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What real people think about the iPhone XS



The stars are out.

Five of them, according to my colleague Jason Cipriani.

In reviewing the iPhone XS Max, he describes it as “the future of the iPhone.”

What, though, do real people on the street think about this and its smaller sibling, the iPhone XS?

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks asking people on both coasts.

Also: iPhone XS Max first impressions: It’s big, but not too big

Now, when I say people, I mean real people: The 99 percenters who are taken advantage of every day.

They’re bartenders, baristas, and store employees. They’re those who can’t throw their money around on just anything.

Frankly, just about any human being I encountered was subject to a (polite, naturally) question about their thoughts on the new phone.

Not everyone’s love object?

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Where’s the Hologram?

I began near my home in the Bay Area, shortly after the XS and XS Max launched. Some of the replies left me a touch quiet.

“I’m not going to care until they make a hologram phone,” Sherine, a Starbucks barista, told me with some venom. “Anything else, forget it.”

Her fellow barista Danny was supportive: “She’s right. I’ve got a 7 and I’m not going to upgrade unless my plan gives me a new phone or I break mine. But the hologram would be great.”

That day, I went to a physical therapist. She didn’t even know there was a new iPhone. She was sure, though, that she didn’t need one.

“What’s so different about this one?” she asked.

Also: iPhone XS and XS Max reveals some battery surprises

I tried to explain.

“You know how I make my phone look different?” said the physical therapist, not entirely interested in my explanation. “I buy lots of cases. They’re 20 bucks, and I’ve got six of them.”

“But don’t you want your phone to do more? To take better pictures, for example?”

“I just don’t need a new phone. My phone’s fine. I’ve got a 7. Wait, I think it’s a 7.”

It seems that there’s no stopping the arc of phones becoming important, but utilitarian objects.

It works, so why should I change it? And as the price of the newest phones has kept rising, many people don’t see the value in seeking them out.

Also: iPhone XS, XS Max, XR specs: Battery size, RAM details revealed in new filings

“Fifty bucks a month for a phone?” a (refurbished) iPhone 8-owning bartender told me. “That’s my gym membership. I’d rather pay for that.”

Bartenders need exercise in order to perform at their peak.

Does New York love it?

Still, perhaps New Yorkers would think differently. They can be a little more showy than Northern Californians. So, I jumped on a plane to find out.

“Yeah, maybe I’d think about getting a new iPhone,” said Kristen, a Manhattan restaurant server. “But they’re not all out yet, are they?”

This was something suggested by famed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who believes that four-times as many Max phones as XS phones have been sold because people are waiting for the iPhone XR.

“You mean you’re waiting for the XR?” I asked Kristen.

“Is that what it’s called?” she replied. “The cheaper one with the colors.”

I fancy Kuo might be right. It isn’t just that the XR is a cheaper phone and a very good phone for the money, relatively speaking. It is, I fear, that Apple’s insistence on releasing its most expensive phones in muted shades has muted some people’s enthusiasm.

The minute they saw that there could be bright blues and yellows, some people thought they’d wait.

Also: iPhone XS smartphone beauty really is only skin deep

That might seem shallow to some. But specs never were and never will be the main reason people buy phones. This is hard for hardened tech types to swallow.

However, Kristen was one of the rare people I talked to who knew there was still one more phone to go. Most had no idea.

“I’ve already got an iPhone X,” a server in a sushi restaurant told me.

“How come?”

“It came with my plan,” she explained. “All my tech friends laugh at me because it’s not Android.”

“Do you know anyone who’s got the XS?”

“One of my friends got it, but that’s because his girlfriend paid for it. He’s a kept man and he loves it.”

“The phone?”

“No, being a kept man.”

Come on people, get giddy.

Still, I was looking for excitement. I was looking for people to tell me how cool the new iPhones were, how excited they were to try the new camera.

Despite badgering 50 to 60 people, I failed to find those enthusiasts. Except for a few who loved the fact that they now had an enormous iPhone in the XS Max.

“I was so happy to get a big one,” an employee of a fancy-ish clothing store told me. “It’s like an iPad, but it isn’t.”

I nodded furiously.

Also: iPhone XR outshines XS value for upgraders

An Android-loving New York hotel receptionist laughed when I asked what he thought of the new iPhones.

