Here’s How Trump Is Pitting Local Police Against the FBI

Malcom Nance explains how Trump is using the ‘authoritarian playbook.’

SNBC contributor Malcom Nance reportedly scared the “bejesus” out of viewers on Sunday when he pointed out that President Donald Trump was following the authoritarian playbook by pitting police against federal law enforcement.

“Do I have to be the one that comes out and tells the American public, the last time we had a crisis of this magnitude was the Civil War,” he explained. “The Civil War, they at least used the precepts of the Constitution to make a legal separation from the United States.”

“Other than putting troops in your house, many of these things are happening,” Nance continued. “If he takes away the fundamental ability for us to police ourselves, to police the president of the United States, then he has done the ultimate in obstruction of justice. He is dismantling the Constitution and it cannot stand! We cannot allow it to stand.”

He added: “Everybody who is watching this who is in government right now who would think this is good, then you’re just doing a [Communist Party propaganda agency] politburo. Okay? We don’t need Saddam Hussein’s People’s Council here. What we nee to do is defend this nation’s democracy.”

 

MSNBC viewers immediately reacted to Nance’s words with alarm. One viewer noted that Nance had scared the “bejesus” out of her.

Watch the clip below.

 

 

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Overhangs and supports in my 3D prints

Typical home 3D printers use the fused filament fabrication technology, which consists of melting a thread of plastic in a nozzle and building up the printed object with the molten plastic from the bottom up, layer by layer. As a consequence you can’t just print any shape you want: Everything needs to be connected to the bottom layer with an angle of no more than 45°. For my particular application, printing figurines of heroes and monsters for Dungeons & Dragons, that is certainly a problem. Think of a hero with his arm stretched out, holding a sword, or a dragon with spread wings: These parts are “overhangs”, which when seen from the bottom up start up in the air, and thus can’t be printed like that.

The solution to the problem is supports, temporary parts of the model for printing which are removed after the print is finished. Most printers even have software to automatically create such supports. Unfortunately for my particular printer, the XYZ Da Vinci jr. 1.0w, the automatically created supports don’t work very well. The software simply creates supports straight up from the bottom under every minor overhang. That creates far more supports than actually needed, wasting material and producing lots of ugly connection spots on the underside of the model.

For some time I created supports manually, using Tinkercad. That is somewhat fiddly, and also far from optimized. Again the supports I design are mostly straight up from the bottom. Choosing the right number of support points is somewhat hit and miss, so sometimes I print a model, see where my design didn’t really cover an overhang, and then have to add more supports.

But recently I found a much better solution. The free Autodesk Meshmixer software has the possibility to generate supports in the Analysis – Overhangs menu. There are even tons of parameters you can set to optimize those supports. And instead of simple straight up supports, the software produces angled and branched supports, which use much less material. You can also optimize the thickness of the support and the width of the tip to create supports that are stable to print but minimize the size of the connection points.

This software has quite opened up my possibilities of printing miniatures for my game. For example the Princes of the Apocalypse cover art shows a winged female with a spear. Between the wings and the spear she would have been nearly impossible for me to print. But now I printed her with the Meshmixer generated supports and even managed to make her “fly”, her feet not touching the ground. Now I’m only limited by the fragility of the wings and spear when printed at 1:60 scale.

Samsung Pay update allows users in India to pay bills inside the app

  • Samsung Pay is being updated to allow users to pay monthly bills within the app.
  • The bills include mobile postpaid bills, electricity, television, and more.
  • This update follows Google Tez rolling out similar features just a few weeks ago.

It seems like every day we hear about new mobile payment apps. But one of the biggest and most successful so far has been Samsung Pay. Even though the app is limited to Samsung’s devices, it has great features like utilizing Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) to pay on machines that don’t have NFC.

Now, users in India are getting another fantastic feature. Samsung Pay is now letting users pay their monthly bills right from inside the app. According to SamMobile, the options include mobile postpaid bills, electricity, DTH (Direct-to-home television), and utility bills. Users can also save bank account and IFSC information for their friends and family so they can easily transfer money to them.

See also

Adding bills to Samsung Pay comes shortly after Google made a similar move. You might remember that a few weeks ago, Google’s Tez rolled out billpaying options for household and utility bills from major companies like Airtel, DishTV, Tata Power, ACT Fibernet, and DoCoMo. The service will eventually cover 70 different billers and cover national and state electricity providers, gas, water, and more.

