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Photo by Chaim Gartenberg/The Verge
Samsung’s latest flagship Galaxy phones were unveiled earlier today (Thursday 14th January 2021) at their Unpacked event - the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra. The S21 starts at US $799, the S21 Plus at US $999 and the S21 Ultra at US $1,199.
Surprisingly, the S21 and S21 Plus are some of the least expensive flagship phones released by Samsung in recent years. The S21 Ultra seeks to be the ultimate Samsung smartphone that cuts no corners and aims to offer the most premium phone possible — with a price tag to match.
However, the internal changes of all three (3) models are more incremental from last year’s S20 lineup, and in some cases, they are an intentional step back. All three (3) will be available to pre-order on 14th January 2021 and will launch on 29th January 2021.
GALAXY S21 & S21 PLUS
Barring the obvious differences in screen size, battery size, and a few other minor details, the S21 and S21 Plus are almost identical devices - unlike last year’s S20 and S20 Plus.
Samsung made a few compromises in order to reach the lower starting price points of this year’s S21 (US $799) and S21 Plus (US $999). For instance, the displays, while the same 6.2-inch (S21) and 6.7-inch (S21 Plus) sizes as last year’s models, no longer have the subtly curved edges that have been a Samsung hallmark for years.
The screen resolution on the S21 and S21 Plus has been reduced from 3200 x 1440 on last year’s models to a more modest 2400 x 1080. Both phones still offer 120Hz refresh rates, although it’s dynamically adjusted now. Lastly, the RAM has also been dropped from 12GB to 8GB.
Unfortunately, the smaller S21 makes some additional trade-offs: the back panel is made of polycarbonate plastic, not glass, and it lacks an ultra-wideband radio, which the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra offer for better integration with Samsung’s new Galaxy SmartTag.
Samsung is following in Apple’s footsteps by no longer including a charging brick or headphones in the box, justifying it with similar environmental reasons (although Samsung will also likely save a few dollars by not bundling those parts).
The processor used in the S21 and S21 Plus (along with the S21 Ultra) is the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset from Qualcomm, which promises big improvements in overall performance. There’s comprehensive 5G integration on both devices, with support for mmWave and sub-6GHz networks. The fingerprint sensor has been upgraded to Qualcomm’s new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2, which should be faster and easier to use. As for batteries, the S21 still offers a beefy 4,000mAh battery, and the S21 Plus has been upgraded to an even larger 4,800mAh one.
The camera system remains largely unchanged from last year’s models. Both the S21 and S21 Plus offer a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, along with a 10-megapixel selfie camera. The S21 Plus, however, has lost the depth sensor from the previous S20 Plus.
Samsung will no longer over-smooth faces by default and will instead make it an option - which is a welcomed change.
GALAXY S21 ULTRA
The S21 Ultra will be the first Galaxy S phone to support Samsung’s S Pen stylus. Unlike the Galaxy Note series however, the S Pen does not slide into the body of the S21 Ultra (you need a special case for that). The S21 Ultra starts at US $1,199 and does not include any extras like the S Pen or a case. You can purchase the S Pen separately for US $40 or for US $1,269 you can get the S21 Ultra bundle which includes the S Pen and a case. The case holds both the phone and the S Pen but it is rather bulky, adding extra width to an already large-sized phone.
The S21 Ultra also has a lot in common with the original S20 Ultra, including a massive screen, a 108-megapixel camera, and top-of-the-line specs.
The S21 Ultra features a 6.8-inch 3200 x 1440 OLED display, with refresh rates up to 120Hz (a refresh rate the S21 Ultra can hit at full resolution, unlike last year). There’s 12GB of RAM, a 5,000mAh battery, up to 512GB of storage, and Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor.
Aside from the big 108-megapixel camera sensor, the S21 Ultra features an additional three (3) rear cameras. There is a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera and two (2) separate 10-megapixel telephoto cameras: one with a 3X zoom and one with 10X zoom, which Samsung says is designed to give users more flexibility in how they approach shots. The downside of all those added sensors is that it expands the camera array to almost twice as wide as the regular S21 and S21 Ultra models.
As The Verge puts it, “With the S21 [models], if you want the best thing Samsung has to offer, you are going to have to buy the biggest thing.”
