Select Page
Everything Samsung Announced at Its Unpacked Event

Everything Samsung Announced at Its Unpacked Event

The prices for both Samsung foldables have come down considerably, with the Fold3 going for $1,799 and the Flip3 starting at $1,000. If you preorder the Fold3, you’ll get $200 in Samsung Credit for, and it’s $150 if you snag the Flip3. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic

Samsung watches

The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 (left, in blue) starts at $250. The Watch4 Classic (right, in white) starts at $350.

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

Samsung is going in a new direction with its smartwatches. Rather than relying on its bespoke Tizen operating system and asking developers to create versions of their apps that only run on Samsung devices, it’s embracing Google’s Wear OS operating system. The company codeveloped the software alongside Fitbit, the Google-owned wearable maker. That means Samsung watch fans gain access to more useful apps, such as Google Maps. And, given the popularity of Samsung’s smartwatches, the move could potentially encourage more developers to build apps for Wear OS, something Google has always struggled with.

The new Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic have user interfaces that look and feel very much like previous Samsung smartwatches, but there are many changes under the hood and some subtle tweaks that make them easier to use. For example, tapping the button on the side of the watch lets you access recently-opened apps. Both watches are powered by a 5-nanometer Samsung processor, and they have higher-resolution screens, 16 gigs of storage, up to 40 hours of battery life, and wireless fast charging.

More importantly, Samsung’s BioActive smartwatch sensor has been redesigned to sit closer to the skin, thereby improving the health tracking abilities of the watches. The sensor can still measure electrocardiograms, blood pressure, and VO2 Max readings, but it’s faster at automatically recognizing workouts. It also offers more accurate calorie counts, and it now includes bioelectric impedance analysis, which lets you see granular body composition data such as skeletal muscle, body fat, and fat mass.

Samsung says sleep tracking on its watches has improved too. The watches work with Samsung’s Galaxy phones for snore detection (using the phone’s mics to pick up the sound of you sawing logs) while collecting blood oxygen data via the watch’s sensor once per minute for more detailed sleep analysis.

The base Galaxy Watch4 replaces Samsung’s previous Active line. The new watch doesn’t have a mechanical bezel, but rather a digital one. (You can slide your finger around the edge of the screen to scroll through the interface.) I think it’s better looking than the Classic, and it has a tantalizing price: It starts at $250 for the Bluetooth version but adding LTE connectivity costs $50 more. It comes in 40- or 44-mm sizes. 

Citizen’s New Service Helps Paying Users Summon the Cops

Citizen’s New Service Helps Paying Users Summon the Cops

Citizen, the app that tracks local crime and lets users film incidents as they happen, has launched a new subscription service. It’s called Protect, and it enables subscribers who pay the $20 monthly fee to contact Citizen’s team of virtual security agents for help whenever they feel threatened.

Tuesday’s update marks a significant change in Citizen’s business, which until now has involved sending smartphone alerts about nearby crimes and incidents to its users for free. With this paid service, the company is not only taking a step toward actively monitoring the safety of users who pony up the monthly fee, it is also expanding a service that privacy advocates have repeatedly decried as overreaching.

Protect works like a Life Alert button for your phone. If you’re in danger, the pitch goes, just touch the red Get Agent button inside the Citizen app and you’ll be connected to a video or text chat with a Protect agent. If you need assistance on the scene, the agent can call the police or other emergency services and guide them to your location. If you have emergency contacts who also have the Citizen app installed, an agent can contact those people in the event you’re incapacitated or just otherwise too busy dealing with your emergency to reach out yourself.

The feature has been available only to select beta testers since early 2021, and today it rolls out in an app update so any Citizen user can sign up.

The new version of the app can even listen for your screams. A feature available to subscribers called Distress Detection uses an algorithm to monitor your mobile handset’s microphone for sounds that “indicate trouble,” according to the company—Citizen cites a human scream as an example. The Distress Detection feature is available only on iOS, though Citizen says it plans to expand the feature to more devices.

