Samsung has announced the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games Limited Edition of the Galaxy Note8. The phone maker often supports the Olympic Games and this year created a special version of the Note8 in honor of the Games being held in its home country of Korea. The core features of the phone are unchanged compared to the normal variants. The Olympic-themed version features a new white glass rear panel, wallpapers created from imagery of PyeongChang, and apps meant to help participants make the most of PyeongChang. Samsung plans to distribute some 4,000 Galaxy Note8 handsets to athletes and staff members. The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games officials begin February 8.
Samsung will ensure that at least some of its future U.S. smartphones ship with active FM radios, says NextRadio. Sometimes Samsung and/or its carrier partners leave FM radios, which are included in nearly all phones, inert. That will change. FM radio makes it possible for hundreds of millions of people to find and listen to local broadcasts for free. NextRadio allows people to listen to local radio stations via their phone's FM radio, in addition to stations from all over the country through their phone's data connection. NextRadio says gaining access to the FM radio on Samsung's phones will translate to huge power and data savings for end users. NextRadio can access FM signals even when cellular data networks are not available. Neither Samsung nor NextRadio said which phones might be the first to benefit from this partnership. Alcatel, LG, and Motorola have already enabled FM radios on their handsets.
T-Mobile today announced a buy-one, get-one deal that sees major discounts on top phones. T-Mobile says 12 flagship devices from the likes of Apple, LG, and Samsung qualify for the promotion, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, G6, V30, S8, Note8 and others. To qualify, customers will have to activate one new line of service and buy both phones on a monthly installment plan. T-Mobile will make monthly payments for the second device (up to $750) over the course of two years. Customers who want a deal on a single handset can earn a $150 rebate plus the value of a trade-in. Accepted trades include recent flagships from LG and Samsung. Last, T-Mobile is targeting Verizon Wireless customers. It will give Verizon subscribers who leave big red up to $650 and pay off the balance of their Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ and other popular smartphones. Those who switch will need to subscribe to a T-Mobile One Plus plan to get the reimbursement for old phones. All three promotions go into effect January 12.
Samsung plans to announce its 2018 flagship handset at next month's Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Some had speculated the company would reveal the phone at CES, but JD Koh, president of Samsung's mobile business, confirmed to ZDNet that the Galaxy S9 will arrive in February. Samsung has used MWC on several occasions to launch is flagship Galaxy S series, most recently the Galaxy S7 in 2016. The Galaxy S8 marked its debut at a stand-alone event in New York City on March 29, 2017. Sales of the new Galaxy S9 could could begin as soon as March of this year. Some reports suggest the new phone will be an upgraded version of the S8 design, with a relocated fingerprint sensor and dual cameras. Samsung has not confirmed any feature of the phone. Koh also noted that Samsung plans to release a foldable smartphone at some point in 2019.
Qualcomm today said a number of leading handset makers have adopted its radio frequency front-end. Some of the OEMs include Google, HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony Mobile. This means these smartphone manufacturers will rely on Qualcomm's hardware to ensure their devices can talk to wireless networks. This is particularly important for T-Mobile, as the RF front end provides comprehensive 600 MHz band (B71) support. T-Mobile is deploying LTE on its 600 MHz spectrum now and plans to use it for 5G service down the road. The RF front end includes a modem-to-antenna system using the new QPM26xx series gallium arsenide-based power amplifier module. The module contains duplexers, envelope tracker, antenna tuners, antenna switches, and discrete and integrated filter modules. Qualcomm says its RF front end supports features such as Gigabit LTE, 4x4 MIMO and LTE Advanced today, and will evolve to handle 5G technologies in 2019.
