Samsung says it plans to stop making phones at its manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China. Samsung will close the factory entirely, laying off some 2,600 people by the end of the year. "As part of ongoing efforts to enhance efficiency in our production facilities, Samsung Electronics has arrived at the difficult decision to cease operations of Tianjin Samsung Electronics Telecommunication," said Samsung in a statement. The Tianjin plant is responsible for making about 36 million phones per year. Samsung's share of the Chinese market has sunk from 15% in 2013 to about 1% in 2018. Samsung's high-priced Galaxy S and Galaxy Note phones have found steep competition from lower-cost devices from Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi, Meizu, and Huawei. Samsung will keep its plant in Huizhou, which makes about 72 million phones per year, operational. Samsung insists that China "remains an important market" for the company.
AT&T today said it plans to release a second 5G smartphone during the latter half of 2019. Samsung will make this new device for AT&T and, unlike the first 5G phone from AT&T, this second one will support 5G in both mmWave and sub-6 GHz bands. AT&T says it is still on track to launch mmWave mobile 5G before the end of 2018. It has been installing software upgradeable sub-6 GHz radios throughout 2018 and will continue to do so in 2019. AT&T didn't say when it intends to light up sub-6 GHz spectrum with 5G service. AT&T's mobile 5G network will only be available in a handful of cities to start and will grow over time.
AT&T today said it plans to sell a 5G smartphone from Samsung during the first half of 2019. The device is likely similar to, if not the same as, the mobile 5G device that Verizon recently said it will sell next year. The 5G phone from Samsung will join the 5G mobile hotspot already announced by AT&T. AT&T expects to sell the hotspot before the end of 2018. The company says it has installed mobile 5G network equipment in the 12 markets where it plans to kick off 5G this year. Those cities include Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. AT&T will expand its 5G service during the first half of 2019 to parts of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. AT&T is working with Samsung on what it calls a "manufacturing-focused 5G Innovation Zone." This testing ground will explore how robotic manufacturing can be improved with 5G.
Verizon Wireless and Samsung today said the companies are working together to bring a 5G phone to market during the first half of 2019. The pair said they'll show off a proof-of-concept device at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit later this week. The device will rely on the Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem and antenna modules, including the RF transceiver and RF front-end. Next year's mobile 5G networks will be many times faster than today's LTE 4G, with minimal latency. Verizon and Samsung have been working together on 5G for years on both the network and device sides. Verizon says its 5G mobile service will go live in "early 2019" and "expand rapidly." Verizon plans to use the brand "5G Ultra Wideband" for the network when it goes live. Verizon has already launched fixed 5G service in a handful of markets. The company hasn't made clear which will be the first of its mobile 5G networks.
Samsung is upping its AI game. Samsung today announced the Exynos 9 Series 9820, a system-on-a-chip for premiere smartphones such as the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series. The key upgrade for Samsung's latest mobile processor is the adoption of a neural processing unit to bring artificial intelligence calculations onto the device. Samsung says the dedicated NPU helps the 9820 perform AI tasks about seven times faster than the 9810 by negating the need to route such calculations over the network to a server. In addition to raw speed, Samsung says this also adds a layer of security for end users. The NPU will allow camera applications to instantly adjust settings based on the surroundings, or recognize objects in AR/VR settings. Apple, Qualcomm, and Huawei adopted AI-dedicated NPUs in their premium processors in 2017. Beyond the AI upgrade, Samsung elevated the 9820's performance across the board. It features a new, custom CPU that's 20% faster than its predecessor in single-core mode or 40% more efficient. Multi-core performance is up by about 15%. The 9820 includes the Mali-G76 GPU for improved mobile gaming experiences. It is 40% faster or 35% more power efficient than before. The SoC supports the latest in LTE connectivity. It relies on LTE-Advanced and LTE-LAA with 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and eight-channel carrier aggregation to deliver download speeds up to 2 Gbps and upload speeds up to 316 Mbps. On the multimedia front, the Exynos 9820's multi-format codec can decode 4K video at 150 frames per second as well as render 10-bit color. Samsung says the Exynos 9 Series 9820 is expected to be in mass production by the end of this year and will show up in devices in 2019. Samsung's Exynos processors are mainly found in global variants of its phones. Samsung phones bound for the U.S. typically rely on Qualcomm processors.
