In a year filled with absolute absurdity, Samsung and Starbuckssomehow managed to still top the list.
Words cannot espresso how confused I feel! Samsung and Starbucks just unexpectedly dropped a (metaphorically and perhaps literally too) hot new product – Cappuccino-inspired earphones. The ‘Latte Art Buds Case’ is the result of a Korea-specific collaboration between the two brands, and will be available to enthusiastic Koreans alongside a few other products including a more discreet-looking Galaxy Buds case with just the Starbucks logo, and a few smartphone cases (some with built-in Starbucks receipt-inspired smartphone grips). The showstopper, however, is the ‘Latte Art Buds Case’ – a Starbucks cup-shaped case that opens up to reveal two Galaxy Buds inside. Why this exists, I’ll never know. Why do I want this so bad, I guess that’s an unknown too.
Designers: Samsung and Starbucks
Clearly, the Latte Art Buds Case is meant to be some caffeine-lover’s tabletop swag. There’s no way that entire contraption will fit in your pocket easily, although looping a carabiner through the cup’s handle and securing it to your pant’s belt loop is certainly fathomable. The mini-cup comes in its signature white design, with the Starbucks mermaid logo on the front, and even latte art on the top for added realism… although given its size, just styling it to look like an espresso cup would work much better in my opinion. However, if you want to wear your love for Starbucks on your person instead of having these buds as simply a tabletop accessory, Starbucks and Samsung have a more pocket-friendly branded case with the Starbucks insignia on the front.
The price of this swag is still unannounced, although it will be available exclusively at select Starbucks outlets across South Korea in a limited capacity, so chances are you’ll need a whole latte luck to get your hands on a pair.
If you are putting a rollable screen device in your home, you might as well pick one that really stands out even when not in use.
Given how much they’ve been popping up in exhibits and trade shows, it’s probably inevitable that the next trend in home electronics would be rollable TVs and displays. It is, after all, one way to save space without sacrificing the benefits of traditional panels the way home projectors do. It’s also a great bragging right for owning an advanced piece of technology and an effective conversation starter at parties. Not everyone, however, might want a full-blown giant rollable panel, and there will be a market for things that sit in-between rollable TV and a rollable phone or tablet. These devices could take the place of speakers, video phones, and even clocks around the house, and they don’t have to stop working even when they’re rolled down, like how most rollable TVs would.
Designers: Cho Sunghwan, Lee Sooyeol, Park Youngeun, Lee Yewon, Kim Jeonghyun (Unichest)
Like any new technology being marketed to consumers, often at very high prices, there are many questions about the purpose and place of such fancy new devices in our lives. Outside of the cool factor, rollable TVs would allow homeowners to save up on space or remove the TV from sight while not using it. One problem with these rollable screens, at least the first-generation designs, is that they are completely out of sight when rolled inside, making them completely useless in that dormant state.
This Samsung rollable display concept, in contrast, has something like a middle ground, a third state where it’s rolled down but still useful. The screen doesn’t completely retract inside the housing, leaving a section of the display exposed. This area can be used to display information like the time, weather, music controls, and more. Given today’s display technologies, this mode could use up less power than when the full display is in use, allowing the device to still offer some functionality even in a limited form.
Part of what makes that function work is the unnamed device’s asymmetric design. Rather than a box or cylinder that houses the rolled screen, it has more of an arched shape that has part of its top chopped off. Ironically, this design does get in the way when the full screen is extended since a part of the display will always be occluded. It will require a custom user interface that’s slightly different from the Android-based UI shown in the concept.
This rollable display concept was made for Samsung back in 2019, but recent events seem to have shelved plans, or the design didn’t get the company’s approval. It definitely requires a bit more work to pull off compared to a more straightforward rollable TV, but it also offers Samsung the opportunity to differentiate and make an impact. It could be what Samsung needs right now, especially with LG dominating the rollable news and the designer TV scene these days.
The only part of the phone that isn’t a screen is its camera bump.
It’s safe to say that we’re still in the age of folding displays, although the pandemic, a supply chain crisis, and a war have definitely caused innovation to slump a bit. That being said, if there’s one company that still has any bandwidth to push out folding phones, it’s probably Samsung. (In fact, just this Sunday, images of the Galaxy Z Flip4 leaked online to confirm the company’s efforts)
The biggest problem with folding displays isn’t the crease, contrary to popular belief, it’s the lack of a proper template. Before the iPhone defined what phones would look like for the next decade, mobile phones came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You had the popular candybar, the clamshell, the slider, and whatever the Nokia N93 was. As we move towards a new era of folding displays, the age-old problem makes a comeback – what’s the perfect format? Samsung’s explored the book-inspired format with the Galaxy Fold, the clamshell format with the Z Flip, and it seems like this new concept proposes yet another direction – I call it the ‘parchment scroll’ format.
