11.5 C
New York
Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Have We Reached Peak Smartphone?

Phones have been pretty boring for a long time. Don’t get us wrong—phones are still amazing little devices! It just feels like we haven’t seen any truly innovative phone designs or new standout features in a long while. This year’s phone looks and works a lot like last year’s phone. Your phone looks and works a lot like my phone. Have phones actually plateaued, leveled off, or chilled out? Is their transition from fetish object to commodity complete?

The perfectly fine boringness of phones gets thrown into focus every time a new handset is launched into the world. This week, we saw the debut of the newest Samsung Galaxy devices. WIRED staff writer (and our podcast's producer) Boone Ashworth joins us to talk about those new phones, and phones in general, and how breathtaking and bland they all are, all at once.

Show Notes

Read our roundup of everything Samsung announced at Galaxy Unpacked 2023, including three new Galaxy phones and five new laptops. If you want to preorder a Galaxy device, we have some buying advice for you. Last year’s model is also just great. Read Lauren’s story about safely buying a used phone.

Recommendations

Boone recommends Barbarian, which you can watch on HBO Max or rent elsewhere. Mike recommends Sichuan Gold hot sauce from Fly By Jing. Lauren recommends the HBO documentary Navalny.

Boone Ashworth can be found on Twitter @BooneAshworth. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

How to Listen

You can always listen to this week's podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here's how:

If you're on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Podcasts app just by tapping here. We’re on Spotify too. And in case you really need it, here's the RSS feed.

Transcript

Lauren Goode: Mike.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike, when is the last time you felt compelled to buy a brand-new smartphone?

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: I think it was 2018.

Lauren Goode: So that was about 17 years ago at this point?

Michael Calore: Feels like it. Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Why? What at that time made you want to buy a new one?

Michael Calore: I had an iPhone 6 Plus. It wouldn't hold a charge anymore. It was 3 years old at that point, and I would charge it and it would die after about 90 minutes. So I was like, "OK, I guess I have to buy a new phone." That was the only reason I really felt compelled to upgrade. Everything else about it was fine, and the features in the new phones that were coming out were just not enticing.

Lauren Goode: Well, a lot of people are feeling that way right now because smartphone sales are down, really down. I think we may have reached peak smartphone.

Michael Calore: Somewhere, Tim Cook just did 100 extra pushups and vowed to make it not so.

Lauren Goode: All right. We're going to talk about exactly that. Well, maybe not exactly that today, but we're going to talk about phones.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Lauren Goode: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: I am Michael Calore. I'm a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: We're joined today by the excellent Boone Ashworth, who you normally know as the producer of this podcast, but who's also a staff writer at WIRED and had the pleasure of covering a big smartphone launch event this morning. Boone, welcome to the mic.

Boone Ashworth: Hello. It's good to be over here facing this direction instead of the other wall.

Lauren Goode: I have a feeling that after this people in our review section of our podcast are going to say, "Bring back Boone. We want more Boone. Boone Ashworth, encore."

Michael Calore: I'll be silencing all of those voices—

Lauren Goode: Yes.

Michael Calore: Deplatforming all of those commenters.

Boone Ashworth: Sure.

Lauren Goode: Boone, congratulations on your promotion.

Boone Ashworth: Thank you. Oh, do I make more money now?

Michael Calore: Shh.

Lauren Goode: All right. So later in the show, we're going to talk about that smartphone event I just mentioned, but first, we're going to talk about smartphones in general, because just a few years ago, it might have felt essential to at least consider the latest smartphone because maybe the camera was that much better. The screen was that much smoother and brighter, or the processor was that much more powerful for playing games, or maybe being stuck at home in a pandemic meant that you wanted the best tech that you could possibly get. But things in smartphone land have changed a lot. So earlier this month, the market research firm, IDC, reported that global smartphone shipments plunged in the last quarter of 2022, which was pretty notable because that's a time period that typically includes a lot of holiday shopping. While more than a billion phones still shipped around the world for the entire year of 2022, it was the lowest annual number of smartphone shipments since—wait for it—2013.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Really?

