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Microsoft, Dell and Samsung double down on foldable devices, whether people want them or not

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(Samsung Photo)

Some of the world’s biggest technology companies are pushing forward with foldable phones and hybrid dual-screen devices that could represent the next evolution in personal electronics. However, it’s unclear how big of an audience there is for these expensive devices — especially as the companies building them are still working out the kinks.

In the last few days, reports of new progress on these devices show that the tech world is going full speed ahead on foldable devices. Here is a look at all the recent activity:

  • Bloomberg reported that Samsung is working on its second foldable device, which collapses into a pocket-sized square. The device is reportedly smaller at 6.7 inches than the Galaxy Fold that was announced earlier this year and meant to be more affordable. Speaking of Galaxy Fold, the $2,000 device may have a release date after months of delays stemming from hardware issues. Over the weekend, Samsung began taking “pre-registrations” to buy the phone, and tech insider Evan Blass tweeted that the device will arrive Sept. 27.
  • Meanwhile, Dell is continuing to work on a Windows 10-powered, foldable, dual-screen device. Dell applied for a patent last month focused on the ever-important hinge that will make the device work. The news comes days after Microsoft sent out invites for a hardware event in New York City that some observers expect will include the unveiling of a long-rumored foldable Surface dual-screen device.
  • DigiTimes reported that Microsoft and Intel are working together to establish standards for dual-screen notebooks. The two companies are reportedly looking to extend those standards to foldable devices.

Why they are doing this: The markets for PCs and smartphones are showing meager growth and even declining in some cases, leading manufacturers to search for the next big thing. Given the activity around foldable and dual-screen devices, it appears that tech giants see these gadgets as one way to juice sales heading into the busy holiday season and in the future. However, as these devices were being unveiled, they caught some flak online as being not exactly revolutionary.

Who wants them: Unclear. The most high-profile foldable devices announced so far, the Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X, have yet to be released, so we still don’t know how big of an audience there is. In the wake of the Galaxy Fold announcement tech site Goosed asked the question, do people really want this?

Others preached patience, pointing out that what we are seeing now is the first generation of a brand new type of hardware. These types of innovations tend to start slow and at a high price point.

Microsoft’s Your Phone app is down after partnership with Samsung ties service to new Galaxy Note10

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The Your Phone app that lets Android smartphones connect to Windows — a centerpiece of the new alliance with Samsung and the Galaxy Note10 — is down.

This morning, Microsoft noted on a service outage page that “users may experience connection problems and errors when using the Your Phone app.”

“We’ve identified an issue causing connection problems for the Your Phone app,” Microsoft wrote. “Users may receive ‘Can’t connect’ or other error banners when using the app. We’re actively investigating to identify the cause of the problem and develop a remediation plan.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed up at a Samsung event earlier this month to talk about the new Note10. The Verge reported that the Note10 has “more Microsoft in it than any other Android phone,” including the Your Phone app, which lets users easily view phone pictures, make calls and browse the smartphone interface all from the PC. The announcement even got GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop to switch over to Android. 

Goodbye, iPhone: How Microsoft convinced me to switch to Android and the Samsung Galaxy Note10

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DJ Koh, President and CEO of Samsung’s IT & Mobile Communications Division, at the Galaxy Note10 unveiling. (Samsung Photo)

Ever since switching from an Apple MacBook to a Windows 10-powered Lenovo ThinkPad last year, I’ve kept using my iPhone. I’ve struggled without the seamless connection between smartphone and laptop, as described in this recent post and podcast. Microsoft’s expanded partnership with Samsung promises to fix this.

Well, I’m officially on board. This week I pre-ordered a new Samsung Galaxy Note10+ and gave up my iPhone X for its trade-in value. There’s no turning back now!

So what can I expect? For some guidance through the process, I talked with tech reviewer Andru Edwards of GearLive.com and the Geared Up podcast. He offered his take on the Samsung announcements, especially the differences between the Note10 and the larger Note10+, the trade-in options and other features.

[Listen above or subscribe to GeekWire in your favorite podcast app.]

After deciding to make the switch, my big dilemma was which version of the Galaxy Note10 to get: the $1100 Note10+ with the 6.8-inch screen, higher-resolution Quad HD+ screen, 12GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of internal storage with the option for up to 1TB with a MicroSD card; or the smaller, $950 Note10 with a 6.3-inch screen, lower-resolution display, 8GB of RAM and a limit of 256GB of internal storage.

