Buyers Beware: Nintendo Has Unveiled Two New Switch Models

 

Rumors about the now confirmed Switch Lite and a potential “pro” upgrade to the Switch have been circulating the internet for over a year now. Finally, these rumors have proven to be at least partially true. In a series of minimal press announcements, Nintendo has announced the upcoming Switch Lite. The Switch Lite will be a smaller console that can only be used in handheld mode. The Switch Lite will not be able to interface with the Joy-con controllers like its bigger sibling physically. There are a few games that can only be played in docked or tabletop mode, and the Switch Lite won’t be able to play those games. Thankfully the Switch Lite has more than just caveats. The console will get a significant boost to its battery life ranging anywhere from 3-7 hours depending on the game being played. The system will also come in three new colors. These colors will include grey, yellow, turquoise, and a special edition Pokemon Sword and Shield color variant with a graphic on the rear displaying the new legendary Pokemon. Most impressive Nintendo has managed to shave $100 off the MSRB of the Switch Lite meaning it will retail for $199 instead of $299 which is the price of the base switch model. The Switch Lite will be released this Autumn on September 20th. 

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Photo Credit: Nintendo 

 

Nintendo didn’t Stop with the Switch Lite. They have also announced a new version of their base switch model will be rolling out this fall. This Switch will be branded identically to the previous Switch model, which means consumers are going to have to be vigilant to make sure they are getting the updated console. The updates to this version of the Switch aren’t significant enough to warrant a new name or even the “NEW” moniker Nintendo has used in the past for their 3DS systems. This newer model Switch is confirmed to have better battery life than the previous Switch and its new Lite variant. The battery life for this Switch will range anywhere from 4.5-9 hours of gameplay depending on the game being played. The updated Switch unit will be priced at $299, the same price as the original Switch. It’s safe to assume the older Switch models with the inferior battery life will also still be priced at $299. To avoid buying the older units, shoppers should look at the serial numbers on the boxes. The code for the newer units should begin with the letters “XKW.”

I wouldn’t be too concerned over this as the holiday season is approaching. I anticipate Nintendo will flood store shelves with the newer switch models and Switch Lite, so chances are you will get the newer models if you buy one this fall.

If you have been holding out on a Switch I would recommend waiting until this fall so you can get the best that is being offered, and if you currently already own a switch I don’t see much need to upgrade. If you are worried about battery life, I recommend spending less money and getting an external battery pack.

As for those holding out for a Switch Pro rest assured it isn’t coming out this year or likely next year, so go ahead and find a good deal on a Switch when you find one.

The LAST Thing Nintendo Needs is a “Less Powerful” Switch.  (Switch Mini Rumors) 

Rumors concerning the impending reveal of a new “Switch Mini” are causing quite the stir online and within Nintendo’s own board meeting. Investors directly ask executives about the possibility of the Switch Mini at a recent meeting. Nintendo only critically said that they wouldn’t prematurely announce any new hardware so they could preserve a sense of “surprise” for their audience. 

Nintendo is no stranger to releasing various hardware iterations of their gaming consoles. The last being their “New” Nintendo 3DS which boosted CPU speeds and a few hardware tweaks. The company also released the Nintendo 2DS Which was essentially a wedge-shaped 3DS without the 3D capabilities. Nintendo released the 2DS to achieve a lower price point for their customers who might be willing to give up 3D elements to their games in exchange for a more affordable product. 

Some online are suggesting that the Switch Mini may have various technological compromises to achieve a lower price point for consumers. These compromises may be the lack of Joy-cons, a smaller and lower resolution screen, a smaller battery, and perhaps a lower clocked CPU and GPU. Of all of these potential cuts, the clock speed of the CPU and GPU and the battery capacity should be unchanged. 

 

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Photo Credit: Honson

Quite frankly, the LAST thing that Nintendo needs is a less powerful Switch unit. I love my Nintendo Switch despite the raw power difference between the Switch and other consoles, the Switch is still my go-to device for gaming. This is primarily due to the unique selection of games such as Zelda, Xenoblade, and Splatoon, for example. I do however have to admit that the current version of the Nintendo Switch is underpowered. Yes, I said it! Because it’s true! It’s 2019, and Nintendo has YET to provide a home console that can reliably deliver at LEAST a1080p resolution or 60 fps across its games. Some do hit that mark but surely not enough do. Current Generation consoles like PS4 Pro and Xbox 1X are already flirting with 4K resolutions, so needless to Say Nintendo is falling behind on that front. 