Samsung revealed more information about its new Infinity Flex Display, which it expects to begin manufacturing in volume within the coming months. The cover display measures 4.58 inches across the diagonal with 840 by 1,960 pixels, making for an aspect ratio of 21:9 and density of 420ppi. The main display measures 7.3 inches across the diagonal with 1,526 by 2,152 pixels, making for an aspect ratio of 4.2:3 and density of 420ppi. Continuity will be key for the pair of screens, which means tasks being performed on one will automatically adjust to the other when the phone is opened or closed. The main display supports multiple multi-tasking modes, with one, two, or three windows each supporting individual apps. Flipboard was among the first outside developers to announce support for the Infinity Flex Display. Samsung said it is doing its best to ensure that battery life of its multi-screened device will be equivalent to current Galaxy phones. Samsung has not said anything else about the phone that will make use of this display other than that the first phone to carry the Infinity Flex Display will be priced as aggressively as possible.
Samsung today showed its folding display technology for the first time. The company had been hinting for several months that it would debut a folding phone. The Infinity Flex Display is what Samsung calls the future of smartphone screens. Samsung used new materials to design the display from scratch. Samsung says the Infinity Flex Display can be unfolded and folded hundreds of thousands of times without degradation. The company created a new adhesive, reduced the thickness of the polarizer by creating a new, thinner material, and made changes to the OLED panel itself to ensure flexibility. The cover display is a fully functioning touchscreen of unspecified size. For a bigger screen experience, users can unfold it to reveal the full 7.3-inch display. Together with One UI, the foldable display relies on continuity so the app on the cover display ports to the inner display fort seamless transitions. It can support up to three apps running in multitasking mode. This is called Multi-Active Windows. Samsung said it should be able to start mass production of the Infinity Flex Display in the coming months.
Samsung today announced One UI, a brand new user interface that it intends to roll out to devices such as phones and tablets. It relies on new design language based on the idea of blocks floating over a surface to give it a more modern feel. In the settings menus, Samsung will ensure that similar or related functions are put together in the UI. Moreover, it will put the most-used settings closer to the top of the screen. Samsung hopes to make the UI more natural. It has moved many of the touch controls to the bottom of the screen so they are easier to reach. Samsung says another goal of One UI is to make the user experience more visibly comfortable. The company is increasing font size in some menus and adding a more thorough dash of color to better indicate the status of some controls. Users will be able to choose from a handful of basic color schemes for their phone. Samsung says it is launching a One UI beta testing program in the U.S., Germany, and Korea later this month. The beta will allow people to test the user experience before its official release. One UI will be available to the Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note9 early next year.
Samsung today said it is redesigning Bixby to be a scalable AI platform. The most important part of this change means developers will soon have access to the AI-assisted Bixby. Samsung plans to release an SDK with associated APIs to developers so they may integrate Bixby into their own apps. This will make Bixby more useful and more powerful on mobile devices. Samsung hopes to expand Bixby to more devices as well, such as refrigerators, TVs, and speakers. Samsung said Bixby is expanding the number of supported languages by five, which should greatly increase the number of people who can use Bixby. Bixby is installed on most of Samsung's newer devices. On the latest Galaxy S and Note series, Bixby has a dedicated hardware button. Samsung didn't immediately say when the SDK will be available to developers, though it did introduce the Bixby Studio, which is what contains all the needed tools. Samsung shared the news at its annual developer conference.
Samsung today announced two high-megapixel camera sensors bound for flagship smartphones. The Samsung ISOCELL Bright GM1 and the ISOCELL Bright GD1 offer 48 megapixels and 32 megapixels, respectively. Both features 0.8-micrometer (μm) pixels, which is what allows Samsung to pack so many into the tiny sensors. The size is critical for phone makers seeking to put multiple cameras into a single phone. The ISOCELL technology prevents light bleed between pixels in order to help keep images sharp and free from noise. At the same time, the sensors support pixel binning, what Samsung calls Tetracell, which combines four pixels into one for better low-light performance. The sensors include gyro-supported EIS, and the GD1 includes real-time HDR for dynamic video capture and video streaming. Samsung expects the chips to be in mass production before the end of the year. It's possible the GM1 and GD1 will appear in future Samsung devices, such as the Galaxy S10.