Lauren Goode: Yes. So there are obviously a lot of macroeconomic factors to consider. On the demand side, people are feeling the effects of inflation. They might not be as eager to buy new stuff. On the supply side, there are some ongoing supply chain disruptions and phonemakers may be adjusting their shipments because of this weak demand and built up inventory. But there's an element of all this that we at Gadget Lab are uniquely qualified to discuss, which is the phones themselves. What is it about these phones that don't make them as enticing, as you said in the beginning, Mike? So Mike and Boone, have we reached peak smartphone?

Boone Ashworth: Well, what more do we really want our phones to do? Not to be a complete curmudgeon coming on the Gadget Lab, but my phone can do just about everything that I want it to do. And this Samsung event, not to get to the part we're going to talk about later too quickly, but they touted a bunch of new camera features and whatnot. But I'm not filming cinematic movies on my phone anytime soon. Maybe some people are, but it feels like we've gotten to the point where just phones can do everything that I want them to do in my life. I think what I personally have been wanting from my phone is for it to take less of my attention and less of my time; if it could automate some things on the backend to make my life a little easier then I would get something new. But I don't think that we need incredible new hardware to do stuff like that. It's a lot of iterative software changes that I think we're seeing. But the screens are amazing. The cameras are wonderful. Not to limit my imagination too much here, but what more do we want?

Michael Calore: Yeah. You say you're not shooting cinematic movies on your phone.

Boone Ashworth: Not yet.

Michael Calore: But you could be shooting cinematic movies on your phone and they would look fantastic. Of course, you don't need a Galaxy S23 to shoot an amazing cinematic movie. If you had a Pixel 3 or an iPhone 11, you could shoot a movie that looks contemporary with what you would get from one of the high-end phones now. I think that's what you're getting at, is that all of the stuff that we have now hardware-wise is fine. To answer your question, Lauren, I think that we have reached peak hardware for sure. We have not yet reached peak software for sure.

Lauren Goode: What are the software elements that you are still waiting for?

Michael Calore: Well, photo is a good place to look, because whenever we see a new smartphone and they talk about the camera, they spend half the time talking about the optical image stabilization and talking about the lens elements and talking about the different types of sensor technology that they've come up with. Then they spend the other half of the presentation talking about how this new AI chip that they put in their phone is assisting us in taking better photos, better low-light photos, correcting flaws in our photos, blurring old photos, doing all this amazing stuff. That's all software. So I think we are just on the cusp of that stuff becoming incredibly useful and soon it will become indispensable. You won't be able to take photos that look on par with other devices unless you have all that AI stuff crammed into the software that's powering your camera.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: I think we're already there.

Michael Calore: You do?

Lauren Goode: Yeah, especially at the high end. I don't know if you guys do this, maybe this is a little bit creepy, but whenever anybody texts me a photo, we're just having a text message conversation and they say, "Here's a glimpse of my day. Here's the pastry I just ate," or whatever it is. I go into the metadata of the photo to see which phone they're using. I think that after, let's say, from iPhone 11 to iPhone 12 felt like a pretty big jump. Maybe Pixel 4 to Pixel 5 also felt like a pretty significant jump. Then since then, if someone has an iPhone 12 Pro Max, to me, the photo looks pretty much the same as it does on my iPhone 13 Pro. If you send me a photo, Mike, and you have a Pixel 6—

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: It looks pretty much the same as it would on the Pixel 5. Now granted, there's some compression stuff happening when you're sending stuff via text message, and it also depends like Google Photos, they send you a link to Photos—

Michael Calore: Oh, yeah.

Lauren Goode: It's really so annoying.

Michael Calore: It's so annoying.

Lauren Goode: So then you're going into their cloud and there might be some compression happening there.

Michael Calore: Assuming you get a pure version of the photo of that.

Lauren Goode: Yes, like a raw photo, they all look great. Same with all of the Samsung photos that we're seeing from the high end of Samsung phones, and in some cases some midrange phones too. A lot of that is happening through computational software. It's not necessarily based in the sensor size, although that plays into it too. So I personally just think we're already there. Even Boone, what you said about how you want us to get to a point where we're using our phones less, how do we do that? Some of that software has already baked into our phones. Companies have been trying digital well-being and screen time and all of that for at least a couple of years now.

Boone Ashworth: Oh, I've tried it, and I just don't—

Lauren Goode: How well has it worked?

