Samsung Galaxy S8 Will Not Have 3.5mm Headphone Jack, Home Button, Say Reports

Samsung Galaxy S8 may be part of the joining the list of smartphones that have abandoned the 3.5mm headphone jack, if a new report is to be believed. The South Korean giant will reportedly remove the audio jack from the upcoming flagship Samsung Galaxy S8. Another report separately claims that Galaxy S8 will also not include a Home Button while the front camera will come with the autofocus feature.

Sammobile reports that the Samsung Galaxy S8 will only come with a USB Type-C port, and come with a 3.5mm-headphone-to-USB Type-C adapter. This will also mean that without the 3.5mm jack, Galaxy S8 users won’t be able to use headphones while charging the device. This year, LeEco, Motorola, and Apple were among the brands that launched smartphones without the 3.5mm audio jack.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Will Not Have 3.5mm Headphone Jack, Home Button, Say ReportsAnother report separately claims that Samsung Galaxy S8 may also ditch the company’s signature Home Button. The new report, in-line with an earlier report, suggests Samsung will not embed the fingerprint scanner in the home button, and will instead have it under the Galaxy S8 screen. An earlier report said that Samsung may use pressure-sensitive display technology on its next flagship. Samsung’s pressure-sensitive display technology is expected to work similarly to Apple’s 3D Touch technology first introduced on the iPhone 6s.

Sammobile also reports that Samsung Galaxy S8 will have a high screen-to-body ratio while the design will be reminiscent of the dead Galaxy Note 7. The report also claims that Samsung will opt for a standard RGB arrangement for the Galaxy S8 for the reason that it will have more shelf live and less power consumption. It also adds that Samsung stick with the 2K resolution screen seen on the Galaxy S7.

A recent trademark filing also indicates Samsung Galaxy S8’s front camera may sport autofocus functionality. Sammobile points that a new trademark filing at the European Union Intellectual Property Office shows the term “Smart AF” which might be used on the Galaxy S8 front camera. The trademark filing describes the functionality associated with “mobile phones; smartphones; tablet computers; autofocus photographic cameras for mobile phones, smartphones.”

Rumours so far have claimed that Samsung Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone will be launched on the side-lines of MWC 2017 in Barcelona on February 26.

Samsung updates their Android browser to introduce ad blocking

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Whenever Apple introduces a new feature on its smartphone, it’s only a matter of time before that feature finds its way to Samsung’s mobile products. Case in point: an over the air update has introduced ad blocking to Samsung’s Android web browser, after Apple debuted a similar feature on iOS last year.

Samsung’s ad blocking system for their browser works in a similar way to Apple’s in that it allows developers to create ad blocking extensions, rather than offering ad blocking as a native feature within the browser. It also only works with Samsung Internet, the company’s in-house and default browser for their Android devices, not Chrome or third-party alternatives.

Unsurprisingly, the first ad blocking extensions for Samsung Internet have appeared alongside the update that allows ad blocking. AdBlock Fast, available through the Google Play Store, is a popular extension already found on iOS and on desktop versions of Chrome and Opera. It’s free to install and open source, and its developer claims it can speed up the web browsing experience by 51 percent on average.

Crystal, another ad blocking extension already available on iOS, is also now available for Samsung Internet, again as a free download.

To use ad blocking on your Samsung device, at the moment you’ll need to be running Android 6.0 with Samsung Internet 4.0 installed. In the future, Samsung will release an update that will bring the same functionality to devices running Android 4.2 and higher.

Google removes Adblock Fast app from Play Store, others to follow?

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Samsung earlier this week added support for ad blocking via its new content blocker extension API. What that means is third-party developers can now create apps that, when installed, block ads when using Samsung Internet Browser, the company’s own mobile web browser.

As you can imagine, third-party developers jumped at the opportunity and have since published ad-blocking apps on Google Play. Google, however, isn’t terribly thrilled with this development and is reportedly pulling such apps from its mobile store.

