We're probably only days away from the official unveiling of the Google Pixel 7a, and now unboxing images of the mid-range phone have leaked out online, showing off the design of the handset and two of the colors it's going to be available in.
The snaps have appeared courtesy of seasoned tipster SnoopyTech (via 9to5Google), and they reveal a shape, size and aesthetic that's pretty much as we expected. The familiar Pixel camera bump is visible on the back, for example.
We get a look at the dark gray version of the Pixel 7a, which will apparently be called Cobalt, and the pale blue edition that will be called Arctic Blue. This shade of blue is new for the Pixel series, and has appeared in previously leaked images too.
The photos also show us the straightforward packaging that the Google Pixel 7a is going to come in. As with recent models like the Google Pixel 6a, don't expect there to be a power adapter in the box – you'll need to buy one separately.
That images like these are appearing now suggests a launch is close. All the signs are that Google is going to announce the phone at the Google IO 2023 event, which gets underway with a keynote presentation on May 10.
We will of course be covering the event live, and bringing you news of everything that Google announces. There should be lots more information about what's coming with Android 14, as well as quite possibly the Google Pixel Fold.
Analysis: the Pixel 7a looks promising
There's no way you can really judge a phone before it's even come out of course, but everything we've heard so far about the Pixel 7a – from fairly reliable if unofficial sources – suggests that Google has produced another promising phone in the Pixel series.
The Google Pixel 7 and the Google Pixel 7 Pro impressed us with what they had to offer, on the whole, and so a mid-range version of these phones that makes some sensible trade-offs between performance and price should be an appealing proposition.
While we wait patiently for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 to get its grand unveiling, some unofficial renders of the foldable have appeared online. These are third-party renders, based on information from a variety of sources that has leaked out so far.
The images are courtesy of the well-known leak-monger OnLeaks and Smartprix, and they show a phone that's very much like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 that was launched last year. It looks like there won't be any massive design changes this time around.
That's partly to be expected – there aren't that many ways you can design a foldable phone, really. One change is on the rear camera module, where the flash has moved to the side of the camera lenses rather than sitting underneath them.
Good morning #FutureSquad! Here comes your very first look at the #Samsung #GalaxyZFold5 (360° video + stunning 5K renders + dimensions)!On behalf of @Smartprix 👉🏻 https://t.co/CP8EVA9eQB pic.twitter.com/QAnWJtSOoBApril 29, 2023
What will be different, apparently, are the dimensions of the device. The Z Fold 5 apparently measures 154.9 mm x 129.9 mm x 6.3 mm when unfolded, compared with 155.1 mm x 130.1 mm x 6.3 mm for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.
When folded up, the new phone is said to be a few millimeters thinner than its predecessor, thanks to the introduction of a waterdrop hinge that means both sides of the screen are going to be able to lie fully flat against each other.
It would seem that the biggest upgrade is going to be on the inside, with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 rumored to be powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. As per the most recent report, the Z Fold 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 could launch before the end of July.
Analysis: design changes cost money
It always adds a little bit of extra interest to a phone launch when there are significant design changes to talk about – but as we mentioned earlier, it's hard to see too many ways to innovate when it comes to two slabs of glass and metal folding against each other.
What's more, design changes cost money. If the Z Fold 5 looks similar to the Z Fold 4, then Samsung may well already be able to use existing components and manufacturing lines to get the handset out to the masses.
It looks as though we might have to wait for next year for the design of this foldable to be significantly different: the Galaxy Z Fold 6 is reportedly going to come with a "major form factor change", but what exactly that looks like remains to be seen.
The rumors are that iOS 17 is going to bring some pretty significant changes with it – and thanks to newly leaked mockups of Apple's mobile apps, we can see how some of those changes are going to look on screen.
These mockups are from tipster @analyst941 on Twitter (via MacRumors), and are apparently based on inside information about the upcoming iOS 17 update. We can see a new-look Wallet app, Health app, and wallpaper picker.
With the Wallet app, we've got a new navigation bar down at the bottom, enabling users to switch between sections: Cards, Cash, Keys, IDs and Orders. There also seem to be new navigation options and a search box up at the top if you swipe down.
This is the new home of the Wallet app in iOS 17.• Swipe down to Search anywhere.• Sorted tabs for everything.• Apple Cash/Savings gets its own tab.• New “All transactions” button.• much more, not pictured 😬Sharing more info soon pic.twitter.com/mUjTjUUrpsApril 28, 2023
Embrace the grid
As for the Health app, the Favorites section looks set to get a more grid-based interface that shows off vital statistics in an at-a-glance, visually appealing way. We don't get a look at any changes coming to the other sections of the app though.