Cricket Wireless today said customers will be able to buy the Samsung Galaxy A6 starting November 2. The phone is already available from Cricket parent AT&T, as well as Sprint and Sprint-operated Boost Mobile. The Galaxy A6 is an affordable mid-range device with a 5.6-inch screen with Gorilla Glass 5, octa-core Exynos processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and front/rear 16-megapixel cameras. Other features include a fingerprint reader, microSD card support, LTE 4G, and a 3,000mAh battery. Cricket says the Samsung Galaxy A6 will cost "less than $400." Other carriers are selling it for $385.
Netflix has added more smartphones to the list of those capable of supporting HDR10 playback. The newest phones include the LG G7, and the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium and Xperia XZ3. These phones have the high-contrast displays needed to boost colors and improve the visible range between bright and dark regions of each frame. HDR10 playback is already available to a number of flagship-grade devices, including the LG G7 One, V30, and V35; the Samsung Galaxy Note9, Note8, and S9; the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, XZ1, and XZ2; and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, P20, and Honor 10. In order to view HDR10 content on mobile devices, people need to subscribe to the premium Netflix plan.
Google today said movies people own via the Google Play Store will automatically be upgraded to 4K at no extra cost. When Hollywood studios make their titles available in 4K, Google will upgrade previous purchases, even if those purchases were for originally SD or HD resolution. Google indicated that 4K movies will begin to cost less when purchased in the Play Store. The 4K content should be easier to watch on 4K TVs, according to Google, without additional hardware. It has updated the Play Movies & TV app for the majority of Sony's Bravia 4K TVs and Samsung's 4K Smart TVs, and Google is doing the same for LG. The app allows connected TVs to access the Play Movies service directly for streaming programs. Google will continue to make improvements to the app and bring 4K movies and TV shows to more devices over time.
Qualcomm has announced a number of achievements and updates in its work developing 5G NR technologies. First and foremost, the company revealed the second wave of QTM052 mmWave antenna modules with 5G NR specifically for smartphones and other mobile devices. Qualcomm says this new family of antennas is 25% smaller than those announced earlier this year, which will help phone makers fit them into smaller form factors. The reduced-size also gives phone makers more freedom in antenna placement and flexibility when designing their 5G NR devices. The antennas are paired with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem and can fully handle mmWave technologies, such as beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking. Last, the QTM052 includes a 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end, and phased antenna array. It can utilize up to 800 MHz of spectrum in various mmWave bands. Qualcomm says this antenna / modem combo will appear in devices in early 2019. In other 5G news, Qualcomm has together with partner Ericsson successfully completed an over-the-air call in sub-6 GHz bands using 3GPP Rel-15 compliant 5G NR in a smartphone phone factor test device. The test was completed in Ericsson's Stockholm lab using 3.5 GHz spectrum. This successful test joins similar ones made using mmWave 5G NR in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. All the tests relied on Ericsson’s 5G NR radio AIR 6488 and baseband products together with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem and RF subsystem. Last, Qualcomm announced that it is working together with Samsung to develop 5G small cells, a vital part of the way 5G networks will be deployed. Small cells will be a building block for 5G with the goal of network densification. The companies plan to pair Qualcomm's FSM 100xx 10nm 5G tech with Samsung's 5G Small Cell form using both sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum. The combo will offer MIMO baseband functionality with multi-gigabit throughput speeds in a compact form able to support indoor and outdoor deployments. Qualcomm and Samsung expect to begin sampling this jointly-developed small cell in 2020.
