Pixel Fold renders dream up Google’s next big thing

Google seems to be gearing up to expand its Pixel brand, starting with the shiny new Pixel Watch launched last month. The company also already confirmed that it will be launching its first Pixel-branded tablet next year, and it seems to be taking a rather different course from typical slates like the Apple iPads and the majority of Android tablets. One thing it hasn’t confirmed yet at this point is a foldable device that many are sure is happening next year as well. While nothing is official yet, these beautiful renders and bits of information do paint an almost complete picture of what is being called the Pixel Fold, suggesting that it’s going to be just as divisive as any other foldable phone in the market.

Designer: Jon Presser (Front Page Tech)

Almost everyone is expected to launch a foldable phone these days, including Apple, which is highly unlikely at this point. The reality is that, despite all the buzz and hype, foldables are still seen as an eccentric luxury, a very expensive experiment in what the future of mobile could be. Ironically, that’s exactly the perfect chance for Google to step in with its own take on a foldable Android device, only to announce its retirement a year or two later.

Whether it happens sooner rather than later, these renders, all based on leaked information, represent a close possibility of what the Pixel Fold could look like. Admittedly, it looks very classy and professional, especially with its sparkling chrome edges and reflective glass back. When folded, the external screen looks big enough to be a regular-sized “phablet” or giant phone. Unfolded, however, it means that it would be more square than a typical tablet. There is also no gap near the hinge when the phone is folded, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold series, which isn’t exactly that novel considering that the OPPO Find N and the Huawei Mate Xs 2 have already pulled it off.

While all of the above sound good and expected for such a device, there are a few details that could give would-be buyers pause for thought. The extra large camera bump on the back runs horizontally like the Pixel 7’s, but it is a discrete island rather than a visor. The Pixel 7’s camera design wouldn’t have worked anyway since it would have gotten in the way of the hinge. It’s a rather thick bump, for that matter, and it could make the device wobble when unfolded and laid on a desk. Either way, it looks a bit awkward and very unlike the Pixel 7’s signature design.

The internal screen also has quite some bezel around it, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s far wider than what we’re used to these days, even on foldable phones. On the other hand, it possibly leaves enough room for a front camera without resorting to cutouts and under-display gimmicks. According to the leakster, the Pixel Fold is going to be quite heavy in hand, which doesn’t really sound reassuring for this kind of device. That said, that heft could also give it a bit of a premium feel that’s associated with materials like metal rather than cheap plastic.

The biggest deal-breaker, however, might be its rumored $1,800 price tag, a very steep figure at a time when manufacturers like Samsung are trying to make the device category more palatable. Pixel phones do have that mark of being more expensive than comparable phones, so that’s not exactly surprising. It doesn’t inspire confidence, however, given how Google tends to provide or sell products with much buzz only to pull the rug from under people’s feet when they least expect it.

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This Leitz Phone 2 is a smartphone dressed as a Leica camera

Cameras have been a critical part of smartphones for many years, and manufacturers have come up with ways to highlight that fact. In addition to the increasingly larger sizes of camera sensors themselves, many smartphones have adopted a design that figuratively and literally elevated those cameras, sometimes to the point of being obnoxious. It’s not unusual to see phones with humongous camera bumps that take more space than they should, some with more tasteful designs than others. This new Leica-rebranded phone, for example, has a large circle on its back, and it actually only has one camera there. That, of course, is all intentional and by design because this Leitz Phone 2 is meant to recreate the feeling of a digital camera, even including having a lens cover.

Designer: Leica

Named after the company’s founder, the Leitz Phone 2 is both a rebranded Sharp Aquos R7, which was co-developed with Leica, as well as definitely something more. It shares many things in common, including its exclusivity to the Japanese market. These boil down to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, 6.6-inch screen, and a single camera on its back. The last bit is pretty much a bold move as far as modern smartphones go, and Leica went even further to differentiate itself from the general market trend.