As you’ll hear in the show, Andru persuaded me to go with the higher-end model, to ensure I get the best technology experience possible. I agree that I should see the best of what Samsung has to offer in a phone.

Still, I’m more than a little nervous about the size of the phone in my pocket, and I ordered the device without holding one first. One of the reasons I loved the iPhone X when I upgraded from the iPhone 7 Plus was the more pocketable size, which is much easier to carry around.

The Galaxy Note10+ is about 3 inches wide and 6.4 inches tall, compared to the iPhone X at 2.8 inches wide and 5.7 inches tall. The Note10+ is also naturally heavier, at 196 grams to 174 grams.

Previously: Microsoft has finally found its smartphone: Why the Samsung Galaxy partnership is so promising

I’m also very reluctant to give up my AirPods. Yes, Apple’s wireless earbuds can work with any Bluetooth device, but the seamless integration with the iPhone is a major selling point. I used Samsung’s $150 preorder credit to buy a pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds, and part of the fun will be comparing them to the AirPods.

One important note for anyone considering making a similar change. Although you can get up to $600 for a trade-in, the amount varies widely depending on your existing phone and carrier. In my case, I was able to get $300 for my iPhone X on trade-in. So you’ll want to take your specific trade-in value into account.

As mentioned, the big selling point for me is the promise of smooth integration between the Galaxy Note10 and my Windows laptop. I’m looking forward to seeing pictures appear seamlessly on Windows after I take them on the phone, and also having text messages and phone calls iintegrated, among other features.

Yes, as noted by some readers on last week’s post, Microsoft’s Your Phone app and workarounds make some semblance of this possible now, but what Microsoft and Samsung showed is more akin to a native integration.

Did I make a mistake in switching from the iPhone X? Did I choose the right model of Note10? I’ll keep everyone posted with regular updates after I get the new phone next week and make the switch.

Microsoft has finally found its smartphone: Why the Samsung Galaxy partnership is so promising

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, right, greets DJ Koh, President and CEO of Samsung’s IT & Mobile Communications Division  the Galaxy Note10 unveiling. (Samsung Photo)

Do I really have to email pictures to myself? How can I get text messages on my PC?

Those were just two of the challenges that I faced after switching back to a Windows PC last year. After years of using a MacBook Pro and an iPhone, I took for granted the ability to use the Messages app on my Mac, or plop a picture quickly onto my desktop via AirDrop.

I found solutions, such as manually uploading pictures from my phone to OneDrive, and using T-Mobile’s Digits app to text from my computer. But these are workarounds, not the smooth experience that comes from native product integration.

Of course, I’m far from alone. Microsoft’s inability to field a viable smartphone platform means Windows users don’t benefit from the seamless integration that many others do. And this is one reason why the company’s newly expanded partnership with Samsung is so interesting.

Samsung and Microsoft have partnered on PCs for many years, and on smartphones and tablets in a more limited capacity. But the expanded partnership marks “a profound shift in how we interact with the many devices in our lives,” vowed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who made a surprise appearance at Samsung’s event in New York City.

“For years, applications have been purpose-built for single devices, whether it’s the phone, the PC, the TV or even your watch,” Nadella said. “But in a world of 5G, cloud and AI, we get to rethink it all and reimagine it.”

For now, here’s what that means in practical terms.

  • For Windows users, starting with the Galaxy Note10, a built-in feature called Link to Windows will sync photos, messages, notifications, and other content between the phone and PC. (Microsoft offers these for other Android devices through its third-party Your Phone app, not natively integrated.)
  • The Note10 will also introduce a feature to access and use Android apps from the Samsung phone on the Windows PC screen.
  • Microsoft says it will introduce the ability to make calls from the PC later this year.
  • Samsung will also integrate Microsoft OneDrive into the Samsung Gallery app to automatically sync photos and videos.

The Galaxy Note10 will be sold at Microsoft Stores, Outlook will get special features to work with the Samsung S Pen, and the companies have developed a new Windows 10 PC called the Galaxy Book S that runs on a mobile Snapdragon processor. This is in addition to Samsung pre-installing Word, Excel, Outlook and other mobile Office apps on its devices.

