In what may be another big win for the Right to Repair crowd, Samsung is preparing to let Galaxy smartphone owners fix their own phones at home.
Starting this summer, the South Korean tech giant will send Galaxy S20, Galaxy S21, and Tab S7 owners genuine parts, tools, and step-by-step instructions so they can repair their broken Samsung devices.
Samsung is partnering with gadget repair and teardown mavens iFixit, though it's not yet clear if the company will be providing just the tools, the guidance, or perhaps both, with the parts supplied by Samsung.
The repair options will initially be somewhat limited to replacing display assemblies, the back glass, and charging ports. A battery replacement is not included in these options. However, according to Samsung, the display repair kit does come with a new battery at no extra charge.
Samsung will accept any parts consumers remove for safe recycling.
It's an exciting option for enterprising Samsung customers who hope to extend the life of aging products and have no interest in sending them out or visiting an authorized (or unauthorized) repair center.
Samsung has 2,000 repair centers in the US. Groups like Right to Repair have been campaigning for customer access to all kinds of consumer electronics parts, tools, and instruction for years.
Samsung follows Apple, which after dramatically expanding its repair network and third-party access to authorized parts and tools launched a self-repair program in November of last year. Among the repair options, Apple included the brand new iPhone 13. Samsung's move seems slightly more limited.
The company is only opening up customer repair for a limited set of aging handsets and one tablet, and not yet making it a global program. According to a spokesperson, the new Samsung Galaxy S22 line is not on the list.
However, Samsung tells TechRadar: "Currently, we are focused on launching the self-repair program in the United States with support for the Galaxy S20 and S21 family of products and the Galaxy Tab S7+. We have plans to expand the range of products, parts, and self-repair capability as the program matures."
While pricing for parts and tools is expected to reflect what Samsung typically charges retail repair providers, the company has yet to provide a pricing breakdown. It expects to do so when the program launches this summer.
As for who should repair their own Samsung Galaxy devices, Samsung isn't being as prescriptive as Apple, which recommends "individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices."
Samsung told TechRadar "we advise Galaxy device owners to review the repair materials and then make an informed decision to conduct the repair themselves or contact Samsung Care to explore other options for repair."
Thanks to a recent announcement event we now know more than nothing about the Nothing Phone (1), but there’s still a whole lot that we don’t know, and some of that could be revealed imminently.
Nothing’s official Twitter account has teased that we’ll see “(1) more thing” tomorrow (April 1) – words that are a reference to Apple’s famous “one more thing” that it sometimes sticks at the end of events.
What could this one more thing be? Well, the text is accompanied by an image of the bottom edge of a phone – presumably the Nothing Phone (1), but this is actually our first look at the handset, so we don’t have anything to compare it to.
So this in itself is new information, showing us a USB-C port, speaker grilles, a curved screen, and what looks to be a metal frame. Standard smartphone stuff then.
But this focus on the charging port suggests that we’ll probably be hearing something to do with the charging of the phone. Perhaps the charging speed or the battery size. Since speaker grilles are also visible there’s a chance this announcement will be something audio related, but that seems less likely.
And that’s all we can say for now. We don’t even know what time Nothing will be revealing this one more thing, but as soon as the announcement is made, we’ll let you know – assuming it’s anything remotely of note, and not just an April fools’ joke, which given the date we can't rule out.
Analysis: what we know so far
Nothing is dragging out the unveiling of its first smartphone, so all we really know so far is that it will have a partially-transparent back, a Snapdragon chipset, and software dubbed NothingOS, which will run on top of Android.
The full unveiling is likely still months away, but it’s looking like we could get a drip-feed of information between now and then, much like we often get from OnePlus – which is no coincidence, since the founder of Nothing (Carl Pei) also co-founded OnePlus.
It seems almost fitting then that this new information is arriving just a day after the global launch of the OnePlus 10 Pro, but it remains to be seen whether this mystery phone will tempt away OnePlus fans.
After months of waiting, the OnePlus 10 Pro has finally left China and gone global, with the launch event for most of the rest of the world having now taken place.
