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Mophie introduces a modular wireless charging module

Here’s a clever addition for Mophie, one of the longstanding battery case makers, which is now a part of the same smartphone accessory conglomerate as Zagg, Braven, iFrogz and InvisibleShield. The Juice Pack Connect is a modular take on the category, with a battery pack that slides on and off.
For $80 you get a 5,400mAh battery (that should get you plenty of additional charge time) and a ring stand that props the phone up. Mophie may offer additional models at some point, but right now, the biggest selling point is less about add-ons and more the fact that you can slip the battery off the device when not needed and still use the case.

Image Credits: Mophie

It’s not entirely dissimilar from the modular uniVERSE case OtterBox introduced a bunch of years ago, but the big advantage here is that the charging works via Qi, so you don’t have to plug it into the phone’s port.
It’s not cheap (Mophie isn’t, generally). And, no, it’s not a MagSafe accessory. Instead, the add-on attaches to your case (needs to be one thin enough to support the charging, mind) using adhesive. The upside is that it works with a much larger number of phones, including multiple generations of iPhones and wireless-capable handsets like Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels.

OtterBox’s new case offers a battery, speakers, Square reader and other swappable functionality

Mophie introduces a modular wireless charging module

What to expect from Apple’s ‘Hi Speed’ iPhone event

For starters, iPhones, of course. That one was easy. The company skipped out on new mobile devices during its recent Apple Watch event, owing to COVID-19-related delays. And, of course, the fact that the events are all pre-taped and virtual now means companies can more easily split them up in ways that were harder to justify when people were expected to fly in from all over the world.
That doesn’t mean we won’t be getting more than just a phone (or, more like multiple phones). While Apple’s been more inclined to host more, smaller events, there’s a decent chance this is going to be the last major event the company hosts before the holidays. That means it’s going to want to get a lot of bang for its buck this time out.
The iPhone 12 is expected to be the centerpiece, of course. The headline feature will almost certainly be 5G. Apple’s been a little behind the curve on that front versus its Android competitors (Samsung, for instance, has several devices with next-gen wireless), though another knock-on effect from the pandemic has been a slower than expected adoption of the tech. So in some ways, Apple’s really right on time here. In the U.S., the company is said to offer both the mmWave and sub-6Ghz 5G technologies. Availability may vary depending on the needs of a given market.

Here’s everything Apple revealed at its September hardware event

Rumors point to a bunch of different models. After all, gone are the days a company like Apple could just offer up a big premium device and be done with it. Sales for high-end devices were already drying up well before the virus came along to bring smartphone sales to a screeching halt there for a bit. People were already tired of paying in excess of $1,000 for new phones when the ones they already had still did the job perfectly fine.
There are supposedly four sizes arriving. There will be higher-end devices at 6.1 and 6.7 inches, and more budget-minded devices at 6.1 and 5.4 inches. It’s a pretty broad price range, from $699 for the “mini” to $1,099 and up for the Pro Max (sandwiched between are the $799 iPhone 12 and $999 Pro). Along with its recently expanded Watch line, Apple’s all about choice this time out.
Reportedly, however, the company will be bringing OLED tech to all of the models, marking a pretty big change from the days of LCD-sporting budget models. The new models are expected to get a welcome redesign, reportedly returning to something more in line with the iPhone 5. The rounded edges are expected to be dropped in favor of a flatter design, akin to what you get on the iPad Pro.
Other interesting potential additions include the return of the company’s dearly departed MagSafe life for a pair of wireless charging pads that will hopefully finally lay to rest any memory of the failed AirPower experiment. Available for one or two devices, the new pads will reportedly leverage magnets built into the phones to snap them in place.
Music has always been a cornerstone for the company, and it’s long overdue for some updates to audio products. This time out, we may finally get the long-awaited AirPods Studio, an over-ear addition to its line of headphones. The models are set to come in two variations, the largest variation being build materials. A smaller version of its smart speaker could be on the way, as well. The HomePod has long been cost-prohibitive for many, so a mini version could finally make it a bit more accessible.

