T-Mobile and Sprint may be cleared to merge, but users are left with unclear signals

Recapping the week’s biggest tech stories.

Sprint 5G Tower.
Sprint's 5G towers showed up for this year's Super Bowl.Sprint

It’s only fitting that T-Mobile and Sprint would get final judge’s approval for their massive merger during the week of Valentine’s Day. While that telecom romance is clearly the big story of the week, it wasn’t the only thing happening in the world of tech. Here are a few highlights from the past week—we’ll get to the romantic comedy (or is it actually a horror story in the making?) about the two cellular carriers down below.

Samsung announced new smartphones

At its Unpacked event in San Francisco earlier this week, Samsung finally pushed the big, red launch button to propel its new Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy S20 smartphones into the world. You can see a full recap of the announcement here and take a closer look at the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s massive 100x “zoom” function here.

MWC and CP+ got canceled

The annual Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona typically acts as a launch pad for new smartphones and smartphone-adjacent products from a litany of companies. This year, however, the coronavirus outbreak caused just about every major firm to back out. As a result, it’s officially canceled this year. The CP+ expo in Japan—one of the world’s biggest photo industry trade shows—suffered a similar fate.

The new Motorola Razr opened to sad reviews

Hopes were high when Motorola announced it was bringing back the Razr. Between its iconic pedigree and its promising folding screen tech, it made early adopters drool. Unfortunately, the product’s actual foray into the real world didn’t go so well. Reviewers complained of issues from creaky hinges to a generally cheap overall feel. The timing couldn’t have been worse with Samsung introducing its Galaxy Z Flip with its flexible glass screen and more robust set of features.

Adam Savage built a wonderful robot rickshaw

If you’re a true nerd, you’re likely envious of former Mythbusters host, Adam Savage. This week, he took to YouTube to show off the rickshaw he built to ride behind a Boston Dynamics Spot robot. It’s a nice reprieve from recent Spot videos, most of which have been rather terrifying in a dystopian robot stormtrooper kind of way.

Facebook introduced a new app called Hobbi for when you’re feeling crafty

On its face, Facebook’s new app, Hobbi, looks like a Pinterest clone. In practice, however, the app offers a deeper experience for people who want to keep track of their personal projects and builds. You can connect with other people who like to make stuff and even keep tabs on the progress of your own work as you go. It’s part of a trend of this kind of new app, which includes Google’s recent version, Tangi.

Sprint and T-Mobile merger

For years now, T-Mobile and Sprint have been working on merging—combining the third and fourth biggest American cellular providers (respectively) into a bigger entity with a better shot at taking on the final bosses of Verizon and AT&T.

One of the very last hurdles standing in the merger’s way came in the form of a lawsuit brought by 10 state attorneys general who believed the deal would be bad for competition and, ultimately, consumers.

This week, however, US District Judge Victor Marrero handed down his verdict on the trial, which began last year. He approved the merger and outlined his decision in a 173-page document that you can look at here if you really can’t think of anything more fun to do during your weekend.

The Verge’s Nilay Patel (who is actually a lawyer, unlike most of the other folks arguing about the decision on Twitter) read the document and outlined some of the most glaring pieces that suggest the verdict may be misguided.

The next steps are still somewhat unclear. As part of the deal, Dish will spin up its own cellular service provider network while using T-Mobile’s network in the meantime. Sprint and T-Mobile will merge, but it’s unclear whether that will mean in practical terms for either company’s current subscribers.

Competitive drawbacks aside, the deal may lay the groundwork for a more robust 5G network rollout for the new company since Sprint’s 5G service utilizes mid-band frequencies, while T-Mobile prominently relies on lower-frequencies that don’t go far beyond the capabilities of current 4G tech. Combining hardware could make the network considerably better. But, users may not get access to the bargain-basement prices Sprint currently offers on its unlimited service plans.

In other words: stay tuned.