That single camera has a 1-inch 47-megapixel sensor, one of the biggest in the industry today and a bragging right for certain companies. Unlike other smartphones, though, it stands alone in the Leitz Phone 2 but is still enclosed in a humongous circle that nearly spans the width of the phone. There is nothing else on that plate other than a depth sensor and an LED flash, making it almost like a tremendous waste of space. That, however, was meant to make it look like the lenses of digital cameras, perhaps like the ones that Leica makes.

In fact, everything about this Leica-branded smartphone is about making you think and feel like you’re using a digital camera. The flat side edges have knurled surfaces that give you a better grip when taking photos. On the software side, Leica has added effects that mimic the results of its three iconic lenses, namely the Summilux 28, the Summilux 35, and the Noctilux 50. It even has a shutter sound that should be familiar to fans of the brand’s cameras.

While the idea of trying to recreate an authentic camera feel is laudable, it almost feels as if Leica also went overboard to some extent. There’s a magnetic lens cap for that large camera, something that is necessary for digital cameras but almost useless for smartphones. It does let the owner flaunt their brand loyalty, but at the expense of speed when you have to remove the cover to take a picture with your phone. Plus, you also run the risk of losing that cover along the way.

Some regard smartphones as having gone overboard in terms not only of camera design but also of the number of cameras themselves. In that regard, the Sharp Aquos R7 and this Leitz Phone 2 are rather bold deviations that truly put the focus, forgive the pun, on the important aspects of photography using a single lens. Unfortunately, their limited availability makes sure they’ll be nothing more than collectors’ items and a passing fad.

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Foldable iPhone in Motorola Razr chassis is the mashup all Apple fans are waiting for

2022 is by far the best year for foldable smartphones: Perfected by Samsung in the fourth generation after three valiant attempts at getting that fold right and the form factor thin. While most OEMs have already got some sort of foldable smartphone on the market; Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 stands as the best in the lot, this is perhaps because Apple has not entered the waters yet.

Apple is late to jump on the foldable phone bandwagon; and rumors suggest, the Cupertino company has no intention of releasing a variant any time before 2025 either. This leaves other companies, led by Samsung, to delve deep and explore the domain. This means Apple fanboys have nothing more than their own backs to keep if they have to see how and what the iOS can do on a form factor that folds in the middle.

Designer: 科技美学

This was something a YouTuber modders had in mind perhaps before he ripped off an iPhone X (a few other models in the process) to fit its innards into a Motorola Razr chassis. The end result is a foldable iPhone that breaks the mold of the much-anticipated debut.

Since I have been following the idea of a foldable iPhone, I have been excited by the prospect. There has been nothing official for Apple on this, but rumors and possible prototypes have floated, which give us an idea. But the video in the discussion, with Chinese audio (English subtitles), does leave me in awe, even though the foldable iPhone here is way too thick to be a normal device you and I would want to carry every day.

The modded iPhone folds in half and is called the iPhone V. In addition to the folding function, the modder has been able to keep the phone pretty authentic by running iOS, and a screen as good as the Retina display. It’s an interesting concept that however substantiates the fact that foldable phones with more screen real estate look good but only if the folding mechanism and the thickness can be perfected.

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This futuristic-looking smartphone is an unfortunate step back in durability

Gaming smartphones have become quite a thing, even if almost all high-end smartphones are well capable of running those games anyway. This subset of the mobile market promises extra features to level up the gaming experience, like invisible extra buttons for additional controls or tiny cooling fans for better thermal management. Almost all of them also come with telltale designs of a gaming device in contrast to the more discreet looks of typical smartphones. All of these unconventional designs and features are, of course, intended to appeal to gamers, but none of these come for free. Sometimes, the price is quite literal, given how much these gaming smartphones cost. For one such special phone, however, the price also comes in the way you might least expect, especially if you accidentally sit down on or bend the phone out of proportion.

Designer: ASUS

To be fair, ASUS’ Republic of Gamers, or ROG, needs to be lauded for putting out one of the most powerful smartphones this year as well as one of the most striking gaming phones so far. The white ROG Phone 6 Pro, in particular, delivers a unique and novel aesthetic that makes it look like it was taken straight out of a sci-fi movie set. The company’s attention to detail is definitely commendable as well, from the bulky yet interesting packaging to the embossed text on the glass back that exhorts the holder to “Join the Republic.”

