Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes Samsung’s new folding smartphone, a refreshed Note 9, problems with the Pixel 3, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro in the UK, BlackBerry Key2 LE reviewed, latest OnePlus 6T details, and the battery advantage of Android’s dark mode.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
Samsung Unveils Radical Galaxy F Folding Smartphone
At one point it threatened to overwhelm the upcoming Galaxy S10 flagship, but this week Samsung unveiled its first folding screen smartphone. Folded, the Galaxy F uses a phone UI, but unfolded it switches to tablet mode. It’s not an ultra thin device when closed, but the transforming handset has the wow factor. The big question now is when it will go on sale, and when will developers and reviewers get a chance to closely examine the technology.
Foldable phones promise the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device. At the unveiling in San francisco, Justin Denison, a senior vice president of mobile product marketing, showed a prototype with a screen he said measured 18.5cm (7.3in) diagonally.
Folded in two it appeared to resemble a thick phone, but Samsung did not give media or developers a chance to touch or see the device up close.
Here Comes A Refreshed Note 9
Sales of the Galaxy Note 9 are lower and slower than last year’s Note 8 phablet, but that just means a bit more pressure for the second wave of Note 9 handsets going on sale. Samsung is turning to a trusted technique to boost the attractiveness of the handset. Here come the brand new colors:
The new look comes from noted source Evan Blass and his @evleaks Twitter account. He offered the image of a white pearl Note 9 to his readers with a note for the Photoshop experts to take a closer look… and the consensus is that this looks to genuine.
I may not be a shop-sleuth, but it’s clear that Samsung is looking to boost the sales of the Note 9, and a new ‘special edition’ and color scheme is a favoured tactic.
Got tipped on this. Eagle-eyed Photoshop detectives, what say ye? pic.twitter.com/KXp4inQtL2
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) November 4, 2018
Google’s Pixel 3 Power Problems
Users of Google’s latest smartphones, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are reporting a number of issues around charging, and the handsets overheating when asked to charge while in use. It’s not universal, but there are enough reports to wonder what is going on. Ben Schoon reports:
Typically speaking, charging of any kind can cause your phone to run more on the warm side, but these Pixel 3 overheating reports are certainly a cause for concern. Apparently, when the device is both charging (most often while wireless charging) and performing an action of some sort, it can heat up dramatically. In many instances, video calls seem to be the trigger for this to happen, but others report a simple video stream to cause the issue.
Xiaomi Arrives In The UK with Mi 8 Pro
Chinese powerhouse Xiaomi may have many brands, but the starting point is its smartphone business – both in software and hardware. Expanding out from China and India into Western markets, the company has launched its operations in the UK with a new store and some rather nice handsets. I’ve spent some time with the Mi 8 Pro, and it’s a powerhouse. Here’s the baseline specs:
Let’s face it, the table stakes for a flagship device make for a great phone. The Mi 8 Pro has the requisite SnapDragon 845 system on chip, a dual camera setup (two 12 megapixel cameras), facial recognition for unlocking, a 6.21inch AMOLED display with a notch that looks exactly like that on the iPhone XR, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of internal storage. On top of that the latest talking point is also preset – the in-display fingerprint reader.
BlackBerry Key2 LE Review
I reviewed the latest BlackBerry Mobile handset from TCL earlier this week. The Key2 LE is a ‘budget’ version of the Key 2 handset launched earlier this year which launched at £579 here in the UK. The LE? That’s £200 cheaper at £379. Of course the keyboard is the key visual feature, but the real winning area of the Key2 LE is the price:
If you assume the Key2 LE is going to be targeted towards enterprise markets that need a ‘mid-range’ handset to equip its staff with, then everything becomes a little bit clearer. This is the handset for ‘the staff’ while ’the management’ get the all-up Key2 with fewer compromises in the hardware.
Because I’m pretty sure that, beyond some die-hard fans of the brand name – the Key2 LE would be an incredibly difficult handset to see on the high street, with teenagers and twenty somethings brought up to type at ridiculous speeds on capacitive screens wondering why on Earth they would need a physical keyboard.
Making Things Clear About The OnePlus 6T
Two points to note on the OnePlus 6T this week. First up is the business model used by the Shenzhen-based company. As the 6T went on sale, the OnePlus 6 was nowhere to be seen. And that’s by design:
Unlike other smartphone manufacturers, OnePlus no longer operates a portfolio line-up of handsets. There is no budget entry-level model, there is no affordable mid-range, there is no flagship, there is no more-flag-than-flagship handsets… there’s just the single current handset. While there are variants of the device (especially with different colours and marketing tie-ins) there is only one core, and that core is updated every six months.
While it might mean a curiously shaped handover period twice a year, the more iterative process means that owners of the OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 5T and arguably the OnePlus 5 are still using competitive handsets which are receiving regular software updates.
More on the OnePlus business model here on Forbes. Meanwhile over on the JerryRigEverything YouTube channel, modder Zack has been opening up the 6T to get a personalised transparent back cover on the smartphone.
With the rise of OLED screens in Android smartphones, especially as the technology becomes more prevalent at mid- and low-end devices, the impact of having every pixel throw out bright white light is being noticed in battery tests. The simple answer is to have less bright colors on the screen, hence Google’s push to promote the use of dark themes in app UIs. Chris Burns reports:
Google admitted on stage today that they’d made a bit of a mistake. Not recently, but over the past several years. Since Google’s Material Design initiative started, they’d been pushing the use of the color white, encouraging designers to use white as their primary color for all apps and interfaces.
…Luckily, as Google revealed this week, the proverbial Dark Mode can make a big difference in how much power all the apps need in Android. Google will likely continue to release Dark Mode in their apps through the future – just so long as we keep needing to have to recharge the batteries in our phones.
Android Circuit rounds up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!