When it comes to picking wallpapers, again there's a new grid-based design, with 9 wallpapers on show simultaneously. Apparently wallpapers can be more easily rearranged and deleted from here, with sharing and duplication options available with a swipe up.
It's an interesting insight into what's coming with iOS 17, but remember that these are just unofficial mockups, so we can't be certain that they match what Apple is planning. We'll know for sure on June 5, when WWDC 2023 gets underway.
Analysis: a lot to look forward to
From what we've heard so far iOS 17 is going to be a major update for the iPhone, with Apple keen to fit in some of the "most requested features" that users want – though what exactly those features are remains to be seen.
It's difficult to believe that many people have been clamoring for updates to the look of the Wallet and Health apps. We've also heard that Siri might be relocated in iOS 17, and that the Control Center could be getting a revamp too.
The biggest update of all – according to leaks – will be the option to sideload apps outside of the official App Store, though there's been talk that this feature will only be available in Europe so that Apple can comply with EU regulations.
Whatever the details, it seems likely that there's a lot to look forward to in the next refresh of iOS 17. Apple will be talking us through all the changes on June 5 at WWDC 2023, as well as outlining updates for iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS and more.
All the indications are that the Google Pixel Fold is going to be unveiled next month after years of rumor and speculation – and thanks to some freshly leaked image renders, we've got a very good idea of what it's going to look like too.
These pictures come courtesy of well-known tipster Evan Blass (via 9to5Google) and show off the foldable phone in a dark gray kind of color. Based on the color schemes of previous Pixel phones, this shade might well be called charcoal.
There's some kind of bulge around the rear camera unit, which we're used to from previous handsets like the Google Pixel 7, and it looks as though we have three camera lenses on the back – which matches up with what we've heard previously.
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Hinges and home screens
The hinge on this foldable phone looks nice and thin, so we're hoping for a thin and light Pixel Fold. An earlier rumor suggested that the Google foldable would have a more durable hinge than the one fitted to Samsung's equivalent handset.
We also get a look at the familiar Pixel home screen, with its Material Design theme. Based on what we've previously heard from unofficial channels, the outer screen on the device is going to come in at a rather compact 5.8 inches in size.
The Google IO 2023 event gets underway on May 10, and considering how many leaks we're now getting about the Pixel Fold, it would be something of a surprise if the foldable phone wasn't announced – though it may not go on sale until June.
Analysis: a bold leap from Google
With the Google Pixel 8 due later this year, Google clearly now feels that it has enough experience in hardware to be able to take the next step, which is actually more of a leap: bringing out a foldable phone in the series.
Right now the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is leading the pack in terms of foldables, but it's not that big of a pack. Foldable technology remains hard to get right, with issues around hinge and screen durability still on the minds of potential buyers.
The complexity of the technology also has an effect on the price: this phone is rumored to be costing in the region of $1,799 (possibly around £1,649 in the UK). Google is gambling that people are going to be prepared to pay out that much for their next phone.
From what we've heard so far, this is going to be a solid piece of mobile hardware, with a slick folding mechanism and some high-end specs. However, we'll have to wait and see whether Google's leap into foldables is a hit with phone buyers.
Would it be possible to have a physical keyboard on a smartphone while keeping the touchscreen intact? The Future Interfaces Group (FIG) from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) seems to think so as the researchers recently demonstrated such a keyboard can exist via inflatable buttons on an OLED screen.
This type of technology is called Flat Panel Haptics and has been in the works at CMU for the past 15 years. The new breakthrough is that FIG has been able to develop a Flat Panel Haptics board five millimeters thick by developing an Embedded Electro-Osmotic Pump or EEOPs. According to the demo video, the EEOPs can manipulate a special pumping fluid by running an electrical current through it. The pumps sit between a reservoir of this fluid on the bottom and a flexible surface on top. Running electricity through the stack allows the pumps to inflate a rigid button on top up to five millimeters in height.
FIG published an accompanying paper explaining this tech in detail and revealing that the group used soft silicone as the top layer in the initial prototypes. While current AMOLED screens aren’t as flexible as that silicone, they're apparently flexible enough to accommodate transforming portions of the screen into a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard. The buttons “can reveal [themselves] when needed and sink back when [they’re] not.” FIG was also able to repurpose the EEOPs for other things like pumping an app icon in and out whenever you have pending notifications. Large buttons can be created, too, for the Snooze bar on alarms. They, too, can be animated or stay “inflated until pressed.”
