HTC’s Dropbox bonus deception

HTC have been promoting a partnership with Dropbox which gives HTC smartphone customers an additional 3GB of free Dropbox storage space.

The extra storage capacity appears when you activate the Dropbox client on a HTC smartphone with the new HTC Sense 3.5 software.

There’s something they don’t tell you though, which only becomes apparent when you receive the confirmation email from Dropbox:

Congrats on becoming a Dropbox Guru! We’ve awarded you 3GB of bonus space for the next 12 months! You now have 5.25GB on Dropbox. To get even more space, check out our upgrade options.

Thanks again for supercharging your HTC phone with Dropbox!

According to the email, the 3GB bonus space is only awarded for 12 months.

This has been confirmed in the Dropbox support forums by their staffer ‘Michael N’:

We are excited to confirm the announcement from HTC. Owners of HTC phones with a Sense 3.5 ROM will be receiving 3GB of extra space for 1 year, free of charge. All you need do to earn the space is install the Dropbox app on the HTC phone, then complete the Getting Started Quest at

So what happens if you are still using the 3GB of bonus space at the end of the 12 months?

Well according to an update from Michael N: “The 3GB extra space goes away, and you’re over quota. Your Dropbox desktop client will stop syncing.

Your options are then to delete files and reduce your storage to under the 2GB free limit or upgrade to Dropbox’s Pro 50 plan at a cost of $9.99/month. How convenient!

While Dropbox themselves have been fairly transparent, HTC have been careful not to mention this built-in timebomb.

The bonus space is time-limited and only available to owners of a HTC phone with the new Sense 3.5 ROM. This is very different to HTC’s announcement: “We’re proud to announce that we’ve partnered with @Dropbox, bringing 5GB of storage to all of our #Android phones.

The Advertising Standards Authority now regulates advertising across all media -including marketing on websites. I wonder if this includes marketing statements made on Twitter from an official company account?

I feel a complaint to the ASA coming on!

HTC – Sensational at timekeeping

As has been noted previously, the clocks on some Android devices have an annoying habit of drifting significantly.

I was pleasantly surprised then to discover that the new HTC Sensation does keep very good time, even without NITZ being broadcast by my operator’s mobile network.

So how and why are they doing this? Is there another motive behind this seemingly altruistic feature addition?

A bit of investigation reveals that when you enable ‘Automatic: use network-provided values’ in the Date & time settings the device makes a connection to one of a list of public NIST time servers and then updates its own time using the ancient Daytime Protocol.

All good so far, well done HTC.

A bit more playing with the clock revealed something else intriguing going on when the clock is manually altered. The device makes a separate HTTP connection to Now who are they?

The SDGTL.NET domain is registered to Saffron Digital Ltd in London. The very same Saffron Digital who have been recently bought out by HTC.

The HTTP request contains a client-generated nonce value along with the user-agent com.sdgtl.sectime – which also includes the device model number details and a ‘fingerprint’ value.

The response from the remote server is a XML getTimeResponse payload which contains the current Unix Epoch time and a digital signature.

So why does the device need this and why are HTC so concerned that you are manually changing the clock? My guess is that this is is being triggered by an embedded DRM service, perhaps related to Saffron Digital’s video service.