Designer: Alexander Bazilewskiy
The Samsung Galaxy Fold Mini builds on the company’s folding range with a new format. Colloquially dubbed the ‘parchment scroll’ format, this concept comes with a single vertical display that comes with two folding points – on the upper and lower edges of the phone. Sort of like a scroll that can be expanded vertically either by unrolling the top or the bottom, the Galaxy Fold Mini can open out on the top and the bottom, making a dramatically longer phone. Tilt it over horizontally and you’ve got an incredibly widescreen display that’s perfect for multitasking.
While unlocking multitasking capabilities, and providing a screen long enough to watch two movies simultaneously, what the Fold Mini also does is create a unique screen layout when closed. The wraparound screen’s edge acts as an incredible notification bar (the image above), while the smaller halves of the screen that fold backward create an interesting camera interface that allows you to use the primary camera lenses for clicking natural selfies. The upper screen serves as a viewfinder, while the lower houses the camera controls, creating something that feels incredibly natural.
This format has some great pros. A single-screen means less worrying about what to do when your phone is closed (the Galaxy Fold and Z Flip needed a secondary screen), and this layout doesn’t just cut the number of screens, it cuts the number of cameras too, since there’s no ‘front facing’ camera on this concept the way there is in other folding phones. Just turn your phone over and you’ve got a camera as well as a screen waiting to greet you, whether it’s for selfies or video calls.
The most obvious con, however, is that there isn’t an immediate need for a phone with such a widescreen display. When opened, the Samsung Galaxy Fold Mini concept has what I imagine is somewhere near a 30:9 ratio, considering it’s a 16:9 screen multiplied by 2 (the front as well as the back). Aside from multitasking (how much multitasking is anyone really doing?), the need for a wider screen isn’t entirely apparent, although it’s the kind of thing only the future can tell us. I didn’t think we needed screens on our wrists, but here we are with smartwatches being such a runaway success. What this concept does, however, is speculate – which is arguably one of the most important acts in designing for the future. What are your thoughts?
Just a few years ago, the case for smartwatches wasn’t clear. Today, the wearable world is filled with various high-quality options, and a few key players have muscled their way to the front of the pack. Chances are, if you’re reading this guide, you’ve probably already decided that it’s time to upgrade from a standard timepiece to a smartwatch. Maybe you want to reach for your phone less throughout the day, or maybe you want to stay connected in a more discrete way. The list of reasons why you may want a smartwatch is long, as is the list of factors you’ll want to consider before deciding which to buy.
What to look for in a smartwatch
Apple Watches only work with iPhones, while Wear OS devices play nice with both iOS and Android. Smartwatches made by Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit and others are also compatible with Android and iOS, but you’ll need to install a companion app.
The smartwatch OS will also dictate the type and number of on-watch apps you’ll have access to. Many of these aren’t useful, though, making this factor a fairy minor one in the grand scheme of things.
The best smartwatches generally cost between $300 and $400. Compared to budget smartwatches, which cost between $100 and $250, these pricier devices have advanced fitness, music and communications features. They also often include perks like onboard GPS, music storage and NFC, which budget devices generally don’t.
Some companies make specialized fitness watches: Those can easily run north of $500, and we’d only recommend them to serious athletes. Luxury smartwatches from brands like TAG Heuer and Hublot can also reach sky-high prices, but we wouldn’t endorse any of them. These devices can cost more than $1,000, and you’re usually paying for little more than a brand name and some needlessly exotic selection of build materials.
Battery life remains one of our biggest complaints about smartwatches, but there’s hope as of late. You can expect two full days from Apple Watches and most Wear OS devices. Watches using the Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor support extended battery modes that promise up to five days on a charge — if you’re willing to shut off most features aside from, you know, displaying the time. Snapdragon’s next-gen Wear 4100 and 4100+ processors were announced in 2020, but only a handful of devices – some of which aren’t even available yet – are using them so far. Other models can last five to seven days, but they usually have fewer features and lower-quality displays. Meanwhile, some fitness watches can last weeks on a single charge.
A few smartwatches now support faster charging, too. For example, Apple promises the Series 7 can go from zero to 80 percent power in only 45 minutes, and get to full charge in 75 minutes. The OnePlus Watch is even speedier, powering up from zero to 43 percent in just 10 minutes. (Mind you that turned out to be one of the only good things about that device.)
