This is Google’s no-notch Pixel 3 smartphone

Well, it was bound to happen. After several consecutive weeks of leaks spilled nearly every detail about its larger Pixel 3 XL counterpart, the first real-world photos of Google’s Pixel 3 have been posted to the Pixel subreddit and republished by 9to5Google. And just as we’d anticipated, the front of the phone looks like a mini Pixel 2 XL; there’s no notch to be seen on this one. The photos also confirm stereo front-facing speakers, dual selfie cameras, and the same rear, all-glass design as the 3 XL (with a matte coating covering a good portion of it).

Today’s leak reveals the 5.5-inch display will have a resolution of 2160×1080 and 2:1 aspect ratio. The battery capacity is said to be 2,915mAh. According to screenshots that came from the phone, the two front-facing cameras are each 8-megapixel sensors. One has an aperture of f/1.8, the other f/2.2; it’s believed that Google is taking this two-camera approach to allow for wide-angle shots — and maybe a more secure face authentication feature, but there’s still no hard evidence of that. Somewhat interesting is that the dock at the bottom has seven apps in it, though we could just be looking at a third-party launcher. And yes, it definitely seems that the Pixel is moving to gesture navigation.

I don’t know about the rest of you Pixel fans out there, but I’m sold on this one. I just can’t do that notch, and for right now, I think I’m willing to trade some screen resolution and battery to avoid it.

Google is expected to hold the Pixel 3 launch event on October 9th in New York City. Aside from Google’s own Project Fi, Verizon will reportedly remain the exclusive US carrier of both phones.

The Pixel 3 XL notch might house a wide-angle camera for selfies

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL leaks keep coming, and today, 9to5Google reports additional details on both devices’ camera setups. The report says that both devices’ rumored dual, front-facing cameras will house one wide-angle sensor, so users can take “Super Selfies.” These cameras would also ship with an improved portrait mode. Google seems to be sticking with the single, rear-facing camera.

Every leak we’ve seen so far shows that Google is leaning into the notch trend with one at the top of both devices, and 9to5Google says that the dual-camera system could be used to create a new facial recognition system, but the publication’s source didn’t give much in the way of confirmation. This source also tells 9to5Google that the phones will ship with a new Visual Core chip that’ll allow for additional functionality. But again, there are no details provided.

Wide-angle selfies are nothing new. LG’s G6 phone, among others, allows users to take wide-angle selfies. It’s a nice feature, especially if you’re taking photos with a group. Meanwhile, a Russian tech blog published leaks of the Pixel 3 itself this week, as well as images taken from the Pixel 3 XL’s cameras. They look great, if they’re legitimate. Google’s Pixel phones are known for their incredible photographic capabilities, so there’s no doubt it’ll be a focus of the company’s announcement.

Despite being shunned in America, Huawei is flourishing in Europe

When major smartphone manufacturers talk about growth, they generally target three different markets: China, which is the biggest; the United States, which is highly influential and profitable; and the rest. India will soon rise from the latter pile, but until it does, Europe might be the most interesting battleground for the respective companies dominating the US and Chinese spheres. Until very recently, Western Europe looked a lot like the United States, with Samsung commanding more than a third of the market, Apple in a close second spot, and minnows picking up the scraps. But IDC’s latest data, as provided to The Verge, shows China’s Huawei enjoying a meteoric rise since the start of 2017. Yes, the same Huawei that the US government advises its citizens to avoid.

In the first quarter of 2017, IDC reports Huawei shipped 3.6 million phones in Europe and had a respectable 11.4 percent share of the market. That number has been on a steady upward climb and is now nearly double, sitting at 6.7 million for the second quarter of 2018. Huawei’s growth, combined with the seasonality of Apple’s releases, has earned the Chinese company an impressive 24.8 percent European market share, rising above Apple.

