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HTC’s blockchain phone is real, and it’s arriving later this year

HTC isn’t gone just yet. Granted, it’s closer than it’s ever been before, with a headcount of fewer than 5,000 employees worldwide — that’s down from 19,000 in 2013. But in spite of those “market competition, product mix, pricing, and recognized inventory write-downs,” the company’s still trucking on.
And while its claim to being “the leading innovator in smart phone devices,” is up for debate, the Taiwanese manufacturer has never shied away from a compelling gimmick. Announced earlier this year, the Exodus definitely fits the bill. The “world’s first major blockchain phone” is still shrouded in mystery, though the company did reveal a couple of key details this week at RISE in Hong Kong intended to keep folks interested while it irons out the rest of the product’s hiccups.
Chief among the reveals is an admittedly nebulous release date of Q3 this year. It’s hardly specific, but it does make the phone a little bit more real — unlike the images, which are still limited to the above blueprint picture at press time.
Here’s a quote from the company’s chief crypto officer, a position that really exists.

In the new internet age people are generally more conscious about their data, this a perfect opportunity to empower the user to start owning their digital identity. The Exodus is a great place to start because the phone is the most personal device, and it is also the place where all your data originates from. I’m excited about the opportunity it brings to decentralize the internet and reshape it for the modern user.

Prior to the launch, the company is partnering with the popular blockchain title, CryptoKitties. The game will be available on a small selection of the company’s handsets starting with the U12+. “This is a significant first step in creating a platform and distribution channel for creatives who make unique digital goods,” the company writes in a release tied to the news. “Mobile is the most prevalent device in the history of humankind and for digital assets and dapps to reach their potential, mobile will need to be the main point of distribution. The partnership with Cryptokitties is the beginning of a non fungible, collectible marketplace and crypto gaming app store.”
The company says the partnership marks the beginning of a “platform and distribution channel for creatives who make unique digital goods.” In other words, it’s attempting to reintroduce the concept of scarcity through these decentralized apps. HTC will also be partnering with Bitmark to help accomplish this.
If HTC is looking for the next mainstream play to right the ship, this is emphatically not it. That said, it could be compelling enough to gain some adoption among those heavily invested enough in the crypto space to pick up a handset built around the technology.
HTC promises more information on the device in “the coming months.”

HTC’s blockchain phone is real, and it’s arriving later this year

PayPal, Softbank Team Up On A Payments Joint Venture — PayPal Japan


PayPal and mobile operator Softbank are getting together to launch a joint venture in Japan that should extend the payment subsidiary’s reach in Asia.

It’s a 50-50 effort for PayPal, which is owned by eBay, and Softbank. Each company is investing 1 billion Japanese yen or $12.5 million into the venture and they’ll each pick three directors. Softbank Mobile’s director and senior vice president Hiroaki Kitano will be CEO of the newly formed company.

On top of that, the two companies are bringing ‘PayPal Here,’ that triangular dongle that naturally invites comparisons to Square, to Japan as well. That makes it the fifth country after the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Australia to get the service. While Square had a head start in the U.S. on processing payments from small businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford point-of-sale terminals, it doesn’t yet have international reach. The company only processes payments in the U.S.

PayPal says the Japanese retail commerce market alone is worth 134 trillion yen or $1.7 billion. On top of that, about 31 million smartphones will ship in the country this year. (Just for reference, there have been between 500 and 600 million Android and iOS shipments to date.) Softbank has more than 25 million mobile subscribers and is one of the biggest carriers in the country.

PayPal, Softbank Team Up On A Payments Joint Venture — PayPal Japan

Buffer Has Scheduled 10M Social Updates And Signed Up 180K Users

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When we last covered Buffer, a service for scheduling your social media sharing, the startup had just raised $400,000, and its founders were relocating from San Francisco to Hong Kong due to expiring visas. It sounds like the immigration situation hasn’t been entirely resolved, and most of the team is still in Hong Kong — but on the bright side, Buffer’s growth has continued.

Buffer is designed for marketers and other folks who want to maintain an active social media presence without actually spending every second of their day on Facebook and Twitter. You can load the service up with content that you want to share, then it automatically gets posted throughout the day. Co-founder Leonhard Widrich tells me that on Monday, Buffer posted its 10 millionth update. The service is now posting one update every second.

“To put things into perspective, it took us over 5 months to reach an overall of 100,000 updates sent – which we are now sending out every day,” he says.

That means the content shared on Buffer has doubled since January, when it hit the 5 million update mark. Widrich says that there are two big factors driving Buffer’s growth — the integration of the Buffer sharing button across more than 10,000 sites, and also integration with mobile apps like Pocket (the rebranded version of Read It Later).

Buffer now has 180,000 registered users, Widrich says. As for returning to the US, Widrich says the team plans to make the move back in July.

Buffer Has Scheduled 10M Social Updates And Signed Up 180K Users

The iPhone 4S Is Finally Cleared For Launch In Mainland China


Here in the States we’ve been chatting it up with Siri on the iPhone 4S for months, but the folks over in mainland China — the biggest mobile market in the world, mind you — have yet to hear that 42 is the meaning of life. The 4S launched in Hong Kong just last month, and since then we’ve heard that it would show up on the mainland in December.

People’s Daily is now reporting that a phone with the model number A1431 has passed the final hurdle in its Chinese certification. That’s the same model number that Apple used to get a network entry permit for the 4S from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on December 6, so all signs point to iPhone.

Considering the timeline, that means the iPhone 4S will likely launch in China before the Chinese New Year on January 23, which is the equivalent of our Black Friday.

Seeing that the iPhone is basically a smash hit in China — over 10 million iPhones are in use on China Mobile’s network (even though it isn’t an official iPhone carrier) — Apple will likely be breaking even more records with the iPhone 4S come 2012. Especially if the alleged talks between China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier, and Apple lead to something a bit more official.

The iPhone 4S Is Finally Cleared For Launch In Mainland China