Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes the cancellation of MWC Barcelona, the launch of the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip, a new OnePlus view, the Razr secrets under the screen, two new Xiaomi handsets, Essential closes down, and an epic attack on Android from Epic Games.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
MWC 2020 No More
Following a wave of corporate cancellations amid the fear of the coronavirus, the GSMA has cancelled the key phone conference of the year. MWC Barcelona, due to start next weekend, is no more. Jane Wakefield reports for the BBC:
“According to its website, the GSMA takes out standard insurance cover on behalf of exhibitors, which does not cover the spread of communicable diseases unless health authorities issue travel restrictions.
The association’s chief executive, John Hoffman, promised the event would be back next year. “It is a very dark day, it is very disappointing. But we know the sun will shine,” he said. “This is about our future together, and we look forward to hosting all of you, all of our partners from around the world, for MWC ’21.” “
This has put a huge number of launch plans into jeopardy, from the major smartphone manufacturers to the small companies that invest a significant poring of their revenue to attend the show and establish their business. Not only that, but these companies may now reassess their attendance at MWC 2021. Andrew Martonik looks at the fallout:
“MWC 2020 was expected to bring product announcements from Motorola, HMD Global (Nokia), Sony, LG, TCL, Xiaomi, Honor, Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, ZTE and more.
“Each company will inevitably find a new approach to launching these products. Most are not going to be big enough to warrant their own separate events — which is why they were at MWC in the first place — and will likely be replaced by a rollout of post-launch marketing materials that were already planned. It’s not ideal, but there’s already so much in motion with these launches that it’s cost-prohibitive to change anything else.”
The Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy S20 smartphones are introduced during the Samsung Unpacked … [+]
© 2020 Bloomberg Finance LP
Samsung Launches 2020 Flagships
Samsung is the first of the ‘big’ manufacturers to break cover with their 2020 designs (and thanks to MWC has gained a bit more of a lead than it was planning for). The Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus, and Galaxy S20 Ultra were announced at the Samsung Unpacked event in San Francisco. Dieter Bohn reports:
“My first impression is that Samsung wants to make sure there’s no spec that isn’t maxed out: the screens have high 120Hz refresh rates and are bigger than ever, the data comes in at 5G speeds, the cameras zoom farther and rack up megapixels in the hundreds, and even the batteries are bigger.
“If you’re trying to make sense of the differences between the three phones, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that, at a high level, all you need to know is that although they mostly share the same guts, there’s a good / better / best cadence to them. The 6.2-inch S20 lacks mmWave 5G and has the lowest-end camera array of the three. The 6.7-inch S20 Plus adds mmWave and better cameras. And finally, the S20 Ultra is unabashedly huge at 6.9 inches, with a camera system that’s as big and complex as nearly any other you can find on a phone.”
The Feel Of The Flip
Of course it’s all about the screen… have that fold and you get a much more compact device. Thankfully the screen does deliver. The 6.7 inch Super AMOLED screen is using a flexible glass cover to give it a premium feel. Chris Velazco takes a look:
“Real-world testing may reveal shortcomings we just can’t pick out right now, but I find myself feeling less concerned about what would happen to the Z Flip after a butterfingers moment. (It doesn’t hurt that the hinge has been reinforced with special fibers to keep debris out of the phone itself.) And I simply can’t convey to you just how much better a proper glass screen feels to use than a plastic OLED — that nagging, back-of-my-head concern about scratching that internal screen is gone. Apart from a noticeable crease, using the Z Flip feels just like using a regular phone.”
A New View For Your OnePlus
OnePlus is rolling out a new ‘Ambient Mode’ to their handsets. Powered by Google Assistant, it offers you contextual information. Of course with the rapid charging system, your OnePlus might not be on charge long enough to make full use of the feature:
“Ambient Mode is a “proactive” Google Assistant experience that is available whenever the device is being charged. You can access proactive information and suggestions on weather, agenda, entertainment, reminders, and more. The feature can also be used to turn a phone into a digital photo frame or as the interface to control smart home devices, such as lights, or music players.”
Secrets Of The Motorola Razr
If there’s a new phone on the market, then iFixit are going to rip it apart, take lots of pictures, and find out how it works. The same is true of the Android powered Motorola Razr. Even though it’s a first generation folder, and packed full of ‘make it work’ not ‘make it repairable’ parts, it’s a delightful bit of hardware, as the teardown team found out:
“Motorola’s nostalgia-stoking Razr officially wins the award for most complicated phone-based contraption we’ve ever taken apart. We’re impressed with the numerous feats of engineering that Moto pulled off to resurrect their iconic clamshell.
“It won’t win any awards for serviceability, but just bringing this impossible gizmo into existence was such a tall order that we’re not surprised serviceability didn’t make it into v1.0. It’s fun to see how they made it happen (if not so fun to tease it all apart).”
Xiaomi Showcases 5G And Massive Camera
Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi has launched its new 5G capable smartphone range. The Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro both come with the same 108-megapixel sensor found in the Galaxy S20 smily, as well as the SnapDragon 865 and a 6.67 inch screen. Arjun Kharpal reports:
“The world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker took the wraps off the Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro at an event in Beijing. Both devices will be available in China first before entering international markets. Xiaomi pushed forward with the planned launch at its Beijing headquarters despite the continued issues around the new coronavirus outbreak which has claimed the lives of over 1,000 people.
“While some companies in China have officially resumed work after the extended Lunar New Year holiday, many employees are still working from home and full operations have not resumed.”
Essential Closes Down
After receiving a $1.2 billion valuation before selling a single phone, and then failing to make the first phone a success, Andy Rubin’s phone start-up, Essential, is closing. Much was promised, but little was delivered beyond the first handset and a few overpriced accessories. More at Essential’s blog.
“In October, we introduced Project GEM, a new mobile experience that our hardware, software and cloud teams have been building and testing for the past few years. Our vision was to invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people’s lifestyle needs. Despite our best efforts, we’ve now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential.”
“In between canceling products, Essential was a non-stop catastrophe of bad PR. The Essential Phone was delayed from its original launch date, and when the time finally came to take payments and ship the phone, the company botched the launch. Essential sent out a bizarre payment-processing email to some customers asking then to send in their photo IDs over email, then it accidentally CC’d that personal information to several other customers who bought Essential Phones. The move was one of the worst first impressions of all time, and Rubin called the mistake “humiliating” in a blog post.”
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeny, opening up the DICE Summit gaming show in Las Vegas has launched an epic takedown against iOS and Android, berating the key players in the mobile space for their so-called open nature. Dean Takahashi reports:
“Sweeney called Android a “fake open system” for putting up barriers in front of users when Epic Games wanted to enable players to sideload Fortnite directly from the Epic Games site, rather than through the Google Play store. Sweeney said that Google put up “scary” pop-ups in front of users about the risks of sideloading (viruses, malware) and other steps that users had to engage in order to get Fortnite on Android. Epic also had “tough discussions” with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to make Fortnite available as a cross play title (meaning you can play against people on other systems, and your progress, items, and so on are available regardless of device) across the platforms.”
Android Circuit rounds up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!