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This Week in Apps: Quibi dies, Snapchat soars, Halide upgrades for iPhone 12

By Sarah Perez

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.

Top Stories

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.

Weekly News Round-Up

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.

Funding and M&A

  • 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).

Recommended Downloads

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

Aaand here it is..!!! 😱

After months of hard work with @jblanchefr, @ClipDropApp beta (AR Copy Paste) is now publicly available on #Android, #iOS, #macOS, and #Windows

🔥https://t.co/52eLMEfXNR 🔥

Here's a thread of what you can already do with it ↓ 1/n#ML #AR #AI pic.twitter.com/0fQJQ8KRBv

— Cyril Diagne (@cyrildiagne) October 22, 2020

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.

Tweets

🧲pic.twitter.com/IC5Ey4ONjK

— Jonathan Morrison 🙋🏻‍♂️ (@tldtoday) October 22, 2020

Remember App Clips?

— Paul Haddad (@tapbot_paul) October 22, 2020

Quibi made their “episodes” 11 minutes to avoid paying union writers. Everyone should MC Hammer dance on their grave.

— Jawn Wick (@LukeXCunningham) October 21, 2020

Omg I forgot to turn her app time limits back on pic.twitter.com/wrzSTGizWA

— Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa) October 22, 2020

 

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

Can you guess why?

The best moments from @AOC's Among Us stream on @Twitch last night. pic.twitter.com/13dGGgeWTF

— The Recount (@therecount) October 21, 2020

OnePlus’s 8T handset brings faster charging and a 120Hz display for $749 

By Brian Heater

OnePlus continues its twice-yearly smartphone cycle with today’s arrival of the 8T. The latest device isn’t a huge upgrade over April’s OnePlus 8, but continues the company’s longstanding tradition of offering some of the most solid Android handsets at a reasonable price point. The cost has edged up a bit in recent years, but $749 is still pretty good for what the 8T offers.

The big updates this time out are the 120Hz refresh rate for its 6.55-inch display and super-fast charging via the Warp Charge 65. That should get the 4,450 mAh of battery capacity up to a full day’s charge in 15 minutes, with a full charge taking a little less than 40 minutes.

There are an abundance of cameras here — four in total. That includes a 48-megapixel main (with built in optical image stabilization), 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle and, more surprisingly, a macro and monochrome lens. The handset joins the even more affordable Nord, which is set to arrive in the U.S. in the near future, sporting 5G at a sub-$500 price point.

OnePlus has been undergoing some corporate changes in recent weeks, as well. Co-founder Carl Pei recently announced he will be leaving the company. “These past years, OnePlus has been my singular focus, and everything else has had to take a backseat,” he told TechCrunch. “I’m looking forward to taking some time off to decompress and catch up with my family and friends,” he wrote. “And then follow my heart on to what’s next.”

Daily Crunch: Quibi is shutting down

By Anthony Ha

The end is in sight for Quibi, PayPal adds cryptocurrency support and Netflix tests a new promotional strategy. This is your Daily Crunch for October 21, 2020.

The big story: Quibi might be shutting down

The much-hyped streaming video app led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, which raised nearly $2 billion in funding, is shutting down, according to reports in The Information and The Wall Street Journal.

Katzenberg, a longtime Hollywood executive, had blamed the coronavirus pandemic for a lackluster launch in May — an app designed for on-the-go viewing didn’t have much appeal when people were largely stuck at home. And whatever the reason, none of Quibi’s shows ever became a breakout hit.

Quibi executives confirmed the news in a post on Medium.

The tech giants

PayPal to let you buy and sell cryptocurrencies in the US — In partnership with Paxos, PayPal plans to support Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin at first.

Facebook is working on Neighborhoods, a Nextdoor clone based on local groups — Facebook said that Neighborhoods currently is live only in Calgary, Canada.

Netflix to test free weekend-long access in India — The streaming service recently stopped offering a month of complimentary access to new users in the United States.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Syte, an e-commerce visual search platform, gets $30M Series C to expand in the US and Asia — Launched in 2015 to focus on visual search for clothing, Syte’s technology now covers other verticals, like jewelry and home decor.