Any smartwatch worth considering delivers call, text and app alerts to your wrist. Call and text alerts are self explanatory, but if those mean a lot to you, consider a watch with LTE. They’re more expensive than their WiFi-only counterparts, but data connectivity allows the smartwatch to take and receive calls, and do the same with text messages, without your phone nearby. As far as app alerts go, getting them delivered to your wrist will let you glance down and see if you absolutely need to check your phone right now.
Activity tracking is a big reason why people turn to smartwatches. An all-purpose timepiece should log your steps, calories and workouts, and most of today’s wearables have a heart rate monitor as well.
Many smartwatches also have onboard GPS, which is useful for tracking distance for runs and bike rides. Swimmers will want something water resistant, and thankfully most all-purpose devices now can withstand at least a dunk in the pool. Some smartwatches from companies like Garmin are more fitness focused than others and tend to offer more advanced features like heart-rate-variance tracking, recovery time estimation, onboard maps and more.
Health tracking on smartwatches has also seen advances over the years. Both Apple and Fitbit devices can estimate blood oxygen levels and measure ECGs. But the more affordable the smartwatch, the less likely it is that it has these kinds of health tracking features; if collecting that type of data is important to you, you’ll have to pay for the privilege.
Your watch can not only track your morning runs but also play music while you’re exercising. Many smartwatches let you save your music locally, so you can connect wireless earbuds and listen to tunes without bringing your phone. Those that don’t have onboard storage for music usually have on-watch music controls, so you can control playback without whipping out your phone. And if your watch has LTE, local saving isn’t required — you’ll be able to stream music directly from the watch to your paired earbuds.
Most flagship smartwatches today have some sort of always-on display, be it a default feature or a setting you can enable. It allows you to glance down at your watch to check the time and any other information you’ve set it to show on its watchface without lifting your wrist. This will no doubt affect your device’s battery life, but thankfully most always-on modes dim the display’s brightness so it’s not running at its peak unnecessarily. Cheaper devices won’t have this feature; instead, their screens will automatically turn off to conserve battery and you’ll have to intentionally check your watch to turn on the display again.
Many smartwatches have NFC, letting you pay for things without your wallet. After saving your credit or debit card information, you can hold your smartwatch up to an NFC reader to pay for a cup of coffee on your way home from a run. Keep in mind that different watches use different payment systems: Apple Watches use Apple Pay, Wear OS devices use Google Pay, Samsung devices use Samsung Pay and so forth.
Apple Pay is one of the most popular NFC payment systems, with support for multiple banks and credit cards in 72 different countries, while Samsung and Google Pay work in fewer regions. It’s also important to note that both NFC payment support varies by device as well for both Samsung and Google’s systems.
Best overall: Apple Watch
The Apple Watch has evolved into the most robust smartwatch since its debut in 2015. It’s the no-brainer pick for iPhone users, and we wouldn’t judge you for switching to an iPhone just to be able to use an Apple Watch. The latest model, the Apple Watch Series 7, has solid fitness-tracking features that will satisfy the needs of beginners and serious athletes alike. It also detects if you’ve fallen, can carry out ECG tests and measures blood oxygen levels. Plus, it offers NFC, onboard music storage and many useful apps as well as a variety of ways to respond to messages.
The main differences between the Series 7 and the Series 6 that preceded it are the 7’s larger display, its overnight respiratory tracking and faster charging. The slight increase in screen real estate allows you to see things even more clearly on the small device, and Apple managed to fit a full QWERTY keyboard on it to give users another way to respond to messages. The faster charging capabilities are also notable – we got 10 percent power in just 10 minutes of the Watch sitting on its charging disk, and it was fully recharged in less than one hour.
While the $399 Series 7 is the most feature-rich Apple Watch to date, it’s also the most expensive model in the Watch lineup, and for some shoppers there might not be clear benefits over older editions. Those who don’t need an always-on display, ECG or blood oxygen readings might instead consider the Apple Watch SE, which starts at $279.
We actually regard the Watch SE as the best option for first-time smartwatch buyers, or people on stricter budgets. You’ll get all the core Apple Watch features as well as things like fall detection, noise monitoring and emergency SOS, but you’ll have to do without more advanced hardware perks like a blood oxygen sensor and ECG monitor.
Dropping $400 on a smartwatch isn’t feasible for everyone, which is why we recommend the Fitbit Versa 2 as the best sub-$200 option. It’s our favorite budget watch because it offers a bunch of features at a great price. You get all of these essentials: Fitbit’s solid exercise-tracking abilities (including auto-workout detection), sleep tracking, water resistance, connected GPS, blood oxygen tracking and a six-day battery life. It also supports Fitbit Pay using NFC and it has built-in Amazon Alexa for voice commands. While the Versa 2 typically costs $150, we’ve seen it for as low as $100.