Competition for customers in India is really heating up. Samsung is currently battling companies like Xiaomi and Huawei for supremacy in the country, and it is finding success. Even though Xiaomi may have come level with the South Korean juggernaut, Samsung is still a force. It recently added more than a million users to Samsung Pay in a single month and it continues to add features like UPI payments via Bharat QR codes.

Google is also working on its presence in the country through the Next Billion Users program. With affordable Android Go devices hitting the market, the competition is only going to get more fierce.

To get the new payment options, all you have to do is update the Samsung Pay app on your Galaxy device.

BlackBerry ditching Priv updates is a frustrating missed opportunity

BlackBerry’s track history in the enterprise game and the marketing material plastered all over its website would lead anyone to believe that it’s one of the few smartphone companies actually taking the security issue seriously. So it was a little surprising to hear that BlackBerry is cancelling its smaller updates for the Priv, and so soon after declaring that it wouldn’t be providing a Nougat update to the handset either. It’s a disappointing situation for fans of the Priv, and even more disconcerting for customers who rely on BlackBerry to protect their sensitive information.

Now, I’m fully aware that providing long running updates for aging handsets that aren’t selling anymore is an expensive and often frustrating endeavor for OEMs. However, BlackBerry is missing a trick by not positioning itself as the major manufacturer with security at its forefront, by going a step further than the minimum two years of patches that almost every OEM promises.

BlackBerry Indeed, BlackBerry, indeed…

The case for long-running security updates cannot be understated these days. Although there are plenty of reactionary scare stories about various vulnerabilities, the fact that our mobile devices are increasingly used to store sensitive banking information, make mobile payments, and secure our biometric data makes patching exploits regularly more important than three or four years ago. Not forgetting BlackBerry’s historic audience of business users looking for additional security and encryption for sensitive emails, contacts, documents, and the like.

Between biometric storage, online banking, and payments, the case for long running security updates cannot be understated.

Ditching this commitment to Priv owners is poor form. But just as importantly, this decision leaves customers uncertain about the state of similar update promises made for the KEYone, Motion, and DTEK series. Can we take BlackBerry more seriously on security matters than any other OEM anymore?

The crux of the matter, for me, is that this announcement isn’t just disappointing for Priv owners, it undermines the whole concept and potential of BlackBerry as the go-to brand for serious Android security. That’s a particularly disappointing revelation for the enterprise market, where companies need an OEM they can rely on to keep a fleet of handsets secure in the long term.

No one else, bar perhaps Google, has been tackling this issue seriously enough, and certainly no major brand has gone as far as BlackBerry in the amount of marketing emphasis placed on security. The company’s Document Locker and Privacy Shade are great features for the privacy conscious, as are the company’s Hub+ apps and its broader Secure Platform. However, without also ensuring that the operating system is kept up to date and secure too, the hard work on the software front is undermined.

BlackBerry could have owned the privacy and security niche in the Android space, but that trust fades with the Priv.

I should make clear that BlackBerry isn’t completely ditching all its obligations with the Priv. The company states that it would “engage [its] partners as needed to develop and deliver necessary patches” should any critical problems arise, and that it would “fulfill all warranty obligations” regarding the handset. Even so, what counts as critical or only a moderate security issue, and how high up the priority queue the Priv would be for a fix are concerning unanswered questions.

Based on its well-earned historic reputation, BlackBerry could have owned the privacy and security niche in the Android space. A solution very much needed given the price comparison with Apple’s iPhones. Instead, BlackBerry may find that its potential customers flock to Apple for its ability to provide updates over many years, or to Samsung for the promises made by Knox.

BlackBerry’s compromise on this issue is the introduction of a “trade-up” program for Priv owners and those holding onto BB10 and BBOS devices. While all the details aren’t out in the open yet, the gist is that existing customers will be able to purchase a newer KEYOne or Motion handset with some sort of discount. Perhaps that will tide some customers over, but as I already mentioned, what happens if/when BlackBerry gives up on updates to these handsets within the next two years also?

No matter which way you slice it, BlackBerry failing to properly update the Priv to Nougat, not even Oreo, and refusing to extend important security updates beyond the “standard” 2 years promised by everyone else is an undeniable sign that the company isn’t willing to go the distance with security. That’s more than a little disappointing.

Best gifts for gamers

A lot of people who own smartphones and tablets use them for more than surfing the internet, texting, and socializing. They also use them a lot to play games. In a recent survey from Statista, 56 percent, or over half of the entire population of the US, are currently playing mobile games. That amount is expected to expand to 63.7 percent by 2020. But what sort of gifts are the right kind for hardcore gamers?