Samsung today announced the Exynos 9810, its flagship processor for the year, a chip that will likely form the heart of the company's Galaxy S series devices in a few months. The 9810 is built on Samsung's second-generation 10-nanometer FinFET process, which gives it a bump in speed and efficiency. Specifically, the 9810 has a bank of eight customized CPU cores, with four pushed to 2.9 GHz for high-power tasks and four tuned for low-power efficiency. Together with improved cache memory, Samsung says performance is up 40% compared to the 9810's predecessor. Similar to the Huawei Kirin 959 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the Exynos 9810 includes a measure of artificial intelligence. It is able to use machine learning for object recognition, such as people for face unlock or image search. Samsung claims this will help power advanced camera and security tools in flagship devices. The 9810 include a new high-speed modem, jumping to 1.2 Gbps LTE. It includes Cat 18 LTE for six-channel carrier aggregation along with 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and LTE-LAA for speeds of 1.2 Gbps on the downlink and 200 Mbps on the uplink. The 9810 should improve the media experience on handsets as well, thanks to the new image processor and upgraded multi-format codec. Samsung says these are faster and more energy efficient and can handle 4K video playback at 120fps. Moreover, the added support for 10-bit HEVC and VP9 means the 9810 can render up to 1.07 billion colors. (The Snapdragon 845 carries this same set of improved color capabilities.) Together, the 10-bit HEVC and VP9 support will deliver more accurate color fidelity with wider dynamic range on smartphone displays. Samsung says the Exynos 9 Series 9810 is already in mass production.
Samsung today updated its Galaxy A8 mid-level devices, which now follow closely the pattern set by the S8 and S8+ flagship phones. The A8 series employs glass panels front and back with a metal frame in between. The A8 and A8+ share most every feature and specification, but the latter has a larger screen and battery. Both devices adopt the Samsung 18.5:9 InfinityDisplay with HD+ (2,160 x 1,080) resolution. The A8's display measures 5.6 inches while the A8+'s screen stretches a longer 6 inches across the diagonal. The phones share an octa-core processor, with two cores at 2.2 GHz and six cores at 1.6 GHz. They come with 4 GB / 6 GB of RAM and 32 GB / 64 GB of storage, depending on configuration, with support for microSD cards up to 256 GB. The main camera includes a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.7 for better low-light photography. It also adds digital video stabilization for smoother video. The A8 and A8+ put a pair of cameras on the front, a 16-megapixel main sensor and a secondary 8-megapixel sensor, both at f/1.9. Samsung says the phones can produce a range of selfies and portrait effects with Samsung's Live Focus feature for adjusting focus after the fact. Other features include fingerprint reader, USB-C, fast charging, NFC (and MST) for Samsung Pay, Bluetooth 5, WiFi, and LTE Cat 11. The devices are certified IP68 for protection against water and dust up to 1.5 meters, and are the first A series handsets to support Samsung's Gear VR headsets. The A8 includes a 3,000mAh battery and the larger A8+ has a 3,500mAh battery. The 2018 Galaxy A8 series come in black, orchid grey, gold, and blue and run Android 7.1 Nougat. Samsung said they will be available in early January 2018. Pricing wasn't disclosed.
Verizon Wireless plans to let holiday shoppers score a smartphone for free with an upcoming buy-one, get-one deal. Beginning Friday, December 15, customers who buy an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can get a second device for free. Both devices will need to be purchased on a payment plan and at least one must be a new line of service. The second phone must be from the same manufacturer and be of equal or lesser value. The cost of the second device will be reimbursed monthly over a 24-month period. Verizon says the offer is valid for existing customer upgrades, as well as those who switch to Verizon. The buy-one, get-one deal will be available for a limited time.
Synaptics today said of the five largest phone manufacturers in the world has agreed to use its Clear ID FS9500 optical, in-display fingerprint sensor. The FS9500 can scan fingerprints through the full thickness of smartphone cover glass, which means device makers can create sleek, button-free designs and still include a fingerprint reader on the front. Synaptics says the FS9500 was designed with "bezel-free infinity displays" in mind. This latest generation of Synpatics' technology can read fingerprints on wet, dry, or cold fingers, and the reader is always protected by the glass, making it durable and waterproof. Synaptics claims its sensor is twice as fast as 3D facial recognition tools, and comes and goes only when needed to authenticate the user. Synaptics didn't name the phone maker, nor did it suggest when a device with the Clear ID FS9500 might come to market. According to IDC, the top five phone makers in the third quarter of 2017 were Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi.
