Google tests a helpful app comparison feature on Google Play – TechCrunch

Google is testing a new feature that could improve discovery for Android apps on Google Play. The company confirmed it’s experimenting with a “Compare Apps” option that would allow Google Play users to quickly and more easily understand the slight differences between otherwise similar apps by comparing specific features and metrics — like star ratings or total downloads, for example.

The feature was first spotted by Android Police, which found it at the bottom of an individual app listing page for a media player on the Play Store (ver. 22.4.28).

Image Credits: Android Police

Google confirmed the feature is live but only as a small test.

After users scrolled down past the app details and reviews, the page offered a comparison chart that allowed users to compare the VLC Player app with other media players across aspects like “Ease of Use,” support for offline play, and various media player specific features — like visual quality (HD, SD, etc.) and controls (gesture control, playback, scrubber, etc.).

The feature may leverage data Google has sourced from questions it asked app reviewers, though that aspect is not clear at this time. It also pulls in other data it already has on file, like the aggregate star rating and how many downloads the app has seen to date, for instance.

Typically, in place of the comparison chart, Google Play would provide a list of “similar apps” at the bottom of the listings page. This is similar to Apple’s “You Might Also Like” app suggestions and common across app stores. The idea with “similar apps” is to help point users researching apps to others in same genre. But making a determination of which to download often requires reading through the app’s descriptions and user reviews, which can be time-consuming.

With a comparison chart, users could more quickly figure out which app was the better fit for their needs, instead of wasting time researching or downloading multiple apps to install only to find they didn’t offer a particular feature the user had wanted.

Google confirmed to TechCrunch this is a “small experiment” that’s currently running, but says it doesn’t have immediate plans for a broader rollout. That’s a shame!

Source link

The Flume 2 Smart Home Water Monitor is a smart, easy-to-use and essential smart home device – TechCrunch

Many smart home gadgets focus on convenience or automation of typically manual tasks, but Flume’s smart water sensor provides a potentially much more vital service: The ability to track how much water you’re consuming, and alert you to potential leaks in you home’s plumbing. The company just released its second-generation Flume Smart Home Water Monitor ($199), and the device is easier to set up and use, and smarter, than ever.

The basics

Flume’s Smart Home Water Monitor consists of a device you affix to your water meter, and a gateway that connects it to your home Wi-Fi network. Installation is super simple and requires no plumbing or any kind of home DIY expertise. The Flume app guides you through installation, and in most cases you should be up and running in less than 10 minutes — plus Flume has live assistance available via chat through the app in case you get stuck.

The Flume monitor provides up-to-date information about your whole home’s water usage, including any consumption from interior or exterior faucets, plumbing and fixtures. It can alert you when it detects suspected leaks based on water behavior, and help you budget your water use if you’re looking to save on your utility bill, or just conserve more water through more efficient usage.

Design and features

The Flume meter is a very impressive example of technology designed for use by just about anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t have its own display or interface, and instead works entirely through the app, but that simplicity is part of its genius. The water monitor itself is encased in a simple gray plastic box, which you attach to your water meter externally using the included rubber straps. All it needs is to be placed on the side of where your meter’s readout is located, and then it’s activated by you simply running water through your system by turning on a faucet. It’s reading the magnetic field generated by your water meter, which the company says can detect any water usage all the way down to one one-hundredth of a gallon — i.e. a slowly dripping faucet.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The meter is powered by four AA batteries that come pre-installed, and you can see the battery status in the app, but those should last a very long time. The meter talks to a Flume bridge, which does need to be connected to power but can be set up pretty much anywhere within Wi-Fi range in your home. The final component is the app, which is available for iOS and Android, and which provides a dashboard visualizing your usage, as well as push notifications you can set up for when the Flume system detects a leak.

In practice, set up is a breeze, and it’s truly amazing how much detail and information Flume can provide, given how easy it is to install and use. The data itself is also incredibly fascinating, and truly resulted in my being more aware about my general water consumption, how it affects my monthly utility bills and how I might be able to conserve water going forward. My home didn’t have a dishwasher when I originally installed the Flume 2, for instance, and I realized how much more water I was using hand-washing dishes versus putting in a small, water-efficient 18-inch dishwasher instead — which was proven out by the Flume data.

Bottom line

You might not realize you need a smart home water sensor, but Flume 2 makes a strong case for everyone investing in one. The simple, practical design and user-friendly app instantly make you a much more informed consumer of water, and can save you a bundle in the long run by detecting leaks early and preventing any more serious and damaging flooding incidents. It also just feels good to be aware of what you’re using, and being able to translate that into direct action to save a little water here and there, for the good of the environment and your monthly spending.

Source link

SpaceX launches Starlink app and provides pricing and service info to early beta testers – TechCrunch

SpaceX has debuted an official app for its Starlink satellite broadband internet service, for both iOS and Android devices. The Starlink app allows users to manage their connection — but to take part you’ll have to be part of the official beta program, and the initial public rollout of that is only just about to begin, according to emails SpaceX sent to potential beta testers this week.

The Starlink app provides guidance on how to install the Starlink receiver dish, as well as connection status (including signal quality), a device overview for seeing what’s connected to your network and a speed test tool. It’s similar to other mobile apps for managing home WiFi connections and routers. Meanwhile, the emails to potential testers that CNBC obtained detail what users can expect in terms of pricing, speeds and latency.

The initial Starlink public beta test is called the “Better Than Nothing Beta Program,” SpaceX confirms in their app description, and will be rolled out across the U.S. and Canada before the end of the year, which matches up with earlier stated timelines. As per the name, SpaceX is hoping to set expectations for early customers, with speeds users can expect ranging from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, and latency of 20ms to 40ms according to the customer emails, with some periods including no connectivity at all. Even with expectations set low, if those values prove accurate, it should be a big improvement for users in some hard-to-reach areas where service is currently costly, unreliable and operating at roughly dial-up equivalent speeds.

Image Credits: SpaceX

In terms of pricing, SpaceX says in the emails that the cost for participants in this beta program will be $99 per moth, plus a one-time cost of $499 initially to pay for the hardware, which includes the mounting kit and receiver dish, as well as a router with WiFi networking capabilities.

The goal eventually is to offer reliable, low-latency broadband that provides consistent connection by handing off connectivity between a large constellation of small satellites circling the globe in low-Earth orbit. Already, SpaceX has nearly 1,000 of those launched, but it hopes to launch many thousands more before it reaches global coverage and offers general availability of its services.