An inflatable keyboard isn't just cool, it could have real-world applications. First, it can help blind people use the best phones better as the keyboard can provide a physical indicator for on-screen content alongside help from AI assistants like Siri (although Siri is falling behind). Plus, the tactile feedback may lead to more immersive mobile gaming as players can receive physical feedback through the buttons. Digital controls don't hold a candle to something physical, speaking from experience.
But will phone companies be interested in inflatable buttons? It's hard to say. All the way back in 2008, there was the BlackBerry Storm which had its touchscreen double as a physical button. This feature was widely panned in initial reviews as it made writing texts way more difficult than it needed to be. Since then, phone manufacturers have avoided like the plague physical buttons on touchscreens, but FIG’s Flat Panel Haptics could change that attitude. Devices would have a full keyboard instead of one big button.
There’s still plenty of work to do for FIG as you can imagine. In the paper, the researchers recognize several limitations like the shaky durability of these buttons and how much power it would take to run everything. Plus, it would make phones more bulky so perhaps tablets are a better fit. We'll just have to wait and see.
Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a story explaining how Apple had “lost the AI race” to the likes of OpenAI and Microsoft – and a new report from The Information digs deeper into the stagnation of Siri, the company’s once-groundbreaking virtual assistant.
Where the NYT sought to expose Siri’s technological shortcomings – the software is supposedly built on a “clunky” database that takes “weeks” to be updated with “basic features” – The Information’s report takes aim at the ongoing personnel issues facing Siri’s development.
According to “more than three dozen former Apple employees who worked in its AI and machine learning groups,” Apple’s attempts to improve Siri have been hampered by “organizational dysfunction and a lack of ambition,” with the software now “widely derided” by many still working at the company.
Per The Information, developers working on the Apple VR headset reportedly became so frustrated with Siri that they considered “building alternative methods” for controlling the headset with voice technology. Yikes.
So, why is there so much chaos surrounding Siri? By the sounds of things, the answer is two-fold. On the one hand, Apple has struggled to keep hold of employees crucial to the program’s development – or more specifically, it’s lost those individuals to Google.
The Information reports that the likes of Srinivasan Venkatachary, Steven Baker and Anand Shukla were lured away from Apple to Google; owing to the latter’s supposedly greater understanding of – or, at least, willingness to embrace – large language models (LLMs). Apple CEO Tim Cook allegedly “tried to persuade [these individuals] to stay” at the company, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai is said to have personally wooed them away.
The other problem – which plays into the above – is Apple’s supposed reluctance to take risks with AI and Siri. The Information reports that “top executives” at Apple are worried about seeing the company’s software make headline-worthy gaffes – of the sort we’ve seen from ChatGPT and Bard in recent months – since Apple is known for having a watertight public image.
What’s next for Siri?
As for where these revelations leave Siri, it’s clear that Apple isn’t expecting to revolutionize its virtual assistant any time soon.
Instead, while the likes of Google and Microsoft pile billions into chatbot development, Apple seems set to remain focused on delivering actual, physical products that trump the competition – a strategy which has proven staggeringly lucrative over the years.
Additionally, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that users may soon only need to say “Siri” instead of “Hey Siri” when activating the personal assistant. This would bring Apple’s assistant in line with Amazon’s Alexa, which has only required users to say “Alexa” since its launch in 2014. Tellingly, however, Gurman also notes that getting Siri to function correctly without the “Hey” has been a “technical challenge” requiring “a significant amount of AI training and underlying engineering work.”
Clearly, then, Apple’s failure to invest in AI development is already coming back to bite it. But until the likes of ChatGPT and Bard become irreplaceable mainstream tools, there’s little reason to think that Siri – as bad as it is right now – will impact Apple's continued dominance in the technology space. Alternatively, of course, you can just choose to bolster your Siri with ChatGPT for the best of both worlds.
The rumored Google Pixel 7a has leaked once again, and this time in a striking orange colorway.
This recent leak comes from Evan Blass – popularly known by his handle of EvLeaks – courtesy of his private Twitter account. It's a simple render showing the rear of the rumored Pixel 7a in orange. This color, from what we see in the render, extends to even the metal railings on the side.
The Google Pixel 7a is rumored to be making its debut on May 10 at Google IO 2023, and it's also expected to come in black, white, and blue shades.
Going by leaked specs, the same Tensor G2 chipset as the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7 Pro backed by 8GB of RAM is said to be making its way here. Improved fast charging, and a 64MP sensor – the first for any Pixel – are also expected to be in the Pixel 7a.
An oh-so-abbreviated history of color
While this is an eye-catching shade, it's also one that you might not be able to get everywhere, and it almost certainly won’t be sold with 256GB of storage. Google has a tendency to limit Pixels with larger storage sizes to more pedestrian colors, based on our experience in the past.
