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USB2U News

Message in a bottle for the 21st century

Posted by USB2U on 7th March 2018 | Permalink

Almost everyone loves the idea of finding their own message in a bottle at some point in their lives, but for the Illman family in Perth, their find was extra special.

After the family car had got stuck in the sand on a remote beach, Kym and Tonya Illman decided to take a short walk where they then came across an old-fashioned bottle with a handwritten note inside which dated back to 1886 almost 132 years ago.

Message in a bottle

Original bottle and message found by Tonya and Kym Illman. Photo taken by Kym Illman

 

The note in the bottle, which was dated 12 June 1886, came originally from a German ship and was jettisoned as part of an experiment into ocean and shipping routes by the German Naval Observatory. After the Illman’s took their find to the Western Australian Museum, it was then deemed to be authentic, after the original Meteorological Journal from the ship was found. They discovered that an entry had been made by the captain, on the same date found on the note which indicated that a drift bottle had been thrown overboard!

Paula Ship Route Map

The bottle was thrown overboard by the German ship, Paula during a voyage from Cardiff to Makassar, Indonesia. It travelled roughly 500 nautical miles before being deposited on a beach north of Wedge Island, where it was most likely covered by sand for many years before being discovered in January 2018.

 

While USB2U may not offer 131-year-old messages in a bottle we do have some gorgeous looking Cork Bottle USBs which work just as well!

Cork Bottle USB 3.0 Cork Bottle USB & Pastel Box Bundle

Forget a ‘message in a bottle’, how about an accessible multi-media content in a bottle. It definitely rolls just as well off the tongue!

 

Cork Bottle USB

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Why do the prices of USB sticks change so much?

Posted by USB2U on 16th January 2018 | Permalink

A question we get asked quite a lot here at USB2U from our repeat customers is why the price of their branded USB sticks has changed since they last ordered? A valid question that I think we need to address. As hard as it is to believe we don’t actually enjoy charging our customers more for their USBs when cost prices go up, especially when they have used us as their trusted promotional supplier over so many years.

Unfortunately, it all comes down to the way flash drives are manufactured and how the supply chain effectively operates. Below, we’ll go through just some of the challenges that we as a company face when it comes to pricing our USBs on a daily basis.

 

How are Flash Drives made?

All modern flash drives will start out life on what is called a Silicon Wafer, a thin, delicate structure designed for integrated circuits that are found in flash drives, computers and even mobile phones.

FACT: Silicon is the most common semi-conductor on Earth and the most widely used in the electronic and technology sector.

Silicon WaferSilicon Wafer

Each Silicon Wafer is designed to be broken into multiple pieces for use in a variety of different components including USB drives. Many pieces will be serialised and can be stacked together to create 3D integrated circuits which are more complex and offer a greater level of density. Larger memory size USBs will inherently contain more wafer layers inside of them.

In general, the silicon wafer will be used to create NAND chips. Such chips are non-volatile meaning they do not require a constant power supply to preserve the data stored onto them, making them ideal for flash memory devices.NAND Chip

NAND chips are manufactured specifically in fabrication plants or ‘fabs’ for short. Only a small number of these factories exist in the world, and therefore have direct control over the overall supply and, more importantly, the day-to-day market price. The majority of these factories are located in China, however, some facilities also exist in Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

These chips are considered to be a critical component in a number of electronic devices, not just USB sticks. Modern computers, smartphones, and tablets all have NAND chips within them, thus all companies in these markets will inevitably purchase from the same supply chain. This, of course, creates problems if demand increases or there are issues in other market sectors as these will have a knock-on effect on supply and ultimately, market price.

NAND Chips ManufacturingNAND Chip uses

NAND Chip Demand Issues

The smartphone market, in particular, is notorious for causing supply chain issues.

Big tech companies with large buying power such as Samsung and Apple will often purchase huge quantities of NAND chips for use in the production of their latest smartphones.

This therefore significantly reduces the overall supply available in the market which causes the price to subsequently rise for everyone else looking to buy, including us!

While it has gotten easier over the years for factories to cope with such large orders, new tech products are being created all the time with many subsequently requiring flash memory to function.

NAND Chip Demand Issues

NAND Chip Supply Issues

It’s not just demand issues which can affect the price of USBs, it can also be supply based as well. The most expensive times to buy USB Flash Drives are February/March and September/October time where China observe their own national holidays.

