Inq Mobile, one of the first companies to build a Facebook phone, announced that it has shut down with a message on its site (h/t Android Police). The U.K.-based, Hutchison Whampoa-backed company didn’t say why it decided to close. We’ve emailed them for more information.
Inq, which was founded in 2008 and pivoted a year ago to focus on mobile software, said it will no longer update Material and SO.HO, its apps. Material, a news reader, released its final editions on Jan. 28, while social media aggregator SO.HO will not be updated after today, though it will continue to function. Support pages for the Cloud Touch smartphone and Inq’s featurephones remain on its site.
The timing of Inq’s closure and Material’s shutdown is interesting because several of tech’s largest companies have recently started to offer their own news apps and tools. These include Yahoo’s News Digest; Twitter and CNN’s Dataminr; and Paper by Facebook, which will launch next month.
Inq Mobile began as a maker of low-priced Android smartphones. It was one of the first companies that collaborated with Facebook to create a social smartphone in 2011, around the same time HTC and the social network struck the partnership that yielded the Salsa and ChaCha.
Inq’s Cloud Touch, which was released exclusively in the UK three years ago, had a custom Facebook wrapper built on top of Android, and an early version of SwiftKey. Though cheaply priced (starting at $50 with a subsidized contract), the Cloud Touch couldn’t compete with Samsung’s rapid takeover of the Android market. The company pivoted and started developing mobile apps one year ago.
Material, which TechCrunch covered when it launched its iOS version in August, was a social magazine app that used Inq’s “interest extraction engine” to look at the Facebook and Twitter accounts of users and figure out what kind of articles they wanted to see. Content was delivered in two daily editions.
Inq CEO and co-founder Ken Johnstone told TechCrunch at the time that Material differentiated from other news readers by offering an easier set-up than its rivals because all users needed to do to power Material’s algorithms was connect their Facebook or Twitter accounts.
“For somebody who has invested a lot of time in Twitter and Facebook anyway, this is about getting a return on that investment,” Johnstone told TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas.
Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook’s news aggregation products all feature some human curation, but, like Material, they also rely heavily on algorithms to customize content for each user. Inq had planned to monetize Material by harvesting enough data to build an advertising business, but its failure to do may be a cautionary tale for other developers of news readers, even as they continue to rethink how content is organized.
Though algorithms are necessary if a news aggregator wants to scale up (and collect enough data to be profitable), they still can’t replace the discernment of a human editor. Like Feedly, Pulse, and Zite, Material’s customized content stream suffered from problems like miscategorized stories, irrelevant content, and “the overall feeling you get from flicking through an edition is not a cohesive, editorially unified whole, but an algorithmically generated bunch of mostly random stories with (at best) a few loose, overlapping themes,” as Natasha put it.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Apple has had a patent approved today (via AppleInsider) that could make it a leader in a new kind of display material technology: Sapphire glass. The patent describes various methods for attaching sapphire crystal to electronic devices, and includes a description of how it does this with the sapphire glass covering the iPhone camera lens introduced with the iPhone 5, as well as a means for attaching sapphire as a cover for the whole display.
In the past, the iPhone has used Gorilla Glass to protect its screen (though some believe it may have stopped recently); Apple championed this tech and basically made its maker Corning the default choice for smartphone OEMs looking for a tough, scratch-resistant material to use to protect their screens. But last year, Apple made a $578 million bet on sapphire (which is used often in good watches) with GT Advanced Technologies to have it build a manufacturing plant for the material in Arizona.
When the deal was announced, our own Matthew Panzarino took a closer look at the investment, and at what sapphire glass could provide Apple. Sapphire, including the lab grown variety, is much tougher, more resistant to scratches, and more resistant to breakage after scratches than even Gorilla Glass, which has a strong reputation in all those arenas. It’s heavier, too, but would potentially allow Apple to use thinner pieces for both space and weight savings.
Of course, there are also existing needs at Apple for sapphire glass, including the iPhone camera lens and the new Touch ID-compatible home button, which many expect to make its way to other Apple devices including the iPad eventually. But the patent uses an iPhone-type device as its illustrative example, and specifically states that while the gadget depicted is a “smart phone,” the techniques described could be used on any number of devices. A smartwatch might be a good target case, for example, given that Apple has been rumored to have been working on one for some time, and that sapphire is a very common case material used in the manufacture of watches from most leading brands.
The patent itself details ways in which the sapphire material could be attached to the shell or casing of an electronic device, with examples in illustrations detailing jigsaw-type and tounge-and-groove mechanics for keeping the glass firmly in place.
At this stage, it’s more likely that Apple is simply laying the groundwork for a potential shift to sapphire in its phones and other devices a considerable way down the road, rather than tipping its hand for any immediately upcoming change in how its devices are made, but this patent demonstrates that it is indeed thinking in terms of smartphone displays and other applications that go beyond its current uses of the material.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch