November 24, 2020

5G everywhere via new Snapdragon 690, huge Apple battle, and more tech news today

Apple vs. Basecamp gets nasty, Snapdragon 690 brings 5G to the masses, buy the Boston Dynamics dog, and more!

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Wednesday, June 17.

1. 5G: Coming to everything via the new Snapdragon 690

Early 2020 high-end smartphones offered 5G as one of their main differentiators to older devices, tempting those thinking about upgrading, despite the costs to jump from 4G to 5G speeds.

But! No longer will 5G just be part of higher-cost Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 765 series processors that support Qualcomm’s 5G modems. Now, the company has announced the new Snapdragon 690, a much more mainstream, low-cost SoC that will likely bring 5G to phones as cheap as $300 or so. And that means widespread 5G adoption, almost by default rather than a feature you need to pay more for.

  • The Snapdragon 690 is part of the family of chips included in the $300-$500 range of smartphones, including the likes of the Google Pixel 3a, Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro, and Motorola One Zoom.
  • All of these are capable enough processors for most tasks, but you’ll hit a few stutters if you throw the latest games at them.
  • Per my colleague Hadlee Simons: “Qualcomm’s new chipset delivers an X51 5G modem, supporting NSA and SA modes, dynamic spectrum sharing, and downlink speeds of up to 2.5Gbps. The Snapdragon 690 doesn’t seem to support mmWave 5G, which is the faster but more temperamental 5G standard in terms of coverage. So you’re left with sub-6GHz 5G, used by the vast majority of networks around the world.â€�
  • Missing mmWave 5G is a big cost-saver, and it will hurt the very very few people who are able to get mmWave 5G. As Hadlee points outs, sub-6GHz, or low-band 5G offers far more city block and wider regional coverage, even if it’s not quite as fast.
  • Compared to the Snapdragon 675 (which was already faster than the Pixel 3a’s Snapdragon 670), Qualcomm says the new Snapdragon 690 CPU offers a 20% performance boost, courtesy of its 2GHz octa-core CPU, with two Cortex-A77 cores and six Cortex-A55 cores.
  • This marks the first processors with the Cortex-A77 CPU in the mid-range Snapdragon 700 series or Snapdragon 600 series family. It’s all on an 8nm process which should provide better power efficiencies
  • Graphics should be boosted further: Qualcomm claims the Adreno 619L GPU offers a 60% boost in graphics rendering over the Snapdragon 675, and now supports a 120Hz refresh rate at FHD+ resolution.
  • Without listing everything, it also supports Wi-Fi 6-ready connectivity, Bluetooth 5.1, and Quick Charge 4+ technology, plus 192MP snaps and 4K HDR video recording.

What matters here:

  • Expect the first value smartphones with a Snapdragon 690 during H2 2020, or in the coming months, with Qualcomm saying HMD Nokia, LG, Motorola, Sharp, and TCL all have smartphones in the works with the chip. (The Pixel 4a is meant to get a 700-series Snapdragon, reportedly the 730). By 2021, new 4G-only phones might become curiosities.
  • The only catch is that 5G licensing is still reportedly expensive, so $300 phones might be more like $350 or so as manufacturers adjust to costs.
  • But, importantly, H2 2020 is when we expect the first 5G iPhone, as one of the iPhone 12 models.
  • Apple is probably going to have a few iPhone 12 variants, but it’ll be touting its 5G capabilities if all goes to plan.
  • By September/October, all things pandemic considered, a budget-minded LG or Nokia smartphone might also have 5G, and the only real question is how well carriers have equipped networks to support the faster bandwidth and download speeds. Exciting!

2. There’s a huge battle brewing between hot new email app Hey, made by Basecamp, and Apple, focused on the App Store on iOS (Wired).

Hey says Apple has stopped letting it update its iOS app because it refused to offer in-app purchases of subscriptions, where Apple takes a 15%-30% cut, and only offers subscriptions made through its site. In response, Apple says it was mistaken in allowing Hey onto the App Store in the first place. The problem? Loads of other apps, including Basecamp itself, can already do exactly what Hey is trying to do. Apple has its reasons, but applying its policies case-by-case and enforcing them with wild inconsistencies is creating real problems. This happens to be a super high-profile case that won’t go away.

Also, John Gruber: “The flimsiness of Apple’s rejection of Hey�. (Daring Fireball), and don’t miss Basecamp founder David Heinemeier Hansson’s Twitter explosion, calling Apple mafia and gangsters (Twitter).


3. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 images leak: What to expect from new watch (Android Authority).


4. The HTC U20 5G shows a tragic lack of ambition (Android Authority).


5. Fairphone: A tiny smartphone company managed to bring a new Android version to a 2015 device (Android Authority).


6. Apple News algorithms pick more celeb stories than human editors, study finds (The Guardian).


7. Facebook will soon let users switch off political ads, US first (CNBC).


8. Google is bringing Microsoft Office and other Windows apps to Chromebooks (The Verge).


9. Humble’s racial justice bundle offers $1,200 in games and books for $30 (Engadget).


10. You can now buy Boston Dynamics’ Spot, the robot dog, if you’ve got $74,500 (Wired).


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