Western Europe (Unit Shares)

Company 2017Q1 2017Q2 2017Q3 2017Q4 2018Q1 2018Q2
Company 2017Q1 2017Q2 2017Q3 2017Q4 2018Q1 2018Q2
Samsung 33.80% 36.40% 35.50% 27.10% 35.90% 32.40%
Huawei 11.40% 13.50% 14.00% 14.70% 16.60% 24.80%
Apple 28.10% 23.90% 25.20% 33.00% 27.20% 22.50%
Xiaomi 0.10% 0.10% 0.30% 0.60% 2.10% 3.80%
Wiko 3.20% 3.30% 4.80% 3.60% 2.50% 3.00%
Others 23.40% 22.80% 20.20% 21.00% 15.60% 13.50%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Source: IDC

Western Europe (Units)

Company 2017Q1 2017Q2 2017Q3 2017Q4 2018Q1 2018Q2
Company 2017Q1 2017Q2 2017Q3 2017Q4 2018Q1 2018Q2
Samsung 10,774,049 10,363,260 11,537,554 10,410,900 10,479,085 8,811,913
Huawei 3,627,332 3,858,021 4,541,571 5,674,960 4,832,710 6,737,866
Apple 8,946,244 6,813,829 8,196,538 12,701,213 7,956,361 6,125,412
Xiaomi 18,554 35,933 82,618 233,539 621,352 1,044,046
Wiko 1,015,687 935,055 1,560,111 1,367,759 742,424 817,825
Others 7,447,803 6,484,904 6,575,176 8,090,354 4,568,151 3,672,018
Total 31,829,669 28,491,002 32,493,568 38,478,725 29,200,083 27,209,080

Source: IDC

The ranking is likely to switch back in Apple’s favor once the latest refresh of the iPhone is on Apple Store shelves in September, but Huawei’s ascent remains impressive, and the linearity of its growth suggests it’s not topped out yet. Another Chinese company that’s racked up impressive growth is Xiaomi, which wasn’t even in the European market at this time last year but is now the fourth biggest smartphone vendor, approaching 4 percent share. Xiaomi today also released its first official earnings release after going public, and the report reinforces the theme from IDC’s data, with Xiaomi exhibiting strong growth everywhere and diversifying to more international sources of revenue.

The notable thing about this shift is that Huawei and Xiaomi have long been among the leaders of China’s phone market, which has typically been insular, dominated by devices that don’t make the transition overseas. This year especially, those companies are making a major push westward: Huawei is launching its current flagship P20 Pro in Paris, Xiaomi is launching multiple devices in Madrid, and fellow Chinese manufacturer Oppo is choosing the Louvre as the venue for its Find X launch.

What this change signals is that European phone markets will increasingly look like a blend of the US and Chinese ones, featuring both the traditional giants Apple and Samsung as well as the rapidly growing Chinese alternatives like Huawei and Xiaomi.

Sony made a pretty infographic to explain why Android updates can be so slow

Sony knows you want Android Pie, and it’s working on it. It promises to get it to you by November, so long as you own an Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Premium, XZ2 Compact, Xperia XZ Premium, XZ1, or XZ1 Compact. To tide you over before the update actually reaches your phone and you see all your upgraded friends enjoying it, Sony has published an infographic to teach you about phone updates.

It’s not Sony’s fault that updates are slow; blame it on the machine that is a new Android OS rollout. You see, Sony has to optimize the OS for its hardware; add its own personal touches; test it internally; test it externally; make sure it meets certain standards; and ensure the devices actually work with carriers. It’s a tough job being a phone maker, I guess.

This infographic isn’t inaccurate, to be clear. A lot of work goes into updating a phone, but Android device makers have notoriously been terrible about keeping phones current. I appreciate Sony’s effort to explain the process, but ultimately, it doesn’t excuse the company from failing to deliver timely updates or ignoring all but its most recent, high-end devices.