You may have heard us before talking about how it’s important to order USBs before the Chinese New Year and Golden Week, well the reason for this is that production factories including ‘fabs’ close for up to 2-3 weeks over these periods. This causes a rise in demand, due to a shortage in production, which in turn leads to prices sharply rising. We ourselves have seen an increase in cost-price from 30p to anywhere up to £1.20 per unit before, during these periods.

USB China Holidays

Because only a small number of factories exist in the world if only a few of them close for just a few days, the price of the chips would likely go up. This was very much the case back in 2011 when Japan was hit with an earthquake and tsunami causing many factories to close, which consequently halted production of NAND chips out of the country for several days and ultimately led to prices increasing.

 

Exchange Rate Fluctuations 

Exchange rate fluctuations in general cause headaches for many businesses out there who buy from abroad. When it comes to buying NAND flash the issue is no different. Many companies, including ourselves, have to purchase these chips using US$ dollars and convert back into £’s. If the exchange rate is unfavourable between the two the overall cost price will inherently increase. This has been most apparent in recent years due to Brexit where the £ substantially depreciated against the $ and therefore we as a company ended up paying substantially more for flash drives. Even today the £’s value hasn’t quite reached the same level as it was before the referendum, therefore those who haven’t ordered from us in a while may see a noticeable increase in the price of their branded USB sticks.

Exchange Rate FluctuationsEU Referendum

Things to keep in mind when you next order USBs

NAND chips could be considered a tech commodity as their price is always determined by current supply and demand similar to that of Gold and Oil. There are times of year where prices will tend to rise and also times where they will go down, it’s always worth having a little look to see what is happening in the sector.

If you’re looking to purchase large quantities of USBs the following tips may be able to help you determine when best to buy:

  1. Look to order before February and September to avoid the closure of factories in China and the price rises that follow.
  2. Watch out for tech news especially related to new/upcoming product launches by large companies. These should give you an indication that the price of USB flash memory is set to increase.

 

What we can do at our end…

USB2U has become quite adept over the years of being able to predict when price rises are expected and will always try and order stock in advance. This means we can hold a variety of USBs in our own UK stock which helps to reduce some of the price volatility experienced.

Like any other commodity however, there is still an unpredictability to ordering at any time of year as prices can change daily, this is why our quotes are only usually valid for a limited time.

USB Price VolatilityUSB2U Standard Delivery

USB2U Guarantee and Promotional Tech

Our dedicated team will always do their best to get you the best price possible on your promotional USBs. Often we will look at several supplier options before coming back to you with a quote ensuring we try and obtain the best possible price.

Even if you find a cheaper supplier elsewhere, it is always best to check with us, as in most cases we will able to price match a like-for-like quote.

If you’re still not satisfied with the price quoted for your USBs why not take a look at some of our other promotional tech products including Power Banks, Speakers and Headphones to name a few!

Contact our sales staff at +44 (0)1604 684 811 or [email protected]. Alternatively, you can also visit our website to see the full range of products on offer.

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The USB Stick Health Guide

Posted by USB2U on 11th July 2017 | Permalink

USB sticks are a well established product used predominantly for the storing and transferring of data between devices. As such they have become the staple product for many when it comes to convenience as well as speed, while essentially being a universally recognised plug & play device. With that being said, those using USB’s or Memory Sticks need to remember that such devices are still electronic and therefore aren’t going to be 100% foolproof. Failures can occur within products such as this from time to time, especially when it comes to the internal workings of the flash memory. For businesses who exchange USB’s with customers/clients on a regular basis it becomes even more important to pass on relevant information to ensure that each individual is aware of best practices.

 USB in Laptop

How to take care of your USB Stick

Below are a few suggestions as to how one could look after their USB Stick

 

  1. Keep it cool  Like any electronic device, USB’s do not fair well in extreme temperatures therefore make sure it is stored somewhere cool such as in a container or drawer and preferably not in a back pocket.

  2. Keep the metal connector covered to avoid accumulation of dust or dirt – The exposed connector can become unreadable by a PC or Mac if objects get lodged inside the device.

  3. Ensure computer is fully booted before inserting a USB into the port – inserting before can shock the flash drive and damage the internal components.

  4. ‘Eject’ the USB stick before removing it from the USB port – A normal PC or Mac will constantly read a flash drive therefore if removed on a regular basis without first ejecting the drive can cause lasting damage.

