Oh HTC. You’ve produced one of the finest Android smartphones ever (seriously, just look at all these reviews), but you’ve faced more than your share of challenges when it came to actually pumping your top-tier One smartphone. As it happens, that may all soon change.
FocusTaiwan reported earlier today that HTC is preparing to pump out more of its wonderful Ones in short order — Jack Tong, the company’s North Asia president, noted that this month’s production capacity for the flagship device is twice that of April, and that surge will only continue into June.
Sounds pretty yawn-worthy, right? Normally I would spend too much time dwelling on the finer points of production capacity, but here’s a device that was launched to widespread praise by an underdog smartphone company some people have written off, and HTC has basically been getting screwed thanks to part shortages for the One’s Ultrapixel camera and a brief injunction due to the HDR microphone it uses. It’s like a perfect storm of headaches for a company that really, really doesn’t need it — one look at its Q1 financials and it’s clear that HTC needed this launch to go as smoothly as possible. It didn’t.
For what it’s worth, HTC hasn’t disclosed how many Ones it’s shipped since it launched earlier this year. Meanwhile, rival Samsung’s Galaxy S4 has become the Korean electronics giant’s fastest moving smartphone — Samsung shipped 6 million units in just over two weeks, and it hopes to cross the 10 million unit threshold by the end of this month. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that Google’s Hugo Barra showed off a version of the S4 at the company’s I/O developer conference that runs a version of Android that’s unfettered by the software bloat that many a reviewer took umbrage at. Company representatives were careful not to call it a Nexus — even though it seems to harbor many of the advantages inherent to the Nexus line like a clean Android build and access to frequent software updates.
As I noted towards the end of my HTC One review, the wireless industry isn’t a meritocracy — the well-executed device doesn’t always wind up saving the day. Hopefully now that some of these production woes have been ironed out we’ll see HTC live to fight another day, but that’s still far from a given.
Google’s major developer conference, Google I/O, went down this week. Was it a bit of a letdown? Probably. Did cool stuff still come out of the event? Eh? Maybe? We discuss these topics and more this week on the TC Gadgets podcast. In fact, we even had Frederic Lardinois join as a guest, along with John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook (that’s me!), Romain Dillet, and Darrell Etherington as Bob McKenzie.
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Intro Music by Rick Barr.
Now that Defense Distributed is on the defensive, it’s time to think a bit harder about what 3D printing really means. To that end, Michigan Tech is sponsoring a Printers For Peace contest that is encouraging designers and engineers to make amazing stuff using a 3D printer that can change the world for the better. “Unfortunately, the only thing many people know about 3D printing is that it can be used to make guns,” writes Dr. Joshua Pearce, founder of the project.
“This is an open-ended contest, but if you’d like some ideas, ask yourself what Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, or Gandhi would make if they’d had access to 3D printing.”
The deadline for the contest is September 1st and they’ll announce winners on the 4th. They are looking for designers to build things that will help, not harm, people.
low-cost medical devices
tools to help pull people out of poverty
designs that can reduce racial conflict
objects to improve energy efficiency or renewable energy sources to reduce wars over oil
tools that would reduce military conflict and spending while making us all safer and more secure
things that boost sustainable economic development (e.g. designs for appropriate technology in the developing world to reduce scarcity)
The winner of best project will win a Type A Machines Series 1 3D Printer and the runner-up gets a simpler RepRap Prusa Mendel 3D printing kit.
With all the press attention on 3D printing is the gateway to firearms anarchy, it’s refreshing to see someone take a different path. By backing 3D printing engineers into a corner, DefDist and the government are simply using fear to achieve competing goals. The results will be both needlessly draconian legislation and a variant of the Streisand Effect that will spread these arguably faulty plans far and wide. When the government outlawed DVD decryption code you could buy a T-shirt with the code printed on it. The same will happen in this case, although this code, when run, could take off fingers and give legislators more ammunition for a full crackdown on home 3D printing.
Let us know if you enter and good luck. We need more weapons against poverty and fewer weapons against each other.
[Image via Thingiverse]
If you were among the select few that signed up for NVIDIA’s Shield newsletter then you’ve been able to pre-order the company’s curious handset for a few days now. The remainder of the gaming masses originally had to wait until Monday for their own turn, but that’s no longer the case — NVIDIA’s retail partners have jumped on the pre-order bandwagon too so you can now stake your claim on a Shield from Newegg, Gamestop, and Canada Computer starting today.
MicroCenter will also sell the Shield in June but it hasn’t yet gotten its pre-order page set up. Get yourself together, MicroCenter.
