Welcome back to The Weekly Authority, the Android Authority series that recaps the top Android and wider tech news from the week. Tristan Rayner here a day before the Winter Solstice to share the last Weekly Authority of the year with you, as we bump into the holidays and New Year period. We’ll be back early in 2021 to keep this show rolling! Happy holidays, thanks for reading this year, and let’s make 2021 a year to remember for the right reasons!
Popular news this week
You thought news might slow down in December? Wrong. So much happened.
- More and more Samsung Galaxy S21 details leaked, including, remarkably, a video review of the S21 Plus. The S21 Ultra had a full specs leak, no in-box charger allegedly confirmed, along with 6.8-inch display, 3,200 x 1,440-pixel resolution with a 20:9 aspect ratio, Exynos 2100 on board in Europe, Snapdragon 888 in the US, IP68-certified against water and dust, and quad-cameras. Roland Quandt has been reliable on Samsung phones for years, especially as we get closer to launch, much to Samsung’s chagrin. (Image above via WinFuture.)
- Samsung announced its next Exynos processor launch for January 12, 2021. No official word but lots of well-sourced specs out already.
- Cyberpunk 2077 pulled from PlayStation Store until further notice, along with refunds, with Microsoft offering optional refunds soon after, shredded the image of one of the most anticipated games in years. The PC and Stadia versions are a little buggy but fine, by the way, but Sony said enough is enough with the PS4 version.
- Drone maker DJI was added to same US Commerce Department Entity List as Huawei, for “enabl[ing] wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance”. DJI says people can still buy and use its drones in the US after the ban was announced, but now it’s a matter of figuring out what’s ethically and morally right — good detail here from Drone DJ. In terms of just logistics, DJI doesn’t have the same reliance as Huawei did on the likes of Google and Android, so its tech will not be as knee-capped, but it’s still bad news for it, good news for other drone companies.
- Oppo’s folding “slide phone” concept is worth a look if you missed it, too, but lots of practical problems mean it’s just an idea for now.
- Roku and HBO Max made nice, too, with the HBO Max app finally available on Roku devices after six-months of waiting. Just in time for the holidays, and expected blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984.
- The FTC ordered a bunch of big companies to tell them how they use your data, including Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Amazon, Discord, WhatsApp, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, and more.
- Russia’s SolarWinds hack is a historic mess (Wired). What a disaster this is.
Features & opinion
- The best Android smartphone of the year 2020: Reader’s Choice — cast your vote! Remember it’s more than just who comes first, too — by Oliver Cragg.
- Qualcomm benchmarks the Snapdragon 888, and it’s fast. Note it’s a self-reporting benchmark, not independent, so disclaimers everywhere — by Rob Triggs.
- Apple M1 tested: Performance benchmarks and thermal throttling explained — by Gary Sims.
- Miyamoto leads fans through Super Nintendo World in Japan—and it looks incredible (Ars Technica).
Instant Authority: 2020’s Big Moments in Tech
Ah, 2020. Not all was lost, believe it or not. To give you a 40,000ft view of the tech world over the last 12 months, and drop you a few reminders of really major events that happened this year in tech, I went through every Daily Authority newsletter sent in 2020 (previously known as DGiT Daily) and whittled it down to this.
Of course, I’m not able to touch on absolutely everything but just a few things that really caught my eye outside of new devices.
2020 welcomed the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X and Series S gaming consoles, both high-performance devices sold at less than cost to get gamers hooked. Microsoft pushed its Game Pass offering pushed extra hard this year.
- The critical reception for all three consoles has been strong, though few AAA games have been ready to go for the next-gen Xbox.
- And the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller may have evolved gaming, with surprising and exciting new possibilities with clever haptic feedback in the triggers, in a real win for Sony.
- But the real problem, as anyone who’s refreshed a Best Buy site for hours would know: it certainly wasn’t a clean launch. Stock availability is scarce, resellers have become rampant, and just getting the chance to buy a next-gen console feels like a stroke of luck.
- It’s been a truly global problem, too. Daring heists in the UK, Romania, and Chile were carried out to steal PS5s (The Drive).
- Still, at some point supply will meet demand, but the boosted demand from pandemic gaming situations
ARM-based desktop chips
While ARM-based chips have dominated our smartphones, thanks to leading work from Qualcomm and Apple, the desktop transition has been slower, due to the dominance of Intel-AMD and x86 processors, and Windows, and Mac. That changed in 2020, thanks largely to Apple.
