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Computing

Have the Intel Arc GPUs been canceled? I sure hope not

A  rumor is circulating that Intel’s Arc graphics cards are being canceled, and unlike previous rumors we’ve heard on the matter, this one seems to hold some weight. The first discrete desktop GPUs from Intel have seen ups and downs since being announced around a year ago, but this is the first word we’ve gotten that the company may abandon the project.

Headlines and YouTube thumbnails don’t tell the full story here, though, and they’re primed to spread misinformation considering that Intel’s first-gen Arc Alchemist GPUs aren’t available in the U.S. yet and should launch soon. It’s impossible to say if Arc will eventually bite the dust, but there’s a compelling reason it shouldn’t.

Intel

If you’re unaware, the rumor concerning Arc’s cancellation centers around a video from YouTube channel Moore’s Law is Dead (MILD). MILD is known for rumor and leak videos around CPUs and GPUs, several of which we’ve reported on in the past. This video shares several quotes that the YouTuber says were gathered from a range of sources, including one source that said: “The decision’s been made at the top to end discrete.”

To be clear, the video talks specifically about Arc as a segment at Intel, not the upcoming Arc Alchemist GPUs. The video claims that Intel plans to cancel the project — which is formally known as AXG or Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics — beyond the launch of the second generation Battlemage GPUs. The rumor also specifically refers to discrete GPUs; Intel won’t stop making integrated GPUs any time soon.

Raja Koduri, Intel’s executive vice president of the AXG group, responded to the rumor with a tweet showing a road map Intel shared earlier this year.

Attached is what we said in Feb'22 and are continuing to execute this strategy. pic.twitter.com/rfIRjq4p5G

— Raja Koduri (Bali Makaradhwaja) (@RajaXg) September 12, 2022

Koduri also shared that the Intel team is shrugging off these rumors, saying “They don’t help the team working hard to bring these to market, they don’t help the PC graphics community…one must wonder, who do they help?”

This isn’t the first time Intel executives have taken to Twitter to dispel rumors circulated by the YouTube channel. In July, Intel’s graphics marketing lead Ryan Shrout took to Twitter to clarify that an Intel Arc A780 never existed, which was a rumor that MILD started. The YouTuber stuck to their guns despite Shrout shooting the rumor down.

Despite some rumors to the contrary, there is no Intel Arc A780 and there was never planned to be an A780. Let’s just settle that debate. 🤣

— Ryan Shrout (@ryanshrout) July 16, 2022

Problems are expected, solutions are rare

It’s no secret that Intel has had several issues with Arc up to this point, but it’s still much too soon to see the multi-year AXG roadmap abandoned. Many of the issues present now, like those concerning 40 issues found in Intel’s drivers, won’t persist throughout generations. The problems we’re seeing with Arc Alchemist now are the worst problems Intel will face, as future generations can learn from previous ones to deliver a better product.

The last thing you want to be is shortsighted when investing so much in a new group. Analyst Jon Peddie penned an editorial in late July estimating that Intel had invested around $3.5 billion in the AXG group — more than it had ever invested in another business. That estimate came around the time that Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger axed six businesses, saving Intel around $1.5 billion in costs. Gelsinger shared a few days ago that the company plans to exit other businesses in the future, as well.

Two Intel Arc GPUs running side by side.
Linus Tech Tips

Although the first generation of Arc graphics cards have seen problems, Intel is addressing them at breakneck pace. Many driver issues have been fixed, and in response to fans calling for more transparency, Intel has created a dedicated Intel Arc page that shares updates on features and more details about the GPUs.

If cancellation is on the minds of Intel executives, we don’t think it’s coming soon. And given the current state of the graphics card market, it shouldn’t come at all.

Why Intel shouldn’t cancel Arc

Although some analysts have called for Intel to dissolve the AXG group, Arc still represents a third player challenging the AMD/Nvidia duopoly, and it delivers in an area that neither AMD nor Nvidia have been able to fully capture. From what we know right now, the Intel Arc A750 should beat the RTX 3060 by about 13%, which is a decent boost if the card has the right price.

