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Photo: Samsung

At the Samsung Developer Conference on Wednesday, Samsung showed developers one vision of the future of the smartphone: a device with a narrow “cover display” that unfolds into a tablet-like screen thanks to a flexible display.

Why it matters: Samsung needs developers to prepare their apps to work properly on the new device — so, in an atypical move, it is talking about the device before it is commercially ready.

Google is also on board with Samsung’s approach. Earlier on Wednesday it announced it would broadly support the foldable approach in its Android operating system. It also said Samsung’s foldable device would ship “early next year.”

Samsung isn’t the first to play with this idea. China’s ZTE has a similar product with its Axon M. However, because it lacks a flexible screen, the Axon M has a border in the middle of its display when unfolded.

Samsung also used its conference to:

  • Introduce tools to let developers bring their own apps and services to Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant and AI platform.
  • Unveil a new “One UI” interface designed to make it easier to handle the most commonly performed smartphone tasks. One UI will be made broadly available for Samsung's latest flagship phones next year and come to Galaxy S9 and S9+ users in a beta in November.

Our thought bubbles:

  • Samsung has a laudable goal with Bixby — to let you say what you want to any Samsung device and have the hardware and cloud do it for you. But the reality isn't there yet. Also, opening Bixby up to developers doesn't guarantee they will want to build on top of another voice AI platform.
  • With One UI, Samsung is reversing a years-long trend away from hardware makers heavily customizing the Android interface. In the early days of the operating system, Samsung had TouchWiz, HTC had its Sense and so on. To do its own interface and have it work throughout the phone, Samsung will also have to go back to another largely abandoned approach — developing its own app alongside the similar Google-created one. In the past, that meant two camera apps, two browsers, two messaging apps and so forth.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.

First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.