We already knew most of what the OnePlus 10 Pro had to offer, but thanks to this global launch some of the gaps have now been filled in, and most importantly we now know the price.
The OnePlus 10 Pro starts at $899 / £799 (around AU$1,400) for a version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and rises to £899 (roughly $1,180 / AU$1,575) for one with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage – with that pricier model not being available in the US, and no versions coming to Australia.
That means the price is actually lower than what the OnePlus 9 Pro cost, as that phone started at £829 (about $1,090, AU$1,450) for 8GB of RAM / 128GB of storage, rising to $1,069 / £929 (about AU$1,625) for 12GB / 256GB.
You’ll note also that OnePlus this year is offering only the cheapest version in the US, while last year it sold only the priciest there.
We’re not sure why this is, but it has the side effect of making the phone look significantly cheaper than its predecessor at a glance – until you realize you’re getting less RAM and storage. Still, both versions are cheaper in the UK, so the price has legitimately been reduced too.
Pre-orders are open now, and the OnePlus 10 Pro ships on April 5 in the UK, and on April 14 in the US.
Unsurprisingly the specs are exactly the same as they were for the Chinese model, meaning you’re getting a phone with a 6.7-inch 1440 x 3216 AMOLED screen sporting a 120Hz refresh rate, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, a 5,000mAh battery with 80W charging (or 65W in the US), and a triple-lens camera, with a 48MP main sensor, a 50MP ultrawide, and an 8MP telephoto (with 3.3x optical zoom).
Analysis: no Extreme Edition – or at least not yet
The standard OnePlus 10 Pro is available in a choice of Volcanic Black or Emerald Forest (also known as green), so this white shade is exclusive to the Extreme Edition, and that storage capacity is double what you can currently get with the global model.
But the other specs – including the RAM – are identical to what you’ll find in the phone elsewhere, so the Extreme Edition isn’t a huge upgrade.
There’s also a chance it will still come to some other regions, as it didn’t arrive in China until a while after the standard OnePlus 10 Pro had launched, so it’s possible the company will do the same elsewhere – or launch a different region-specific model at a later date.
We wouldn’t count on it though, and unless you really need mountains of storage or really love the white shade, it’s probably not worth waiting to find out.
Apple is reportedly testing flash memory chips from alternative suppliers as it seeks to reduce its exposure to disruption in its supply chain.
NAND memory chips are used in a wide variety of consumer electronics and the market is heavily commoditised, subject to fluctuations in price, and adheres to ‘just-in-time’ inventories.
Apple sources these components from a variety of sources, including market leaders Samsung and SK Hynix. However, Bloomberg says problems at Japanese firm Kioxia earlier this year have demonstrated a potential weakness in its current approach.
iPhone memory chips
While existing suppliers are expected to fill any shortfall, Apple is said to be discussing the possibility of using flash chips from Chinese vendor Yangtze.
Any deal would be a huge boost for China, which wants to become a bigger player in semiconductors to boost its technology industry and increase its independence.
However, the situation is still speculative at present and it is thought Yangtze’s technology is a generation behind the market leaders. However, its chips could be used to power mid-range devices like the iPhone SE and would be closer to Apple’s chief assembler Foxconn, which is also predominantly based in China.
Such an arrangement would also win favour with Beijing given Apple’s production ecosystem there supports millions of jobs. It had been previously suggested Apple could move up to 15 and 30% of its activities to other countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia or Mexico in bid to reduce its own exposure to a single country.
The latest update to the Twitter app has killed off support for iOS 12, with the latest version of the app now requiring iOS 14 or later in order to function – and that means users of the iPhone 6, which can’t be updated beyond iOS 12, can no longer access all of Twitter’s features.
While we can’t get hold of an iPhone 6 to see for ourselves, users across Twitter have been complaining about losing access to many features on their phones, following the update.
Without the option to upgrade beyond iOS 12, it’s plain to see why iPhone 6 users, along with owners of the iPad Air and 6th-generation iPod Touch, are a bit miffed about the Twitter app's latest requirement.