Intel Arc A750M Limited Edition graphics card sits on a desk.
Intel

Assuming it’s priced right, that’s a compelling offer for gamers. Even now that GPU prices are back to normal, the RTX 3060 still sells for around $400. If Intel can deliver around $330 as the list price of the RTX 3060, you have a very valuable mainstream GPU that Nvidia and AMD haven’t hit quite yet.

And a lot of that doesn’t come down to performance, but features. Arc’s Xe Super Sampling (XeSS) feature is competitive with Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) based on what Intel has shared, and the ray tracing capabilities of Arc Alchemist, at least from an architectural standpoint, trump what AMD is currently offering (that may change with next-gen RX 7000 GPUs, though, for what it’s worth).

With that combination of features and the right price, Intel is set up for success. Even with GPU prices down, the options between $200 and $400 are pitiful. The RX 6500 XT is one of the worst GPUs in recent memory, and despite Nvidia listing cards in this price bracket, real models rarely sell for what Nvidia advertises.

If you look at Steam hardware stats, there’s a reason that Nvidia’s GTX cards still top the charts, as they offer a value that you just can’t get with current-gen offerings from AMD. As Nvidia’s CEO said in a recent earnings call, the average price of GPUs is going up, and that’s evidenced by cards like the 12GB RTX 3080. Even without scalpers in the mix, Intel has an opportunity to deliver sub-$400 GPUs that are competitive on performance and features for a segment of the market that has largely frozen.

It’s easy to assume Intel quickly spun up the AXG group to capitalize on the colossal GPU prices toward the end of 2020, but that’s not what happened. This has been a focus for Intel for years. We’re on the edge of next-gen GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, and given what we’ve seen over the past few generations, a third player to shake up that dynamic and force prices down is exactly what we need.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

‘Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope’ aims to be a more modern tactical adventure

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a pleasant surprise. A charming game that married Nintendo’s Mushroom Kingdom with the chaos of Ubisoft’s Rabbid mascots and crammed it into a game that was, well, pretty much a cartoon interpretation of the tactical strategy series XCOM.

It was an unlikely early hit on the Switch. Ubisoft was able to offer a different kind of game than Nintendo was offering in its first-party titles. Apparently, that was the seed that led Ubisoft Milan Creative Director Davide Soliani to Mario + Rabbids. Talking to Engadget, he said, “[We] should create something that makes sense from Ubisoft’s point of view, something not happening in Nintendo’s catalog.”

Ubisoft fulfilled that brief with Kingdom Battle. Soliani added: “We can match the aesthetics [of Super Mario], using and misusing the elements…. The contrast is the drive.” That’s the context for this sequel, too. 

In Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, Mario et al. (and their Rabbid equivalents) face a shared threat, called Cursa. The blended worlds of Mario and Rabbids are being contorted by darkness, but this time it’s a little more galactic. Expect to see varied worlds, à la Mario Galaxy, with the Lumas of that game being transformed into Sparks, elemental sprites that work like summonable magic attacks in the many, many battles.

That may sound new to anyone that played Kingdom Battle, but there are far bigger changes afoot. We’re yet to play the game, but judging from the new teaser and Davide Soliani’s explanation, it’s going to feel different – less of an XCOM tribute and something between tactical strategy conventions and the manic dashing and leaping of typical Mario games.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

Ubisoft

Your party of three heroes can now move around in real-time, no more grids. You’ll be able to see how far a character can move within their environment thanks to a white outline, but you’ll be able to figure out cover and optimal attacks on the fly. Each hero will get their turn before the baddies get to, well, return the favor. Soliani says this should help the game to feel more “natural”.

Crucial elements will include where you move your hero (as long as you don’t shoot), utilizing items to extend movement and even using some enemies against other enemies – like hurling a Bob-omb towards some unsuspecting enemies on the other side of an area. Like Kingdom Battle, the synergy with other heroes will be crucial in tackling the biggest enemies.

Alongside companion elemental Sparks, which will grow in abilities as your characters do, each hero will have their own unique weapon this time, running the gamut from melee weapons like swords through to dual pistols and even bows. (You can’t have a game in the 2020s without including a bow.)

