Volkswagen gets a special mention for gaming fuel-emission tests via the software in its cars. And BlackBerry, long proud of going its own way, finds itself pinning its comeback hopes on a phone that leans heavily on software from another company, Alphabet’s Google.
Lastly, all of Silicon Valley gets a turkey this year because the tech industry still can’t figure out how to hire, retain and promote more women and minorities.
Since innovation apparently can mean figuring out new ways to screw up, we’ve rounded up a supersized 17 examples of the most cringe-inducing tech turkeys for your holiday entertainment.
If you don’t mind buying an Android phone that really, really looks like an iPhone,HTC’s One A9 (above, center) seems like a pretty good deal in the US; you’re getting reasonable specs and build quality along with Android 6.0 for $399.99. But you’ll have to be quick — as it turns out, that price is only a launch offer, and the One A9 will sell for $499.99 from the end of next week.
The news comes from SlashGear, which obtained the following statement from an HTC spokesperson:
“The cost of the HTC One A9 is the same worldwide to all distributors and operator partners. For end consumers, HTC’s sales regions are given the freedom to set prices and promotions as they see fit for local market needs. The One A9 price in the US is a very limited-time promotional offer for that region’s online store, as well as select HTC-only franchise stores. The offer is a special promotional pre-sale and is expected to conclude once the One A9 is available on-shelf at major retail and distributor partners.
After the promotional pre-sale offer ends, the new price in the US at htc.com will be $499.99 beginning 12:01am on 11/7.”
The comment goes some way to explaining the regional disparity in pricing. In the UK, for example, the One A9’s price is set at £429.99; that translates to around $660, which is still a considerable markup from $499.99, but one more in line with what UK customers are used to paying. HTC’s statement that it sells the One A9’s cost for the same worldwide does not, however, explain why the UK version of the phone has 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM compared to the US version’s 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM.
In any case, the bottom line is this: if you’re in the US and want to pick up a One A9, you’d better do it by next Friday. As for whether anyone will take HTC up on the A9 after the price hike? You might want to take a look at the Nexus 6P for the same price.
HTC has delayed the launch of its upcoming fitness wearable — the wrist-mounted HTC Grip — for the second time. The smartphone company, which developed the Grip with sportswear manufacturer Under Armour, has pushed its launch back until early next year, having previously indicated that it would see release alongside a suite of fitness products in 2015.
HTC DELAYED THE GRIP ONCE ALREADY
The $199 wristband, set to feature a touchscreen display and GPS radio, was originally scheduled to hit shelves this year. HTC first announced a delay to the project in July, saying that “after extensive wear testing and user feedback,” it had decided to “align Grip with the entire product portfolio for health and fitness launching later this year.” This second slip also appears to apply to HTC’s entire “Connected Fitness” platform: in a statement, HTC said it had decided in partnership with Under Armour to hold back its “fully integrated digital ecosystem of products” until 2016.
Along with the Vive VR headset — created with video game developer and publisher Valve — HTC’s Grip is an attempt by the company to diversify its product range. HTC has seen its smartphone sales and profits drop over the past few years, but there’s no guarantee its new enterprises will be huge commercial successes: VR headsets are yet to hit the market in any meaningful sense, and the fitness band sector is already crowded with competitors.
Ever since Google made Android 6.0 Marshmallow official, many users have wondered, “When will my phone get the latest OS update?” Well, that largely depends on the manufacturers and carriers. Thankfully, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and T-Mobile have already announced their list of devices that will be getting the OS, though most have yet to reveal a set timeline for the update to reach these devices. Here’s what we know so far.
Nexus phones and tablets
Let’s start with the obvious ones first. Android 6.0 Marshmallow was released on October 5, and following its legacy, Google’s latest Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will be first in the queue to run it. These devices will come preloaded with the latest OS. Existing Nexus devices, including the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7, and Nexus 9, have already started receiving the update. The Nexus Player is set to receive Android 6.0 in the US only. Nexus users can download the latest OS manually from Google Developer, but it’s usually best to wait for the OTA version.