June’s third-gen smart oven goes up for pre-order, starting at $599 — It’s been two years since the smart oven’s last major update.

Mine raises $9.5M to help people take control of their personal data — Mine scans users’ inboxes to help them understand who has access to their personal data.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Founders don’t need to be full-time to start raising venture capital — John Vrionis and Sarah Leary of Unusual Ventures told us that lightweight investing matters in the early days of a company.

Dear Sophie: What visa options exist for a grad co-founding a startup? — The latest edition of immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn’s column answering immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

Lessons from Datto’s IPO pricing and revenue multiple — How do you value slower, more profitable software growth?

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Sam’s Club will deploy autonomous floor-scrubbing robots in all of its US locations — Sam’s Club parent company Walmart is already using robotics to perform inventory in its own stores.

AOC’s Among Us stream topped 435,000 concurrent viewers — The purpose of the stream, which drew a massive crowd, was to get out the vote as we head into the general election.

Coalition for App Fairness, a group fighting for app store reforms, adds 20 new partners — The coalition claims that both Apple and Google engage in anti-competitive behavior.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Gen Z spends 10% more time in non-game apps than older users

By Sarah Perez

A new report released today by App Annie digs into how Gen Z consumers engage with their smartphones and mobile apps. According to data collected in Q3 2020, Gen Z users spend an average of 4.1+ hours per month in non-gaming apps, or 10% longer than older demographics. They also engage with apps more often, with 20% more sessions per user in non-gaming apps, at 120 sessions per month per app, compared with older groups.

This app engagement data is only a view into Gen Z trends, but is an incomplete analysis, as it only focuses on select markets, including the U.S., U.K., Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey. It also included only data collected from Android devices, which doesn’t provide as full a picture.

App Annie found that Gen Z is more likely to use games than older users, but they don’t access them as often or use them as long. Those ages 25 and older actually spent nearly 20% longer in their most-used games and accessed them 10% more frequently. Both demographics spent more total time gaming than using non-game apps, on a monthly basis.

Image Credits: App Annie

One breakout in the games category for Gen Z users, however, was the casual arcade game Among Us!, which just became the third-most played game worldwide, thanks to its team-based multiplayer features and the surge of Twitch streams. When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played the game on Twitch last night, it became one of the biggest-ever Twitch streams, peaking at 435,000 concurrent viewers.

Other popular Gen Z games include Match-3 games like Candy Crush Saga and Toon Blast, action games like PUBG Mobile and Free Fire, and casual simulation games like Minecraft Pocket Edition and Roblox.

Image Credits: App Annie

The report also examined what apps Gen Z users prefer across a range of non-game categories across both iOS and Android.

TikTok and Snapchat, in particular, stood out as the top over-indexed social and communication apps among Gen Z in nine out of the 10 markets analyzed for this report. This comes on the heels of Snap’s blowout earnings yesterday, where the social app topped analyst expectations and saw daily user growth climb 4% to 238 million.

Discord is also seeing strong growth, particularly in France, as mobile and remote gaming has become an epicenter of social interactions during the pandemic.

Image Credits: App Annie

Among entertainment apps, Twitch was the top over-indexed app in six out of the 10 markets for Gen Z users, though live streaming niconico was popular in Japan.

App Annie found that finance and shopping apps haven’t yet reached a broad Gen Z audience, but are demonstrating promising growth.

Image Credits: App Annie

Few finance apps over-index with Gen Z, though the demographic tends to interact with non-bank fintech apps like Venmo, Monzo and DANA. In South Korea, a top app was peer-to-peer payments app Toss, which also offers loans, insurance and credit.

Top Gen Z fashion apps, meanwhile, included Shein, ASOS, Shopee and Mercari.

Overall, active Gen Z users are rising faster across the markets analyzed, compared with older groups, with emerging markets like Indonesia and Brazil seeing the most growth.

Image Credits: App Annie

App Annie noted that Gen Z is becoming one of the most powerful consumer segments on mobile, as 98% own a smartphone and have a combined estimated spending power of $143 billion annually.