While Switch Ports like Doom and Wolfenstein are impressive “given the hardware,” I think, fans would just like comparable ports of AAA games without the stipulations. I get it, the Switch is a Hybrid console, so sacrifices had to be made, but also better design choices could have been made. This is where the conversation gets back to the switch mini. If the Switch Mini is less powerful than the current generation Switch, how on Earth will performance fare especially with the switches more ambitious games like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (which at some points struggles to run on the current hardware).

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Photo Credit: Nintendo/ Monolith Soft: Xenoblade 2

I hope that the current Switch model gets a significant price drop and instead of a Switch Mini, Nintendo reveals a Switch-Pro with advanced specs, improved performance, and visuals for existing games. 

PlayStation vs. Xbox: A Tale of Two Polarizing Directions

Contributor: Karl Guyton II

 

 
In February of this year, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) Shawn Layden gave an interview with CNET discussing the future of PlayStation (https://www.cnet.com/news/sonys-shawn-layden-wants-fewer-bigger-playstation-games/) Layden discussed the next generation console (likely to be called PlayStation 5), game streaming, E3, as well other topics. One such topic that was particularly interesting was that he wants Playstation studios to focus on fewer, more significant games. Layden stated that “As the exclusive developer for PlayStation, we always have to set the high-water mark, to push the technology further than anyone else.” This is a statement that is overwhelmingly supported by the software sales of Playstation’s first-party exclusives this generation. Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Days Gone were all commercial blockbusters, and were except for Days Gone all critically acclaimed as well. PlayStation also has a few games that are upcoming that are more than likely going to join those aforementioned games as critical and commercial successes as Death Stranding is set to debut this fall, while Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us: Part II are widely expected to be released in 2020. In addition to their big hitting AAA titles, PlayStation has some highly anticipated AA first games set to release this Fall in Dreams and Concrete Genie. Recently, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan doubled down on Layden’s comments, saying that story driven titles are not a genre that Sony will ever step away from and that the company has “never had greater success” than it currently has with story-driven experiences. It is this attention to detail and focus on quality that has to lead to PS4 running away with this generation’s “console war.”

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Photo Credit: Death Stranding. Kojima Productions

On the flip side, Microsoft started off this generation with the Xbox One on the wrong foot. The initial marketing strategy was disastrous, as they touted the new console as the perfect media hub, while oddly ignoring games. This poor start set Xbox back so far that they couldn’t catch up. For the last 2 years specifically, Microsoft has been acquiring new game studios, in anticipation of the upcoming 9th generation. The next generation allows Microsoft and Xbox to start over fresh, and with the current game studio acquisitions, Microsoft now has 14 in house studios to Sony’s 13. One of the critical weaknesses of Xbox’s this generation was the overall lack of quality of first-party exclusives. Xbox die-hards had Halo, Gears, and Forza but that was pretty much it. This is why Microsoft spent so much time and energy acquiring new studios. But now the question is, can Microsoft’s newly acquired studios match the quality output of Sony’s first party studios? At E3, Microsoft unveiled the new game studios that they had acquired and showed off a few of the games currently in development.
Admittedly, what we did see wasn’t much, but I imagine that many of the games are being developed for the next Xbox and it would be wiser for Xbox to reveal those games next year at E3 alongside the actual console. That much doesn’t trouble me at all. What does bother me, however, was Matt Booty’s interview with IGN. https://www.ign.com/articles/2019/06/11/microsoft-aiming-for-a-first-party-xbox-game-about-every-three-months-e3-2019 Booty claimed that they want to pump out a quality game approximately every 3 months. Booty said, “I think about like how long you spend with a game and just sort of the cadence of discovery there,” Booty explained. “So if you can do a game every three months, and if a game takes somewhere between two years and four years, I mean, just think about things that have come out recently, you know, things like Red Dead and God of War need to be getting into five, six years. Right? But let’s just say for the sorts of studios, like a Ninja theory or a double fine that two, three years start to be the cadence, right?
“So, then if you’ve got a game a quarter and you’re taking two to three years.” Booty continued. “You can kind of back into the math and say, well wow, you probably need somewhere between 10 and 12 studios. But… making games is not yet a perfect science, right? There’s no creative endeavor that is. So there’s going to be things that take longer. There’s going to be some things that we start and say, hey, great idea, but it just isn’t, you know, the Jello doesn’t want to set. Right. Um, and so I think we need some, some buffer in there, right? So the first, that’s kind of my basic answers. We’d love to be feeding a high-quality game into game pass about every three months.” The issue here is and quality. Quality games take time to make, and 3 months is like the blink of an eye considering that average game development cycles are closer to 3 years. Granted, Phil Spencer said at E3 that Xbox currently has over 1000 games in development, we can still readily assume that the vast majority of these are not AAA exclusives. Booty noted that the driving mechanism for this timeline was Xbox Game Pass, Xbox’s subscription gaming service. As of now, this is simply speculation and my own opinion, but it seems that Xbox is valuing quantity over quality, while PlayStation is focused on delivering quality games while cutting back to the amount. PlayStation and Xbox are seemingly taking two polarizing directions going into the next generation, and it will be interesting to see which strategy pays off.