Qualcomm today named the Snapdragon 845, its flagship processor for 2018. The chip supplants the Snapdragon 835 at the top of Qualcomm's line of mobile processors. The 835 is one of the most popular processors for high-end smartphones from the likes of LG, Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei. The 845, announced at the Snapdragon Technology Summit, will power not only mobile phones but Windows-based laptops. Qualcomm didn't provide too many details about the chip, other than to say it will be paired with the company's X20 Gigabit LTE modem. It will target augmented reality and virtual reality applications, offer top security, improve battery life, and support faster recharging. The chip is expected to be manufactured by Samsung, relying on Samsung's 10nm process. Qualcomm is expected to share more information about the Snapdragon 845 in the days ahead. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun said the company will build a flagship handset based on the Snapdragon 845 next year.
Samsung today announced the first part designed for mobile devices that can store 512GB of data. The solution effectively doubles the amount of internal storage a high-end phone can ship with. 512GB is enough for about 20 hours of 4K video. The embedded Universal Flash Storage (eUFS) package is no larger than the company's existing 256 GB solution. The advancement is possible thanks to Samsung's new 64-layer V-NAND chips, of which there are eight in the new part. Samsung's existing 256 GB solution uses 48-layer chips.
Target today made it possible for people to make in-store payments with their smartphones through the Target mobile app. Similar to Walmart’s offering, shoppers can link their debit cart to the new Wallet function within the Target app. At the register, users call up a code on their device that the cashier then scans to complete the sale. Target’s new system does not rely on NFC, used by Apple Pay or Android Pay, or NFC/MST, used by Samsung Pay, for tap and go payments. The new functionality of the Target app can be paired with existing tools, such Cartwheel, for discounts and sales. The new Target app is available to both Android and iOS devices and is free to download.
Verizon Wireless today announced the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2, a device meant to improve wireless coverage at your house or small business. Like many network extenders, the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2 plugs into your home's wired broadband service. It then provides about 7,500 square feet of LTE coverage, with support for up to 14 simultaneous connections. The extender supports LTE service only, and does not provide 1X or CDMA coverage in the home. The device costs $249, but there is no monthly service fee associated with its use. In other Verizon news, the company rolled out a new promotion for the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. The company will cut the price of either phone by $300 when purchased on a device payment plan. Customers will need to finance the entire cost of the handset. Verizon will then contribute $300 in total over the course of 24 monthly payments (about $12.50 per month). The Pixel 2 promo kicks off on Sunday.
Samsung researchers believe graphene balls can make significant improvements to lithium ion batteries. The nano coating delivers a number of benefits. First, batteries that make use of graphene balls are able to charge much faster. For example, a battery that normally takes 60 minutes to recharge would be able to recharge in just 12 minutes. It does this by suppressing detrimental side effects and providing charging pathways that are more efficient. Second, coating lithium ion in graphene creates batteries that are more dense, leading to higher-capacity batteries. Samsung says it can increase density by as much as 27.6%. Last, the graphene does not create any detriments to the number of charging cycles. For example, a battery with graphene balls will retain 78.6% of its capacity after 500 charging cycles. For now, Samsung is hoping to use this technology in batteries for electric vehicles. It may eventually be scaled down to batteries for mobile devices, but Samsung did not say if or when this technology might reach any consumer products.
Samsung made a red version of its Galaxy S8 flagship handset available for sale this week. The device is initially being sold in Samsung's home market of S. Korea, and it will eventually be sold in other markets around the globe. Samsung said it will be up to individual carriers within those markets to announce plans to sell the burgundy S8. The phone is already available in black, gray, blue, and gold. Samsung recently made a blue version of the Galaxy Note8 available to U.S. buyers.
