TechSummit Rewind 158: Samsung at MWC 2017

Samsung shows off productivity-minded tablets, a Gear VR update, and teases its next flagship smartphone

This is a special edition of the TechSummit Rewind, focusing on Samsung at MWC 2017.

Galaxy Book

Samsung Galaxy Book

Samsung has launched two new tablets that feature more improvements on the productivity tablet genre.

The new Galaxy Book 10 and Galaxy Book 12 both run Windows 10 and come with a S Pen and keyboard case. They both have slim, aluminum designs and will be available in both WiFi and LTE models. The Book 10 has a 10.6-inch 1920×1080 LCD display and an Intel Core m3 processor, while the higher-end Book 12 is equipped with a 12-inch Super AMOLED HDR display and Intel’s fanless Core i5 processor.

Both tablets have two USB Type-C ports, up to 10 hours of battery life, and fast charging features.

The keyboard case has been improved from last year’s Galaxy TabPro S with improved key travel, island-style keycaps, and backlighting. The trackpad is also 50 percent larger than the one included with the TabPro S.

The S Pen supports over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, has a rubber 0.7mm tip, and never needs to be charged. It can be used to take notes, draw, or capture screen shots. Unfortunately, there isn’t a place to put the S Pen when it’s not in use so it can be easily lost.

Galaxy Tab S3

samsung galaxy tab s3

The most mainstream of these productivity-minded tables is the Android-toting Galaxy Tab S3. The 9.7-inch model is a direct substitute for 2015’s Tab S2 and features a similar design with an all-glass back and updated specs.

The 9.7-inch 2048×1536 Super AMOLED display now supports HDR video, and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. A microSD card slot also supports memory expansion up to 256GB. The tablet now has four AKG-tuned speakers and measures 6mm in thickness. Android 7.0 Nougat with Samsung tweaks provides the software experience.

Included in the box is Samsung’s signature S Pen, which is larger and thicker than the S Pens on prior iterations. It has a new 0.7mm tip and over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, and supports all the features you’d expect: taking notes, capturing screen shots, and even recording GIFs from video.

However, there’s no place to actually put the S Pen like the Note line. Fortunately, the S Pen is flat on two sides, so it won’t easily roll away.

Further bolstering the productivity-minded approach ie s the optional keyboard case that attaches to the bottom of the tablet with a pogo pin. Because of this, it doesn’t need to pair to the tablet or be charged. The keyboard is made of plastic and doesn’t provide backlighting.

Gear VR controller

samsung-gear-vr-with-controller

Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset has been refreshed with a physical controller accessory that provides “quicker selection and interaction,” according to Samsung. It still has a 101-degree field of view, but it’s emphasized by the Oculus-designed controller made for one-handed use, and features a touchpad for in-app gestures and a trigger that lets you “select, grab, take aim, and fire.”

According to Oculus, over 70 titles optimized for the new Gear VR controller are in development, and all existing content should also work fine since the accessory is essentially a souped-up version of the touchpad built into the headset. The one hardware difference for the headset is a strap that can hold the controller when you’re not using VR.

Galaxy S8 event

Usually, I’d be leading this recap with the Galaxy S8. However, the Galaxy Note 7 debacle has forced Samsung to rethink its approach and regain consumers’ trust. However, Samsung did close out its keynote by announcing its next one that’ll announce the Galaxy S8 on Mar. 29 in New York.

We’ll have full coverage of that event when it comes.

TechSummit Rewind 147

Google Voice gets first revamp in years, Sprint buys a third of TIDAL, and Samsung keeps the Note brand alive

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Google Voice gets revamped for first time in years

google-voice3-1280x909

Google has revamped Voice, its VOIP phone service, for the first time in years. The updates are available now on Android, iOS (over the next few days), and the web and brings it in line with the Material Design philosophy in Mountain View’s other apps. Once your mobile app is updated, the web client will automatically change over to the new design. According to Google, everyone should have it within a couple weeks.

According to Google’s blog post announcing the changes, “your inbox now has separate tabs for text messages, calls, and voicemails. Conversations stay in one continuous thread, so you can easily see all your messages from each of your contacts in one place.”

The update also brings over some feature that were previously only available for users who switched to Hangouts for some Voice functions like texting and voicemail. For one, photo MMS is now supported by Google Voice on all platforms and across most major carriers. Images show up inline in your conversations.

Group texting has also been added, with a clear label.

Voicemail transcriptions are still there, with support for Spanish transcriptions as well. Other nice touches include in-notification replies on Android, 3D Touch support for iPhone (mostly in Messages view), and a user experience that’s finally been edited.

Google has committed itself to “regular” updates and new features for the mobile apps and web client, though there’s no estimate on how often they’ll arrive. However, the company is working to implement RCS messaging in Voice.

If you’ve already switched over to Hangouts, there’s “no need to change to the new apps, but you might want to try them out as we continue to improve and add more features.”

Sprint buys 33 percent of TIDAL music service

tidal_2

Sprint has acquired a 33 percent stake of Jay-Z’s music service TIDAL.

Sprint, Jay-Z, and other artist-owners will “continue to run TIDAL’s artist-centric service” with Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure joining the company’s board of directors.

“The formidable pairing of Sprint and TIDAL will grow customers on both platforms by offering exclusive access for customers who subscribe to TIDAL.”

-Sprint, in a statement

Sprint will unveil “exclusive offers” and promotions in the near future.