SpaceX has already announced some initial commercial partnerships and pilot programs for Starlink, too, including a team-up with Microsoft to connect that company’s mobile Azure data centers, and a project with an East Texas school board to connect the local community.

Source link

Google’s EU Android choice screen isn’t working say search rivals, calling for a joint process to devise a fair remedy – TechCrunch

Google search engine rivals have dialled up pressure on the European Commission over the tech giant’s ‘pay-to-play’ choice screen for Android users in Europe — arguing the Google-devised auction has failed to remedy antitrust issues identified by the European Commission more than two years ago.

The joint letter to the Commission, which has been signed by Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, Lilo, Qwant and Seznam, requests a trilateral meeting between the EU executive, Google, and the five search rivals — with “the goal of establishing an effective preference menu”.

“We are companies operating search engines that compete against Google. As you know, we are deeply dissatisfied with the so-called remedy created by Google to address the adverse effects of its anticompetitive conduct in the Android case,” they write. “We understand that Google regularly updates you regarding its pay-to-play auction, but it appears that you may not be receiving complete or accurate information.”

A Commission spokeswoman confirmed it’s received the letter and said it will respond in due course, adding that it’s “seen in the past that a choice screen can be an effective way to promote user choice”.

“We have been discussing the choice screen mechanism with Google, following relevant feedback from the market, in particular in relation to the presentation and mechanics of the choice screen and to the selection mechanism of rival search providers,” the spokeswoman also told us, adding that the Commission is “committed to a full and effective implementation of the decision” and “will continue monitoring closely the implementation of the choice screen mechanism”.

Back in 2018 the EU’s antitrust division fined Google $5BN for competition violations related to how it operates its smartphone platform and instructed the company to make good on the issues identified — leading it to offer Android users in Europe a search engine choice screen, rather than simply preloading its own.

Google initially offered a choice based on rivals’ local market share but quickly moved to a paid auction model. This appears to benefit larger, commercial entities at the expense of privacy-focused, regional and not-for-profit alternatives.

Pro-privacy DuckDuckGo has, for example, lost out in recent auctions — while Microsoft-owned Bing has gained more slots. The former lowered how much it bids, saying it believes it cannot profitably win a slot.

European tech for good not-for-profit, Ecosia — which uses search click revenue to fund tree planting — has also denounced the model as unfair, going so far as to boycott it entirely at first. It gave in after seeing its revenue take a massive hit during the coronavirus crisis. (Though failed to gain a slot in almost every market in the most recent auction.)

Google, meanwhile, continue to enjoy a search marketshare in excess of 90% in the region.

The five rivals argue that Google is unfairly constraining the search market by limiting the number of available slots on the choice screen to three (Google’s own search engine is a staple fourth option).

They want a collaborative process to devise a choice screen, rather than Google being allowed to continue to design its own ‘solution’ — favoring a non-paid choice screen with space for many more choices than the current three (non-Google) options, likely with selections based on multiple, pro-competition criteria.

The timing of the letter comes hard on the heels of a competition investigation in the US that’s sparked a similar antitrust case against Google on home turf. The department of Justice filed a long-awaited case against it earlier this month, arguing the tech giant uses a web of exclusionary business agreements to shut out competitors.

Discussing how DuckDuckGo would like to see the Android choice screen evolve, founder Gabe Weinberg told TechCrunch: “We would like to see a properly designed search preference menu that gives people all the search engine options they expect, is free of all dark patterns, and enables search competition to sustainably flourish. Unfortunately, the current implementation meets none of these essential criteria, but we are hopeful that a more collaborative process could fix this failing remedy.”

Another signatory to the letter, France’s Qwant, also brings up the Commission’s goal of regional digital sovereignty — arguing that the Google-devised auction favors US tech giants at the expense of European alternatives, undermining the EU executive’s wider tech ambitions.

“After more or less three to four quarters of auction we are now in the situation where the auction system is seeing the price going up and up every quarter,” Qwant CEO Jean-Claude Ghinozzi told TechCrunch. “The prices are going up and up and competition moves to the large search engine and the global search engine — or the ones that have the ability to invest a lot in this search auction.” 

The result is a return to “unfair competition”, argued Ghinozzi, because the cost of acquiring users via Google’s auction is simply too high for smaller European competitors to participate. With the cost per click to win a slot on the choice screen inflating he suggested the current model essentially amounts to Google outsourcing the cost of its EU antitrust penalty to rivals.

“That’s in this letter to the commissioner. We require an urgent opportunity to discuss — inviting potentially Google if they [wish to participate] — that this mechanism doesn’t work,” he said, adding: “We are just starting to pay the bill for Google because at the end of the day we are getting to a level where it is not acceptable anymore for us as a [smaller] search [engine] to pay such an amount to Google just to be listed.”

“The system should be open and not related to any auction or payment and with a much larger list of search being proposed and provided to the new Android phone users,” he added, calling on the EU’s competition commissioner to “urgently” review the mechanism — and “propose some solutions for opening the European search [market]”.

“After more or less a year of the auction system being active we see that definitely they should look again because it does not work. It does not create a fair market and an open market. So that’s the reason we are coming now with this proposition — we urgently need to totally reconsider.”

Auction participants are constrained in what they can say publicly given Google’s requirement that they sign an NDA. This is another reason why they’re asking for a tripartite meeting — with the rivals expressing concerns that not every stakeholder involved in Google’s auction process is seeing the same data as Google is.

“The problem is that we don’t really know what Google says to the European Commission and what we fear is that they say some things to us that they don’t say to the European Commission,” said Guillaume Champeau, Qwant’s chief ethics and legal affairs officer. “The idea behind the tripartite meeting would be to ensure that we all have around the table the same kind of information and the same kind of answers to our concerns.”

Asked about the letter’s reference to a concern that the Commission is not receiving complete and/or accurate information from Google, Champeau also told us: “It’s really a matter of being sure that all that’s being said is the same. And that it doesn’t change depending on who is on the other side of the table.

“We don’t understand why the European Commission wouldn’t ask for changes to the choice screen based on the information that we have. So the only guess that we have is that it’s based on information that is not accurate. Otherwise we would be probably sure that the European Commission would have required changes to the choice screen even sooner than today.”

“We need to design something that appeals, that resonates with Europeans in Europe,” added Ghinozzi, reiterating that the design of the mechanism shouldn’t be left to the same company that’s been fined for anticompetitive behavior and which maintains up to 90% marketshare in Europe.

