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2020 will be a moment of truth for foldable devices

Phones were not the centerpiece at the recently wrapped Consumer Electronics Show; I’ll probably repeat this point a few more times over the course of this piece, just so we’re clear. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that Mobile World Congress has mostly usurped that role.
There are always a smattering of announcements at CES, however. Some companies like to get out ahead of the MWC rush or just generally use the opportunity to better spread out news over the course of the year. As with other categories, CES’s timing positions the show nicely as a kind of sneak preview for the year’s biggest trends.
A cursory glance at the biggest smartphone news from the show points to the continuation of a couple of key trends. The first is affordability. Samsung leads the pack here with the introduction of two “Lite” versions of its flagship devices, the Galaxy S10 and Note 10. The addition of the line lent some confusion to Samsung’s strategy amongst a handful of tech analysts around where precisely such devices would slot in the company’s portfolio.

2020 will be a moment of truth for foldable devices

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

Let’s talk Samsung Galaxy S11

We’ve officially entered the mid-December hardware doldrums. Obviously no major hardware maker in its right mind is going to be announcing anything major in the next few weeks, for fear of preemptively cannibalizing holiday sales. Things will, however, heat up immediately after the new year with the kick off of CES. Then, a little over a month later, comes MWC.
Sandwiched somewhere in there is the launch of Samsung’s next flagship. This is the device that sets the tone for the company for the whole year. Samsung’s six month flagship release cycle (S series, followed by the Note) affords the company the ability to offer more frequent refreshes, but this first one is really a standard setter for both the company and the industry at large.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ review

A February 18 launch date has been floated for the next flagship. The timing certainly makes sense. Samsung has broken away from MWC — and big tech shows in general — for its biggest announcements. Doing so puts the spotlight on its own devices and beats the MWC news glut for a few weeks. Likely available for the devices will begin the following month.

As for the name — there’s no reason to believe the company would use this opportunity to break away from the S11/S11+ scheme this time out. So we’re going to stick with that until credibly informed otherwise.
The recently announced Snapdragon 865 will be powering the device in a number of markets, making the S11 among the first devices to launch with the latest flagship SoC. A recent report also suggests that the configuration will be available in even more markets, including, potentially its native South Korea. Standardized 5G seems possible across the board, though that’s likely going to mean an even more prohibitively expensive starting price. It’s a big jump, especially with a still-spotty rollout in many markets.

What we know about Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 865 and 765 chips

An under-screen front-facing camera has been rumored, but the more familiar hole punch seems a lot more likely for this gen. Renders (courtesy of OnLeaks) of the device point to a design similar to the most recent Note, only with an even more trypophobia-inducing design than the most recent iPhone and Google Pixel (which is saying something). The camera bump appears downright massive, monopolizing an impressive portion of the rear.
An impossible large 108 megapixel camera has been rumored for the device, along with 8K video. Either way, imagining is no doubt going to once again be a major focus for the line. So, too, is a healthy battery increase.
EVLeaks, meanwhile, is suggesting an EVEN LARGER screen, with the S11e measuring either 6.2 or 6.4 inches, the S11 at 6.7 inches and the S11+ at a huge 6.9 inches. Plenty more leaks sure to come between now and mid-February. Stay tuned. 

Let’s talk Samsung Galaxy S11

What we know about Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 865 and 765 chips

Qualcomm’s holding its big annual get-together this week in Hawaii, portioning off Snapdragon news, piece by piece. Yesterday’s event was the big unveiling of the Snapdragon 865 and 765, the chips that will power most of next year’s premium and mid-tier handsets, respectively.
Today, the components came into sharper focus. Expect more from both tomorrow, as well, as the company continues to milk them for the multi-day event, but we’re starting to get a pretty solid picture of what these chips will be able to do.
Let’s start top-down with the 865. Expect the premium chip to start showing up in announcements around CES and MWC, if past years’ road maps are any indication. As anticipated, 5G is one of the key focuses. After all, 2020 is generally believed to be when 5G-driven purchases will start helping to right long-flagging smartphone sales.

Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon 865 and 765 platforms

No integrated 5G has been announced for the chip. Instead, it will work in tandem with Qualcomm’s 5G modem, the X55. Keep in mind, there are still going to be plenty of non-5G alternative flagships released in the next calendar year. For starters, the devices are bound to be prohibitively expensive. Also, in many markets, 5G coverage will be spotty, at best. Unfortunately, however, it seems that manufacturers will have to buy them as a pair.
Notably, there’s support for a wide range of 5G frequencies. That’s necessary, because carrier approach to 5G has been pretty piecemeal. It varies a good deal from carrier to carrier — and in the case of some, like T-Mobile, a good deal within the carrier.
AI’s the other big marquee bit. Again, no surprise. It’s been an increasingly important aspect of smartphone evolution for several years now. That’s powered by a fifth-gen AI chip that doubles the performance of its predecessor.
There’s also on-board support for wake word listening for use with the likes of Alexa and Assistant, at low power. Imaging improvements include support for 200 megapixel photos and 8K, along with much-improved speeds. On the display/gaming front, there’s now support for 144Hz refresh rates.
The arrival of the 765, meanwhile, highlights Qualcomm’s ambitions to speed up 5G adoption across a wider range of devices. The new chip, which features an option with integrated 5G, could certainly help on that front, keeping cost and power usage down.
Expect devices to start arriving in early 2020.

What we know about Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 865 and 765 chips

Samsung teases a clamshell foldable form factor

Last year at its developer conference, Samsung showed off an early glimpse of its upcoming foldable. In hindsight, the Galaxy Fold’s rollout could have gone more smoothly, but sometimes first-gen products go that way, I suppose. At the very least, it’s clear that the company won’t let a rocky start stand between it and broader foldable phone ambitions.

Life with the Samsung Galaxy Fold

Onstage at this year’s event, the company showed off another take on the foldable display. A video shows the Galaxy Fold form factor morphing into a clamshell more akin to traditional dumb phones.

Attendees of #SDC19 got a sneak peek at a brand new form factor Samsung is exploring for the foldable category of devices. #SamsungEvent pic.twitter.com/rGtpvNj0SJ
— Samsung US Newsroom (@SamsungNewsUS) October 29, 2019

Unlike last year’s event, this one shouldn’t be taken as a pre-product announcement. Rather, the company says it’s “explor[ing] a range of new form factors in the foldable category.” It’s something that’s been pretty clear from the outset: these earliest days of foldables are very much about seeing which form factors click. Samsung is currently working with developers to explore these concepts.
This latest is more in line with leaks we’ve seen of the rumored Motorola Razr reboot, with an elongated screen that can easily be folded up and stashed away in a pocket. Perhaps we’ll get more insight into the company’s plans as CES or MWC.
Perhaps.

Samsung teases a clamshell foldable form factor