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February 17, 2021
🔴 The Red Planet continues to get all the attention from spacecraft. More on that, and a curious bit of OnePlus Nord news today...
OnePlus Nord doing well but...
OnePlus Nord N10 in the hand
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

A new report speculates that OnePlus has reached a record high market share in the US. It’s specific to one US carrier, Metro, but what it means is that OnePlus may be onto a market share winner. Or maybe not. Let’s take a look.

  • The detail is from Wave7 Research, which tracks and reports on the US wireless carrier market. 

What’s new is that Wave7 Research told PCMag that the OnePlus Nord phones (N10 and N100) helped OnePlus reach 15% market share at US carrier Metro by T-Mobile. What matters is that this is the highest share OnePlus has ever seen at a US network.

  • At a consistent 15%, Wave7 suggests that means two million Nord phones might be sold this year.
  • Which… is bold. We’re not even through February, and the market is set to change dramatically through the year as more phones take on the Nord’s value proposition.
  • Also, Metro also offers the Nord N10 and N100 for free when you switch.
  • Now, PCMag did quote Wave7 principal Jeff Moore as saying, “OnePlus is getting back to its fundamentals, offering good specs at an affordable price,” 
  • But I don’t think all is quite as rosy as it’s being portrayed. It’s something, but it’s a little bit of a stretch. Maybe it’s telling us OnePlus is getting actual recognition among mainstream consumers, which is a story enough.
  • For what it’s worth, Amazon.com’s best seller list of unlocked smartphones finds the Nord N10 sitting at spot #66, and not present in the top 100 in carrier cellphones. That’s behind a bunch of iPhone varieties, the Pixel 4a (3rd) and the ever-popular Moto G Power (5th). 

All in all:

  • The Nord has a long way to go, and I do hope the next OnePlus Nord released in the US doesn’t get the review title “Nice but kneecapped”.
  • AIt’s still encouraging, and at least OnePlus is making an effort in the US, which is notoriously hard for smartphone makers. We haven’t seen Oppo/Realme or Xiaomi/Redmi enter the market.
  • Let’s just not talk about possible 2021 sales figures in mid-Feb?
Mars, tomorrow
PIA23158 1280x800 1

To cap off the Mars invasions happening this month, we have NASA attempting to land the Perseverance Mars Rover tomorrow, with the approximate time at 3:55 p.m. EST. So, be warned, set your clocks, to-dos, and tune in!

  • The buzz has been around “seven minutes of terror,” which what NASA engineers have called the entry, descent and landing phase (EDL) of Mars entry missions. We’ve seen a raft of failures to even manage entering Mars orbit, including the, ahem, infamous metric/imperial mishap of 1999.

Ahead of that stressful period, NASA will be broadcasting multiple feeds of live landing coverage (including 360 degree views of mission control).

  • There’s a nice breakdown of the various techniques to be used by NASA (The Conversation) to get Perseverance on the ground, including guided entry, supersonic parachuting with the largest parachute ever used on Mars (that still only slows the package to 320km/h), a state-of-the-art navigation system to land on stable ground, and the “skycrane” final touchdown instead of an airbag system.

Part of the package is a tiny helicopter called Ingenuity, too. Aside from all the interesting rover tech, the helicopter is next level. It will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet.

I wrote about it in 2019, but flying on Mars is a super complicated problem: how do you fly a helicopter on Mars, where the Martian atmosphere is in the vicinity of one percent as dense as Earth, and can be as cold as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius)?

  • Part of NASA’s now fully-tested solution is shooting for extremely low weight: NASA’s helicopter uses more than “1500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and foam”, include carbon fiber blades, keeping it to a package of 4 pounds (1.8kg).

It was tested in a JPL vacuum chamber and with simulated low gravity, and streamed on Vimeo. The helicopter rose two inches, enough for NASA to deem it flight-worthy, and to be sent on its way to Mars.

It has to get through some big steps before a flight is taken: deployment from the rover (assuming it lands!), keeping warm during Martian nights, charging from its own solar panel. Then, a first test flight.

Roundup

📺 Roku is now creating original shows to rival Netflix and Amazon, but Apple might be the real target (Android Authority).

💻 Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 debuts March 1 starting at $550, much more accessible than the more expensive predecessor (Android Authority).

🚫 The most intriguing canceled smartphones(Android Authority).

🔑 Not great news from LastPass for its free users — LastPass free users now stuck with Sophie’s choice: exclusively PC or mobile? (Android Authority).

🍎 North Dakota Senate shoots down third-party App Store bill that Apple said would ‘Destroy the iPhone’: voted down 11 to 36. Arizona and Georgia are contemplating similar bills (MacRumors).

🍏 Apple’s iOS 14.5 emoji promote inclusivity, vaccines (removing blood from the current needle emoji), helmets, and the AirPods Max (The Verge). The power of platform control of emojis, and impacts on marketing and branding and how they impact people is really interesting. 

🎧 Here’s what the upcoming Sonos headphones will probably look like (The Verge).

🌳 A very Wired headline: Nature makes wood. Could a lab make it better? (Wired) The point is, can we stop cutting down trees for lumber?

🕹 Nintendo reveals its game lineup for the first half of 2021 in a Nintendo Direct show today at 11am ET (Nintendo).

🎮 The PS5’s actual silicon processor and die revealed in these first photos (The Verge).

📦 Amazon has quietly acquired Selz, a Shopify competitor to help small stores more easily run an online store. Competing with Amazon just got harder (CNBC).

🔊 “I let an AI analyze my Spotify to find unsigned bands I might like.” It worked, but unfortunately, the reviewer didn’t like many of the songs. Hmm. (Engadget).

Wednesday Weirdness
venus fly trap

We all know the carnivorous Venus flytrap plant is pretty weird. But a fresh piece of insight might even go further: researchers in Berlin used sensitive instruments that showed when the flytrap’s ‘jaws’ close up, a magnetic field was generated.

  • Plants don’t really do magnetic fields. Gizmodo writes that scientists had only detected magnetic fields in two other plants—a single-cell algae and a bean plant.
  • So what’s going on? What’s the flytrap doing with a little magnetic field, about a million times smaller than the Earth’s magnetic field?
  • Well, it depends. The research is using highly-sensitive instruments in a special and magnetically silent room 
  • The Venus fly trap was the most complex plant tested out so far.
  • It may be simply a function of the movement of the jaws of the plant, or it may start to indicate plants are using magnetic fields, and it’s only now that we’re able to start measuring the extremely small variations.
  • How does it matter? From the research press release, the ability to measure tiny electrical signals used by plants could one day be used to monitor crop plants’ responses to temperature, pests or chemicals.

Cheers,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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