We reached out to Google for a response to the complaints about the auction model and it sent us this statement, attributed to a spokesperson:

Android provides people with unprecedented choice in deciding which applications they install, use and set as default on their devices. The choice screen for Europe strikes a careful balance between giving users yet more choice and ensuring that we can continue to invest in developing and maintaining the open-source Android platform for the long-term. The goal for the choice screen is to give all search providers equal opportunity to bid — not to give certain rivals special treatment.

While the Commission has yet to offer any relief to the consistent complaints from Google’s search rivals that the paid choice screen doesn’t meaningfully reset the competitive landscape on Android it is set to introduce a legislation package next month which will update ecommerce regulations and introduce a new set of obligations and requirements for so-called gatekeeper platforms holding dominant market positions — a move that’s being widely interpreted as a push to clip the wings of US tech giants like Google.

Source link

Facebook steps into cloud gaming — and another feud with Apple – TechCrunch

Facebook will soon be the latest tech giant to enter the world of cloud gaming. Their approach is different than what Microsoft or Google has built, but Facebook highlights a shared central challenge: dealing with Apple.

Facebook is not building a console gaming competitor to compete with Stadia or xCloud; instead, the focus is wholly on mobile games. Why cloud stream mobile games that your device is already capable of running locally? Facebook is aiming to get users into games more quickly and put less friction between a user seeing an advertisement for a game and actually playing it themselves. Users can quickly tap into the title without downloading anything, and if they eventually opt to download the title from a mobile app store, they’ll be able to pick up where they left off.

Facebook’s service will launch on the desktop web and Android, but not iOS due to what Facebook frames as usability restrictions outlined in Apple’s App Store terms and conditions.

With the new platform, users will  be able to start playing mobile games directly from Facebook ads. Image via Facebook.

While Apple has suffered an onslaught of criticism in 2020 from developers of major apps like Spotify, Tinder and Fortnite for how much money they take as a cut from revenues of apps downloaded from the App Store, the plights of companies aiming to build cloud gaming platforms have been more nuanced and are tied to how those platforms are fundamentally allowed to operate on Apple devices.

Apple was initially slow to provide a path forward for cloud gaming apps from Google and Microsoft, which had previously been outlawed on the App Store. The iPhone maker recently updated its policies to allow these apps to exist, but in a more convoluted capacity than the platform makers had hoped, forcing them to first send users to the App Store before being able to cloud stream a gaming title on their platform.

For a user downloading a lengthy single-player console epic, the short pitstop is an inconvenience, but long-time Facebook gaming exec Jason Rubin says that the stipulations are a non-starter for what Facebook’s platform envisions, a way to start playing mobile games immediately without downloading anything.

“It’s a sequence of hurdles that altogether make a bad consumer experience,” Rubin tells TechCrunch.

Apple tells TechCrunch that they have continued to engage with Facebook on bringing its gaming efforts under its guidelines and that platforms can reach iOS by either submitting each individual game to the App Store for review or operating their service on Safari.

In terms of building the new platform onto the mobile web, Rubin says that without being able to point users of their iOS app to browser-based experiences, as current rules forbid, Facebook doesn’t see pushing its billions of users to accessing the service primarily from a browser as a reasonable alternative. In a Zoom call, Rubin demonstrates how this  could operate on iOS, with users tapping an advertisement inside the app and being redirected to a game experience in mobile Safari.

“But if I click on that, I can’t go to the web. Apple says, ‘No, no, no, no, no, you can’t do that,’ ” Rubin tells us. “Apple may say that it’s a free and open web, but what you can actually build on that web is dictated by what they decide to put in their core functionality.”

Facebook VP of Play Jason Rubin. Image via Facebook.

Rubin, who co-founded the game development studio Naughty Dog in 1994 before it was acquired by Sony in 2001, has been at Facebook since he joined Oculus months after its 2014 acquisition was announced. Rubin had previously been tasked with managing the games ecosystem for its virtual reality headsets; this year he was put in charge of the company’s gaming initiatives across their core family of apps as the company’s VP of Play.

Rubin, well familiar with game developer/platform skirmishes, was quick to distinguish the bone Facebook had to pick with Apple and complaints from those like Epic Games, which sued Apple this summer.

“I do want to put a pin in the fact that we’re giving Google 30% [on Android]. The Apple issue is not about money,” Rubin tells TechCrunch. “We can talk about whether or not it’s fair that Google takes that 30%. But we would be willing to give Apple the 30% right now, if they would just let consumers have the opportunity to do what we’re offering here.”

Facebook is notably also taking a 30% cut of transaction within these games, even as Facebook’s executive team has taken its own shots at Apple’s steep revenue fee in the past, most recently criticizing how Apple’s App Store model was hurting small businesses during the pandemic. This saga eventually led to Apple announcing that it would withhold its cut through the end of the year for ticket sales of small businesses hosting online events.

Apple’s reticence to allow major gaming platforms a path toward independently serving up games to consumers underscores the significant portion of App Store revenues that could be eliminated by a consumer shift toward these cloud platforms. Apple earned around $50 billion from the App Store last year, CNBC estimates, and gaming has long been their most profitable vertical.

Though Facebook is framing this as an uphill battle against a major platform for the good of the gamer, this is hardly a battle between two underdogs. Facebook pulled in nearly $70 billion in ad revenues last year, and improving their offerings for mobile game studios could be a meaningful step toward increasing that number, something Apple’s App Store rules threaten.

For the time being, Facebook is keeping this launch pretty conservative. There are just 5-10 titles that are going to be available at launch, Rubin says. Facebook is rolling out access to the new service, which is free, this week across a handful of states in America, including California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. The hodge-podge nature of the geographic rollout is owed to the technical limitations of cloud-gaming — people have to be close to data centers where the service has rolled out in order to have a usable experience. Facebook is aiming to scale to the rest of the U.S. in the coming months, they say.

Source link

How Twitter was hacked, GitHub DMCA backfires – TechCrunch

One week to the U.S. presidential election and things are getting spicy.

It’s not just the rhetoric — hackers are actively working to disrupt the election, officials have said, and last week they came with a concrete example and an unusually quick pointing of blame.