Boone Ashworth: Oh, not great for me, just because I don't have the discipline. I know how to turn the timers off, you guys have talked about that before on the show.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Boone Ashworth: I'll have well-being timers come up and I'm like, "Oh, I've been on Instagram for half an hour. Cool. I'm going to turn this timer off." So that's just on me. I don't know. The thing about it, it seems like whenever we're talking about smartphones, we're always talking about the camera and there's been some really interesting upgrades. All the stuff they announced at the Samsung event today was a lot of cool stuff. The astrophotography, I would love to take a decent picture of the moon for once in my life. That's a cool feature to have. Things like real tone to get people's skin tones right in photos, those are really cool adjustments or advancements, I guess. It just feels like I want something more. If you're going to pitch me a new $1,200 smartphone, I want something more than just camera updates. If you're trying to make the case for why I should upgrade my two-year-old phone or whatever to a brand-new thing, it's got to be more than just, I can make slightly cooler pictures.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Right. Right. Yeah, it's—you're due for a battery, or like Mike mentioned earlier, maybe it's storage, increases in storage. You realize that you're one of those people who needs a terabyte now. Another factor that I think is part of the whole dip in the smartphone market in general is that the secondary market has gotten really good. We've written before it at WIRED about companies like Back Market. I was a little ahead of the curve, guys. I was writing this for WIRED back in 2018 about how to safely buy a used smartphone so you don't get scammed. You can find some really great secondhand smartphones out there now. The manufacturers themselves are offering better resale programs, like Samsung and Apple.

Michael Calore: Last year's phone is amazing.

Lauren Goode: Right.

Michael Calore: It's fine.

Lauren Goode: For a lot of people, it's not just good enough. It's better than good enough.

Michael Calore: Right. Boone, to go back briefly to something that you were just saying. With phones showing off the camera before everything else, I think it's because everything else has already passed that threshold. If the battery lasts all day, if your screen refresh rate makes it so that everything just looks smooth and wonderful, and if the industrial design feels modern, then those are things that you don't notice, they just are. Whereas, a camera, because it's visual information and because it's very personal, like when people take photos, usually they're very personal mementos, it's something that you form a stronger emotional reaction to. So if it's not perfect or if it doesn't make you feel good, then it's something that is going to turn you off from the phone. Right?

Boone Ashworth: So it's our fault then. We're kind of ingrates, 'cause the fact that our phones just last … I have a Google Pixel 6 or whatever, it lasts two days. I just take that for granted. There's all this kind of stuff that smartphones have gotten to this point where the things are so good that they actually work that, that you have to throw out the flashy camera stuff because everything else, we're just like, "Oh yeah, I know it lasts for four days, or it has whatever crazy battery life," or, "I can drop it from a meter and have it land on concrete and it's fine." We've gotten used to that. So yeah, maybe I'm just spoiled.

Michael Calore: The camera can always be better.

Boone Ashworth: Oh, sure.

Michael Calore: It can always be better. It can always strike more to the core of your being than a battery life can.

Boone Ashworth: See my soul.

Michael Calore: Exactly.

Lauren Goode: Have you guys read about the rumored iPhone 16, which is not the next generation, it's the generation after that, that supposedly is going to have a periscope camera?

Michael Calore: Yes, I did hear about this.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: When I picture this, I picture it's a phone that's like a little motorboat. You're in the water with it and you're underwater with it because its underwater rating is so good at that point, and there's just a tiny little periscope that sticks up from the top, above the surface. It's like a submarine, but a phone.

Michael Calore: I'm not sure that's what they mean.

Lauren Goode: No, it isn't. Mike, tell us what it means.

Boone Ashworth: That's adorable.

Michael Calore: A periscope camera is a camera that uses a tiny prism inside the camera to move the light from the lens onto the sensor. Instead of in a normal camera design, the light goes through the lens and hits the sensor pretty much directly. A periscope camera increases the focal length, which is a very nerdy … It's a good thing to have increased focal length or to have more control over your focal length, because then you can have more control over the different elements of your photo.

Boone Ashworth: I take it all back. That's what phones need, prisms.

Michael Calore: Yeah, more prisms.

Lauren Goode: Prisms.

Michael Calore: More prisms.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: I'm just picturing the Dark Side of the Moon logo.