Samsung teamed up with Google recently to revamp its smartwatch OS, but that doesn’t mean Tizen fans should fret. The Galaxy Watch 4 is the latest flagship wearable from Samsung and it runs on WearOS with the new One UI, which will feel familiar if you’ve used Tizen before. Also, the watch now comes with improved third-party app support and access to the Google Play Store, so you can download apps directly from the watch.
We like the Galaxy Watch 4 for its premium design as well as its comprehensive feature set. It has a 3-in-1 biometric sensor that enables features like body mass scanning, bloody oxygen tracking and more, plus it has a plethora of trackable workout profiles. Both the Galaxy Watch 4 and the Watch 4 Classic run on new 5nm processors and have more storage than before, as well as sharper, brighter displays. They both run smoothly and rarely lag, but that performance boost does come with a small sacrifice to battery life: the Galaxy Watch 4 typically lasted about one day in our testing, which while not the best, may not be a dealbreaker for you if you plan on recharging it every night.
Yes, there are still companies out there trying to make “fashionable” smartwatches. Back when wearables were novel and generally ugly, brands like Fossil, Michael Kors and Skagen found their niche in stylish smartwatches that took cues from analog timepieces. You also have the option to pick up a “hybrid” smartwatch from companies like Withings and Garmin – these devices look like standard wrist watches but incorporate some limited functionality like activity tracking and heart rate monitoring. They remain good options if you prefer that look, but thankfully, wearables made by Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and others have gotten much more attractive over the past few years.
Ultimately, the only thing you can’t change after you buy a smartwatch is its case design. If you’re not into the Apple Watch’s squared-off corners, all of Samsung’s smartwatches have round cases that look a little more like a traditional watch. Most wearables are offered in a choice of colors and you can pay extra for premium materials like stainless steel. Once you decide on a case, your band options are endless – there are dozens of first- and third-party watch straps available for most major smartwatches, allowing you to change up your look whenever you please.
In a world where mass production is the norm, getting bespoke items is deemed a luxury. That is true in many industries, but there are good reasons for the premium prices; one, you are receiving tailor-made products for your needs and preferences. There also lies a uniqueness to an item or service that you can say is solely yours. Bespoke is more than just a buzzword as companies have seen its value and how it gives a competitive edge. Samsung has tapped into this category with the Bespoke line that is expected to enrich consumers’ lives through creative design and by working with artists and designers to showcase their designs. Global participation has also been encouraged among consumers because the brand knows collaboration works.
Samsung’s Bespoke experience is extended to the customers’ end by allowing them to develop designs that will show their personality. Samsung Bespoke has now become a creative collaboration, offering a safe place for self-expression for artists and consumers. In recent years, Samsung has collaborated with famous designers in its native country, like space and strategy designers Jong Kim and Teo Yang, furniture designer Seungji Mun, and interior designer Hasuk Jang. You may remember them for their previous designs focused on appliances’ customizable and adaptable features. Last year, Samsung tried asking non-Korean designers such as American artist Andy Rementer and French illustrator Thibaud Hérem to design bespoke refrigerators. Alex Proba also designed limited-edition Bespoke refrigerator panels with different colors and shapes at the beginning of this year.
The Bespoke design language continues to evolve as more creatives are being tapped to contribute to the artistry. Most of the designs available offer a cultural representation of some of the counties where the Samsung Bespoke line is available. Limited edition panels with the Union Jack flag were released to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee milestone of Queen Elizabeth II. For American Independence Day, Samsung released a version of the 4-Door Flex refrigerator with the American flag. We also remember that contest that launched in 2019 in South Korea that called for consumers to try designing their refrigerators. Over a thousand entries were submitted, but only three big winners were invited to the Milan Furniture Fair to showcase their work. We can expect more iterations to be introduced as Samsung continues expanding the program and listening to the customers.
Some other similar events followed, like those in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam last year. This 2022, a contest in the U.A.E were also launched while more local artists in other markets were being commissioned. Samsung was seen collaborating with a few interior design firms and furniture retailers to design Bespoke products. The Bespoke Be You design competition and other design contests have also been launched to gather new designs. The #InspireByTheNation contest in the U.A.E. celebrated the nation and reflected different cultural identifiers like architecture, food, and landscape— drawing experts and influencers in the region to select the event winners.
