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New Reversible USB Design Finished

Posted by USB2U on 19th August 2014 | Permalink

The standards group that have been developing the next generation of the USB cable and connector have finally finished their work and have now passed the exact specifications to the USB Implementers Forum.

Expect a smaller USB port with that will support cables and peripherals that can plugged in any way around! There are also significant improvements in the data transfer speeds that can be supported – 10 Gigabits per second which is twice the current maximum supported by USB 3.0.

The next stage is the manufacture of products, cables and peripherals to take advantage of the new specification. Dubbed “USB Type-C” the new connector is not dissimilar to Apple’s Lightning cable/connector.

USB Type C Cable and Connector - Courtesy of Foxconn

USB Type C Cable and Connector – Courtesy of Foxconn

Whilst USB Type-C has many benefits it is not compatible with the current USB standard so it’s going to take a while before it gains any critical mass and of course users will have to upgrade all of their peripherals to take advantage of the benefits on offer.

The move from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 has been slow so it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly the market adopts this new standard. Its adoption is likely to be helped if it’s picked up and marketed by the makers of Android Smart Phones – it’s unlikely it will get any help from Apple who are likely to prefer their own Lightning standard.

USB flash drives that take advantage of the Type-C connector are likely to emerge later this year albeit we may just see first generation prototypes in 2014. Of course without PC’s, laptops, tablets and smartphones to plug them into it’s going to take a while!

Inevitably USB flash drives that take advantage of this new specification will be expensive so they’re unlikely to be used as promotional items and give-aways (unless you’re a company with deep marketing budgets and you’re targeting classic early adopters!). They’re also likely to have much larger data storage capabilities that the typical 8GB or 16GB USB sticks you see today – after all there is little point in putting all that power and speed into a USB stick and then equipping it with 8GB of memory that you could fill in seconds. It’d be a bit like designing a Ferrari with a 1 litre petrol tank – it’ll look fantastic, sound fantastic and drive amazingly well but it would only go 100 metres before you’d need to fill it up with petrol again!

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Branded USB Sticks from USB2U are Gilt-Edged Promotional Products

Posted by USB2U on 6th August 2014 | Permalink

Promotional products have been with us for over 200 years albeit the first “gift” was just a button that was handed out to encourage voters in the USA to elect George Washington to office! In the subsequent two centuries things have gotten a little bit more sophisticated but in the UK it was only in the 1950’s that things really started to take off and companies began to harness the power of promotional gifts.

Today tens of thousands of companies give away promotional gifts with a value that runs into the hundreds of millions of pounds every year! They give them away to promote what they do, what they sell or just to help build their brand and develop customer recognition and loyalty. Promotional products are typically printed, engraved or embossed with the company’s name, logo or marketing strap line.

They’re commonly used as a “give-away” at trade shows, exhibitions, sporting events, conferences and as part of marketing campaigns where recipients might for example be asked to sign up to receive email offers from the company offering the gift.

In 2012 the BPMA (British Promotional Merchandise Association) commissioned a piece of research on behalf of its members to establish what the most popular promotional product was. The results from 1,000 respondents not only showed that promotional gifts had an incredibly positive effect and were, more than any other form of medium, likely to engender brand loyalty and encourage buying behaviour.

They also showed that the most popular product to give is a USB memory stick closely followed by the more humble mug!

Gilt Edged Promototional Products from USB2U

Gilt Edged Promototional Products from USB2U

So, if you are looking for a “gilt-edged” promotional product (something defined as high grade, top quality and with very low risk) then you won’t go far wrong with a promotional USB memory stick! There are lots of different styles and models to choose from and with prices (in volume) starting from well below £2.00 per unit they’re not going to break the bank either.

Unlike other give-aways they can also be used to hand out loads of information about products and services. Simply pre-load the USB sticks with files, video clips, photos, price lists etc. before they are handed out! These days you don’t even have to worry about the grunt work of loading the data onto each USB stick – just hand the data files to your supplier and they’ll do the rest for you and usually they won’t charge for this value added service either!

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UDP Flash Has Driven USB Memory Stick Innovation

Posted by USB2U on 10th July 2014 | Permalink

When the first USB flash drives hit the market just over 10+ years ago they were all based on one core technological solution and that was the combination of flash memory with a controller chip and a capacitor – these components were soldered onto a printed circuit board and a USB connector provided the interface to the PC. The result was a small(ish), portable and easy to use data storage device – the USB memory stick was born!