“They’re like the old iPhones, just a little less scratched up,” he said.

They’re funny in New York. Or, at least, they think they are.

I finally thought I’d found a sure target, a young man I met at a business reception. He worked in real estate.

Surely he’d have strong opinions about the XS. Surely he’d already have one, probably the Max.

Real estate types tend to lease BMWs and Mercs and wear Apple Watches to show how affluent people should think they are.

This young man had a highly structured suit and strong opinions about the XS.

“Not for me,” he said.

As I made the overly perplexed face I use for strangers, he reached into his pocket and declaimed: “Ta-Da! This is what’s called an iPhone SE!”

“Why have you got that?” I asked.

“Hands like the president,” he replied.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple vs Samsung phones: We compare the Galaxy S series and the iPhone XS

Should you buy the latest Apple or Samsung device? And which size? This guide breaks down the factors that matter most to business buyers and consumers alike.

Six months with Apple Watch 3: I’m sold

I hadn’t worn a watch for 20 years when I bought an Apple Watch Series 3 six months ago. Now I wear it every day. Here’s why — and what I don’t like.

iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: We compare the big phones

Apple and Samsung recently released large flagship smartphones priced at $1,000+. They are close to the same size and have the latest specs, but there are also some significant differences that will lead you to one over the other for your business needs.

Will there be an October Apple event? Signs point to yes

Once again, David Gewirtz puts on his mystical prognostication hat (okay, fine, he launches Excel) to delve into Apple announcement history. Will we see new Macs, iPads, and whatnot in October? There’s a pretty good chance, and we’ll even tell you what dates to write in your calendar.

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Geek+ raises another $100M for its warehouse robots – TechCrunch



Two things are for certain: 1) There continues to be a lot of excitement around warehouse robotics and 2) Geek+ is extremely good at raising money based on that fact. The Beijing-based warehouse robotics firm just raised another $100 million in funding, labeled a “Series E1,” with participation from Intel Capital, Vertex Growth and Qingyue Capital Investment.

The last time we wrote about the company was still fairly early on in the pandemic — June 2020 — when it had just raised a $200 million Series C. Meantime, the company raised an undisclosed Series D last year. Certainly there’s no lack of investor interest in the firm at the moment, with this most recent round valuing Geek+ at somewhere around $2 billion.

I’d say it’s probably a good idea to get funding while the funding’s good. While the space will almost certainly continue to grow, there’s likely to be a bit of a correction here, as investments respond to broader market trends. Meanwhile, Geek+ is posting impressive numbers, including $150 million in revenue last year, coupled with $300 million in orders. As pandemic waves continue to result in shutdowns in China and elsewhere, it’s easy to see why companies continue investing in these technologies.

Geek+ mentions “global expansion” as one of the primary motivators for its seeking additional funding. Notably, fellow Beijing-based firm, ForwardX Robotics expanded into the U.S. earlier this month, on the heels of its own Series C. In July, Geek+ announced deployments in both North and South America. The firm also has multiple partner deals in Europe.

“With the first-mover advantage, Geek+ has already developed a solid competitive advantage in global markets, bringing in a constant driving force for business development,” Geek+ founder and CEO Yong Zheng said in a release. “This, coupled with our three technology pillars of robotics, systems, and algorithms, has not only allowed Geek+ to develop a full product line, but also improve R&D efficiency while reducing R&D costs.”

Of course, stateside expansion finds the companies competing with an already crowded market of domestic warehouse robotics firms that offer a variety of both greenfield and brownfield solutions for automating the warehouse space. Geek+ produces a variety of different robotics systems, though at its core, the company offers a Kiva-style wheeled robot designed to cart around inventory shelves.

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WhatsApp is adding new privacy options, including screenshot blocking and a stealth mode – TechCrunch



WhatsApp is introducing a small flurry of privacy-minded tweaks into the messaging app, the company announced on Tuesday. The Meta-owned globally ubiquitous messaging service says the changes aim to give users more control over their experience while introducing “added layers” to protect their private communications.

WhatsApp will introduce an option for users to privately use the app without being visibly online, something it calls “online presence control.” The feature, which rolls out to everyone this month, will let WhatsApp users curate which contacts can see their online status while hiding it from others. The list of contacts who can view your online status doesn’t have a cap and you can swap people in and out at any time. The company says that the update will come to both its desktop and mobile app offerings.

