The new Samsung Note 9 phone is the biggest smartphone to date, with the longest lasting battery, most expandable storage and advanced camera specs ever on a digital device.
And it’s only August. If you like those specs, just wait a few weeks.
The Smartphone Wars will kick off in earnest, just after Labor Day, which also happens to be the unofficial kick off to tech’s selling season, the fourth quarter.
Apple hasn’t revealed its hand, but the world’s most valuable firm historically announces new iPhones just after the Labor Day holiday. (Last year, the date was Sept. 12; Sept. 7 in 2016, Sept. 9 in both 2015 and 2014.)
This year, we’re betting on Sept. 5, two days after Labor Day, and a week before the Jewish holidays.
The companies have been mum on their plans, but the fall will also bring us:
—A new and improved GoPro Hero.
—The third generation of the Google Pixel phones.
—A successor to the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air drones, the Mavic II, which is expected to have a removable camera.
—Updates to the Amazon Echo and Dot connected speakers, which historically get released every fall. Amazon currently has 8 different editions of the Echo line.
—Potential new iPads, Apple Watches, Apple TV and new editions of the Roku and Amazon Fire TV sticks.
The most action will be with Apple and Amazon, which dominate sales. Apple traditionally sells over 75 million iPhones during the holiday quarter. Amazon has said it sold “tens of millions” of the speakers over the 4th quarter.
Apple is expected to introduce three new editions of the iPhone, a larger successor to the iPhone X, which at 5.8 inches had been the biggest iPhone to date and two lower-priced and smaller models.
The question is how far consumers will be ready to stretch on buying the most expensive items. Apple has consistently said that the iPhone X, the most expensive iPhone ever at $1,000, has been its best selling model since the November release, but not everyone buys into the strategy.
Paul Shirley, a former pro basketball player turned author and podcaster, told USA TODAY he’s happy with his $350 iPhone SE, the smallest and least expensive iPhone in the lineup.
Former NBA pro is the host of the new podcast, Stories I Tell on Dates (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
Spend $1,000 on a new phone? “Wouldn’t even consider it,” he said. “Don’t need it, don’t want it.” The little phone does just fine, he added.
Tech enthusiasts would beg to differ, but perhaps the companies that make these products should listen more closely to people like Shirley. “I just haven’t heard anything in these updates that would make me want to upgrade.”
(Shirley’s new podcast, Stories I Tell on Dates, debuts Tuesday.)
Industry, if you’re reading, pay close attention. We like Samsung’s boast of an all-day battery (although we’re skeptical) and taking selfies on an S-pen sounds intriguing, but we don’t need faster performance (we’re doing just fine) or a phone that plugs into a computer monitor, like Samsung touted.
We only want one thing: Phone screens that don’t break. Solve that, and you might even get Shirley to upgrade.
In other tech news this week:
—Alex Jones got banned by Facebook, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube and Apple. The online conspiracy theorist saw his InfoWars podcast and video show taken down by the social media company for violating their community standards. Jones spoke out, calling the move censorship on his website, and his followers turned to a smartphone app. The InfoWars app jumped to No. 3 on Apple’s App Store chart, in the news category.
—Amazon introduced curbside service for Whole Foods customers. The new service will allow members of its Prime subscription service to order groceries on the Amazon Prime Now app and pick them up at Whole Foods without having to get out of the car. Pickup is free on orders of $35 or more and $1.99 on orders less than $35. The service started in two cities, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Sacramento, California, and will expand to more cities later in the year.
—Facebook said it’s looking to get more banks and financial companies to offer services on its Messenger app, say by allowing a customer to message with his or her bank as an alternative to phone services. “Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management,” Facebook said.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
—Talking Tech with Lionel Richie.The legendary entertainer sits down with USA TODAY to talk apps (he’s an investor in Heal, a medical house calls app) and in part 2, chats his frustration with streaming for songwriters.
—Even Greater Smartphone Photos: We started a new series of tips for taking greater mobile photos. Episode #1: learning the buttons and tools of your smartphone camera.
—Alex Jones ban – right or wrong? We weigh in on the decision by Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify to take away the platform of the online conspiracy theorist.
—The Mattress Wars: USA TODAY’s Nathan Bomey joins Talking Tech to report on the impact online mattress sellers are making on traditional bed retailers.
—Work at Home with Amazon. USA TODAY’s Elizabeth Weise sits in to report on job opportunities at the e-tailer.
—Even Greater Smartphone Photos #2: Getting to know the camera.
—This new $1K Samsung phone is bigger than an iPhone and has more memory. Will you want to buy the Note 9? USA TODAY’s Michelle Maltais, an owner of the Note 8, weighs in with us on Talking Tech.
Thanks for reading the Talking Tech newsletter. Please subscribe technewsletter.usatoday.com, listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast on Apple and Google podcasts, and look for me on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube (@jeffersongraham).
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