U.S. Cellular today announced a holiday offering that will provide customers with a free flagship smartphone. The company will give customers a free Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, LG G6, or Motorola Moto Z Force when they sign up for an unlimited plan between November 22 and November 27. Customers will need to trade-in a recent flagship, such as the Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, or V20, to score the free phone. The free handset will be comped through monthly rebates over a period of 30 months. Customers who don't have a device to trade in can get a reduced-cost flagship for a monthly payment of just $10 in addition to the unlimited plan. U.S. Cellular's unlimited plan costs $70 for a single line, though multi-line discounts are available. U.S. Cellular offers up to 22 GB of high-speed data per billing cycle. Customers who exceed that limit will see speeds reduced to 2G for the remained of the month. The company is also offering discounts on Google Home, LG Tones, and Parrot Drones during its holiday sale. Last, customers who refer a family member or friend who signs up for service can score a $50 reward.
T-Mobile today revealed a holiday promotion that can net people a free flagship smartphone. Customers who purchase one new phone at full price will be able to snag a second for free, through monthly rebates. Handsets that qualify for the promotion include the Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Note8, and S8 Active, and the LG G6, V20, V30, and V30+. The first phone will need to be financed through T-Mobile's equipment installment plan. T-Mobile will then make the monthly payments on the second device over a 24-month period. T-Mobile said customers interested in the iPhone X can score up to $300 in rebates with an eligible trade-in, though there's no BOGO deal for the iPhone. The promotion kicks off November 17.
T-Mobile today said people who switch to MetroPCS and subscribe to an unlimited plan will enjoy a year of Amazon Prime for free. Amazon Prime gives people access to discounted shipping from Amazon.com, as well as access to Amazon's music and video streaming services, online photo storage, and other perks. Amazon Prime typically carries a cost of $99 per year. In addition to Amazon Prime for free, MetroPCS will give those who switch a free Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime smartphone. The free phone also requires customers subscribe to the unlimited plan. MetroPCS is offering four lines of unlimited service for $100. The J7 Prime has a 5.5-inch screen, 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, 16 GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. The phone normally sells for $209. MetroPCS said the Amazon Prime and free J7 Prime promos will only be available for a limited time.
Samsung updated its Exynos 9 Series processor and also debuted a fresh camera sensor for smartphones. The Exynos 9 Series 9810 is a flagship-class application processor built on Samsung's second-generation 10nm FinFET process. It uses 10LPP (Low Power Plus) technology in conjunction with 3D transistors to improve speeds by about 10%, or power efficiency by about 15% when compared to Samsung's first-generation 10nm process. The 9810 also includes Samsung's latest LTE modem with support for six carrier aggregation (6CA). The Cat 18 6CA modem includes 4x4 MIMO and higher-order 256 QAM to tap into the high speeds available from technologies such as LTE-LAA. The 9810's modem is 20% faster than the one found in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ and can reach Gigabit LTE speeds. Samsung did not say what devices might be powered by the Exynos 9810. In addition to the processor, Samsung announced the ISOCELL Slim 2X7, a 24-megapixel image sensor with 0.9μm pixels. The Slim 2X7 uses Tetracell and remosaic technology to reproduce the results that might come from larger pixels while keeping the sensor compact. Samsung says the sensor can be fitted into a thinner camera module, which may negate the need for a raised camera module on handsets. Samsung did not say what devices might eventually rely on the new imaging sensor.
T-Mobile today said more customers around the country should have access to faster wireless speeds. The company has reached several new milestones with respect to its wireless network. First, it has doubled its LTE-Advanced footprint to more than 920 markets. The company has deployed a trio of LTE-A technologies, including carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO, and 256 QAM, in 430 of those markets. Gigabit LTE relies on a combination of these three LTE-A technologies along with certain on-device components and proper backhaul. Together, these technologies are able to improve spectral efficiency, reduce congestion, and deliver the highest-possible speeds to handsets. Only a few devices equipped with the Snapdragon 835 processor with X16 LTE modem can access Gigabit LTE, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8, the Motorola Moto Z2 Force Edition, and the LG V30. T-Mobile customers who own these devices and live in the 430 markets with carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO, and 256 QAM may be able to tap into Gigatbit LTE download speeds (800 Mbps). Gigabit LTE is a stepping stone to 5G and T-Mobile plans to keep moving forward. The company is prepared to launch LTE-License Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) later this year. LTE-LAA makes better use of unlicensed spectrum on small cells. T-Mobile did not provide a timeline for these network upgrades.