T-Mobile today announced new handset and service promotions that offer new phones for low monthly payments with one big catch: the equipment installment plan runs for 36 months. That means it will be three years before customers pay off their device, rather than the customary two years. The basics are these. Beginning October 19, customers can trade in an eligible phone for a new Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, Note9, LG G7, LG V40 ThinQ, and others for payments as low as $10 per month. T-Mobile hopes customers taking advantage of this promo will jump on the T-Mobile Essentials plan, which provides a family of four new phones with unlimited service for $40 per line per month, or $160 total. This breaks down to $30 per month per line for service and $10 per month for device payments. The actual device payment may be different. Customers who want the T-Mobile One plan will need to pay another $10 per month per line, or $50. This deal requires auto-pay. Eligible phone trade-ins will be credited to customer accounts monthly over a period of 36 months. The maximum trade-in value is $360 per device, but that will depend on the trade and its condition. T-Mobile didn't immediately list a set of devices eligible for trade-in. The trade can be applied to the purchase price of most phones LG sells, including the forthcoming iPhone Xr.
Samsung's forthcoming foldable phone will perform like a tablet when unfolded, and like a phone when folded, according to Samsung mobile chief D.J. Koh. When in tablet configuration, the device will support side-by-side multitasking for power users. "When we deliver a foldable phone, it has to be really meaningful to our customer," said Koh to CNET at the recent launch of the Samsung Galaxy A9. "If the user experience is not up to my standard, I don't want to deliver those kind of products." Koh went on to say he believes the product has staying power and won't be a gimmick that vanishes just months after it reaches the market. The phone will be made available globally. Folding phones have struggled in the modern smartphone era. The Kyocera Echo and ZTE Axon M failed to resonate with consumers. Koh believes Samsung's phone has what it takes to survive. "Possibly when we start selling the foldable phone, it may be a niche market, but definitely, it will expand," said Koh. "I'm positive that we do need a foldable phone." Koh has hinted strongly that the device will arrive this year. It's possible Samsung will use its upcoming developer conference, scheduled for November, as a launch point for the phone.
Epic Games today made its popular Fortnite game available without an invitation. The app has been available in beta since August, though an invite was required for access. Epic Games has dropped the need for an invitation and most anyone can download the game. Fortnite is not available in the Google Play Store. Instead, people interested in the game will need to go to Epic's web site to download an installer. The installer then puts the game on the phone. The game started as an exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and was later discovered to have a major security flaw in the installer (since patched). Fortnite is best played on high-end devices that have Android 8 Oreo installed. Some compatible phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, and S9 series; all Google Pixel phones; the LG G5, G6, G7, V20, and V30; the Asus ROG Phone and 5Z; the Essential Phone; the Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, Honor 10, and Honor Play; the OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6; the HTC 10, U Ultra, U11+, U12+; the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ2, and XZ3 series; as well as a handful of others from Xiaomi, ZTE, Nokia, and Lenovo.
Samsung has announced the Galaxy A9, a mid-range device that is among the first to include a four-camera array on the rear panel. The stand-out feature is this camera, which includes wide, telephoto, and normal lenses, as well as a depth-of-field camera. The wide-angle lens has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2.4, the 2x optical zoom telephoto lens has a 10-megapixel sensor at f/2.4, the main camera has a 24-megapixel sensor at f/1.7, and the depth camera has a 5-megapixel sensor at f/2.2. Samsung says these cameras allow people to flex their creative muscles. Software such as Scene Optimizer and Portrait Mode help expand and improve imaging. The front camera has a 24-megapixel sensor. The Galaxy A9 has a 6.3-inch full HD+ AMOLED display, octa-core processor, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 512 GB. Other specs include a 3,800mAh battery, fingerprint reader, NFC and Samsung Pay, dual-band WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 5.0, and Cat 9 LTE. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo and includes Bixby and Samsung Health. It goes on sale in select markets starting in November. Pricing was not disclosed.
One of the nation's largest retail chains has finally given up on its own mobile payment solution in favor of industry-standard mobile payments. CVS announced today that it now accepts contactless payments using Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay at all locations. It was among the last major national chains to resist standard NFC payment platforms. The company will retire its CVS Pay app on October 15th. CVS previously accepted Apple Pay, but disabled support in 2014 so it it could develop CVS Pay, which launched in 2016. Apple announced just a few weeks ago that Apple Pay support was expanding this year to CVS, 7-Eleven, and Costco.
