Tech round-up for February 20: Samsung Galaxy Fold and more new gadgets, Amazon drops NYC, Canadian telecoms misleading customers according to report, Activision Blizzard's priorities, the power fantasy of Crackdown 3

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This week, Amazon and NYC are fighting, CRTC finds Canadian telecoms are jerks, and Activision Blizzard are only there to serve shareholders. Plus, a look at Crackdown 3, exclusive to the Xbox One. But first, news about Samsung’s folding smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, and other new products from the Korean tech company.

Samsung unveils the Galaxy Fold and other new products

It’s not the first folding smartphone, but so far it seems to be the standard setter. The Galaxy Fold sports two batteries and 12 GB of RAM, and is a small, 7.3-inch tablet that can be folded in half. When it’s folded it has a 4.6-inch display. It can run three apps at the same time, and will adjust automatically when you move between folded and tablet modes. It’s only going to be available in the U.S. for now, and it’s going to cost a whopping US$2,000.

Also revealed by Samsung today was the new line of Galaxy S10 smartphones, including the S10e (5.8-inch), the S10 (6.1-inch), and the S10 Plus (6.4-inch). These are available in Canada starting on March 8.

Among the new features of the S10 is a fingerprint sensor that is under the screen allowing for a full-screen, notchless display. The S10 and S10 Plus have three cameras on the back, and the S10 Plus has two cameras on the front. The S10 Plus is also configurable with up to 1 TB of storage.

Also revealed today were three new wearables:

  • Galaxy Watch Active
  • Galaxy Fit: fitness tracker
  • Galaxy Buds: Cordless in-ear listening

Amazon HQ2 not going to Big Apple after all

So Amazon has decided not to put a campus in New York after all. Curbed has a great timeline of the affair.

The cancelled plans could be considered as a win for activists who were concerned about the tax breaks that were being offered and what the deal would do to Long Island City, which is in Queens just across the East River from Manhattan.

Big business proponents, though, decry this as a lost opportunity.

I suspect that metro New York is going to be just fine.

Canadian telecom providers are misleading customers, finds CRTC

Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its report on Misleading or Aggressive Communications Retail Sales Practices.

“Having considered the matter in depth, we found that it is apparent that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market in Canada and, to some extent, in the television service provider market. These practices exist in all types of sales channels, including in store, online, over the telephone, and door to door. They occur to an unacceptable degree; they are harming Canadian consumers, in particular vulnerable Canadians; and they are a serious concern for us.”

I think they are a concern for everyone with a mobility plan, internet plan, and/or television plan.

So what should be done?

“In our view, consumer protections should be strengthened to address the occurrence of misleading or aggressive sales practices and to ensure that Canadians are empowered to make informed decisions and are treated fairly.”

The federal government is currently reviewing the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act, which the CRTC enforces.

Activision Blizzard celebrates profits while laying off staff

Last week, just before CEO Bobby Kotick reported Activision Blizzard had “achieved record results” last year, the company laid off 800 people.

Polygon has a good analysis of what’s going on.

It’ll be an interesting year for the game publisher, which appears to be down to a couple of titles: Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch.

Crackdown 3 is a perfect power fantasy at play

Crackdown 3, developed by Sumo Digital and published by Xbox Game Studios, is an Xbox One exclusive, and is the latest open world game in the series that started on the Xbox 360 with 2007’s Crackdown.

This third game is much the same in concept. You play as an “agent” in a city that is entirely open and available to you. It’s a sandbox in the truest sense, a place where you can run, jump, and throw down with the bad guys.

Here, the bad guys are Terra Nova, an evil corporation that orchestrated a worldwide power outage and has complete control over the city of New Providence. Your task is to take out the various arms of the corporation, and the lieutenants running them, all in service of taking down the company.

You improve your character just by playing. Using explosives improves your explosive abilities. Using vehicles improves your driving ability. Collecting agility orbs, which are scattered around the city, improves your ability to navigate the environment.

The campaign story is sparse but clever, with interesting dynamics developed between the evil Terra Nova characters, but the characters themselves come perilously close to stereotype.

If you’re not expecting anything more than exploring the geography, blasting away at the enemies that swarm you, then Crackdown 3 is the power fantasy for you.

The multiplayer experience, Wrecking Zone, feels kind of stapled on and thin. The core idea is that everything in the environment is fully destructible, including those skyscrapers you’re leaping off. This only adds to the feeling of power. It will be a much better experience once Microsoft updates it to allow for you to play with friends in a party, something that is pending, but until Wrecking Zone can bring more than simple destruction, it’s limited.

Crackdown 3 isn’t an earth shattering game, but I was perfectly content to play it for about 15 hours to play through the campaign. I’ll go back someday.

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