One of those yanked apps is Adblock Fast from startup Rocketship Apps. The app shot up the free charts in the Productivity category, amassing more than 50,000 installs and a 4.25 star rating this week before being pulled.

Rocketship Apps CEO Brian Kennish told TechCrunch that Google said the app was removed for violating “Section 4.4” of the Android Developer Distribution Agreement. That section states that developers aren’t allowed to publish apps that interfere with the operation of other services or apps.

In this case, Samsung has granted developers permission to block apps in its mobile browser but that apparently doesn’t matter to Google. Of course, that’s not surprising considering the bulk of Google’s revenue comes from its advertising business.

Interestingly enough, similar ad blockers like Crystal for Samsung Internet and Adblock Plus (Samsung Browser) are still available on Google Play. It’s unclear if they will remain live or if Google simply hasn’t got around to pulling them down yet.

Your next smartphone may include 256GB of storage courtesy of Samsung

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Samsung on Thursday announced that it is now mass-producing 256GB embedded memory chips for mobile devices.

The chips, based on Samsung’s V-NAND technology, utilize the Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 standard and are physically smaller than a microSD card. Capacity, however, is only half of the story as the new memory chips are also incredibly fast.

Samsung says they take advantage of two lanes of data transfer which allows for sequential read speeds of up to 850MB/sec. That’s nearly twice as fast as the average SATA-based solid state drive. They’re a bit slower on the write side as sequential writes check in at up to 260MB/sec.

Random read IOPS (input / output operations per second) are rated at 45,000 with random write IOPS at 40,000. For comparison, Samsung says the previous generation of UFS memory was good for 19,000 and 14,000 read / write IOPS, respectively.

The South Korean technology giant says one 256GB chip can store about 47 full HD movies. For smartphones that support USB 3.0, users will be able to transfer a 5GB movie in about 12 seconds. It’ll obviously take a little longer to transfer, say, a 4K movie, but it’ll still be much faster than what’s available today.

It’s refreshing to see companies continue to push the limits of local flash storage, especially when you consider microSD card slots are becoming less common on flagship phones. Cloud storage is a solid alternative but it’s not a perfect solution as accessing it without a Wi-Fi connection will eat into your monthly data allotment (not to mention the fact that you can’t access it at all if you hit a cellular / Wi-Fi dead zone).

Samsung said it will increase its production volume in line with increases in global demand.

What are you most looking forward to at MWC 2016 for your next phone upgrade?

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Mobile World Congress 2016 will be kicking off soon and we’ll be there to bring you the latest and greatest in the mobile world. Traditionally the show has been associated with cell phones, but you can expect to see everything from accessories, to tablets, chips, fitness trackers, action cameras, VR and more.

While MWC officially starts on February 22, announcements will start earlier than that. Samsung and LG have events set for Sunday where we’ll get a first (official) look at the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5. Also joining the MWC party for the first time is Xiaomi, which specializes in high-spec but affordable devices and might introduce two new versions of its flagship Mi phone. Of course there will be much more in store with companies like Sony, Acer, Blackberry, HTC, Huawei, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft all headed for Barcelona. Expect Virtual Reality to have a big presence at MWC 2016 too.

In this weekend’s open forum we want to ask what are you most looking forward to at MWC 2016? We’ve included a poll with some of the rumored announcements and confirmed showings so far but be sure to chime in on the comments as well.

Samsung showcases heatpipe-cooled Galaxy S7 family with f/1.7 aperture cameras, IP68 rating and more

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Samsung on Sunday announced two new additions to its Galaxy family of mobile devices, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display (2,560 x 1,440 / 577 PPI) with an always-on feature that’s powered by a quad-core SoC (two cores operating at 2.15GHz and two operating at 1.6GHz) alongside 4GB of RAM. FYI, international markets will get an octa-core chip (four cores operating at 2.3GHz and four cores clocked at 1.6GHz).