On Wednesday night, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe blamed Iran for an email operation designed to intimidate voters in Florida into voting for President Trump “or else.” Ratcliffe, who didn’t take any questions from reporters and has been accused of politicizing the typically impartial office, said Iran had used voter registration data — which is largely public in the U.S. — to send emails that looked like they came from the far-right group the Proud Boys. Google security researchers also linked the campaign to Iran, which denied claims of its involvement. It’s estimated about 2,500 emails went through in the end, with the rest getting caught in spam filters.

The announcement was lackluster in detail. But experts like John Hultquist, who heads intelligence analysis at FireEye-owned security firm Mandiant, said the incident is “clearly aimed at undermining voter confidence,” just as the Russians attempted during the 2016 election.

 


THE BIG PICTURE

Twitter was hacked using a fake VPN portal, New York investigation finds

The hackers who broke into Twitter’s network used a fake VPN page to steal the credentials — and two-factor authentication code — of an employee, an investigation by New York’s Department of Financial Affairs found. The state tax division got involved after the hackers then hijacked user accounts using an internal “admin tool” to spread a cryptocurrency scam.

In a report published last week, the department said the hackers called several Twitter employees and used social engineering to trick one employee into entering their username and password on a site that looked like the company’s VPN portal, which most employees use to access the network from home during the pandemic.

“As the employee entered their credentials into the phishing website, the hackers would simultaneously enter the information into the real Twitter website. This false log-in generated a [two-factor authentication] notification requesting that the employees authenticate themselves, which some of the employees did,” wrote the report. Once onto the network using the employee’s VPN credentials, the hackers used that access to investigate how to access the company’s internal tools.

Twitter said in September that its employees would receive hardware security keys, which would make it far more difficult for a repeat phishing attack to be successful.

Open-source YouTube download tool hit by DMCA takedown, but backfires



Source link

Quibi dies, Snapchat soars, Halide upgrades for iPhone 12 – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

Quibi dies…and no one was surprised

There was so much wrong with Quibi’s premise that it’s sometimes hard to even know where to start. But at the core, its problem was that it fundamentally misunderstood how, when and why users would watch video on their phones.

The company’s thinking was that you could fund high-production value content ($100K/minute, yikes) then chop it up into smaller “bites,” add a technology layer, then call this a reinvention of cinema.

The reality is there was little demand for this sort of content, and it didn’t fit with how people want to be entertained on their phones.

When people want to appreciate high-quality filmmaking (or even TV production), they tend to want a bigger screen — they’ve spent money for their fancy high-def or 4K TV, after all. Pre-COVID, they might even pay to go a movie theater. On mobile, the production value of content is far less of a concern, if it even registers.

Quibi also misunderstood what users want to watch in terms of video on their phones when they have a few minutes to kill.

By positioning its app in this space, it had to compete with numerous and powerful sources for “short-form” content — existing apps like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook (e.g. News Feed content, Watch feeds), Instagram Stories, Snapchat and so on. This is content you don’t have to get invested in, since you’re just distracting yourself from a few minutes of boredom. It’s not a time or place to engage with a longer story — chopped or otherwise.

Quibi also cut the length of content to serve its artificial limitations — at the expense of story quality and enjoyment.

A reality show dumbed down to just its highlights is almost unwatchable, as it exposes the editors’ machinations and manipulations that are better hidden among longer stretches of fluff. And there was simply no reason to cut down movies — like Quibi’s “The Dangerous Game,” for example — into pieces. It didn’t elevate the storytelling; it distracted from it. And if you wanted a quick news update (e.g. Quibi’s “Daily Essentials”), you didn’t need a whole new app for that.

Quibi content may have been considered “high quality,” but it often wasn’t good. (I still can’t believe I sat through an episode of “Dishmantled,” where chefs had to recreate dishes of food that were thrown in their face. And Quibi had the nerve to shame YouTube’s low-quality and lack of talent?!)

Quibi also wanted to charge for its service, but its catalog wasn’t designed for families, with content that ranged from kids to adult programming. It didn’t offer parental controls. This immediately limited its competitiveness.

At launch, Quibi also limited itself to the phone, which meant it limited your ability to use the phone as a second screen while you watched a show. (There was no PiP support). TechCrunch has been writing about phones as the second screen for the better part of a decade, often with a focus on startups. But in Quibi’s case, it killed the second screen experience, seemingly forgetting that people text friends, order food, check Twitter and peek in on other apps while a TV show plays in the background. Did it really think that a reboot of “Punk’d” deserved our full attention?

Quibi naturally blamed COVID for its failure to thrive. It had imagined a world where users had ample time to kill while out and about: commuting on the subway, standing in long lines, that sort of thing.

But even this premise was flawed. It would have eventually caught up to Quibi, too; COVID just accelerated it. The issue is that Quibi imagined the U.S. as only a swath of urban metros where public transportation is abundant and standing in lines is the norm. In reality, more than half (52%) the U.S. is described as suburban, 27% is urban and 21% is rural. Non-urban commuters often drive themselves to work. Sure, they could stream Quibi during those commutes, but not really look at it. So why burn high-production value on them? And standing in long lines, believe it or not, is not actually that common in smaller cities and towns, either. If it only takes two minutes to grab a coffee or a burrito before you hop back in your car, do you really want to start a new show?

So where would that have left Quibi? Hoping for Gen Z’ers attention as they lounge around their bedrooms looking for something to do? And yet it wanted to appeal to these kids using Hollywood A-Listers they don’t even know? As COVID pressed down, it left Quibi in competition with (often arguably better) content that streamed natively on the TV from apps like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, and others where you could binge through seasons at once instead of waiting every week for a new “quick bite” to drop.

There’s more, so much more that could still be said, including the fact that a former eBay and HP CEO may not be the right person to lead a company that wanted to dazzle a younger demographic. Or how its video-flipping TurnStyle feature was clever, but added complexity to filmmaking, and was not enough of a technological leap to build a business around. Or how, no matter how much money it had raised, it was still not enough, compared with the massive budgets of competitors like Netflix and Amazon.

You can read a further post-mortem round-up here. And another here. Because we can’t get enough post-mortems, apparently.

In the meantime, TikTok still isn’t banned.

Snap hits record $50B valuation

Snapchat’s maker was forecast to bring around $555 million in revenues in Q3 but posted $679 million instead, a 52% YoY increase, in a surprise earnings beat. EPS were an adjusted $0.01, beating an expected loss of $0.04. The company also grew daily active users by 4% (11 million) to 249 million, an 18% YoY increase. Snap’s net loss of $200 million was a 12% improvement over last year, too.

