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Editor's Letter: Expand gets expanded

Tim Stevens

In each issue of Distro, editor-in-chief Tim Stevens publishes a wrap-up of the week in news.

Another week gone by and another week closer to the unveiling of the next Android superphone: the Samsung Galaxy S IV. We're days away from the event where it will debut to the world and, somewhat predictably, we're starting to see some leaks of bits and pieces about the phone's functionality -- though nothing as concrete as showing the thing itself just yet.

The biggest clue we have is a selection of screenshots highlighting two interesting eye-tracking additions: Smart Scroll and Smart Pause. Users of the Galaxy S III or Note II will likely be familiar with Smart Stay, which promises to keep the phone from auto-locking the screen while you're looking at it. These, then, would be logical extensions to that sort of functionality.

I haven't always been impressed with how Smart Stay works on my Note II, but I'm personally very excited to see what Samsung can do with this.

Smart Scroll would, we're told, automatically scroll whatever it is up or down when you look at the bottom or top of the screen. Smart Pause, meanwhile, would pause whatever current video is playing when you look away from the screen. There's certainly the potential for these to be hugely annoying if done poorly, and indeed I haven't always been impressed with how Smart Stay works on my Note II, but I'm personally very excited to see what Samsung can do with this. I'm generally not a fan of Samsung's Android customizations, but the company deserves credit for trying to do something new on the interface side.

The big question, though, is whether Samsung will try something truly new on the hardware front, or whether it will be another light and thin, but plastic device. If the recent Note 8.0 is any indication, it'll be more of the same, but if Samsung wanted to break out of the mold, the release of what is almost guaranteed to be a worldwide sales phenomenon is a good place to start.

A job listing at Microsoft has given us a rough idea of when we might expect the next update to Windows Phone. The release is currently targeted for the "holiday of this year" -- though the listing itself sadly doesn't give us any indication on whether this release will be a major retooling of the OS or just the next logical refinement. At this point we'd probably guess the latter, since we can't think of anything major Windows Phone is really lacking at this point.

We shudder to think of the impact on the US economy of such an addictive game successfully launching at the beginning of the week.

The long-awaited SimCity reboot finally hit retail this week, though its launch was not without problems. The game requires an active internet connection to play -- even though you're playing solo -- and it immediately became clear that EA's servers weren't up to the task of keeping everyone merrily designing, building, growing and then ultimately destroying their virtual cities. Perhaps that's for the best, as we shudder to think of the impact on the US economy of such an addictive game launching at the beginning of the week.

The Geneva Motor Show took place this week, and the big story was the terribly named Ferrari LaFerrari. Most of the best jokes were used on Twitter already, so I won't tire you with more about the Ferrari TheFerrari, but there's nothing silly about a 789HP V12 paired with a 160HP electric motor, pushing the car over 60MPH in less than three seconds. Also, Ferrari's partnership with Apple (naming Eddy Cue to the board of directors) is starting to bear fruit, with the four-seater FF getting Siri voice recognition and a pair of iPad minis installed for those poor souls cramped in the back.

Finally, we've published the full agenda for our Expand event, which is just over a week away in San Francisco! We've been working our behinds off to line up a huge suite of great speakers, panelists and products for you to check out. We'll have great speakers like Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers, OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman and the internet's Veronica Belmont. We'll also have a Tesla Model S on the show floor, booths from companies like Nokia and Lenovo, and more robots than you can shake a looming apocalypse at. We'll be streaming it all on the site live, so if you can't make it, rest assured we'll have content for you. But, if you're able, we'd love to see you there.

In this week's Distro, I'm taking you to the Daytona 500, where I spent the weekend desperately seeking tech. I came away with far more than I expected, but that doesn't mean NASCAR doesn't have a ways to go in many regards. We have Brad Molen's review of the LG Optimus G Pro, which is a strong contender for king of the mega-phones. Brad also files his fourth installment on what living with the BlackBerry Z10 is like and we go eyes-on with the Wacom Intuos5 touch tablet. We also have a plethora of editorials: Terrence O'Brien wondering whether Mozilla is about to fall in the same pitfalls as others with its Firefox OS, Ross Rubin analyzing the increasingly blurry lines between phone and tablet and Joshua Fruhlinger suggesting we may be in for some unpleasant social and behavioral implications from Google Glass. It's all in this week's issue, and while you'll have to use your fingers to scroll and your eyes to read, we hope you'll do it. For us.

Tim Stevens is Editor-in-chief of Engadget and Editorial Director for AOL Tech. You can find him on Twitter at @tim_stevens.

This piece originally appeared in Distro #81.

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