|Tech: China's New Apple iPad Look-Alike, the Return of 'Flappy Bird,' and the Latest in Moon Advertising|
By Josh Wolonick MAY 15, 2014 12:26 PM
Plus, BlackBerry launches a new phone exclusively in Indonesia.
China's Bright, Cheap Apple Look-Alike
Next month, Chinese consumers will get their first chance to try out a new device that seems to the be love child of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad mini and its iPhone 5C. It's a 7.9-inch tablet with a 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution (equal to Apple's Retina Display) called the Mi Pad, and it's being made by the Beijing-based company Xiaomi, not Apple.
The tablet, powered by Nvidia's (NASDAQ:NVDA) quad-core Tegra K1 processor, will boast 2GB of memory, as well as 16GB or 64GB of hard drive space, and will support up to 128GB of additional storage via a microSD port. It will run a customized version of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android that somewhat resembles iOS 7. It will be Wi-Fi compatible only (not compatible with cellular data) and will be 8.5mm thick but a bit larger than the iPad mini. Additionally, the device is clad in a bright, shiny plastic, instead of Apple's classy aluminum.
It's more gaudy, larger, and heavier than the iPad mini, but it's also cheaper: The 16GB version will retail from 1,499 yuan, or $240, and the 64GB won't go for much more: 1,699 yuan ($270). By comparison, the cheapest iPad mini, without Retina Display and without cellular data, retails for $299.
The Mi Pad isn't going on sale in June, but rather will begin a so-called "open beta," meaning Xiaomi will select consumers to test out Mi Pads before their official launch.
Flappy Bird to Return (With Fewer Qualities That Made It Digital Heroin to Some Players)
Yesterday on CNBC's Closing Bell program, Dong Nguyen, the creator of the infamously addictive smartphone game Flappy Bird (Nguyen originally pulled the game from Android and iOS app stores because users reported finding it extremely difficult to quit the game) made a big announcement. Nguyen told CNBC's Kelly Evans that Flappy Bird will return, that it will be less addictive, and that it will feature multiplayer gameplay.
Nguyen said that the new version of the game will make its debut in August. By then, who knows what other, dangerously compelling games will be stealing hours of the day from smartphone users.
BlackBerry Announces Plan to Launch Indonesia-Targeted Low-Cost Phone
On Tuesday, former King of the Smartphones BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) revealed a new phone that it will sell in the emerging markets of Asia and South America. Called the BlackBerry Z3, the phone will make its consumer debut exclusively in Indonesia, which happens to be one of the company's largest markets. As CEO John Chen said, this is a first step for the company toward making the BlackBerry brand cool again. "BlackBerry has new technology and is financially stable," he said at an event in Jakarta on Tuesday. "I think that's going to be the first step -- to explain that."
Though detractors have said that the low-cost Z3 is just a last-minute effort to remain relevant, at least one analyst sees the potential value of the new phone. Ryan Lai, market analyst at IDC, said, "If this device allows them to grow again, even if it's just small, steady growth, that's a success in itself. That says there is still room for BlackBerry in Indonesia."
The phone will retail for 2.2 million rupiah, or $190; for a limited 25,000 units, the words "Jakarta Edition" will be engraved on the back. After Indonesia, the company plans to introduce the phone into other Asian markets, including India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
The Z3 is being produced in a partnership with Foxconn (OTCMKTS:FXCOF), the Taiwanese manufacturer most known for its work with Apple. Foxconn is actually considering a $1 billion investment in Indonesia to build new manufacturing plants. Chen said that the partnership with Foxconn will give the Z3 the ability to compete in the emerging markets. He added that if sales go well in Indonesia, "it could be a sign of things to come."
Japanese Beverage Company Otsuka Will Become the First Company to Advertise on the Moon
In October 2015, the Japanese beverage maker Otsuka will send a 1-kilogram titanium can containing the powdered sports drink Pocari Sweat to the moon, ostensibly to inspire young people to become astronauts. The can will also contain the literal wishes of children, obtained from letters sent to the company and engraved on silver discs. If all goes as planned, the event will mark the first commercial product to be placed on a celestial body other than the Earth.
Elon Musk's SpaceX, which has already successfully delivered supplies to the International Space Station, will carry the goods to the moon with its Falcon 9 rocket. Once the SpaceX rocket gets close enough to the moon, another company, the Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, will actually place the can on the lunar service with its "Griffin" lander.
The publicity stunt will not only be a huge step for Otsuka, but for SpaceX and Astrobotic as well. If successful, the mission would be the first time a SpaceX rocket successfully made it all the way to the moon. Moreover, it will put Astrobotic one step closer to claiming Google's coveted Lunar XPrize, which will reward $20 million to the first company to land a machine on the moon that can travel more than 1,640 feet across the lunar surface and send HD pictures back to Earth. According to The Verge, Astrobotic's deal with Otsuka will provide the funds necessary to compete: It's reported that the company charges more than $500,000 for lunar delivery. Ironically enough, Astrobotic develops tech for clearing space trash.
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