  5. Look at which way the USB should be inserted into the port – All USB sticks connect one way only, forcing it in could damage both the USB memory stick and / or USB port. New standards are being considered to allow the USB to be inserted in any direction, but this is several years away.

  6. Do not leave in a computer indefinitely – Power surges can occur which may lead to components being damaged

  7. Avoid running programs from the flash drive – While each flash drive is designed to last years, each comes with a predetermined number of read and write cycles, and once exhausted the device can no longer be used. When you save and retrieve documents, you use single cycles per retrieval or write function, but running software applications from the flash drive will use multiple read/write cycles, therefore exhausting the USB stick a lot faster.

  8. Back up everything! – The USB flash drive, while an impressive piece of tech does not last forever even with good maintenance therefore it is important that people make back ups regularly of content on such devices. Getting in the habit now will save plenty of heartache down the line. Businesses who load data onto flash drives for individual clients should also keep backups of any work produced for them.

 

*A Special Note for Photographers*

As a lot of photographers use Mac’s rather than PC’s from day to day it is important that they are made aware of trash/ghost files that can appear on a USB Stick. As both operating systems work in different ways, both tend to interact differently with a USB stick when it is plugged in. Mac’s will automatically add ghost files/folders to the flash drive which remain hidden when plugged in, however appear as files like .Trashes, ._. Trashes and .fsevents on a normal PC. These are essentially nothing to worry about however good practice may be to delete these before sending out USB’s to customers who may own PC’s.

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We are ready for the 2016 UK Photography Show

Posted by USB2U on 14th March 2016 | Permalink

USB2U is exhibiting at the popular UK Photography Show at Birmingham NEC again this year. This is the third time we have been part of the show and we are looking forward it kicking off this Saturday!

USB2U offers the most popular USB sticks for professional photographers. Our creative memory stick concepts work particularly well when presented in bundles; these are combinations of memory sticks and stylish presentation boxes suitable for any occasion such as weddings, baby photos, anniversaries and more. They are becoming highly popular amongst modern day Photographers.

The presentation boxes are of high quality and vary from high gloss white presentation boxes to eco-friendly wooden boxes. All of them can be personalised with your logo or special message. Thanks to the large print area on the boxes they can be fully branded and additional design features can also be added in.

Here at USB2U we hold a large amount of stock of USB sticks and boxes in the UK making it possible to print or engrave items in as little as 24 hours. The memory sticks are Grade-A, high specification flash chips offering superior performance.

Be sure not to miss our daily competition

We also have some exciting show offers and competitions not to be missed. Each expo day we will do a prize draw and the winner will receive 10 8GB Woodland USB sticks and Photo Slide Boxes personalised with their logo. So four chances to win! The winners will be announced at the end of each exhibition day on Twitter  and and on Facebook.

image024

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Flash drive thrown into space

Posted by USB2U on 10th February 2016 | Permalink

3… 2… 1… Here goes! It was one of those memorable moments when two Russian cosmonauts from the International Space Station, Sergei Volkov and Yuri Malenchenko, threw a USB stick into space during a spacewalk.

For us this signifies a truly interesting example of the multiple ways in which USBs can be used in the world; not only for commercial purposes and transferring content, but also for capturing significant moment of human history!

The memory stick in question contained videos and scripts from last year’s 70th anniversary celebration of the Victory Day in Russia. This event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany in 1945, and was the largest and most lavish celebration ever held in Russian history.

During the moment when the USB stick was let go, on 3rd February 2016, the crew on board of the International Space station was flying some 250 miles above the southeastern Pacific Ocean, over South America and not far from the cost of Chile.

iss_gallery_med_02_960x600

Click here to see the video by BBC

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Here we go again – USB Memory Sticks Prices Shooting Up

Posted by USB2U on 5th July 2012 | Permalink

Well, I suppose having been in the industry and supplied printed USB memory sticks for nearly 10 years that we ought to know by now that prices tend to shoot up in July! Maybe it was just wishful thinking and a forlorn hope that this year it might be a little bit different but it looks like our hopes have been dashed.

This week alone the price of 2GB flash chips (the core component of any USB memory stick) have shot up by 15%. Some of the other memory sizes are not as badly affected but the general trend is most definitely up. A specific flash chip type (UDP) which is commonly used in Credit Card USB flash drives and key style USB flash drives has been particularly badly hit.