Sprint has begun offering customers VoLTE service. VoLTE allows for higher-quality voice connections when the call is passed over the LTE data network, rather than the legacy voice network. VoLTE has been available from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless for years. Sprint already offers a high-quality VoIP service called Calling Plus. Sprint's new VoLTE service replaces Calling Plus, which is being phased out. "Before we do updates market-by-market on various devices, we are alerting Calling Plus customers so they can decide whether to continue using the feature until our VoLTE launch is complete," said Sprint in a statement provided to The Verge. Right now, VoLTE is only availably to the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, and S8 Active. It is limited to just 15 markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Sprint did not say how quickly VoLTE will be made available to additional phones and markets.
AT&T today said it has launched what it calls 5G Evolution in 99 new markets, bringing the total of pre-5G markets to 239. AT&T is on track to reach its goal of 400 markets by the end of the year, and nationwide coverage during the first half of 2019. The company says its 5G Evolution technology — which is not 5G NR — can deliver theoretical speeds up to 400 Mbps to properly equipped phones. AT&T expects to launch true 5G mobile service in a dozen markets by the end of the year, with another seven joining the list in early 2019. Further, AT&T has expanded its LTE-LAA footprint to parts of 20 markets and expects to reach 24 by December. LTE-LAA can push speeds to a theoretical max of 1 Gbps. A handful of phones sold by AT&T are LTE-LAA capable, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, S8+, S9+, Note8, Note9, and S8 Active, as well as the LG V30 and V35, the Motorola Moto Z2 Force Edition, and the Netgear Nighthawk Mobile Router. AT&T's first real 5G NR mobile device will be a mobile hotspot.
Samsung today made its S Pen SDK available to app developers. The company announced the SDK earlier this year. Developers will be able to use the tools in the SDK to create custom apps or actions that center on the Galaxy Note9's S Pen stylus. Critically, Samsung added Bluetooth to the S Pen for the Note9, which opens up a wide range of possibilities for developers. For example, the S Pen button can be set to respond to a single or double press to interact with an app's features. Further, the S Pen Remote allows users to control their Note9 from afar. Adding remote triggering to camera apps and similar can improve the overall experience of using apps with the Note9 and S Pen. The SDK is free for developers to download and use.
Samsung today said U.S. consumers will soon be able to purchase the black and silver variants of the Galaxy Note9. The silver will become available on October 5 as a U.S. exclusive. It will only be sold from Best Buy and Samsung. The 128 GB black Note9 will reach Best Buy, Samsung, and carrier stores October 9 with the 512 GB model to follow October 26. The lavender and blue models have been available since August.
AT&T and Harman this week launched the Harman Spark, a module that brings safety and security features to cars. The Spark plugs into a car's OBD II port and connects to AT&T's LTE network. Some of the functions include emergency crash assistance, wherein owners will receive a call if the module detects a crash, as well as a roadside assistance manager for help hailing and paying for a tow truck. A virtual mechanic provides alerts and guidance when it detects problems with the car, and can contact car owners if the car is bumped, moved, towed, or stolen. Other features include geofences to set boundaries for novice drivers, family/fleet management with real-time location sharing, in-car mobile hotspot for up to eight devices, and parking reservations to secure a spot in advance. Last, the module offers driving feedback after analyzing driver behavior. AT&T says the Harman Spark costs $80 on its own, or $30 when purchased alongside a Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, or Note9. Service costs either $10 or $20 per month, depending on whether or not the Spark is being added to an existing wireless account. The Harman Spark goes on sale Sept. 28. Verizon Wireless sells a similar product called the Hum.