You’ll be joined by some new characters, including a Rabbid with a sword called Edge. (Dumb, I love it.) and age-old rival Bowser, who’s apparently a heavy-hitter equipped with what appears to be a bazooka.

More freedom in battles is mirrored in the game too. The worlds you’ll explore should feel more open-ended than the areas of its predecessor. Explore planets, take on fetch quests (this is a Ubisoft game after all), solve the major darkness problems of this specific planet – or just do the bare minimum and move on to the next part of the game.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

Ubisoft

This should all help Sparks of Hope feel a little more contemporary – aided by a pretty incredible array of musical talent. Kingdom Battle composer Grant Kirkhope, who also contributed to Rare’s epic run of Nintendo 64 games, returns, joined by Gareth Croker (Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Halo Infinite) and Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy XV). Those are some gaming music heavyweights which should help ensure all these different worlds sound as different as they’ll look.

Judging from the teaser and Soliani’s comments, Ubisoft is evolving Mario + Rabbids at a swift clip, modernizing the battle system and adding further strategic wrinkles and customization to fights. Sparks of Hope could feel like a different sort of tactical battle game, and if they nail the synergy like the first game, it could be just as entertaining.

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Game

Darkest Dungeon 2 Is Dark, Stressful, and Full of Hope

Early access is an oddly unique phenomenon that really only works in the world of video games. Playing a game that’s still incomplete and giving the developers feedback makes sense; it’s almost the purest form of beta testing. Imagine, though, if the audience could look at the dailies on a movie shoot, or listen to the bass line of a new EP. It would be absolute madness. That makes early access feel more intimate. We, as players, get to see a game blossom and grow into its final form, like a butterfly with a two-frame jab and a health bar.

This was my experience with Darkest Dungeon back when it first came to early access in 2015. I watched, and played, every step of the development process. The highs, the lows, the heart attacks, and corpses. I was there to witness it all. Now I am fortunate to do this all over again with its sequel Darkest Dungeon 2 as it has just been released into early access on the Epic Games store. After playing the game for more hours than I care to admit, the main takeaway I got was the feeling of hope.

Stress and hope

For those wondering if Darkest Dungeon 2 is still similar to its predecessor, I want to assure you: Yes it very much is. The core combat mechanics are still at the heart of the game. Managing stress and inventory space are also front and center. Of course, the game is filled with horrific and insidious creatures that are looking to tear the world apart. Even the art and aesthetics have been preserved despite the game being fully 3D.

This time around, players are unleashed upon a wide-open world. Unfortunately, the horrors from the first game have been unleashed as well and have thrown the world into complete chaos. Players must create a caravan of heroes … or fools that are brave enough to take on the darkness head-on. This makes the core loop of the game very different from the original. Instead of slowly traversing through a murky cave or dark catacombs, you are barreling down the road in a horse and carriage trying to get to the next inn. Some roads are more difficult than others as this ramps up the stress that the player will feel. Making split decisions when choosing a path can spell out doom for the player’s run.

A “run” of the game is completely different, as the player no longer has a home base or a collection of heroes (read: fools) ready to jump into the next dungeon. All that is available is a caravan and whoever can fit inside it. Once all the heroes meet their grisly demises, the game is over and must be restarted from the beginning. Of course, certain skills are carried over from each game, as well as the unlocked heroes. Darkest Dungeon 2 feels more like a roguelike this way and feels more refreshing with each run.

Plague Doctor and Highwayman respecting each other.

The stress mechanic is probably the most impactful change compared to the original game. It’s no longer a meter based on 100, but instead 10. That means characters hit their breaking point more often, but it’s also tied very closely to the new relationship mechanic. During each run, characters develop a relationship with each other, for better or worse. The Grave Robber might become inseparable from the Plague Doctor due to the amount of healing and buffs she gives her, or the Highwayman might start to hate the Man-at-Arms because he keeps stealing his kills. These relationships will shape the flow of combat and can be both beneficial and a problem. However, once a character reaches 10 stress they will take a serious hit to their positive relationships, which makes it easier for them to fall into a negative one. The health of the party’s relationships seems as important as the fate of the world.