Much of Microsoft’s turnaround story has focused on its ability to shift from traditional licensed software to the cloud and subscriptions, and that’s certainly a big ingredient in the company’s success. But combined with the success of some of Microsoft’s apps on iOS, it’s fascinating to see what the company has been able to do on smartphones without a viable platform of its own.

The tech industry is full of examples of splashy partnerships that don’t pan out as intended, and there’s no guarantee that Samsung and Microsoft will be able to make all of this work smoothly. But for now, at least, it looks like Microsoft has found its smartphone platform, and who would have guessed it would be based on Android?

One reason this could work is that both sides benefit. Through this deal, Samsung also found a new ally in its competition with Apple and Google. After years of using an iPhone, these new Windows integrations have me thinking seriously about going with a Samsung Galaxy device when it’s time to upgrade, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Listen to a discussion of the Samsung-Microsoft on the GeekWire Podcast in the audio player above, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app.

Here’s why Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella just showed up on stage at Samsung’s big event

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks on stage at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event on Wednesday. (Samsung livestream screenshot)

Follow up: Microsoft has finally found its smartphone: Why the Samsung Galaxy partnership is so promising

Actors and musicians usually make special celebrity appearances at big tech press events.

Samsung took a different route on Wednesday at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 as the mobile giant surprised the crowd by inviting Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on stage.

So why was Nadella there? Samsung and Microsoft are cozying up in a big way across various products and services.

Samsung today unveiled its new flagship Note 10 device, which has Windows 10 integration features meant to bridge the gap between PCs and smartphones. The Verge reported that the Note 10 has “more Microsoft in it than any other Android phone,” including several native apps such as Outlook, OneDrive, and Your Phone, which lets users make and receive calls from their Windows 10 device, among other features.

Samsung and Microsoft have partnered in the past but today’s announcements mark a doubling down of sorts. It’s notable given Microsoft’s past struggles with its smartphone business and Samsung’s relationship with other tech giants. And it’s a departure from five years ago, when Microsoft sued Samsung over Android patent licensing deal.

Microsoft will sell the Note 10 in its Microsoft Store locations around the world. Samsung also today unveiled the new Galaxy Book S which was developed in partnership with Microsoft and Qualcomm. Check out Microsoft’s blog post for more details.

Geared Up: The death of the Xbox, Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals, and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 rumors

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Image: Andru Edwards

On this week’s Geared Up, we talk about the upcoming Amazon Prime Day, celebrating Amazon’s 25th anniversary. I bring you my tips on finding the best Prime Day deals, while naming a couple of my favorite Prime Day launch deals (which you can find right now – the Anker PowerPort Atom III and the Jabra Elite 85h headphones.) This year Amazon is extending Prime Day to be a two-day shopping event, which means competing retailers are also preparing their own deals to steal away some attention.

High-quality video game streaming is nearly here, with early launches of both Microsoft Project xCloud (an Xbox streaming service) and Google Stadia both taking place in the fall of 2019. A listener asked if the fact that people will be able to stream their games to any device — from web browser, to smartphone to smart TV and more — spells the end of the Xbox and PlayStation dedicated video game consoles as we know them. I weigh in with my thoughts, along with my impressions of using Project xCloud (which you can see in the video embedded below!)

Samsung sent out invites for its Galaxy Unpacked event, which takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY on Aug. 7. This will be where the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 will make its debut, and we should likely hear news of updated launch plans for the Samsung Galaxy Fold as well. I discuss the expected features and specs for the new Samsung flagship smartphone.

Finally, I also talk about Jony Ive leaving Apple and what his departure means for the future of the company as many wonder if the iconic designs that Apple is known for will suffer as a result.

LINKS MENTIONED IN THE SHOW

Here’s my hands-on impressions video of Project xCloud:

Listen to the episode in the player above or subscribe to Geared Up in your favorite podcast app to listen on the go:

Geared Up: The saga of the Samsung Galaxy Fold delay

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What happened to the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Fold? On this episode of Geared Up, I bring you a look at the device from teaser all the way through to the delay 00 find out about the launch and the missteps of the first smartphone with a foldable display, which was set to ship last week and got pulled at the last minute.

We also talk about what to expect with the new iPhone 11, including major upgrades to the cameras.

Lastly, iOS apps are coming to the Mac with macOS 10.15. What does this mean for the future of Apple’s desktop operating system? All that on this episode of Geared Up!