In this feature, we offer our picks for the best smartphones and tablets that are currently on the market for gaming, along with suggestions for a few accessories that could be great gifts for gamers. Finally, we don’t want to ignore the game consoles that you hook up to your big screen TV; we will offer our recommendation on which of the three current generation game consoles you should buy, and the answer may actually surprise you.

A jack of all trades — ZTE Axon M

Today’s smartphones make great portable gaming devices, while tablets are great for those times when we need a bit more screen real estate from our mobile gaming experience. But what about a wild card of a device that can serve as both your phone and your tablet? The ZTE Axon M is a unique device that is perfect for those that want to take their  gaming to the next level. 

The ZTE Axon M uses two 5.2-inch IPS Full HD panels that are connected to a hinge that, when it is folded out, it essentially turns the device into a 6.75-inch tablet. This is great for running two apps side by side, extending apps and games across both displays, and much more. In addition to the potential for gaming and media, the Axon M also makes for one heck of a multi-tasking device.

As you can imagine, this phone also stands out in a crowd, perfect for those who like to rock phones that are different from the endless sea of Samsung and iPhone devices.Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique phones you can buy right now. You can get it via AT&T for $724.99 without a contract, or for $24.17 a month for 24 months. 

Get it at AT&T

Best gaming phone — Razer Phone

If you want to get a smartphone that’s dedicated to offering the best mobile gaming experience, it’s really impossible to beat the Razer Phone at the moment. This is the first smartphone from Razer, who has been highly successful in releasing PC accessories for hardcore gamers, and more recently has launched critically acclaimed Windows-based gaming laptops. For their first, but likely not last, entry in the smartphone industry, Razer put in a bunch of high-end hardware, including a couple of features that are not in any other smartphone.

Editor’s Pick

The biggest feature for gamers is the Razer Phone’s big IGZO 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440p display, which can run at up to 120 Hz. The higher refresh rate, compared to the normal 60 Hz on other smartphones, should allow games, especially high-end titles with advanced graphics, to play and look smoother on the Razer Phone. The display also uses what Razer calls Ultra Motion technology, which is similar to NVIDIA’s G-Sync tech that is supported by many PC desktop monitors. Ultra Motion allows the Razer Phone’s display refresh rate to sync up to the output of its GPU. This is supposed to get rid of any screen tearing and, again, make games played on the phone look and run better compared to other handsets.

In addition to the high-end visuals, the Razer Phone has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside, which, at the moment, is the fastest chip you can get on a phone. It also has 8 GB of LPDRR4 RAM, which again should help graphically intensive games perform better. There’s 64 GB of onboard storage, and you can add more with its microSD card slot. In terms of audio, Razer claims it has the loudest phone on the market, with two front-facing speakers with Dolby Atmos technology. There’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack in the Razer Phone, but it does include a dongle for its USB-C port that includes support for 24-bit DAC audio that is THX-certified. Finally, it has a large 4,000 mAh battery that Razer says should allow for up to 8 hours of gaming on one charge, which should be plenty if you are on a long trip.

Simply put, mobile gamers won’t be able to get a phone quite as good as the Razer Phone for a while, and it’s actually a great first effort from a company that has never launched a smartphone before. The price is also right at $699.99 unlocked, which is very reasonable when you consider the high-end hardware inside. If you can ignore its non-gaming issues, the Razer Phone is one of the best gifts for gamers you can buy.

Get it at Razerzone

Alternate gaming phone — Samsung Galaxy Note 8 

 
Bigger is definitely better when it comes to mobile gaming. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8, with its 6.3-inch Super AMOLED 2,960 x 1,440 display in an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, offers up the biggest and best screen you can get in the US on an Android smartphone. It helps that the phone also comes with a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 6 GB of RAM. You even get an old-fashioned headphone jack with the Note 8. While it doesn’t have a 120 Hz screen refresh rate or the advanced sound features that the Razer phone does, gamers should get a lot out of its huge screen combined with a fast processor. It’s not cheap, but at least you can pay for the Galaxy Note 8 over time if you get it from a wireless carrier.
 