There are also a few touches that would really appeal to gamers, like the small LCD display on the back that can be used to display logos and animations, not to mention notifications. There is also a second USB-C port on the side of the phone, allowing the user to play games while the phone charges without the cable getting in the way. The latter is completely new, though, since it was also present in last year’s ROG Phone 5. Unfortunately, the similarities between the two generations of gaming phones don’t end there.

YouTube channel JerryRigEverything’s typical torture test started well enough, with the phone doing quite well when it comes to scratching and burning the phone. That second test is admittedly now just for fun and tradition, but the scratch test inspires confidence that your gaming partner will survive your pocket or bag unscathed. Unfortunately, it might not survive a splash in the tub because of its meager IPX4 dust and water resistance rating.

Unfortunately, things take a nose dive immediately during the bend test. Just like its predecessor, the ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro easily bent in half, suggesting that there may have been no significant improvement to its structural integrity. The rear glass completely shatters, though the small display ironically still works. The main screen is bent beyond repair and no longer works either. It still warrants a thorough investigation with a teardown, but the most likely culprits are the phone’s split batter design and the placement of that second USB-C port.

While you’re unlikely to try and bend a phone the way the YouTuber did, accidents do happen from time to time. It’s definitely not reassuring that a $1,300 phone like the ROG Phone 6 Pro could be so weak, especially when you consider it isn’t properly waterproof either. That doesn’t bode well for the sustainability of the phone in the long run since damages could easily mean throwing away the broken phone. The ROG Phone 6 Pro might look like it’s from the future, but it definitely didn’t make any progress in its durability and sustainability.

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Pixel 7 Pro signature design element is apparently its biggest durability flaw

Google doesn’t really have a good track record when it comes to hardware, especially when you consider that it occasionally cancels products for one reason or another. Its hardware products aren’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing in the market, either, save for a few times it did actually hit gold. Last year’s Pixel 6 was one such example, earning praise and sales for its fresh and quirky new design. The Pixel 7 refines that formula to make the phone look a little more mature and professional without losing its personality. Unfortunately, you always run the risk of tripping when you change something, which seems to be the case with this year’s Pixel 7 Pro, whose sleeker design might have caused it to become less durable than its predecessor.

Designer: Google

The biggest change from the Pixel 6 to the Pixel 7 is the design of the “visor” bump that house the phone’s cameras, which now visually and structurally blends into the mid-frame. This means that the raised portion is no longer covered by glass or uses a different material but exposes its metallic surface to the world. This gives that camera bump a more stylish appearance and a textured feel, but, as YouTuber JerryRigEvertyhing discovered, also makes it more vulnerable to wear and tear.

It’s natural for exposed metal to get a few scuffs over time, but the Pixel 7 Pro durability test showed that it takes very little for keys and coins in your pocket to leave their mark on the smartphone’s camera bump. For some people, these scratches might give the phone a bit more character, like the unique patinas that develop on leather. But when these appear within two years or less, it might cause a bit more concern, especially since this is the part of the phone that will rub against surfaces the most.

A bit more worrying, however, is the actual durability of the phone against bending, like when you accidentally sit on it or place something heavy on it. The good news is that the phone won’t break easily in that scenario. The bad news is that it’s likely to create a gap at the side where metal meets plastic along the intersection of the mid-frame and the camera bump. This small bit of plastic is necessary for radio waves to pass through the phone’s metal body, but its new placement creates a structural vulnerability. Once that gap appears, the phone’s waterproofing flies out the window.

The Pixel 7 Pro is admittedly eye-catching, and its design upgrade proves the phone’s maturity. Unfortunately, that didn’t come without its unforeseen costs, though none of them are deal-breakers, to be honest. Hopefully, Google will continue to carry this new signature design with the Pixel 8 next year and address these concerns along the way. After all, the last thing we need is yet another generation of smartphones whose broken parts will pile up in landfills yet again.

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Sustainably tinkered Google Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro offer irresistible photography and battery to back it up through the day

I’d be blunt in accepting that unconventional gimmicks in a new phone launch don’t impress me much. However, on the heels of Apple’s unrealistic software-hardware integration to make little changes deliver drastic fan-favorite results; Google has left me floored with the launch of the redesigned Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro at the Made by Google event – both in terms of quality and price.