Both chips are built on a 14-nanometer manufacturing process, Samsung said, and utilize an internal heatpipe cooling system to ensure overheating won’t be an issue.

The Galaxy S7 edge, meanwhile, packs a larger 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED Edge display (2,560 x 1,440 / 534 PPI) that’s powered by the same SoC and 4GB of RAM. Both handsets come with a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel rear-facing camera with f/1.7 aperture lens and optical image stabilization as well as a 5-megapixel selfie camera, also with an f/1.7 aperture lens for improved performance in low light situations.

Samsung says the CPU in its new smartphones is 30 percent faster than what’s found in the Galaxy S6 and the GPU is about 60 percent faster.

The two smartphones will be offered in your choice of 32GB or 64GB of local storage that’s expandable via microSD card slot unlike its predecessors. Both phones feature LTE Category 9, wireless charging that’s compatible with WPC and PMA, NFC, MST, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi, MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, ANT+, USB 2.0 and a variety of embedded sensors.

They also come IP68 rated for liquid and dust resistance meaning the devices can be submerged in a meter and a half of water for up to 30 minutes without incurring damage.

The smaller Galaxy S7 packs a 3,000mAh battery while the larger edge is powered by a 3,600mAh. Neither is removable but it’s still an improvement over the devices they replace without a change in their footprint.

Both handsets will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow as we saw them in action on the demo floor already running the OS smoothly with the usual Samsung skin.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge will be available starting mid-March. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced although the company did say that anyone who orders a new Galaxy phone will receive a Gear VR as a free gift. AT&T will begin accepting pre-orders for both phones on February 23 with devices landing in stores March 11.

Samsung Portable SSD T3 1TB

Samsung’s ultra-compact T1 SSD made a strong impression around this time last year when it topped our performance charts as the quickest USB 3.0 storage device we’d ever tested.

Having been based on an mSATA version of the company’s SSD 850 Evo, the T1 shared similar performance to that TLC SSD, and although USB 3.0 doesn’t offer quite as much bandwidth as SATA 6Gb/s, Samsung touted sequential read and write speeds of 450MB/s, which at the time was more than twice that of the fastest thumb drive we’d handled.

Upon release the T1 series was $180 for the smallest 250GB model, $300 for the 500GB unit that we tested and $600 for the 1TB flagship. Now 13 months later the T1 pricing has been adjusted somewhat and the huge 1TB model can be had for just $360, 40% less than its debut price.

Having lowered its T1 series to a new price bracket, Samsung has made room for a newcomer — no, not the T2 series, but rather T3. The new Samsung Portable SSD T3 drives will be available in four capacities ranging from 250GB all the way up to 2TB.

The company tells us that the T3 features several significant upgrades based on the T1’s consumer feedback.

The key upgrade as far as we can tell is the change from USB 3.0 to USB 3.1, providing the T3 series with the easier to use and more convenient USB Type-C connection. That being said, let’s move on to discover all of said significant upgrades.

Samsung T3

Samsung has enjoyed a lot of success with its SSDs over the past few years and its current drives are as good as ever. The SSD 850 Pro is the world’s fastest 2.5″ SATA SSD, while the SSD 850 Evois arguably the best value going.

Both are based on Samsung’s proprietary 3D Vertical NAND (V-NAND) technology which overcomes cell-to-cell interference by stacking cell layers in 3D like manner. Stacking 32 cell layers of cells on top of one another allows for greater density and more performance without an increase in size, while overcoming the interference and manufacturing challenges which had previously limited progress.

Having already proved this technique with the SSD 850 range, Samsung released an external portable SSD known as the T1 in early 2015. The T1 was essentially an mSATA 850 Evo stuffed in a sleek enclosure with a SATA to USB 3.0 adapter card.

The 850 Evo 500GB boasts read and write speeds of 540 to 520MB/s over SATA 6Gb/s. Since USB 3.0 offers slightly less bandwidth, the T1 was limited to read and write throughputs of 450MB/s.

