Samsung shares a glimpse of its folding ‘Infinity Flex Display’ smartphone

Lucas Matney, writing for TechCrunch:

After hyping its unveil of its long-rumored folding smartphone, Samsung kind of delivered an announcement, revealing a dual-screen folding phone prototype.

“How can we make the screen bigger without actually increasing the size of the device itself?” a Samsung exec posited onstage.

The company showcased a prototype of its “Infinity Flex Display,” a device that can be unfolded. In a pitch black room, a company exec showcased the device, which was housed in a larger case to “obscure the form factor.” There’s a conventional outer display on the front with a fairly low screen-to-body ration, but when you unfold the phone, there’s a massive 7.3″ display on the inside.

It’s clear that despite hyping this “innovation,” Samsung isn’t quite ready to release a device of this type yet. The company says it will start mass production of the new display type in the coming months. The company teased more announcements surrounding the device at the next Samsung Unpacked event in 2019.

Whether this is the future of the phablet or not, it’s certainly an evolution of the smartphone form factor. Samsung believes that the folding display is the “foundation of the smartphone of tomorrow,” but whether there’s more beyond the gimmick certainly wasn’t clarified today.

Marvel’s Unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four Movie Is Now on Youtube

MovieWeb:

Perhaps the most famously bad Marvel movie in history is now available to watch in its entirety online. In 1994, a low-budget The Fantastic Four movie was completed, but never released and has existed in infamy ever since.

In an era long before the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even a few years before Blade would help establish Marvel as a brand that could do business at the box office, this cheap monstrosity happened. And now, those brave enough can view it for themselves.

iPad Pro Review Roundup: Impressive Hardware Held Back by iOS Limitations

John Vorhees, reviewing the new iPad Pro:

The initial reviews of Apple’s new iPad Pros are out. There is a general consensus that the hardware is impressive, but many reviewers conclude that limitations of iOS are holding the device back. Here are highlights from some of the reviews:

[…]

In terms of day-to-day work, some reviewers found that accomplishing particular tasks on an iPad Pro was more difficult than on a Mac:

Scott Stein, writing for Cnet:

For me, the whole experience and new ease of charging now makes the Pencil more likely for me to use, instead of ignore. It feels like a part of the iPad, now.

Editing, though? That’s another story. I use a trackpad to edit. Apple allows a virtual trackpad in iOS 12 using the onscreen software keyboard, but there isn’t an option for the physical keyboard.

Geoffrey Fowler, writing for the Washington Post:

While iOS 12 has a few keyboard shortcuts that help zip between apps, what I was missing was a degree of information density. Everyone has a different way of working, but sometimes on a Mac I’ll have five windows open at once, passively monitoring messages, email, Slack, Twitter and music. On the iPad, I had to keep flipping through apps in an attempt to stay tuned in. Some iPad apps don’t even show you the time and battery level along the top edge.

[…]

Although reviewers were impressed with the new iPad Pro’s hardware, many were frustrated by iOS. Patel concludes that:

Apple’s approach to iOS is holding that hardware back in serious and meaningful ways, and while USB-C makes life with this new iPad Pro slightly easier, it still has the same basic capabilities and limitations of last year’s iPad Pro.

Cnet’s Stein has a similar take:

But the iPad Pro just isn’t flexible enough, yet. The browser is not the same as a desktop-level experience, which can make it hard to work with web tools. No trackpad on the optional keyboard and no support for mice makes text editing cumbersome. Furthermore, iOS hasn’t changed enough. It’s way too much like an evolution of the iPhone, instead of a fully evolved computer desktop. And the current crop of available apps don’t yet exploit this awesome new hardware.

Although opinions differ on whether the iPad Pro can replace a Mac, it’s clear that the hardware has advanced to the point where it exceeds many of the laptops in Apple’s line. As Federico and I discuss on today’s episode of AppStories, the next year and iOS 13, in particular, will be critically important in justifying the ‘pro’ in the ‘iPad Pro.’ In the coming weeks, we’ll have in-depth coverage of the new iPad Pro on MacStories, so stay tuned.

Apple is Throttling iPhones Again

Adam Clark Estes for Gizmodo:

You can now download and install iOS 12.1. That means you’ll finally be able to use Group FaceTime (LOL), access over 70 new emoji, and get rid of the annoying image blur that caused “Beautygate.” If you own an iPhone 8 or iPhone X, it also means that your processor will get throttled as the battery degrades in order to avoid unexpected shutdowns. It’s okay if this doesn’t seem like a neat feature. It’s actually very controversial!