A closer look at the new Apple Watches

Another long-rumored addition — AirTags — could finally arrive, as well. Apple’s product-tracking Tile competitor has been in the cards for some time now, but has repeatedly been delayed. That may still be the case — and same goes for a refresh to Apple TV. With the company’s subscription service about to celebrate its year anniversary, it could really use some updated hardware. New Macs with Apple-built chips could be on the table, as well, though the company is reportedly planning one more 2020 event for that big launch.
The event kicks off tomorrow at 10AM PT/1PM ET. We’ll be watching along with you, bringing you the news as it breaks.

What to expect from Apple’s ‘Hi Speed’ iPhone event

Royole returns with another foldable

I first spent time with the Royole Flexpai at a TechCrunch event in China back in 2018. The device was exciting. It was the first commercially released foldable, after all, before Samsung and Huawei offered their respective takes on the form factor. But ultimately it felt like, at best, a proof of concept. It was a shot across the bow from a little-known Shenzhen-based hardware maker, and ultimately little else.
The last two years have been — let’s say “complicated” for the category. I don’t think anyone was anticipating that $2,000 foldable phones were going to disrupt the industry right out of the gate or anything — especially in a time when more people are spending less money on their mobile devices. But to say foldables got off to a rocky start is something of an understatement. Royole has announced a few more products here and there, but the Flexpai continues to be the company’s most engaging from a consumer perspective.

A closer look at Royole’s foldable display

At an event in Beijing this morning, the company announced the Flexpai 2. The device is similar in design to the first model, which is to say it folds with the screen facing outward. The design makes sense from the standpoint of offering up notifications while closed (there’s a reason the Galaxy Fold 2 got a larger front-facing screen), but now you’ve got two screens to scuff up when the big old device is in your pocket.

The device itself got a bit of screen time during the press conference, though not a ton. For now we mostly have press shots to rely on, which is going to continue to be one of the pain points of covering hardware in the COVID-19 era. Fittingly, the company spent a lot of time talking hinges here — that, after all, was a high profile point of failure for Samsung’s first-gen device.
Here’s how Royole describes it in the press material:

The structure of the hinge is stable and shockproof, providing the great protection for the screen. It has more than 200 precision components with 0.01 mm processing accuracy. The hinge technology holds around 200 patents and solved many issues seen in other foldable smartphones.

Image Credits: Royole

Having had limited time with the Flexpai, I’ll say that robustness didn’t seem like one of the primary issues with a product that had some other first-gen bugs. The thing was pretty massively thick, though — which Royole has addressed with a design here that’s around 40% thinner than the first gen. The display is a generous 7.8 inches — though no mention of whether there’s glass reinforcement, which could be an issue.
There’s 5G support, a healthy 4450mAh battery and a Snapdragon 865 processor. The company updated its waterOS, which is built on top of Android 10 to offer a more seamless foldable experience. It arrives in China this week priced at around $1,427, which is wildly expensive for a standard smartphone, but actually pretty good for a foldable.
U.S. availability is, once again, a big question mark.

Royole returns with another foldable

Samsung is holding yet another Unpacked Event on September 23

One thing I’ll say for in-person events: they compelled companies to cram in a lot of news. After all, if you’re going to ask an auditorium full of people to travel from around the country — or world — you want to give them a lot of bang for their buck.
Samsung did manage that with its Galaxy Note event in early August. We got a new phone, new earbuds, new watch, new tablet and a preview of an upcoming foldable. A couple of weeks ago, the company devoted an entire second event to the new Fold. And now here we are, a couple of weeks later, staring down yet another event.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold arrives September 18 for $2,000

The September 23 event will likely focus on the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition that’s been floating around in leaks for a few months now, the way Samsung devices tend to. I’m not saying there won’t be a bunch of other news at the event as well, but the Fold event lowered my expectations a bit with regard to what the company deems worthy of a standalone event in 2020, versus, say, issuing a press release or something.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

Anyway, the so-called “Fan Edition” finds the company picking up a long-abandoned trend of issuing lower-cost alternatives to flagship devices (notably, a refurbished version of the Note 7).
Here it seems to be a lower-priced take on Samsung’s primary flagship, the Galaxy S20. From the sound of it, the device is essentially a rebranding of its “Lite” line — the latest take on an already confusing approach to its budget flagship offerings.
We’ll find out more September 23 at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET.