Choppy Waters for USB Flash Drive Pricing

Choppy Waters for USB Flash Drive Pricing

Flash drives prices have not been helped by a falling pound (GBP £) – all flash memory is traded in US dollars so as the pound falls the price of USB sticks rise.

This article (USB Flash Drive Price Trends in 2010) written by us in January 2011 and examining price trends for USB flash drives for 2010 shows that we went through almost an identical price rises in 2010 with increases of 5-10% across the board being the norm. If the same trend is followed this year then we’re going to have to wait until October before prices start to fall again.

If you were looking for the best time to buy USB flash drives then unfortunately you’ve just missed it! As in 2010 the month of June looks to have been the best month to buy your branded or promotional USB sticks. If you have to buy now then expect to pay a premium, if you’re looking to place a repeat order, expect prices to have gone up! If you’re able to wait prices will probably be back at or below June 2012 prices in late Q4.

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USB2U Invests to Double its Data Loading Capability

Posted by USB2U on 27th June 2012 | Permalink

USB flash drives continue to be one of the most popular promotional gifts in the market today. Companies, schools and universities buy them in the thousands and give them away to help develop their brand, to raise awareness of who they are and what they do and to encourage customer loyalty. Recipients of them love them because they have a high perceived value, they’re useful, small, portable and really handy.

If you’re buying promotional USB flash drives on behalf of your company and you plan to give them away to customers, prospective customers, students or journalists then you really should be pre-loading them with data before they are handed out. After all, the basic function of a flash drive is to store and carry data and if you’re paying for the USB drives then they should carry your data! Make sure you stuff them with your brochures, your price lists, press releases, videos, website detailsl anything and everything – with an average of 2GB to 8GB to play with you’re going to be able to fit loads onto the average sized promotional USB memory stick.

The downside is that loading data onto USB flash drives is incredibly tedious so whilst it makes sense to do it lots of companies (and universities) are put off pre-loading data because of the challenge of organising people, the files and the time to do it.

USB Data Loading Service

USB Data Loading Service

The simple answer to this conundrum is to let your USB flash drive supplier do the data loading for you. Professional suppliers should not only be able to print and engrave in-house but they should be able to offer you a professional data loading service as well.

USB2U is one of the few suppliers in Europe that holds a significant level of blank stock, has in-house printing, engraving and data loading capability and is able to turn around orders in less than 24hrs.

To bolster its data loading capabilities USB2U has recently invested in additional state of the art data loading equipment and is now able to load between 3,000 – 4,000 USB flash drives every day. So, if you need your USB sticks data loading call the team at USB2U or better still if you are looking to buy USB flash drives printed with your logo and loaded with your data then call USB2U – they offer free data loading (up to 200MB) on every drive you buy from them.

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Laser Engraved USB Flash Drives – Logos that last!

Posted by USB2U on 29th May 2012 | Permalink

If you’re thinking of ordering yourself some promotional USB flash drives and you’re fixed on getting them printed then you might just want to take a few minutes to consider getting your logo laser engraved rather than printed.

Whilst there is no escaping the fact that printing does look good and with printing you have a wide choice of flash drives models to choose from and you can of course get your logo printed in full colour. The downside with printing is that over time the print will begin to chip and wear away leaving behind a logo that might not be legible.  The resilience of the print will vary depending on the material that the USB stick is made from and how well they are printed in the first place.

Engraved USB Flash Drives

Engraved USB Flash Drives

Printing onto metal or aluminium USB flash drives can be tricky because you have to carefully clean and prime the metal surface before you print and then you need to bake them in a commercial print oven to get the print to adhere properly.  Any mistakes in this process can result in the ink coming off pretty quickly in general use.

Printed metal USB drives that are used on a key ring come in for a significant amount of punishment and are particularly susceptible because the sharp edges of the keys “break the tension” of the print on the metal and once this tension is compromised the rest of the print tends to flake away pretty quickly.

Digital printing or screen printing onto a plastic surface tends to offer a more robust solution but even these techniques won’t guarantee the print eventually failing.

If you really do want you logo to last and look as good after a few months as the day they were supplied then it’s definitely worth considering getting your USB flash drives laser engraved.

Engraved Flash Drives

Engraved Flash Drives

Laser engraving as the name suggests “etches” the surface leaving a high precision finish that is permanent and won’t rub or scratch off. Laser engraving is popular on a wide range of promotional products (including USB flash drives) but it’s a technique that is also widely used in industry to permanently mark medical devices, instruments, buttons, tags, car parts, bar codes and lots ore besides.