Powered by the AI capabilities with Android integration on the home-baked Google Tensor G2 processor, the two new Pixel siblings are definitely grownups from the reimagined Pixel 6 series from last year. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro thrive on their ability to deliver best-in-class photos and videos (at least that’s how Google presents them and we take the word at its face value), unconditionally fast performance, and smooth display!

Designer: Google

Evidently, the new phones look identical to their predecessors, however, the reworked camera visor on the back of the Pixel 7 series really sets the design apart. From how it appears, the Pixel 7 has a single pill-shaped cut-out in the camera visor that houses the two camera sensors, while the Pixel 7 Pro finds an additional circular cut-out next to the pill-shaped opening that houses the phone’s third camera sensor. On the front, the design is undistinguishable from the 6 series with a near bezel-less edge-to-edge display and hole-punch front camera.

The body enclosure of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro are made from 100 percent recycled aluminum. Smooth to hold and interact with, the Pixel 7 features a 6.3-inch Full-HD OLED display and it is delivered in three interesting Snow, Obsidian and Lemongrass colors. For the love of those who despised the curved display on the Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 7 Pro ditches the curve for a flat 6.7-inch LTPO pOLED panel. The larger Pixel 7 Pro comes in Snow, Obsidian and Hazel colors. The next-gen Google Tensor G2 processor is paired with a Titan M2 security chip to superimpose multiple layers of security on the Pixel 7 series smartphones to render the apps and browser in them secure. The phones will also get VPN by Google One without additional cost for beefing up the security cause.

Available for pre-order (and to go on sale starting October 13), the Pixel 7 priced $599 and the Pixel 7 Pro starting at $899 gets the much-awaited Face Unlock in addition to the under-display fingerprint sensor. While the interesting Photo Unblur feature, Google is adding to the Google Photos for Pixel 7 and 7 Pro users (where they can improve the quality of old or new blurry photos) is inviting, but you should be tilting toward the new smartphones if you want an all-day battery, a smooth display and want to click professional level photographs with amateur-level skills.

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Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro design aims for a smoother and more sophisticated look

Smartphones have started to sound and even look similar, not only from their specs but also from their designs. That’s why many manufacturers are now trying to stand out from the crowd with a new design almost every year. Some are tasteful and elegant, while others can be obnoxious and over the top. Some, on the other hand, have tried to go against the flow and stick a design until it gets long in the tooth. After many generations, Google finally decided to give its Pixel phone a fresh new face last year with some amount of success. Rather than switch to a different design after that, the Android maker has instead opted to refine a winning formula, making it look a bit more grown-up rather than a passing teenage fad.

Designer: Google

There might be some people who disagree with the aesthetic of last year’s Pixel 6 siblings, but few will argue that it at least had some lasting impact. It was so unlike any other smartphone on the market, and the shape of its visor-like camera bump, paired with its dual-tone color scheme, made it look novel, quirky, and youthful. Just like the Material You design language of Android 12 from last year, it carried some character that would appeal to people who see their smartphones as a form of personal expression.

Wow factors rarely last forever, though, and the Pixel 6’s design might even look too playful for some people. Rather than throw it away, Google is maturing the easily distinguishable design instead, making the Pixel 7 look more mature and well thought out. The differences are subtle yet telling, retaining the Pixel’s new visual identity while also giving it a more sophisticated character compared to the youthful Pixel 6.

The camera bar, for example, not only protrudes less but also blends visually and structurally with the frame. It now shares the same color as the mid-frame rather than just a black paint job. As for colors, the back of the Pixel now has a single color, and the camera bump provides not only visual but also a chromatic that makes that side of the phone look more active. The cameras themselves are also displayed better, huddled into groups rather than standing isolated from each other.

There are still parts of the design that remain the same, particularly when comparing the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro. The former, for example, retains its flat display, while the Pixel 7 Pro sticks to its curved edges. In both cases, the two still bear hallmarks of a slightly older design convention that uses rounded edges to supposedly make the phone comfortable to hold. Not everyone’s a fan, though, but it at least fits perfectly with the Pixel 7’s design.