Users stuck on iOS 12 report that while they can still see tweets on their timeline, the rest of the app no longer functions correctly.
Thankfully for users who are still clinging to their iPhone 6, it is not a completely lost cause, as it is still possible to use Twitter on the device, as the web client still functions without issue, but it’s hardly a perfect solution/it’s no substitute for the full app experience.
Analysis: a shocking twist that was a long time coming
Although the loss of full app functionality has come as a shock to many iPhone 6 users, the demise of Twitter on iOS 12 has been a long time coming, as the social media giant officially dropped support for the nearly four-year-old operating system in early 2021.
Even after official support for the app stopped on iOS 12, iPhone 6 users were still able to enjoy the core functionality of the app, albeit without the new features of the latest versions.
Looking at the numbers though, it’s no surprise that Twitter will have wanted to scuttle the older version of the app. According to Apple, only 2% of iPhone users are still using a version of iOS that’s older than iOS 14, which makes maintaining an aging version of the Twitter app a largely worthless but nonetheless costly endeavor.
Regardless of the fact that this decision only affects 2% of Apple’s users who have stuck with their seven-year-old devices, it’s nevertheless a reminder that planned obsolescence is very much an issue that will come for all our devices eventually.
Apple's smartphones haven't used Touch ID fingerprint scanning since the iPhone X (other than the budget iPhone SE devices), instead using Face ID facial recognition. According to a top Apple analyst, that could change – but not any time soon.
Ming-Chi Kuo, who's a respected source in the Apple news space, has long been suggesting that Apple phones could get in-screen fingerprint scanners, like many Android phones have, and has previously claimed we could see them early as 2023.
But if you're an iPhone fan who's looking forward to this feature, don't get your hopes up for it appearing in the iPhone 14, because it sounds like it could be a long way out.
In a tweet, Kuo has revised his prediction, and now says in-screen fingerprint readers may not show up until 2025 – that's the year we'd expect to see the iPhone 17, unless Apple decides to majorly shake up its naming scheme.
I previously predicted iPhones would support under-display fingerprint sensing/Touch ID in 2023 at the earliest. But the latest survey indicates new iPhones in 2023 & 2024 may not adopt under-display Touch ID. Face ID with a mask on iPhone is already a great biometrics solution.March 30, 2022
In-screen fingerprint scanners, which enable you to unlock your phone by placing a thumb or finger on the appropriate part of the display, used to be a feature exclusive to top-end Android phones, but nowadays even some budget mobiles use it.
Apple tends to be late to the party when it comes to adopting new smartphone tech and features – see also 'punch-hole' screen cutouts (rumored for the iPhone 14) and 5G (only introduced with the iPhone 12).
However, it's not certain that the company plans to include an in-screen sensor in future iPhones – and at this point even Apple itself likely doesn't know what its 2025 iPhones will look like – so we should take Kuo's latest prediction with a big pinch of salt.
Analysis: Touch ID vs Face ID
Some people swear by Face ID – Kuo says it's “already a great biometrics solution” in his Tweet – but others find it temperamental.
In-screen Touch ID would be more useful as a means of unlocking iPhones in some respects. One of the benefits is that you don't need to pick up your phone and angle it towards your face every time you want to unlock it – you can leave it laying on a desk if you just want to quickly check a message, for example.
This depends on the way you use your phone though – and face unlock is more useful in some situations, for example if you have wet hands or are wearing gloves, which could mean an in-screen reader can't register your print.
Dropping Face ID would also allow Apple to finally do away with the screen notch, as that big block is needed to house all the sensors its facial recognition tech uses (Face ID uses a range of sensors, where Android phones rely on just the front-facing camera).
There's some debate as to whether fingerprint-based or facial-recognition unlocking is more secure. According to Samsung, fingerprint ID is more secure – the company says that “Even sophisticated facial recognition technologies have a higher FAR [false acceptance rate] than the advanced fingerprint authentication options.”