Samsung today said it will sell the Deepsea Blue color variant of the Galaxy Note8 smartphone in the U.S. Since launch, the device has only be available to U.S. buyers in black or gray. Other than the color, everything about the Deepsee Blue Note8 is identical to the black and gray versions. The phone will be available from Best Buy stores, BestBuy.com, and Samsung.com beginning November 16. Customers will be able to select an AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked model. The Note8 has a 6.3-inch Infinity Display, Snapdragon 835 processor, dual camera system, S Pen stylus, 6 GB of RAM, and fast wireless charging. The phone Galaxy Note8 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $929.
Samsung today said its rugged Galaxy S8 Active will soon be sold by T-Mobile and Sprint. The phone has been available from AT&T since earlier this year. Notably, the T-Mobile variant of the S8 Active supports Band 71, or 600 MHz spectrum, which T-Mobile is slowly lighting up with service in rural areas. Otherwise, the device is unchanged from the AT&T variant. The S8 Active has a metal frame with bumpers that are able to withstand drops up to 5 feet. Samsung says the phone meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse in addition to IP68 for protection against water. The phone has a 5.8-inch quad HD+ display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio, but drops the S8's curved glass for a flat piece of hardened glass. Other features unique to the S8 Active include a larger 4,000mAh battery, and Samsung's Activity Zone software for tracking workouts and other activities. The S8 Active is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, boasts 12-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel front camera, and includes a dedicated Bixby key. T-Mobile says the Galaxy S8 Active will require a $100 down payment followed by $30 monthly payments for 24 months. Alternately, customers can lease the phone for $100 down and $29 per month for 18 months. It will be available from T-Mobile's web site starting November 17 and should hit stores November 22. Sprint has yet to share pricing and availability details.
The U.S. Supreme Court today said it will not review an appeal made by Samsung to overturn a $120 million fine owed to Apple for violating the latter's patented technology. In May 2014, a jury found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's slide-to-unlock, autocorrect, and quick link patents. Later, a three-judge panel reversed the decision and said Samsung didn't owe Apple damages. In October 2016, that decision was reversed by a higher court because the smaller panel didn't follow the proper guidelines in reviewing the case. Samsung hoped appealing directly to the Supreme Court would negate the reward. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court in effect allowed the lower ruling — and $120 million in damages — to stand. Apple and Samsung have been battling in court over patents for years. This case is separate from a 2011 case that was just ordered back to court over $399 million in damages Samsung owns Apple for violating its design patents.
Samsung today said select customers will soon be able to beta test Samsung Experience 9.0 before its official release. The Samsung Experience, formerly called TouchWiz, is the user interface that Samsung created for its device ecosystem. Starting November 2, Galaxy S8 and S8+ users based in the U.S., U.K., and South Korea will have access to Samsung Experience 9.0, which is based on Android 8 Oreo. Samsung hopes to use the beta period to assess user feedback and fine-tune the platform before its release for "the next flagship Galaxy device." Interested beta testers will need to have an active Samsung account and meet certain (unspecified) requirements. Samsung said the beta may be distributed via the Samsung+ app in the U.S., which is available from the Google Play Store. People can apply to test Samsung Experience 9.0 through the app.
Samsung today made sweeping changes to its leadership. The news comes several weeks after Kwon Oh-hyun, CEO and Vice President of Samsung Electronics Corp., announced plans to step down from his leadership role with the company. Samsung said Presidents Kinam Kim, Hyunsuk Kim, and Dongjin Koh will succeed Kwon and Presidents Boo-Keun Yoon and Jong-Kyun Shin, respectively, as heads of the display, consumer electronics, and integrated circuit divisions. Samsung said it will maintain a structure with three co-CEOs. Additionally, President Sang-Hoon Lee will leave his position as CFO. The leadership changes are effective immediately. The move helps fill the leadership vacuum left by Kwon and Samsung scion Jay Y. Lee, who was arrested on bribery charges earlier this year.