It’s definitely refreshing to see that Google hasn’t given up on a design that gives its phone a distinctive appearance. Even better, it is actually improving that design to make it look more elegant while still retaining its quirky nature. Of course, a phone is more than just its looks, and we’ll have to see next month whether the combination of design and hardware will put the Pixel 7 at the top this year.

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Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+ renders hint at a minimalist redesign

Some smartphone manufacturers have started paying more attention to the design and aesthetics of their products, but the majority still seem to be content with portraying smartphones as advanced gadgets and nothing more. Although there are a few exceptions, most of Samsung’s smartphones, even in the higher ranges, look more technical and, to some extent, distant. Make no mistake, they do look sleek and refined from a certain point of view, but they feel more like a smorgasbord of different features rather than a more organic whole. Fortunately, these companies have wised up to design trends, and even Samsung is slowly moving in that direction. An example can be seen in what could be the design for next year’s Galaxy S23, which seems to be shedding off some extra baggage and aiming for a more minimalist aesthetic.

Designer: Steve Hemmerstoffer

Cameras have been an important part of the smartphone industry, and many manufacturers have chosen to highlight that through their designs. Because of the larger hardware needed to support these advanced imaging technologies, many designs have opted to use bumps or islands to mask how much space they actually occupy inside. It’s a hit or miss, though, with some designs ending up being tasteful while others tend to be obnoxious and distracting.

For some people, however, the ideal would be to not have these cameras attract too much attention. It seems that Samsung is leaning towards that kind of thinking with the upcoming Galaxy S23 series. According to renders based on unofficial information, a.k.a. leaks, the base Galaxy S23 model (via Digit) and Galaxy S23+ (via Smartprix), will finally get rid of that camera bump altogether. It’s actually not a totally new design since it was used on the Galaxy S22 Ultra earlier this year, but this will be the first time it comes to the base and “plus” models.

This means that instead of a raised structure that will encompass all the cameras, each camera lens on the back of the phone will be on its own, surrounded by a ring that will help protect the lens when the phone is placed on a flat surface. This simplifies manufacturing a bit by reducing unnecessary parts or surfaces. It also makes the phone’s rear visually quieter, leaving what’s necessary only and nothing more.

The rest of the Galaxy S23’s design won’t differ much from this year’s models. Both the back and the screen on the front are flat, again getting rid of extraneous curves. That said, the sides of the phone are still slightly rounded, unlike the current trend that seems to be returning to the flatter edges from the early days of smartphones. Regardless, the Galaxy S23 seems to look cleaner and less noisy, which can be a breath of fresh air for Samsung’s flagship series that has always been burdened by extraneous elements and embellishments.

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LG Rollable phone hands-on video shows the future that we could have had

Samsung might be crazy about foldable phones and is trying to make them mainstream, but these aren’t the only futuristic designs that could change the way we use smartphones forever. In some ways, it might actually be the less practical and less economical option, considering all the costs and compromises that had to be made to make it work well. Another option that phone manufacturers have been looking into is a phone that expands its display by rolling out part of the screen. LG was one of those dreamers and was on the verge of finally making it happen when it sadly had to close up its mobile shop. While the LG Rollable will no longer be, new information and videos show how this design could have offered a better way to have a phone and a tablet in one.

Designer: LG

To be fair, there is no clear winner yet among the different designs of these “morphing” smartphones. Foldables are currently leading the race, but it might only be a matter of time before rollables start rolling out. Despite being relatively older, foldable designs still have a lot of growing up to do. For example, one design requires having a second on the outside to make the phone even usable when folded. There is also still plenty of room to improve the hinge in order to reduce creasing. There’s also the fact that the flexible panel used is still more fragile than the regular displays on regular phones.

As this new hands-on video shows, the LG Rollable almost fixes most of those concerns. When rolled up, it is pretty much just a regular phone in a regular size that happens to have a softer display on the back. When rolled out, however, the 6.8-inch phone becomes a 7.4-inch tablet that, while smaller in size, could easily replace “mini” tablets in terms of use.

