12 things you need to know in tech today

Here’s your daily tech digest, by way of the very-good-never-bad DGiT Daily newsletter, for Tuesday, April 23, 2019!

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1. Galaxy Fold: It’s over, for now

Just five days out from an official launch, Samsung has waved the white flag, delaying the April 26th launch date in the US. Samsung says a new release date will be announced: “in the coming weeks.”

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Following the Fold:

  • Teased via CNET on October 12, 2018, with the line: “D.J. Koh [CEO of Samsung’s mobile business] stresses that the phone won’t be a ‘gimmick product’ that will ‘disappear after six to nine months.’”
  • Announced on November 7, 2018, with a shadowy reveal.
  • Unveiled on February 20, 2019, including the price of $1980.
  • Samsung showed a video of the Galaxy Fold devices being folded and unfolded in its factory March 28, 2019
  • Review samples were handed to some US publications for review on April 15th or 16th, depending.
  • Those reviewers, including Steve Kovach and Todd Haselton from CNBC, Dieter Bohn from The Verge, Mark Gurman from Bloomberg, and later YouTuber Marques Brownlee or MKBHD, posted to Twitter or revealed their Galaxy Fold either stopped working or died, with Johanna Stern from the WSJ adding hers died as well.
  • Gurman and Brownlee admitted to ripping off the plastic protective film from the top of the device, which turned out to be part of the screen itself.
  • On April 22nd, Samsung announced a delay.
  • Samsung is now retrieving all review samples sent out to reviewers, per Reuters.
  • Anyone who pre-ordered it can cancel.
  • It’s also worth remembering the Huawei Mate X looming among all of this. Announced on February 24th, with a release date set for June 20, 2019.

What now? Will we ever see a Galaxy Fold?

  • Folding screens are still going to become useful, in some form.
  • But the Galaxy Fold may not be the first device to reach the market – these early reviews were dubbed beta tests, and the whole thing, despite the above timeline, smacks of being rushed out.
  • Based on how fragile this first edition was – even without problems with screen protectors, it may need months of rework, new fabrication, and hardened design. The reality is it may not ever be released.
  • Samsung PR is doing its best to put a brave face on the issues, but the story continues to change – first Samsung said it would review problems with initial devices, then canceled some launch events, then delayed the launch completely. The story will continue to be more fluid than what the PR suggests.
  • If it wasn’t for the tech reviewers that went public with their issues, the Galaxy Fold might still be coming out this week. That either spared Samsung’s blushes before the general public became aware, or Samsung just didn’t test the device in the real world much at all. Or both.

2.

Tesla’s Autonomy Day event

Tesla’s event yesterday was another demonstration of what Tesla and Elon Musk have been claiming for years now: Tesla, again, said it will ship ‘full self-driving’ or FSD in around two years. Here’s a reminder of what was promised in the past (The Verge).

It was also focused on high-level technical details, aiming at investors and self-driving folks, with a sprinkle of Muskisms and hubris.

  • Yesterday’s event did tell us more – namely that Tesla has switched hardware.
  • It has left Nvidia’s Drive platform and moved over to its own custom chip (TechCrunch) to run far more neural networks for visual recognition than previously possible. That happened with the Model S and X about a month ago and for the Model 3 about 10 days ago.
  • (Older cars can have the new chip retrofitted, at an unknown cost.)
  • Musk said that this means all the hardware for FSD is now in the cars, and that it’s now just a software problem. He also dismissed LIDAR’s usefulness, with Tesla all-in on visual recognition.
  • The event showed more of Elon Musk’s continuing confidence in Tesla, also revealing a robotaxi network (TechCrunch) is planned for launch in 2020.

Quick take:

  • We’re still a long, long way away from FSD in all conditions, on all roads, no matter where you live or want to go.
  • Musk says a lot of things. He’s been proven time and again to exaggerate and overpromise. It is who he is.
  • But whether you take Elon Musk at face value or you don’t, Tesla is continuing down its path where the things we trust and allow vehicles to do autonomously are increasing.
  • I’ll leave you with this to read more: “Here are Elon Musk’s wildest predictions about Tesla’s self-driving cars” (The Verge). Including hoping to release cars without steering wheels or pedals “within a few years”.

Bonus: News just in, starting today in Google Maps, you can see the real-time availability of charging ports in the US and UK (Google).


3. Now that the Galaxy Fold is on hold, Samsung should wait for Android Q (Android Authority).


4. OnePlus 7 Pro confirmed: set to pack impressive display tech, 5G support, hefty price (AA).


5. Vine reboot Byte begins invite-only beta testing (TechCrunch). TikTok looms over this one.


6. ‘State Snaps’ founder convicted over armed plot to steal a domain name (Engadget).


7. Google Walkout organizers say Google is pushing them out as they face retaliation, demotion (Wired).


8. The viral talk TED from Carole Cadwalladr wasn’t liked by everyone, especially event sponsor Facebook: “My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair” (The Guardian).


9.Bill Gates-backed Beyond Meat behind plant-meat details plans for IPO (Bloomberg).


10. Smartphones can now bring cheap ultrasound scans to remote African villages (NY Times).


11. There’s a fresh investigative report about Boeing’s questionable production practices, but it’s the 787 Dreamliner, not the 737 Max (NY Times).


12. Supercooled water in “snowball chamber” might be able to find dark matter, known as WIMPs (Ars Technica).


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