The “guts” of the memory stick (the printed circuit board, memory module, capacitor, controller and USB connector) are generally referred to in the industry as a COB solution – think of it as a common engine around which manufacturers build different designs/shells.

In subsequent years the storage capacity of these first generation USB sticks grew from a relatively small 8MB to eventually break through the 1GB barrier. Today memory sticks with a storage capacity of 64GB are common place!

The big shake up in terms of design came with the introduction of the UDP chips – in common with other sectors in the computer and gadget sector what was once achieved on a large COB card could now be achieved on a much smaller form factor. Effectively a UDP chip has the flash memory, the controller and the capacitor all rolled into one and as you can see it’s much smaller.

USB Memory Sticks  - COB vs UDP

USB Memory Sticks - COB vs UDP

As a consequence the USB memory stick product designers have had a field day! No longer did their designs have to work with a largish rectangular internal component but instead they could now unleash their creative talents and come up with all sorts of shapes, designs and styles.

Today the market is awash with thousands of different designs ranging from super thin credit cards to tiny little Iron Sticks and lots of really cute custom USB sticks. UDP chips are a boon to designers of Custom USB sticks because pretty much any shape can now be accommodated hence the proliferation of custom USB lips, USB animals, USB truck and cars and USB sticks in the shape of characters from movies.

USB Cards Using UDP Chips

USB Cards Using UDP Chips

There is no difference in the performance of USB memory sticks that use UDP technology. Their read/writes speeds are just as fast and they’ll support the same number of read/write cycles. Arguably they are more stable because there are no soldered connections to break or weaken over time.

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Buyer Beware – Promotional USB Memory Stick Scams are Rife

Posted by USB2U on 26th June 2014 | Permalink

It’s not quite made it onto Rogue Traders just yet but you do wonder how long it will take before the scams that are rife in this sector are exposed to a broader audience than we can achieve on our blog site.

The problem for anyone buying USB memory sticks is that it’s relatively easy to mislead and to end up buying rubbish. The big problem is that on the outside a fake USB stick can look genuine BUT it’s what under the skin of a USB stick that really matters and not how good they look on the outside. You can’t even trust the brands printed on the outside of the USB sticks because these are easy to fake to!

The Chinese factories will produce any shape of USB you want and print any logo on them – rarely are questions asked about who owns the brand, if there is permission to use the brand and so on. Consequently if you wanted to buy USB flash drives that look exactly like say a Kingston Flash Drive then no problem – how many do you want tends to be the only question asked and then it’s just a question of how much (or little) you want to spend on the internal components!

The fakes might look like the real thing but when used don’t be surprised to discover that the claimed 16GB flash drive only contains 4GB of flash memory. When you plug it in and check the properties of the flash drive it might look like a 16GB but the try and load 16GB of data onto it. If you have bought a 4GB USB drive that has been “masked” to look like a 16GB then when you load more than 4GB of data onto the drive you’ll get a “disk full” error message. Masking is a common problem and because very few people know they have an issue until they’ve been using the sticks the scammers often get away with it.

The other common issue with fakes is their build quality and data transfer speeds. Most fakes use cheap, grade “B” flash memory components many of which will be recycled. As you can image the problem with these components is that they have a high probability of failure and they typically have slow read/write speeds.

Promotional USB flash drives are sold to companies, school and universities in their millions every year and whilst they are ordered from local suppliers pretty much every USB memory sticks will have been manufactured to order and flown in from China.

Pressure to reduce prices and win business has seen some unscrupulous local suppliers of branded USB memory sticks supply “masked” sticks and pass them off as drives of a higher capacity. The only way to be sure that you are getting what you are paying for is to load one of the USB memory sticks to the limit and check that you can load 4GB of data onto a 4GB USB Memory Stick. You’re never going to get access to 100% of a 4GB drive because some of the capacity is used to manage the way the USB stores its data but you should be able to use around 95% of a 4GB drive.

We strongly recommend that you buy from a known and trusted local supply. Ideally choose a company that has been around for a good number of years and who are not going to disappear overnight. You want to buy from a company that is financially stable and is going to be there stand behind any guarantee that’s on offer. A 10 year guarantee is only any good if the company is still around to claim against it!

If you buy from direct from China and pay up-front (as you will have to) then you open up a whole additional set of risks/issue. Only an option for the brave or the foolhardy.