Currently, there are only nine playable heroes in the early access build, and it’s unknown how many will be in the full game. It has only been playable for less than a week now, so who knows what the final product will look like. This is something the developers are keenly aware of and are asking players to be cognizant of too. A post from Chris Bourassa and Tyler Sigman, the creators of Red Hook Studios and Darkest Dungeon, asks the players to be patient playing through the early access version of Darkest Dungeon 2. They state that things will be updated, balanced, and outright changed during the development process. They also ask the players to give the sequel a chance, despite it being so different from the original.

A message from the founders. pic.twitter.com/LAW1DFKSuM

— Darkest Dungeon (@DarkestDungeon) October 26, 2021

Hope is the true centerpiece of Darkest Dungeon 2. Hope transcends past themes and gameplay and even relates to the creators themselves. The torchlight mechanic from the first game has even been replaced by the resource Hope. When traveling through the game, the heroes will meet survivors of this catastrophe that are in desperate need of hope. The negative relationships the heroes have with each other can slowly be mended during a run, giving a player hope that a particular run is not completely lost.

Hope also drives the developers into making this game — hope that this game can stand on its own, and not just be an expansion of the original. They hope that they can pull this off, and they hope that players will give them time and the chance to do it.

Even with the world turning into an absolute nightmare (specifically talking about the game, but you know …) I cannot help but see the brighter things. The new relationship mechanic, the new push-pull feeling of the stress meter, and even the dreams and desires of the developers make me see this game as a beacon of hope. No amount of unspeakable horrors and negative reviews can stop that for me.

Darkest Dungeon 2‘s early access build is now available on the Epic Games Store.

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Game

‘Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope’ is coming to Switch in 2022

Nintendo and Ubisoft have teamed up once again for a sequel to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. The original was a well-received turn-based strategy game that came out in the Switch’s early days. Now, Nintendo and Ubisoft are revisiting the series with Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.

The sequel will take Mario, Luigi, Peach, Rabbid Rosalina and others beyond the Mushroom Kingdom. They’ll have to save a whole galaxy and face off against a villain named Cursa. However, they’ll have some new allies on their side called Sparks, which look like Rabbid versions of the Lumas from Super Mario Galaxy.

This time around, the developers say they’re adding new action elements to “push the boundaries of tactical games even further.”

The first cinematic and gameplay trailers were shown at the Ubisoft Forward E3 event, but details initially emerged earlier on Saturday. Nintendo appeared to jump the gun with a Sparks of Hope eShop listing that was later taken down. 

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a Nintendo Switch exclusive. It’ll be released in 2022.

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Game

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope officially revealed following eShop leak

Today’s Ubisoft Forward sort of served as the kick off for E3 2021, and though the company spent most of the show covering games that have already been announced – or, in the case of Rainbow Six: Siege and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, games that are already out – the show did have a couple of new announcements. One such announcement came at tail end of the show, with Ubisoft officially confirming Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.

Unfortunately for Ubisoft, the surprise was spoiled just hours before the event, as a listing for Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope was leaked on the Switch eShop earlier this morning. Even with that early leak, this new Mario + Rabbids reveal is likely to be a highlight of the show for Switch owners due to the fact that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was surprisingly great.

Judging from the reveal trailer, it looks like Sparks of Hope will use the Super Mario Galaxy setting, as we’ll be shuttled off into space in this installment. The titular Sparks are crosses between Rabbids and Mario Galaxy‘s Lumas, and we’ll see a Rabbid version of Rosalina join the roster this time around as well. There’s also a new villain named Cursa, who is using the Sparks as energy to power their efforts to take over the galaxy.

Ubisoft has confirmed that we’ll be bouncing between planets in this entry, so the homage to the Super Mario Galaxy games is clear. Combat will be getting a shake up in Sparks of Hope that will combine the turn-based tactics from the first game with real-time action segments. Ubisoft says that there are dozens of Sparks to collect throughout the game, and that each one will offer “a distinct power and ability” that can be used in battle.