I’m still not convinced that the Shield will find a foothold outside of the geekiest mobile gamers, but our own Darrell Etherington recently took the thing for a spin and came away rather impressed. He even went as far as calling it “the way Android games should be played,” a sentiment I don’t completely disagree with — we’ve seen the quality of mobile games surge by leaps and bounds these past few years, to the point where they easily eclipse consoles of years past. While those mobile games have slowly come into their own, the control schemes that are forced upon us thanks to the advent of the touchscreen leave much to be desired. There’s still something limiting and unsatisfying about effetely pawing at a piece of glass (or worse, a resistive display — yuck), a sentiment that others have championed, too. Early reactions to the Shield are generally positive, at least where the hardware and control layout is concerned, so at least there’s that to look forward to.
But in the end, will the Shield sell? And what does NVIDIA hope to get out of it? As it happens, NVIDIA may not care all that much about pure sales volume anyway. Time’s Jared Newman spoke to NVIDIA GM of mobile games Bill Rehbock at I/O, who pointed out that the Shield was designed to highlight the sorts of high-end gaming experiences developers have crafted for Android, not to mention the power of the company’s Tegra 4 chipset. There’s little question that NVIDIA’s newest system-on-a-chip has got plenty of horsepower to play with, but it’s still hard to see the Shield as much more than an incredibly niche device that raises more questions than answers.
Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, is poised to pass 10 million shipments next week less than a month after the device launched, says co-CEO Shin Jong-kyun, according to the Korea Times. The S4′s international release took place on April 27, after the phone launched in Samsung’s home market on April 26.
“We are confident that we will pass more than 10 million sales of the S4 next week. It is selling much faster than the previous model S3,” Jong-kyun told reporters at an industry forum in Seoul yesterday the paper reports. “Samsung spent 50 days to pass the 10 million sales mark for the S3. The S4 will be Samsung’s first ’10 million seller’ device less than a month after its official debut.”
Earlier this week Samsung confirmed shipments of the S4 had passed 6 million, describing it as the fastest ever sell rate for a Galaxy S smartphone, or any other Samsung smartphone. Company officials pointed to increased marketing spending as a key accelerator, according to the Korea Times. Samsung’s smartphone marketing budget dwarfs the other Android OEMs. According to research from Kantar media, reported in the WSJ, the company spent $401m in 2012 advertising its phones in the U.S. alone vs Apple’s $333 million.
It’s worth flagging that shipments are not actual sales. Samsung does not report the latter, however channel shipments at least give an indication of how popular retailers believe a device is going to be.
Apple does report device sales but does not break this out for individual iPhone models, so it’s not possible to compare the like-for-like sales of the iPhone 5 with the Galaxy S4 shipments but reporting its last earnings in April Apple said it sold a total of 37.4 million iPhones in the quarter.
Google’s tax affairs came in for criticism again yesterday after an appearance in front of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. Rent has gone up in every single region for the first time since 2011 according to one survey; we look at what impact the government’s house buying schemes will have on the rental market. And as pop fans get ready for the Eurovision song contest tomorrow evening, we take a look at the latest news from the eurozone – with a musical twist.
NVIDIA brought its new Shield handheld gaming system to Google I/O this year and showed off a near-production device. The Shield made its debut at CES this year, surprising most since it’s a consumer handheld device from a company that generally makes internal components. But it has some neat tricks up its sleeve, including a Tegra 4 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 720p display and 16GB of internal storage.
The Shield units available at I/O this week were all running Android and showing off Android games with hardware controller support, and none were demoing the PC game streaming that NVIDIA said would be coming to Shield as a beta when it comes to retail in June.
My experience with the NVIDIA was limited to just a few games, including the Epic Citadel demo that always gets trotted out to demonstrate amazing graphics capabilities on mobile devices. There were also a couple of playable cart racers in action, and all of the above performed well and really showed that the hardware is capable of rendering high-quality video smoothly and without any apparent effort. For a device that’s essentially a smartphone without the actual phone powers, but with more physical buttons for $349, that’s an important achievement to be able to claim.
Shield does its Android job well, and the hardware feels great to these gamers’ hands. Buttons are slightly clicky and the ergonomics are solid, and the thing doesn’t take up too much more space than an Xbox controller when the screen is folded down and it’s in travel mode. There’s mini-HDMI, which was outputting gameplay to a small HD television, and a micro-USB slot for charging. The onboard screen boasts “retinal” quality 294 PPI pixel density, which means video and games look silky smooth.
Maybe the best part is that NVIDIA has gone for a pretty near stock Android Jelly Bean experience, which a rep from the company told me was a conscious choice they made after first trying a more involved widget overlay that ended up making for a much less pleasant experience. Navigating the stock Android with hardware controls (you can also always use the touchscreen) is also surprisingly intuitive.
All that said, this is a strange device with a market that’s probably going to be pretty niche. Really, it almost seems like a reference device designed to show off the power of Tegra, but NVIDIA is actually shipping the thing, so those of us like me who actually have a hankering for this kind of hardware will really be able to buy it even if it doesn’t become a runaway success.
How people are persuaded to give away their plastic