Samsung offers both facial and fingerprint recognition in its phones. Security firm Kaspersky points out that facial recognition has a few disadvantages, including its wide margin of error, and also the fact that there are security and surveillance issues involved with relying on your camera and having your face scan stored on a phone.
So there pros and cons for both Touch ID and Face ID, but the evidence suggests a move back to Touch ID, especially with a convenient in-screen placement, would be good news for Apple fans.
iOS updates are a regular occurrence, but if you’re waiting for your phone to automatically update then you’ll often be getting those updates a lot later than you could be doing – in some cases weeks later.
If you want to get the latest versions of iOS a lot faster, then you should instead head to Settings > General > Software Update as soon as they're available. If your version of iOS isn’t already up to date, then you’ll find the latest version there, even if your iPhone hasn’t yet alerted you to it.
That way you can enjoy new and improved features, bug fixes, and other changes a whole lot faster. But there’s a reason Apple doesn’t alert users to updates straight away.
According to Craig Federighi (Apple’s senior VP of software engineering) in reply to an email about this from Reddit user Mateusz Buda, the reason for the delay in auto-updates (which he says typically arrive 1-4 weeks later) is so that user feedback can be obtained before every single user gets the update.
In other words then, those who seek out the update in the Settings screen to get it first will likely flag any bugs or other issues that they have, that Apple might have missed in its internal tests. The company can then - if necessary - delay or pull the update to fix those problems before the auto-update kicks in.
Although not stated by Federighi, it’s likely that this staged approach also lightens the load on Apple’s servers and ensures updates don’t take an age to download.
Analysis: auto-update is the safer option
Given this explanation, it seems that auto-update is arguably the more sensible mechanism to use, as you’re less likely to encounter bugs that way.
Sure, Apple irons out most of the bugs before it seeds the update to anyone, but it's impossible to catch them all. Indeed, there have been no shortage of iOS bugs over the years, and you’re more likely to avoid these if you don’t grab an update on day one.
If the system is working as seemingly intended then the update won’t be sent to your phone until Apple has learned of and fixed these user-reported issues.
But it also means that you too have the chance to be alerted to any issues (such as those reported on TechRadar and on forums) before you download the update. You can then choose to delay updating until you know the problems have been fixed.
Obviously, the lure of new features can be hard to resist, but certainly for smaller updates there needn’t be any hurry to grab them.
Maybe we'll see other gadgets though - that's something we've yet to find out.
You're on our OnePlus 10 Pro launch live blog right now - here we'll narrate the event for you as it happens. We'll also explore the event before it kicks off, so we know what to expect, and after the thing, so we can debrief about what we saw.
Welcome to our OnePlus 10 Pro live blog!
The event is hours and hours away - it's later in the day than we generally see Chinese phone companies host their launch events - so we can have a nice slow cadence for our posts for a bit.
While today's event is mainly about the OnePlus 10 Pro, we think they're going to talk about the OnePlus One too.
We're looking for 100 OnePlus One owners to receive the #PowerOf10. Register with the Red Cable Club for a chance to win big.March 27, 2022
That Tweet is our main reason for saying that, and the company has similar adverts on its website saying the same.
This could just simply be a celebration of ten generations of OnePlus phone, since ten is a nice round number, but it's not quite that simple. There was no OnePlus Four, and the OnePlus One is only eight years old.
But ten is a nice round number, like we said. So we'll have to wait and see.
In our own OnePlus One review, our tester gave the phone four stars out of five, calling it "amazing value for money".
One of the cons in the review is "Non-removable battery" which, several years later, is something you couldn't imagine. Not because non-removable batteries have disappeared, but because they're completely the norm.
One of the big appeals of GoPros has always been the versatility of their mounting options, but some new iPhone MagSafe accessories have landed to bring some of that flexibility to your iOS smartphone.
The accessory maker Moment made some of the first MagSafe tripod mounts for the iPhone 12, back at the dawn of Apple's magnetic system. But now the company has made its most powerful add-ons yet, which include extra-strong magnets to keep your iPhone secure.
