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⚡ Welcome again to The Weekly Authority, the Android Authority newsletter that breaks down the top Android and tech news from the week. The 166th edition here, bringing all the week’s newsworthy happenings to your inbox.
🎃 Happy Halloween! Hope you’ve got your pumpkins carved and tricks and treats at the ready. I’m spending the weekend working my way through a long list of horror films, and I finally got my hands on a PS5, so am excited to finally play Returnal!
Popular news this week
- It’s official: Facebook is now Meta. The company rebranded this week as Mark Zuckerberg gave an hour-long Connect presentation about its plans for the metaverse.
- The new Oculus Quest headset was also announced, coming next year, though Facebook’s ditching the Oculus brand too, so it’ll presumably be the Meta Quest.
- This follows weeks of turbulence and ongoing backlash over the Facebook Papers leak, human trafficking, and more.
- It hasn’t affected profits though as they still topped £9bn during the last quarter…
- Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake chips usher in a new era: three new chips, led by the Core i9-12900K model, with a total of 16 cores and 24 threads, promising a 19% performance improvement over its 11th Gen chips.
- The chip shortage hit hard in another slow quarter for smartphones, but revenues are up 12%, with companies putting chips into mid-range and premium phones.
- The Palmbuds Pro launched on Tuesday, available to pre-order for $99, $129 on general release.
- Qualcomm announced four (kinda) new mid-range processors: Snapdragon 778G Plus is a minor upgrade, Snapdragon 695 brings better/faster 5G to low-cost phones.
- Weirdly, LG is handing out discount codes for the Pixel 5a that could net you $65 off, we don’t know why yet.
- And the Honor 50 series launched globally, but the Pro isn’t available outside China.
- Speaking of China, the Redmi Note 11 series launched: The Pro misses out on 120W charging but packs a Dimensity 920 SoC, 5,160mAh battery, and 120Hz screen. And the Redmi Watch 2 also landed, packing better battery life, onboard GPS, and SpO2 tracking.
- Meanwhile, Tesla’s market cap reached $1 trillion on Monday after a Hertz order for 100,000 EVs.
- Last but not least, Blue Origin launched plans to launch Orbital Reef, a private space station that will be a sort-of business park, between 2025 and 2030.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
- Google Pixel 6 review: Worth every penny — Versatile cameras, long battery life, and solid performance make this well-rounded release easy to recommend.
- Google Pixel 6 Pro review: The most compelling Pixel yet — “Google has come as close as it ever has to dialing in the right mix of form, features, and functionality.”
- Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Rock-bottom price, limited ambitions — “A reasonable buy for the price, but spend a little extra and you’ll get a lot more.”
- Motorola Moto G Power (2021) review: Budget battery behemoth — With multi-day battery life, a solid camera, and the Snapdragon 662 chip, it’s an excellent choice for under $300.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Bells, whistles, and more — The best Fire TV stick on the market has a faster processor, extra RAM, and everything else you could ask for.
If scary movies aren’t giving you sleepless nights this Halloween weekend, this edition’s Weekly Wonder might. We ask: Could the next big solar storm cause an internet apocalypse?
What causes a solar storm?
The sun showers the earth regularly with “Solar Wind,” electromagnetically charged particles. These don’t generally do any damage to the earth or to us thanks to the earth’s magnetic field. But around once every century or so, this electrically charged matter interacts with the magnetic field to create a solar storm, which has the potential to disrupt power grids, satellite communications, and subsea cables.
- Although the likelihood of one of these storms hitting the earth is between 1.6 and 12%, experts predict this could happen in the next 20 to 25 years.
- A severe solar storm could cause an “internet apocalypse” that knocks out the internet for weeks or even months at a time, according to a research paper written by Dr. Sangeetha Jyothi, Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine.
How could a solar storm affect our internet?
The internet relies on a network of undersea cables that run for around 1.3 million miles. Some of these cables are over 12,000 miles long. If a natural disaster like a solar storm were to damage these subsea cables, huge parts of the internet could be crippled, with outages lasting months.
- The good news is that these cables are designed to be sturdy. They use light, not current, to send signals, making them immune to electrical damage.
- The bad news is that the cables have repeaters designed to amplify signals across long distances. If disrupted by a solar storm, these could theoretically take out the entire subsea network.
- More good news: It’s unlikely that every country and continent would be affected. Regions closest to the Earth’s magnetic poles would be hardest hit, but this could mean that regions that don’t experience a blackout become disconnected from those that do.
- If a solar storm does hit Earth, we’ll likely only have around 13 hours to prepare.
Has this happened before?
There have been two solar storms recorded in recent history, in 1859 and 1921.
- The Carrington Event in 1859 led to severe geomagnetic disturbance, causing telegraph wires to burst into flames.
- The New York Railroad superstorm of 1921 led to widespread railroad and undersea communications outages.
- Of course, the internet and connectivity as we know it didn’t exist back then, so the impact wasn’t as severe as it could be if this happened today.
What can we do?
Technically, if a solar storm knocks out subsea repeaters, the internet is capable of rerouting traffic through a different, still operational route, according to experts. But it’s “the edges of the network” that should worry us. If enough subsea routers are impacted, we might find bandwidth is restricted to emergency and essential services, leaving small businesses and residential customers disconnected for weeks or months.
- The answer could be Edge computing, where local, decentralized networks allow communities to “build their own” internet. However, this is just a short-term fix.
- Governments could resort to other options like wireless meshes (Google’s Loon or Commotion).
- Grid operators need to start laying more cables at lower latitudes.
- Resilience testing will also be key — we need to know how large-scale network failures will affect us and how subsea modules might recover if affected by a solar storm.
- November 5: Call of Duty: Vanguard launches
- November 9: Motorola Announcement Holiday Event
- November 9: Poco M4 Pro 5G launch
- November 10: CES Unveiled New York
- November 18-19: MediaTek Executive Summit
- November 24-30: Steam Autumn Sale
- November 26-29: Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend
- November 30-December 1: Snapdragon Tech Summit
Tech Tweet of the Week
And a little something extra:
The Weekly Authority: Edition #165
The Weekly Authority