Get it at Amazon

Best gaming tablet — Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

 
Samsung’s recent high-end Android tablet is the best among gifts for gamers. It has a 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, with support for high dynamic range (HDR) features that should allow games to look and play well. While the Tab S3 doesn’t have as much in the RAM and processor department as some smartphones, it uses the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip and 4 GB of RAM. However, the well-designed display, combined with four speakers, makes the Tab S3 the best, at least for now, for Android gaming, although perhaps not as good of an overall choice compared to many high-end Android phones.
 
Editor’s Pick
 
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 was launched earlier this year at $599, but you can snap it up now on Amazon and save over $100, at $498.
Get it at Amazon

Alternate — Amazon Fire HD 10 

 
If you are looking for a solid but inexpensive gaming tablet, you really should look no further than the Amazon Fire HD 10. The 10.1 inch 1080p (1,920 x 1,200) display can handle any game, and it has a decent 1.8 GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM. While it’s not as powerful as the Galaxy Tab S3, those folks looking to save some money will still get a good gaming experience with Amazon’s highest-end tablet. You can get it for as low as $149.99 (with 32 GB and with “special offers” on its lock screen).
 
Get it at Amazon

Gamer accessory gifts 

Chromecast Ultra
 
 
Want to play thousands of Android games on your big 4K TV? You can. if you connect the Chromecast Ultra HDMI dongle to one of your spare HDMI ports. Just cast your games onto the screen with this $69 accessory, and play like you would on a game console.
 
Get it at Google

POWER A MOGA Hero Power Game Controller

 

No matter how powerful your gaming smartphone may be, it can still be hard to control games with its touchscreen, especially for games like racing and shooter titles. The POWER A MOGA Hero Power Game Controller allows you to connect your smartphone to a Bluetooth-based console gamepad, and you can even attach any smartphone up to 6-inches to the controller, letting you play for hours without having to worry about holding your phone on its own. It also comes with its own rechargeable 1,800 mAh battery. If you want a portable console experience for your smartphone, this controller will fit the bill nicely.

Get it at Amazon

Samsung Gear VR — 2017 edition

The current 2017 version of the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset (co-developed by Oculus) lets you play VR games, many of which are exclusive to the Gear VR. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, along with the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, and even the Galaxy Note 5 can all use the headset, which comes with its own controller. If you happen to own one of these phones, it’s perhaps the best way to experience high-end VR gaming.

Get it at Amazon

 Anker PowerCore Speed 10,000 mAh Battery Charger

The simple fact is that even if you have a big batter on your smartphone, like the 4,000 mAh battery on the Razer Phone, it will still run out in less than a day if you play on it constantly. That’s why it’s great to have an external battery charger like the Anker PowerCore Speed 10,000 mAh model. It can charge up your Razer Phone twice on its own, giving you more time to play on your high end handset. It’s also available for just $29 at Amazon.

Get it at Amazon

Best Game Console – Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is perhaps the best game console you can buy for a gamer on the go. Simply put, the Switch can turn quickly from a high-end game console that you hook up to your TV over to a portable handheld console, where you can play for up to six hours on its own battery. You can play it with two of the console’s Joy-Con controllers, one on each side, or you and a friend can play games on the portable screen, each with a Joy-Con in your hands. You can even put a pair of these new controllers in a Joy-Con grip accessory, if you want a more old-fashioned console experience.

Plus there’s the fact that the Nintendo Switch is the exclusive way to play some of the most acclaimed games of 2017, including Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and many more. Finally, it’s likely that the hardcore gamer that you want to spend your money on already has a PlayStation 4/4 Pro, or an Xbox One S/X. He or she might think that the Nintendo Switch is for kids or families, but the purchase of Nintendo’s latest — and possibly best — game console in years might convert them into fans.

Get it at Amazon
 
Those are just some of the best gifts you can get for gamers. We want to hear from you about which gifts for gamers you would pick out for fans. Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!
Disclosure: E-Commerce Content is independent of editorial content and we may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Deal: Razer throws in a free Leviathan Mini if you buy the Razer Phone

Available since November, Razer doesn’t appear ready to discount its flagship Razer Phone just yet. What the company is ready to do, however, is throw in one of its Bluetooth speakers for free if you buy its smartphone.

For 48 hours, if you pick up the $700 Razer Phone through the company’s website, you can get its Leviathan Mini Bluetooth speaker for free. Reported by PhoneArena, just make sure to use the promo code PHLVLUP (get it?) at checkout and you won’t pay a dime for the speaker.