The company is also testing screenshot blocking for “view once” messages, which disappear after being opened a single time. WhatsApp introduced a disappearing media option a year ago, reminding users at the time that they wouldn’t be able to know if the recipient was saving any shared photos and videos as screenshots. The feature is in testing for now but the company hopes to get it out to users broadly “soon.” (It’s worth remembering that anyone can still take a photo of their screen with a different device, which should make you think twice about getting too comfy on apps with disappearing messaging.)

The last change is another small quality of life update, but a notable enough one. This month, WhatsApp will allow users to leave groups privately without sending out a mass notification that they bailed. Group admins will still get notified, but generally this change should make moving through groups on the app more fluid and less awkward. This change will also roll out to both the desktop and mobile version of the app.

WhatsApp Head of Product Ami Vora described the additions as a boost to the app’s “interlocking layers of protection,” which aim to bolster its status as a prominent encrypted messaging option.

The company has made other efforts over the years. Last fall, it closed one possible weak spot in its encrypted messaging service, adding end-to-end encryption for backups stored in the cloud.

“We’ll keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversation,” Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the new features.

The company’s own messaging isn’t always as tight though: A confusing privacy policy update in early 2021 prompted a backlash, sending users to rival apps. That same update is still reverberating more than a year later, and the European Commission launched a formal investigation into its concerns about the app’s consumer protections earlier this year.


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Big funds ‘screwing with Series A market but not seed market’ says veteran VC Mike Hirshland – TechCrunch



Mike Hirshland is enjoying 2022. Despite the market’s zigs and zags, he has spent much of his time this past summer in Rhode Island, where relatives from afar have gathered on and off for an extended family reunion. He and partner Raanan Bar-Cohen were also able to close their fifth fund with $150 million in capital commitments at winter’s end —  ahead of the stock market collapse that would follow. Indeed, the two now have around $375 million in assets under management at their 11-year-old venture firm, Resolute Ventures.

Yet another reason to feel cheery is what’s happening at their stage of the market, where after a rapid run-up, valuations are slowly but surely coming back down to earth, suggests Hirshland. He says that while Resolute’s pace has been “remarkably consistent,” leading to roughly 10 investments each year that draw initial checks from the firm in the $1 million to $1.5 million range, the “biggest departure” in its history was last year. It was then that both round sizes and valuations ballooned, prompting the firm to write bigger checks while also forcing it to walk away from “really big, really pricey seed rounds” with valuations so lofty that Hirshland feared their next round would be problematic.

That’s not to say it’s all been a walk in the park. Some of Resolute’s best-performing portfolio companies, including Opendoor and Bark & Co., have had their struggles since going public through tie-ups with special purpose acquisition companies.

Another of Resolute’s bets, Clutter — which is also backed by Sequoia Capital and SoftBank — has also found it harder to grow its business than it might have imagined earlier. The outfit merged with a rival in February to bolster its odds of succeeding, but Hirshland, who remains “quite bullish” on Clutter, admits that it isn’t always easy to profitably “move atoms.”

What is not a concern for Hirshland, he insists, is competition. He says Resolute backs founders based largely on their vision and the firm’s belief that the team can build something compelling. (“I’m essentially indifferent if it’s day 1 or day 365, when they can show me some code,” he says.) He argues that other firms, no matter their public messaging, aren’t quite as open-minded, especially not right now.

In fact, asked about later-stage firms like Tiger Global and Insight Partners that have been shifting more of their attention to younger startups, Hirshland, talking with TechCrunch over Zoom, shrugs his shoulders. “Big funds are really screwing with the Series A market,” he says, “but in the seed market, we’re not seeing these guys come that far down.”

Even if they did, adds Hirshland, it wouldn’t last long. “You always see firms announce these big seed initiatives because when things get competitive, people move earlier. But when the shit hits the fan, they go back to focusing on their bread and butter and the cycle just continues.”

Resolute has so far invested roughly $10 million in initial checks from its newest fund. Some of its more recent investments include Signl, a startup that sells business intelligence tools to investors and whose founders sold an earlier company, Bitium, to Google in 2017.

Resolute also recently invested in Nobl9, a so-called service level objective platform whose founders also sold a previous company (Orbitera) to Google.

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