With engraving you will have to compromise on the colour the logo is produced in (but you can select a range of different coloured USB flash drives) but at least you’ll know the logo will be produced to a high level of accuracy and more fundamentally that it will last the test of time.

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Price of 8GB Promotional USB Flash Drops by 50% in 12 months

Posted by USB2U on 30th April 2012 | Permalink

Over the last 12 months the price of flash memory has followed a long established downward trend but compared to previous year on year falls the drop in prices over the last 12 months have been pretty dramatic.

If you’d been looking to buying 8GB promotional USB flash drives printed with your logo and pre-loaded with your company data this time two years ago then you’d have expected to pay around £15 per USB stick. A year ago the same USB sticks would have cost around £10 each but today the price (depending on the quantity ordered) has dropped to around £4- £5 per unit!

That’s a huge amount of professionally produced and printed data storage for about the cost of a large swanky coffee! Just think about how many documents, catalogues, price lists, movie files etc. you could fit onto an 8GB drive and give out or send to your customers – give them an 8GB USB drive and they’ll almost certainly keep it and use it because whatever you pre-load onto it before your hand them out and they’ll still be tons of space left for your customers or clients to load their own data onto the drive.

USB Price Falls

USB Price Falls

Unsurprisingly with these price reductions what we used to consider “larger” USB capacity sizes (4GB and 8GB) are now becoming the de facto choice for many. After all, the price differential between 1GB sticks and 8GB sticks is now only a £1 or two but the perceived value of an 8GB flash drive is still incredibly high.

A consequence of the move to larger flash memory sizes is that smaller “give-away” memory sizes of 128MB, 256MB and 512MB are getting harder to source – the simple reason for this is that very few factories (if any) are still producing memory chips of this size because it is simply not cost effective for them to do so. Effectively these small memory chips have gone “end of life” and where they are offered they are often re-cycled chips or “off-cuts” from chips that were originally destined to be larger chips.

Underpinning the price falls are a combination of seasonal price falls (late Spring and early Summer is a quiet period for the factories and pricing reflects the sluggish demand), Moore’s Law (which states that the number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years), and a weakening USD ($) – flash memory is priced in $’s so any weakness against the GBP (£) = lower prices.

So, when you think promotional USB flash drives don’t think cheap and cheerful 128MB sticks but think cheap and very happy 8GB sticks!

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Extend the Memory of Your Raspberry Pi computer with A USB Flash Drive

Posted by USB2U on 15th April 2012 | Permalink

It looks like the wait is finally over and the first batches of the eagerly anticipated Raspberry Pi computer are finally shipping.  OK, so they are being sent out a little later than originally planned because of manufacturing hiccups and last minute compliance testing but within the next few days the very first users of this sub £30 (including VAT and shipping) computer will be able to start connecting it all up and get coding!

Raspberry-PI

Raspberry-PI

Whilst it might not be the prettiest of products it has managed to generate a huge amount of interest and demand not least amongst developers, schools, hobbyists and others keen to get their hands on a cheap, easy-to-use computer.

The organization behind the Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi Foundation (a UK registered charity) describes the Pi as “a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.”

The Pi is built around the Arm chip that is used in the vast majority of mobile phones. It runs one version of the Linux operating system and uses SD cards as its “on-board” storage medium but it comes with USB ports so you easily add additional memory using a USB flash drive or other USB connected storage.

With the price of USB flash memory plummeting at the moment you could easily add an extra 2Gb – 8GB of extra storage from just a couple of pounds!

If you’re a school and you’re planning to buy the Raspberry Pi for your students then you might also want to think about getting some USB flash drives produced with your school logo or crest on specifically for use with the Raspberry Pi.  Better still, get them produced with the students names on and the Raspberry Pi logo (with the permission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation of course) and this way they can have their own personalized USB flash drives that are specifically for use with the computers and onto which their PC work can be saved.

If you really want to challenge the students you could buy them bare bones USB connectors and get them to design and build their own Raspberry Pi Flash Drives for use with the computer – ideal for students looking to take Design Technology and IT and a great way to excite them about both disciplines.

USB2U, one of the UK leading suppliers of printed USB Flash Drives can deliver (often within as little as 24hrs) printed or engraved USB Flash Drives.

“Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation”.

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