I can’t personally attest to the quality of the Leviathan Mini. What I can say, however, is that it originally goes for $180 and was recently discounted to $100 for the holidays. The speaker also sports NFC for quick pairing and is roughly the same size as the popular UE Boom 2, though the Leviathan Mini doesn’t share the latter’s rugged protection. In other words, Razer’s speaker was not built to withstand water, dust, and drops — it’s a speaker meant for the table, not for the outside.

As for the Razer Phone itself, we thought it was a great first effort from Razer. It may not have adopted the near bezel-less design of some of its contemporaries, but the Razer Phone manages to still look unique, thanks to its dark aluminum build and dual speakers that crank out great sound.

Editor’s Pick

Also, we can’t talk about the Razer Phone without talking about its Quad HD display, which is capable of up to a 120 Hz refresh rate. This gives the phone a sense of fluidity and smoothness that only Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL can rival.

The Razer Phone isn’t without its hiccups, however. The display might lend the software a great amount of fluidity, but we found it a bit too dim for our liking. Also, even though our terrible photography experience has improved a bit with software updates, the images still aren’t that great. Finally, even though a dongle is included in the box, you will not find a headphone jack.

With that being said, we would not blame you if you pick up the Razer Phone, so why not do so while getting a Bluetooth speaker for free. You have until the end of tomorrow, December 19 to take advantage of the promotion at the link below.

Get the Razer Phone

Tobold’s Game of the Year

This year my prestigious (that is to say totally unknown) game of the year award goes to, *drumroll*, The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch. None of the other games I played on various platforms this year comes even close to the level of craftsmanship of Zelda. It is an explorer’s paradise: Huge is both quantity and quality of handcrafted features in the landscape, the next discovery feels always right around the next corner. No procedurally generated landscapes here! There is a great mix of different challenges, from fights to puzzles to riddles to crafting, which always keeps you entertained.

This game really is a “system seller”: if you can afford to spend $400 on a game, buying a Switch to play Zelda is totally worth it. And because it is hundreds of hours of gameplay you do get your money’s worth back in entertainment (some people tried to finish the game as fast as possible and the fastest speedrun of 100% completion took already 49 hours). And inversely I’m not sure buying a Switch without Zelda is worth it, unless you are a fan of Mario (I like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battles). The non-exclusive games on the Switch tend to be older and overpriced. And the Switch’s famous “mobile” mode is somewhat hampered by low battery life.

What makes Zelda such a great exploration game is the absence of any invisible walls. If you see something ahead of you, you can get there. It might need a bunch of stamina food to get to the top of the highest mountain or building, but you can get there. And there is probably a reward too for getting there. The terrain isn’t just there to walk or climb on it, it often has tricks to deal with the local monster population: You can roll down a boulder into the bokoblin camp to crush them, or explode their camp by throwing a bomb barrel in their camp fire or set grass on fire. You can open a drawbridge by shooting the ropes that hold it up with fire arrows.

The landscape never feels empty. Besides finding major stuff like the 120 shrines, you can also discover the 900 locations of Korok seeds, or the countless resources from mushrooms to ore. Interaction with your environment is fun because the game always goes a step beyond what you’d expect from other games: My niece tried to feed her horse a carrot and I was surprised to see that it worked! I was equally surprised to see that while I couldn’t kill chickens by hitting them with a sword, they did lay eggs when I did. Or got angry and called all their rooster friends that attacked me. 🙂

Another feature that makes Zelda a great game is how it handles difficulty. Don’t be fooled by the game’s colorful look, it can be quite challenging. You will die. Many times. But fortunately the game isn’t punishing death all that much. Which means that you’ll be back in the action and trying again in no time. And sometimes again. And again. Until you finally manage that challenging fight or puzzle, or you give up and decide to do something else first. And the game also constantly challenges your intelligence: Unless you look everything up on the internet, you need to figure out quite a lot of how the game works by yourself. Ultimately you end up having quite a lot of control over the level of challenge: Different zones have different monster difficulties, so you can go the easy way and do them in the right order or skip ahead to farm harder monsters for better weapons. You control the difficulty of puzzles by deciding how much help you want to get from sources like YouTube. And if the normal mode of the game is too easy for you, you can switch to the much harder master mode, which makes Dark Souls look like a game for wimps. If you want the game easier, you could also use Amiibos (haven’t tried those yet) to get various gear, or a horse, or a wolf pet.

In summary, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great game. It fully deserves its 97% Metacritic rating. The game doesn’t just play well, it also has far more handcrafted content than other open world games. Recommended!