In North America, the MyBespoke offering allows people to design their own refrigerator panels, specifically for the Bespoke French Door refrigerator. Beyond aesthetics, Samsung has been stretching the limits of the business by improving its technologies. There was the Bespoke Creator AI color recommendation service that launched last year. It analyzes photos of the consumers’ homes and provides recommendations for products that may fit them. Appliances need not be dull, and that is how Samsung’s innovation benefits the market—offer products you can call your own. We believe this customizable design experience can turn more traditional home appliances into statement pieces.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, over the three generations, hasn’t made the market invasion like the Korean giant would have expected. Nevertheless, it is a niche smartphone and anyone who uses can swear by its inventiveness. The standout here is the secondary display that provides a quick glance at the notifications and more without having to flip the phone over. This feature is not just phone-centric for God’s sake; a designer thinks the laptops deserve a small screen on the outside for the purpose best told by the Galaxy Z Flip.
This is how the enticing Flipbook for Samsung has been idealized by hyeonseok Kang, who not long ago had us in awe with The Suitcase for the camping enthusiasts. At the first glance, the Flipbook draws a clearer resemblance to a MacBook than swaying in the Samsung design corridors. That said, it certainly has a point to make with what it brings to the table. It not the ordinary touch bar on the Apple laptop, it’s a sheen display right below the screen, which is also visible when the lid is flipped closed; thanks to the cut out in the lid between the two hinges holding it firm against the keyboard unit.
Designer: Hyeonseok Kang
As Kang puts and we reciprocate, “Flipbook shares a design language with Samsung’s Flip” – the screen cut out on the front displays message notifications, battery life, media controls, news updates, and more information without the user having to open the laptop. Convenience unparalleled for the hybrid workforce that can, with just a glance at the secondary display, know when to flip open the laptop to jump onto a zoom call or ignore an unnecessary login.
Making it slightly more Samsung friendly, the Flipbook arrives with a Bixby launch button built right into the keyboard, as a way to eliminate Windows from the equation. The panel here is complete with a nice big aluminum trackpad and two speaker grills running horizontally on either side of the keyboard. Since accidental touches on the interactive secondary display bar are a given; the designer has integrated a toggle button on the side, alongside the connectivity ports, which can lock up the display just as you can on the smartphone.
Modular kitchens were just the beginning. Samsung’s vision for homes is to have tech fit right into them as if they belonged there. At this year’s Salone del Mobile, Samsung hosted their Bespoke Home 2022 event, showing how their appliances could uniquely integrate into your homes, satisfy your personal needs, and benefit your lives.
“This year, Samsung is offering a more holistic experience by expanding Bespoke throughout the home”, the company said. Taking center stage in the showcase are updated kitchen and living appliances with stylish colors, updated features, and premium finishes. New in this lineup is the global launch of the Bespoke AI washer and dryer as well as the Bespoke kitchen package.
Samsung’s collection features an AI-powered oven, fridge, dishwasher, induction cooktop, and even the Bespoke AI washer and dryer units, which will be available to US and Europe customers in July. Building on the brand’s Bespoke ethos, the washer will intuitively use the right amount of water and detergent to effectively clean your clothes with minimal wastage (a feature called AI OptiWash), while the dryer uses a slew of sensors to detect moisture and moisture-fluctuation to determine how much spin and temperature to apply to effectively dry your clothes.
The French-style fridge doubles as both a refrigerator for produce as well as a wine cellar.
Moving to the kitchen, the fridge and oven boast of a similar, flush aesthetic that echoes the kind of minimalism modern audiences have come to love. For the European market, the package includes the all-new, AI-powered Bespoke ovens set to launch in the second half of this year. The Bespoke oven offers connected features through the SmartThings app, making cooking simpler and more efficient while delivering delicious results. The AI Pro Cooking can recognize ingredients, optimize settings accordingly, and monitor the food while it’s cooking to prevent it from being over or undercooked.
The refrigerator, on the other hand, comes with french-style doors (that can be color/art customized) and use an advanced Digital Inverter Compressor has allowed Samsung to cut energy consumption by 67% for bottom-mounted refrigerators between 2000 to 2020.
The oven’s interface uses a combination of touch and tactile knobs, so as to appear sleek while still being usable. The knob is large, and easy to grasp (even if you’re wearing oven mitts), and the Sense-to-Open feature conveniently opens the oven door with just a touch allowing for an elegantly and minimal design with a handle-less, flat door.
The oven’s interface is uniquely minimal and encourages you to use it intuitively.
A close look at the dishwasher’s interface, built into the edge of the door.
In 2020, the Bespoke refrigerator won NYCxDESIGN Awards in the Kitchen product category and was selected as an honoree at CES 2021 in recognition of Bespoke’s creative use of design in offering users a way to easily personalize their appliances. Bespoke appliances received a silver award and Best-in-Show honors at the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in 2021 and gold at the International Forum (iF) Design Award in 2022.
