Samsung and Microsoft’s Working-Class Smartphone Coming to the U.S. for $499

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Image: Samsung

Samsung and Microsoft are joining together to bring an ingenious new idea to the workplace. Are you ready to have your mind blown? Get this: walkie talkies.

Ok, so maybe it’s not exactly a new idea, but by building push-to-talk capabilities into Samsung’s new Galaxy XCover Pro, that’s one less device for employees to lug around or, worse, lose when things take a turn for the chaotic.

Announced in a Sunday blog post, the Galaxy XCover Pro is Samsung’s stab at making an enterprise-edition smartphone, much in the same way last year’s Tab Active Pro filled that niche in a tablet. It marks a joint venture with Microsoft, using the company’s recently announced Walkie Talkie function in Microsoft Teams (a text and video chat platform integrated with Microsoft’s suite of Office tools) to “enable frontline workers” and “deliver new mobile-enabled business solutions,” the blog post reads.

It functions similarly to Apple’s Walkie Talkie app for smartwatches, operating via Wi-Fi or cellular data. Though, here’s hoping that’s where the similarities end and Samsung’s iteration won’t be plagued by the same bug that briefly let Apple users eavesdrop on others’ iPhone conversations. Especially since Samsung appears to be marketing it as a more secure alternative to consumer chat apps like Facebook’s WhatsApp that folks working in retail, healthcare, and the like might also rely on.

Sunday’s announcement slots the Galaxy XCover Pro’s release for the first half of this year starting at $499, and Samsung says it’ll be working with Verizon to roll out its new phone to market. At that price point that also puts it in the running for anyone looking for a no-frills, mid-range phone that lasts all day. And I mean all day; at 4,050 mAh, it comes in just below the S10+ in terms of lasting power, and, if you do manage to burn through that, it’s replaceable as well.

“Microsoft and Samsung have a deep history of bringing together the best hardware and software to help solve our customers’ challenges,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in Sunday’s post. “The powerful combination of Microsoft Teams and the new Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro builds on this partnership and will provide firstline workers everywhere with the technology they need to be more collaborative, productive and secure.”

As for perks specific to the workplace, it’s water- and dust-resistant, as to be expected, and can survive about a 5-foot-drop unfazed. Its interface has been widdled down to two programmable buttons, one of which sports a fingerprint reader so unlocking the device doesn’t require touching the screen, and its 6.3-inch, 1080p screen has been outfitted to better decipher inputs by gloved hands, per a TechCrunch report. It also comes with NFC support and point-of-sale software already built-in, allowing users to ring up any customers using an NFC-equipped credit card. And Verizon’s already approved the device for its Tap to Phone payments pilot program.

All that said, a reminder that this phone’s built specifically for work environments, so its specs won’t exactly be raising any eyebrows: a 2 GHz eight-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (though it does support expandable storage with a microSD slot), and for cameras you’ve got a 13-megapixel front-facing camera and a two rear cameras: a 25-megapixel camera and an 8-megapixel fixed-focus unit.

All in all, it feels like Samsung and Microsoft are busy pushing forward full-steam moving in on that enterprising niche Google Glass found a surprising second life in.

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