The One Scenario in Which Trump Would Risk Impeachment and Fire Robert Mueller

The president reportedly expects to be exonerated soon.

President Donald Trump believes that special counsel Robert Mueller will soon send him a letter that completely exonerates him of any wrongdoing — but the president’s allies fear that such a letter will never come.

CNN reports that Trump has recently been boasting to allies that the Russia probe will be over very shortly, and that Mueller will personally exonerate him. The president believes this, CNN’s sources say, because his attorneys have tried to manage him by telling him that he faces no real danger from the probe.

However, some of the president’s allies believe this is delusional, wishful thinking — and they fear what Trump will do if that exoneration letter never comes.

One Trump ally tells CNN that the president will likely have a “meltdown” after months go by without an exoneration letter, after which “he’ll try and fire Mueller and then be impeached.”

Another Trump ally similarly warns that Trump’s lawyers are playing a dangerous game by buttering him up with happy talk about the Mueller probe ending shortly.

“I’ve known him long enough to know that disappointing him is a problem and they’ve built up a level of expectations for him that are unrealistic,” the source said. “[They’ve] lulled him into a false sense of security.”

 

 

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The rise of Foxconn and Terry Gou, and shaking the Apple shackles

Fortune

Foxconn has had an astonishing rise in the electronics industry. The Taiwanese company has gone beyond electronics manufacturing and assembly to become one of largest companies in the world.

Fortune ranks as the world’s 27th largest company, but just how big can Foxconn become?

The Foxconn

Since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, Apple has relied on the company known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, which trades as Foxconn Technology Group, to assemble its devices at plants in China and Taiwan.

Foxconn is the largest contract manufacturer in the world. Established in 1974 by the legendary Terry Gou, who still retains control, its workforce of more than 700,000 employees (rising to over one million during busy times) assembles components for devices including the iPad, Kindle, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, along with TVs.

The company is a true empire, with at least nine major business arms via a string of subsidiaries and associated companies in fields like printed circuit board manufacturing, touch module and battery module manufacturing, nanotechnology, connector manufacturing. Subsidiary company FIH Mobile is devoted to non-Apple phone manufacturing.

  Annual Revenue Annual Net income Operating margin Number of employees
Foxconn US$136.12 billion (2016) US$4.460 billion (2016) 5.83% (Sept. 2017) 700,000 (estimated)

Apple dominates Foxconn’s facilities and bottom line, receiving millions of devices (mostly iPhones) every quarter from the company. The two companies are the biggest buyers of tech in the world, spending more than $250 billion last year on a cost-of-goods-sold basis.

Apple is Foxconn’s most significant client by some margin, dating back to 2000 when Foxconn won an order to produce Apple’s new iMacs. It’s also been an infamous partnership.

The manufacturer caught the attention of the world’s media following a spate of worker suicides in 2010, mostly in the giant Longhua complex where iPhones are made, and where workers also live.

Nets were installed outside many buildings, and counsellors were hired. Apple came under fire for contracting work to a company supposedly making its employees suffer.

“Foxconn is not a sweatshop. It’s a factory. But my gosh, they have restaurants and movie theatres[…] For a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory. If you count the attempted suicides, they’ve had 13 this year. You know, they have 400,000 people in that place[…] That’s still under the U.S. suicide rate […] but it’s really troubling,” said Steve Jobs in an interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2010.

Foxconn didn’t suffer much from the media spotlight. The company managed to maintain and grow its fortunes, and its relationship with Apple.

In recent years, reports have continued to spotlight the ambitions of Foxconn’s maverick founder and his company. One of the most recent, in the Nikkei Asian Review, published a rare in-depth conversation with Gou, focused on the attempted purchase of Toshiba’s memory chip business in Japan for as high as $19.5 billion, the ‘big brand’ ambitions of the company, and Gou himself.

It is clear that assembling iPhones is not and has not been enough for Terry Gou for some time.

Japan Times

‘The Chairman’ Terry Gou

Gou is the heart and soul of the business he’s driven since 1974, and remains in tight-control of the company. It’s growth is a reflection of his tenacity. He recently won control of Osaka-based Sharp, the first ever foreign takeover of a Japanese electronics company. Sharp was Japan’s largest maker of liquid-crystal displays at the time, and a major supplier to Apple for pre-iPhone X devices.

In its detailed post-mortem of the deal, Bloomberg described Gou as “relentless, totally relentless.”

A profile from BusinessWeek includes many of Gou’s tenacious moments in working to create his 43-year-old company that started from humble beginnings, via a $7,500 loan from his mother.

