If this is the iPhone 6 screen, it’s going to be a nearly indestructible device (video)

If this is the iPhone 6 screen, it’s going to be a nearly indestructible device (video)

Above: The actual iPhone 5 next to the front panel of what may be the iPhone 6.

Image Credit: Marques Brownlee video

Gadget videoblogger Marques Brownlee continues testing a piece of glass he got a couple weeks ago that he believes is the front panel of the upcoming iPhone 6.

We don’t have conclusive proof that this is actually an iPhone 6 screen. But whatever it is, it appears to be a very hard, very flexible, and amazingly engineered material.

In a previous video, Marques attacked the maybe-iPhone-6 screen with keys, a knife blade, and even bent it under his shoe — all to no effect. Whatever this screen is made of, it’s both harder and more flexible than Gorilla Glass.

In this video, Brownlee attacks the panel with garnet and emery sandpaper — both coated with extremely hard minerals.

Based on his tests, Brownlee shows that the iPhone 6 screen he’s testing is not made of pure sapphire, because it gets scratched by garnet sandpaper — and, according to the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness, garnet is softer than sapphire. In fact, he uncovers an Apple patent that refers to a technique for modifying pure sapphire so it’s more resistant to chipping, which would explain the high flexibility of the screen.

But the iPhone 5 Touch ID home button is even harder: It doesn’t get scratched by garnet or by even harder emery sandpaper. Brownlee concludes that the iPhone 5′s home button is made of pure sapphire.

Watch the whole video for a good education on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness and what it might mean for the iPhone 6 if this is indeed the device’s glass front.

Here are some more videos on the supposed sapphire screen on the iPhone 6.


What to Think, Ep. 13: Resurrecting Prodigy

What to Think, Ep. 13: Resurrecting Prodigy
Image Credit: J. O’Dell / VentureBeat

In this episode, Dylan Tweney and Jordan Novet speak with Benj Edwards, a journalist who is digging up screenshots from the old Prodigy online service. We talk about the challenges and joys of digital archeology.

If you want to know more, check out Edwards’ website about Vintage Computing.

And we also tell you what to think about:

Listen below, and subscribe to What to Think on iTunes.

You can also right-click/control-click to download the MP3 of this episode.

Or listen to us on Stitcher – or get the What to Think RSS feed for the podcast player of your choice.
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Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.53.56 AMOur upcoming GrowthBeat event — August 5-6 in San Francisco — is exploring the data, apps, and science of successful marketing. Get the scoop here, and grab your tickets before they’re gone!  

Silicon Valley VC’s plan to split California into 6 states may actually make the ballot

Silicon Valley VC’s plan to split California into 6 states may actually make the ballot

Above: Tim Draper of DFJ

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

If you thought venture capitalist Tim Draper’s plan to split California into six states was ludicrous, get ready for two more years of intensely rolling your eyes.

Draper’s team will announce tomorrow that it has collected more than the 807,615 signatures required to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

However, because the deadline for this year’s election has already passed, this means that the measure will appear on the November 2016 ballot — more than two years off.

Tim Draper's proposed Six Californias

That will give Draper, a founder of prominent Silicon Valley VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, plenty of time to try to sway public opinion on his proposal.

It would make Silicon Valley (including Oakland and San Jose as well as San Francisco) into an actual U.S. state, instead of just a state of mind and a TV show. Currently, public opinion is running about 59 percent opposed to Draper’s plan.

It would also turn San Diego and Orange County into South California; Los Angeles and Santa Barbara into West California, the agricultural Central Valley region into Central California, and Marin and Sonoma counties, plus Sacramento, into North California. The more remote counties further to the north would become Jefferson — a proposal that some people in that region have actually embraced in the past.

There are a lot of reasons to think that this proposal is ludicrous and unlikely to be passed. In addition to winning the approval of the people of California, it would also have to pass the California state legislature as well as the U.S. Congress.

Draper, of course, thinks his proposal is reasonable and that it would restore more accountability to government, as he explained to VentureBeat earlier this year.

But if the Chronicle’s report is correct, starting tomorrow we will have a lot more time — and reason — to talk about it in the coming two years.

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Yo & me. Photo by Michael O'Donnell

What Yo’s $1.5M round tells us about the state of tech marketing

The guys who invented Yo are not stupid.

Their app may be — depending on who you talk to, the idea of an app that does nothing but send the message “Yo” is either charmingly clever or incredibly annoying — but the founders are not.

Moshe Hogeg is the CEO of photo- and video-sharing site Mobli and the instigator of the Yo app. Or Arbel developed the app — in about 8 hours, he says — and now serves as the “CEYo” of the new Israel-based company.

Amazingly, Yo now has 2 million downloads just a few months after its launch on April 1 (yes, it was April Fool’s Day). One million of those downloads happened in a whirlwind span of four days last month after the press picked up on the app and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon — for now.

But how long will the party last?

We don’t know, for instance, how many of those 2 million people who downloaded Yo are still using it. Six months from now, will it still seem as cute or as fun to send a “Yo” to your wife or your coworker?

For instance, during the World Cup playoffs, Yo could send you a notification whenever someone scored a goal.

That added up to a lot of Yos when Germany was beating the crap out of Brazil last week. It was a little less interesting when Netherlands and Argentina played 120 scoreless minutes.

But suppose Major League Baseball lets you get a Yo whenever someone scores a run during the World Series this fall. Or suppose the NFL gives you the capability to get a Yo when your favorite team scores a touchdown. Will anyone still care — especially since you can get notifications like this from a host of sports and news apps?

The fact is, Yo could fizzle out almost as quickly as it blew up.

When I asked them about their plan B last week, Hogeg and Arbel answered that they were working on building as much momentum as possible. With enough people using it, plus brands using the app to communicate with their own customers in idiosyncratic ways, Yo might have a chance of staying viable.