 

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What Artwork is needed to Print USB Memory Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 25th June 2014 | Permalink

When you set out to buy promotional USB flash drives there are some basic things you’re going to need to ensure you get exactly what you want. At the most basic level you’ll need to have a reasonable idea of how many USB sticks you need or can stretch to (you’ll find the more you buy the cheaper the unit price will be) and you’ll need to know what memory size you need – these two elements are the key drivers behind the unit price you’ll pay.

Choosing the right amount of memory is less easy than knowing how many USB Sticks to buy. It’s easy to just go for the smallest memory option (typically

Vector Artwork

Vector Artwork

128MB) but bear in mind if you do this that the promotional USB sticks won’t be of that much value to the recipient because they won’t have much room to store their own data on. Less storage space = less perceived value = less actual usage = less brand exposure. Our advice is to go for a 4GB or 8GB USB stick – this is normally large enough to store any of your own files one before you hand them out and gives the recipient tons of spare space to use for their own files.

Surprisingly the level of detail in the print or the number of colours printed is not really a major cost driver. A few years ago you might have had to pay a set-up fee per colour and a fee to print each colour but these days there are only pennies between a single colour print and a full colour print.

The real issue when it comes to printing (and therefore to a certain extent cost) is the quality of the artwork supplied to print from. Contrary to popular belief it is really possible to produce good quality printed USB memory sticks from a JPEG file (this is the sort of image you usually see used on Web Sites) because they are typically low resolution files. They might look ok to the eye but if you try and print from them you’ll typically get poor and often blurred results. A really good high quality JPEG might be OK but it’s worth getting it checked first rather than being disappointed with the printed results.

By far the best thing to do is to supply good quality Vector Artwork files – Vector file types are .eps, .ai, .pdf and .swf. You CANNOT re-save a JPEG into these formats and magically get a Vector file you have to set up the artwork files as a Vector Graphic and then save them in these formats. If you’re not sure ask you design team or external designer to supply you with Vector Artwork. Full details of how to send your artwork files and the formats we can work with are detailed here.

Please also don’t (as one school did) just scan the badge on the front of their school blazers and ask us to print from that – the computer programming adage of “garbage in, garbage out” will apply!

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How are Professional Photographers Promoting their Business

Posted by USB2U on 23rd June 2014 | Permalink

It’s not easy these days being a professional photographer. Before the days of digital photography, Photoshop and other “apps” for adjusting and tweaking photos very few of us would have dared to take the risk of and responsibility of taking the photos on someone’s special day.  After all with film based photography you pretty much had one shot to get it right and even then you wouldn’t know until the film had been developed if you’d got a series of images that would satisfy the client (assuming of course you’d remembered to put the film in!).

Life In Foucs USB Sticks and Packaging

Life In Foucs USB Sticks and Packaging

Today of course it’s all so different. Anyone with a smart phone has a camera and the very latest phones have some pretty good cameras that turn out some great images (to be fair though the best images do come from people with a flair and passion for photography). The cost of a good, top end “pro” camera is not that high particularly when you consider that you don’t have to pay for film and processing costs anymore! And of course easy access to a plethora of “apps” that can turn even the most basic pictures into something stunning has raised the confidence levels of everyone taking photos and has spurred on thousands to declare themselves a “professional photographer”.

If you livelihood depends on your photographic skills and it’s something you’ve worked damn hard at over the years then lots of enthusiastic amateurs entering the fray is not ideal. Of course quality rises to the top but the danger is that prices get dragged down and the market just gets muddied for everyone.

Ali-Paul-Photography

Ali-Paul-Photography

To help with their marketing and to ensure they differentiate their service many professional photographers are now embracing the web and Social Media. Website showcasing their work and featuring testimonials from their clients are now de rigueur but many are now extending this to include flckr, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. It’s no longer enough to just be a great professional photographer now you need to become a social media expert!

Alongside this the way in which the end product, the portfolio, is delivered to the client has changed. CD’s and DVD’s are considered by many as “old fashioned” and the new kid on the block is the USB Memory Stick, But, we’re not just talking about any old USB stick you might pick up at your local supermarket. No, these are beautifully crafted USB sticks that are engraved or printed and are often delivered in matching gift boxes. Even then some photographers will add their own little finishing touches to differentiate their service and personality from the next photographer – think ribbons, bows, bottles, little boxes in larger boxes.

