Winners and Losers: Samsung comes out swinging, King’s Cross comes out scanning

It’s been another fairly sleepy week on the tech news front – Gamescom is about to kick off, and shortly after that, we’re off to IFA, and so naturally, a lot of the big brands and publishers are keeping their powder dry ‘til these big events, the last major games and consumer tech trade shows on the calendar, kick off. 

That’s not to say it’s been totally silent – the new Nokia phones might not be as physically indestructible as the legendary 3310s of yore, but they’re proving resilient in other ways. Maker and Nokia brand-licensee HMD Global announced this week that the Nokia 8, Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3, all released in 2017, will continue to get updates until late 2020. How’s that for aftercare?

Huawei looks like it’s not messing around with its HarmonyOS platform either – while the platform is ostensibly for smart TVs and home appliances, the Mate 30 Lite could be first phone that makes use of the operating system. Whether you’ll be able to buy one over here is another thing… elsewhere, OnePlus all but confirmed a 5G 7T and a recent hire means that maybe, just maybe, TimeSplitters 4 will actually see the light of day. 

On the bad news front, Spotify users could soon start having to cough up more for their monthly passes. It’s unsurprising, given that the Family passes have been locked at £14.99/month for ages, but with the currency continuing to take a beating, any price increase is going to hurt. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 owners have suffered this week – a software patch saw processors throttled to a retro-tastic 400MHz, and support for faster 5GHz Wi-Fi disappear, taking users back to the 90s, and not in a fun, Charli XCX way. 

All of these stories pale in comparison to this week’s winners and losers – Samsung, for staging a mighty comeback, and the companies involved with the redevelopment of London’s King’s Cross area, who are now being investigated by the Information Commissioner over use of facial recognition tech. 

Winner: Samsung, for releasing phones that don’t break or explode

Samsung’s not had the best time of late. Sales of its flagship Galaxy S10 phones have been sluggish. It had to go to court to get money after Apple couldn’t sell as many iPhones as it’d hoped – Samsung was the supplier of the panels – and therefore failed to order as many OLED displays from Samsung as it had promised. And on top of that, Samsung Galaxy Fold units had to be recalled – turns out that making flexible touchscreen phones which don’t break is kind of tricky. 

This week, the Korean giant staged something of a comeback. Firstly, it announced the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus, the latest in the Note series of phablets this week, and, while the smaller phone here very much feels like a revamped Galaxy S10, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the true heir to last year’s Galaxy Note 9

If our first impressions are anything to go by, it deserves to sell well – whether punters will pony up or not is another thing. Either way, it’s very much looking like a strong return to form. 

Even if Samsung finds it undercut by rival brands, there’s a good chance that your next phone will have some Samsung tech in it anyway – this week, Sammy confirmed that its 108-megapixel ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor, co-developed with Xiaomi, will feature in the upcoming Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 phone. 

As Xiaomi phones tend to be very aggressively priced – we’re still blown away by the barganicious RRP of the Xiaomi Mi 9 – there’s a good chance that the Mi Mix 4, which promises “DSLR-like” photos, will be a big seller, too. 

Finally, Samsung claims it’s also fixed the issues which saw the Galaxy Fold fold and fly away from shelves back in February. 

A new protective exterior layer, metal supports underneath the screen and dust caps at the edges all mean that the new-look Fold promises to be more durable. It’s still likely to cost folding money when it re-emerges, so expect only oil barons, lottery winners, and footballers to pick these up initially. That said, it is a symbolic victory which sees Samsung return to the fold after a rather shaky start to the year. 

Losers: Argent, AustralianSuper and Hermes Investment Management, for being investigated by the ICO

Earlier this week the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced that it is formally investigating reports that facial recognition technology has been used to monitor crowds around the King’s Cross area, a busy part of central London. 

The technology has been deployed by a consortium of companies that have invested in the development of a site in Granary Square, King’s Cross, including property developer Argent, Australian pension scheme AustralianSuper, and Hermes Investment Management on behalf of BT Pensioners. 

In a statement to the Guardian, the consortium said that the technology had been installed “in the interest of public safety and to ensure that everyone who visits has the best possible experience”.

The ICO, which recently handed EE a £100,000 fine for spamming customers, will now investigate whether use of facial recognition technology and the collection and storing of any data here complies with the law.

Under GDRP (General Data Protection Regulation) rules, biometric data is classed as ‘special category data’, and therefore additional rules apply to its collection. The ICO will now investigate whether or not use of the technology was, as the consortium argues, deployed with public safety in mind.

“We have launched an investigation following concerns reported in the media regarding the use of live facial recognition in the King’s Cross area of central London, which thousands of people pass through every day,” said the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, in a statement

“As well as requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations about how the technology is used, we will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.

“Put simply, any organisations wanting to use facial recognition technology must comply with the law – and they must do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way. They must have documented how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified.”

Facial recognition technology is controversial, not just because of the implications for privacy it throws up, but because it’s not reliable. South Wales Police trialled facial recognition technology earlier this year, and in 2017 the London Metropolitan Police used it to monitor the Notting Hill Carnival in 2017 – and drawing from a bank of 20 million images to match faces against suspects managed to incorrectly tag 35 people as suspects

According to a report in the Financial Times, there are plans for the technology to be deployed at the notoriously busy Canary Wharf station – right on Trusted Reviews’ doorstep. Needless to say, we’re not too pleased about this development and will be awaiting the results of the ICO’s investigation with interest.

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