“Gen Z has never known a world without their smartphone. They see the world through this mobile first lens,” said Ted Krantz, CEO, App Annie, in a statement about the report’s findings.

Watch the trailer for ‘First Person,’ a climate-focused series shot on Snapchat Spectacles

By Anthony Ha

Snapchat is about to launch “First Person,” the first of its original series to be shot on Snapchat Spectacles.

The idea of filming a documentary using AR-centric eyewear might sound gimmicky, but “First Person” is tackling a weighty topic: climate change.

The series is produced by journalist Yusuf Omar (who said he’s been wearing Spectacles “every day of my life since 2016”) and his Hashtag Our Stories program, which has trained more than 10,000 people in 140 countries to create journalism with their mobile phones.

“First Person” sounds like an extension of that work — the team sent Spectacles to subjects in six countries so that they could document the work that they’re doing to fight climate change.

“When Covid-19 hit, a lot of global media productions stopped shooting,” Omar told me via email. “But our innovators didn’t stop working. Shipping Spectacles to them allowed us to reach stories, otherwise impossible to tell during the coronavirus crisis.”

He added that filming with Spectacles isn’t just a production method — it also allows viewers to literally see things from a climate activist’s perspective.

“The beauty of capturing POV Specs footage for a series like this is that we get to witness change makers actually getting their hands dirty and creating, upcycling, recycling and making the change they want to see,” he said. “Their physical actions, seeing both hands at work, through their vantage point make their actions relatable, interesting and immersive. When young audiences watch it, they think ‘I can probably do that too.’”

In fact, the series also includes AR lenses for each episode — one lens, for example, will add cracks to your floor to indicate water shortage, while another will add carbon dioxide clouds in the sky to illustrate carbon emissions.

“First Person” premieres this Saturday, October 24. You can watch the trailer below.

 

Robin.io launches a free version of its cloud-native Kubernetes storage solution

By Frederic Lardinois

Robin.io, a cloud-native application and data management solution with enterprise customers like USAA, Sabre, SAP, Palo Alto Networks and Rakuten Mobile, today announced the launch of its new free(-mium) version of its service, in addition to a major update to the core of its tool.

Robin .io promises that it brings cloud-native data management capabilities to containerized applications with support for standard operations like backup and recovery, snapshots, rollbacks and more. It does all of that while offering bare-metal performance and support for all major clouds. The service is essentially agnostic to the actual database being used and offers support for the likes of PostgreSQL, MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, MariaDB, Cassandra, Elasticsearch and others.

Image Credits: Robin.io

“Robin Cloud Native Storage works with any workload on any Kubernetes-based platform and on any cloud,” said Robin founder and CEO Partha Seetala. “With capabilities for storing, taking snapshots, backing up, cloning, migrating and securing data — all with the simplest of commands — Robin Cloud Native Storage offers developers and DevOps teams a super simple yet highly performant tool for quickly deploying and managing their enterprise workloads on Kubernetes.”

The new free version lets teams manage up to 5 nodes and 5TB of storage. The promise here is that this a free-for-life offering and the company obviously expects that it allows enterprises to get a feel for the service and then upgrade to its paid enterprise plans over time.

Talking about those enterprise plans, the company also today announced that it is moving to a consumption-based pricing plan, starting at $0.42 per node-hour (though it also offers annual subscriptions). The enterprise plan includes 24×7 support and doesn’t limit the number of nodes or storage capacity.

Among the new features to Robin’s core storage service are data management support for Helm Charts (where Helm is the Kubernetes package manager), the ability to specify where exactly the data should reside (which is mostly meant to keep it close to the compute resources) and affinity policies that ensure availability for stateful applications that rely on distributed databases and data platforms.

The Justice Department has filed its antitrust lawsuit against Google

By Jonathan Shieber

The Justice Department said it has filed its long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Google, confirming an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal.

In the suit, the Justice Department is expected to argue that Google used anticompetitive practices to safeguard its monopoly position as the dominant force in search and search-advertising, which sit at the foundation of the company’s extensive advertising, data mining, video distribution, and information services conglomerate.