We are so dependent on screens and displays these days, even just for looking at content. Most of the things we need to see every day are often displayed on computer monitors, TVs, and our phones. With more content and more data coming into our lives, it’s almost like we can’t have enough screens around us. In the somewhat distant future, every surface might indeed have a display, an interactive display even, but there are still plenty of technological and psychological hurdles before we get there. In the meantime, Samsung is more than happy to fill our world today with screens that can fold, roll, or even slide in order to give us as much display real estate as we need without forcing us to carry large backpacks or briefcases just to fit a 12-inch tablet.
It isn’t time yet for a new foldable phone, but it’s Display Week 2022 in sunny San Jose, California, and Samsung isn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to show off what it has been cooking behind closed doors. Then again, some of these aren’t particularly new to our eyes, given how they’ve been prefigured by patents and even revealed by Samsung a few months ago. And given how these are already on display for the public to see, they’re more likely to arrive in the next few years rather than the next decades.
Fold it Your Way
Foldable phones are no longer alien to us now, but they’re still novel enough to be seen with some suspicion and apprehension. As marvelous as these may be from an engineering point of view, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Earlier this year, Samsung showed off its Flex G and Flex S foldable screens in action, and this week it’s reminding everyone who will listen to what these flexible displays can offer, presuming they actually become products.
The Flex G, for example, can either be a large screen that folds down twice into a more bag-friendly form, or it could be a makeshift laptop, with one-third of the screen as the keyboard and the other two-thirds for the display. The Flex S, on the other hand, can fold in opposite directions, forming a Z or S shape, and it’s easy enough to imagine it as a phone that transforms into a true tablet or vice versa. Both designs have been spotted before, both in patents and in prototypes, but Samsung might be more confident now to move forward and bring these displays to commercial products.
Let it Slide
The newest member of its gallery, however, is its “slidable” screens. Technically a combination of a sliding mechanism and a rollable display, this technology allows a device to expand its screen space without drastically changing the form of the device. A phone, for example, can remain a phone while its top slide out to show a bit more content. Given how tall smartphones are these days, that’s not exactly a big leap in form factors.
Similarly, an 8.1-inch tablet that suddenly has its sides slide out to expand to a 12.4-inch screen won’t drastically change the way you use the device. You just have more space for content or possibly more apps side-by-side. This kind of shape-shifting device might be a bit more approachable to consumers compared to foldables since it doesn’t require them to switch between modes or mindsets. Whether these are more robust than folding screens, however, remains to be seen.
For the Rest of Us
Truth be told, only a small fraction of today’s smartphone-using population has embraced foldables. There are a variety of reasons to hold off from those, with durability and price being the strongest deterrents. Until Samsung and other manufacturers have sufficiently addressed those concerns, foldables, rollables, slidables, and other -able displays will remain novelties and luxuries that could eventually die off as fads.
Of course, Samsung hasn’t completely forgotten about common people and has a few of its more normal but more usable innovations also on display, no pun intended. Amusingly, its latest QD-Display technology also stands as a testament to how technology, marketing, and even design go back and forth like a pendulum. The display market swings between LCD and OLED technologies every so often, sometimes with different marketing names and tweaks like MicroLED and Quantum Dots, in an attempt to get buyers’ attention and money. Samsung’s QD-Display TVs and monitors are just about to roll out to the public, so we’ll see soon enough what that buzz is all about.
Surviving years of college is no small feat, so the graduates in our lives deserve rightful praise and celebration. Whether your graduate is going out into the world to get their first job or continuing with their education, there are a number of gadgets you can gift them that will make them smile and also come in handy on a daily basis. If you’re stumped on what to give to the tech-savvy grad in your life, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite tech for you to consider.
Chromecast with Google TV
Recent graduates moving into a new place may not want to shell out money for cable or a satellite subscription. But just because they’ve cut the cord doesn’t mean they can’t watch quality content. Thanks to streaming sticks like Chromecast with Google TV, watching content on various streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and more is super easy, regardless of what kind of TV they have.
The latest Chromecast with Google TV works especially well for those with a YouTube TV subscription as its “Live TV” tab works as a channel guide for the service. Just like previous Chromecasts, they can also use it to “cast” their computer screen to the TV, too.
