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Processor: Google Pixels are coming, OnePlus Buds are seized, and LG is making weird phones again

Processor: Google Pixels are coming, OnePlus Buds are seized, and LG is making weird phones again


Plus: there might be evidence of life on Venus

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Image: LG

Processor is a digest for what’s happening in the world of consumer technology, with incisive analysis (or maybe just jokes) from Dieter Bohn. Sign up for the newsletter here and check out the Processor video series on YouTube.

Over the weekend, the US Customs and Border patrol gleefully praised itself for seizing counterfeit AirPods. Only they weren’t really knock offs, they were the new OnePlus Buds. Which, yes, kind of look like knock-off AirPods. But they’re also a real product from a real company that really does make things (though if you want to make the case that OnePlus is just Pontiac to Oppo’s Chevy, I’d hear you out). Chuckles were had by all.

Except the CBP didn’t laugh. The CBP doubled down and said that no, it didn’t make a mistake and the OnePlus Buds did count as counterfeit and the CPB does, in fact, have the legal authority to seize them. It smells of retconning, but it might also nevertheless be true that the CPB can do that (seize the buds, I mean. It’s probably free to retcon too, in today’s America).

After the titanic news of Oracle and TikTok and Nividia and Arm, the OnePlus Buds saga was the small escape I needed until I realized that it, too, is a synecdoche for the globalized conflict between the US, China, and the weird state of IP law. Ah well.

We’ll catch you after Apple’s keynote today, which is just one of several big tech events happening this week. I hope you can join us for a watch-along in our liveblog.

Gadget news

┏ Google to launch Pixel 5, new Chromecast, and smart speaker on September 30th. Surprise! Google’s event won’t have many surprises. It has already teased the Pixel 5, Pixel 4A 5G, and the upcoming Nest Speaker that looks vague pillow-shaped. It hasn’t spoken up much about Chromecast, but we know that too: it’s going to switch over to Android TV and is code-named “Sabrina.”

┏ The LG Wing’s twisting screen offers a new spin on the dual-screen smartphone. I ... I kind of love this. I mean it’s ridiculous and the chances that there will be good software support for the second-screen experience are minimal. I could go on and on about why this is silly.

But also it’s silly! Phones can be a little wacky! I mean, not only does this have a second screen that the first screen rotates away to reveal, it has brought back the pop-up selfie camera. LG’s product engineers sat in a room and asked how many moving parts it could pack into a smartphone and the answer was not a number but simply “yes.”

┏ LG also teased a vertical sliding version of a phone, which: yes again. Go off, LG, be wacky.

┏ AMD reveals its Radeon RX 6000 GPU design on Twitter — and in Fortnite.

┏ Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup won’t have high-refresh 120Hz displays, says analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. I can already foresee the year of shit-talking this will cause, so let me just say this. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is disappointing. I have long said that any phone that costs a thousand bucks or more should have a high refresh-rate display and the iPhone lacking one is a miss. It’s not the most important spec on a phone, but it does make an appreciable difference.

┏ Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 leaks in full via official promo videos.

Tech news

┏ Anchor says it’s cracking down on stolen podcasts. Ashley Carman with the inside story on how Anchor is trying to fix a problem it really should have addressed earlier.

The copycats, Mignano says, found a workaround in Anchor’s detection system. “This is definitely a new type of attack for Anchor,” he says. The people who uploaded these copycat shows downloaded the audio from another source, manually reuploaded it to Anchor, and filled in the metadata, essentially making it appear to be a new podcast.

┏ Zipline and Walmart to launch drone deliveries of health and wellness products. Kim Lyons:

The program is for on-demand deliveries of health and wellness products and will begin in a trial early next year near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Zipline’s launch and release system allows for on-demand delivery in less than an hour, and operating from a Walmart store, can service a 50-mile radius.

┏ Verizon acquires Tracfone in a deal worth more than $6 billion.

Xbox news

┏ The Xbox Series S plays Xbox One S versions of Xbox One games. So to review: the Xbox Series S can play enhanced versions of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games but they’re the Xbox One S versions, not the Xbox One X versions, even though the Xbox Series S is newer and in some ways more powerful than the Xbox One X, which means if you want the best Xbox One X game experience you need the Xbox Series X. Xbox.

I am having a bunch of fun cracking jokes about there being too many Xbox details to keep track of. But the truth is that I am very interested to see if Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate focus works. The whole idea is that you shouldn’t have to worry too much about what Xbox you have when you want to play a game, it will just play Xbox games. You just have to worry when you decide which Xbox you want to buy next.

In an earlier newsletter I grumbled about hiding the true cost of the consoles behind monthly payments — I’ll always grumble about that sort of thing. But so long as Microsoft is up front about the total costs, the monthly installments seem like a pretty good idea. I might even spring for one myself.

┏ Xbox Series X and S: everything you need to know about the next-gen of Xbox. This new generation of consoles is much more complicated than “better graphics, better games.” Jon Porter has written the comprehensive guide on the upcoming Xboxes:

Microsoft’s new consoles give you a lot more freedom with how you play its new games, but depending on where you choose to play them, you won’t get exactly the same experience. The Xbox Series X is a much more powerful machine than the Series S or the current Xbox One, for example, which will have a big impact on performance.

More from The Verge

┏ Discovery of noxious gas on Venus could be a sign of life. Read this important story (and watch the video) by Loren Grush on an incredibly intriguing discovery:

finding even a small amount of phosphine on Venus is enticing because of how the gas is made here on Earth. Either it is manufactured artificially by humans — into products like fumigants or biological weapons — or it is a natural byproduct of life. Phosphine can be found in swamps and marshlands, where it’s thought to be produced by microbes. It can also be found in the guts of animals or in the poop they leave behind. Above all, it’s a gas that is almost exclusively associated with life on Earth, raising the possibility that it could be a sign of microbes floating in the Venusian clouds

┏ Oracle’s TikTok deal accomplishes nothing. Russell Brandom nails it. This is theater. All that sound and fury, signifying nothing.

┏ Google announced one of the biggest green pledges from tech yet. Justine Calma also notes that Microsoft has set itself a slightly more aggressive goal than Google has. Still: good.

Google has been carbon neutral each year since 2007, which means that it offsets the emissions it generates from burning fossil fuels by investing in renewable energy projects or other initiatives that draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into storage. But relying on offsets doesn’t actually wean the company off fossil fuels. Google released 4.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2018 alone, roughly the amount that more than 1 million passenger vehicles might put out in a year.

┏ Nvidia’s $40 billion Arm acquisition is about bringing AI down from the cloud. You can always trust James Vincent to come up with a Promethean metaphor:

The big idea is that AI, like some ancient god, is finally stepping down from the clouds to walk among the people. Machine learning algorithms used to rely on data centers for computation, with AI tools and applications sending information over the internet to these remote servers for processing. But while heavy-grade chips are still necessary for research and cutting-edge applications, many machine learning tools are now lightweight enough to run on-device without connecting to the internet. The benefits of this are straightforward: you get faster processing, greater security, and reduced power consumption.

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