The Pixel 4a’s Barely Blue, and the 4a 5G’s Clearly White stand out as Pixel colorways that were limited in availability. This orange shade would also be the fourth rumored color for the Pixel 7a, and it's rare for Google to offer that many shades on a phone, so at least one of them is likely to be available in limited configurations or regions.
As for the orange color itself, Google has flirted with orange quite a few times. The Pixel 6 was sold in a Kinda Coral shade and the Pixel 4 had an Oh So Orange colorway. There are also rumors of the Pixel Tablet coming in orange, creating some synergy.
There haven’t been a huge number of Sony Xperia 1 V leaks, which is surprising, because the phone is just weeks away from launch.
We know this because Sony just took to both Twitter and YouTube to announce that the "Next ONE is coming" on May 11 (or May 10 in some parts of the world). So while the company didn’t go so far as to say the full name of the phone, it can hardly be talking about anything else.
That’s also not a surprising date at all, as the Sony Xperia 1 IV landed on May 11 last year, and a recent leak suggested the Xperia 1 V would be announced in May.
Next-gen Sensor. Next-gen Imaging. Next ONE is coming. Tune into our YouTube Premiere on 11th May, 2023 13:00 Japan Time / 06:00 CEST.#Sony #Xperia #SonyXperia #ProductAnnouncement #NextGenXperia #XperiaReveal #NextXperia #NextGenSensor #NextGenImaging #NextOneIsComingApril 27, 2023
The launch event is being held in Japan, which means the timings won’t be super sociable for most of our readers. It kicks off at 9pm PT on Wednesday May 10, which is 12am ET / 5am GMT / 2pm AEST on Thursday, May 11.
The event will be live-streamed on YouTube, and from the teaser video and accompanying text, we know that the Sony Xperia 1 V’s camera will be a big focus. The video zooms in on a camera sensor and shows someone taking a photo of a sunset (or possibly a sunrise), while the text mentions a "next-gen sensor" and "next-gen imaging."
So what should we take from that? Well, a post on Weibo (spotted by SumahoDigest) previously pointed to a larger 1/1.4-inch sensor being used, though notably that would still be somewhat smaller than the sensors found in some current rival phones, several of which boast a 1-inch sensor, not to mention there's Sony's own Xperia Pro-I from 2021.
Then again, such 1-inch sensors – found in the likes of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra – are actually made by Sony, so it would make sense for the company to use one in its own phones.
Whatever the case, a sensor size increase seems likely, as that could improve low light shots, which would be handy for the slightly dim scene in the teaser video.
Few upgrades and major competition
Beyond that, and the likely presence of a new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, we might not see many changes here, with leaks pointing to a similar design and the same 5,000mAh battery capacity and 6.5-inch screen size as the Sony Xperia 1 IV – though it might get 16GB of RAM, up from 12GB in the current model.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes Sony puts its phones on sale long after announcing them, so while the Xperia 1 V is being unveiled soon, you might not be able to buy it for a while.
Still, there are likely to be other options, because as well as the possibility that Sony itself will show off additional phones during the event (perhaps the Xperia 10 V, as the Sony Xperia 10 IV landed on May 11 last year too), we’re also expecting new Google phones that week.
Google IO 2023 kicks off on May 10, and reports suggest we’ll see the Pixel 7a and Pixel Fold there, along with the Pixel Tablet. It’s strange that Sony has decided to launch its flagship handset so close to Google’s event, but it should make for an exciting couple of days for phone fans.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 isn't that far away from launch, if the torrent of leaks so far is to be believed, with the company's next flagship foldable expected as early as July. But a new potential tidbit also fills in any blanks about the hardware this folding phone might be bringing to the table.
Lifted from Twitter-based tipster TheGalox_ – who has previously been the source of some solid Samsung foldable leaks – their latest post serves up a near-complete spec sheet that reinforces some details we'd already heard and adds a little more color to the picture of the expected Z Fold 5 that's already forming.
• Improved vibration motor • One UI 5.1.1• Spen support • IPX8 water resistance • New hinge • Less noticeable crease• Thinner and lighter • Improved Under Display Camera • Gorilla Glass Victus 2• More durable inner display • Smaller gap when closed≈ $1799April 25, 2023
Small but meaningful upgrades that haven't really been spoken about include brighter overall displays – compared to the current Galaxy Z Fold 4 – and a more potent vibration motor, which should make for richer, more responsive haptic feedback.