Perhaps as a result, the processor-throttling detail is sort of buried in the release notes for iOS 12.1. Near the bottom of a long list and under the header “Other improvements and fixes,” the document reads:

Adds a performance management feature to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down, including the option to disable this feature if an unexpected shutdown occurs, for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are not mentioned. And again, Apple says that the feature can be turned off if an unexpected shutdown occurs. Upon updating, we did not find an option in the Battery menu to disable the feature ahead of time, so it remains unclear how said disabling will happen.

While it’s a new feature on the iPhone X and iPhone 8 devices, battery-related processor throttling has existed on older iPhones for a while now. It’s also been the subject of a very heated public debate for nearly a year.

The company says its “goal is to deliver the best experience for customers.” Some customers disagree about this approach, which is understandable since Apple made their iPhones slower and didn’t bother to tell them about it. However, battery degradation is inevitable, and without some sort of intervention, it’s very likely that iPhones would become unusable sooner than they already do, if Apple didn’t apply some sort of fix to manage power usage in old batteries.

Before we go into what’s next, let’s review what’s happened so far in the throttling scandal. At some point in the past—and without informing its customers—Apple started limiting the power draw of processors in old phones to keep them from spontaneously turning off and to lengthen the battery’s lifespan.

But after a bunch of Reddit users and benchmark app maker Primate Labs figured out what was happening, Apple faced a torrent of outrage not only from its customers, who felt like Apple was making their devices slower for no good reason, as well as regulators, who felt like Apple wasn’t properly informing consumers about its products.

The company got hit with a $5.7 million fine from Italy’s antitrust organization over the issue, and at least two groups filed class action lawsuits. Senator John Thune also demanded answers about how Apple was going to fix it. Somewhere in the middle of all this happening, Apple slashed the price of battery replacements from $79 to $29. A new battery would, in theory, put a stop to the throttling.

The tricky thing is that Apple never stopped throttling the processors in older phones with degrading batteries. It just got caught doing it, and then issued an update to iOS that gave people access to more information about their battery health. Apple also responded to Senator Thune detailing these software updates and claiming that “iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models include hardware updates that allow a more advanced performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown.” Apple didn’t explicitly say that newer devices wouldn’t get throttled.
So until now, the throttling scandal has boiled down to two things.

One, Apple throttled people’s phones in the name of better battery performance.

Two, the company didn’t bother telling its customers about this, and those people and some government agencies got very mad about the lack of transparency.

You could argue that Apple resolved the transparency complaint by apologizing last year and making battery replacements cheaper. You could argue that it solved the throttling complaint by including hardware updates in newer iPhones so that they may not need to be throttled. Except now Apple is throttling the new devices, too.

If not slightly confusing, the latest update in the scandal is evidence that Apple can’t just stop throttling processors in devices with old batteries. Batteries will inevitably fail, and Apple wants its iPhones to remain functional as long as possible.

And while the fact that the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR aren’t mentioned in the release notes, we can only assume that Apple will introduce the throttling feature to those phones in a few months or a year. Or maybe the new devices also have hardware updates that might make throttling unnecessary. We don’t know for sure, because the company hasn’t really explained what’s happening.

WTF Apple?

The Biggening

Lucas Matney, for TechCrunch:

The iPhone SE died. The iPad Mini was last upgraded in 2015. The 11-inch MacBook Air died years ago. The smaller Series 4 Apple  Watch has a bigger display than the larger Series 3 Apple Watch.

Apple’s smallest devices are slowly getting bigger and the company’s events don’t suggest those ambitions are going to stop. While the release of the truly monstrous 6.5” iPhone XS Max last month embodies this trend in the most readily apparent way, the way Apple has emphasized external displays on its new iPad Pro and its MacBook Pro line are perhaps more telling of the company’s future ambitions, a world where displays are boundless.

If you’re thinking that Apple can only make displays so much bigger while reducing the sizes of the device, there’s a lot further they can take this.

Apple’s wants bigger displays.

The old iPad Pro was perhaps too big; it’s massive form factor was great for creative tasks but it was one of the most niche devices Apple had released in recent years. The company’s new 12.9” iPad Pro reaches for the edges more but shrinks its overall footprint in the process, turning the somewhat novelty device into what I imagine will be a much more palatable mainstream product. The smaller Pro jumped from 10.5” to 11” while maintaining an overall size similar to its predecessor.

Much in the way that the iPhone 6S Plus was the “big” phone when it came out with a 5.5″ display, and consumers buying it were making that choice for themselves, Apple is shaping the new-normal. The 5.8″ iPhone XS and 6.5″ iPhone XS Max show that. With the new Apple Watch Series 4, Apple made the decision to make the devices bigger, bumping the 38mm and 42mm watches up to 40mm and 44mm sizes. The upgrade signified that Apple felt that even its biggest tiny display was still too small.