Like GoPro's Mod accessories, in particular its Media Mod, the Moment Mobile Filmmaker Cage ($99, or around £75 / AU$135) is designed to help you add various accessories – including microphones and lights – to your iPhone, while bringing extra stability to complement Apple's already impressive image stabilization.
It's the first video cage with MagSafe compatibility (which is built into the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series) and comes with a proprietary magnet array called (M)Force that's apparently significantly stronger than the standard MagSafe connection.
Alongside two cold-shoe mounts for your mics or lights, the Cage is studded with 1/4-inch mounts (28 of them in total), so you can mount it on mini tripods in various ways. There are also four 3/8-inch threads that are compatible with accessories like Arca Swiss tripod plates.
With the ability to stand flat on a surface without a tripod and built-in cable management, it looks like the ideal MagSafe accessory for vloggers and YouTubers – particularly if you already have some of Moment's lenses and filters, and don't have the budget for a dedicated setup from the likes of GoPro or Sony.
Joining the Filmmaker Cage are a couple of other new MagSafe mounts – the Strap Anywhere Mount ($39, around £30 / AU$55) and Stick-on Adapter ($9.99, around £8 / AU$13). The latter is a 3M sticker accessory that makes any iPhone compatible with Moment's (M)Force mounts, even if you don't get wireless MagSafe charging.
And the Strap Anywhere is much like GoPro's Tube Mount, letting you add a magnetic phone mount to fitness equipment like Peloton bikes, ellipticals or pretty much any tube-shaped surface. It looks particularly handy for more casual filmmaking or an easy way to FaceTime while you're mid-workout.
Analysis: The mobile filmmaking wars heat up
The latest iPhones are already powerful filmmaking tools, but MagSafe accessories like these from Moment are improving their versatility – even pushing them towards being a rival to GoPro, albeit with slightly more fragility.
The Filmmaker Cage in particular looks like a particularly useful accessory for capturing B-roll footage, or turning your iPhone into a main camera for vlogging or YouTubing. The MagSafe component is more about usability and convenience than improving your videos, but if it makes you take shoot more movies that that's a good thing. If you don't trust the magnets, it's also compatible with traditional phone clamps thanks to its 1/4-inch threads.
Moment's other MagSafe mounts also make it easier to attach your iPhone to objects for more interesting compositions and angles that you'd otherwise get from nervously holding a slippery rectangle.
So while iPhones have arguably slipped behind rivals like the Sony Xperia 1 III when it comes to pro-friendly filmmaking features, accessories like these do boost its appeal for videographers, particularly when you combine them with some of Moment's lenses.
With the iPhone 14 now strongly rumored to be arriving with a 48MP for 8K video later this year, it seems the smartphone battle against the best vlogging cameras from the likes of GoPro, DJI and Sony is going to heat up later this year.
Google might be working on its own Bluetooth tracker detection software for Android smartphones, according to the latest reports.
Bluetooth trackers like the Tile Mate and Apple AirTag have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, by using Bluetooth connections, and an army of phones hooked up to the Tile or Apple’s Find My network, these tags can help users find lost objects at home and out in the wider world.
Unfortunately, plenty of bad actors use these same devices to stalk unsuspecting individuals.
Tile and Apple have introduced various safety measures to reduce the risk their devices pose, but there are still issues with the current system. The main problem is that, for Android phone users, the free Tile and Apple Tracer Detect apps don’t offer automatic detection - you have to manually initiate searches on each individual app.
Now it looks like Google is taking matters into its own hands according to a 9To5Google report. The site details lines of code it found in a Google APK that was recently uploaded to the Play Store that references tag detection for devices named Tile tag and ATag (likely referencing AirTags).
The code is still fairly bare-bones right now, but it strongly suggests that Google is working on in-built tracker detection for Android.
It’s not clear if this detection can be set to run automatically - though this should absolutely be an option - but this feature would at least give Android device users a pre-installed one-stop-shop to check if they're being stalked by unknown trackers.