Now we have the T3, though from a performance point of view little appears to have changed. Samsung is still claiming the same sequential 450MB/s performance despite upgrading to the USB 3.1 spec. There’s good reason for this however as the T3 is based on the USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps) spec rather than Gen2 (10Gbps).

As the T3 is still based on an mSATA SSD the dimensions are similar to the original model. The T3 measures just 74.0mm wide, 10.5mm thick and 58mm deep, or a fraction larger than the T1. The heaviest T1 model came in at just 30 grams while the T3 2TB model will tip the scales at 51 grams, and while that’s much heavier, it’s still extremely light.

Being compact and light, the T3 feels sleek but it also looks the part thanks to a mostly metal enclosure. The T1 features an all-plastic enclosure and didn’t look or feel particularly durable.

The T3’s metal case with shock-resistant internal frame increases the durability for tough environments. It can withstand up to 1500G of force and will survive a drop of up to two meters.

Included in the package is an 11cm USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-A cable that’s been custom designed for the T3, though there is nothing special about the cable besides its appearance. The cable is short because the T3 is designed to be used much like a thumb drive and thanks to its lightweight design it can hang from the cable safely while it’s plugged in.

If you want a longer wire, any USB 3.1 Type-C cable will do the trick. On that note it would have been great if Samsung also included a USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-C cable as well.

Samsung’s portable SSD works effortlessly with both Windows and Mac PCs using the exFAT file system, eliminating the hassle of having to reformat for every type of computer.

The T3 can connect with not just PCs but also Android mobile devices and large screens (Smart TVs). This means users can now send content to and from PCs, access content through Android mobile devices, and view multimedia on large screens, including TVs, with ease and reliability. The T3 also comes coupled with a brand-new complementary Samsung Portable SSD Android mobile app to make password changes and remaining capacity checks easy and convenient.

Additionally, those concerned with security will appreciate the T3’s support for AES 256-bit hardware encryption along with an optional password to access the drive. Samsung has included some basic software to set up the T3 for the first time and this lets you apply a password.

The MSRPs for the various T3 models are set at $130 for the smallest 250GB model, $220 for the 500GB unit, $430 for the 1TB model that we are testing, and $850 for the flagship 2TB drive. Samsung backs the series with a three-year warranty. Ideally, we would have appreciated an extended five-year warranty, particularly for the $850 2TB drive.

The devices formerly known as smartphones

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Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has served as the location for major smartphone announcements for a long time, so it’s no surprise to see that happening again this year. Splashy introductions have been made by Samsung, LG, Lenovo and other usual suspects.

But there is an important twist for 2016. It stems from the transformation of smartphone-sized devices that has been going on for several years now. In essence, the question boils down to this: when is a smartphone no longer (or not primarily) a smart ”phone”?

For many younger people, arguably that’s been the case for quite some time. We know they essentially use their phones as mobile computing devices and very rarely use the traditional phone features. In fact, in a survey of over 1,000 US consumers done last fall by TECHnalysis Research, voice calling only represents 5.8% of the 18-24-year-old segment’s total smartphone usage time. Even with older consumers in the 45-54 age group, voice calling and texting together only account for just over ¼ of a typical user’s smartphone time. The rest is spent on more computing-device type activities, such as browsing the web, listening to music, gaming, reading email, social media, etc.

Alongside these consumer trends, we’ve seen tremendous changes in work habits. For example, in that same survey, over half of employed respondents said they used a personal phone for work tasks during a typical week, spending an average of 2.3 hours on those efforts. While a good portion of this is likely for email, there’s no question a large amount of time is spent doing work-related, computing-style tasks on our personal smartphones. Throw in the large number of employer-provided smartphones in active use where—theoretically, at least—most of the time spent is on work tasks, and the total hours of computing done on smartphones becomes enormous. Plus, this is just for the US, where PC penetration is quite high. In many developing regions, smartphones are essentially the only computing device many people own or have access to. As a result, smartphone-based computing on a global basis is now on a staggering scale.