Lauren Goode: Spy cams.

Michael Calore: It is the 50th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon.

Boone Ashworth: Oh, happy anniversary?

Michael Calore: That would be fitting.

Boone Ashworth: Look, I'm saying if we want to turn this into a Pink Floyd podcast, I'm completely down. Let's just do this for two hours.

Michael Calore: Me too. Me too.

Lauren Goode: All right. Well, we have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll be discussing Dark Side of the Moon.

Michael Calore: Episode One: 1965–1966.

Lauren Goode: We'll be right back.

[Break]

Lauren Goode: Despite the global decline in smartphone shipments, Samsung is still number one. It holds 22 percent of the entire global market. Now, here in the US, we're pretty iPhone-centric, but around the world, Android dominates, and Samsung has established itself at both the high end of the market and with some pretty decent midrange phones. So earlier today, both Boone and I headed over to an event space in San Francisco to see Samsung launch its latest premium phone, which is part of the Galaxy Line. Boone, give people the news.

Boone Ashworth: OK. Well—

Lauren Goode: That's how I'm going to start every podcast from now on. Give people the news.

Boone Ashworth: Awesome. All right. Put on my best newscaster voice. Well, there's three new phones. They're all called the Galaxy S23. There's the S23, the S23 Plus, and the S23 Ultra, which is the big megaphone with, I think, five camera lenses.

Lauren Goode: It's a thick phone.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Boone Ashworth: Yeah. It was surprisingly light when I held it in the testing area afterward, but I don't know, maybe I'm just not used to phones. Let's see, they're very similar, if you are familiar with the S22, a lot of similar features that have carried over. The Ultra has this new 200-megapixel camera, which is just insane. It has all this raw photo processing and quad pixel technology to make your photos better in low light and better taking astrophotography-type stuff. The other cameras also have three lenses on them. They've got a telephoto lens, a regular lens that has 10X zoom on it, and then an ultrawide, so kind of standard phone stuff.

Michael Calore: Does it have a headphone jack?

Boone Ashworth: No. Were you surprised to learn that it does not have a headphone jack?

Lauren Goode: We should bring that question back in 2023, every single phone launch.

Michael Calore: Completely agree.

Boone Ashworth: Honestly, that's one of my things. If I want phones to get better, just give me a headphone jack back. Give me a headphone jack. Give me a microSD card slot so I can put … If I want to upgrade to get a new phone to get a terabyte of storage, I'll just put my own little card in there. Anyway—

Michael Calore: Samsung stopped putting SD card slots in its phones a couple years ago, and that was very contentious, almost as a contentious move as the removal of the headphone jack.

Boone Ashworth: Yeah.

Michael Calore: So I watched Unpacked here at the office, a mile and a half away from the actual event, and it felt like most Samsung press conferences, where it was kind of stiff, not really that fun. It lost its steam after about the first 20 minutes, but I'm curious as to what it felt like in the room.

Lauren Goode: It's clubby.

Michael Calore: Clubby?

Lauren Goode: Yeah. So Samsung events are always clubby. They have very dark, dramatic lighting. It's a lot of unts, unts, unts, unts—

Michael Calore: Oh, you mean clurbby?

Lauren Goode: Yeah, like clurbby. By the way, about the event space that we were at, I have a question for you, Mike.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: How do you pronounce where we were?

Michael Calore: The Masonic Auditorium.

Lauren Goode: See, he says Muh-sonic. We were having this conversation with Alicia Cocchi, our social video producer, who also joined us at the Samsung event today. She says her partner calls it the Muh-sonic, and she asked me and I said, "No, it's the May-sonic." She says, "May-sonic." Then our Uber driver said, "Muh-sonic."

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: So now we're thinking it's actually divided along gender lines.

Boone Ashworth: I say it's Moo-sonic.

Lauren Goode: Every guy—

Michael Calore: The Mason—

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Yeah, Boone just kept going, "The Moose!"

Michael Calore: The Masons are like a patriarchal organization, aren't they?

Lauren Goode: Well, but even what you just said is Mason.

Michael Calore: Yeah, and there's Mason Street—

Lauren Goode: The Masonic—

Michael Calore: … and it's a Mason Hall—

Lauren Goode: So it's the Masonic.