That’s the same spiel that phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series make, but a rollable design has a few advantages. One of the biggest is that the “main” part of the display doesn’t need to be flexible and fragile and can be as rigid as typical smartphone screens. Only the area that actually bends and rolls has to be flexible. This makes the phone easily usable in its rolled-up form while also minimizing the potential for damage.

As a first-gen device, the LG Rollable does still have a few flaws. The creases aren’t completely gone, and there are actually more than one of them this time. There’s also an audible sound when the motors roll the side of the phone to shrink or expand the display. These imperfections could be solved by iterating over the design and the technology, though that will no longer be possible in LG’s case.

It is definitely a tragedy that LG shut down its mobile business, especially before it had the chance to bring the LG Rollable to the market. There are, of course, other brands that will try to pick up where it left off to prove the feasibility of a rollable design. Perhaps those would have already addressed the flaws of what would have been the market’s first rollable phone and would deliver something that is a bit closer to the ideal form-changing phone.

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Samsung sustainability initiative takes a step forward with Unpacked 2022 devices

Smartphones are one of the most ubiquitous pieces of consumer electronics in the world today. An overwhelming number of people have one, some might even have two, and millions of phones are shipped every quarter. In fact, there might be too many smartphones out there in the world, and not all of them are actually in use or even in one piece. As wonderful as smartphones are, their production and disposal contribute to the worsening state of our environment, especially because of how many they are. Smartphone manufacturers have thankfully started to be more aware of their critical role in this broken ecosystem and, even better, are starting to take action. As one of the world’s biggest smartphone makers, Samsung is thankfully taking that responsibility seriously and is boasting the achievements that take it closer to its grand goal in 2025.

Designer: Samsung

From the cradle to the grave, a smartphone’s life is filled with materials and processes that harm the environment or even people. From the plastics used in electronics to the chemicals for treating different parts to the materials used in packaging, these powerful computers in our pockets and hands are almost like death traps for the planet. It’s too late to turn back, of course, so smartphone manufacturers are instead trying to reduce their negative impact little by little on all fronts. Samsung’s “Galaxy for the Planet” initiative tries to cover those different fronts, and the newest batch of devices it just announced demonstrates the progress it has made since the program was announced last year.

Samsung started with the Galaxy S22 earlier this year by using plastics made from recycled fishing nets that would have otherwise ruined our oceans and aquatic life. Since then, Samsung has expanded the use of that material to other Galaxy devices, including the Galaxy Book 2 Pro laptop and the Galaxy Tab S8 tablets. The new Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 continue that tradition and are even joined by the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. In fact, Samsung boasts that 90% of its new pro earbuds are made using recycled materials. Given its smaller size and fewer components, that is admittedly not that hard to pull off.

The company has also been trying to improve its packaging, and no, it’s not just about removing the charger. The company now uses 100% recycled paper for the packaging of its flagship phones, which does raise questions about the state of its non-flagship phone packaging. Samsung is also trying to reduce how much single-use plastic it puts inside the box, though it’s not yet ready to get rid of them entirely. Both the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Galaxy Z Flip 4 boxes are less than half the size of their original models, which results in more efficient transport and reduced carbon emissions overall.

Sooner or later, phones do reach their end of life, mostly because they no longer meet the needs of their owners. That doesn’t mean they’re completely useless, though, especially if they’re actually still functional. Rather than simply breaking these down and having them undergo recycling processes that consume a lot of water and energy, Samsung is proposing upcycling phones to serve other needs, like acting as smart home hubs or cameras. In one specific case, old Galaxy devices even become eye diagnostic tools used in underserved communities.

These small steps forward take Samsung closer to its ambitious goal for 2025, but it might still be quite a ways away from that milestone. In three years, Samsung envisions itself as having eliminated all plastics in packaging, achieved zero waste to landfill, and used recycled materials on all mobile products, not just the flagship ones. Those are lofty goals, indeed, and some might say almost impossible to reach by 2025. When it comes to sustainability, however, every step, no matter how small, counts toward healing the planet and making sure there will still be people around to buy those fancy smartphones in the future.

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