It would be the first significant legal challenge that Google has faced from U.S. regulators despite years of investigations into the company’s practices.

A 2012 attempt to bring the company to the courts to answer for anti-competitive practices was ultimately scuttled because regulators at the time weren’t sure they could make the case stick. Since that time Alphabet’s value has skyrocketed to reach over $1 trillion (as of today’s share price).

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, holds a commanding lead in both search and video. The company dominates the search market — with roughly 90% of the world’s internet searches conducted on its platform — and roughly three quarters of American adults turn to YouTube for video, as the Journal reported.

In the lawsuit, the Department of Justice will say that Alphabet’s Google subsidiary uses a web of exclusionary business agreements to shut out competitors. The billions of dollars that the search giant collects wind up paying mobile phone companies, carriers and browsers to make the Google search engine a preset default. That blocks competitors from being able to access the kinds of queries and traffic they’d need to refine their own search engine.

It will be those relationships — alongside Google’s insistence that its search engine come pre-loaded (and un-deletable) on phones using the Android operating system and that other search engines specifically not be pre-loaded — that form part of the government’s case, according to Justice Department officials cited by the Journal.

The antitrust suit comes on the heels of a number of other regulatory actions involving Google, which is not only the dominant online search provider, but also a leader in online advertising and in mobile technology by way of Android, as well as a strong player in a web of other interconnected services like mapping, online productivity software, cloud computing and more.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, UNITED STATES – 2020/02/23: American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Google campus. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A report last Friday in Politico noted that Democrat Attorneys General would not be signing the suit. That report said those AGs have instead been working on a bipartisan, state-led approach covering a wider number of issues beyond search — the idea being also that more suits gives government potentially a stronger bargaining position against the tech giant.

A third suit is being put together by the state of Texas, although that has faced its own issues.

While a number of tech leviathans are facing increasing scrutiny from Washington, with the US now just two weeks from Election Day, it’s unlikely that we are going to see many developments around this and other cases before then. And in the case of this specific Google suit, in the event that Trump doesn’t get re-elected, there will also be a larger personnel shift at the DoJ that could also change the profile and timescale of the case.

In any event, fighting these regulatory cases is always a long, drawn-out process. In Europe, Google has faced a series of fines over antitrust violations stretching back several years, including a $2.7 billion fine over Google shopping; a $5 billion fine over Android dominance; and a $1.7 billion fine over search ad brokering. While Goolge slowly works through appeals, there are also more cases ongoing against the company in Europe and elsewhere.

Google is not the only one catching the attention of Washington. Earlier in October, the House Judiciary Committee released a report of more than 400 pages in which it outlined how tech giants Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook were abusing their power, covering everything from the areas in which they dominate, through to suggestions for how to fix the situation (including curtailing their acquisitions strategy).

That seemed mainly to be an exercise in laying out the state of things, which could in turn be used to inform further actions, although in itself, unlike the DoJ suit, the House report lacks teeth in terms of enforcement or remedies.

Apple, Opera, and Yandex fix browser address bar spoofing bugs, but millions more still left vulnerable

By Zack Whittaker

Year after year, phishing remains one of the most popular and effective ways for attackers to steal your passwords. As users, we’re mostly trained to spot the telltale signs of a phishing site, but most of us rely on carefully examining the web address in the browser’s address bar to make sure the site is legitimate.

But even the browser’s anti-phishing features — often the last line of defense for a would-be phishing victim — aren’t perfect.

Security researcher Rafay Baloch found several vulnerabilities in some of the most widely used mobile browsers — including Apple’s Safari, Opera, and Yandex — which if exploited would allow an attacker to trick the browser into displaying a different web address than the actual website that the user is on. These address bar spoofing bugs make it far easier for attackers to make their phishing pages look like legitimate websites, creating the perfect conditions for someone trying to steal passwords.