With an estimated 50,000+ professional photographers in the UK it’s a tough market it’s not getting any easier. Core photographic skills are almost a given requirement but over and above this there is growing pressure on professional photographers to up their levels of marketing.

cotswold_pictures

cotswold_pictures

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Ten Is the Magic Number for Professional Photographers

Posted by USB2U on 7th April 2014 | Permalink

Like lots of our competitors the minimum order for printed USB memory sticks has always been twenty five (25) but the feedback we were given at The Photography Show in Birmingham was so supportive of our “show offer” that we have now decided to reduce our minimum order quantities. From today all of the discounted USB bundles and packages of our USB2U photography web site have been had their minimum order quantities reduced to ten (10)!!

So, if you’re a professional photographer, wedding photographer or videographer and you’ve been thinking of making the switch from CD’s and DVD’s but you’ve been out off by the level of upfront commitment you needed to make to buy 25 USB sticks and boxes then this is going to be good news.

Starting today you can get yourself ten fully personalised USB sticks and ten personalised USB gift boxes to go with them for around £100! That includes all of the artwork set-up costs, the printing (or engraving), custom inserts for the USB sticks and delivery by Royal Mail Special Delivery.

You can choose from six different bundles including our very popular wooden USB sticks and wooden USB gift boxes or you might opt for our USB cards with the option of a leather wallet or a printed gift box.

Whichever “bundle” you choose you’ll be getting upgraded (high performance) USB sticks that we assemble specifically for professional photographers – these ensure a higher read/write speed, more read/ write cycles (a longer life) and they all come with a ten year warranty. We print/engrave all of our sticks in the UK so the lead time for any order is normally just a few days (depending on how busy we are).

The feedback from photographers to our range of bundles has been amazing:

A perfect job with perfect service

Having used simple DVDs to provide clients with high res files in the past I had it in the back of my mind that I should present them with something a little more refined. I’ve found that in USB2U, the customised memory sticks I’ve just received have blown me away and the feedback from clients just from posting an image of the sticks to facebook has been amazing. Don’t hesitate order some today! (Russell Lewis Photography)

A very efficient service from start to finish and great communications every step of the way.

I found USB2U very easy to deal with and they provided clear instructions and guidance where necessary – I had seen their website a year or so ago, but since the introduction of their ‘professional photographers’ section on their website, it has greatly improved my ability to present digital images to my clients and brings image and video presentation up to date. With quality in mind, the processing chips are uprated to make sure that my professional products are made to last. (Taylors Photographic)

Innovative stylish products, great quality with fast efficient and friendly service.

Had the chance to view the woodland style USB drives in wooden boxes at USB2U Stand at the Photography Show. Had been looking for a stylish way to present digital images to clients and this product is in a class of its own.  The little touches like the small magnets, to hold on the cap & sliding lid for the box, give that touch of class to what is a very elegant product. The team at USB2U where friendly, helpful and professional enabling the artwork processes to be achieved in a few hours and delivery was on time and as promised. A great experience all round (Andy Meany Photography )

USB2U Memory Sticks and Boxes for Taylors Photographic

USB2U Memory Sticks and Boxes for Taylors Photographic

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Promotional USB Sticks – Free Lanyards

Posted by USB2U on 19th February 2014 | Permalink

If you’re looking to buy some promotional USB memory sticks during February and March 2014 then it’s definitely worth checking out the options available from USB2U.

Not only do they offer a huge range of USB sticks but they also have a wide range of gift boxes, lanyards, key-rings and engraved ‘dog tags” that can be used individually or together to make a fantastic promotional package. For a limited time the lanyards are free with any order of 100 or more USB Sticks (just quote FreeLanyards).

In addition to free lanyards you can also get up to 300MB of data pre-loaded onto your USB sticks at no extra cost – the only proviso is that you’re not ordering your USB sticks on their Express or Super Express service (24hrs – 72hr delivery service).

There are lots of different colours of lanyard to choose from and with around 100,000 in stock in the UK there are plenty to go around! If its something that might be of interest to you then speak to one of the sales team and get a quote that includes the free lanyards (and free data loads)!

Irrespective of which colour you choose all of our USB lanyards come with a quick release mechanism that allows you to remove the USB stick from the lanyard without having to struggle to get the whole thing over your head! A small number of the USB sticks they sell don’t have an option to connect a lanyard

USB with Lanyards

USB with Lanyards

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PostScript to the 5k USB Stick Scam

Posted by USB2U on 18th February 2014 | Permalink

Last week we posted an article about a company that approached us in a panic because the 5,000 USB sticks they had purchased direct from a “factory” in China were not working on any of their PC’s or Mac’s. They were dumbfounded because they thought they had done everything they could to make sure the factory they were dealing with was legitimate and that the USB sticks they’d ordered would be up to the job.