Camera upgrades have long been one of the most anticipated upgrades for the Fold line in general, with competent but not flagship-class optics on the current Z Fold 4. A 50MP lead sensor will reportedly front a triple rear camera setup, which also reportedly includes a 10MP and 12MP sensor, collectively thought to be similar (or perhaps identical) to the trio of cameras currently at play on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S23 (and S23 Plus), and capable of up to 8K video capture at 30fps.
The leak also doles out another mention of a tougher hinge (thought to be a waterdrop hinge), that's not only expected to be more resilient but will let the Fold 5 close with even less of a gap than the current Fold. This will also reportedly be paired to IPX8 water resistance once again (and not IP68 protection as was once thought), along with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and a hardier folding display as well.
Pricing is also referenced here as starting at $1,799 – the same as the launch price of the Z Fold 4, which arrived at $1,799 / £1,649 / AU$2,499 and came with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, just like the baseline Z Fold 5 is expected to (albeit with faster and more efficient UFS 4.0 storage at its disposal this year).
The Z Flip 5 gets laid bare too
If this bumper details dump wasn't enough, not long after their initial tweet thread on the Z Fold 5 did TheGalox_ fire off a second salvo of specs, this time for Samsung's other expected 2023 foldable – the clamshell Galaxy Z Flip 5.
There already seems to be more rumored detail about the Flip 5's hardware out in the open – which this second post also supports – but with the leak's focus on hardware, we're still in the dark about any potential new functionality the Z Flip (and Fold) 5 might be bringing to the table as part of their One UI 5.1.1 user experiences; functions like FlexCam mode, pictured above.
In both cases, it's unclear where TheGalox_ got their information, so although a lot of the figures and values listed in these tweets make sense and corroborate with previous purported leaks, we won't be counting our chickens until Samsung's next Unpacked event takes place; assumed to now be in July this year (rather than August, like last year).
The rumored Motorola Razr Ultra appears to have leaked, and in vibrant red color we’ve never seen from the series. Fans of the classic clamshell should be excited, as these latest leaks also showcase the software as well as a substantial, immersive cover display.
From the leaked images, we see a device that looks very much like, well, the current Motorola Razr 2022, albeit with some obvious advancements. The cover screen is much larger – interrupted only by the main camera. the software also looks a little different – taking advantage of that larger outer display, with new clock faces and themes that complement the color of the device’s bodywork – a ruby red, going off what we see.
These new leaks come from Evan Blass – a tipster popularly known as 'Evleaks' via a private Twitter account. They follow other leaked renders and news of Motorola’s plans for the expected Motorola Razr 2023, which claim there could be as many as two new foldables coming. Blass also claims that Motorola will not be launching a Motorola Razr Lite this year. Rather, it will be calling the smaller phone simply the ‘Motorola Razr’. According to reports, this one is expected to arrive in the US, unlike last year’s Razr, which saw a limited rollout, internationally.
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Bigger displays proliferate
Clamshell foldables continue to fill a market need for larger displays with smaller footprints. The external cover screens started out as being only suitable for notifications and small widgets, but growing them out means that these newer foldables can do more.
In our Oppo Find N2 Flip review (the clamshell foldable that currently holds the largest cover display on the market), we found its cover screen had potential, but felt restricted by developer uptake. Could Motorola have more luck in this arena? It remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, the more clamshell foldables there are, the more the chances that developers are going to take the form factor as a valid target, granting even more functionality to those cover displays.
The iPhone 15 rumor mill has been a frenzy of activity in recent weeks, and the latest intelligence has seemingly given us our best look yet at Apple’s next crop of top-level iPhones.
According to new CAD files obtained by 9to5Mac, the iPhone 15 Pro will indeed boast a more rounded design than its predecessor, the iPhone 14 Pro, along with thinner bezels and a USB-C charging port. An Apple Watch Ultra-style Action Button is visible on the new renders, too, which corroborates previous rumors that Apple will be replacing the traditional mute switch on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Ultra.
As for the iPhone 15 Ultra, specifically – which, as a reminder, is rumored to replace the iPhone 15 Pro Max in this year’s iPhone lineup – it looks as if the phone will inherit the same design changes as its Pro-level sibling, along with a slightly larger camera bump.
It’s worth noting that these new renders line up almost perfectly with the iPhone 15 Pro CAD designs previously obtained by 9to5Mac from the same source (see above). The only difference between the two sets of renders is the absence of solid-state buttons on the newer images, which fits with the rumor timeline regarding Apple’s reported decision to U-turn on the feature.