Square Cameras Will be Making Their Way to iPhones and the Pixel 4 this Fall Whether you like them or Not.

 
The design language of smartphone components is continuously changing and evolving with the implementation of new technologies. The pressure to be innovative can stem from competitors and the growing boredom and reluctance from customers to upgrade their devices as often as they used to.

The quest to have the best smartphone camera has forced smartphone manufacturers to rethink their previous strategy of having small and minimalist cameras on the rears of their handsets. Google and Apple have had a different approach to their camera functionality. Apple has embraced a hardware-based approach featuring dual lenses and proximity sensors. Google, on the other hand, has used a software-based method utilizing artificial intelligence to tweak and enhance the quality of photos shot on their phone. Apple uses AI as well for its camera sensors but not as focused as Google’s model.

At this point, it seems Google has achieved the perfect balance between competent hardware and a heavy emphasis on AI-based photography to produce stunning results when taking pictures on their Pixel phones. While iPhones are certainly no slouch in the photography department, many agree that Google still holds the edge with camera features and photo quality. A prominent example of this is Google’s Night-Sight mode on their newer Pixel phones. The Night-Sight feature uses AI to take well-composed pictures in near black-out environments without the need for a flash.

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Photo Credit: EverythingApplePro

Apple plans to try to even the score or even surpass Google by doubling down on its hardware strategy by adding another camera sensor to its next iPhone. This would give the top tier iPhone a total of three lenses on the rear. However, due to a recent leak and subsequent surprise confirmation by Google, Google also plans on adding another lens to its flagship for a grand total of two cameras on the rear with an unknown sensor.

Because of leaks, we now know that both Apple and Google have significant physical changes coming to their camera sensors. These new camera modules will be relatively large and square in shape. Impressions from the leaks and renders of the phones have been mixed, and sometimes leaning to the negative side of the fence due to differences in design preferences.

The jury is still out on what new advancements these new camera modules will bring, but I have to assume Apple and Google can justify the risk of an unpopular design by providing a significant upgrade to their current camera systems.

Pokémon I’d Be Willing to Cut From Sword & Shield 

During Nintendo’s E3 conference and Pokemon Tree House special, the Pokemon company dropped a devastating bombshell on longtime Pokemon players. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of Pokémon in existence and the time it takes to reanimate them for the new game engine properly, certain Pokémon will be completely cut for the game. This will mark the first Pokemon game since Pokemon bank was introduced that all Pokemon won’t be available in the game in any capacity. 

This is undoubtedly disheartening news for all players who have been “catching them all” for over two decades only to be told not all of their Pokemon will be allowed in the brand new HD Pokemon games being released this fall.

At this time the Pokemon Company ‘hasn’t released a list of the Pokemon that did make the cut or how many will be available in the game. There is also discussion among players if the rest of the Pokemon will (eventually) be patched into the game. At this time, the Pokemon company has given no indication that this is their plan. For better or worse this is the reality we live in, and we can only hope our favorites make it into the game.