New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to do away with the aging MetroCard fare system in favor of one that supports contactless payments, reports the New York Times. The agency has approved a $573 million contract to update the system's turnstiles with new wireless readers that can accept smartphones and certain types of credit/debit cards. The readers will be installed in some 500 subway turnstiles and 600 NYC buses beginning in late 2018, with a projected completion date of late 2020. The new wireless fare payment system will replace MetroCards, though the cards won't be phased out until 2023. The new system will handle fares for the MTA-operated Long Island Railroad and Metro-North train systems, but not Amtrak or NJ Transit. The system will be compatible with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung pay, as well as cards that carry NFC chips. The MTA first began accepting proposals for a wireless payment system in April 2016.
Samsung will get another chance to reduce the amount of money it owes to Apple for copying the look of the iPhone. The original verdict is not in question: Samsung is guilty of violating Apple's design patents in a case that dates back to April 2011. What's at stake is the jury award, which was initially $1.05 billion and, through a series of appeals, whittled down to $399 million. Samsung challenged the $399 million in an appeal that was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2016. The court agreed with Samsung's position that it should not be forced to forfeit all the profits from the infringing devices because their design is just one aspect. The Supreme Court said the lower courts had improperly calculated the fine and sent the case back to those courts for further deliberation. Today's decision comes from U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif. — the same judge who oversaw the initial case. Koh agrees that the instructions given the jury in 2012 inaccurately informed them on how the damages should be calculated. Apple had hoped to prevent the retrial over the damages from moving forward. Samsung said it was looking forward to the new trial.
Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest the Galaxy S8 Active will be Samsung's first Band 71-compatible smartphone for T-Mobile. The government agency recently approved a new version of the SM-G892U, already sold as the Galaxy S8 Active by AT&T, this time with Band 66 and Band 71 aboard. These bands are only used by T-Mobile in the U.S. Band 71, in particular, is the new 600 MHz spectrum that T-Mobile is slowly deploying this year. T-Mobile had promised to release Band 71 devices from LG and Samsung before the end of the year. The V30 from LG was the first to arrive and it appears the Galaxy S8 Active from Samsung is the second. Neither Samsung nor T-Mobile has publicly announced this device and there's no indication of when it might go on sale.
Samsung today said it will work with Google to bring Google's ARCore augmented reality content to a wider range of its smartphones, including the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8. Using the ARCore SDK, developers will be able to create augmented reality experiences for millions of Galaxy handsets. Google announced ARCore in August. The effort will see less-demanding hardware requirements for running AR apps on Android devices, expanding AR's reach to some 100 million phones. In addition to its stance on AR, Samsung also provided an update on its efforts in the virtual reality space. For example, it continues to iterate on its Gear VR headset for Galaxy smartphones and recently introduced the Samsung Internet VR, a browser optimized for the Gear VR. Another app called Samsung PhoneCast VR lets people translate 2D apps into 3D AR through mirroring for improved gameplay. Samsung offers developers the Samsung Gear VR Framework, an open-source VR rendering engine with a Java interface. The Java UI gives developers a familiar environment in which to create without forcing them to learn new SDKs. Samsung says it will continue to work with partners such as Google and Facebook/Oculus to push mobile-based AR and VR forward.
Samsung today announced a major update to its Bixby personal assistant service. Samsung calls Bixby 2.0 a "bold reinvention" of the platform that will be available not only on phones, but other smart devices, such as TVs, refrigerators, and speakers. Bixby 2.0 will feature enhanced natural language processing for more natural commands and feedback. The assistant will be able to differentiate between multiple users' voices as well as their individual preferences and settings. Moreover, Samsung is opening Bixby up to third-party app developers. The company has made a private beta of the Bixby SDK available to select developers to test the platform and explore how it can be put to work in sports, food, entertainment, travel, and other apps. Samsung will slowly allow more developers to access Bixby over time and eventually expects to make the Bixby SDK available to all developers. "Bixby 2.0 will ultimately be a marketplace, for intelligence," said Samsung. "A new channel for developers to reach users with their service, not just on mobile devices, but through all devices." Bixby launched on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earlier this year. It goes beyond the simpler types of requests available to Siri and Google Assistant by allowing Samsung smartphone owners to issue intricate commands that control applications.