As a result of the earnings, shares jumped nearly 30% the next day and its valuation cracked $50 billion for the first time, a record high.

During earnings, the company touted it now reaches 90% of the Gen Z population and 75% of millennials in the U.S., U.K. and France. User growth was attributed to new products, including Profiles, Minis, Lens creation tools and AR ads. In particular, Snap leveraged the Facebook ad boycott to reach out to brands that wanted to “realign their marketing efforts” with companies that “share their corporate values,” the company said.

Snap also just launched its TikTok competitor, Sounds on Snapchat, which lets users add licensed music to their Stories.

Platforms

  • Apple releases iOS and iPadOS 14.1. The first major update to iOS 14 delivers multiple bug fixes, including those impacting widgets, streaming video and Family Setup on Apple Watch, among others. It also added support for 10-bit HDR video playback and editing in Photos on iPhone 8 and later.
  • iOS 14 bug continues to reset default email and browser apps. After updating your preferred email or browser app, iOS 14 forgets what third-party app you’ve set as the default. Yes, it was doing this before. Are we still so sure it’s a bug?
  • DOJ antitrust lawsuit goes after the multibillion-dollar deal that positioned Google as the default search engine on browsers, phones and other Apple devices.
  • AirTags patent applications describe use cases like locating the nearest defibrillator, monitoring users’ posture and playing avatar-based games, giving a little more insight into how Apple envisions the future of its smartphone-findable tags.
  • Google embraces iOS 14 widgets. Google already offered one of the more useful widgets for iOS 14 with its Search widget, which has been downloaded by “millions.” This week, it introduced more, including a Google Photos widget that let you revisit your memories, and a YouTube Music widget.
  • RCS support in Android Messages expands. Following the U.S. debut, RCS has rolled out to a number of new countries, and can now be found in Italy, Portugal, Singapore, Argentina, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, Denmark, Netherlands, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Kosovo, Lithuania, New Zealand, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Australia, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Uganda and Ukraine. The last nine were just this month.

Trends

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

  • Buy Now, Pay Later app usage in the U.S. up 186% year-over-year as of Sept. According to Sensor Tower, apps that let consumers make purchases on payment plans have been climbing steadily this year since the COVID-19 pandemic. The report looked at Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay and QuadPay, which together have generated 18 million lifetime installs across the App Store and Google Play. Installs were up 115% YoY in September, while monthly actives were up 186%.
  • U.S. contact-tracing apps are a disjointed wreck. The WSJ examined the state of COVID-19 contact-tracing apps in the U.S. and found that states focusing on their own efforts, due to the lack of a national plan, has left a disjointed patchwork of tools. Only 10 states, plus D.C., have used the framework built by Google and Apple; 11 are piloting or building apps. The EU, meanwhile, switched on cross-border interoperability for its first batch of tracing apps.
  • Gen Z spends 10% more time using top non-game apps than older users, at 4.1+ hours per month. The figure excludes pre-installed apps and was calculated on Android devices in select markets, including the U.S. Gen Z users also engaged with non-game apps more often than older users, at 120 sessions per month per app.
  • U.S. consumers spend $20.78/mo on average on their app subscriptions, according to new data from Adjust. The 25 to 34-year-old age group spends the most on subscription apps at $25.85/mo, while those 55 and over spend the least, at $13.97/mo. In addition, more than a quarter of millennials and Gen Z consumers said they have stopped paying for other services in order to buy subscriptions on mobile app services (e.g. option for fitness apps over going to the gym).
  • Dating apps are on the rise in the U.S., says Apptopia. New users for Hily, Match, BLK, Bumble and Grindr are on pace to grow month-over-month at 32%, 28%, 20%, 18% and 11%, respectively.

 

Services

  • Amazon’s Luna game streaming service opens in early access to its first customers. The service offers a library of 50 games and works on Mac, PC, Amazon Fire TV, and iOS devices, courtesy of a web app to work around the App Store rules. Initial reviews describe the service as sometimes struggling with performance over Wi-Fi, but offering a good web app experience. Luna features some big titles but xCloud still has the better lineup. Its real killer feature, however, may be the promised Twitch integration, arriving in the future.
  • SoundCloud launches a $19.99/month DJ plan, SoundCloud DJ, that offers unlimited offline access to its catalog. Users can also stream high-quality audio and mix tracks using select DJ apps, including Virtual DJ, Cross DJ and Denon DJ.
  • Put your five-star reviews on your home screen. IMore spotted a must-have motivational tool for developers: a way to put your app’s five-star reviews as a widget on your home screen; $1.99 for this happiness boost.

Security/Privacy

Deadpool

  • Apple quietly discontinues its Apple TV Remote app. The app was removed from the App Store on Wednesday. Users are now expected to use the Remote feature built into the Control Center since iOS 12 instead.
  • Google will end support for its location-sharing Trusted Contacts app in December, and removes it from the Play Store. Users are directed to use similar features in Google Maps instead for finding friends and family.

Policies and Politics

  • Coalition for App Fairness more than doubles a month after its debut. The Coalition for App Fairness (CAF), a newly formed advocacy group pushing for increased regulation over app stores, has more than doubled in size with this week’s announcement of 20 new partners. The organization, led by top app publishers and critics, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, Spotify and others, debuted in late September to fight back against Apple and Google’s control over app stores, and particularly the stores’ rules around in-app purchases and commissions.