Michael Calore: But when you talk about the organization, it's Masonic.

Lauren Goode: That sounds like Messianic.

Michael Calore: English is weird. OK?

Lauren Goode: All right. Well, anyway, how did you think the Masonic felt today, Boone?

Boone Ashworth: Oh, it's so different being on this side of the mic. I can't just be like, "Stop! Retake!" Well, I thought it was definitely one of the top two tech events that I've ever been to, I think.

Michael Calore: How many have you been to?

Boone Ashworth: Two. So this was the second event. The first one that I went to was Samsung Galaxy Unpacked in February of 2020. That was my first actual tech event. I was like, "OK, this is what these are like," and then—

Lauren Goode: Boone said, "Do they take your temperature at every tech event?"

Boone Ashworth: Yeah.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Boone Ashworth: For some reason, there weren't a lot of them over the past three years. So now back at this one, honestly, there was less people there than I expected it. It was loud, and I don't know, it was a tech event. It was a big infomercial. I kept finding myself when I would zone out and then everybody would start clapping, I would start to clap and then I'd just like, "Nope, I don't work here. What am I doing? Why am I clapping for these people?" So—

Lauren Goode: Yeah, there's a—

Boone Ashworth: … tech events are weird. This is one of the first podcasts that you actually let me on, and we talked about how weird it was, and I don't think my opinion has changed very much. I still think they're strange or just a fundamentally weird thing.

Lauren Goode: The presentation itself was a very clean 59 minutes. In that time, they not only discussed the new Samsung Galaxy phones, but also a couple of new laptops and some sustainability initiatives. They brought on Google, their software partner, and they talked a little bit about AR and VR. Of course, they talked about their partnership with Qualcomm because it's Qualcomm chips that are powering these new phones. That's a lot of ground to cover in just under an hour. So you're only really getting high-level updates, and it's very easy to feel as though you've heard it all before. They show the different cores of their neural processing unit in this graphic on stage, and they're saying how it's enabling all of these artificial intelligence features. Look, here's a sliding tool that shows you the before-photo and the after-photo, and it's slightly brighter. It might as well be 2020–2021 smartphone event. You really need to dig down deeper or talk to some experts in these fields to get a sense of what is new.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Boone Ashworth: It feels like everybody's just waiting it out until they're mixed reality headsets are out. There's all these Apple rumors about Apple's new headset coming out. It seems like Samsung is also keen to be making a headset by bringing Qualcomm and Google having that partnership. They talked about wanting to make a mixed reality wearable something, so it seems like that's coming. I think companies are, they seem to be very aware of that, both Apple and Samsung and Google. I think they know that their phones are having iterative updates and they need something else. They need another form factor to get people excited again. I think they’re putting a lot of eggs into the VR basket. That feels like where we are right now, is we're just waiting until they're finally like, "OK, here's our VR headset that actually works and doesn't make you look stupid."

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Boone Ashworth: Are we going to get there? I don't know.

Michael Calore: This happens a lot. I think whenever there's an impending Apple announcement. The same type of thing happened around when the iPad was coming and everybody knew the iPad was coming. Then a couple months before the iPad came, there were all these tablet announcements and people talking about things that they're … They're planting their flag, basically saying, "We're not going to be left behind in this race. We are here and we are ready. We just don't have anything to show you yet because there's no hardware."

Boone Ashworth: Samsung did that a bit too. It felt very Apple-y. They had Ridley Scott, famous filmmakers, filming videos on the ultra phones and whatnot. Their new laptops and the phones sync together so you can drag and drop and copy and paste from your phone onto your computer, which feels very Apple-y. Samsung went in on its ecosystem a little bit, or at least was like, "Hey, trying to make the case for you to get both a Galaxy phone and the ultra laptop so that they could all work together." So they're definitely doing the Apple-y type thing. I think maybe when a headset comes out, see how closely aligned they are there too.

Lauren Goode: As you were saying that, when you said, "Oh, they had Ridley Scott make a movie," my brain went to Jon Chu, because John Cu made a movie for iPhone, or on the iPhone a few years ago, and we covered that for WIRED. Then when you said, "Oh, and they're showing people dragging and dropping and starting an application on their phone, their Galaxy phone, and then opening it on their Samsung tablet," I thought, "Oh, continuity, like on iPhone and Mac. So in that sense, the feature set felt very similar to what Apple might have announced.