Listen to the episode in the player below or subscribe to Geared Up in your favorite podcast app to listen on the go:

Geared Up: Are foldable phones more than a fad? Plus, hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S10+

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This week on Geared Up, our consumer electronics podcast and video show, we talk about the newly unveiled foldable phones, the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X. Are these foldable phones the future of mobile tech, or will the Galaxy Fold be seen as a fad?

We also go hands-on with the new Samsung Galaxy S10+ and compare the Samsung Galaxy Buds to the Apple AirPods. I’m in the middle of my Samsung Galaxy S10 review, but have some early impressions about some of the major features like Wireless PowerShare. Also check out the unboxing below.

Finally, Microsoft has announced the new second-generation HoloLens, and we go over the future of AR, as well.

Watch the archived live stream and listen to the podcast above, or subscribe to Geared Up in your favorite podcast app.

The Galaxy S10, $2,000 Galaxy Fold, and everything else Samsung announced today

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The new Samsung Galaxy Fold. (Samsung Photo)

Samsung is unveiling a host of new phones and accessories Wednesday, including the anticipated 10th edition of its Galaxy S series, the beginning of what it calls “the next decade of Galaxy.”

Samsung streamed the event, which just finished up on YouTube. The announcements included more details on the foldable smartphone first teased last year, several new Galaxy smartphones — including one designed for the next-generation 5G network — and accessories such as headphones and smart watches.

Samsung said at the event today that it has now sold more than 2 billion smartphones. Executives challenged the notion that there’s no more innovation left to be done, putting competitors on notice.

Galaxy Fold: Samsung first unveiled its take on a foldable smartphone/tablet hybrid in November, but the company gave very little detail. Today, we learned the price: A staggering $1,980 to start. It will be available starting April 26 in a variety of colors.

The tablet configuration looks like a typical device, and when folded up the phone takes on a thicker “candy bar” look compared to today’s super thin smartphones. Samsung officials showed how apps like Netflix and Google Maps can seamlessly jump between the tablet and phone positions. The device also features the ability to multi-task between three apps at a time.

At the event, Samsung representatives demonstrated how apps work when jumping back and forth between the closed up and open position.

(Screenshot Via YouTube)

Galaxy S10: The 10th version of Samsung’s flagship smartphone features what the company calls a professional grade camera, with three different lenses to choose from on the device. Within the phone is a neuro-processing engine to recognize more aspects in a picture to help take better pictures.

The S10 camera has an “Instagram Mode” that makes it easier to quickly take and post photos to the popular social network. Samsung says it is working with Adobe to bring its Premier Rush video editing tools to Galaxy smartphones.

(Screenshot Via YouTube)

It wouldn’t be a big smartphone event without some nebulous superlatives. The S10 has a “dynamic AMOLED” that the company calls “the most color accurate display ever on a mobile device.” It also features the “world’s first ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.”

The three new S10 models. (Screenshot Via YouTube)

The S10 comes in three models and will be released March 8: The standard model ($899), the S10e ($749) and the S10 Plus ($999).

One of the most important new features for the S10 is wireless power-sharing. Samsung built wireless charging technology into the smartphone, turning the S10 into a charger for other compatible gadgets. Users can even stack an S10 on top of another to charge it.

Galaxy S10 5G: Samsung is the latest company to jump on the 5G train, with a new version of the S10 for the next-generation network. With a 6.7-inch display, larger than the 6.4-inch S10+, this version is the largest and most powerful Galaxy S model yet.

The device will be exclusive to Verizon for the first half of the year, before being released on other carriers, like T-Mobile, later in 2019.

(Screenshot Via YouTube)

Galaxy Buds: Taking a cue from Apple and its wireless Airbuds, Samsung today unveiled the Galaxy Buds wireless earbuds. Galaxy Buds’ battery life allows for six hours of music streaming, and the earbuds come with a wireless charging case.

The earbuds come with Samsung’s digital assitant Bixby built in, and the smart brain now supports three new languages: Spanish, German and Italian. Arriving March 8, the same day as the S10 lineup, Galaxy Buds are priced at $130, $30 less than Apple’s AirPods.

Galaxy Fit and Watch Active: Samsung unveiled a pair of new wearables, the Galaxy Fit, focused on fitness tracking, and the Watch Active, its next generation smart watch.