App News

  • Facebook to increase investments in WhatsApp for business. The company said it will expand Shopping on WhatsApp and will charge businesses for some of the services it offers on the chat app, in order to grow revenues. This includes offering to manage businesses’ WhatsApp messages via Facebook’s own hosting services. Facebook offered this info as more of a look into its roadmap, but without specifics on new services or pricing.
  • Facebook is cloning Nextdoor. The feature is in testing in Canada and sees Facebook automatically generating neighborhood groups to connect local users with people, activities and items for sale.
  • Court approves Kik’s settlement with SEC. The ruling ends a multi-year court battle by allowing Kik to pay a one-time $5 million fine for its violation of securities law for failing to register its 2017 distribution of its Kin tokens in its ICO.
  • Roblox passes $2B in mobile player spending ahead of its planned IPO. The company’s revenues, accelerated by the pandemic, crossed the $1.5 billion mark in May 2020, then picked up another $500 million in five months, says Sensor Tower.
  • Cameo enters B2B sales. The custom celebrity video app repositions its business of personalized greetings for B2B sales through an integration and rev share agreement with corporate gifting platform Sendoso.
  • Adobe adds a chain of custody tool in the beta release of Photoshop and Behance that will fight misinformation and keep content attributed properly.
  • Stitcher’s podcasts come to Pandora as acquisition completes. The Stitcher app also got a revamp following the deal’s finalization. The move brought several bigger podcast titles in house, thanks to Earwolf, including “Freakonomics Radio,” “My Favorite Murder,” “SuperSoul Conversations from the Oprah Winfrey Network,” “Office Ladies,” “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” “Literally! with Rob Lowe,” “LeVar Burton Reads” and “WTF with Marc Maron.”
  • NYT has an iOS 14 widget now. The new widget will put NYT headlines on your home screen. Note that while the widget can be installed by anyone, if you want to click through to read, you’ll still need to be a subscriber.
  • PicsArt brings its app-based design tools to the web. The creative platform is chasing business users with the launch of its AI tools on picsart.com. The debut suite includes a template editor, background and object remover, video slideshow maker, text editor, and others.
  • Chinese tutoring app Yuanfudao has raised $2.2 billion from investors, surpassing Byju’s as the most valuable edtech company in the world, as it’s now worth $15.5 billion.
  • Retool raises $50M in funding, led by Sequoia, for its low-code tools for building internal apps that work on either desktop or mobile. The new round values the business at nearly $1 billion. Other backers include GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison, Brex Inc. founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi and Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham.
  • Syte raises $40M to bring visual shoppers to e-commerce retailers. Visual search is already popular in apps like Google, Pinterest and eBay, but Syte wants under retailers to have the option. The round was led by return investor Viola Ventures.
  • 98point6 raises $118M for its AI-powered telemedicine platform that works on web and mobile (iOS and Android).

Halide Mark II

Image Credits: Lux

The developers of popular pro iPhone camera apps Halide and Spectre this week launched their latest creation, the Halide Mark II camera app. The new interface has been designed for one-handed operation and includes a range of new features.

These include a new gesture-based automatic and manual switcher; tactile touch for enabling and disabling features like exposure warnings, focus peaking, and loupe as you adjust exposure or focus; an overhauled manual mode; new dynamic labeling of controls and actions to explain features to new users; support for the edge-to-edge interface of the iPhone 12 models; a redesigned reviewer with a full metadata read-out; in-app memberships for photo lessons; and over 40 more changes.

A new “Coverage” feature can take a photo with Smart HDR 2/3 and Deep Fusion for maximum quality and computational processing as well as a RAW file — with only a slight delay between captures.

Image Credits: Lux

Halide Mark II also uses machine learning to process an iPhone RAW file in the app (ProRAW) with 17 steps, including detail enhancement, contrast and color adjustment and more. This feature, called Instant RAW, intelligently develops the file to get the best possible results.

And the app includes top pro tools, like a new waveform and color exposure warnings (zebras) that use XDR (Extended Dynamic Range) 14-bit RAW sampling, for accurate exposure previews and readings.

The app is $36 (currently $30 during a promo period) if you want to only pay once. Otherwise it’s $11.99 per year on subscription (currently $9.99 per year if you lock in the price now during the promo period). Subscribers to the membership plan also get perks, like custom icons. Existing Halide 1 users, unbelievably, are upgraded for free but are asked to support the app with a membership.

ClipDrop — AR Copy Paste

A new app called ClipDrop launches on iOS, Android, macOS and Windows as a new sort of “copy and paste” experience. The app uses state-of-the-art vision AI to copy images from your desktop with a screenshot to any other app (e.g. Docs, Photoshop, Canva, etc.) and it allows you to extract anything — objects, people, drawings or text.

The mobile app lets you snap photos of real-world items and then digitally transfer them to other apps or websites. In the below demo, the company shows how you could “clip” an image of an article of clothing using the camera, then import the photo into a document.

The company also just released a plugin for Photoshop that lets you drop the image into its app as a new layer with an editable mask.

The app is $39.99 per year (until November 2020, when it ups to $79.99 per year.)

Adobe Illustrator on iPad + Adobe Fresco on iPhone

Image Credits: Adobe

As part of Adobe’s virtual MAX 2020 conference this week, the company launched the first public version of its Illustrator vector graphics app on the iPad and brought its Fresco drawing and painting app to the iPhone. In time, the company plans to bring more effects, brushes and AI features to Illustrator. Fresco 2.0, meanwhile, includes new smudge brushes and support for personalized brushes, among other things.

Party Squasher

Designed for landlords, Airbnb owners or other vacation rental property owners, Party Squasher offers a hardware device and paired mobile app that counts the number of people at your house by counting the mobile phones in or around a house. The phones can be counted even if they’re not connected to the home’s Wi-Fi.

Because the device doesn’t include cameras or microphones, it’s ideal for ensuring that renters aren’t hosting large (and these days, potentially illegal) parties without violating privacy.

In the event that a large gathering is present, you’re sent a text or email so you can take action.

The device is $249 and the app charges a $199 per year subscription.

 

The No. 1 game in the App Store is now Among Us!.

Can you guess why?



Source link

Google removes 3 Android apps for children, with 20M+ downloads between them, over data collection violations – TechCrunch

When it comes to apps, Android leads the pack with nearly 3 million apps in its official Google Play store. The sheer volume also means that sometimes iffy apps slip through the cracks.

Researchers at the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC), a nonprofit watchdog based out of Boston, found that a trio of popular and seemingly innocent-looking apps aimed at younger users were recently found to be violating Google’s data collection policies, potentially accessing users’ Android ID and AAID (Android Advertising ID) numbers, with the data leakage potentially connected to the apps being built using SDKs from Unity, Umeng and Appodeal.

Collectively, the apps had more than 20 million downloads between them.

The three apps in question — Princess Salon​, Number Coloring and ​Cats & Cosplay — have now been removed from the Google Play app store, as you can see in the links above. Google confirmed to us that it removed the apps after IDAC brought the violations to its attention.

“We can confirm that the apps referenced in the report were removed,” said a Google spokesperson. “Whenever we find an app that violates our policies, we take action.”

The violations point to a wider concern with the three publishers’ approach to adhering to data protection policies. “The practices we observed in our research raised serious concerns about data practices within these apps,” said IDAC president Quentin Palfrey.

The incident is being highlighted at a time when a lot of attention is being focused on Google and the size of its operation. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 states sued the company, accusing it of monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior in search and search advertising.