We don't know when this feature will be available, but it could drop fairly soon. There’s a chance that this tracker detection will be available later this year when Android 13 launches, and it might even launch as part of the next Android 13 beta. We’ll have to wait and see what Google announces.
Even though there are early signs that the feature is being developed, there’s no guarantee that it will ever see the light of day.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is currently the heavyweight foldable phone to beat, and when it's succeeded by the Z Fold 4, that'll likely take top spot on our list of the best foldable phones - but Vivo is likely the next company to try and worm its way in.
The Vivo X Fold is launching on April 11, and we know this because the company has been heavily teasing the phone - in fact, it's posted two videos of the upcoming foldable on Chinese social media network Weibo, which you can find here and here.
The first video, which was posted earliest, shows the phone's outer display, and ends with the thing starting to open. As well as a volume rocker and power button, we can see something that looks like an alert slider, so it's possible the phone will get one of them.
The second video is the most revealing, showing the phone from loads of angles - well, except for the one angle that would show if there's definitely a volume rocker or not.
We can see very clearly that this is an outwards-folding book-style foldable, like Samsung's Z Folds, with a very large inner screen and a circular camera bump housing four lenses.
Something else is also apparent too: this is a very good-looking foldable phone.
Analysis: the first attractive foldable phone?
If you spend lots of money on a smartphone, you can generally expect a good-looking phone, with chic designs and premium materials used for top-end phones...
... that is, except for foldables. Despite them often costing lots of money, they can often look pretty plain (other than the fact they fold, obviously).
The Vivo X Fold looks different though. The video shows a good-looking two-tone blue-and-black mobile with some shiny highlights, and it's also clear that the back is clad either in leather or faux-leather (an alternative that isn't made from animals).
Faux-leather feels great to the touch, a fact Vivo is evidently keen to emphasize given the slow shot of a finger stroking the X Fold's rear.
So the Vivo X Fold could have a much more attractive design than we've seen other foldable phones use, eschewing the glass or plastic rear for a premium-feeling material and using a smart application of color to make the handset stand out.
Not everyone cares about how a phone looks - to some, they're just functional devices for communication, gaming or photography. But if you're paying 'foldable phone money' - or a high price - you expect an attractive handset.
Of course, this is all based on the teaser, which is meant to build excitement for a phone, so we might find the mobile disappointing in real life - or, more likely, it might never reach our shores, because Vivo reveals lots of phones that only launch in its home country of China.
Given how expensive most iPhones are, and the fact that owners carry them with them everywhere, they’re attractive and easy targets for thieves, but they might soon become less appealing.
That’s because according to an internal Apple memo obtained by MacRumors, the company is implementing a system whereby Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers will be alerted if an iPhone that’s brought to them has been lost or stolen, and instructed not to repair it.
The system will apparently work through a link to the GSMA Device Registry, which is a global database where devices can be reported as lost or missing. If an iPhone is listed on there, then the repairer’s internal MobileGenius or GSX system will display a message saying as much.
While this change hasn’t yet been confirmed by Apple, it would make sense for the company to implement this, and it’s not the first thing the company has done to make it harder for stolen iPhones to get repaired.
Already, if Find My iPhone has been enabled for the phone and the customer is unable to disable it, then a repair will be refused, as that suggests the device has been lost or stolen. But this new system should snag devices where Find My iPhone was never enabled for whatever reason.
Analysis: better late than never
While this sounds like a good idea, it also sounds like an obvious idea and something we’re surprised wasn’t already happening, as we can’t imagine it would be too difficult to implement.
Making stolen iPhones hard to repair will make them much less desirable to thieves in the first place, so this should reduce the instances of theft – though of course it will only help if the device has been logged in the GSMA Device Registry, or logged as stolen to begin with.
Still, between this, Find My iPhone and Face ID, stealing an iPhone is likely to be more trouble than it’s worth in most cases.
What’s not clear though is whether the repair provider would alert the registered owner or the police if a lost or stolen device reaches them. This report simply states that they won’t repair it, which might reduce thefts in the first place, but won’t help reunite a phone with its rightful owner.