One of the other big changes on the new iPad Pros was the use of USB-C and a big reason Apple was fine ditching its proprietary port is that it really wanted to enable the device to drive 5K external displays. Apple wants the device to be at the heart of creatives’ workflows but it still sees its display size as a limiting factor.

Today we also saw Apple make a number of big improvements to the 13.3” MacBook Air that seem to overshadow the 12” MacBook in major ways, throwing into question whether the 12″ device is too small a form factor for Apple to continue supporting. And while the company no longer sells a 17-inch MacBook Pro, their latest 15-inch MacBook Pro was built to power up to four 4K displays so that should tell you quite a bit about where the company is moving.

Today’s Apple Special Event

Apple held their hardware event today (click the link to watch the keynote)

Announced today were a New iPad Pro:

Apple today introduced the new iPad Pro with all-screen design and next-generation performance, marking the biggest change to iPad ever. The all-new design pushes 11-inch and 12.9-inch Liquid Retina displays to the edges of iPad Pro and integrates Face ID to securely unlock iPad with just a glance.

The A12X Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine in iPad Pro outperforms most PC laptops and offers a new USB-C connector, Gigabit-class LTE, and up to 1TB of storage to enable powerful new mobile workflows.

There weren’t a lot of surprises here, as the iPad Pro went to Face ID and lost the home button. Dropping Lightning for USB-C has been rumored for a while as well, I wonder if we’ll start seeing the iPhones switch to USB-C next year?

The Apple Pencil also got an update, gaining wireless charging, magnetic pairing,  tap gestures and a new flat styling.

A new 13 inch MacBook air:

Apple today introduced an all-new MacBook Air, bringing a stunning 13-inch Retina display, Touch ID, the latest processors and an even more portable design to the world’s most loved notebook. Delivering the all-day battery life it’s known for, the new MacBook Air is available in three gorgeous finishes — gold, space gray and silver.

The most affordable Retina-display Mac ever also includes an Apple-designed keyboard, a spacious Force Touch trackpad, faster SSDs, wide stereo sound, the Apple T2 Security Chip and Thunderbolt 3, making the new MacBook Air the perfect notebook to take with you everywhere you go.

This was a much needed update to the MacBook Air.

And a new Mac mini:

Apple today gave Mac mini a massive increase in performance. Now with quad- and 6-core processors, up to 64GB of faster memory and blazing fast all-flash storage, the new Mac mini delivers an insane five times faster performance, making it the most powerful Mac mini ever made.

And with Thunderbolt 3 ports, the Apple T2 Security Chip and a 10Gb Ethernet option, the new Mac mini is a faster and more capable desktop that can do so much more.

Again, a much needed hardware upgrade, the Mac mini needed this upgrade and it finally got it.

Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal

Harry McCracken, writing for Time:

It was huge news among the small number of people who could be called computer nerds at the time — people like Paul Allen, who was working as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston.

When he bought a copy of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics at the Out of Town newsstand in Harvard Square, with the Altair on the cover, he and an old friend — a Harvard sophomore named Bill Gates — got excited. Immediately, they knew they wanted to try to make the Altair run BASIC, a language they’d both learned in its original timeshared-via-Teletype form at the Lakeside School in Seattle.

Actually, Allen had been ruminating about the possibility of building his own BASIC even before he knew about the Altair. “There hadn’t been attempts to write a full-blown programming language for a microprocessor,” he explains. “But when the chips leading up to the 8080 processor became available, I realized we could write a program for it that would be powerful enough to run BASIC.”

I learned to program with BASIC, on my old color computer 3 I got for Christmas in the first grade, i used it for many years and have some fond memories of it, even if it was a pain in the ass.

Programming languages have come a long ways from those days, not so basic anymore.

IBM’s Acquisition of Canadian-founded Red Hat One of the Largest Ever

Jessica Galang, writing for Betakit:

Open source software company Red Hat is being acquired by IBM for $34 billion USD. Depending on who you ask, it is either the second or third-largest tech acquisition of all time.

Red Hat was co-founded in 1993 by Canadian entrepreneur Bob Young, who built the business with co-founder Marc Ewing from Raleigh, North Carolina. The platform provides open source software solutions, delivering Linux, hybrid cloud, container, and Kubernetes technologies. According to ZDNet, Red Hat was the first billion-dollar pure play open source company.

The company underwent an IPO in August 1999, the same year Young stepped down as CEO. He would resign as chairman by 2002 and as director by 2005, according to the Globe and Mail.

“Red Hat’s board of directors fired me in 2000 and that’s why Red Hat is so successful today,” Young told ZDNet in a 2014 interview. “I had the skills for a startup. I didn’t have the skills to grow Red Hat from 400 to 9,000 employees.” Since then, Young has gone on to found self-publishing site Lulu.com and is currently owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

IBM and Red Hat’s partnership has spanned 20 years, with IBM serving as an early supporter of Linux. The tech giant has collaborated with Red Hat to develop and grow enterprise-grade Linux, and more recently to bring enterprise Kubernetes and hybrid cloud solutions to customers. IBM said these creations have become core technologies within IBM’s $19 billion hybrid cloud business.