It’s also important to clarify that these renders remain just that – they aren’t officially associated with Apple in any way. That said, CAD designs are typically given to case manufacturers months in advance of a new phone’s launch, and with the iPhone 15 line expected to hit shelves in September, we’re inclined to believe that 9to5Mac’s source is reputable.
We’re now very close to the Google Pixel 7a’s expected launch at Google IO 2023 on May 10, but ahead of that an almost complete specs list for the handset has supposedly leaked, and it suggests this could be extremely similar to the standard Pixel 7.
According to leaker Yogesh Brar, speaking to 91Mobiles, the Pixel 7a has a 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, a Tensor G2 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 64MP main camera with optical image stabilization, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 10.8MP front-facing camera.
The Google Pixel 7a also apparently has a 4,400mAh battery that will supposedly last for up to 72 hours between charges, and when you do charge it you can apparently do so at 20W. Wireless charging is also mentioned, but no speed is given, though previous leaks have put that at just 5W.
Finally, it’s unsurprisingly said to run Android 13, and will apparently cost $499 (roughly £400 / AU$755).
These specs are largely things that we’ve heard before, albeit not all in one place, and we’ve heard that price before too. We’d still take all of this with a pinch of salt, but the source has a solid track record, and leaks tend to be quite accurate this close to launch.
If this is accurate then the Pixel 7a will be quite an upgrade on the Google Pixel 6a, with a higher refresh rate, a more powerful chipset, more megapixels in its main and selfie cameras, more RAM, marginally faster charging, and the addition of wireless charging.
More megapixels and a bigger battery
It would also, intriguingly, possibly be a better phone that the standard Pixel 7 in some ways. It would have more megapixels in its main camera for one – though we suspect the sensor in the Pixel 7a will be lower-end.
It would also have a slightly bigger battery, albeit with the same quoted 72 hours of longevity as the Pixel 7. In many other ways the Google Pixel 7a would match the Pixel 7 if these specs are right, including its chipset, RAM, resolution, refresh rate, ultra-wide and selfie cameras, and wired charging speeds.
Where the Google Pixel 7 would have the edge is in screen size, as it has a slightly larger 6.3-inch display, along with wireless charging speeds and storage, as while there’s a 128GB model available you can also get the Pixel 7 with 256GB of storage.
Still, overall these sound like extremely similar phones, and while the official US price of the Google Pixel 7 is $599, it can currently be found from around $530 on Amazon, so there might only be a $30 price difference between these two phones in reality – with similarly small differences likely in other regions.
Which one will come out on top in that case remains to be seen, but it does beg the question of whether we really need them both. Still, there are other Google devices to look forward to, with the Pixel Tablet and Pixel Fold also probably coming soon.
Few developments in human history have had as much an impact on everyday life as the mobile phone. The average person picks up their handset more than 50 times a day, not just to make and receive calls, but to send emails, stream video, and play games.
The ability to communicate with anyone else in the world from any location was revolutionary in itself. But since the 1980s, advances in technology have allowed the mobile phone to consume all other manners of personal electronics, including the calculator, the digital camera, the MP3 player, and the personal digital assistant (PDA).
Mobile phones are now as powerful as a home computer and mobile networks have advanced so that we have the entire internet in our pockets. We live in the era of the smartphone – a multi-purpose device that governs virtually every part of our existence, transforming society, entertainment, and the economy.
More than half the world owns a smartphone, and there are now more than 8.4 billion active mobile connections globally, according to Ericsson.
Early smartphones and the mobile internet
Adoption peaked in the 2010s, but the story of the smartphone goes back much further – to the very start of wireless communications. Even as the first commercial handsets made their way into the hands of those who could afford them, engineers were seeing how mobile networks could carry more than just voice traffic, while manufacturers were seeking to fuse the mobile phone with the computer.
The first devices we would recognise as smartphones appeared in the early 1990s. One of the most prized items in the Mobile Phone Museum’s collection is the IBM Simon. Launched in 1993, the IBM Simon was ahead of its time in acknowledging that the future of mobility and computing was converged, combining a mobile phone, with a graphical user interface (GUI), a file system, and productivity applications into a single package.
Announced in 1996, the Nokia 9000 Communicator appeared to be a standard handset on the outside but opened up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard and large display. It boasted an array of productivity tools, supported third party applications, and could even access the internet.
The pdQ, created by PDA pioneer Palm and Qualcomm, arrived in 1998, and the following year saw the first handset to market itself as a ‘smart phone’ arrive - The Ericsson R380. Ericsson’s effort used an operating system that eventually became Symbian and boasted a touchscreen – nearly a decade before it became an industry standard. It was almost beaten to the punch by another Ericsson handset, the Ericsson GS 88, a dual screen device that boasted two different operating systems - one for the phone part of the device and GEOS for the PDA element. Interestingly, this OS from Geoworks also powered the Nokia 9000 Communicator. In the end, Ericsson decided to go all-in on Symbian and the commercial launch of the GS 88 was abandoned with only 200 units ever made. This allowed the Ericsson R380 to take its place in history.