Michael Calore: I think feature parody is a good thing because then people can not really feel a lot of pressure to upend their life and switch operating systems. It's also, it's nice to know that if the other person has something fancy, you're also getting something fancy. I think the problem is that when these things start to overlap and they start working cross-platform, then all of a sudden you have too many choices. I was really struck by the commercial that they showed right in the middle. So the way these events go, they'll talk for a bit and then they'll show you what is basically a television commercial and then talk about the product. It was, "Can you send me that?"

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Oh, yes.

Michael Calore: "Can you send me that?"

Lauren Goode: Right.

Michael Calore: Where it was people interrupting concerts to find the woman in the crowd holding the Galaxy S23 Ultra because they know she has the best photo, and they say, “Can you send me that?"

Lauren Goode: Right.

Michael Calore: And she's like—

Lauren Goode: To the couple proposing—

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: The guy proposing marriage, and he turns to the woman who happened to capture the photo and said, "Oh, could you send me that?"

Michael Calore: Yeah, Yeah.

Lauren Goode: It's cute.

Michael Calore: Yeah, it was cute. But at the same time, they're showing you their big innovation, which is file sharing between Samsung devices. So now you just have another way to share photos between different devices and there are 16 other ways to do that. So things like that, that feels like it's cool that your stuff works together, but at the same time, there were all these little innovations that were not really innovations because they're things that already exist in Android or already exist in just cloud computing. For example, the security dashboard, they made a big show of the security dashboard in Samsung’s—

Lauren Goode: You can bring your phone to a repair tech and basically shut down part of your phone, so whoever's working on your phone can't see your personal information or even whatever apps you've downloaded, like which banking app you're using.

Michael Calore: Yeah, it's like a valet key for your phone, and that's cool. But also the digital well-being tools, which we just talked about, those are in every phone, so that's not necessarily as innovative.

Lauren Goode: One thing we should talk about really quickly is the smart home, because one of the areas in which Samsung really stands out from Apple and Google is in the home. It makes a lot of home appliances. Several years ago, it acquired the SmartThings smart home company and still uses that brand to launch new products. Mike, talk about what we saw today.

Michael Calore: The thing that we saw today, which was just hinted at, was something that was announced at CES a couple of … oh geez, I almost said a couple of months ago. It was literally three weeks ago, I sat in the room and watched Samsung announce the SmartThings charging station. So it's a wireless charger and it sits next to your bed or next to your couch. You put your phone on it and it starts charging your phone, but it also sends a signal out to all of your smart home stuff. You can program any kind of routine into this that you want. But the idea is that you put this thing somewhere where, when you sit in that seat, it means you're ready to chill out, you're ready to go to bed, you're ready to sit down and watch a movie. You're ready to not be on anymore because you're putting your phone down to charge and you're not paying attention to it anymore. So the recommended routine is that you put your phone on the SmartThings hub and it sends out these signals to your smart home to turn the lights down, turn on the—

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Does it do it in that voice?

Michael Calore: Yeah. Turn on the smooth jazz station, lower the temperature in the room a little bit, or raise the temperature in the room a little bit, whatever your preferred routine is for your chill out, maybe turn on your TV and start Netflix or whatever. So that's interesting because that's a vision of the smart home that people have been talking about for literally 30 years. Ambient computing, it just takes one very simple signal from the human and then does all this stuff in the background.

Lauren Goode: That's amazing.

Michael Calore: Yeah, it is.

Boone Ashworth: That's basically what I was saying earlier, is I just want to be able to set my phone down and have it do stuff for me.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Boone Ashworth: Like yeah, that's great—

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Boone Ashworth: If it works.

Michael Calore: Yeah, it probably will because SmartThings is a very robust product ecosystem on its own. There are a lot of SmartThings thermostats and lights and stuff like that, and also Matter, the standard is adopted by all the big names, so it should just work.

Lauren Goode: So what I'm gathering from this episode of Gadget Lab is that we have reached peak smartphone, but we do think there's a post-smartphone future in AR/VR and the smart home.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Watch this space. All right. Well, all of our coverage from today's event is on WIRED.com as well as WIRED's Instagram and Twitter page, where you can see videos of the excellent Boone Ashworth in action, hands-on with the phones. We're going to take a quick break, and when we come back we'll do our recommendations.