Not only had they taken the precaution of buying from a “Gold” supplier on a reputable Chinese supplier brokerage web site but they’d also insisted on being sent a sample of the USB sticks for testing before they committed to the final order of 5,000 and importantly before they agreed to pay for them!

The dialogue with the factory was good and the shipment of the sample was arranged promptly. The independent tests on the sample undertaken in the UK suggested everything was in order so they pushed ahead with the order for 5k USB memory sticks. Payment was wired to the suppliers’ bank account in China and three weeks later the USB sticks arrived – then the fun began!

When inserted into any PC a quick check of the “properties” of the USB sticks suggested they had 512MB of memory (the size they had ordered) but when they tried to use the memory and load content onto the USB sticks alarms bells started to ring – it looked like data was being transferred onto the USB stick but when it was taken out and re-inserted it had nothing on it! The same scenario was repeated with multiple samples from the 5k batch and irrespective of whether they used a PC or Mac and irrespective of how large the data was they tried to copy onto the stick nothing was on them when they were re-inserted!

All attempts to contact the supplier in China were met with silence. Panic set in.

Having been sent a couple of the samples our initial suspicion was that the USB sticks had no memory in them at all but having sent the samples to our factory in China they have discovered that the USB sticks do have a very, very tiny memory module and that this has been “masked” to look like a 512MB stick! The small memory module inside the sticks is normally used on “web keys” – its just large enough to carry a website URL and nothing else.

The “masking” of this memory to make it look like it has 512MB of storage is pre-meditated fraud. The supplier knew exactly what they were doing and they knew the 5,000 sticks they supplied were nothing like the original sample. The buyer had been duped and was now thousands of pounds out of pocket and without the USB sticks they so desperately needed for their event.

The simple moral of this story is that whilst it’s tempting to save a few pounds by buying direct from a factory in China it’s also incredibly risky and you’ll have no safety net or recourse – if it all goes wrong as it has in this scenario then don’t expect to recover your money or get replacement USB sticks.

At USB2U we’ve been supplying promotional USB memory sticks for the last 12 years and we don’t let our customers down.

USB2U - Your Trusted Supplier of USB Memory Sticks

USB2U - Your Trusted Supplier of USB Memory Sticks

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Personalised USB Flash Drive

Posted by USB2U on 27th January 2014 | Permalink

We’re only just over two weeks away from Valentine’s Day and for the old romantics amongst us it’s a time to express how we feel about the most import person in our lives. It’s also big business with spending on Valentine’s Day expected to top £1 billion this year!

This report by the Daily Telegraph last year predicted spending at £978 million so £1 billion a year on (and with the economy and feel good factor on the rise) is going to be easily achieved. Unsurprisingly the most popular gifts are flowers, chocolate and perfumes with men spending almost twice the amount of women (in terms of overall spend)!

What’s less well reported is that companies use this time of the year to engage in business marking using Valentine’s Day as a clever “excuse” to say how much they value and love their customers. Expect to see a mini explosion of Valentine’s Day competitions, website with a red theme, Valentines discounts and offers and marketing copy and adverts that seamlessly tie in with the whole Valentine’s Day vibe that’s about to hit us (whether we want it or not).

Not one to miss out on an opportunity we thought we better let our customers know that we can also offer a range of Valentine’s Day themed USB memory sticks. Unfortunately we don’t have any USB hearts in stock but we do have 24 other types of USB sticks that we can print or engrave with a heart and/or other appropriate message. We can also load your messages of thanks, appreciation and love of your customers onto the USB sticks for you. Better still we can pop them into some lovely printed gift boxes for you and wrap them all up with a pink ribbon!

Here’s a quick example of a heart printed onto one of our circle shaped USB Cards:

Valentine's Day USB Hearts

Valentine's Day USB Hearts

If you are interested in USB Cards for a Valentines themed marketing campaign then ideally don’t do the “bloke” thing and leave it till the last minute. Whilst we can turn orders around in just 24hrs we’re already very busy with Chinese New Year so a little extra time to get things “just perfect” for you would be appreciated.

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