[Source: The Verge]
WhatsApp is facing growing backlash due to a change in the company's Terms of Service (TOS), which comes into effect on 8th February 2021. The new TOS states that WhatsApp will share user data with its parent company, Facebook.
One indication that many users are leaving WhatsApp due to their recent announcement, is the massive surge of new users into competing messaging services such as Signal and Telegram. Signal in particular has jumped to the # 1 spot on Apple’s Top Free apps on the App Store.
In an effort to mitigate the damage, WhatsApp released a statement along with several infographics on Tuesday (12th January 2021) to educate the public about what the new changes actually mean.
In summary, WhatsApp notes the following points:
The company then expanded on each point, as follows:
WhatsApp cannot see your private messages or hear your calls and neither can Facebook.
Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can read your messages or hear your calls with your friends, family, and co-workers on WhatsApp. Whatever you share, it stays between you. That's because your personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption. We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat so you know our commitment.
WhatsApp does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling.
While traditionally mobile carriers and operators store this information, we believe that keeping these records for two billion users would be both a privacy and security risk and we don't do it.
WhatsApp cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook.
When you share your location with someone on WhatsApp, your location is protected by end-to-end encryption, which means no one can see your location except the people you share it with.
WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook.
When you give us permission, we access only the phone numbers from your address book to make messaging fast and reliable, and we don't share your contacts lists with the other apps Facebook offers.
WhatsApp groups remain private.
We use group membership to deliver messages and to protect our service from spam and abuse. We don't share this data with Facebook for ads purposes. Again, these private chats are end-to-end encrypted so we can't see their content.
You can set your messages to disappear.
For additional privacy, you can choose to set your messages to disappear from chats after you send them.
TO ENABLE DISAPPEARING MESSAGES:
You can download your data.
You can download and see what information we have on your account right from within the app.
TO REQUEST REPORT:
WhatsApp goes into more details in a new section of its FAQ, where the company vows to "never weaken" the security provided by end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp also claims the changes to its TOS do not "affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way."
Instead, the new changes are all about how you interact with businesses on WhatsApp — businesses on Facebook will be given the option to set up WhatsApp chats with customers for things like answering questions or sending receipts, as well as the option to display their Shop goods for sale directly on WhatsApp. If you message a business listed on Facebook via WhatsApp after clicking one of these prompts, your data could be shared to personalize ads, according to the FAQs.
Do you trust WhatsApp’s claims? Will you be moving over to one of its competitors such as Signal or Telegram? Let us know in the comments below.
This is a developing story - refresh this page for updates.
A large outage affected multiple Google services around the World this morning (Monday 14th December 2020), including Gmail, YouTube, YouTube Music, Google Drive, Google Meet and more. Google’s streaming game platform, Stadia, was also down. Even the Google Play Store was not allowing downloads or payments to be made on the platform.
Google has since noted that, “most downed services including Gmail and YouTube are now returning to normal after this extended outage.”
A huge spike was reported on DownDetector at around 11:56am GMT (3:56am PT). Users experienced multiple issues when trying to access many Google services on mobile and desktop with notices such as “Something went wrong.” Gmail showed a “Temporary error (500)” notice. When trying to access the Google Assistant on smart speakers and Google Nest hardware you were met with a “there was a glitch, try again in a few seconds” message.
With millions across the globe relying so heavily on Google services and platforms such as G Suite and Gmail to operate, going down can be a costly issue.
This is a developing story - refresh this page for updates.
Facebook is not having a good week. Users are reporting on social media this morning (Thursday 10th December 2020) that Facebook services including Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Facebook itself are all currently suffering outages.
These reports come on the heels of the news yesterday that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States has launched an Antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.
The majority of issues appear to be occurring in European countries, but users have been reporting issues in other countries also, including Trinidad and Tobago, France, Philippines and Australia. Facebook Messenger in particular is suffering delays in sending and receiving messages as well as formatting issues. In-line replies also appear to be broken in Messenger. Others are unable to post or access their news feeds, direct messages, and stories across the Facebook-owned apps.
Facebook hasn't yet responded to the reports of widespread connection issues.
Are you currently experiencing any issues with your Facebook apps? Let us know in the comments below.
This is a developing story - refresh this page for updates.