Stories of “Terry the Talker,” a man so determined that he could convince anyone to work with him, abound. He supposedly convinced representatives from Compaq to order computer casings from Hon Hai— the company had only ever made connectors at this point— just by drawing out some plans in the parking lot of the Longhua grounds.

Foxconn’s appetite for growth remains driven and focused by the 67-year-old Gou. While he has reportedly spoken of a plan for retirement, there isn’t a clear successor for the company, and a search has apparently been ongoing for at least a decade.

Gou remains firmly at the helm, and is actually pretty youthful compared to others in the industry: Canon Chairman and CEO Fujio Mitarai is 82. Morris Chang, a legendary figure in Taiwan’s chip industry, returned to TSMC as Chairman and CEO in 2009 at 78. He’s 86 now and still Chairman.

Foxconn has reportedly seen high-turnover as executives struggle to match Gou’s expectations, commitment, and leadership style.

Many Taiwanese companies are family controlled, and have faced or still face a succession crisis, including computer manufacturers Acer and Quanta. Sophia Cheng, former head of research at Merrill Lynch Taiwan Ltd., said a major criteria in judging company performance in Taiwan is how well the first-generation of leadership plan for succession by the next generation.

Foxconn has reportedly seen high-turnover as executives struggle to match Gou’s expectations, commitment, and leadership style. Gou reportedly does not delegate, retaining tight control of all aspects of the business. Gou’s temper is also famous, and has been reported on for decades.

According to a former high-level executive, “The better you do, the more difficult he is to please.”

Gou’s five children have reportedly shown little interest in the company, or are too young.

The margin troubles, and Apple

Foxconn’s formidable growth on the back of continued success and delivery for Apple isn’t straight-forward. Revenue remains strong, but profitability dwells in a narrowing margin:

  • Foxconn’s gross profit margin, according to the company’s financial reports, has fallen to as low as 5.83%. (Major electronics players that utilise Foxconn such as Apple, Sony, and Nintendo have margins of around 40%.)
  • In 2016, Apple alone accounted for 54% of Foxconn’s revenue of US$142 billion.

In the most recent financial release by Foxconn, the company experienced a downturn in revenue that analysts suggested was due to iPhone X supplier problems.

Foxconn’s model has been to sell its manufactured parts for customer devices, and do the final assembly at a thin profit, or even a loss.

Foxconn may be building all the iPhones, but Apple’s profit margins are substantially higher.

Gou is famous for focusing on a five-year plan, and there are few better placed to see both short and long-term trends in the industry, but well-reported delays in iPhone X production due to third-party component issues hurt not just Apple and their consumers, but Foxconn as well. Initial sales of the iPhone 8 range were tepid, too, and inventories are rising.

Apple looks safe to to continue their hot streak, selling more than 40 million iPhones over the last 12 quarters, but global smartphone sales are slowing. India is contributing major new demand, but for low to mid-range devices with less of a margin.

Another headwind is the growth of Chinese OEM Huawei, which is now the third-largest manufacturer of smartphones, and handles manufacturing and assembly internally.

Investors aren’t convinced about the iPhone X’s sales power at all, with Foxconn’s shares tumbling some 20 percent from the September 12th Apple keynote, while Apple itself is up around eight percent from that date in a serious bull market.

Apple vs Foxconn stock

Apple vs Foxconn stock (via Google Finance)

A perceived hiccup to Apple results in significant pain to Foxconn, but changing this course is not simple.

“Foxconn still cannot do without Apple in the future. Apple orders have become too big to lose for Foxconn,” Yuanta’s Vincent Chen told the Nikkei.

The broadening of the brand

While the Nikkei published that Foxconn may seek to develop first-party brands, there is considerable doubt about this suggested approach. According to an analyst familiar with the company, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, there is considerable doubt about this suggested approach.

“Not competing with customers has been a key part of Foxconn’s strategy … and in most cases it has more to lose than gain in putting its brand into competition with those of its customers,” said the analyst. Foxconn didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment, so their ambitions in this area remain unclear.

Foxconn controls Sharp, which releases mobile devices in China like the bezel-less Sharp Aquos S2. It also produces a range of InFocus mobile phones, under the US-company InFocus brand. Via FIH Mobile, it owns the rights to manufacture low-end phones under the Nokia brand too.

Foxconn controls Japanese electronics giant Sharp, which designs phones and TVs, among others.