Here’s the graphic if you want to educate yourself on Sony’s plight:


Sony

Sony notes that XA2, XA2 Ultra, and XA2 Plus owners will also see the update, but not until 2019. If you’re already done digesting that infographic, feel free to check out our Android Pie review to see what you’re currently missing.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is shaping up to be the anti-Note 7

Two summers ago, Samsung had its Icarus moment with the Galaxy Note 7. That device combined the traditional strengths of the Note line — big screen, large battery, and handy stylus — with the slender proportions of a regular phone. But it also had a design flaw that led to its spontaneous combustion, which in turn triggered rushed recalls, a global apology tour, and a substantial hit to Samsung’s bottom line. Singed by the memory of its hubristic excess of ambition, Samsung is returning to the Note series this year with a Galaxy Note 9 that appears to be the precise opposite: a phone so incremental in its upgrades as to scarcely merit the uptick in model number. And that’s a problem for Samsung.

Like the Galaxy S9 earlier this year, the Note 9 is set to reprise all the major features and design elements of its predecessor, the Note 8, with only peripheral changes. Plentiful leaks ahead of today’s event show a device that has the new dual-aperture camera of the S9, which is little more than a cool marketing gimmick. The Note 9 looks like it’ll be Samsung’s first 512GB phone, which will be nice to have, but not an overriding reason to buy this phone (unless you have truly hardcore storage needs). And, lest we forget, one of the new Note models will have a bright yellow S Pen, and the stylus is getting a Bluetooth update for mysterious new functionality. Will any of that be enough to get you to look away from Huawei’s P20 Pro, Oppo’s Find X, or Apple’s iPhone X?

The situation that Samsung finds itself in today is quite peculiar. As a preeminent supplier of phone components and memory, the company benefits no matter who’s selling smartphones, and it continues to be the world’s most prolific phone maker. And yet, its run of record profits came to an abrupt end this year, ostensibly owing to slow Galaxy S9 sales. The reason for the Galaxy line’s slump in popularity is fairly obvious: people have rightly interpreted the 2018 iteration as Samsung essentially reissuing the Galaxy S8 in new garb.

The moment that Samsung took its foot off the hardware innovation pedal, its buyers’ enthusiasm waned. What this says to me is that Samsung can’t get away with taking a year off the same way that Apple can with its “S” models of iPhones. Because Apple has its sticky software ecosystem and diversity of lock-in hardware accessories, most iPhone users are loyal to a fault. Regular upgrade cycles, prominent promotion at carrier stores, you already know the tale of the iPhone’s perennial success. Samsung has earned many of the same advantages, especially in the US market, but what it lacks is Apple’s “choice of models, not supplier” scenario. If you don’t like the latest Samsung flagship, you can go to another Android vendor with ease.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is confronting a challenge even more severe than the Galaxy S9 because of a simple, often overlooked, reason: its price will be even higher. The Note 8 was Samsung’s most sincere push into $1,000 phone territory, and the most appealing 512GB variant of the Note 9 is sure to rise past that marker. But the Note 8 was the first functional Galaxy Note for two years; it was Samsung’s redemption, and it marked another nice improvement in design. The Note 9 will have to do something surprising and exceptional on the software front to just match that level of appeal. Having the fingerprint sensor in the right spot won’t be enough by itself.

Samsung’s chronic shortage of genuine user loyalty is at the heart of the motivation behind the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. Conscious that it had to constantly push hardware boundaries, Samsung went too far too quickly, and it suffered the consequences. But with the Note 9, it seems the company is overextending in the opposite direction, playing it safe in a year when everyone else in the Android world is maintaining the ecosystem’s typical breakneck pace of change and innovation.

It’s not that Samsung hasn’t tried to create reasons to own its phones beyond their technical superiority. Milk Music was one attempt, the Galaxy app store has been another, and the sad superfluous clown that is the Bixby digital assistant is yet another. The fact is that Samsung has simply failed. The latest software effort could work, however, as Samsung is leaning on someone else’s hype: the Note 9 is expected to have a limited-time exclusive on Fortnite for Android. That may be the spur that some people need to hand Samsung a fresh handful of cash, but the effect won’t last long, certainly not long enough to bridge the gap until the 2019 Galaxy Note.