While many of the early smartphones included some sort of data transfer or primitive internet access, the majority of functions were self-contained. The advent of mobile broadband changed everything, powered by code-division multiple access (CDMA) technology, developed by Qualcomm in 1988, that allowed multiple radios to share the same frequencies and therefore increased the number of phones that a mast could support. CDMA transformed 2G and provided the foundation for 3G networks and the mobile internet revolution.
The first commercial 3G networks went live in 2002, unlocking a whole new wave of use cases that went beyond voice and text. Qualcomm’s efforts helped evolve mobile broadband into an infrastructure that could support video conferencing, streaming video, music, games, imaging and video recording. Transmission rates were glacial by today’s standards, but the ability to watch football highlights on the bus – minutes after the final whistle – was unprecedented.
The high cost of 3G spectrum licences in many markets, coupled with a lack of consumer demand, hindered the development of next-generation networks but the technology was essential in enabling the first wave of what we might recognise as the modern smartphone in the 2000s.
Nokia, which had created camera, music, and gaming phones, was at the forefront with the N95, while Microsoft’s periodic attempts to extend its desktop dominance to mobile saw several Windows Phone-powered efforts from several manufacturers.
But if there is one vendor who defined this era it was Research in Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry range. BlackBerry devices were void of gimmicks and were initially the preserve of businesspeople wanting to send and receive emails using a full QWERTY keyboard. However, their high production values and exclusivity made them highly desirable items among consumers – especially those who wanted access to the BlackBerry Messenger service (BBM).
The iPhone changes everything
Despite this hotbed of innovation, the most iconic and fondly remembered devices of the decade, such as the Motorola RAZR, the LG Chocolate, and the Sony Ericsson W800, weren’t actually smartphones. It would take arguably the most design-focused and influential technology company in the world to bridge this gap and make smartphones essential.
The history of the smartphone can be divided into two eras before and after 2007, the year the first iPhone hit the shelves. While Apple’s inaugural effort lacked an advanced camera, 3G connectivity, and even an App Store, its ability to fuse a mobile phone, iPod and an intuitive operating system into an attractive, full-touch screen design paved the way for a new era of mobility.
It might have been game over had it not been so quickly followed by the first Android-powered handset, the HTC-manufactured T-Mobile G1, just a year later. Android offered a competing operating system that would allow other manufacturers to create devices offering a similar experience to Apple’s gamechanger.
Android’s contribution would be matched by Qualcomm. The year 2007 also saw the first Snapdragon system-on-a-chip (SoC), giving smartphones access to 1GHz of processing power, the ability to support 720p video, 3D graphics, and a 12-megapixel camera. Snapdragon platforms would go on to power the majority of leading flagship handsets and transform what smartphones were capable of.
Qualcomm innovations can be found elsewhere in virtually every smartphone, whether its location-based services that power many common applications, wireless charging, and faster connectivity.
There were more than one billion 3G connections by 2010 but there was an understanding that even faster speeds and greater capacity would be needed to realise the full potential of these new mobile experiences. 4G, or Long Term Evolution (LTE), became the new global standard, delivering speeds similar to a home broadband connected and enhancing reliability.
By the mid-2010s, the world of mobility had converged around two ecosystems – Apple and Google. Efforts to offer a ‘third way’ fell by the wayside. Microsoft’s Windows Phone was much loved by its supporters but not even the acquisition of Nokia could establish it as a major player, BlackBerry OS 10 was too little too late, while upstarts like Tizen, Sailfish, Firefox OS, and Ubuntu Mobile failed to gain traction.
Applications were a key factor. When it launched in 2008, the App Store wasn’t the first mobile marketplace – Qualcomm’s BREW app store launched in 2001 and handled billions of transactions long before Apple had a phone – but it provided a platform for third party developers to get their wares onto the iPhone and generated an entire digital economy. Google Play, and a number of third party applications, did the same for Android.
Any challenger platform required the most popular apps on their device if they were to win over consumers, but developers weren’t going to support an OS if it didn’t have a large enough audience. It was a chicken and egg scenario.
The digital hub
The main form factor innovation of the period was size. Whereas the flip and slider phones of the 2000s were obsessed with packing more functionality into a smaller package, the phablet looked to bridge the gap between phone and tablet. Samsung’s Galaxy Note range was initially greeted with derision, but eventually commanded a loyal fanbase and influenced others to create larger screen devices – most notably Apple.