While I don’t speak for the Pokemon company or Game Freak, I do however have (MY OWN) opinions of which Pokemon should be in the game based on (MY OWN) preferences. Below I will prepare a list of all the Pokémon I am ok with being cut and a short reason why for some. (I for obvious reason won’t be including any Pokémon that have been confirmed to be in the game via trailers and officially released content) 

 

1) Beedrill Line

2)Pidgeeot Line

3) Fearrow Line 

4) Wigglytuff line

5) Parasect line 

6) Dugtrio Line 

7) Primape Line

8) Muk Line 

9) Electrode Line 

10) Blissey Line

11) Furret Line

12) Ledian (Does anyone use this Pokemon???)

13) Jumpluff Line

14) Unown (All of them Are Useless)

15) Forretress Line 

16) Dunsparce (Unless it gets an evolution) 

17) GranBull Line

18) Quillfish 

19) Corsola

20) Delibird (Why dies this Pokémon exist)

21) Swellow Line 

22) Exploud Line 

23) Hariyama Line 

24) Volbeat

25) Illumise 

26) Chimeecho

27) Luvdisc

28) Bibarel Line 

29) Kricketune Line 

30)  Wormadam Line and variants 

31) Patchirisu 

32) Chingling 

33) Chatot

34) Drapion

35) Carnivine ( Just a poor design)

36) Rotom (As a playable Pokémon)

37) Phione

38) Manaphy 

39) Shaymin Both forms 

40) Victini

41) Swoobat Line

42) Audino Line 

43) Darmanitan

44) Maractus

45) Garbodor line (its literally trash)

46) Emolga

47) Amoonguss Line

48) Cobalion

49) Terakion 

50) Virizion

51) Meloetta forms 

52) Talonflame line 

53) Furfrou 

54) Slurpuff line

55) Dedenne

56) Carbink (Unless it gets an evolution)

57) Gourgiest Line and all variants 

58) Oricorio variants (They only make sense in the Alolan Region)

59) Ribombee Line 

60) Lurantis Line

61) Silvally Line 

62) Minior (literally forgot this Pokemon exists) 

63) All Tapu Forms 

64) Cosmoem Line (For a company worried about scalability I wonder why they literally created a useless Pokémon)

65) The Ultra Beasts will likely be cut

While I would ideally like all Pokemon to be in the game or at some point be patched in, I do challenge all of you to go through the Pokedex and pick out the Pokemon you personally dislike, don’t use or have entirely forgotten about. I was truly surprised by the sheer number of Pokemon that I was ok with potentially not being in the game. I figure at least some people will have a significant number of Pokemon they honestly wouldn’t miss if they were cut from the game. I personally found this experiment helpful with coping with the changes coming to the new Pokemon games.

 

Be Honest, Will you REALLY MISS... THIS THING???
Photo Credit: Pokemon TCG

Questions About iOS We have After WWDC.

During this year’s WWDC, Apple debuted its future for its various operations systems. Highlights included iOS 13, MacOS Catalina, and the debut of Apple’s newest operating system iPad OS. While Apple revealed a great deal about these upcoming software releases, there are still many questions we have about the operating systems themselves, including how they will affect existing devices, and to what degree the new features will be implemented.

iOS 13

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Photo Credit: Apple

My biggest question about iOS 13 is regarding the new Dark Mode. I wonder if Dark Mode will present “true blacks” on OLED devices such as the various iPhone X models except for the XR which uses a liquid retina display which is an LCD. When I say a “true black,” I mean pixels being entirely turned off while using dark mode. If this is the case, I iPhone X(s, Max) could see gains in battery life because fewer pixels have to be illuminated and thus are saving energy. Older iPhones and the XR will of course not be able to achieve true blacks dude to the nature of LCDs, but I’m sure the Dark Mode will still be much easier on the eyes, there however just won’t be any battery savings. 