Samsung has begun notifying customers that starting December 17, 2018, they'll no longer be able to send Call Stickers via their Samsung's phone application. Call Stickers, introduced with the Galaxy S8 and S8+, allowed people to send stickers as their caller ID when calling other Samsung devices. Similarly, people with Samsung phones to reject calls with a sticker. Samsung says customers who have purchased Call Stickers through the Galaxy App Store can request compensation for their purchase as long as the request is filed before June 15, 2019. Samsung thanked its customers for using Call Stickers. Samsung sold off the Call Stickers business earlier this year.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A7, an addition to its mid-range roster that is the first to feature three cameras on the back. The triple-camera array includes a 24-megapixel main sensor at f/1.7, an 8-megapixel wide-angle sensor at f/2.4, and a 5-megapixel depth-sensing camera at f/2.2 for bokeh and other effects. The camera has the ability to detect scenes and adjust automatically to create better photos. The A7 relies on a metal-and-glass design and features an Infinity Display measuring 6 inches with full HD+ resolution on front. Dolby Atmos ensures the A7 delivers a great sound experience. A 2.2 GHz octa-core processor powers the phone, which ships with either 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage. It has a 3,300mAh battery and a slew of radios, including Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, GPS, NFC, and Cat 6 LTE. The fingerprint reader is located on the side edge and a 24-megapixel selfie camera on front allows for Selfie Focus shots with studio effects and Samsung's AR emoji. Samsung plans to sell the Galaxy A7 in Asian markets first, followed by European and other markets. Samsung didn't say if it intends to bring the A7 to the U.S., and the company didn't specify which LTE bands the phone supports. Samsung recently launched the Galaxy A6 in the U.S.
Samsung has made several new AR Emoji characters available to the Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note9. The new animated emoji come from Disney's movie Zootopia and include Judy Hopps, Nick Wilde, and Flash. These characters join others such as Disney classics Mickey and Minnie, as well as several from Frozen and The Incredibles. Samsung's AR Emoji allow people to animate avatars with their own facial expressions to create unique messages. The new characters are available from the camera app and the Galaxy Apps Store.
The Apple iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods are not among the list of products that will be subject to a new 10% tariff directed against imports from China. The tariff, levied by President Donald Trump, covers some $200 billion of goods shipped into the U.S. Apple had feared its products would be among those hit with the tariff, but it has been spared. FitBit said its products were spared from this round of tariffs, as well, but some Cisco, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard components necessary for cloud computing equipment do fall on the list of taxed products. The 10% tariff goes into effect September 24, and rises to 25% on January 1, 2019. Trump has threatened to expand the tariffs to an additional $267 billion worth of goods. In that case, Apple's products would no longer be exempt from the added fees, nor would the phones from Samsung, LG, and most other manufacturers. Tariffs are generally viewed as a tax on consumers, as they often result in higher prices on goods.
Cricket Wireless today announced several promotions timed with the arrival of the fall season. First up, customers who open a new line of service with Cricket and port in their number can buy the Samsung Galaxy S9 for $499, a savings of $120 off the regular price. Alternately, new customers can snag the LG Fortune 2 for free. This offer is available through November 8. Cricket is offering four lines of "unlimited data" for $100 per month. This plan includes 22 GB of high-speed data, after which the speeds may be slowed down when the network is congested. Cricket's network allows for maximum download speeds of 3 Mbps, with video streams capped at 1.5 Mbps, or standard definition. Last, Cricket is offering customers the opportunity to enroll in Cricket Protect. Cricket's insurance program includes quick and convenient phone replacements and covers broken glass and water damage. Cricket Protect costs $7 per month. The program is automatically offered to people when they buy a new device. The open enrollment lets people who don't have insurance sign up for the program. Cricket says people seeking to add their phone to Cricket Protect will need to bring their device to a local Cricket store for a quick inspection. The open enrollment period lasts through November 8.
Samsung today announced Samsung Health 6.0, a revitalized version of its personal health and fitness app for Samsung phones. Samsung says the app includes a new user interface, new tracking tools, and new personalization features to customize the experience. Samsung simplified the UI so it focuses on the user's personal needs, habits, and priorities. The app features a new Together tab, which lets people share photos and fitness milestones with friends. It also opens a window to Samsung's worldwide community of health and fitness fans where people can collaborate and even participate in global challenges. The refreshed Discover tab is where users can fine-tune their knowledge by surfacing articles, programs, and compatible partner apps. It includes a storefront through which people can buy wearables, accessories, and other fitness products. Samsung Health is also taking a leap forward on Samsung's smartwatches. Samsung says the new Samsung Health interface provides more at-a-glance information, such as heart rate, GPS data, and workout countdown. Users can track 39 different exercises on all Samsung devices, while the latest Samsung Galaxy Watch can track these same exercises automatically. Samsung Health on Samsung wearables also provides new wellness and stress management features, such as a sleep stage detector and breathing exercise program. The new version of Samsung Health is available via the Google Play Store or the Galaxy Apps Store.
