Abacus - China Tech News, Singapore
Abacus - providing the best coverage of China tech news from companies news and insights to internet trends to gaming and gadget reviews.
Why did some Samsung smartphones crash in China on May 23? - Abacus
Users failed to update their phones to before the lunar calendar’s leap month kicked in
When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, the Y2K bug -- a calendar formatting glitch in computer systems -- didn’t exactly lead to a digital apocalypse as some had feared. But that doesn’t mean dates can’t cause havok with modern technology, as Samsung smartphone users in China discovered. It happened on May 23, an unremarkable date in the Gregorian calendar commonly used worldwide. But at midnight, some Samsung users in China suddenly saw their phones crash and go into recovery mode. Owners of Samsung smartphones showing their recovery screens on Chinese social media. (Picture: BANG/-xxCaffe1ne via Weibo) The next day, Chinese media reported long lines outside Samsung service centers around the country, all trying to get their malfunctioning handsets repaired. One alleged user told Pear Video that even though his phone was ultimately fixed, he lost more than 1,000 photos of his three-year-old daughter taken since birth. In a Weibo post on Saturday, Samsung said they were aware of system issues affecting some users and were “actively investigating the cause.” The company did not immediately respond to our request for more information on Tuesday. So what happened? It turns out that the trigger was a calendar bug in Samsung’s system, according to Chinese Android developers. Social media users post photos of customers lining up outside Samsung customer service centers in China. (Picture: via Weibo) While China has been officially following the Gregorian calendar for more than a century now, the traditional lunar calendar is still used for marking festivals and picking auspicious dates for important life events. Many phone brands cater to Chinese users by offering the option to display dates from both calendars. That feature is also built into Samsung’s Always On Display, which lets users customize their screen to show the time, date and other information even when the phone is sleeping. One peculiarity of the Chinese lunar calendar is that it introduces a leap month every two or three years, rather than adding a leap day every four years like the Western Gregorian calendar. Under the Chinese calendar, this year carries a leap month that comes after the fourth month -- known in Chinese as “run si yue” or “leap fourth month.” It began on May 23 -- the day that Samsung phones crashed in China. Android developers say even though the Samsung system did account for a lunar leap month in Always On Display, a coding bug means it wasn’t able to find the Chinese word “run” (or “leap”) to show on the screen. This confused the system, causing a crash and reboot loop that ultimately triggered Samsung phones to go into recovery mode. Samsung actually fixed the problem in its software upgrade back in June 2019, but some users apparently didn't update their phones. It doesn’t help that Samsung has been struggling to boost its reputation in the country. Memories of the Galaxy Note 7 debacle in 2016 are still fresh in China, when the South Korean giant came under fire for initially claiming that the Chinese version of the Galaxy Note 7 was safe, even as users said their phones were exploding. Samsung, which was once the top-selling smartphone brand in China, has since seen its share of the market plunged to 1%. It trails far behind local giants like Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo, which are credited for being more in tune with domestic trends. Last October, Samsung shut down its last phone factory in China.
China’s Mars mission will go ahead in July as planned - South China Morning Post
The Tianwen-1 Mars mission will make China the third country to land on the red planet after the US and Soviet Union
China is going ahead with its first mission to Mars with a launch planned for July this year, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) confirmed on Sunday. If successful, the Tianwen-1 mission will make China the third country to land on the red planet after the United States and the Soviet Union. CASC is the main contractor for the Chinese space program and has been working on the project since 2016. The mission has several tasks, including orbiting and landing on Mars and exploring the planet. Tianwen-1 will carry 13 payloads, consisting of seven orbiters and six rovers, director of CASC’s Science and Technology Commission Bao Weimin said during China’s annual political meeting known as the Two Sessions. The country’s first attempt to reach Mars in 2012 flopped when the Yinghuo-1 Mars probe disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean. Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), said that Mars exploration is an important sign of the country’s space power, shortening the gap between China and other countries. NASA is also expected to launch its Mars 2020 mission in July, but Europe and Russia's ExoMars mission originally planned for this year has been delayed until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The UAE is planning to reach the planet next year.