Samsung is holding yet another Unpacked Event on September 23

Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold arrives September 18 for $2,000

As far as launches for revolutionary products are concerned, the Galaxy Fold could have gone a lot better. It’s not for lack of hype, of course. Years of prelude punctuated by Samsung’s own breathless expectations provided plenty of build-up, but in the end, the device felt like a partially baked disappointment.
A number of early units broke for a variety of reasons. Samsung recalled the foldable, went back to the drawing board and released it on a delayed timeline. I ran into issues with my second sample pretty quickly. At the end of the day, the device just demanded a level of gingerliness most users can’t really afford with a day-to-day mobile device.

My Galaxy Fold display is damaged after a day

The Galaxy Fold Z 2, which was the centerpiece of today’s Unpacked annex event, is largely devoted to addressing the biggest complaints about the original. Given the issues with the original, that’s about as admirable a goal as any. We were all aware that the Galaxy Fold was going to be a learning process for Samsung — and certainly there’s a certain degree of throwing caution to the wind — but relative to the company’s other device, it just didn’t feel finished.

Image Credits: Samsung

We certainly didn’t feel comfortable advising people to purchase the device for $2,000. The Fold Z 2 is priced the same (which is to say still prohibitively expensive for most), but it could be the product the first gen should have been. I’m going to wait until we’ve had sufficient review time to say anything definitive about the device, but in Samsung’s defense, the company does seem to have addressed most of the major issues with the original — thanks in no small part to some advances introduced with Flip last year.

Living with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

The biggest update here is the addition of what the company calls “Ultra Thin Glass” to the primary foldable 7.6-inch display. That was one of the largest pain points of the original — as cool as the technology is, it’s not worth a lot if the touchscreen can’t withstand touches. The technology here is more or less the same as what Samsung introduced with the Flip.

Image Credits: Samsung

The same goes for the new “sweeper” technology, which builds in a brush to wick away particles that might otherwise fall into the phone. This was another issue with the original — crap was getting behind the screen, causing damage when pressure was applied to the front by the user. This is the third-generation of the feature, according to Samsung, sporting a thinner brush than the original. Per the company:

To achieve this, Samsung developed new innovative sweeper technology to achieve the same level of protection in a smaller space. The Galaxy Z Fold2 Hideaway Hinge features revolutionary slim cutting technology, modified fiber composition and adjusted fiber density.

That’s a fancy way of saying they made thinner bristles. The hinge has also been improved to allow the device to stand at a variety of angles. That’s going to be an important point as the company looks to compete directly with the likes of Microsoft’s Surface Duo and any other dual-screen devices coming down the road. That’s augmented by Flex Mode (another Flip addition), which reconfigures the screen to make the best use of the partially open display.

Image Credits: Samsung

The other big update here is the addition of a much larger front-facing screen. At 6.2 inches, the front of the device is actually a serviceable display for use while the device is closed. Last time around, the front-facing screen had a weirdly long aspect ratio and wasn’t really great for anything but notifications. The company seemingly took something away from Huawei’s first dip into the foldable category.
The new Fold has 5G support, of course — that’s now standard across the company’s flagships, along with some mid-tier devices. That’s coupled with a beefy 4,500 mAh of battery life (split in two, each behind a display), 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There’s only one memory/storage option for the device for the States, which will run $2,000.

That entitles the buyer to the Galaxy Z Premier service, which includes on-demand support for the phone and a one-time replacement after accidental screen damage. There’s also a bunch of other perks thrown in, like Founders Card membership and access to golfing, or dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant. I would have preferred a pair of Galaxy Buds, to be honest, but Samsung’s really pushing the luxury angle here.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is up for pre-order September 2, and starts shipping on the 18th.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold arrives September 18 for $2,000