You can learn more about Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope in the three videos we’ve embedded above. The first is the cinematic reveal trailer, the second is a gameplay sneak peek, and the third is a discussion with three members of the Sparks of Hope team: Creative Director Davide Soliani, Lead Producer Xavier Manzanares, and Associate Producer Cristina Nava. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is launching for Nintendo Switch in 2022.

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Tech News

5 lessons from the pandemic I hope to remember as a CEO

With the end of the pandemic (hopefully) in sight, most of us are eagerly waiting to go “back to normal,” but there are some things that maybe might never go back to the way they were before. It’s interesting to think about what habits of pandemic life could or should remain with us after things have returned to normal.

Will we continue to enjoy the calming power of frequent walks around the neighborhood? Will Takeout Tuesday still be a thing? How about weekly Zoom calls with distant family members?

Why not? Many of the perspectives we’ve gained and rituals we’ve embraced during the pandemic could be beneficial in post-pandemic life, and I suspect we’ll find they’re worth holding onto.

It’s the same in business. As a startup founder and CEO, I know that COVID-19 has driven home several lessons that will endure in how our company is run well into the future.

Here are the five biggest ones I want to retain once we get back to normal, and I think you should embrace them too.

1. Prioritizing employee mental health was long overdue

Companies want their workers to be healthy, but pre-pandemic, the emphasis was typically placed on physical health and wellness.

While many employees have had access to at least some mental health services through their company medical plans, open conversations about mental health and well-being were uncommon. From standing desks and healthy office snacks to activities like step-counting contests, the focus generally was on the physical.

No more. Though mental health already should have been a prime concern in a digital age that is exerting heavier, ever-changing professional demands and threatening work-life balance, pandemic-related stress has finally put mental health on equal (or even higher) footing with physical health in corporate life.

Like many other companies, ours expanded our wellness benefit in 2020 to not only include, for instance, a gym membership but anything that promotes emotional well-being. We’ve also sought to remove any stigma around an employee taking a mental health day.

Fortunately, I don’t think this is toothpaste that can be put back in the tube. Companies would be foolish to ever retreat from this increased attention to mental health. Supporting employee mental health is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business.

2. The future of work is ‘remote plus’

My company already was all remote before COVID-19, believing that the increased employee productivity, ability to hire the best talent regardless of location, and elimination of office-related costs are irresistibly huge benefits. But I’ve learned something in the last year: even in an all-remote model, it’s critical for teammates to have some in-person quality time.

You can’t expect people to build connectedness and trust when they see each other exclusively as squares on a Zoom screen. Being physically together, even if it’s just two to four times a year, is necessary to foster a collaborative company culture.

Nothing seems quite the same when employees exist in a 100% virtual world – not even the company holiday party. I went all out in December to try to make ours shine. During the four-hour online event, I scheduled a beer tasting (with brews shipped ahead of time to partygoers), a performance by a magician, and a Bingo contest.

Everyone said they had a lot of fun… but that it just wasn’t as good as being together.

The pandemic may have accelerated the trend toward remote work, but I think a lasting lesson is the value of a “remote plus” approach in which employees work wherever they want most of the time but still come together on occasion.

3. Business travel is often unnecessary

There have been times in my career I spent 50 to 75% of every month on the road to meeting with customers, connecting with employees, pitching investors, and attending trade shows. Even after COVID-19 is in the rear-view mirror, I doubt that number will ever again exceed 30%.

The pandemic has shown that so much can be accomplished in a simple Zoom meeting. I suppose we knew that before the pandemic, but it was more customary to get on a plane and interact in person.

The last year has proven that was often a silly waste of time (not to mention CO2 emissions). In-person meetings have their time and place, but my road warrior days are over.

4. Stretching a dollar is good

As in the Great Depression and other hard times throughout history, I think the pandemic has made thriftiness a virtue.

During a global crisis, you inevitably evaluate expenditures more stringently. So while I may have sprung for an elaborate online holiday party to bolster employee morale, I also have been putting our capital expenditures for things like software tools under a microscope.

I think COVID-19 has reminded everyone that carefully examining every expenditure for ROI is always smart.