HTC has affirmed that the HTC One M9 and One M8 will receive the update by the end of this year. The company has announced a list comprising other devices that will get the update: HTC One M9+, HTC One E9+, HTC One M8, HTC One E9, HTC One ME, HTC One E8, HTC One M8 Eye, HTC Butterfly 3, HTC Desire 826, HTC Desire 820, and HTC Desire 816. Moreover, HTC said it will be launching an Android 6.0-powered device on October 20. Phones like the HTC One M7 won’t be updated officially, but may see unofficial support from third-party projects.
Motorola has fared pretty well when it comes to rolling out updates, and this time around the company has already announced a list of smartphones that will get the Marshmallow update. These chosen few are the Moto X Pure Edition (third-gen), Moto X Style, Moto X Play, Moto G (third-gen), Moto X Pure Edition in the US (second-gen), Moto X (second-gen), Moto G and Moto G 4G LTE (second-gen), Moto Maxx, and Moto Turbo.
When Android 5.0 Lollipop was released, LG was among the fastest manufacturers to have rolled out the OS. LG itself has not officially announced its list of devices that will get the Android 6.0 update, but T-Mobile has listed the LG G3, G4, and G Stylo. Also, LG’s Korean support page has listed the aforementioned devices with Android 6.0 Marshmallow support.
Sony phones and tablets
Following other manufacturers, Sony has outed a list that comprises devices that will get the Android 6.0 update. The company has not revealed any set timeline for the release, but it says that it is working hard to update devices as soon as possible. Sony products that have made the list are the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact, Xperia Z5 Premium, Xperia Z4 Tablet, Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact, Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, Xperia Z2, Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia M5, Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia M4 Aqua, and Xperia C4.
Samsung phones and tablets
Samsung began the Android 5.0 Lollipop roll-out 31 days after the update was made official. But as is often the case, not all of its devices received the OS, thanks to the lack of carrier support and some region-related glitches. With that in mind, Youmobile.org has a list of Samsung devices that will get the latest Android 6.0 update, but it’s not yet confirmed by Samsung. The devices listed are the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Duos, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note 4 Duos, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy Alpha, and Galaxy Tab A. As with HTC, unofficial support for older devices, like the Galaxy S5, may be possible with third-party support.
A new leak today contains the clearest screenshots yet of the upcoming HTC “hero product” due out this fall. The handset (codenamed “Aero”) is expected to be sold under the name HTC One A9, and will come in up to six colors, according to tech journalist Evan Blass on Twitter. The horizontal stripe design, though it was an HTC hallmark back in the day, brings to mind Apple design post-iPhone 6. (The colors do, too.) Assuming the leaked screenshot reflects current marketing materials, HTC may even go so far as to ape Apple’s color-naming scheme — replacing space gray with carbon gray and keeping rose gold as is. Aero was first seen in leaked screenshots last month.
HTC CEO Cher Wang, who took over for former chief executive Peter Chou in March, promised a new HTC flagship later this year to help the Taiwanese manufacturer revive its struggling sales amid layoffs and high-level talent departures. HTC announced plans in August to cut 15 percent of its worldwide workforce as it tries to increase sales while dabbling in new markets like virtual reality. Though the company’s One line of devices have received generally solid marks from critics, they’ve failed to reach the level of the success needed to pull HTC out of its financial rut, putting weighty expectations on the Aero and its Cupertino-esque design.
Back in June, HTC CEO Cher Wang promised that her beleaguered company would launch a new “hero product” this October, revitalizing its core smartphone business. Now, newly leaked images via Twitter account OnLeaks suggest that this device (codenamed Aero) seems to be taking a leaf out of Apple’s design book. Photos purportedly showing the front and rear of the forthcoming smartphone reveal a case that’s extremely similar to the back of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Although, this comparison is slightly unfair considering that Apple’s use of metal cases with inset plastic lines to let the phone signal escape was a design feature seen in HTC’s One handsets first.
BUT WHAT PHONE CAN HELP HTC NOW?
