Backers of Planet Computers' Astro Slide 5G phone furious after shock specs downgrade

'We have been sold a lemon here'


Supporters of Planet Computers' Astro Slide 5G phone are fuming after the niche UK mobile firm announced a downgrade in the crowdfunded device's processor and battery.

The final spec published earlier this week shows the phone shipping with a MediaTek Dimensity 800 platform, rather than the more powerful Dimensity 1000 initially promised.

The Dimensity 800 is a mid-range chip, whereas the 1000 targets higher-end devices. This is reflected in the configuration. In addition to containing a weaker GPU and APU, the Dimensity 800 represents somewhat of a downgrade in CPU performance, touting four Cortex-A76 cores at 2GHz, compared to four newer Cortex-A77 cores clocked at 2.6GHz. It also lacks support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth Low Energy Audio.

Separately, the new device lacks support for LTE band 13, which is heavily used by Verizon in its 4G network. In 2018, it accounted for 28.6 per cent of Verizon's urban data volume, and 57.1 per cent of data volume in rural environments. Meanwhile, the final spec shows a battery with a capacity of 3,500mAh, compared to the 4,000mAh originally promised.

Predictably, backers are unhappy, with many taking to the Astro Slide Indiegogo page to vent their fury and demand a refund. "What a disappointment! The CPU is the heart of the phone and it is vastly inferior. It is not the same phone we backed and the honourable thing is to acknowledge this and offer refunds. We have been sold a lemon here," wrote a supporter calling themselves James Galea.

The keyboard slides out before tilting to make a palmtop

Planet Computers' Astro Slide 5G

The Astro Slide 5G is a personal communicator-style device in the traditional smartphone form factor while also including a built-in physical keyboard. This is the third device from Planet Computers following its Gemini and Cosmo phones, all of which were initially crowdfunded before a wider commercial release. In total, Planet Computers raised £1.23m for the Astro from 2,594 backers.

Speaking to The Register, Planet Computers CEO and founder Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel attributed the chipset downgrade to a change of heart by MediaTek.

"We were originally indicated by MediaTek that we would get the Dimensity 1000 processor," he said. "We went through all the specs with them. We even went into the MediaTek newsletter in April. Essentially, we were pretty certain [things] were fine. During the license agreement, suddenly there were some problems.

"We tried two or three avenues to actually get the processor, and all the feedback from all the different avenues we took was, 'look, we cannot support smaller manufacturers on this. We can license you the 800.'"

Mrsic-Flogel isn't entirely sure the issue is one of scale. When asked for his own reasoning behind the snub, he suggested "political reasons" referring to the Trump administration's efforts to constrain China's technology sector.

"Don't forget, the whole Huawei thing happened," he said. "[I don't] entirely have all the information. We had a message that it is suddenly not available."

The shrinkage of the battery was attributed to size concerns, while Mrsic-Flogel said absence of LTE band 13 was in order to avoid RF interference.

"[LTE] band 13 and LTE band 71 are harmonics of each other. If we're supporting [both bands] on the same device, there will be problems with reception because the signal-to-noise ratio will be degraded, so we have to choose," he said, adding that Planet Computers may opt to release a LTE band 13-compatible device in the future, as it did with the Gemini communicator.

Planet Computers has started issuing refunds, said Mrsic-Flogel. The amount requested and issued is not known, although some backers on the Indiegogo page have reported receiving their money back via comments.

Planet Computers expects to start manufacturing the Astro Slide 5G's PCB in March, with the first devices shipping to punters in June.

The Register has asked MediaTek to comment. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Warehouse belonging to Chinese payment terminal manufacturer raided by FBI

    PAX Technology devices allegedly infected with malware

    US feds were spotted raiding a warehouse belonging to Chinese payment terminal manufacturer PAX Technology in Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday, with speculation abounding that the machines contained preinstalled malware.

    PAX Technology is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and is one of the largest electronic payment providers in the world. It operates around 60 million point-of-sale (PoS) payment terminals in more than 120 countries.

    Local Jacksonville news anchor Courtney Cole tweeted photos of the scene.

    Continue reading
  • Everything you wanted to know about modern network congestion control but were perhaps too afraid to ask

    In which a little unfairness can be quite beneficial

    Systems Approach It’s hard not to be amazed by the amount of active research on congestion control over the past 30-plus years. From theory to practice, and with more than its fair share of flame wars, the question of how to manage congestion in the network is a technical challenge that resists an optimal solution while offering countless options for incremental improvement.

    This seems like a good time to take stock of where we are, and ask ourselves what might happen next.

