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Big tech is getting ready to talk about new products again

Today’s newsletter: Sony’s talking PS5, Sonos is talking operating systems, and more

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Image: Sony

As we settle in to the new reality of a locked-down, socially distant world, big tech is getting ready to start talking — and maybe even releasing — new consumer tech products. We’ve got rumors of the new flagship Motorola phone, a new speaker operating system from Sonos, and more. Sony’s also going to try to one-up Microsoft’s recent Xbox Series X specs reveal with a “deep dive” today.

It all feels a little tentative, nobody really knows yet what’s going to happen when days cooped inside turn into weeks and — in all likelihood — months. Will bored people buy more gadgets? Will everybody blink and hold their releases for sometime in the future, when things seem a little more predictable?

I don’t know the answer and the question is far, far, far from being the most important one right now. But as time goes on, we’ll start to see a bunch of companies take a shot at answering it anyway. I’d say it will be instructive to see how they announce their products, but we’re all so far into uncharted territory here that it’ll be impossible to know what’s a one-off and what’s a precedent.

Settle in and find yourself a multi-hour video of animals in nature to put on your TV (we’ve got some suggestions below). Here’s yesterday’s biggest tech stories.


Biggest (non-coronavirus) tech news

Sony to reveal new PS5 details in a ‘deep dive’ today. It starts at 9am PT / noon ET.

Sonos will release a new app and operating system for its speakers in June. Chris Welch details the new system. The big big question for me is Dolby Atmos, and while this update may make it more likely, Sonos still acts like saying the world “Dolby” out loud will summon a demon.

Switching to a new OS will result in expanded capabilities, according to Sonos. Sonos S2 will allow for higher-resolution audio, whereas, right now, the company’s speakers are limited to CD-quality lossless audio. The revamped software underpinnings could let Sonos go hi-fi in the same way as Amazon’s Echo Studio. It could also finally result in Sonos adopting Dolby Atmos for home theater sound in the next Playbar, Playbase, or Beam.

New leak is the clearest look yet at the Motorola Edge Plus. A much better look, and “it confirms some previous details such as the 108-megapixel camera, curved hole-punch display, and 3.5mm headphone jack,” Jon Porter notes. The headphone jack is back, baby! I’m more worried about that 108-megapixel sensor, though, given my experience with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. If Samsung couldn’t wrangle the new sensor into focusing quickly, I’m not sure Motorola can, either.

Fox buys Tubi for $440 million as it attempts to join the streaming wars. 25 million subscribers! I would have guessed a third of that at best. No wonder it cost that much.

The company is also looking to expand the type of content that Tubi can provide to subscribers through national and local news, alongside sports programming. Tubi is not going to suddenly get into the originals business. Essentially, don’t think of it as a competitor to Disney Plus, Netflix, Apple TV Plus, or Hulu.

Google Translate’s real time transcription feature is out now for Android. This is a genuinely important feature, even if it is arriving just in time for nobody to use it because nobody can travel.

The reMarkable 2 promises a better giant E Ink tablet. Really great concept and really great feature set. Unfortunately, still not a really great price, $399. That’s $100 cheaper than the first one, but still more expensive than an entry-level iPad and an Apple Pencil. I love E Ink, but I don’t know if I love it that much.

Samsung’s PC-to-phone game streaming service will shut down later this month. Samsung really wants to build its own ecosystem of services, but this absolutely is not the company’s core competency. I don’t know what essential service Samsung could provide that isn’t better handled by Google or Microsoft or Dropbox or ...whomever... but this definitely ain’t it.

Movies Anywhere’s new Screen Pass feature will let you loan your digital movies to friends. Unfortunately, you can’t actually do anything with this yet, but being able to lend movies like this will be a boon when it sees wide release. Strangely, it doesn’t look like they’ve created a system so your family can actually see what you have in your library. ...Which severely limits the utility of this program, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s by design. It’s such an obvious feature, leaving it out feels intentional.

Stuff to do

Fortnite has helicopters now.

Soothing live animal webcams to watch while you’re stuck at home. I realized this morning that I’m a complete idiot because I’ve been sitting in a room with a big blank TV all day every day and I could have been WATCHING OTTERS FROLIC.

Popcorn Time, the once-popular Netflix for piracy, is back.

Here’s a list of games you can grab and save some money in the process.

Nintendo just announced a bunch of new indie games are coming to the Switch.

┏ ...Pray this doesn’t happen again: Nintendo’s Switch Online service went down for a bit yesterday. Nintendo! If this happens again during the Animal Crossing launch there will be... well actually there won’t be anything but complaining about it on Twitter since we can’t leave our homes.

Pandemic news and reporting

Coronavirus testing shouldn’t be this complicated. Nicole Wetsman gets very deep into the various methods of testing for a virus. In theory, a fast bedside test is possible. In practice, well, read her piece — it’s going to be a lot of work to get there.

European Union closes all external borders for 30 days.

Apple will keep its retail stores outside China closed indefinitely.

Tesla told to shut down California factory to help fight the coronavirus.

Israel is using cellphone data to track the coronavirus. Unprecedented times, unprecedented measures. Still, I would feel better about this if it were some kind of citizen opt-in thing. Way better.

The agency has permission to use the data, which the Shin Bet has collected from Israeli carriers since at least 2002, for the next 30 days. By directing individuals who may have come into contact with the virus to quarantine themselves immediately via text message, the government could greatly speed up the isolation process. The agency has not made public precisely what data it collects, but experts told the Times that the Israeli government can use it to track almost anyone’s location.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on staying connected during a pandemic. It’s good that broadband providers are lifting data caps, but those caps really shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

These things are good, but the bottom line is: I don’t want us to just rely on their generosity. We need a nationwide plan for addressing the digital divide. I like their kindness. I want to clap for it. I want to support it. But I think, as a nation, we need a policy that addresses how we’re going to connect all of us. What are the plans we want in place to make sure it happens?