[Break]

Lauren Goode: Boone, as our guest of honor and producer extraordinaire, what's your recommendation?

Boone Ashworth: I would like to recommend the movie Barbarian. It is a new movie, it came out in 2022. It's currently available on HBO Max, and I just watched it last weekend, and it is quite good. It is very strange and messed up. It's a horror film. It's directed by Zach Cregger, one of the guys from the early 2000s sketch group, Whitest Kids U' Know. There's this real interesting reinvention happening where comedy people are making horror movies, like Jordan Peele. You should also watch all of Jordan Peele's movies 'cause they're amazing, and this is a new one. On that front, it's like, without giving anything away, it's basically a horror movie about an Airbnb gone wrong. I have to say, I saw the preview for this movie and I was just not interested in it all. It looked like a schlocky, I don't know, horror movie that just had a bunch of jump scares in it, and it's like, "Oh no, they go into a creepy underground basement," or whatever. Like, "I feel like I've seen that before." I promise you, you have not seen this one before. It is very weird and very funny, but—

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Who's in it?

Boone Ashworth: It's starring Georgina Campbell. One of the Skarsgårds is in it.

Lauren Goode: I'm in.

Boone Ashworth: Justin Long is in it.

Lauren Goode: Oh, wow.

Michael Calore: Oscar-worthy performance from Justin Long.

Lauren Goode: Wait, which Skarsgård?

Boone Ashworth: Bill, Bill Skarsgård.

Lauren Goode: Bill the father. Is that the father?

Boone Ashworth: No.

Lauren Goode: Or is it the brother?

Boone Ashworth: The father is Stellan.

Lauren Goode: Oh, right, right. There was that Onion headline recently—

Boone Ashworth: There are like 18 of them.

Lauren Goode: … that was like, "Nordic actor forgets which Skarsgård brother he is."

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. OK.

Michael Calore: Yeah, very, very true.

Boone Ashworth: Anyway, highly recommend this movie. It very much has the trope of, you're going to be shouting at your TV screen like, "Why are you going in there?"

Michael Calore: But the little bit of suspension of disbelief and then the movie takes several turns that I was not ready for.

Boone Ashworth: I completely agree with you. I love horror movies, and I went into it thinking it was just going to be like, "OK, here's another horror movie." It is far from just another horror movie.

Michael Calore: Yeah. Yeah.

Boone Ashworth: I know that it did not receive universal praise, but I think those people are just spoiled sports and they don't enjoy fun.

Michael Calore: It is not a perfect movie, but it was a lot of fun. It was a good time, so—

Boone Ashworth: One of the better horror movies I've seen in the past decade, and not a bunch of cheap jump scares. I don't like horror movies, but they're just like, they throw a thing at you. I like it when they build this horrifying sense of dread, and there was some really horrifying stuff in this movie.

Lauren Goode: Boone, thanks for that recommendation. I'll check it out, but maybe just not before bedtime. Mike, what's your recommendation?

Michael Calore: Something to go with your watching of late-night horror movies right before bedtime.

Lauren Goode: OK.

Michael Calore: Some hot sauce.

Lauren Goode: Hot sauce?

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Actual hot sauce.

Michael Calore: Actual hot sauce. I tried this hot sauce recently. My lovely wife bought it for me for my birthday. It's called Sichuan Gold, and it's by the company Fly by Jing. Fly by Jing makes a lot of really great Sichuan sauces. They make Sichuan chili crisp. They make a mala powdery spice mix that I use all the time. This is basically a hot chili oil, so it has the numbing spicy Sichuan peppercorns, and then it has very hot regular peppers, hot peppers in it. So you get the heat and you get the numbing and it's delicious.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: What have you used it with?

Michael Calore: I put it on just about everything. Well, also, I should mention that I only eat foods that serve as delivery vehicles for hot sauces—

Lauren Goode: Right, we know this about you.

Michael Calore: … which is why I'm not a big soup guy, but you can have a good spicy soup, but it's not nearly as good as a bagel with hummus on it. I make a lot of tofu rice bowl kind of dishes. I put it on that. I put it on some vegan mac and cheese. It's just delicious on anything vaguely Asian or anything with a lot of umami flavor. It really just gives it a nice kick.

