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Have we hit peak smartphone?

Last Halloween, we broke down some “good news” from a Canalys report: the smartphone industry saw one-percent year-over-year growth — not exactly the sort of thing that sparks strong consumer confidence.
In short, 2019 sucked for smartphones, as did the year before. After what was nearly an ascendant decade, sales petered off globally with few exceptions. Honestly, there’s no need to cherrypick this stuff; the numbers this year have been lackluster at best for a majority of companies in a majority of markets.
For just the most recent example, let’s turn to a report from Gartner that dropped late last month. The numbers focus specifically on the third quarter, but they’re pretty indicative of what we’ve been seeing from the industry of late, with a 0.4 percent drop in sales. It’s a fairly consistent story, quarter after quarter for a couple of years now.

Have we hit peak smartphone?

Royole looks to move flexible displays beyond the foldable phone

If nothing else, Royole grabbed our attention a couple of years back by bringing the first foldable smartphone to market. There’s something to be said for being first, I suppose. It raised the profile of a largely unknown name in amongst the tech press, even if it didn’t exactly kickstart a form-factor revolution. Among other things, the FlexPai seemed firmly stuck in the prototype stage, to be perfectly honest.

RoTree, manufactured by Royole, consists of 500 units of fully flexible screens. As light and thin as real tree leaves, RoTree offers more than that – people can change images or videos on the leaves! The tree is «planted» at Shenzhen Bao’An Int’l Airport as new airport landmark! pic.twitter.com/8J7HNH9ONF
— Royole Corporation (@RoyoleOfficial) June 28, 2019

But, okay, fine. Royole, you’ve got our attention. I’ve seen your foldable phone tree firsthand at the Shenzhen airport. So, what do have for us now? More interesting stuff, surely. The company was showcasing a pair of new devices at CES this week, all seemingly filling a similar function as the FlexPai: demonstrating the potential for flexible display technology. That, in fact, seems to be Royole’s primary M.O.

A closer look at Royole’s foldable display

Leading the bunch is the Mirage Smart Speaker. It’s basically an Amazon echo with an eight-inch flexible AMOLED wrapped around the body. So, a flexible display that can’t be actively flexed by the user — though honestly, the act of flexing it tends to be where we start running into trouble. Instead, it offers a wraparound visual, so, like a built-in Winamp visualizer on your device. Kind of fun.
There’s also a camera built-in, which, I don’t know. Maybe smart speakers don’t need cameras? Maybe that’s just me?
There’s a new version of the company’s RoWrite, which is basically a standard pad of paper with sensors embedded that let you digitize your writing and drawing. The idea is to give the feel of paper with the benefits of digital. The new RoWrite is significantly smaller and lighter, with better battery.

Royole looks to move flexible displays beyond the foldable phone

Samsung confirms February 11 event for its next flagship launch

The Saturday night before CES seems like a less than ideal time to drop some big smartphone news — but it appears Samsung’s hand was forced on this one. Granted, the smartphone giant has never been great about keeping big news under wraps, but this morning’s early release of a promo video through its official Vimeo channel was no doubt all the motivation it needed.
The company has just made the February 11 date officially official for the launch of its upcoming flagship. As for what the flagship will be called, well, that (among other things) leaves some room for speculation. Rumors have pointed to both the more traditional S11, along with the more fascinating jump to the S20.

Say hello to a whole new Galaxy. Unpacked on February 11, 2020 #SamsungEvent pic.twitter.com/ln1pqt2vu7
— Samsung Mobile (@SamsungMobile) January 5, 2020

I’ve collated a bunch of the rumors into an earlier post. The TLDR is even larger screens across the board, coupled with a bunch of camera upgrades and a healthy battery increase. The invite art, which matches the earlier the video, appears to confirm the existence of two separate devices, with different dimensions. That could well point to the reported followup to the Galaxy Fold. In additional to better reinforced folding (a follow up to last year’s issues), the device reportedly adopts a clamshell form factor, more akin to the newly announced Motorola Razr.
More info (and rumors) to come. As ever, we’ll be there (San Francisco) as the news breaks.

Samsung confirms February 11 event for its next flagship launch

Google Pixel 4a renders include a headphone jack and hole-punch display

It’s the slowest week of the year for gadget news. Christmas is in the rearview, and it’s a few days until the new year. After that, it’s a straight shot to CES and then MWC. Meantime, best we’ve got going for us are a handful of rumors, including a peek at what Google’s next budget handset might could potentially possibly conceivably look like.
Per renders from OnLeaks and 91Mobiles, a vision of the Pixel 4a has appeared — or, a render, rather. The handset will no doubt be an important one for Google. After all, the 3a (pictured at top) helped the company recover from some lackluster sales last year. A couple of pieces jump out at first glance. The display appears to finally buck the company’s longtime notch dependency, in favor of a hole punch camera on the front.

Perhaps even more compelling, the device seems to hold the torch for the headphone jack. In 2020, that could well be a standout feature even among mid-range handsets. As the company eloquently put it around the time of the 3a’s release, “a lot of people have headphones.”

And here comes my last late #Christmas gift in form of your very first and early look at the #Google #Pixel4a! 360° video + gorgeous 5K renders + dimensions, on behalf of my Friends over @91mobiles -> https://t.co/rsvRkjVOln pic.twitter.com/sqG6J5knSR
— Steve H.McFly (@OnLeaks) December 28, 2019

Other notable features on the forthcoming device includes the addition of the squircle phone bump on the rear, a design element borrowed from the Pixel 4. Likely the handset will stick to a single camera, instead of adopting the flagship’s truly excellent dual-camera setup. Even so, Google’s been able to accomplish some solid imaging technology with just the one sensor, courtesy of clever ML software.
The display, too, will be slightly larger than its predecessor, bumping up one or two tenths of an inch. The handset is reportedly dropping around May, probably just in time for I/O 2020.

Google Pixel 4a renders include a headphone jack and hole-punch display

Snap opens second Spectacles pop-up shop in Venice, LA

 Snap today took another step on its quest to truly become the “camera company” it says it is. Following the November 21st launch and subsequent February 20th close of its NYC pop-up shop, it’s now opening a temporary store on the Venice boardwalk near its Los Angeles headquarters. Of course, would-be camera sunglasses buyers don’t have to trek to a physical location… Read More

Snap opens second Spectacles pop-up shop in Venice, LA