Samsung today announced the Connect Tag, a wireless fob that you can attach to just about anything to monitor its location. Samsung envisions the Connect Tag will work best on kids' backpacks, car keys, dog collars, or even tossed inside cars. The Connect Tag relies on narrowband network technology (NB-IoT) to manage wireless connections efficiently. It includes GPS, WiFi, and Cat M1, which was designed specifically for low-power use cases. The Connect Tag works with Samsung's SmartThings ecosystem and includes advanced features such as geofencing, smart home scripts, as well as an on-demand live location requests via the associated smartphone app. Alternately, Connect Tag wearers can voluntarily broadcast their real-time location if they become lost, providing parents with a popup alert along with the exact spot on a map. The Connect Tag is small at 4.21 by 1.19 centimeters, is waterproof and rugged, and the internal battery can last up to seven days on a single change. The Samsung Connect Tag will go on sale in the coming months. Pricing wasn't disclosed.
Kwon Oh-hyun, CEO and Vice President of Samsung Electronics Corp., today announced plans to step down from his leadership role with the company. "As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry," said Kwon in an email sent to employees. Kwon was expected to absorb more duties after the bribery arrest and incarceration of Samsung scion Jay Y. Lee. "It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time. It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off," said Kwon, citing the need for new thinking with the company. Samsung Electronics Corp. is the business unit responsible for making chips and displays. At the same time, the company said it expects to break revenue and earnings records when it reports quarterly financials later this month. Samsung has not said how it expects to replace Kwon and Yee.
Samsung today said its Gear Sport smartwatch and Icon X 2018 headphones will be available for pre-order starting October 13, with general retail availability to follow October 27. The Gear Sport, a fitness-focused smartwatch that runs Samsung's Tizen platform, costs $299.99. It will initially be sold by Samsung.com and BestBuy.com, and will later expand to Amazon, Macy's, and U.S. Cellular. The watch has a 1.2-inch screen, GPS, rotating bezel for controlling the user interface, and waterproof chassis for recording swim workouts. The Gear Icon X 2018, wireless earbuds with heart rate detection and other fitness features, costs $199.99. The Icon X will initially be sold only by Samsung.com, with Amazon, BestBuy.com, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular to follow later. The Icon X 2018 are second-generation Bluetooth headphones that can interact with Samsung's Bixby personal assistant. The devices were announced earlier this year.
Samsung this week announced two new Isocell image sensors for smartphones and IoT devices. The first is the Isocell Fast 2L9 with Dual Pixel technology, a 12-megapixel sensor with pixels that measure 1.28-micrometers (μm). Samsung says this particular sensor has two photodiodes in each pixel, rather than one, which helps the sensor lock focus on the smallest objects even in low light. The Dual Pixels also help create bokeh effects. Moreover, the Fast 2L9's slim design will allow it to fit into smartphones without creating a camera bump on the exterior of the phone. The Isocell Slim 2X7 sensor is the first to have a pixel size below 1.0μm, according to Samsung; its pixels measure just 0.9μm. Samsung says despite the small pixel size, the Slim 2X7 is still able to capture accurate color with less noise thanks to its deep trench isolation, which reduces crosstalk between the pixels. The Slim 2X7 also boasts Tetracell technology, which lets the sensor take brighter photographs in the dark. The incredibly small size will allow the Slim 2X7 to easily fit into smartphones and other consumer electronics without contributing to size or thickness. Samsung didn't say when the Fast 2L9 and Slim 2X7 will ship.
Wells Fargo today made good on its promise to allow customers to access their accounts at ATMs via tap-and-go NFC transactions. The company says 40% of its 13,000 ATMs, or about 5,000, now support NFC-based interactions. Wells Fargo plans to update its remaining 8,000 ATMs with NFC by 2019. Customers tap their phone to the NFC sticker on the ATM to initiate the transition, which will also require their banking card PIN. The company says it supports most mobile wallet features from Wells Fargo Wallet for Android, Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Samsung Pay. The ATMs will continue to support traditional bank cards. Earlier this year, Wells Fargo rolled out mobile access at its ATMs through its own mobile app, which generated an 8-digit PIN. This PIN-based mobile service is still available at ATMs that don't yet support NFC.