Reports from Android Central suggest that the HTC Aero will be marketed as the A9 and will feature curved glass at the front, a 5.2-inch quad HD display, a deca-core MediaTek X20 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3,500mAh battery. These specs are far from certain though, and we may see some differences when the handset is (hopefully) announced this October. Still, it’s hard to imagine any single smartphone turning around HTC’s current financial woes, even with elements of Apple’s design in play.
HTC was the original Android phone maker. It manufactured the first retailAndroid device, the T-Mobile G1, as well as the prototype devices Google used to develop the platform. After a solid run, the last few years haven’t been particularly kind to HTC. After reportedly disastrous performance for the HTC One M9, the Taiwanese company is rumored to be planning a vastly different flagship phone for early 2016 called the HTC O2 — the “One” name is apparently gone.
We’re still months out from any official announcement of HTC’s 2015 Flagship device, but the details we’re hearing sound very plausible. The O2 will reportedly have a Snapdragon 820 system-on-a-chip (SoC), replacing the embattled Snapdragon 810 in the One M9. This chip has run hot in all the phones that run it, but the M9 in particular suffered from severe thermal throttling that hurt performance.
The Snapdragon 820 will have a completely different architecture consisting of four custom 64-bit ARM cores (probably called Hydra) designed by Qualcomm. That’s what the company has traditionally used in its SoCs, but the 810 runs reference Cortex ARM cores in an octa-core configuration. The custom solution simply wasn’t ready in time. The device will also reportedly have 4GB of RAM, 32GB or 128GB of storage, and a 3500mAh battery.
Rumors also point to a QHD (2560×1440) screen, which would be a step up from the M9’s 1080p. A 1440p screen might not be necessary strictly speaking, there are situations where it can look better than a 1080p screen. And shipping a 1080p LCD for the third year in a row made HTC look like it as lagging behind other OEMs anyway. The resolution bump is necessary in 2016.
The HTC O2 (or whatever they call it) will be running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but that’s not much of a surprise. Any flagship phone released in 2016 will be running the latest version of Android. Software hasn’t really been HTC’s problem lately, though. It’s all about that boring hardware.
The M9 under-performed largely because it looked and felt like the same phone HTC made in 2014. The design was only slightly changed from the M8 to the M9, and many of the specs stayed the same. To turn things around in 2016, the O2 ought to shake up the design — we know HTC is capable of making great hardware and the M7, M8, and M9 are all very well-made. The camera also needs some serious attention, and that’s not mentioned in the leaks. The M9’s 20MP camera was atrocious.
HTC recently saw its market cap drop after another in a series of disappointing quarterly reports. The company is now valued lower than the value of the cash it holds, which does not usually end well. HTC does still have almost $1.5 billion on-hand, which should get it through another product cycle to make the O2 a reality.
Nextbit makes the bold claim that its smartphone will actually get better over time thanks to software tweaks. It plans to sell it for $300 to $400.
You would normally laugh off any no-name company’s attempt to jump into the brutally competitive smartphone business. But given the pedigree of the members at startup Nextbit, you have to at least be curious.
Nextbit, which began life as a secretive software startup focused on a cloud-based tool that allowed you to move files and setting between Android devices, has shifted gears into hardware and intends to launch its own smartphone. The company, which boasts Google Ventures as a backer, Android veterans Tom Moss and Mike Chan and former HTC design chief Scott Croyle, plans to unveil its smartphone on September 1, Moss said in an interview.
“It’s going to be friggin’ awesome,” said Moss, the chief executive of Nextbit.
Nextbit is bucking the trend and taking a bet on smartphones at a time when Microsoft is drastically cutting its mobile devices operation and Samsung continues to see falling profits from its once powerhouse smartphone business. In an industry where seemingly only Apple can turn a consistent profit, Nextbit hopes to stand out through its staff’s intimate knowledge of Android and its HTC-inspired design chops.
“Phone fatigue is a real thing,” Moss said. “That’s why we’re doing something different.”