Samsung to Adopt Google's RCS-Based Messaging Platform So Samsung Messages and Android Messages Are Compatible
Owners of Samsung Galaxy phones will soon have access to a more powerful messaging app. Samsung says it is working more closely with Google to ensure that its own Samsung Messages app will work seamlessly with Google's Android Messages app. Samsung is integrating the Google- and GSMA-backed RCS standard within its own app. RCS offers features such as read receipts, group chats, typing indicators, and high-resolution photo/video sharing. To-date, these RCS-based features were only available to Google's Android Messages, meaning both the sender and recipient needed to use Android Messages. Eventually, these features will come to the Samsung Messages app and work between the two. The RCS features are dependent on network support and will only be available to customers on carriers that have deployed RCS. In the U.S., that includes Sprint and T-Mobile. Samsung is starting off slowly. It will first bring these features to the 2017-era Galaxy S8 and S8+, followed by the S8 Active, S9, S9+, Note8, Note9, and select A and J series running Android 9.0 or later. Eventually, new Galaxy phones will natively support RCS when they first go on sale. Samsung did not provide a timeline for deploying its RCS-based Samsung Messages App.
Samsung today said it plans to sell the Galaxy A6 phone in the U.S. beginning September 14. The A6 is a mid-range phone that fills the gap between Samsung's entry-level J series and flagship S series phones. The A6 features a 5.6-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display with HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7884 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The A6 offers two 16-megapixel cameras, one on front and the other on back, each with its own LED flash. The rear camera has an aperture of f/1.7, while the front camera has an aperture of f/1.9. The camera app is able to use Samsung's Bixby Vision to identify items in the viewfinder as well as translate text. A 3,000mAh battery is sealed in the chassis, and the fingerprint reader is mounted on the rear panel. The phone includes good LTE support for T-Mobile thanks to Bands 66 and 71. Other radios include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, and WiFi. The Galaxy S6 runs Android 8 Oreo and will be sold unlocked via Samsung.com for $360. Samsung says Sprint will also sell the phone on September 14, with other carriers to follow later. Carrier pricing may be different. Last, Samsung is making the Galaxy J3 and Galaxy J7 available on September 14 unlocked via Samsung.com for $170 and $250, respectively.
Google today detailed the September security patches for Android devices. The company says it discovered a number of vulnerabilities impacting the Android runtime, framework, media framework, and system software. It also found component-level issues with hardware from Qualcomm. Most issues were given a severity rating of "high" but a significant number were listed as "critical." Many could have led to remote code execution. Google says it informed its hardware partners about the issues about 30 days ago. Google does not believe any of the security holes have been exploited by hackers. Google is pushing two updates to its Nexus and Pixel phones, dated September 1 and September 5. It will be up to individual device makers (Samsung, Motorola, et al.) to update their own hardware with the latest patches. Google will provide AOSP with the patches within 48 hours.
Samsung is hard at work completing a phone with a foldable screen and the device might be announced as soon as November, reports CNBC. Samsung has been working on foldable screen technology for years, but mobile chief DJ Koh told CNBC that now "it's time to deliver." Koh did not provide any hard details about the device, but said the company is working to create an experience that's different from a tablet when the phone is unfolded. Unlike old flip phones, which had a hinge and screen on one half of the device, this phone would feature a screen that bends more like a wallet so when people open it they can take advantage of a larger screen. "You can use most of the uses ... on foldable status. But when you need to browse or see something, then you may need to unfold it. But even unfolded, what kind of benefit does that give compared to the tablet? If the unfolded experience is the same as the tablet, why would [consumers] buy it?" said Koh. "So every device, every feature, every innovation should have a meaningful message to our end customer. So when the end customer uses it, [they think] 'wow, this is the reason Samsung made it'." Samsung's developer conference is scheduled for November and it's possible the company will use that event as a platform to announce its foldable phone.