Samsung cannot force customers who've filed class-action lawsuits into arbitration, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to hear an appeal by Samsung that hoped to push customers into arbitration, leaving the decision of a lower court intact. The case goes back to 2014 when owners of the Galaxy SIII and S4 smartphones attempted to file class-action lawsuits against Samsung over the devices' performance. The two customers claim they were never made aware of the arbitration provisions in the customer agreement at the time of purchase, which specifically prohibits class-action lawsuits. In January a three-judge panel agreed with the consumers, saying neither actually agreed to the arbitration provision, which was buried in the owner's manual. Companies often attempt to force arbitration to prevent lawsuits because it leaves them less open to the risk of trials and heavy damages. The behavior is anti-consumer, however, and courts and other agencies have taken a closer look at arbitration clauses in recent years. Today's news is a victory for consumers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced the companies participating in a trial program designed to streamline government approval of health devices and software. Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Verily (an Alphabet company) are among the nine companies selected, out of over 100 that applied. The pilot program is called Pre-cert and will determine quality standards for a company's software design, validation, and maintenance. Companies that meet the new standards will become pre-certified, allowing them to submit less information to the FDA when submitting a health or medical device or app for approval. The pilot program includes site visits by FDA staff, and gathering feedback from the industry, stakeholders, and the public. The first public update on the pilot program will be shared in January 2018.
Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8 smartphones can now modify the behavior of their handset's dedicated Bixby button. The hardware key, located on the left edge of the phone, automatically calls up Bixby Home with a short press or Bixby Voice with a long press. A new software update that recently hit S8, S8+, and Note8 phones adds a toggle for controlling the Bixby button. Owners of these phones can opt to disable the short press function, which launches Bixby Home. This prevents accidental presses from opening the app. A long press still calls up Bixby Voice. The Bixby button has been a point of contention with some S8, S8+, and Note8 owners who'd prefer the button handled other tasks. The update from Samsung also makes a few performance tweaks.
Powermat, which has deployed PMA-compliant wireless chargers at thousands of Starbucks locations around the U.S., plans to update its charging pads to support the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone 8 from Apple. At the moment, there are two competing wireless charging standards, PMA and Qi. Handsets from Samsung and others typically support PMA, though some (Galaxy S8, Note8) support both PMA and Qi. Apple's new iPhones support only the Qi standard, which makes them incompatible with the wireless chargers at Starbucks. Speaking to Slashgear, Powermat CTO Itay Sherman explained that its Starbucks charging pads are connected to its cloud. This gives Powermat the ability to update them when necessary. "If there's a new standard, a new variant of the standard — you have PMA, you have Qi, you have Samsung’s Wireless Fast Charging — we can download new software to our points and support them," said Sherman to Slashgear. "The biggest difference between PMA and Qi is the communication protocols. We designed a controller which is software programable so we can integrate new communication protocols on this platform." Further, Powermat "designed the magnetic part to be as generic as possible to cover all standards if possible." Sherman did not say how quickly it will be able to update its Starbucks Powermat chargers with support for Qi, and conceded it will rely in part on the individual venues in question. This upgrade will not impact stand-alone, consumer Powermat chargers, which will remain limited to the PMA standard.
Samsung is developing a variant of its Galaxy Note line that will have a foldable screen. Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung's mobile business, said the phone will arrive at some point during 2018 and will feature a bendable display. Koh also noted that Samsung is working intently with Harman to bring artificial intelligence to a speaker-style device. The speaker will be able to play music, as well as conduct other tasks. Koh didn't say when the speaker device will reach the market. The comments were made during a press conference concerning the Galaxy Note8 handset, which recently went on sale on Korea. The phone has garnered praise from the press. It goes on sale in the U.S. for $930 starting September 15.