To a greater or lesser extent, Samsung’s 2018 can be seen as a gap year. Rumors and reports about the company’s folding-screen phones suggest the first of that kind could be launched as early as the first half of 2019. If Samsung is truly convinced that those devices are its future, the barely upgraded Galaxy S9 and Note 9 start to make some sense. In its push to perfect its next generation of devices, the company may be sacrificing some sales today, which it can hope to recover by once again being a tech leader in the near future.

Samsung knows that it’s hard to build brand loyalty on a foundation of derivative design. And it should also know by now that its ability to generate user affinity through software is mediocre at best. So the company’s solution could be a return to the Galaxy Note 7 way of thinking, an ultra-ambitious leap into the next stage of smartphone design, but that step isn’t going to happen today. The Galaxy Note 9 is most probably going to be a good but unexciting reiteration of Samsung’s existing strengths, with a flash of Fortnite flair thrown in.

Google Pixel 3 XL leak appears to show production hardware and wired USB-C Pixel Buds

We’re still presumably months away from the official Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL announcement, but that isn’t stopping the leakers. The latest images of Google’s next flagship appear to show finalized production hardware and what seems to be a pair of wired USB-C Pixel Buds.

The pictures come from Russian tech blogger Канал Лучкова’s Telegram channel (via Android Police), and they’re in line with earlier images we saw from other Pixel 3 XL leaks, including the already controversial notch. In these admittedly less-than-ideal shots, it appears to be a bit deeper than some users would like. (The Verge’s resident notch expert, Vlad Savov, commented that he finds it to be “the worst of all the notches so far.”) This time, the engineering emblem on the back seen in prior leaks has been replaced by Google’s G logo, so the phone has seemingly moved much closer to final production.


Photo: Канал Лучкова (via Android Police)

Also in the leaks are images of what looks like a bundled pair of wired USB-C headphones that Google might include in the box with the Pixel 3 line. Back when the Pixel 2 first launched, there was considerable evidence that Google was working on a wired version of its Pixel Bud headphones to ship with the phone. There was even an early packaging design that had a slot for the headphones, and it outright mentioned them in the manual.

Instead, Google only included a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, much to the frustration of users who had to deal with the incredibly poor offerings of USB-C headphones on the market. If the leak is to be believed, the Pixel 3 won’t force users to deal with that issue again.


Photo: Канал Лучкова (via Android Police)

Google is expected to announce the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL sometime in early October, if previous launches are anything to go by. But at the current pace of these leaks, there might not be anything new left to share by then.


Photo: Канал Лучкова (via Android Police)

Asus brings a $110 Android Go phone to the US

Asus has brought the ZenFone Live L1, its first Android Go phone, to the US. The phone has budget specs, but it could stand out at $110 thanks to a couple of features uncommon for its price range: an 18:9 display and a face unlock feature.

That said, even with its tall display, the ZenFone Live still manages to look bland in the images Asus is sharing. A lot of that comes down to its 5.5-inch screen being surrounded with big bezels on either side. The screen has a resolution just beyond 720p, which is pushing it for its size, though not altogether unacceptable at this price.

The phone has a Snapdragon 425 processor, which was common in lower-end phones two years ago, and 16GB of storage that can be expanded by MicroSD. The bigger limitation will likely be RAM, which the phone has only 1GB of. It looks like the phone will only support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi as well, which can be a problem if you need to connect to newer networks.

There’s no fingerprint sensor on the phone either, which is a big miss. The face unlock should be a helpful stand-in, although photo-based face scanning like this is a lot less secure than the 3D mapping seen on the iPhone. Still, it’s better than nothing as a way to lock down your phone.