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president, and CEO of Red Hat. “IBM will become the world’s #1 hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.

IBM said it would continue to build Red Hat partnerships, including those with cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba, in addition to the IBM Cloud.

“Open source is the default choice for modern IT solutions, and I’m incredibly proud of the role Red Hat has played in making that a reality in the enterprise,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat.

“Joining forces with IBM will provide us with a greater level of scale, resources and capabilities to accelerate the impact of open source as the basis for digital transformation and bring Red Hat to an even wider audience – all while preserving our unique culture and unwavering commitment to open source innovation.”

Google’s Night Sight for Pixel phones will amaze you

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:

Google’s Pixel phones have already changed and improved smartphone photography dramatically, but the latest addition to them might be the biggest leap forward yet. Night Sight is the next evolution of Google’s computational photography, combining machine learning, clever algorithms, and up to four seconds of exposure to generate shockingly good low-light images. 

iPhone XR: Hands-on and first impressions

Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:

The iPhone XR is available for pre-orders now and it officially arrives in stores on Friday. I got my hands on one Wednesday and after using it for a few hours, my initial impression is that it’s going to be a mainstream hit that pleases buyers while also improving Apple’s bottom line. Let’s dive in.

[…]

This is a gorgeous phone. It’s available in six colors, and while the black and white models look very much like the phones Apple has been releasing for the last few years, the blue, coral, Product(RED), and yellow models absolutely do not. When laying screen up on a table, you can still see the colored aluminum frame around the edges. But flip it over—or hold it in your hand—and the shiny glass colored back pops out with enormous personality. I took possession of the coral model, which lies somewhere between pink and orange on the spectrum, and it’s spectacular.

The aluminum frame colors are less shiny and more subtle than the colors on the backs, and you’ll need to decide if the color combinations work for you. The yellow (with a yellow-gold frame) clashes a bit much for me, but the blue, red, and coral models all look fantastic.

This is a phone that looks spectacular when it’s not being covered by a case, which may be why Apple isn’t making cases for the iPhone XR, and the online Apple Store seems to only be selling clear Otterbox cases. I get it. I wouldn’t want to drop one—but this is a phone that I would hate to cover up. (Apple says the iPhone XR’s back glass is stronger than the glass on the iPhone X, though not as strong as that on the iPhone XS. The iPhone XR’s front glass is apparently identical to the XS glass, which Apple says is the most rugged smartphone glass around.)

[…]

The question that all the reviews of the iPhone XR ask is pretty simple: What does this phone lack that the iPhone XS and XS Max offer? There’s a lot less difference between the models than you’d think. The biggest one is the screen—it’s a 6.1-inch diagonal, roughly halfway between the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, and it’s LCD based, rather than using the OLED technology found on the other iPhone X series phones.

What you give up when you go LCD is, for the most part, a higher dynamic range. Most notably, blacks are blacker, because OLED screens generate their own light rather than having to be lit from behind by a backlight. Backlit screens glow, even when trying to display a perfect black—and it’s noticeable. My lock screen image is the picture of an astronaut taken from the surface of the moon, so there’s a lot of dynamic range. When you look at that image on an iPhone XS, the blackness of space is absolute. On the XR, it’s more of a… space gray?

[…]

With the arrival of the iPhone XS, if you add last year’s iPhone 8 into the mix, Apple now offers five phones at four distinct sizes. The smallest phone is the iPhone 8, followed by the incrementally larger iPhone XS. At the top of the range are the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone XS Max.

But right in the middle is the iPhone XR. It’s just slightly larger than the iPhone XS, and slightly smaller than the iPhone XS Max. When I’m holding it in my hand, it definitely feels large—this is definitely a follow-on to the iPhone Plus line, not the regular iPhone line. Some people who might consider the iPhone XS could try the iPhone XR and decide that the extra width and screen size are worth the savings.

[…]

Which brings me to the most appealing feature of the iPhone XR other than its color: the price. The iPhone XR is the lowest priced of the 2018 model iPhones, starting at $749. Both of its two step-up storage levels, $799 for 128GB of storage or $899 for 256GB, are less than the starting price of the 64GB iPhone XS. That makes the iPhone XR a remarkably good deal compared to the iPhone XS.

When I hold this phone in my hand and look at the colorful sides and back, and the big, bright display, it’s hard to believe I’m looking at the lowest-priced new iPhone. It certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap.

Jason has several excellent points in his review, go read to the full review to see them all.