Bunnie Huang, one of the minds behind the famous Chumby, encountered a strange production problem when building Chumby Ones with Kingston microSD cards—namely, some microSDs appeared to be dysfunctional counterfeits. The catch? They were bought directly from Kingston.
Huang's observations took him down a rabbit hole of microSD manufacturing, a fairly epic quest to discover the truth about Kingston's manufacturing process that, while never conclusive, had some interesting findings:
• Shopping around for Kingston cards from street vendors in China, some were obviously real and others were obvious fakes. But there were definite "irregular" gray area models—like those that caused low yields in Chumby production—that have questionable build quality likely due to Kingston enlisting the work of crumby production partners.
• Kingston appears to buy all the actual flash storage chips inside their microSD cards from Sandisk/Toshiba, yet they often still manage to undercut the microSD prices of manufacturers like Sandisk and Samsung. Of course, Kingston needs to make up the money somewhere, and the controller chip is the only other place that's possible. So Kingston may be stretching their thresholds of controller chip quality to make profitability possible—at minimum, the impetus is certainly there.
Of course, even if Kingston is padding supply chains with low-grade cards, I'm guessing such is more a worry for manufacturers (and purchasers of said manufacturers' products) than the random guy at Best Buy picking up a new microSD card, as Kingston probably champions the transparency of America's retail markets over the murky backwaters of Chinese industry. Probably. [Bunnie Studios via boingboing]