On-Prem

Personal Tech

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.

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. ®

Send us news
84 Comments
Get our Weekly newsletter

Salesforce beats banks to top UK exec salary survey while Microsoft drops out of league

Come for the 'ohana', stay for the massive piles of cash

Salesforce has topped a survey of UK executive salaries with median earnings of around £100,000 per annum, beating investment bank Man Group and consultancy Kearney to the top spot.

The SaaSy CRM company, which makes a big deal of allegedly world-improving "stakeholder capitalism" and "ohana" (the Hawaiian concept of family), obviously feels the need to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to competing for executive talent.

The survey was carried out by pay and workplace comparison site Glassdoor, which also lists Facebook (median total compensation of £86,423), VMware (£86,625), and data analytics and ML company G-Research (£86,625).

Continue reading

39 Post Office convictions quashed after Fujitsu evidence about Horizon IT platform called into question

Japanese firm has a reckoning to face

Post Office employees were wrongly prosecuted by the company as a direct result of it covering up software bugs in its Horizon IT system, the Court of Appeal has said as it quashed 39 convictions this morning.

Those 39 convictions were obtained by the Post Office's in-house lawyers who ignored their own barristers' advice that the institution's behaviour was trampling over established prosecutorial codes intended to promote fairness and honesty.

Lord Justice Holroyde said that the one-time state monopoly had, by representing Horizon as reliable, "effectively sought to reverse the burden of proof," leading to criminal defendants having to prove their innocence instead of the Post Office showing they were guilty. Its lawyers compounded this by withholding evidence from courts and defence lawyers alike – evidence which clearly showed the Post Office and Fujitsu knew Horizon wasn't generating accurate accounting records.

Continue reading

NASSCOM shakeup: Accenture's Rehka Menon becomes first woman to chair Indian IT trade org

Also, Dell and HP miss out on expanded board positions

Indian IT trade association and advocacy group National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has appointed Rehka Menon of Accenture as chairperson – the first woman to take the position in the organisation's history.

Continue reading

SpaceX flings another bunch of humans into orbit in reused capsule atop reused booster

Second jaunt to the International Space Station for Endeavour

SpaceX has launched the second operational Crew Dragon mission, sending another four astronauts to the International Space Station.

The capsule itself, dubbed Endeavour, already saw action during the Demo-2 mission in 2020 and the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster is also flight-proven, having first been used to launch the Crew-1 mission last year before safely returning to Earth in the usual crowd-pleasing fashion.

The launch had been delayed for a day due to unfavourable weather conditions along the flight path; while the launch site looked good, possible recovery areas were less ideal (should an abort be required, which it was not.)

Continue reading

We've finally hit Peak Bork: Microsoft man reveals home-grown welcome back BSOD at Redmond HQ

A treat for returning workers as meeting cancelled due to roomful of bork

Bork!Bork!Bork! Microsoft is famed for eating its own dogfood and this week chowed down on a bowl of fresh bork as its consulting boss encountered what we can only assume is the company's latest attempt to deal with Meeting Culture.

Ben Rudolph, chief of staff for Microsoft Consulting tweeted the screen of baleful blue that greeted him outside a room in Building 115 on the Microsoft's Redmond Main Campus.

The screen would normally cheerfully inform passersby of meetings due to happen or the gatherings already occurring within.

Continue reading

Penguin takeover: We tried running some GUI Linux apps on Windows the official way – and nothing exploded

Microsoft's own distro lurks under the covers and applications magically appear in the Start menu

Hands on Microsoft has released the first public preview of Linux GUI applications on Windows 10 – so we wasted no time in taking it for a spin around the block.

The ability to run GUI applications on Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 is not new – enthusiasts have been able to run them via separately installed X server utilities for years – but the arrival of official support is still something of a game changer. The official support is more ambitious and better integrated than the various unofficial approaches.

The preview comes via the Windows Insider Program, by which developers and enthusiasts can get an early look at forthcoming releases. The latest downloadable build is 21354, but the version that supports WSLg is build 21364, so in our case it was a matter of installing 21354 from an ISO image, logging in with a Microsoft account signed up as an Insider, and then waiting while the later build came down from Windows Update. We also chose to run it in a Hyper-V VM. To do this, it is necessary to enable nested virtualization since WSL also uses Hyper-V. That requires a PowerShell command from the host machine.

Continue reading

BOFH: Postman BOFH's Special Delivery Service

Back to the office we trudge, dragging our hooked tails behind us

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 4 WE'RE BACK in the office – and I feel like I 'm only now just starting to feel the effects of COVID.

Continue reading

Something went wrong but we won't tell you what it is. Now, would you like to take out a premium subscription?

Get with the disruptive app design, granddad: meaningless errors are cool

Something for the Weekend, Sir? An error has occurred… Of course it did – I'm in a hurry and the login is sensing my urgency. Big mistake. Let's try again, more casually. An error has occurred…

So it doesn't like my casual manner. How else could I type my credentials into the login screen to fool the remote computer into letting me view my own data? I try typing them r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y. An error has occurred… I try elaborately. An error has occurred… I try viciously, nonchalantly, softly, insistently, accidentally, musically, and a variety of other adverbs. An error has occurred…

Hmm, it might not be the manner in which I am tapping the keys after all. Perhaps an error really has, well, occurred. The one thing I do know is that my login name and password are correct. It looks like I shall have to contact customer support.

Continue reading

From pregnancy tests to obscure industrial kitchen appliances, Doom really will run on almost anything

As long as the technical nous is there

If you've ever worked in a commercial kitchen, you probably know what a "bump bar" is. These plank-like computerised boards are the organisational force behind every restaurant, enabling sweat-drenched chefs to see pending orders and ensure a steady flow of food to the front of house.

Would it surprise you to learn that someone managed to coax '90s shooter Doom onto one? Of course it wouldn't.

Doom is the videogame equivalent of a glitter bomb, attaching itself to literally everything with an electrical current and a microcontroller. We've seen it played on digital cameras, iPods, calculators, even ATMs and pregnancy tests. So the idea that it would run on a low-powered computer device used exclusively by eateries maybe isn't so outlandish.

Continue reading

George Clooney of IT: Dribbling disaster and damp disk warnings scare the life out of innocent user

Practical jokes: just don't

On Call Welcome to another entry in The Register's On Call files, where we learn that the hilarious pranks of an IT joker can be enjoyed as much as millionaire actor George Clooney's "fun" leg-pulling.

"Jim" returns once more to pages of On Call with a tale of poorly targeted japery and an unfunny practical joke. Is there any other sort?

We skip once more to the 1980s and the mighty IBM XT, a fleet of which Jim was tasked with supporting. Data entry had been done by punch cards back in the day, but the PC now reigned supreme. Keypunchers banged in information via keyboard, as Jim explained: "Floppy disks holding the keypunch program were inserted to provide the OS, and then the other floppy in a dual system held the precious data, from which the company earned its crust."

Continue reading

Starlink creates risk of internet investment doom cycle, says APNIC researcher

Early users get speed, so policy-makers may stop building, but more users means slower speeds ...

Elon Musk's Starlink project has copped more criticism, this time from a researcher at APNIC, the Regional Internet Registry for the Asia-Pacific region.

APNIC's George Michaelson says the project, already under fire for offering low capacity and high prices, risks being loved to death by the wrong sort of users, and may therefore stymie much-needed investment in broadband.

“The bandwidth provided by these LEO satellites is really very good … for now. Starlink, unfortunately, runs the risk of being a victim of its own success,” wrote Michaelson.

Continue reading