Aside from investments in emerging companies, which are often made to secure relationships as much as technology, Foxconn’s also a major participant in Softbank’s Vision Fund, alongside Qualcomm, Apple, Saudi Arabia’s main sovereign wealth fund, and others.

Foxconn’s recent acquisitions and investments are varied. It acquired Calgary-based SMART Technologies, as well as Didi Chuxing, China’s main ride-sharing app, selfie phone maker Meitu, and 360 degree camera maker Lytro. It also made sizeable investments in the Chinese AI startup Megvii and the Bitcoin startup Abra.

In partnership with Tencent and Harmony New Energy Auto, a luxury-car dealer, the company founded autonomous car startup Future Mobility, aiming have all-electric and autonomous cars by 2020.

In the US, a major agreement has been signed between the state of Wisconsin and Foxconn for the company to invest up to $10 billion, for a 13,000-job development, likely focused on LCD-panel production for TV. The plant will build 10.5G LCD substrates (display panel sheets), able to produce 8K resolutions on panels as big as 70, 80 and 100-inch TV screens.

The future for Foxconn: TVs, OLED, and more than electronics

Foxconn’s 10.5G LCD plant foray into Wisconsin is a risk, although Gou has secured significant (and controversial) tax breaks and leniency from the state of Wisconsin.

Bloomberg Gadfly columnist Tim Culpan opined that the Foxconn development would be a risk for both Wisconsin and the company. The relatively high supply of quality LCD panels in Asia— including Foxconn’s own twin 10.5G plant being built in southern China— will hurt margins, and the huge breaks given to Foxconn which may not be paid back to Wisconsin for decades.

One obvious area Foxconn is lacking is in true OLED capacity in both TVs and smartphones, where Apple has shifted with the iPhone X. The control of Sharp has added some capacity but nothing of the type or quality that could offer a new supply for Apple’s speciality OLED screens.

Foxconn is lacking OLED capacity in both TVs and smartphones. Control of Sharp has added some capacity but Samsung and LG are skeptical that Sharp could even start mass-producing OLED as late as 2020.

To join Samsung in supplying OLED panels to Apple, Foxconn would have to spend at least $11.5 billion to build a latest generation 6G OLED plant, which would produce approximately 250 million 6-inch screens per year, tooled from a supplier such as Canon Tokki, according to an analyst who wished to remain anonymous. A project like that would also cause long lead-times, and bring significant technological risk.

“Besides Samsung Display, Apple has been supporting LG Display as the leading alternative OLED supplier for its iPhone,” WitsView research vice president Eric Chiou, told us via email.

“Foxconn-Sharp lack the experience in volume production of OLED panels and have limited capital to invest in this area. Overcoming these difficult challenges will not happen within a short-term period. Pursuing OLED for them is not an efficient use of resources given the time and financial constraints,” said Chiou.

Both Samsung and LG are skeptical that Sharp could even start mass-producing OLED as late as 2020.

Chiou says the focus on TVs by Foxconn-Sharp is far more significant for the company, explaining that the high-price of TVs in general can be major contributors to overall revenue growth. “With its TV business reaching a new level of economies of scale and cost competitiveness, the Foxconn Group can receive an even greater volume of ODM [original design manufacturer] orders and will not be limited to working for the Sharp brand,” said Chiou.

Foxconn is looking to expand into TVs, internet of things, big data, and cloud computing.

Digitimes reported that Foxconn and China-based flat panel maker BOE Technology will compete for Japan Display, a currently unprofitable LCD technology joint venture by Sony, Toshiba, and Hitachi.

Hinting at further ambitions, Foxconn may be aiming to receive Apple Watch assembly orders in 2018 as well.

Foxconn told the Nikkei that aside from mobile devices and advanced TV displays, opportunities present across: ‘the internet of things, big data, cloud computing, “smart lives,” industry 4.0 automation, and electric vehicles’.

Foxconn is also said to be exploring manufacturing outside pure electronics, with healthcare, automobile and artificial intelligence sectors all targets.

So, how big?

Gou and Apple will remain the two outstanding pillars of Foxconn’s success, and any upheaval to Gou’s rein or Apple’s relationship to the company threatens its continuing growth.

The company is betting heavily on electric vehicles, TV, and continuing to invest in a range of start-ups and bigger companies to win new work and make sure they’re part of the next big thing. Contract assembly will continue to drive Foxconn’s bottom line, but high technology and brand value might deliver its next major leap in growth.