Apple spent years working on its move away from Intel, and a major event in tech, finally unveiled its M1 chipset on November 10th. Three new Macs sported the Arm-based chipset, including two laptops, and it was powerful, efficient, and able to emulate some x86 apps at faster speeds than even the most optimistic would’ve hoped for. The M1 chipset marked a shift, and with desktop processors expected from Apple in 2021, and talk of both Google, for its Pixel line, and Microsoft, working on similar for its servers and Surface PCs (The Verge), there’s a new age of computing evolving over the next few years.
Smartphones see the end of the charger in the box
Momentous? Well, I’m stretching it a bit. But 2020 was the year a new charger won’t necessarily come with a new phone.
We heard the news as early as July that in the next round of flagships from Samsung, a charger won’t come in the box. With solid reporting that Apple would phase out the included charge first, both to reduce costs and with environmental reasoning as well, the wider smartphone industry was sure to follow. The iPhone 12 series duly debuted without one, and while Samsung poked fun at Apple, the Samsung Galaxy S21 will be the first major Samsung flagship without a charger in the box in 2021, too.
Starlink launched public beta at $100/m
While 2020 wasn’t the start of SpaceX’s Starlink launches, 2020 was the first time the public got access to its satellite internet. And things looked pretty good.
- For a lucky set of users living above the 44th parallel, able to install a Starlink Terminal, and afford $100 per month, the 1,000 or so Starlink satellites in orbit started coming online to provide better internet service for people in rural areas.
Also: SpaceX managed two successful crewed flights to the ISS in 2020. Remarkable. (The Guardian).
An absolutely awful virus came to dominate the world. I’m not here to rehash the ins and out, but COVID-19 affected all parts of life across the globe in almost entirely negative ways. There is some good, though: For example, 75,000 academic papers were filed on the virus, per Elsevier. Remarkably, we got a vaccine, and it was approved so fast that people were vaccinated in the same year. Three vaccines, astonishingly.
- The first high-efficacy vaccine was announced on November 18, 2020, out of BioNTech, a German pharmaceutical company founded by a Turkish-German couple. focusing on mRNA techniques, in collaboration with Pfizer.
- If you missed it, there’s a fantastic New York Times profile of the BioNTech scientists: “The two billionaires live with their teenage daughter in a modest apartment near their office. They ride bicycles to work. They do not own a car.”
COVID-conference cancellations: CES, MWC, IFA
CES 2020 was one of the last major tech conferences to be held in person in early January. Given the latest research showing COVID-19 cases were already in France in December, CES 2020 might’ve been a breakout event, with classic #CESFlu tweets taking on a different meaning looking back now. The question of what exactly might’ve affected people at CES hasn’t been answered as far as I know.
- CES 2021 is scheduled for January 11 to January 14, and plenty of companies are pre-announcing virtual conferences, including Samsung and LG already.
- MWC 2020, set for February 24th, was canceled around 12 days before the event was set to be held in Barcelona, a late but necessary decision. MWC 2021 was moved to summer next year, starting 28 June.
- IFA 2020 went ahead in Berlin, and attracted a small show floor and virtual events, but it was a micro-event compared to the usual mayhem. IFA 2021 is booked for Sep 3-Sep 7, 2021.
Airplane tech to round off 2020! When Boeing’s enormous 777X airplane made its successful maiden voyage, the company’s 737 MAX fiasco (CNN) was finally sidelined for a minute. Things were looking up: the 777X with its folding wingtips remained on track to debut sometime in 2022. With listed costs at $442.2 million per plane before customary discounts, it’s going to be important for the company, and for Emirates, the first customer.
Boeing’s year, though, probably peaked on January 25 after the 777X flight. While the 737 Max troubles were resolved in November after 20 long months of pain, 2020 air traffic was a little down on other years, you might say. The biggest capacity troubles were at airplane storage facilities, such as one in Central Australia. Boeing ended the 747 in July, too. Still, the 777X looks impressive.
Anything I missed? I mean, sure. We can talk the first folding laptop, the shift to working-from-home (and need to stay sane) and video calls taking over our lives. Let me know what mattered to you, too.
It’s getting really close to your last chance to grab a holiday deal for someone special! Here are some last-minute present ideas sure to arrive in time — digital gifts!
- This list includes things like Airbnb giftcards, Disney Plus for a year, and more. I didn’t know Airbnb giftcards were a thing!
Tech tweet of the week
I’ve just been informed that although the Covid vaccine won’t contain microchips, it will have the new U2 album
— Chris Stein (@chrissteinplays) December 16, 2020