After months of rumors, Apple has finally officially announced AirPods Max today (Tuesday 8th December 2020). AirPods Max is an innovative wireless headphones that bring the magic of AirPods to an over-ear design with high-fidelity sound. AirPods Max join the existing AirPods family - AirPods and AirPods Pro.
AirPods Max combine a custom acoustic design, H1 chips, and advanced software to power computational audio for a breakthrough listening experience with Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. AirPods Max come in five (5) gorgeous colors, including space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink, and are available to order starting today for US $549, with availability beginning on Tuesday 15th December 2020.
According to Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing:
AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, beloved for their effortless setup, incredible sound quality, and iconic design. With AirPods Max, we are bringing that magical AirPods experience to a stunning over-ear design with high-fidelity audio.
AirPods Max feature a 40-mm Apple-designed dynamic driver that provides rich, deep bass, accurate mid-ranges, and crisp, clean high-frequency extension so every note can be heard. A unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor allows AirPods Max to maintain total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent across the entire audible range, even at maximum volume.
Equipped with an Apple-designed H1 chip in each ear cup, a custom acoustic design, and advanced software, AirPods Max use computational audio to deliver the highest quality listening experience possible. Utilizing each of the chips’ 10 audio cores — capable of 9 billion operations per second — computational audio powers a breakthrough listening experience that includes Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio.
AirPods Max join the existing AirPods family in delivering unparalleled wireless audio, whether a customer is listening to music, making phone calls, enjoying TV shows and movies, playing games, or interacting with Siri. The magical setup experience customers love with today’s AirPods and AirPods Pro extends to AirPods Max with one-tap setup, followed by automatic pairing with all the devices signed in to a user’s iCloud account, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
AirPods Max automatically detect when they are on a user’s head using the optical and position sensors. Once in place, AirPods Max play audio and can pause once removed or when the user simply lifts one ear cup. With AirPods Max, voice calls and Siri commands are crisp and clear due to beam-forming microphones that block out ambient noise and focus on the user’s voice.
AirPods Max feature great battery life with up to 20 hours of high-fidelity audio, talk time, or movie playback with Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio enabled.
AirPods Max come with a soft, slim Smart Case that puts AirPods Max in an ultralow power state that helps to preserve battery charge when not in use.
AirPods Max require Apple devices running iOS 14.3 or later, iPadOS 14.3 or later, macOS Big Sur 11.1 or later, watchOS 7.2 or later, or tvOS 14.3 or later.
Google Photos is the home for more than 4 Trillion photos and videos and a remarkable 28 Billion new photos and videos are uploaded every week. However, many users of this very popular service will soon need to look at other alternatives for their unlimited free storage needs.
Starting 1st June 2021, all new photos and videos backed up in High quality in Google Photos will count toward the free 15 GB of storage that comes with your Google Account or any additional storage you may have purchased, the same way other Google services like Google Drive and Gmail already do.
All photos and videos you back up in High quality before 1st June 2021 are exempt from this change and will not count toward your Google Account storage. This includes all of your existing content uploaded in High quality.
We launched Google Photos more than five years ago and since then, it's become more than just an app to manage your photos. It's become a place you go when you feel nostalgic and want to reminisce. Today, Google Photos is the home for more than 4 trillion photos and videos, including yours, and a remarkable 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded every week. In order to welcome even more of your memories and build Google Photos for the future, we are announcing a change to our storage policy.
Do I need to do anything right away?
No, you can continue to use Google Photos to back up your photos and videos. After 1st June 2021, Google will reach out and send reminders when you are nearing your storage limit. Most users will have years before they need to take action.
When will I reach my free 15 GB of storage?
Google Photos created a personalized estimate that shows how much time you have until you reach your quota. This estimate takes into account how frequently you back up photos, videos and other content to your Google Account.
What can I do to manage my storage?
On 1st June 2021, Google Photos will be launching a new storage management tool which will help you easily find and delete dark, blurry, and otherwise unwanted content. You can also purchase more storage with Google One where available.
We are grateful that you choose Google Photos to safely store your memories. This change enables us to keep up with the growing demand for photo storage and remain focused on building Google Photos for the future. To learn more about this change, check out our Help Centre article or Blog Post.
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