Given this context, thinking of a smartphone as more of a traditional computing device than just a communications tool seems incredibly obvious. But for many traditional applications, there is that one thing — screen size.

Now, as someone who finds reading glasses to be an increasingly necessary accessory, I’ll admit I don’t have the razor sharp eyes of my youth. I also acknowledge that it never ceases to amaze me how much today’s young people can do on the 5-5.5”-sized screens the smartphone industry has coalesced around. Still, there is a limit that most people face when it comes to what they can achieve on these smaller screens, particularly when a fair amount of input is required.

That’s why I’m intrigued by HP’s new Elite X3. At first glance, the 6-inch Qualcomm Snapdragon 820-powered device looks to be just another smartphone—a Windows 10 Mobile-based one at that. But in conjunction with some of the hardware accessories the company specifically developed to be used alongside it, along with the capabilities of Windows 10 Mobile’s Continuum features, the X3 can morph into a full-on, big-screen computing device.

Now, cynics will argue we’ve seen this before. Anyone remember the Motorola Atrix? Or how about Microsoft’s own Lumia 950 from last fall? Both notable but ultimately failed efforts to develop a smartphone form factor computer. The difference with the X3, however, is the focus and detailed vision. On the Atrix and Lumia 950, the computing features were add-ons to an existing smartphone. The X3 seems to be positioned and designed primarily as a computer, with the smartphone capabilities essentially built in.

On the Atrix and Lumia 950, the computing features were add-ons to an existing smartphone. The HP X3 seems to be positioned and designed primarily as a computer, with the smartphone capabilities essentially built in.

Admittedly, that may sound like semantics and, of course, whether the final execution lives up to the promise remains to be seen. However, a quick glance at some of the details suggests HP has thought things through pretty well. First, the hardware accessories—particularly the clamshell form factor Mobile Extender, with its 12.5” HD screen, three USB Type-C, micro HDMI and audio ports—add a whole new level of connectivity and input options to the phone-based computing experience. You connect the X3 to the Mobile Extender via one of the USB Type-C ports—where you’ll get the added benefit of being able to power and recharge the X3 through the Mobile Extender’s built-in battery—but HP will enable also wireless connections, though that may come after the product launches.

On the software side, because it’s Windows 10 Mobile-based, the full Microsoft Office suite is built-in. As an ARM-based device, however, there is the potential for compatibility problems with existing Windows apps (other than newer universal Windows 10 apps, which can run natively on Windows 10 Mobile ARM devices, but those applications are still very limited in number). To avoid the Windows RT-like incompatibility stigma, HP is working to provide a virtualization-based solution that will allow traditional x86-based apps to run on the X3—a huge boon for most potential users.

Even with all these efforts, it’s not clear to me a device like the X3 will become most people’s only, or even primary, computing device. Nevertheless, in a world where people are looking for more flexible computing options, and are accustomed to working across multiple devices, the X3 concept seems to be well timed.

Mobile World Congress also saw the debut of some smartphone form factor computing devices from Panasonic. The company’s new ToughPad FZ-F1 and FZ-N1 (Windows 10 IOT Mobile Enterprise and Android-based, respectively) are ruggedized, have a 4.7” screen and are Qualcomm Snapdragon 801-equipped handheld computers with integrated barcode scanners. At first glance they look like ruggedized smartphones with a large protrusion (for the barcode reader), but interestingly the company will actually be selling a version that supports WiFi only (and can do voice via VOIP), in addition to an LTE-equipped option. Though clearly not designed to be a general purpose computing device, like the HP X3, these Panasonic FZ devices exemplify how hardware companies are evolving smartphone form factors to meet unique mobile computing needs.

To be sure, the “traditional” smartphone will continue to be the dominant opportunity for these 5” screen-based devices for some time. But as the category matures and dramatic new technology innovations for them continue to slow, it’s clear we’re entering an era where smartphones, as we know them now, will likely cease to be.