Lauren Goode: Where can people find it?

Michael Calore: You can buy it online. It's a small company, so they don't have great distribution, but you can get it in a lot of specialty food stores like your fancy grocery store, maybe not like your Safeway or your Vons or your Albertsons or whatever people have not in California, but you can also just order it online. I think it's $14 for a bottle to get it shipped to anywhere in North America.

Lauren Goode: Excellent.

Boone Ashworth: Nice.

Michael Calore: Yeah, I don't know. It's—

Lauren Goode: It's a hot recommendation.

Michael Calore: Thank you. It comes from the show Hot Ones, First We Feast. Do you know this show? It's fantastic. It's one of the best talk shows ever. It's on YouTube and the host and the guest sit down and they eat progressively hotter chicken wings while the host asks the guest questions about their career.

Boone Ashworth: We should do that here. We should do that on this show.

Michael Calore: Well, I think they've already cornered it, but—

Boone Ashworth: OK, fine.

Michael Calore: I would be open to that. I absolutely would.

Lauren Goode: I really like this emerging genre of YouTube series that have to do with chicken or chicken shops. Is it YouTube? I don't know. There's the Chicken Shop Date woman?

Michael Calore: Yep. I think she's on TikTok? I don't even know.

Lauren Goode: Love her series. It might be TikTok. I think I've seen it on Instagram too. It's fantastic—

Michael Calore: It's all just screen. I stopped saying on film and on television. I just say, "I saw this thing on screen other day."

Lauren Goode: Yeah, it depends on if it's a 50-inch screen or a 6-inch screen.

Michael Calore: You just set your phone down and it all starts playing. Lauren, what is your recommendation?

Lauren Goode: My recommendation is also somewhat in the category of horror films on HBO Max. The show is not sponsored by HBO Max. I recommend checking out Navalny, a documentary that is nominated for an Oscar. It is currently streaming on HBO Max. It was made in conjunction with CNN Films and it is about the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned by the Kremlin a few years back, survived miraculously rehabilitated in Germany, and then upon his return to Moscow was promptly arrested again and is currently in jail in Russia. But he's a really, really compelling figure. One of the more interesting parts of the documentary I found as a journalist is that during the time that he is rehabilitating with his family and some of his business associates, his campaign associates, in Germany, he is on a mission to find out who poisoned him. He decides to work with Bellingcat, which is this group of really obsessive data journalists who help him pinpoint exactly who was behind the poisoning, which he suspects is the Kremlin or people associated with the Kremlin and Putin, but wasn't able to prove until he teamed up with Bellingcat. Watching their process is really interesting. I just found it to be a super fascinating documentary and I very much recommend checking it out.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Boone Ashworth: That's awesome. Yeah.

Lauren Goode: So that's Navalny on HBO Max.

Michael Calore: Watch it after Barbarian as a palate cleanser.

Boone Ashworth: Yeah, good double.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I guess suppose it is a palate cleanser, although it doesn't leave you—

Michael Calore: After that movie, it would be appetizing.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, maybe it would be. I don't know if I'd call it quite that, but not incredibly uplifting.

Michael Calore: Sure.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. All right, well, that's our show for this week. Thank you, Boone, for joining us.

Boone Ashworth: Yeah, thank you for having me. This was great.

Lauren Goode: This was super fun. We're going to send you to a smartphone event every week.

Boone Ashworth: Oh, thank god.

Lauren Goode: Well, maybe if it really is peak smartphone, there won't be a smartphone event every week.

Michael Calore: Yeah. They're all going to hear this show and then they're going to say, "That's it. We're not doing the events anymore."

Boone Ashworth: "We're done. We're done. We quit. They convinced us."

Michael Calore: "Enjoy your 6-year-old batteries, suckers!"

Boone Ashworth: "We'll talk to you in five years when we have a VR headset."

Lauren Goode: Thanks to all of you for listening, especially if you've made it this far. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter. We're still there, just check the show notes. Our producer is the man behind the mic today, Boone Ashworth. Goodbye for now. We'll be back next week.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]

Related Articles

Latest Articles