Samsung is rethinking how it develops phones and plans to make a significant change in strategy. Moving forward, the company will introduce the newest features to devices at the $400 price point, such as the Galaxy A series, rather than to flagship models such as the Galaxy S or Note. "In the past, I brought the new technology and differentiation to the flagship model and then moved to the mid-end. But I have changed my strategy from this year to bring technology and differentiation points starting from the mid-end," said Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh in an interview with CNBC. The new, cutting edge features will appear on a mid-range phone by the end of the year, according to Koh. Part of the thinking behind this change is due to the slowdown in sales of high-end models, which are too costly for many people. "So we are very much focusing on millennials who cannot afford the flagship," continued Koh. "But how can I deliver meaningful innovation to our millennials? That's the reason I'm trying to differentiate the mid-section." Samsung also needs to find a way to compete with Chinese rivals, including Huawei and Xiaomi, which have a plethora of good phones available at affordable prices.
Samsung today announced the J2 Core, a low-cost phone based on the Android Go platform. This device relies on design language similar to Samsung's pricier phones. It features a 5-inch display with 960 by 540 resolution. The J2 Core is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7570 processor and it has 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of built-in storage. Two cameras are aboard the J2 Core, including an 8-megapixel shooter on back with a flash and a 5-megapixel shooter on front. Both cameras have an aperture of f/2.2 and tools such as beauty mode. The phone packs a 2,600mAh battery and includes Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi. The Android Oreo Go operating system includes compact versions of key apps, such as Google Go, Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Gboard, Chrome, Maps Go, Files Go, Gmail Go, and Google Play. The phone will initially go on sale in Malaysia, and will eventually spread to other markets. Samsung has not announced plans to offer the Galaxy J2 Core in the U.S.
Samsung Pay has launched mobile payments in South Africa, bringing the total number of markets served to 24 across six continents. Samsung has partnered with some 2,000 banking and financial institutions to serve as many people as possible. Samsung Pay supports online purchases in 15 markets, transit cards in five markets, loyalty and membership cards in 20 markets, ATM transactions in five markets, and Samsung Rewards in 10 markets. Samsung Pay has been integrated into Samsung's Bixby voice assistant, allowing people to make purchases at some merchants with a voice request. Samsung Pay relies on both NFC and MST (magnetic stripe) technology, which makes it compatible with more payments terminals than an NFC-only service such as Apple Pay. Samsung says Samsung Pay has surpassed 1.3 billion transactions. The tap-and-go functionality is available to the new Samsung Galaxy Note9 and Galaxy Watch, as well as many of Samsung's older high-end phones.
All 750 of Costco's U.S. stores now accept Apple Pay at the register. The company had been testing Apple Pay at a small number of stores since earlier this year. Costco completed the Apple Pay rollout on August 10. Costco is working to bring Apple Pay to its store-based gas stations, too, but has only gone live in a few locations. "We've added additional mobile payment options to make your next visit more convenient," said Costco in a statement provided to MacRumors. "Costco members can now use Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Samsung Pay at U.S. Costco locations." Apple Pay will arrive at CVS and 7-Eleven stores later this year.
Samsung is pushing a small update to the Galaxy Note9 that introduces new options in the camera application. Before the update, the Note9 was limited to taking 0.2 seconds of 960fps slow-motion footage in manual mode. After the update, owners can alternately elect to record 0.4 seconds of 480fps slow-motion. The update also installs the August security patch from Google. The Note9 goes on sale August 24, so this update will likely be waiting for most people when they first turn on the device.
Samsung has announced the Exynos Modem 5100 for mobile devices with support for the 5G New Radio standard (3GPP release 15) in both sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands. Samsung says the Exynos 5100 is built using a 10nm process. The company claims to have successfully conducted an over-the-air 5G NR test with the modem using a 5G base station. It handles legacy networks, such as 2G GSM/CDMA, 3G WCDMA, HSPA, and LTE along with the 5G standard. Samsung says the modem delivers download speeds up to 2 Gbps in sub-6 GHz settings and 6 Gbps in mmWave settings. The Exynos 5100 is capable of achieving 1.6 Gbps via LTE 4G. Samsung says the Exynos Modem 5100 also includes envelope tracking, radio frequency IC, and power management solutions. It will be available to hardware makers by the end of the year. Phones with integrated 5G are not expected until 2019.