“We really are just on this journey to evolve the public safety system and use technology to supercharge it,” says Citizen CEO Andrew Frame.

Citizen says that somewhere around 100,000 users have tried the service in beta. Last week, Citizen provided me with a free trial of the Protect service. In my week of testing, it worked as promised. Pressing the Get Agent button on the bottom of the home screen presented me with options to contact a Protect agent through either a video chat or text chat. In one of my tests, I connected with a Protect agent identified as Agent Aaron, who told me they could see my device’s location, battery level, and rate of travel—zero, since I was sitting still. The agent also said that if I had synced Protect with an Apple Watch, they would be able to see my heart rate. That extra layer of data would presumably let them know if I was panicking or physically exerting myself. (Citizen says it isn’t commenting on any health-sensor-related features at this time.)

On iOS, a setting called Protect Mode opens up access to the phone’s microphone to allow for the aforementioned scream alerts. It also unlocks a gesture option that lets you shake the phone to text an agent. They both worked when I tested them, though it took a few screams to get the app to send an alert. In practice, Citizen agents can then loop in emergency responders and notify them of your phone’s location. In the event of an official response, Citizen will also create a public alert for the incident that will notify nearby Citizen users.

Help on the Way

Protect is Citizen’s first subscription-based offering, and a paid product of any sort is long overdue. The company has hoovered up venture capital funding since it began in 2016, while only hinting at its plans for eventually building a profitable business. In early 2020, Frame said that Citizen planned to monetize that year. (“The VCs said that they won’t continue funding this until you figure that out,” Frame told me last year.) The pandemic may have destabilized that timeline a bit, but the company’s lack of profitability doesn’t seem to have fazed investors. Citizen raised $50 million this year alone in a Series C round.

Now, after a few months of beta testing, Protect is available to all of Citizen’s 8 million users. But it’s unclear whether customers will embrace a paid service offered by one of the most contentious tech companies.

You’re Probably Not Using the Web’s Best Browser

You’re Probably Not Using the Web’s Best Browser

Remember when web browsers were useful tools? Remember when you could follow sites you liked, check your email, and see your calendar, all without leaving the browser? Or, I should say, remember when you could do all that without Big Tech feeding your personal data into the yawning maw of surveillance capitalism? 

I remember those days because I am still living in them, thanks to a web browser you might not have heard of: Vivaldi. 

This week, the team behind the Vivaldi web browser released version 4.0, which seems like an appropriate time for me to tell you that you need to try it out. To riff off Neil Stephenson, Vivaldi outshines all other web browsers “in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars … it is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish.”

Customization Is Key

Stephenson was actually talking about the text editor Emacs, whose never-ending recursiveness makes it the programmer’s Holy Grail of text editors. But I think the metaphor applies just as well to Vivaldi, compared to other web browsers. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Vivaldi is the Emacs of web browsers.

Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner was also the cofounder of Opera, one of the earliest web browsers to have features like pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing. The level of customization and power-user features that set Opera apart are present today in Vivaldi as well, along with plenty more.

At first glance, Vivaldi looks like a slightly more colorful version of your average web browser—mirroring the colors of the webpage is a notable Vivaldi feature that Apple shamelessly copied in Safari. It’s not until you dig into Vivaldi’s settings that you discover its true power: The ability to tailor your browsing experience exactly the way you want it.

Like Emacs, everyone’s Vivaldi setup and experience may be different, and that’s the point. Vivaldi’s tag line is “A web browser for our friends.” By “our friends,” Vivaldi means people like you and me—assuming, of course, that you’re someone who is on the web to do work and stay in touch with your friends, rather than consume the whims and algorithms of Big Tech.

For example, I like keyboard shortcuts and have never used a mouse gesture in my life. Vivaldi supports both. I take advantage of the customizable keyboard shortcuts and ignore the mouse gestures, and everyone wins. Vivaldi 4.0 acknowledges this with a new dialog offering some feature presets: Essentials, Classic, or my favorite, Fully Loaded.

Screenshot of Vivaldi Homepage
Scott Gilbertson via Vivaldi