To be clear, the app violations here are not related to search, but they underscore the scale of Google’s operation, and how even small oversights can lead to tens of millions of users being affected. They also serve as a reminder of the challenges of proactively policing individual violations on such a scale, and that those challenges can land in a particularly risky area: how minors use apps.

At least in the case of two of the publishers, Creative APPS and Libii Tech (whose apps are built around the cast of characters illustrated at the top of this story), other apps are still live. And it also appears that versions of the apps are also still downloadable through APK sites (like this one). There are also versions on iOS (for example here), but IDAC’s tech team said that in an initial analysis, it didn’t immediately see analogous concerns, but will continue to monitor the situation.

The violation in this case is complex but is an example of one of the ways that users can unknowingly be tracked through apps.

Pointing to the behind-the-scenes activity and data processing that gets loaded into innocent-looking apps, IDAC highlighted three SDKs in particular used by the app developers: the Unity 3D and game engine, Umeng (an Alibaba-owned analytics provider known as the “Flurry of China” that some have described also as an adware provider) and Appodeal (another app monetization and analytics provider) — as the source of the issues.

Palfrey explained that the problem lies in how the data that the apps were able to access by way of the SDKs could be linked up with other kinds of data, such as geolocation information. “If AAID information is transmitted in tandem with a persistent identifier [such as Android ID] it’s possible for the protection measures that Google puts in place for privacy protection to be bridged,” he said.

IDAC did not specify the violations in all of the SDKs, but noted in one example that certain versions of Unity’s SDK were collecting both the user’s AAID and Android ID simultaneously, and that could have allowed developers “to bypass privacy controls and track users over time and across devices.”

IDAC describes the AAID as “the passport for aggregating all of the data about a user in one place.” It lets advertisers target ads to users based on signals for preferences that a user might have. The AAID can be reset by users. However, if an SDK is also providing a link to a users Android ID, which is a static number, it starts to create a “bridge” to identify and track a user.

Palfrey would not get too specific on whether it could determine how much data was actually drawn as a result of the violations that it identified, but Google said that it was continuing to work on partnerships and procedures to catch similar (intentional or otherwise) bad actors.

“One example of the work we are doing here is the Families ad certification program, which we announced in 2019),” said the spokesperson. “For apps that wish to serve ads in kids and families apps, we ask them to use only ad SDKs that have self-certified compliance with kids/families policies. We also require that apps that solely target children not contain any APIs or SDKs that are not approved for use in child-directed services.”

IDAC, which was launched in April 2020 as a spin-off of the Future of Privacy Forum, has also carried out investigations into data privacy violations on fertility apps and COVID-19 trackers, and earlier this week it also published findings on data leakage from an older version of Twitter’s MoPub SDK affecting millions of users.

Source link

Kite adds support for 11 new languages to its AI code completion tool – TechCrunch

When Kite, the well-funded AI-driven code completion tool, launched in 2019, its technology looked very impressive, but it only supported Python at the time. Earlier this year, it added JavaScript, and today it is launching support for 11 new languages.

The new languages are Java, Kotlin, Scala, C/C++, Objective C, C#, Go, TypeScript, HTML/CSS and Less. Kite works in most popular development environments, including the likes of VS Code, JupyterLab, Vim, Sublime and Atom, as well as all JetBrains IntelliJ-based IDEs, including Android Studio.

This will make Kite a far more attractive solution for a lot of developers. Currently, the company says, it saves its most active developers from writing about 175 “words” of code every day. One thing that always made Kite stand out is that it ranks its suggestions by relevance — not alphabetically as some of its non-AI driven competitors do. To build its models, Kite fed its algorithms code from GitHub .

The service is available as a free download and as a server-powered paid enterprise version with a larger deep learning model that consequently offers more AI smarts, as well as the ability to create custom models. The paid version also includes support for multi-line code completion, while the free version only supports line-of-code completions.

Kite notes that in addition to adding new languages, Kite also spent the last year focusing on the user experience, which should now be less distracting and, of course, offer more relevant completions.

Image Credits: Kite

Source link

Apple’s big event, lidar comes to iPhone, Android gets a new IDE – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

Apple introduces four new iPhones (and more)

Apple hosted its iPhone event this week, where it introduced the new iPhone 12… and the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max — effectively plugging all the holes in the market. With the release of the four new iPhones, app developers will have a range of devices to build for, from small to very large — the 12 Pro Max, for example, introduces the iPhone’s biggest-ever screen and the highest resolution, at nearly 3.5M pixels.

It also, of course, includes serious camera improvements, from a redesign of the three-lens system to including a new deeper telephoto camera, now a 65 mm-equivalent instead of 52 mm, as on previous models. There’s also an improved wide-angle lens, larger sensor, the addition of sensor-level image stabilization and a revamped Night Mode. Photographers will appreciate the new Apple ProRAW format, as well. (More on that here).

The iPhone 12 mini, meanwhile, aims to serve the customer base that prefers a smaller phone, like the iPhone SE, but without sacrificing functionality.

All the devices share some key features, including 5G connectivity, the new MagSafe connector for wireless charging and snap-on magnetic accessories, OLED displays and the A14 chip. They also have a more classic look, with straight edges that allow for additional antennas, providing next-gen wireless connectivity.

One of the bigger differences, however, between the Pro models and the regular iPhone 12 is the addition of the LiDAR Scanner, which is also found in the latest iPad Pro. The scanner measures how long it takes for light to reach an object and reflect back. The new depth-sensing technology has big implications for AR, as it allows augmented reality objects to interact with objects in the real world. AR apps will be more user-friendly, too, as they won’t need to first scan the room to place the AR object in the real world. It can be placed instantly.

Apple is leveraging the sensor for the iPhone 12 Pro camera to offer up to 6x faster focus in low-light conditions. Developers, meanwhile, can leverage lidar for use cases like AR-enabled games that work in the real world, social media (like Snapchat’s new lidar-powered Lens), home design and improvement apps involving room scans, spatial layout planning (like JigSpace), better AR shopping experiences and more.

The company also announced an affordable version of its HomePod smart speaker, the $99 HomePod Mini. The item works best for those fully locked inside the Apple universe, as it will stream a handful of music services, but not one of the most popular — Spotify. However, Apple also introduced a nifty feature for the HomePod devices, Intercom, which lets you send announcements across the speakers. While Apple and Google have offered a similar feature for their smart speakers, Intercom also works across other Apple devices, including iPhone, iPod, AirPods and even CarPlay. (What, no Mac?)

