Samsung Galaxy S20, Bloom, and more tech trends from CES
Welcome back to Processor, a newsletter I say is "about computers" mainly because it amuses me because everything is a computer. Heck, the original computers were people who calculated! Anyway, I mostly write about gadgets here, and from time to time I'll reintroduce myself for new subscribers. Howdy! Today's essay is short and about Samsung's rumored phone names. You'll find it after the links. - Dieter
Because nothing can ever be simple, Samsung has decided to change the naming scheme for the Galaxy S series away from sequential, incremental numbering to the year of release. Or at least, I hope that the fact it's getting released in 2020 is the reason Samsung appears to be calling its next phone the Galaxy S20 instead of the S11. I hope that mostly because I don't know if I can handle having to listen and react to any other rationalization.
I don't know why the "This is real" addition is what makes this story, but it's absolutely what makes this story. I'm going to start appending that phrase to everything I say that's even a little bit difficult to imagine. "I will try to make a frittata this weekend. This is real." "Tomorrow I am going to reduce the number of emails in by inbox by 20 percent. This is real." "I think stepping on a bathmat with wet feet is a wildly inconsiderate thing to do to your roommates. This is real."
Is it a stretch to turn this weird story into an allegory for how dangerous it is to depend entirely on app store infrastructure for app and game functionality, no matter how convenient it is for users to not have to deal with multiple sign-in and no matter how big the check from the big platforms might be? Probably, but not definitely.
I hope Apple aggressively refreshes the entire MacBook line with the new magic keyboard this year, optics and standard product cycles be damned. The real magic in the magic keyboard will be the extra money that will magically appear on Apple's quarterly earnings from people begrudgingly buying new laptops earlier than they otherwise would have because they're sick unto death of the butterfly keyboard.
Verge Deal of the day
Save $45 on Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite
If you're in need of an e-reader, Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is the best one that you can buy, especially since it's under $100 right now. The base model with 8GB of storage (and Amazon's ads built in) costs $84.99, which matches the best price that we've seen. Compared to Amazon's cheaper model, this one has a higher resolution display, and it's waterproof.
Note that we put scare quotes about "best" in the "'Best' of CES." I've been writing about the balance of concepts to products for a week now, so I don't have a whole lot more to add here. Some good picks in the other categories, though, worth a look!
CES landed in a particular dip in the parts cycle this time around. There are exciting new chips and exciting new form factors coming, but neither was really ready to come out in force this January. Don't let it get you down.
If I were buying a gaming monitor today, I would probably at least want to future-proof myself with HDR support, and I think that would probably mean considering a high DisplayHDR spec to be essential. As for Mini LED, it's hard to say how much of a leap forward it represents — the effectiveness of LED dimming solutions can vary from model to model or panel to panel. But if nothing else, it should signal that you're looking at a monitor with serious HDR support
Wi-Fi 6 was never meant to be a technology so powerful as to be worth upgrading for. It comes with speed increases, up to 9.6 Gbps from a theoretical maximum of 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5. But that extra bandwidth is more about allowing routers to scale across the multitude of devices in your home, rather than deliver incredible bursts of speed to any one device (your internet speed is likely nowhere close to that maximum anyway).
I touched on this briefly in the post, but I am a little conflicted about this for a couple reasons.
First: while I do prefer higher-refresh rate screens, I am not yet convinced they're worth the trade-off for battery life just yet. Which makes this a frustrating thing to turn into a spec race, because the incentive will be to ship phones with a higher Hz number instead of phones that are well-balanced. I'm not saying OnePlus is doing that, but I am saying I worry the incentives for everybody in the industry are going to be skewed in a bad direction this year.
Second: This isn't new, but OnePlus joins LG and Google in pre-announcing features ahead of announcing the phone itself. That's all well and good, but if too many more companies jump on that bandwagon it's going to get really exhausting.
Another potential sign that this new form factor Intel is pushing might actually have legs. I can't decide yet if hope it does, but at least a small part of me wants it to succeed. Mainly because I am sure a bunch of people are going to buy into the vision this year and I'd hate for them to be left in the lurch next year and the year after.
Ad from our sponsor
Samsung is shaking up its phone names again
So, Galaxy S20 instead of S11. I'm not mad in the change, just disappointed. We already have arms races for specs on phones, the last thing I want is another one for how big the numbers in their names are.
It's a good scoop from Max Weinbach at XDA Developers. It looks as though there'll be no fewer than five variants of this phone, but don't slam Samsung too hard for that. As OnePlus CEO Pete Lau pointed out to me last week, every phone maker is having to make extra versions of their phones during the 5G transition. So really, think of it as three version: the S20, S20 Plus, and S20 Ultra.
That "Ultra" is apparently going to be a spec monster, and I hope Samsung uses it as permission to push the prices on the regular S20 down into more reasonable territories. The iPhone 11 starts at $699 and ideally the Galaxy S20 will too. Samsung has a little wiggle room, maybe, as it's more willing than Apple to allow a wide variety of carrier discounts.
What's new is the name and marketing for the Bloom. Ajunews says Samsung wants the device to appeal to young women, and says its clamshell design is easy to hold in one hand. Samsung Electronics CEO DJ Koh reportedly told one partner: "We designed Galaxy Bloom with the motif of compact powder from French cosmetics brand Lancôme."
If Samsung is being sincere here, then I really love that advanced tech is being made with women in mind. Big companies should think harder about how to appeal to more consumers. The reason I'm feeling nervous is that Samsung itself has a lousy track record when it comes to navigating gender issues. As recently as 2017, Samsung gendered the possible voices for its Bixby assistant and created descriptor tags for the female voice that included "chipper" and "cheerful."
Back in the early 2010s a lot of companies made hamfisted attempts to create phones that appealed to women (HTC Rhyme, anyone?) and we should expect better in 2020. If Samsung really does want to appeal to a wider range of genders with the Bloom, hopefully it does more than make it small and gesture to cosmetics. The shoe industry is finally figuring out how to design for women — the phone industry can definitely do better.
I hope Samsung has learned from all those past mistakes.
You are reading Processor, a newsletter about computers by Dieter Bohn. Dieter writes about consumer tech, software, and the most important news of the day from The Verge. This newsletter delivers about four times a week, at least a couple of which include longer essays.