Money will help. Yo has closed on $1.5 million in funding so far, Hogeg told me, and may raise even more. Investors include his own seed fund, Singularity, as well as other angels and a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Note: Against rumors that the funding was merely promised, not delivered, Hogeg says “most of the money is already in the bank.” And his own fund is far from the only investor.

The challenges the company faces now, though, are not technological: They have to do with securing marketing partners, signing on big brands, figuring out which features to add to the app, and retaining those early-adopter customers.

Moshe was clear about this. He said that Yo’s advantage is not technological: It’s related to marketing, momentum, and customer lock-in.

Product-market fit is all you need

What Yo is going through now is a pretty classic story in tech. In some ways, even though Yo came from Israel, it’s the Silicon Valley story of the past two decades. It’s the playbook that we learned from Clayton Christensen and Geoffrey Moore and countless other pundits and gurus: Figure out which direction the market is moving. Make a product that is incrementally better than what the incumbents offer, or which is radically cheaper, or which captures people’s interest somehow. Test, iterate, and repeat until you find what works. Then scale like crazy until you have built an insurmountable barrier to would-be competitors — what the VCs like to call an unfair advantage.

That unfair advantage could come from the network effects of your customer base, which make your product valuable simply because of the sheer number of people using it — like Facebook or Twitter. Or some kind of customer lock-in that makes people reluctant to leave your product behind — like Google Docs or Microsoft or Salesforce. Or sheer brand credibility that makes people love using your product, trust you more than anyone else, or feel like your product is an indispensable part of their lives — like Apple or Evernote.

The thing is, and Yo shows it to be the case, is that you don’t need anything particularly techie to make this happen.

Now, as a tech reporter, I’m a little sad about that. My fundamental bias is toward cool technology. My favorite billionaires are the guys who make amazing things, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, rather than the pure marketers or brand builders or business optimizers, like Michael Dell or Jeff Bezos. So I’d be happy if there were more really outstanding hardcore tech stories to talk about.

And in the long run, I’m convinced that hardcore tech is what it takes to create a lasting advantage in the tech industry. Marketing that tech well is always going to be critical. But it won’t be in the driver’s seat forever. So as the frothy enthusiasm for advertising- and social media-driven startups starts to fade, I’m looking forward to hearing about a new crop of startups focusing on chips, wireless tech, new materials, batteries, robots, and more.

Until then, though, smart marketing rules.


Dylan’s Desk: Our phones have a constitutional right to privacy. It’s up to us to use it

Dylan’s Desk: Our phones have a constitutional right to privacy. It’s up to us to use it

Above: If only it were so easy to enable privacy on our mobile devices.

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The Supreme Court ruling yesterday that police cannot search your phone without a warrant is a recognition of what most of us already know intuitively: Our phones are deeply personal extensions of ourselves. As such, they deserve the same level of privacy protection as our own homes.

Now if only the companies that make those phones would see things the same way.

As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the unanimous opinion, cell phones are “now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.” The court recognized the vast amount of information these devices contain — or provide access to, via the cloud — and the potential for that information to reveal every detail about a person’s life. In fact, a search of your phone would reveal far more about you than a full search of your house would, the court noted.

“The sum of an individual’s private life can be reconstructed through a thousand photographs labeled with dates, locations, and descriptions; the same cannot be said of a photograph or two of loved ones tucked into a wallet,” the court wrote.

Legal protection against warrantless searches is one thing, and a very important thing it is. But the niceties of the law only go so far, particularly when, as we know, there are spy agencies that regularly tap our communications without a warrant — or with the most superficial oversight and blanket approvals of a secret court. Yes, that blanket approval is changing, as the courts and Congress move to restrict the NSA’s purview. But the fact remains that much of what we do with our phones can be and often is monitored and searched.

We need better protections. And not just against government intrusions: We need to protect ourselves, if we choose, from the very companies that make our phones and the software that runs on them. Time and again we have learned that our phones, or their apps, are tracking us, collecting data on us that they don’t need. That may be harmless now, since that data is primarily being used to determine which ads to show you — which you will ignore anyway. But any large collection of deeply personal data on millions of people is a rich target for bad actors of all kinds: hackers, less-principled corporations, out-of-control surveillance states, or in some parts of the world, dictators.

As tech journalist Quinn Norton recently wrote, everything is broken when it comes to security — badly broken. Everything is riddled with holes and vulnerabilities of various kinds that, if exploited, give attackers complete control of your devices and your data. Heartbleed was a security disaster of epic proportions, but it was mostly just better publicized than other, similarly disastrous vulnerabilities. The only question is whether those vulnerabilities have been found yet and are being used against you.

Why do we put up with this shoddiness? Partly it’s because most of us don’t care. We don’t have a sense of privacy for our own devices, or we don’t worry about it, because we don’t do anything with them — or don’t believe we do — that could embarrass us or get us in trouble.

Partly, also, it is because we value convenience so highly. Automatically syncing your email, contracts, and calendar? Sign me up. Backing up all your photos to the cloud? Wonderful.

Wonderful, that is, until hackers use that very interconnectedness to delete all your family photos.

It is time for us to demand more. If the Supreme Court recognizes how deeply personal and private our phones are to us, maybe we should too.

“There are plenty of schemes that could federate or safely encrypt our data, plenty of ways we could regain privacy and make our computers work better by default,” Norton wrote. “It isn’t happening now because we haven’t demanded that it should, not because no one is clever enough to make that happen.”

Let’s demand it. If the highest court in the U.S. can figure out that privacy is needful when it comes to our phones, maybe it’s time for us to wake up to that need.

Technology does not have a mind of its own, and it does not evolve by itself, independent of human intervention. We have choices. Let’s make them.