If Apple isn’t too late to capture smart speaker market share, the new speaker could see more users adopting smart home devices they can voice control through the HomePod Mini.

During the event, Apple also subtly snubbed its nose at Epic’s Fortnite with the announcement that
League of Legends: Wild Rift would be coming to iPhone 12 to take advantage of its new 5G capabilities and A14 Bionic chip.

Platforms

  • Lidar comes to iPhone 12 Pro. Developers can now build AR experiences that interact with real-world objects, and AR apps can now instantly place AR objects in the real world without scanning the room. The update will mean a huge increase in the usability of AR apps but is limited to the Pro model of iPhone for now. Snapchat is already using it.
  • Apple developers can now make their apps available for pre-order even earlier — up to 180 days before release on the App Store.
  • Android Studio 4.1 launches. The new, stable version of the IDE for building Android apps introduces better TensorFlow Lite support and a new database inspector. The team also fixed a whopping 2,370 bugs during this release cycle and closed 275 public issues.
  • Google introduces the Android for Cars library. The library, now in open beta, gives developers tools to design, develop and test new navigation, parking or charging apps for Android Auto. The Google Play Store will be enabled for publishing beta apps in the “coming months.”
  • Google stops selling music. The company no longer sells tracks and albums on its Play Store, shifting all its focus to YouTube Music. The latter also just launched on Apple Watch this week.

Trends

  • Shopping apps forecast. U.S. consumers were expected to spend 60M hours in Android shopping apps during Prime Day week, (which just wrapped) according to one forecast from App Annie.
  • Prime Day downloads grow. Sensor Tower estimates global installs of the Amazon app grew 23% year-over-year, to 684K, as Prime Day neared. Installs on Wednesday were up 33% to 750K. However, U.S. installs were down by 22% 10/13-10/14. Apptopia noted that app sessions, however, were up 27% year-over-year.
  • Shopping, Food & Drink app launches up more than 50% year-over-year. Shopping apps grew 52% while Food & Drink apps grew 60%, due to COVID-19 impacts, according to Sensor Tower.
  • Subscriptions. U.S. consumers spend $20.78 per month on app subscriptions, Adjust study says.
  • TikTok sale impact on ad industry. 73% of marketers said a TikTok sale in the U.S. would impact their 2021 advertising plans. 41% also believed the deal could allow Walmart to overtake Amazon in e-commerce.
  • Amazon expands AR experimentation to its boxes. The retailer launched a new AR application that works with QR codes on the company’s shipping boxes to create “interactive, shareable” AR experiences, like a pumpkin that comes to life.

Security

  • Robinhood said a “limited number” of its users’ accounts were hacked. The service itself was not hacked, but around 2,000 customers had accounts compromised by cybercriminals who first compromised users’ personal emails outside the trading app.

Other News

  • Zoom’s new events platform brings apps to video conferencing calls.
  • Messenger update brings new features, including cross-app communication with Instagram. The app gets fun features like chat themes, custom reactions and, soon, selfie stickers and vanish mode. But the bigger news is the (potentially anti-competitive) merging of Facebook’s chat platforms.
  • Life360 leverages TikTok teens’ complaints to start a dialogue and invent a new feature, “Bubbles,” which allows teens (or anyone) to share a generalized location instead of an exact one. The feature gives teens a bit more freedom to roam and make choices without so much parental oversight. Parents, meanwhile, can still be sure their teen is OK, as features like emergency SOS and crash alerts remain functional.
  • Must-read: The MacStories iOS and iPadOS 14 Review. Federico Viticci offers a 23-page deep dive into the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.
    • Future raises $24M Series B for its $150/mo workout coaching app amid at-home fitness boom. The app pairs users with real-life fitness coaching for personal training at home. The round was led by Trustbridge Partners with Caffeinated Capital and Series A investors Kleiner Perkins participating.
    • River raises $10.4M for its app offering news, events and other happenings from around the web, ranging from news stories from top publishers to sports to even notable tweets. The app presents the information in a real-time stream, browsed vertically. There’s also a “For You” page, similar to TikTok.
    • Roblox confidentially filed with the SEC to go public. This cross-platform gaming platform has boomed during coronavirus lockdowns. According to reports, the listing could double Robox’s $4B valuation.
    • Robo Adviser Wealthsimple raises $87M. The funding for the investing app with comparisons to Robinhood was led by Menlo Park-based Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), valuing the business at $1B.
    • Fitness platform Playbook raises $9.3M. The company offers tools for personal trainers who want to make their own videos, which consumers then browse in Playbook’s mobile app. Backers include E.ventures, Michael Ovitz, Abstract, Algae Ventures, Porsche Ventures and FJ Labs.
    • Live streaming app Moment House raises $1.5M seed. The startup aims to recreate live events in a digital format. LA area investors invested, including Scooter Braun, Troy Carter, Kygo’s Palm Tree Crew and Jared Leto. Patreon chief executive Jack Conte and Sequoia Capital partner Jess Lee also participated.
    • Twilio acquires Segment for $3.2B to help developers build data-fueled apps.
    • E-learning platform Kahoot raises $215M from SoftBank. The Norwegian startup claims to have hosted 1.3 billion “participating players” in the last 12 months. The company’s gamified e-learning platform is used both in schools and in enterprise environments.

Mycons

Mycons is a new app that makes it easier for users, including non-designers, to create and buy custom icons for their iOS home screen makeovers. In the app’s “Icon Studio,” users can create icons by swapping out the background, choosing a symbol and placing it on the icon accordingly. You can also create a whole set of icons in a batch export. If you don’t feel like designing your own, you can opt to purchase premade packs instead.

The app is a free download with a one-time, in-app purchase to unlock the fully functionality of the icon designer. The icon packs, which include different variations and matching wallpaper, range from $7.99-$9.99.

Spotify’s new iOS 14 widget

Image Credits: TechCrunch screenshot of Spotify widget

It’s here! The widget a number of people have waited for since the launch of the new version of iOS has arrived. 

The widget, which arrives in the latest version of the Spotify iOS app, comes in two sizes. The smaller widget will display just your most recently listened to item, while the medium-sized widget will instead show the five most recent items — four in a horizontal row and the most recent at the top. In that case, you can actually tap on the small thumbnail for which of the five you want to now stream to be taken directly to that page in the Spotify app. The widget also automatically updates its background color to match the thumbnail photo.

Source link