Samsung sticking with Note branding for Note7 successor

samsung-galaxy-note-7

Despite the scandal that killed the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung will stick with the Note branding with the next iteration.

“I will bring back a better, safer, and very innovative Note 8.”

-DJ Koh, Samsung mobile chief

This comes despite the scandal that left an explosion (pun intended) of jokes and flight attendant warnings banning the Note 7 on all flights.

However, Koh believes that the Note has a devoted following that will stick with Samsung.

“We found through the investigative process, we knew there are lots and lots of loyal Note customers.”

-DJ Koh

Trump appoints Ajit Pai to head FCC

U.S. President Donald Trump has appointed Ajit Pai as the Federal Communication Commission’s chairman.

Pai has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2012, appointed by then-President Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

Shortly after Trump took office, Pai indicated that a top priority under the new administration would be dismantling net neutrality, writing in a letter that he intended to “revisit … the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding … as soon as possible.”

Pai has a traditionally Republican stance: free market and minimal regulation, He’s been opposed to requiring ISPs to implement stricter privacy protections for consumers, increasing broadband benchmarks to promote higher speeds, and regulating mergers.

However, he did vote in favor of a bipartisan proposal that will enable the support of real-time texting for people with disabilities, allowing text to be transmitted letter by letter, rather than requiring a user to hit “send.” He also voiced support for rules that would reduce the rates inmates must pay to place calls in many states, though he voted against a proposal that would do this because of legal concerns.

Pai has emphasized his dissatisfaction with current policies on the FCC’s mandate to promote broadband deployment. He’s suggested adding tax credits and removing regulations that protect older technologies like copper wire that some communities rely on to speed up the process of closing the “digital divide between rural and urban America.”

He’s also been critical of the FCC’s willingness to pass partisan proposals under the leadership of Tom Wheeler, who was chairman during Obama’s last three years in office.

Pai will need to be reconfirmed by the Senate this year if Republicans want to keep him around. If reconfirmed, he’d get an additional five-year term that would keep him in place for Trump’s entire first term.

Google X co-founder Yoky Matsuoka returns to Nest

Yoky Matsuoka has returned to Alphabet as Nest’s Chief Technology Office.

She previously co-founded Google’s X lab and served as Nest’s VP of Technology before becoming the CEO of health-data company Quantus and joining Apple to work on Cupertino’s health-related projects.

According to the company, this is a new position.

Yahoo postpones Verizon transaction close to Q2 2017

The Yahoo logo is shown at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale

Yahoo released its Q4 earnings Monday, saying that the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company generated $1.47 billion in revenue (up 15 percent) and earnings per share of $0.17.

Yahoo doesn’t expect to close its acquisition by Verizon until Q2 2017 – previously it was expected to close this quarter. Yahoo blames this on the enormous work required to meet closing conditions.

“The company is working expeditiously to close the transaction as soon as practicable in Q2.”

-Yahoo, in its earnings release

However, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer boasted on the quarter.

“What we have achieved reflects some of the most impressive teamwork, focus, and resilience I’ve seen throughout my career. We continued to build our mobile and native businesses – delivering nearly $1.5 billion in mobile revenue and over $750 million in native revenue – while operating the company at the lowest cost structure in a decade. With our 2016 and Q4 financial results ahead of plan, and the continued stability in our user engagement trends, the opportunities ahead with Verizon look bright.”

Much of the company’s revenue continues to come from non-Mavens programs ($824 million), but the company’s solution set of mobile, video, native, and social initiatives increased 25 percent year-over-year to $590 million from 2016. More revenue continues to come from desktop than mobile, but mobile got the biggest jump – 57 percent ($459 million) compared to 2.57 percent ($955 million),

Search revenue was up 45 percent from the same time last year to $767 million.

All 2017 Chromebooks will be compatible with Android apps

Toshiba Chromebook 2

All Chromebooks that launch this year will support Android apps right out of the box, according to Google’s list of Android-compatible Chromebooks.

Chan Zuckerburg Initiative acquires, will free up Meta science search engine

meta

Mark Zuckerburg and Priscilla Chan’s Chan Zuckerburg Initiative has made its first acquisition to make it easier for scientists to search, read, and tie together over 26 million science research papers with Meta, an AI-powered research search engine startup.

The tool will be made free to all in a few months after it gets enhanced.

The key selling point for Meta is that its AI can recognize authors and citations between papers to surface the most important research instead of simply what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources.

“Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.”

-Sam Molyneux, Meta co-founder & CEO

“The potential for this kind of platform is virtually limitless: a researcher could use Meta to help identify emerging techniques for understanding coronary artery disease; a graduate student could see that two different diseases activate the same immune defense pathway; and clinicians could find scientists working on the most promising Zika treatments sooner. In the long run, it could be extended to other areas of knowledge: for example, it could help educators stay up to date on developmental science to better understand how children learn.”

-Cori Bargmann (Chan Zuckerburg Initiative president of Science, and Brian Pinkerton (Chan Zuckerburg Initiative president of Technology)

China makes VPNs illegal

Chinese authorities are now requiring the use of VPNs and special cable connections in China to be approved by the government, according to the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The new rules will be active from now until Mar. 31, 2018.

Samsung Galaxy S8 not appearing at Mobile World Congress

Samsung Galaxy S7

According to Samsung’s Koh Dong-jin, the company’s S8 flagship will not appear at Mobile World Congress as it has traditionally done for the past several years.