The HTC One E8 is a plastic phone in search of its metal soul

Plastic phones have a bad reputation and HTC is partly to blame. The company that defines itself as “a global leader in mobile innovation and design” has, for two years running, built the finest Android smartphone with an all-aluminum thing of beauty it calls the One. First the One M7 swept up the phone design awards in 2013, and now the more refined One M8 is repeating the feat. In an Android world dominated by frumpy-but-functional Samsung Galaxy phones, HTC’s One line stands out with its premium materials and tasteful design.

HTC has undoubtedly raised the bar for high-end phones and challenged everyone else to match it, but the company can’t afford the luxury of writing off plastic phones altogether. It tried to do so last year by introducing aluminum handsets to its midrange with the One mini and One max, but the only thing those unsatisfying devices proved was that compromising design was a worse idea than compromising on materials. Now the Taiwanese company is trying the alternative approach by sacrificing the premium metal construction in order to retain almost everything else about its flagship phone. The HTC One E8 is a faithful plastic copy of the One M8, trimming away a few peripheral features and nearly halving the price in the process. That makes it the perfect device with which to explore a pair of related questions: can premium design transcend premium materials, and can anyone make a cheap phone that still feels special?

Hitachi Metals to acquire Waupaca Foundry


Home News Hitachi Metals to acquire Waupaca Foundry

Hitachi Metals to acquire Waupaca Foundry
Foundry operates six manufacturing facilities in the United States.

Recycling Today Staff
AUGUST 20, 2014
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The private equity firm KPS Capital Partners LP (KPS), headquartered in New York City, has signed a definitive agreement, through an affiliate, to sell its portfolio company Waupaca Foundry Inc. to Hitachi Metals Ltd., headquartered in Purchase, New York, for $1.3 billion in cash.

KPS says Waupaca, headquartered in Waupaca, Wisconsin, is the largest iron foundry company in the world. The company produces gray and ductile iron castings and operates six foundries in the United States, including three in Waupaca and others in Marinette, Wisconsin; Tell City, Indiana; and Etowah, Tennessee.

KPS, which purchased the foundry firm in 2012, says Waupaca supplies iron castings to the automotive, commercial vehicle, agriculture, construction and industrial markets. The company has a total melting capacity of more than 9,500 tons per day.

David Shapiro, a KPS managing partner, says, “The success of our investment in Waupaca demonstrates KPS’ ability to see value where others do not, to buy right and to make businesses better. In 2012, we recognized the transformation of the North American iron foundry market and the unrivaled importance of Waupaca to its customers and the end markets that it serves. The sale of Waupaca to Hitachi Metals, a leading multinational corporation, is a great outcome for our investors, Waupaca, its management, employees and customers.

Gary Gigante, Waupaca CEO, says, “Working in partnership with KPS, we invested significantly in our operations and people, which included an expansion of our production capacity and launching numerous continuous improvement initiatives across all six of our foundries. We are very grateful to KPS for its leadership and its commitment to improving and growing our business. We are thrilled to join Hitachi Metals, which has the resources, foundry experience, access to capital and global reach that will enable Waupaca to achieve an even higher level of success.”

The company says the transaction is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2014.

Samsung defends plastic S5 design


The Samsung Galaxy S5 has become an instant consumer hit with early sales outstripping those of last year’s Samsung Galaxy S4, but the phone’s plastic build has remained a stumbling block for many.

With rival handsets such as the HTC One M8, Apple’s iPhone 5S and the Sony Xperia Z2 adopting more premium materials such as metal and glass in their designs, Samsung’s insistence to stick with plastic has been criticised by many.

Now, however, Samsung has spoken out to defend the Galaxy S5 design, suggesting that plastic remains a better material than metal for building smartphones.

“Our major aims were usability, friendliness and a more humanistic design,” Samsung’s Senior Product Designer Dong Hun Kim said speaking with Engadget this week.

Although HTC has received praise for the brushed metal design of the HTC One M8, the S5’s lead Android rival, Samsung has claimed that metal phones are ‘heavy and cold’.

“We wanted something with a pleasing feel … and better grip,” Kim said. “If we used metal, [we felt] the designs felt heavy and cold.”

He added: “With plastic, the texture is warmer. We believe users will find [the device] both warmer and friendlier. This material was also the best at visually expressing volume, better at symbolizing our design concepts.”

While many consumers and industry commentators, ourselves included, have suggested the Galaxy S5 would have benefitted from a more premium build, Samsung has claimed it considered many materials for the S5 before settling back on plastic.

“With the GS5, we looked into all kinds of designs and materials. We were open to all options.”

Despite sticking with a plastic body for its flagship phone, Samsung has admitted that lead handsets are now about far more than simply the technology within.

Samsung’s Principle User Experience Designer, Jeeyeun Wang added: “It’s a fashion product now.”