TvOS 

As a gamer, you can imagine that I was excited at the announcement that the Apple TV would natively support PlayStation and Xbox One controllers. This is fantastic news as I have been highly reluctant to purchase one of the expensive MiFi controllers that were compatible with iOS and TvOS. As I already own multiple PS4 controllers, I now feel empowered to try out more games on my Apple TV. I am, however, more curious about the support Playstation and Xbox controllers will have with iOS, Mac OS, and iPad OS. The Nintendo Switch is one of my favorite gaming consoles due to its very portable nature, other devices I always have with me are my iPad, my MacBook, and my iPhone. I have never liked only having a touch screen for gaming inputs, and I know I could have purchased one of those MiFi controllers, but as I said, I already have enough controllers at home laying around. A few years back, I bought Final Fantasy 7 and Transistor on iOS, but I just didn’t want to play with touch controls or buy a new controller to play them. But now I have the option to play both of these games on my Switch. I historically haven’t had a problem with double dipping on games, when they release on a platform that is more in line with my play-style, and I’ve been on the fence about purchasing these games on Switch. But now my decision will depend on if I can natively use my PS4 controller with my iPad because in that case, I will stick with those games on iOS. 

iPadOS 

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Photo Credit: Apple 

 

Year after year, changes to the software experience on iPad had stolen the show at WWDC, and this year was no different. This time, Apple defined a new pedigree for the software experience on iPad by giving the device its own operating system. iPadOS is the new name of the software that will now power iPad Devices. At this time, iPadOS isn’t a significant departure from the iOS experience on iPad but is different in a few key ways. A notable update is that multitasking is now improved on iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved by allowing better window management and allowing multiple windows of the same app to be displayed. Two of the most desired features that I wanted for iPad (https://iphonetennismatch.com/) are finally making their way to the tablet. The First feature is one that Apple omitted from their presentation, but none the less is present in iPadOS and will for many vastly improve their iPad workflows. That feature is mouse support on the iPad. This feature won’t be immediately apparent as Apple wants you to primarily utilize the iPad’s touch screen to navigate menus and apps. The support for mice and trackpads will be found in the accessibility section of the settings app and can be toggled on or off. It has been confirmed that Apple’s own Magic Mouse and Trackpad will be compatible with iPads on iPadOS. The cursor will be the same found In the assistive touch function found in iOS. Whether or not Apple will add a proper cursor or be more forthcoming on the addition of this feature will remain to be seen.  The Second feature that I anticipated coming to the iPad was the adoption of native support for using an iPad a second display for the Mac. Apple did publicize this feature during its keynote, and they called this feature “Side Car.” It has been confirmed that this feature can be used via USB-C and a wireless Bluetooth connection. There are however questions on whether older iPads that use a lighting cable will be able to utilize the Side Car feature, or if older Macs will be able to interface with newer iPads using this feature as well. According to some sources, All iPads that can support iPadOS will be able to use the Sidecar feature with Macs that can install MacOS Catalina. I do hope that this is the case as it wouldn’t force current Mac and iPad users to upgrade their devices to take advantage of this feature. 

Our Wishlist & Predictions For The World Wide Developer’s Conference

 

With WWDC less than a month away and with rumors spreading concerning which features will come to iOS, MacOS, WatchOS, and TvOS this fall, it seemed like an opportune moment to share our wishlists and predictions for the World Wide Developers Conference.

 iOS13 

My number one wish for iOS is a system-wide Dark Mode for iPhones and iPads. Dark modes for phones and laptops are popping up everywhere. Last year Apple gave us hope by announcing dark mode for MacOS, and I’m hoping this year the iPhone and iPad will follow suit. Even Google is getting in on the action as at their Google I/O event, they announced a system-wide dark mode was coming to the latest version of Android. As other operating systems are adopting this feature, I anticipate the inclusion of dark mode on iOS is very likely.

Apple Finally added a user accessible file system to their iOS devices on iOS 11, while this addition was much appreciated, a fuller-featured file manager should be encouraged. Adding more robust support for external storage and management of files stored on those devices would be ideal. Apple wants us to envision the iPad as a viable replacement for our laptops but to do that the iPad needs to function more like a laptop in critical ways such as file management. Due to constant pressure from competitors and Apple’s user base, I anticipate this feature is moderate likely, but it will be implemented in Apple fashion (file type restrictions, installation restrictions, etc.).