While Moss wouldn’t comment on the price, he said the device would cost in the new “premium tier” of Android smartphones, which he said ranged between $300 and $400.
Better over time
Nextbit’s biggest boast is that its smartphone will actually get better over time. That’s a bold claim considering that the current crop of smartphones seem to be become obsolete weeks after you purchase one when the next flashier smartphone arrive.
The company believes it will be able to achieve its goals by noodling through the Android operating system. “Your phone will perform better over time and function at a higher level because of this software enhancement.”
While the Nextbit team was short on details, Chan, the chief technology officer of Nextbit, said the first smartphone would address the annoyance of storage limits. The company will use cloud technology to boost the storage level, allowing you to carry as many apps, photos and videos as you want. “We’re focusing on a device that can adapt to you,” Chan said.
Future products will tackle other issues, including the potential for a longer lasting smartphone, through software, he said.
Moss and Chan were among the early members of the Android team, and they believe they’re the best suited to use the operating system to enhance the hardware. But that doesn’t mean going so far as to radically alter Android so that it won’t have access to key Google apps, like the approach Amazon took with its Fire tablets and smartphone.
“We’re supercharging it,” Moss said, adding that it was the vision of the original Android team for handset makers to tinker with the software for a better experience.
Another thing Nextbit has going for it is Croyle, one of the key HTC designers behind the successful metal-clad HTC One (as well as its follow-up, the well regarded One M9).
Chan pointed to Croyle’s hiring last year as proof that Nextbit had planned to move into hardware all along. “Hardware is not an all-of-a-sudden thing,” he said. “It’s been in the plans for some time.”
How does Nextbit hope to stand out in a sea of me-too Android smartphones? The company was vague on specifics.
“There’s a lot of you do to have a provocative design,” Moss said, noting that Croyle helped drive the current wave of metallic smartphones.
That trend, however, has gotten stale, Moss said, and the company is looking to move forward with a different kind of premium device.
A pricey strategy
A move into the smartphone business can be far costlier than software. The company will have to work with manufacturers to build up inventory, as well as retailers and carrier partners to offer its products. The Nextbit brand isn’t well known either; the company would have to spent a fortune to get its name out to the public.
Nextbit will be able to establish more of a relationship with potential customers using the Internet and social media, Moss said. The shifts in the smartphone business present an opportunity for new brands to emerge, he added.
Beyond the startup funds, Nextbit generated a few million dollars in revenue by shipping its software back-up tool to millions of Android devices sold by Japan’s NTT Docomo, according to Chan.
Nextbit will likely go after consumers directly, similar to China’s hot startup Xiaomi, or more recently, Motorola and its Moto X Pure Editionin the US.
Nextbit enters a crowded field, occupied by Chinese vendors such as Huawei, ZTE and Alcatel, which are each trying to breach the mid-tier market with affordable smartphones with quality parts. They’re also all going after consumers directly with their own websites and ties to retailers such as Amazon.
Nextbit hopes to standout because it’s so different from the rest of the pack.
Gold plating company Goldgenie has created a special version of the HTC One M9 dedicated to the memory of Cecil the lion
The killing of Cecil the lion has provoked outrage worldwide, with Zimbawe’s environment minister calling for the extradition of US dentist Walter Palmer.
But gold plating company Goldgenie has provided a unique way of remembering the mighty lion – by committing Cecil’s image to a gold HTC One M9 to raise funds for a charity dedicated to the conservation of animals in Hwange National Park where he lived.
The £24,000 smartphone carries a likeness of Cecil engraved into its back, with the legend ‘For Cecil and His Kingdom’ underneath.
Goldgenie said that 10 per cent of every sale (£159) will be donated toFriends of Hwange.
The pricetag is only £11,000 less than the sum of £35,000 Palmer is reported to have paid to shoot and kill Cecil with a crossbow.
The 13 year-old lion was shot and killed on July 1 in Hwange National Park, and was known as a “local favourite”.
“In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted,” Mr Palmer told Colorado News.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.
“I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the US about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have. Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”