5. A good leader knows how to trust

I think back to a previous company I founded and led, one that had physical offices. I was a hands-on CEO by nature and I’d often roll up my sleeves and work closely with people on a project or task.

But with my new company and its all-remote model, it would be hard to micromanage even if I wanted to. When everyone is at home, you just have to trust that people are getting their jobs done well. Which, of course, they nearly always do, without the CEO looking over their shoulder.

I suspect that many executives have become more trusting during the pandemic and that many will remain so.

I’m reluctant to call any of these five lessons silver linings, since it’s hard to find good in a pandemic that has killed 2.4 million worldwide as of this writing, battered the global economy, and disrupted life for everyone. But we can’t ignore that we learn from hardships.

Business leaders, just like anyone else, should cherish the perspectives that the last year has revealed or reinforced. In many cases, they can only make themselves and their companies better.

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Tech News

Apple Watch leads the smartwatch market but Wear OS still has hope

Given the increased attention to personal fitness and health in the past months since the pandemic hit last year, it’s really no surprise that smartwatch sales have considerably risen during that period. Given its focus on health and fitness as well as its track record in saving lives, it is also no surprise that the Apple Watch continues to lead that market all the way to the first quarter of 2021. It isn’t too late for Google’s Wear OS, however, and it might finally catch a break in the coming quarters, presuming its partnership with Samsung bears good fruit.

Compared to the same first quarter last year, the smartwatch market grew by 35% year on year. Counterpoint Research doesn’t point out the cause but it’s easy to see the trends given world events within those 12 months. People have become more conscious of their personal health and smartwatch that can detect irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmia and blood oxygen levels are particularly popular among consumers.

Counterpoint Research does focus on which brands and platforms are leading that market. Again, it’s no surprise to hear that the Apple Watch still leads the race, even increasing its share of the pie by 3%. While Samsung’s shipments did grow, it still ended up losing a portion of its overall market share. Huawei is still in second place above Samsung but its figures continue to decline as expected.

In terms of platforms, Wear OS barely has a presence but that could be changing soon. The market research firm points to the recent announcement of Wear OS integrating Samsung’s Tizen OS for smartwatches, suggesting that such a partnership could help increase both interest in and shipments of Wear OS smartwatches. Samsung can also benefit from this since its future Galaxy Watches will have access to more Android phones in the process.

Google is definitely playing a lot of cards here, especially as it is still in the process of finally acquiring Fitbit. The latter, best known for its fitness trackers, also uses its own custom OS, even on some of its smartwatches. Whether those will eventually run Wear OS still isn’t certain but if they do, Google’s section of that chart could very well increase significantly.

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Tech News

God, I hope these sweet Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 leaks are for real

Samsung‘s new foldable — the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — might not be launching for a few months, but thanks to a new video, we have some idea as to how they might look.

A tipster named Anthony, who owns the GaloxYT YouTube channel, showed off some images of these upcoming devices, in what looks like Samsung‘s own promo material.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yr4H2A7NuV0

The video highlights a two-tone finish and a more squared-off look for the Z Flip 3 — and in my opinion, it looks gorgeous. Plus, the tipster noted that the body of the phone is covered by Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, making it tougher and more likely to withstand falls.

The black part covered by glass hosts two 12-megapixel snappers: the main sensor and an ultra-wide sensor. The new display on the cover to show notifications also appears to be much larger than the tiny 1.1-inch display of the Galaxy Z Flip.

To unlock the device, we’ll expectedly see a fingerprint scanner mounted on the power button — that’s better than having an under-display scanner for a foldable phone.

The video mentions that the Z Flip 3 will have improved camera performance, stereo speakers, and upgraded flex mode that allows the phone to be used whilst half-folded.

Galaxy Z Flip’s flex modeThe leak also shows some images of the Z Fold 3 with a redesigned back and camera bump. The device will have an under-the-screen selfie camera. What’s more, the phone will have support for 25W fast charging and an IP rating for water and dust protection. The Z Fold 3 will also have S-Pen support — just like the S21 Ultra.

Both these devices will probably to launch in July. Hopefully, more leaks like these will give us more details as to what to expect from these foldables.

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