Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes all the news from Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked, the new WearOS Galaxy Watch4, the tablet-like Galaxy Z Fold 3, the StarTAC flashback of the Z Flip 3, Honor’s three new flagships, Honor and the US Entities list, why small phones are on the way out, the Fairphone 4 appears, and OnePlus’ courageous choice.
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).
The Big Samsung Announcements
This week was Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event, and the change for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 to shine. Also on show, and opening up the event, was the Galaxy Watch4. Running Google’s WearOS, it puts a huge focus on health. It packs in the ability to run an ECG test, monitor blood oxygen levels, watch over your blood pressure, and introduces body composition sensors:
“What this means is that the sensor can analyse your body fat, water levels, skeletal muscle and basal metabolic rate to give you a far more comprehensive understanding on your current bill of health. For the last few months, I have been getting most of those statistics from a digital weight scale, but if Samsung has figured out a way to incorporate all of this technology successfully into a small wrist-worn wearable, then the Galaxy Watch 4 is a must-buy for me.”
A Smaller Tablet In Your Pocket
Next up is the larger of the folding handsets. While it has phone functionality, and very much acts it when closed (albeit with a stretched aspect ratio) once you open the Galaxy Z Fold 3 you realise it’s much closer to being a small tablet than a large phone; especially with the multi-window support and working with app partners to make best use of the large screen real estate:
“The cover display is also almost identical but slightly narrower at 6.2 inches vs 6.23 inches last year. The aspect ratio is almost identical at 24.5:9 vs 25:9 last year, which is a good thing as the Galaxy Z Fold 2 front display is a joy to use and mostly perfect for one-handed use. During the past year, I’ve used the front display with one hand almost as much as I used the main display with two hands, so I expect the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will be just as good, if not slightly easier to use with one hand thanks to the slightly narrower design.”
One Day, All Phones Wanted To Be Like This
Meanwhile the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is very much the smartphone form factor when unfolded. When closed it cuts down the vertical size making it far more pocketable – and no doubt stirring memories of the StarTAC for a few of us. That said, everything beyond the hinge works like a smartphone, just as you would expect:
“The big changes show up when you fold the device in half—you’ll see a 1.9-inch, 512×260 front display, which is a big upgrade from the tiny 1.1-inch display of the first model. To feel fast and convenient, foldable phones need to have a usable front display, since the opening process is a lot more cumbersome than just glancing at a slab phone… the Flip 3 display is now big enough to show an entire notification, including some action buttons. It should be a big help.”
Honor’s New Flagship Family
Honor has announced the Magic3 family of smartphones. These are the first flagship devices from the company since it was spun out of Huawei. The three handsets – the Magic3, Magic3 Pro, and Magic3 Pro Plus – have leaned heavily into camera technology. They feature recording Magic-Log format, cinematic effects, and a variety of camera lenses in what I presume will become its signature circular camera island. Global availability will follow a Chinese retail release in the near future
“The hexagon camera setup is arguably where most of the upgrades for the Pro+ took place. Instead of Sony IMX766, Honor has placed a 50MP IMX700 1/1.28” sensor by Sony with a 1.22um pixel size. It sits behind a 23mm f/1.9 lens and supports Full Pixel Octa PD AutoFocus. The ultrawide camera is also a major step forward compared to the other Magic3 devices – it has a 1/2″ 64MP sensor and f/2.4 aperture. The other two snappers are shared with the Magic3 Pro – 64MP f/1.8 monochrome shooter and 64MP telephoto lens with 3.5x optical zoom. The fifth camera cutout is for an 8×8 dTOF for clear portrait shots.”
…But Will Honor Follow Huawei?
US lawmakers in the House of Representatives are discussing placing Honor on to the US Entities list, which would restrict its ability to deal with US suppliers of software and hardware. Recall that Honor was spun out of Huawei, which remains on the US Entities list. As a new company Honor was a ‘clean slate’ as regards the Entities List; how this progresses will have a significant impact on Honor’s growth over the next few years.
“The lawmakers led by Republican Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted in a letter that Honor was divested from Huawei, which was added to the U.S. Entity List in May 2019. Being added to that list bans companies from buying parts and components from U.S. companies or using American technology without U.S. government approval.”
Small Is For The Past
Last week’s pre-announcement of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro made one thing clear about Google’s flagship handsets. There’s no place for a smaller handset. While the likes of the Pixel 4 with its 5.7 inch screen just about meet the criteria of a small phone, the Pixel 6’s 6.4 inch screen; and the 6 Pro’s 6.7 inch – means the fat flagship is back
“t’s certainly no mystery why the number of small flagship phones dwindles every year — small flagships don’t sell well. Apple gambled on the idea last year with the iPhone 12 Mini, the company’s smallest phone in years that wasn’t a budget offering (like the SE 2020), but Apple allegedly ended production of the phone earlier than expected due to poor sales.”
Fairphone Four Shows Up
Dutch manufacturer Fairphone looks set to announce a new smartphone. The presumptively titled Fairphone 4 has been certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a step that suggests a release in the next weeks or months. Fairphone not only promotes the use of fair trade metals and ethically sourced materials, but also the ability to repair and replace phone components at home.
“The most recent Fairphone, the Fairphone 3 Plus, was launched in August 2020. That model upgraded its camera from 12 megapixels to 48, improved audio quality, and adopted a new body using even more recycled plastic. Owners of the original Fairphone 3 were able to upgrade with a €70 camera module.”
Also making an appearance just ahead of Galaxy Unpacked was an Instagram Video from OnePlus that looked to be the Shenzhen-based company’s first folding phone. Nope. It was two OnePlus 9 handsets balanced very close to each other, with a subsequent video revealing it was a ‘half off’ campaign if you purchase the device through T-Mobile USA. So a misguided marketing stunt then:
“Yeah. OnePlus didn’t announce a foldable phone during Unpacked. Instead, it trolled Samsung, and the rest of us apparently, with a half-off sale. It’s not even a true deal either. You have to get it through T-Mobile and activate a new line of service. You’ll receive $375 back in 24 monthly bill credits.”
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!