TikTok's Chinese counterpart Douyin lets you video call strangers - Abacus
ByteDance tests new social feature only in China
The mainland Chinese version of short video hit TikTok is testing a new beta feature which allows users to video call strangers and play interactive games with them, as its Beijing-based owner ByteDance intensifies its battle with Tencent Holdings – known for its do-everything app WeChat – for dominance in the social app space. Douyin’s “Connection” function, currently available to a random group of users for a limited time each day, matches users and lets them video conference while playing casual games such as drawing and guessing. At the end of the session, users are also given the option to follow each others’ Douyin accounts if both agree. Douyins Connection function, currently available to a random group of users for a limited time each day, matches users and lets them video conference while playing casual games. (Picture: Reuters) Users first began talking about the feature on microblogging site Sina Weibo and Quora-like platform Zhihu around late February. A ByteDance representative said the Connection function was only being tested in Douyin. “TikTok is not enabling a similar function,” the representative said. ByteDance’s exploration of more social networking features comes as it squares off against Tencent in more areas including entertainment, telecommuting and gaming. Tencent announced in January that WeChat was testing a short video feature, leveraging its 1.2 billion monthly active users to expand into ByteDance’s home turf. WeChat also recently blocked links from ByteDance’s work-from-home app Feishu, as remote working tools worldwide experience a surge in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic. For its part, ByteDance has also been expanding into areas previously dominated by Tencent, such as online gaming. Its gaming division reportedly has more than 1,000 staff members, with division lead Yan Shou saying on Friday it would hire more than 1,000 this year, and analysts expect the company to follow Tencent’s path of using games to further monetise the millions of users on its social media apps. There were 1.04 billion active social media users in China, or 27 per cent of the global total, as of January, according to a report by marketing agency We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite. Since last year, ByteDance has made several attempts to leverage its large user base – Douyin said it had 400 million daily active users as of January – to expand further into social networking. These include Duoshan, a Snapchat clone, and Feiliao, or Flipchat in English, a hybrid between an instant messaging app and online forum featuring interest-based communities. Douyin also recently introduced a video call function for users who follow each other. Feiliao has not made much of a splash, ranking 390th among social iOS apps in China as of Monday, according to analytics platform App Annie. Duoshan fared better at 7th place on the App Annie ranking, but WeChat, which offers messaging, user posts and other social networking features, continued to take the top spot which it has occupied in most years since 2014. Independent internet analyst Ge Jia, who has been watching the industry for two decades, said there are several key differences between Douyin’s Connection feature and WeChat’s functions. "[WeChat] connects people who know each other via instant messaging, but Connection is for strangers based on interest,” he explained, adding that although WeChat also enables strangers to match and connect with each other based on location, it is not a core function. Three people who tried Connection told the Post that they have been matched with strangers both in the same city and further away, as well as people of both genders. Reviews among users so far have been mixed. Sunsee Wang, a college student from Hubei province, tried Connection in mid-March and while she hit it off with a male user she met through the feature, they agreed to continue chatting on WeChat even after adding each other on Douyin. “I’m on WeChat all the time, and chatting is much more convenient,” she said, “I will be responsive on Douyin only when I turn on the app.” Neo Lee, a 29-year-old living in Beijing, had four Connection sessions last week and was not impressed enough with any of the strangers he matched with to want to continue talking to them, even online. “The matching mechanism is just so-so, and the casual games we played were a bit dull,” he said. A third user, Eva Niu, said she left a video call when she realized that the other party had covered their camera, feeling uncomfortable that her face was clearly shown on the screen. “The feature is actually a bit terrifying, because it could expose my privacy,” she said. According to privacy rules seen by the Post, only Douyin users whose identification information have been authenticated can use the Connection feature, and their usernames are not shown to the people they match with. But other personal details, such as the user’s profile picture, city, age and astrological sign are visible to matches if they have been provided and set to be publicly visible. Douyin said in the privacy notice that it uses “publicly-visible profile information, log files on Douyin and the city [the user] is in” to match users to each other, and that only users above the age of 18 can access the feature.