The Morning After: The premium toaster maker that's launching a smartphone

Wait, what?

Engadget Japanese

I’ve been obsessed with Balmuda’s fancy toaster for years. As some readers might know, I used to live in Japan while working for Engadget, and I’d browse around electronics superstores like Yodobashi Camera and Yamada Denki, gawping at high-level cameras, weird 3DS games that would never make it to the West and touring floors upon floors of home appliances and gadgets. There are entire shop floors dedicated to rice cookers, water boilers and the rest. And it is amazing.

Balmuda’s premium toaster oven was the apex, though. Fortunately, the company’s steam-based toaster has made it to the US in recent years and now, for $329, you can have the fluffiest slices of toasted bread you can imagine. But for those in Japan, Balmuda has now announced its first-ever smartphone.

The Morning After

It's a petite device with a full-HD 4.9-inch display. The company teamed up with Kyocera to manufacture the Android device, which has 5G and wireless charging. It comes with a 48-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a fingerprint sensor. The Balmuda Phone is powered by a Snapdragon 765 processor and, as you might tell, the device packs relatively middleweight specs. The company may be banking on its premium status to convince smartphone shoppers.

At the moment, the company doesn’t have plans to release the phone outside Japan.

— Mat Smith

Fender's latest Acoustasonic hybrid guitar is almost affordable

The new guitar is for younger musicians.

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Fender's acoustic-electric hybrid guitars are technical marvels — with a price to reflect that. Now, the instrument brand has unveiled its $1,200 Acoustic Player Telecaster with a simpler design with a three-way voice selector (versus five on other models) and one blend knob.

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Google Cloud outage took down Spotify, Snapchat, Etsy and more

And yet Gmail and Hangouts were working fine, ugh.

A Google Cloud networking issue took down a handful of prominent websites late yesterday, including Spotify, Snapchat, Etsy and Discord. As one colleague put it: “Annoyed that my fun stuff is down, but Slack remains miraculously up, as does other work stuff.” Google announced the issue was partially resolved as of 1:17 PM ET but a full fix didn’t occur until around 3:15 PM ET. Google said it “will publish an analysis of this incident, once we have completed our internal investigation."

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Activision Blizzard workers walk out and demand CEO Bobby Kotick's resignation

A new report says Kotick knew about the company's sexual harassment problems for years.

Employees at Activision Blizzard are calling for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick following new revelations about the role he may have played in creating the toxic workplace culture that has mired the company. A Wall Street Journal report outlined Kotick's handling of the sexual harassment lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The newspaper claimed Kotick not only knew about many of the worst instances of abuse at the company, but in some cases, he may have also acted to protect employees accused of harassment.

"We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy," Activision Blizzard employee advocacy group A Better ABK said on Twitter after the report came out. "We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source."

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Microsoft is speeding up its Windows 11 rollout

The update is now more broadly available.

The Morning After

Having slowly rolled out its OS update to the most powerful (and up-to-date) PCs, Microsoft is accelerating the rollout of Windows 11, making it more broadly available. Provided your system is running version 2004 or later of Windows 10 and you recently installed the September 14th, 2021 servicing update Microsoft released, you can now upgrade directly to Windows 11. When Microsoft first released the new OS on October 4th, the company said it expected to offer the upgrade to all eligible devices by mid-2022.

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Roku now has an 8K channel for TCL TVs

It’ll feature a library of ultra-high definition nature documentary videos.

Roku's added its first premium 8K channel to its platform: The Explorers. The only 8K Roku TVs on the market right now are from TCL, in 65- and 75-inch formats. TCL first showed off the TV at CES, and would you know it, the next CES is just around the corner. I’m sure there are more 8K TVs waiting to be revealed in January.

Ultra-high-definition premium content from The Explorers (which also offers free content through its channel) will typically cost $3/month. A tenth of that fee will be donated to The Explorers Foundation, which aims to preserve biodiversity. The channel will also offer 8K content at a time when it’s still rare. YouTube remains the main place for 8K footage.

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