Another benefit over other streaming sticks is that it has Google Assistant integration. Your grad can ask it to display the five-day weather forecast, show the live feed from their Nest camera, turn their Philips Hue lights on or off, or play their favorite Spotify playlist. As a bonus, they can use Google Assistant to find shows to watch or to launch apps. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer
Regardless of whether you gift a Chromecast with Google TV, we think a YouTube TV subscription will make an excellent present for them. The service essentially replaces cable or satellite, and your graduate can easily use their phone, laptop or connected TV to access it. The platform offers pretty much all the standard network and cable offerings including sports channels like ESPN, so they won’t have to worry about missing their favorite team’s game. You can either pay for the subscription directly or buy them a Google Play gift card. — N.L.
Watches make great graduation gifts, and the Apple Watch is arguably the best one to get for the iPhone fan in your life. As Apple’s latest flagship wearable, the Series 7 is packed with features both basic and advanced. On a daily basis, most will use the Watch for tracking activity, recording workouts, buying coffees with Apple Pay and checking iMessage alerts on the fly. But the Watch also has perks like blood oxygen tracking, ECG measurements and fall detection that your grad may only use now and again, but will appreciate in crucial moments. Plus, the Series 7 has the largest screen of any Apple Watch to date, as well as the best battery life and a faster charging time, too. And if your grad prefers the style of more traditional timepieces, they can customize their Watch with bands that give them that look. — Valentina Palladino, Commerce Editor
Once they leave dorm life behind, graduates should learn how to make something other than instant ramen. For newbies, we recommend an appliance like the Instant Pot Duo Plus. This trendy kitchen device can be used as a slow cooker, yogurt maker, rice cooker and, of course, a pressure cooker.
Not only is it easy to use, it can be a huge time saver: just set it, do other chores (or just rest up) and your meal will be ready when it beeps. It’s a wonderful solution if your grad has a tiny stovetop in their first apartment, and it cuts down on dishwashing if you use the Instant Pot for a lot of one pot meals.
While laptops’ built-in webcams are getting better, most of them still don’t quite cut it for all of the Zoom calls many of us continue to have nowadays. Your graduate will likely have to take calls like this on a regular basis and the Logitech Streamcam is a gadget that can help them put their best face forward. The webcam shoots sharp video in 1080p/60fps and its handy auto-exposure feature helps make dark rooms less cave-like on screen. It also has built-in microphones with noise reduction, so your grad should sound as good as they look on these calls. Additionally, the Streamcam was designed with game streamers and content creators in mind, and that makes it a great all-purpose webcam that your graduate can use for both work and play. — V.P.
There’s a good chance that your graduate will be working from a few different locations when they start their first job. Maybe they’ll spend half of their time in an office and the other half at home, but you can help them stay focused anywhere by gifting them the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones. These are our current favorite high-end cans thanks to their excellent sound quality and equally stellar active noise cancellation. Their Adaptive Sound Control feature automatically changes the level of noise cancellation depending on your location and what you’re doing, blocking out as much of the world as necessary without the user needing to do much work. With this iteration, Sony also added multi-device connectivity, too, so your graduate can seamlessly go from listening to music on their laptop to taking a call from their smartphone. — V.P.
Who doesn’t want a caffeine hit in the morning before they head into work? For that we recommend the OXO Brew 8-Cup Coffee Maker. OXO typically makes excellent tasting coffee, and since this one is certified by the Specialty Coffee Association, it will certainly meet your grad’s standards as well. This model is easy to use, has a thermal carafe to keep their brew hot for hours, and has an option to brew directly into a mug. — N.L.
Why settle for a boring ol’ alarm clock when you can gift your grad a smarter option? The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential comes in both Google Assistant and Alexa varieties, and does a lot more than just tell time. These compact gadgets can give them the weather forecast, play a Spotify playlist or simply display their appointments for the day.
Which you choose depends on the virtual assistant your grad prefers – we generally recommend the Google version for Android users and those that rely on Google services like Calendar and Drive for their personal and professional duties. Everyone else is likely safe getting the Alexa version. And if you want to step it up a bit, the $90 Lenovo Smart Clock 2 comes with a docking area with a wireless charging pad, so they can power up their phones more easily overnight. — N.L.
We could all use a little help finding our stuff sometimes – new graduates especially. With new internships, jobs, side hustles and more, grads have a ton to keep track of and an AirTag can give them peace of mind by digitally locating their most important items. AirTags can attach to keys, wallets, handbags and more with the right accessories, and then your grad can check out the location of their stuff using the Find My app on iOS. They can program their contact information into the AirTag, in case a stranger needs to return their things, and those with newer iPhone can use the Precision Finding feature to be led directly to their stuff. For those who often misplace their belongings, Bluetooth trackers like these can be crucial. — V.P.