By the end of the decade, the smartphone had become the focal point for our digital lives, surpassing the home computer as the main method of access with the internet and digital services. Increasingly, mobile phones are now a hub for a range of other technologies, such as smartwatches, smart home appliances, and e-health sensors. The Internet of Things (IoT) is now a reality.
This trend will be accelerated by the further development of 5G networks capable of multi-gigabit speeds, huge advances in capacity, and ultra-low latency – characteristics that will enable entirely new applications in the field of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), cloud gaming, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Meanwhile, flexible display technology is ushering in a new era of form factor innovation, as evidenced by foldable handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, Galaxy Z Flip, and the Oppo Find N2 Flip. We could even see the advent of the ‘rollable’, if the Motorola Rizr concept phone ever comes to market.
The smartphone has come a long way since the days it was described as a ‘computer with a phone’ and, if recent launches are anything to go by, the future is incredibly exciting.
According to the same Weibo user who leaked the existence of the yellow iPhone 14 ahead of time, iOS 17 will bring changes to the iPhone lock screen, Control Center, App Library and Apple Music. CarPlay, Siri and Messages are also set for significant updates, per previous rumors regarding Apple’s next software overhaul.
It’s particularly surprising to hear that further improvements could be heading to your iPhone's lock screen, since Apple only introduced personalized iOS lock screens with iOS 16 (and we weren’t expecting additional customization options so soon). Specifically, the Weibo user in question reports that iOS 17 will let you customize lock screen font sizes, as well as share your custom lock screen designs with other iPhone users – presumably in the same way that Apple Watch faces can be shared between Apple Watch owners.
As for the Control Center, iOS 17 is expected to bring major UI changes to the helpful shortcut page, while custom categories and other organizational features are reportedly bound for your iPhone’s App Library.
Improvements on the agenda for Apple Music with iOS 17 include the ability to view song lyrics directly on your phone's lock screen, with Apple also set to place emphasis on reducing the amount of text in the Apple Music app, in favor of new images and graphics.
And finally, the aforementioned Weibo user reports that iOS 17 will overhaul your iPhone’s flashlight brightness slider, swapping the three preconfigured settings for a volume-style slider (though, in truth, has anyone ever actually used that feature?).
A not-so-little iOS update
News of these rumored iOS 17 improvements follows reports that Apple’s next software update will finally introduce app sideloading on iPhones – allowing you to install apps from sources outside of the official App Store – as well as bring major changes to Siri.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also reports that you may soon only need to say “Siri” instead of “Hey Siri” when activating Apple’s personal assistant, which would bring the latter in line with Amazon’s Alexa.
This is according to leaker @Tech_Reve (via Android Police), who claimed – in response to a leak about the Z Fold 5 having near identical dimensions to the Z Fold 4 – that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 will have a “major form factor change.”
They didn’t get more specific than that, but did say they’d recommend waiting for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 rather than buying the Z Fold 5.
This is because Samsung will keep the current form factor until Fold 5,but there will be a major form factor change starting with the Fold 6.I would recommend waiting for the Fold 6 rather than buying the Fold 5. https://t.co/2YxBajKlvbApril 25, 2023
We’d take this leak with a pinch of salt though, because while the source has accurately leaked things in the past, they don’t have an extensive track record yet. This is also extremely early for Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 leaks, with the phone not likely to land until July or August of 2024.
This leak does leave us wondering just what the form factor change could be though. One possibility is that the shape will be changed to allow for a wider cover screen, like you’ll find on the Oppo Find N2.
This would make the cover screen more like a normal smartphone display, whereas the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 has a narrow cover screen that’s a bit more awkward to use.
Samsung actually made the cover screen slightly wider on that phone than on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, so the company's clearly aware of the issue, but it’s still not wide enough.
Alternatively, if this really is a “major” form factor change, then perhaps Samsung will take inspiration from the likes of the current Huawei Mate Xs 2, which has just one big foldable screen, but remains usable when folded in half, as the display is on the outside rather than the inside. We doubt that though, as it’s a design that even Huawei has moved away from (judging by the recent release of the Huawei Mate X3).
These, we’d think, are too much of a change for Samsung to replace the current form factor with though, and in the case of the rollable and slidable options, the Fold name wouldn’t really fit.
As such, our best guess for now is simply a change in aspect ratio to allow for a wider cover screen, but whatever the change, it could make Samsung’s best foldable phone contender of 2024 a lot more exciting than the upcoming 2023 model.