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OnePlus, smart glass, and more tech you need to know today

OnePlus has a new trick, and many will want to see it work. But does it really achieve anything?

Published onJanuary 3, 2020

OnePlus Concept One Sketch

Your tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Friday, January 3. It’s 2020 people!

1. OnePlus Concept One adds smart glass

OnePlus Concept One camera 1

OnePlus has given us an inside look at its OnePlus Concept One smartphone it intends to show off at CES 2020. At least from the glimpse we’ve gotten so far, it doesn’t look like it’s a foldable, dual-display, or like it’s a phone without ports that were all part of some Concept One best guesses put forward.

Instead, it’s about the use of electrochromic glass, a kind of smart glass technology.

Smart glass, what now?

  • In a video released by OnePlus, along with additional information from CEO Pete Lau’s interview with Wired, we now know OnePlus is going to show off a disappearing rear camera.
  • Electrochromic glass will be used in the glass camera housing to shade out the camera lenses you’d normally see, while the camera is not in use.
  • Per Wired, the idea came about because Lau was at British automotive manufacturer McLaren factory in Woking, and saw it being used in the sunroof. It allows McLaren to offer a sunroof that can toggle between an opaque look, all the way to fully transparent to let the sun in on those sunny days (as a $9,100 option, by the way).
  • The Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane windows also offer this as a “virtual blind” to block the sun, instead of the old up and down shutters, which saves on bulk and weight in planes.
  • What Lau saw led to the OnePlus co-founder exploring how the glass might be used in personal devices.
  • Corning has a video here from 2016 when it talked about the glass and shows a demonstration. It’s also been discussed in sci-fi, and in Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (from 2005).

Ok yes great, but… why?

  • As noted, OnePlus is going to use the glass on its smartphone triple-camera to hide the camera lenses. Once you need to take a photo, the glass goes clear, you grab photo like normal, then it fades to black again. There’s a tiny bit of magic on show.
  • Not that this really makes a lot of sense?
  • I like the idea, and I like that it’ll be on show. I like OnePlus exploring a concept and no one has to get mad at all.
  • But I don’t get how it’s really going to be something useful or an important differentiator for someone buying a new phone.
  • I could be wrong!
  • But add to the fact that based on my, ahem, Wikipedia research, the glass is normally transparent, with a voltage applied to make it dark.
  • Given the normal state for a smartphone would be for it to be set dark, that means some drain on the battery in what is a very intensely managed area of smartphones.
  • No one wants to sacrifice any battery life for anything, let alone trick glass on a camera housing.
  • We’ll know more from the device on show at CES 2020.

2. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex Alpha: Who wants a QLED two-in-one for $829? (Android Authority)

3. Google disables Xiaomi support after security cam bug shows other homes (Android Authority)

4. Graphene batteries: What are they and why are they a big deal? (Android Authority)

5. Bombshell: I Was Google’s Head of International Relations. Here’s Why I Left:

To me, no additional evidence was needed that “Don’t be evil” was no longer a true reflection of the company’s values; it was now nothing more than just another corporate marketing tool.” (Medium)

Here’s a reaction I’m not sure I agree with: Google has little choice to be evil or not in today’s fractured internet (TechCrunch)

6. Chipmaker TSMC expected to begin Apple’s A14 5nm chip production in Q2 (

7. Dell updates popular XPS 13 laptop with 16:10 screen, IR camera, and shrinks bottom bezel (Ars Technica)

8. Samsung sold 6.7 million 5G phones in 2019, beating expectations (The Verge)

9. The combined game industry grew 3% to $120.1 billion in 2019, according to market researcher SuperData in its year-end report. Fortnite battle accounted for $1.8 billion of that amount, down from $2.4B in 2018 (VentureBeat). Mobile games did more than 50% of all gaming revenue.

10. Why you can’t sit in first class even when it’s empty (Lifehacker)

11.  Apple signs former HBO chief to a five-year deal with Apple TV Plus (Variety)

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