing tingles (CNBC). I didn’t like the rain while camping one, because I can’t help but worry about my camping gear getting completely drenched. Others have reported discomfort — you’ll have to try it out yourself.

5. Apple is locking iPhone batteries to discourage repair: A “Service” message stops you from checking your new battery’s health (iFixit).

6. Feds told Tesla to stop saying misleading things about Model 3 safety: “Your company has issued a number of misleading statements” (Ars Technica). The good news for Elon Musk is that the Model 3 is very safe, but statistical malpractice is bad.

7. Subway is testing out a meatless meatball sub. Here’s why (CNN).

8. Scientists determined why room temperature is so important for sleep (Curiosity).

9. Astronomers just found an absolutely gargantuan Black Hole the mass of 40 billion suns (Science Alert).

10. One Japanese man, eight years, 19,000 cat videos, and not a single video ever went viral (The Outline).

11. “Do bees ever sting plants?” (r/nostupidquestions)

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