We've got a written Xiaomi 12 review, but if you prefer to watch or listen to your information rather than read words, then our new Xiaomi 12 video review is here for you.
This video, presented by Tom Bedford from our phones team (with a really amazing shirt, according to this writer), takes you through all the aspects of the phone in 5 minutes, including its screen, cameras and gaming performance.
The video also points out a few of the issues with the phone, including its software issues and overheating chipset, so it's not just a sizzle reel of "why we like the Xiaomi 12".
You can view the video on YouTube (or above, as we've embedded it in this article). We'd love to hear your thoughts on the phone - is the Xiaomi 12 a big success for the Chinese tech giant, or a misstep in the company's rivalry with Samsung? If you've got a strong opinion on the new phone (or like Tom's shirt) let us know in the YouTube comments section.
Alternatively, if you want, you can treat our Xiaomi 12 video review as a mini-podcast. Admittedly you'll miss out on any footage of the phone, as well as the camera samples (and you won't get to see Tom's funky shirt at all), but we want to cater for all readers, viewers and listeners.
If you're a fan of tech video reviews, check out the TechRadar YouTube account where we provide you with reviews, news and analysis on tech, entertainment and more, and you can join plenty of other fans in subscribing for timely new videos.
My OnePlus 9 Pro battery is so swollen it split open the case.
I discovered this potentially dangerous situation by accident when I noticed the one-year-old Android phone sitting imperfectly in its carbon-fiber case. Absentmindedly, I reached over and pushed one corner of the phone down, trying to reseat it. It popped back out. After a few attempts, I removed the case and discovered the truth: The battery had expanded and split the chrome case along one long-glued seam, creating, in one area, a quarter-inch chasm.
"Not again," I thought.
A few years ago, a Google Pixel 3 XL that I mostly keep on a Pixel charging stand by my bed appeared to jump off the charger of its own accord. It turned out that the battery has expanded so much that the case no longer sat flush with the charging base.
I eventually sent the phone back to Google and got a replacement; at least that phone was more than a few years old. But I reviewed the OnePlus 9 Pro just over a year ago. At the time, I called it "a gorgeous device," and "one of the best devices I've used in the Android space." Even with the split back, it still looks pretty good.
Does it still work? Sure. I powered it up and it launched, like Head Wound Harry, as if there wasn't any critical damage.
Still, I won't use it now or ever again.
As soon as I posted a short video of the split phone on Twitter, I got a fast flood of responses and at least one warning: "I'd, uh, turn it off."
This is concerning. OnePlus 9Pro 5G battery is now bursting the phone’s seams. Not the first time I’ve seen an Android phone do this pic.twitter.com/5HfdokTXG5March 28, 2022
I also found a community of people who have suffered similar battery calamities on a variety of Android phones and iPhones. I've owned and tested every iPhone since the iPhone 4 and never had a battery balloon or case split.
Still the tales of puffy batteries traveled through numerous Samsung handsets, iPhones, MacBooks, and Pixels.
It's a big enough problem that there are FAQs and services devoted to it. I found a place called Bebat that tries to explain why cellphone Lithium-Ion batteries balloon and what to do about it. Yes, it's also selling a repair service.
No one, including Bebat, is certain why all these batteries occasionally puff up. It could be:
Too much charging
A defective part
It's almost like no one quite understands how these batteries work. Though we know they do - most of the time.
An expanding phone battery and concerns over what could happen next if I keep using or charging it (explosion and fire come to mind) take me back seven or so years to Samsung's Galaxy Note 7.
The Galaxy Note 7 was an Android industry darling right up until units began to explode and catch fire. The culprit was the lithium-Ion battery.
Before you can understand what goes wrong with such a power source, it helps to understand how most Lithium-Ion batteries work. It's something we all got a crash course in back in 2016.
Like most batteries, there's a positive and negative side, usually made of two different conductive materials (say, aluminum and graphite). Since a battery creates power through chemistry and flow of charged ions, there's also a liquid (called an electrolyte), and a thin plastic layer made to separate the positive and negative sides. The cells charge when we plug the phone in.