I’ve been praying for the addition of a native option for using the iPad Pro as a secondary display for Mac. I’m very hopeful this feature will finally be made available for my mobile workflows. I do however believe if this feature is implemented, it will only be available on iPad Pros with a USB Type C Port, as the lightning port might not have enough bandwidth to support a high-resolution extension of a Mac display. This feature has been available for some time with the use of third-party apps such as Duet and Astropad, but due to the bandwidth of the lightning port video output is highly compressed and the refresh rate is much lower than traditional monitors and displays. 

Multitasking on iPad has significantly advanced over the last couple iterations of iOS, but to truly compete with desktop operating systems, the iPad needs to implement windowed multitasking. These windows need to be arranged as desired or arrange in a split screen configuration as well. Again due to the competition and demand from its user base, I would assume the addition of this feature to be very likely as Apple continues to persuade users that the iPad is a viable replacement for laptops.

 Besides, better multitasking tools on iPad, Apple should also add mouse support to the iPad Pro. With the addition of the Apple Pencil and support for external keyboards, I find my fingers rarely touching the iPads screen. I notice this in specific workflows, especially when I decide to try typing documents on the device. It’s always an inconvenience to move my hand towards the touchscreen to adjust my cursor, and when I try its never as accurate as a mouse’s input. As Apple would have to rework most of their first party apps to utilize mouse support, I would say the addition of this feature is unlikely to slightly likely. 

WatchOS 6

I personally don’t want or expect too much from the next version of WatchOS. The Apple Watch is already one of the most feature-rich smartwatches on the market and understandably one of the most popular wearables. The Apple Watch does have some glaring omissions to its software offerings that wish Apple would finally address. First, I would like Apple to allow support for third-party watch faces. An SDK for building watch faces and a spot in the App Store would create an entirely new development sector for Apple and developers. The only new watch faces Apple Watch owners get are from Apple directly or collaborations other companies have arranged directly with Apple. Examples of this are Pixar’s Toy Story watch faces and Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse watch faces. I would also appreciate more options with the Watch Face options Apple gives us by default. For example, I like to use the live Jellyfish* watch face, though all of the jellies shown are fine, I’d like only one or two of the pictures to be in the rotation. Apple, however, gives you an all or nothing option on that front. Apple also provides a few minimalist watch faces in various colors, which I do enjoy. However, I do wish Apple Watch users had access to a color wheel to choose more specific colors for these watch faces. 

MacOS

As much as people say that Apple needs to pay closer attention to the Mac, I personally feel that Apple has every configuration of Mac desktops and laptops available to a vast variety of users. Also, MacOS seems to get newer and more impressive software features faster than any platform maintained by Apple. MacOS is feature rich, fast, stable, and reliable. I expect Apple to build on this and to further refine its desktop operating system. I personally don’t have many wishes for MacOS as any changes I want to make to the OS or UI I can change with an app. Any new features Apple decides to bring to the Mac will be quality of life changes that I didn’t know I needed or wanted, and those are my favorite kinds of features.

Are We Really Surprised the Galaxy Fold’s Plastic Screen Didn’t Hold Up? I’m Not.

As the release date for the Samsung Galaxy Fold loomed, review units were being shipped to various media outlets for testing. Journalist, YouTubers, and other reviewers were anxious to get their hands on Samsung’s new and nearly $2000 phone. Though many were excited about the Fold’s impending release, others had their suspicions that the hardware had its vulnerabilities.

The Folding Screen
First, let’s discuss the display of the Galaxy Fold. As its name implies, the display on this phone can fold in various orientations. To accomplish this Samsung couldn’t use a traditional glass display especially the extremely hard and scratch resistant forms of Gorilla glass. Instead, the Fold uses a very flexible plastic display. Plastic is a highly versatile material, it is highly shock absorbent, can flex considerably without breaking, and it doesn’t shatter when dropped. Plastic is however incredibly soft. Its softness makes the material naturally prone to scratches and dings on its surface. As you can imagine this is not an ideal material for displays intended for constant and everyday use, but Samsung did so anyway.

The Hinge
The hinge of the Galaxy Fold sort-of functions like the spine of a book. However, unlike a book, there are gaps on both sides of that “spine.” These gaps can allow dirt and debris in and wedge themselves between the fragile display. While testing and an official response from Samsung is needed to understand why displays were failing adequately, it is widely believed debris was the cause.