    Congestion control is fundamentally an issue of resource allocation — trying to meet the competing demands that applications have for resources (in a network, these are primarily link bandwidth and router buffers), which ultimately reduces to deciding when to say no and to whom. The best framing of the problem I know traces back to a paper [PDF] by Frank Kelly in 1997, when he characterized congestion control as “a distributed algorithm to share network resources among competing sources, where the goal is to choose source rate so as to maximize aggregate source utility subject to capacity constraints.”

    Continue reading
  • How business makes streaming faster and cheaper with CDN and HESP support

    Ensure a high video streaming transmission rate

    Paid Post Here is everything about how the HESP integration helps CDN and the streaming platform by G-Core Labs ensure a high video streaming transmission rate for e-sports and gaming, efficient scalability for e-learning and telemedicine and high quality and minimum latencies for online streams, media and TV broadcasters.

    HESP (High Efficiency Stream Protocol) is a brand new adaptive video streaming protocol. It allows delivery of content with latencies of up to 2 seconds without compromising video quality and broadcasting stability. Unlike comparable solutions, this protocol requires less bandwidth for streaming, which allows businesses to save a lot of money on delivery of content to a large audience.

    Since HESP is based on HTTP, it is suitable for video transmission over CDNs. G-Core Labs was among the world’s first companies to have embedded this protocol in its CDN. With 120 points of presence across 5 continents and over 6,000 peer-to-peer partners, this allows a service provider to deliver videos to millions of viewers, to any devices, anywhere in the world without compromising even 8K video quality. And all this comes at a minimum streaming cost.

    Continue reading
  • Cisco deprecates Microsoft management integrations for UCS servers

    Working on Azure integration – but not there yet

    Cisco has deprecated support for some third-party management integrations for its UCS servers, and emerged unable to play nice with Microsoft's most recent offerings.

    Late last week the server contender slipped out an end-of-life notice [PDF] for integrations with Microsoft System Center's Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. Support for plugins to VMware vCenter Orchestrator and vRealize Orchestrator have also been taken out behind an empty rack with a shotgun.

    The Register inquired about the deprecations, and has good news and bad news.

    Continue reading
  • Protonmail celebrates Swiss court victory exempting it from telco data retention laws

    Doesn't stop local courts' surveillance orders, though

    Encrypted email provider Protonmail has hailed a recent Swiss legal ruling as a "victory for privacy," after winning a lawsuit that sees it exempted from data retention laws in the mountainous realm.

    Referring to a previous ruling that exempted instant messaging services from data capture and storage laws, the Protonmail team said this week: "Together, these two rulings are a victory for privacy in Switzerland as many Swiss companies are now exempted from handing over certain user information in response to Swiss legal orders."

    Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court ruled on October 22 that email providers in Switzerland are not considered telecommunications providers under Swiss law, thereby removing them from the scope of data retention requirements imposed on telcos.

    Continue reading
  • Japan picks AWS and Google for first gov cloud push

    Local players passed over for Digital Agency’s first project

    Japan's Digital Agency has picked Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud for its first big reform push.

    The Agency started operations in September 2021, years after efforts like the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS) or Australia's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The body was a signature reform initiated by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who spent his year-long stint in the top job trying to curb Japan's reliance on paper documents, manual processes, and faxes. Japan's many government agencies also operated their websites independently of each other, most with their own design and interface.

    The new Agency therefore has a remit to "cut across all ministries" and "provide services that are driven not toward ministries, agency, laws, or systems, but toward users and to improve user-experience".

    Continue reading
  • Singaporean minister touts internet 'kill switch' that finds kids reading net nasties and cuts 'em off ASAP

    Fancies a real-time crowdsourced content rating scheme too

    A Minister in the Singapore government has suggested the creation of an internet kill switch that would prevent minors from reading questionable material online – perhaps using ratings of content created in real time by crowdsourced contributors.

    "The post-COVID world will bring new challenges globally, including to us in the security arena," said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at a Tuesday ceremony to award the city-state's 2021 Defense Technology Prize.

    "For operations, the SAF (Singapore Armed Force) has to expand its capabilities in the digital domain. Whether for administrative or operational purposes, I think that we will need to leverage technology to the maximum," he declared.

    Continue reading
  • China Telecom booted out of USA as Feds worry it could disrupt or spy on local networks

    FCC urges more action against Huawei and DJI, too

    The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has terminated China Telecom's authority to provide communications services in the USA.

    In its announcement of the termination, the government agency explained the decision is necessary because the national security environment has changed in the years since 2002. That was when China Telecom was first allowed to operate in the USA.

    The FCC now believes – partly based on classified advice from national security agencies – that China Telecom can "access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States." And because China Telecom is state-controlled, China's government can compel the carrier to act as it sees fit, without judicial review or oversight.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021