Of course, many of these limitations are to be expected — the ZenFone Live is a distinctly low-end phone running Android Go, Google’s operating system that’s been specially pared down for these low-end devices. So far, Android Go phones haven’t made a particularly great showing, but we’re also only half a year in to this experiment.

The phone is only available at Best Buy in the US. It’s being sold unlocked, but it’s also available locked into several prepaid plans at a $50 discount, bringing it down to just $60.

The Palm smartphone reboot is shaping up to be disappointing

It’s been a long time coming, but it appears that the revival of Palm smartphones is imminent. It looks like, unfortunately, whatever’s in the works won’t be anywhere near as exciting as the Pre was so many years ago.

Android Police spotted that a device called the PVG100 made by Palm Venture Group — now owned by TCL — was filed with the FCC last week and passed through the Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification program back in June. Those are both late stage steps in the development cycle of any new device, so it’s likely we’ll see whatever this phone is in a matter of months.

While the filings don’t reveal much, the Wi-Fi Alliance page reveals two things: first, that the phone will run Android 8.1 Oreo, which is a good sign; and second, that it’ll only support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, and not faster 5GHz networks, which is a bad sign.

Lack of 5GHz Wi-Fi support should be a deal breaker if you’re spending more than $200 on a phone, and it’s a limitation typically seen on phones in the under-$300 range. So chances are, the PVG100 will be a budget device.

Other that that, we don’t know anything about the phone, including how — if at all — it’ll reflect Palm’s heritage. Are we getting a Pre-style slider with a physical keyboard on the bottom? Or just some generic smartphone with the Palm name on it in a misguided attempt to reconnect with old fans?

One element that might offer some hints: this revival comes from TCL, the Chinese electronics company that’s behind Alcatel, which offers a number of budget phones, and more importantly, behind the last few years of BlackBerry phones, too. TCL’s BlackBerry devices include a mix of touchscreen-only devices and phones with keyboards on the bottom, so it’s possible some of that tech will make its way into a Palm-branded phone next.

TCL purchased the Palm brand back in 2014. In 2017, a TCL executive reportedly said a Palm phone would arrive the following year. And back in March of this year, Android Police reported that a Palm-branded phone was planned for Verizon in the second half of 2018. Judging by these filings, it looks like TCL is on track to hit that timeline.

The Essential Phone is being upgraded to Android 9 Pie on the same day as Google’s Pixels

The Essential Phone is getting Android 9.0 Pie on day one — just like Google’s own Pixel smartphones. Essential is rolling out the major OS update today. The company has routinely been releasing the last few Android 9 betas just hours after Google made them available, and now its one and only smartphone is getting Pie’s features months before you’ll find them on devices from Samsung, LG, Motorola, and the rest. This is a thing that just doesn’t happen nowadays. The quick rollout is due in part to Google’s work on Project Treble in Android Oreo, but clearly the Essential team has made speedy updates a priority.

For a company that looks to be struggling to survive, this is pretty commendable. Essential continues to regularly deliver software improvements and optimizations to its PH-1, which can now often be purchased for between $300 and $400. No, it didn’t turn out to be the mainstream iPhone and Galaxy foe that Andy Rubin might’ve once envisioned. A too-high price at launch and camera quality detailed this device’s potential with consumers. But if you bought the Essential Phone for the right price, news like this goes to show you didn’t make a bad choice.

Leaked Samsung video confirms 512GB Galaxy Note 9

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 has leaked out yet again, this time in an official intro video from the Korean company, which was spotted by Sammobile. This teaser shows off the yellow stylus that comes with the blue edition of the phone and promises a 512GB version. Given how little appears to have changed about the Note 9 relative to its predecessor, there’s a dearth of other hardware novelties to get excited about, though the promise of having a 1TB phone with the help of a 512GB microSD card is rather a tantalizing one. Samsung’s headline innovations with the Note 9 could still be things we haven’t seen, such as some ingenious application of AI in the way the phone works or significant improvements to the camera. With the launch event set for August 9th, it won’t be long before we know for sure.