Due to the number of review units failing and undeniable need to conduct further stress testing, Samsung has indefinitely delayed the release of the Galaxy Fold. Samsung said in a statement that they were going to investigate what exactly was breaking their units and are going to reinforce the screens. When the Galaxy Fold is eventually released, it will likely have undergone some hardware revisions and might mechanically function differently. Samsung needs to be commended on taking the appropriate action and not selling a defective product. However, Samsung also needs to be condemned for attempting to rush a product to market. Make no mistake, though the Galaxy fold has been in development for years, the “finished product” was still a prototype, and Samsung knew it would fail at some point.

It’s Time for Apple to Start Acting Like It Owns Beats Audio, and Finally Kill It 

When Apple acquired the enormously popular brand Beats Audio in 2014, it stunned the technology market. This acquisition had analysts wondering what Apple planned to accomplish with Beats now under their ownership. I, being someone who follows Apple very closely, knew Apple was preparing to enter the headphone and audio market. I figured within a year or two they would begin rolling out their own branded audio hardware. As anticipated Apple released the first generation of AirPods in the winter of 2016. AirPods was Apple’s take on truly wireless headphones which were quickly growing in popularity at the time. Apple developed the W1 chip that would be the Bluetooth controller for the AirPods, allowing both earpieces to seamlessly and wirelessly connect to iOS devices with ease. I said to myself, “FINALLY,” Apple’s acquisition of Beats has taught them what they need to know about making a solid pair of headphones and hoot market them with Apple branding. Apple then did something that surprised me. Alongside the new, shiny, and Apple-branded AirPods, Apple also released Beats X headphones. These headphones weren’t “truly” wireless as the earbuds were connected via a cable, but these headphones did feature the new W1 chip that had all the same software and hardware integration with iOS devices that the AirPods had.

At the time it had been two years since Apple had purchased Beats, but no significant new model’s of Beats headphones had been announced. Most models were quietly refreshed, some wired options were given a lightning cable connection, and others were given lightning ports for charging. Marketing for Beats had taken a sharp downturn, while ads and product placements for AirPods seemed to be everywhere.

Fast forward to 2019 and Apple is now ready to refresh its AirPods with a second generation. This time around the AirPods are equipped with an H1 chipset. The H1 is supposed to allow for even faster Bluetooth connection and hands-free Siri activation. I believe that Apple is gradually phasing out the Beats brand and was offering an olive branch with the Beats X that launched aside the first generation of AirPods. Apple however still has more olive branches to provide. With very little press and marketing, Apple quietly announced the Power Beats Pro. Unlike the Beats X, the Power Beats Pro are truly wireless like the AirPods and offers a charging case also like the AirPods. Unlike the AirPods the Power Beat’s charging case doesn’t support wireless charging.

To my surprise, the Power Beats is also, shockingly, more expensive than the new AirPods even with the wireless charging case. AirPods 2nd Generation with the wireless charging case cost $199.00, and the new Power Beats Pro will cost $249.95. What doesn’t make sense is why Apple is selling a pair of headphones that they own, but aren’t “Apple Branded”. These headphones also come at a $50 premium over their own headphones that they are heavily marketing and actually are “Apple Branded”.

Companies will often own or manage several brands that can sometimes offer similar products. Car companies are well known for implementing this strategy as they usually offer cars at various price levels and styles to accommodate the tastes of multiple markets. One could argue that Apple is using this strategy with its Beats acquisition. The majority of the Beats line-up has been mostly unchanged since Apple’s acquisition. It is clear Beats Audio is not a primary focus for Apple. I believe Apple still offers Beats for enthusiasts who still demand the Beats sound signature. The youth and athletic market that Beats had locked in for years is now being turned over to Apple as teenagers, and young adults purchase AirPods. AirPods are trendy and seen as a status symbol to teenagers and young adults, and Beats are viewed more like a relic of the not so distant past.

Apple is just getting started in the audio industry. With the release of AirPods and their HomePod home speaker, it is clear Apple is going all in on their own branded audio hardware. It’s evident that the future of Beats audio is bleak and the brand is existing just to supplement Apple’s hardware offering until it releases their own on-ear and over-ear headphones. Beats Audio has various endorsement deals currently in effect with other all known brands that include Disney and the NBA. Apple is likely waiting for these deals to expire before they finally kill Beats Audio and eventually establish themselves as a premium provider of audio hardware.

