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Samsung’s New Phone Shows How Hardware Innovation Has Slowed

Samsung also said the popular shooter game "Fortnite" is coming to Android and will be exclusive to Samsung phones until Sunday

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Although Samsung's Note phones are large, niche products intended for power users, they offer a preview of what's to come in the mass-market Galaxy S line.
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Samsung’s new smartphone illustrates the limits of innovation at time when hardware advances have slowed.

The new phone, the Galaxy Note 9, will be faster and will last longer without a recharge. But while earth-shattering new features are in short supply, it will carry an earth-shattering price tag: $1,000.

The minor improvements reflect a smartphone industry that has largely pushed the limits on hardware. Major changes tend to come every few years rather than annually, and this isn’t the year for anything revolutionary in the Note.

The new phone will get some automatic photo editing and a stylus that can serve as a remote control. But the highlights will be a bigger battery, a faster processor and improved cellular speeds.

“You don’t see massive breakthroughs anymore from a hardware perspective,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies. “Everything is a little bit better, but nothing’s revolutionary.”

A 21 percent boost in battery capacity from last year’s Note 8 should translate to more than a day of normal use without a recharge. Samsung has been conservative on battery improvements ever since its Note 7 phone in 2016 developed a tendency to burst into flame, prompting an expensive recall and delivering a hit to the company’s reputation.

Since then, Samsung has subjected its phones to multiple inspections, including X-rays and stress tests at extreme temperatures. The company is also sending phones to outside labs, including UL, for independent safety tests.

Samsung
The new Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is seen during a product launch event in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., Aug. 9, 2018. (VOA)

“We’re three generations removed now,” Samsung’s director of U.S. product marketing, Suzanne De Silva, said of the company’s renewed confidence in the battery. “This is the right innovation at the right time.”

Although Samsung’s Note phones are large, niche products intended for power users, they offer a preview of what’s to come in the mass-market Galaxy S line. A dual-lens camera, with better zooming, came to the Note 8 months before the S9 Plus got it, for instance. The Note also got curved edges before that became standard on Samsung’s flagship phones.

The new phones will come out Aug. 24 in the U.S. Borrowing from the iPhone’s playbook, the Note 9 will have the same price regardless of carrier. The starting price is $1,000, an increase from the Note 8, but on par with Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone X. The Note 9 will get double the storage, at 128 gigabytes, compared with typical high-end phones, including the iPhone X. Samsung will also sell a 512-gigabyte version for power users for $1,250.

Even though the improvements from last year aren’t huge, Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell said they will come across as major for those who haven’t upgraded for a few years.

Thursday’s announcement in New York comes about a month before Apple is expected to unveil new iPhones. There’s been speculation — unconfirmed by Apple — that all new iPhones will ditch the home button and fingerprint sensor and rely entirely on facial-recognition technology found in the iPhone X. The Note 9 will still have a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. In a jab at Apple, Samsung executives also frequently emphasize that their phones have standard headphone jacks, which newer iPhones no longer do.

The camera in the Note 9 will use artificial intelligence to detect what’s in a scene — whether that’s food, flowers or a sunset — to automatically tweak images to make them pop. It’s much like applying filters with an app, except that the phone will do this itself, much the way Google’s Pixel phones already do.

Also Read: Microsoft now Fixing ‘Surface Pen’ Inaccuracy Issues

As with the Pixel, the Note won’t be saving a version without the tweaks. Purists can turn the feature off to get images that reflect what the eye sees — an option unavailable with Pixel. The camera will also offer a warning if someone blinked in a shot, or if the image is blurry.

The Note’s stylus will now have Bluetooth, allowing people to control phones and apps from up to 30 feet away. This will let people control music or snap selfies just by clicking the stylus.

Samsung also said the popular shooter game “Fortnite” is coming to Android and will be exclusive to Samsung phones until Sunday. (VOA)

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Bixby-powered Samsung Galaxy Home Smart Speaker: A Mix of Elegant design and Surround Sound delivered by Six Built-in Speakers

Samsung is confident that Galaxy Home smart speaker is meant to combine amazing sound and elegant design

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Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker, Bixby powered smart speaker
Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker is meant to combine amazing sound and elegant design. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Voice is the next big platform and sensing immense opportunities, Samsung with Bixby -powered Galaxy Home smart speaker has now forayed into the smart speaker market where Amazon Echo with in-built Alexa, Google Home with Assistant and Apples Home Pod with Siri are currently calling the shots.

Not any more, simply because Samsung “Galaxy Home” smart speaker with an in-built Samsung voice assistant Bixby, showcased here during the flagship Galaxy Note 9 launch, has upped the ante with a promise of surround sound-style audio with six built-in speakers and a subwoofer.

Elevated by three stout metal legs, the device looks like a mini space capsule, wrapped in black fabric with a flat top housing touch-enabled control buttons.

Just say “Hi Bixby” and it will play your favourite songs, tell the weather outside or fix appointments just like the current smart speakers do.

Three metal legs ensure the device can be kept anywhere at home – even in a cosy corner on the floor – while other smart speakers do need a desk or tabletop.

Although Bixby needs to leverage more capabilities compared to Alexa or Google Assistant, Samsung is confident that the smart speaker is meant to “combine amazing sound and elegant design”.

Samsung Galaxy home smart speaker, Smart speaker Bixby powered smart speaker
Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker with Three metal legs ensure the device can be kept anywhere at home – even in a cosy corner on the floor – while other smart speakers do need a desk or tabletop. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The global smart speaker market is growing by leaps and bounds and is estimated to hit around $3 billion in 2018 – and reaching nearly $12 billion by 2023.

The global smart speaker market is growing by leaps and bounds and is estimated to hit around $3 billion in 2018 – and reaching nearly $12 billion by 2023.

In the first quarter of 2018, Amazon and Google accounted for 70 per cent share of the global smart speaker shipments, with Apple selling 600,000 Home Pods in the period.

According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, global smart speaker shipments reached 9.2 million units in the first quarter.

With 43.6 per cent market share, Amazon shipped an impressive four million smart speakers during the quarter and Google had 26.5 per cent market share with 2.4 million sales.

Chinese giant Alibaba shipped 700,000 million units and garnered 7.6 per cent market share.

Today’s smart speakers are by no means the finished article but they have captured the consumer imagination.

You may like to read on smart speakers: Amazon, Google Lead Global Smart Speaker Market, Apple Stands Fourth

“We are clearly heading towards a time in the not too distant future when voice becomes a standard mode of technology interaction alongside established approaches like keyboard, mouse and touch screen,” said David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics.

To begin with, Samsung can focus on markets such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia where smart speakers are selling like hot cakes.

In India too, people are getting warmed up to smart speakers, making them a must-have in their drawing rooms.

To give Bixby more power, Samsung has partnered with the music streaming service Spotify.

Bixy powered Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker, smart speaker
To give Bixby powered Galaxy home smart speaker more power, Samsung has partnered with the music streaming service Spotify . Image: Wikimedia Commons

The partnership makes Spotify easily accessible to seamlessly sync and transfer music, playlists and podcasts across Galaxy Note 9, Galaxy Watch and Smart TV products – and smart speaker is next on the list.

Samsung, which is now building an entire ecosystem around smart phones and smart home devices, is yet to reveal the official date for Galaxy Home launch but when it does, ‘Hi Bixby’ will be some challenge to the existing voice assistants.