Unlike the batteries in, say, your remote control, phone batteries can't be round and thick, nor can everything sit neatly in just two layers. Usually, smartphone batteries fold the layers over and over, sandwiching them to make them thin and as flat (and store as much energy) as possible.
As you can imagine, if all this isn't done perfectly, something can go wrong. In Samsung's case, it was a huge battery being squished into too small a space, deforming some layers, as well as a production issue in which a bad weld perforated these layers in some devices.
Samsung learned its lesson and instituted some rigorous battery oversight and testing for all future devices. There has not been a notable incidence since.
Which is good. But why are our phone batteries still expanding?
Since this issues cuts across devices, it's clearly some intrinsic lithium-ion issue.
Even experts like Bebat don't offer any clear-cut idea of why or what companies could do to prevent this. They do know what you can't do though:
There is no point waiting for the battery to “shrink”. The ever growing pressure can cause damage to the entire device. Leave the battery in the device only if it is stuck. Never try to “solve” the swelling yourself by pricking a hole in it or with any other creative stunt. That is very dangerous: not only is the gas flammable, but also toxic.
In every support forum, the advice is the same. Stop using the device immediately and get it to a service center. One MacBook user claimed to me on Twitter that an Apple Store genius told him to give the laptop to them and "we can put it in back in the special safe in case it explodes."
I don't think I'm in any imminent danger here, but I have turned off the OnePlus 9 Pro and reached out to the company's representatives for comment. My more immediate concern is that, while hardly common, I'm not sure expanding, gas-filled batteries are uncommon.
Making these incidents public is the first step, I hope, in pushing phone manufacturers to be more transparent, to work on safer, less expansion-prone batteries, and to look for a less volatile power storage system than lithium-ion. It's a tall order, I know.
The Google Pixel 6 range is behind many high-end phones in at least one way: unlocking methods. While these phones include an in-screen fingerprint sensor they lack facial recognition (dubbed Face Unlock on previous Pixel phones), but there’s evidence that this could soon change.
Developer @mile_freak07 posted on Twitter that they’d found a new change related to Face Unlock in the config file of an Android beta.
This isn’t the first mention they’ve found of facial recognition on the Pixel 6 range, but the fact that there’s a change to the entry suggests it could be something Google is actively working on.
Again some news to share regarding face unlock on Pixel 6/Pro devices. This time a glimmer of hope.After going through the firmware dump of the new QPR3 Beta 1.1, I found a new change regarding face unlock in the powerhal config file. https://t.co/aO5m0YUxPn pic.twitter.com/r6DAssktPxMarch 26, 2022
That said, there’s no information on when Face Unlock might arrive on the phones, if it does at all. It could arrive as a software update at any time – perhaps as part of a Pixel Feature Drop, or alongside Android 13.
But Google might equally decide not to roll the feature out – after all, the Pixel 6 range has been out a while without Face Unlock, so Google might just save it for the Pixel 7.
Analysis: a flawed feature
Previous reports suggested that Google hadn’t yet implemented Face Unlock on the Pixel 6 range because the feature was draining too much power.
So if Google can’t resolve that problem, it may not roll the feature out at all – or if it does, you may want to stick with the fingerprint sensor anyway, so you’re not having to charge your phone more often.
On top of that, some previous evidence of the feature (spotted by 9to5Google) suggested that if it does launch, it might just land on the Pixel 6 Pro – not the standard Pixel 6. So a lot of Pixel owners might still be out of luck.
But if it doesn’t land for your phone, it’s unlikely to be a huge loss anyway, since while Apple’s Face ID system is fast and secure, most Android phones don’t handle it as well, offering systems that are almost always less secure, and sometimes slower and less reliable too.
There’s no reason to think the Google Pixel 6 range will be an exception to that, especially as it doesn’t have the extensive hardware Apple uses for its system, so the fingerprint sensor is likely to remain the best option.