Apple’s Paradigm Shift to Services has Begun

 

During Apple’s keynote event today, Apple as expected, announced a series of services. These services include “Apple News +”, “Apple Card”, “Apple Arcade” and “Apple TV +”. Apple is broadening and deepening the scope of their ecosystems. They are attempting this strategy in hopes to entice you with their offerings and then lock you into providing reliable streams of revenue.

Apple News Plus
Apple released its News app 3 years ago at the peak of personalized and curated news feeds. Today they are expanding this vision by offering a premium version of this service called Apple News Plus. Along with the usual web articles that have been offered and continue to be free, Apple has invited prominent News and print media outlets into their service. Outlets like National Geographic, GQ, and Essence magazine will now be able to be read in their entirety and unlimited as long as customers subscribe to this new service. Readers of the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times will now be able to read the paper on all of their Apple devices with the subscription as well. Apple has worked with these publishers to optimize and enhance their content for iPhones and iPads. Animations, transitions, and high resolution “Live Covers” will be used to immerse readers into the content they are consuming. Live Covers, will function like Apple’s Live Photos, but only for magazine Covers. Based on the demonstration that was shown during the keynote its looking like the News app may start looking like newspapers from Harry Potter, only in color. Apple News Plus will be 9.99 a month, but this service is supported by Apple’s family sharing feature. This means up to 6 people including the subscription holder can enjoy accessing Apple News Plus at no additional charge.
Apple Card
In an update to Apple’s “Apple Pay” service, the company is now offering their own branded credit cards. Apple plans to simplify the credit card experience and equip customers with the tools to safely and securely manage their finances. Apple ambitiously has “claimed” to have eliminated all fees associated with this card. This includes the removal of annual fees, late fees, and fees associated with exceeding spending limits. In order to offer a credit card, Apple had to partner with the bank Goldman Sachs and the company Master Card. Apple will offer cash back for purchases made on the card in the amount of 2% daily on purchases made on the card and 3% from purchases made at Apple retailers.

Apple will offer a virtual version of their card that will live on your iPhone with its data protected on the secure enclave partition of Apple’s processors. Its data will be encrypted and only stored on the iPhone. Apple will also offer a physical version of this card. The card will be made of titanium and will only feature a name and the Apple logo on the card. The card number, CVV, and signature won’t be present on the card for increased security. This card is to be used wherever Apple Pay is not supported. Details on where customers can get a physical card haven’t been made available at the time of writing. The Apple Card Service will be made available this Summer.

Apple Arcade
In an update to Apple’s App Store service, the company is now offering a subscription to mobile games that have been developed and curated in direct partnership with Apple. The games in this subscription will only be available through this subscription and only available on Apple devices across iOS, MacOS, and TvOS. Apple only offered a few teasers of the upcoming games offered in their service and announced that pricing for this service would be announced at a later date. The service is expected to launch in the fall of this year. The game service will operate through paid subscription only, which means none of these games will be free to play, feature adds, or offer in-game purchases. The service will, however, support family sharing, which means the entire family will be able to enjoy this gaming subscription across different devices.

Apple TV Plus
Today Apple finally unveiled its Apple TV streaming service. Actors, directors, and composers, filled the audience and graced the stage to give us a peek at the original programming that would be exclusive to Apple’s service. Apple also announced that its TV App would be getting an update to accommodate its streaming service and its new Channels feature. “Channels” is an option for customers to subscribe to individual content providers like HBO, Stars, and Showtime. Apple’s original content would only be available to subscribers of their TV Plus service. As its a paid service it will also be ad-free and arriving this fall.

On a final note, Apple introduced TV Legend Oprah Winfrey to introduce an unnamed project that she and the tech company were collaborating on. The only information we were given is that this program would be something like a book club.

Apple’s services could very well turn the tide for this company which is currently seeing sales slumps and fluctuating stock value. Apple needs to produce content that is engaging and provocative, but they also need to match the quality of its content with the quantity as well. Competition is heating up in the streaming world especially with Disney launching their own streaming service this fall as well.