Voracious readers will appreciate an e-reader like Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite. The latest model has a larger, 6.8-inch display that has 17 front lights and an adjustable warm light setting that reduces eye strain. The design is compact and sleek, and the robust battery lasts for weeks between charging. And if they like reading in the tub or by the pool, the Paperwhite is also waterproof.
If you want to give your grad something even more special, however, consider gifting them the Paperwhite Signature Edition. It has 32GB of storage, wireless charging support and a light sensor that can automatically adjust the screen brightness according to their surroundings. It’s about $50 more than the regular Paperwhite, but they will certainly appreciate it. — N.L.
One of the great things about Beats’ Studio Buds is that both Android and iOS users can wear them and get a fairly similar experience. These Beats aren’t just for iPhone users, as those with Android devices have access to convenient features like Find My and fast pairing. The brand has come a long way when it comes to sound quality, too. These buds are well-tuned with a punchy bass, and iOS users will be able to get Spatial Audio on select tracks. The Studio Buds also have solid ANC with transparency mode, plus a compact, comfortable design that transitions well from study sessions to workout routines. — V.P.
Anker’s MagGo 2-in-1 wireless charging station is the gadget to give if you want to set your grab up with basically everything they’d need to never run out of power again. The bundle includes a wireless charging stand that can power both a phone and a pair of earbuds at the same time, and the phone portion detaches into a portable, magnetic, 5,000 mAh battery pack. The MagGo lineup is MagSafe-compatible, so if your grad has a newer iPhone, they’ll be able to take the slim pack with them by snapping it to the back of their smartphone. Also included is a 25W USB-C adapter, which can power the whole system with the proper speed. — V.P.
If your grad needs coffee or tea to stay productive throughout the day, a Yeti Rambler is an excellent gift for them. These classic tumblers have a double-walled, insulated design that keeps hot drinks hot for hours, while also being BPA-free. The latest versions have Dracut color coatings, which won’t fade, peel or crack with age (or when you put them in the dishwasher), so their favorite color will come through for years to come. Plus, the Ramblers now come with MagSlider lids, which, while not spill-proof, use magnets to make opening and closing (and cleaning) the lid super easy. — V.P.
Almost every design has its pros and cons, but Huawei’s latest foldable phone makes it even harder to decide which fold is better.
When talking about foldable phones, it will be Samsung’s name that probably comes up the most. That’s partly because of marketing and party due to just having more foldable devices already available in the market at this point. It isn’t the only player, though, not by a long shot, and rival brands like OPPO and Vivo have started rising up to challenge its position. The disgraced Chinese brand Huawei, however, has been playing that game just as long as Samsung, and it has been pushing a different design to what is now regarded as the common fold. After seemingly giving up on that, the embattled company is returning to its roots with one small feature that could actually change the game for it.
While many people probably imagine foldable phones to fold like books, which is how Samsung’s “innie” design works, it isn’t the only way to fold. In fact, it is the most inefficient way because of the many compromises it has to make. Such a device, for example, would be unusable when folded shut unless there’s a second display on the outside. It also requires that the folded area should have a gap, which means it doesn’t really fold flat without some tricks.
In contrast, the “outie” design that Huawei embraced addresses those problems, though it has issues of its own. You only need one screen, cutting down on costs, and you can fold the phone flat because there is already a natural curve on the outside of the screen. You can use the “back” main cameras for taking selfies without having to precariously hold the fragile phone. On the other hand, that sensitive, flexible display is always on the outside, always exposed to the elements and to whatever dangerous objects might pierce its softer material.
The Huawei Mate X2 last year ditched the outie design for Samsung’s innie, and it seemed that Samsung had won that debate. With the Mate Xs 2, however, Huawei is aiming for a rebound and has included one feature that makes the Galaxy Z Fold 3 look inept. Huawei’s latest foldable phone supports a stylus, but unlike Samsung’s version, it actually works whether the phone is open or folded.
With the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Samsung made the decision not to make the outer “Cover Screen” compatible with its special S Pen Fold Edition, mostly because it uses different technologies from its regular Galaxy Note phones. This meant that you’d have to open the phone first in order to use the stylus on the flexible display inside. Since it’s using the same screen anyway, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 doesn’t have to compromise on features just because it’s folded in half.
Whether that works in practice still remains to be seen, mostly because the Huawei Mate Xs 2 isn’t getting a wider rollout just yet. It’s currently being sold only in China, to the tune of $1,500, and there has been no word on a global release yet. Samsung will be launching the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in a few months as well, but early leaks and rumors don’t paint a very hopeful picture. We’re still far from that point where people don’t have to compromise or risk losing their investment in foldable phones, which means the device category still has a long way to go before becoming mainstream.