The bugs worked by exploiting a weakness in the time it takes for a vulnerable browser to load a web page. Once a victim is tricked into opening a link from a phishing email or text message, the malicious web page uses code hidden on the page to effectively replace the malicious web address in the browser’s address bar to any other web address that the attacker chooses.

In at least one case, the vulnerable browser retained the green padlock icon, indicating that the malicious web page with a spoofed web address was legitimate — when it wasn’t.

An address bar spoofing bug in Opera Touch for iOS (left) and Bolt Browser (right). These spoofing bugs can make phishing emails look far more convincing. (Image: Rapid7/supplied)

Rapid7’s research director Tod Beardsley, who helped Baloch with disclosing the vulnerabilities to each browser maker, said address bar spoofing attacks put mobile users at particular risk.

“On mobile, space is at an absolute premium, so every fraction of an inch counts. As a result, there’s not a lot of space available for security signals and sigils,” Beardsley told TechCrunch. “While on a desktop browser, you can either look at the link you’re on, mouse over a link to see where you’re going, or even click on the lock to get certificate details. These extra sources don’t really exist on mobile, so the location bar not only tells the user what site they’re on, it’s expected to tell the user this unambiguously and with certainty. If you’re on palpay.com instead of the expected paypal.com, you could notice this and know you’re on a fake site before you type in your password.”

“Spoofing attacks like this make the location bar ambiguous, and thus, allow an attacker to generate some credence and trustworthiness to their fake site,” he said.

Baloch and Beardsley said the browser makers responded with mixed results.

So far, only Apple and Yandex pushed out fixes in September and October. Opera spokesperson Julia Szyndzielorz said the fixes for its Opera Touch and Opera Mini browsers are “in gradual rollout.”

But the makers of UC Browser, Bolt Browser, and RITS Browser — which collectively have more than 600 million device installs — did not respond to the researchers and left the vulnerabilities unpatched.

TechCrunch reached out to each browser maker but none provided a statement by the time of publication.

Daily Crunch: Pakistan un-bans TikTok

By Anthony Ha

TikTok returns to Pakistan, Apple launches a music-focused streaming station and SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites. This is your Daily Crunch for October 19, 2020.

The big story: Pakistan un-bans TikTok

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked the video app 11 days ago, over what it described as “immoral,” “obscene” and “vulgar” videos. The authority said today that it’s lifting the ban after negotiating with TikTok management.

“The restoration of TikTok is strictly subject to the condition that the platform will not be used for the spread of vulgarity/indecent content & societal values will not be abused,” it continued.

This isn’t the first time this year the country tried to crack down on digital content. Pakistan announced new internet censorship rules this year, but rescinded them after Facebook, Google and Twitter threatened to leave the country.

The tech giants

Apple launches a US-only music video station, Apple Music TV —  The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour live stream of popular music videos and other music content.

Google Cloud launches Lending DocAI, its first dedicated mortgage industry tool — The tool is meant to help mortgage companies speed up the process of evaluating a borrower’s income and asset documents.

Facebook introduces a new Messenger API with support for Instagram — The update means businesses will be able to integrate Instagram messaging into the applications and workflows they’re already using in-house to manage their Facebook conversations.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SpaceX successfully launches 60 more Starlink satellites, bringing total delivered to orbit to more than 800 — That makes 835 Starlink satellites launched thus far, though not all of those are operational.

Singapore tech-based real estate agency Propseller raises $1.2M seed round — Propseller combines a tech platform with in-house agents to close transactions more quickly.

Ready Set Raise, an accelerator for women built by women, announces third class — Ready Set Raise has changed its programming to be more focused on a “realistic fundraising process” vetted by hundreds of women.

Advice and analysis for Extra Crunch

Are VCs cutting checks in the closing days of the 2020 election? — Several investors told TechCrunch they were split about how they’re making these decisions.

Disney+ UX teardown: Wins, fails and fixes — With the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of the things Disney+ gets right and things that should be fixed.

Late-stage deals made Q3 2020 a standout VC quarter for US-based startups — Investors backed a record 88 megarounds of $100 million or more.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

US charges Russian hackers blamed for Ukraine power outages and the NotPetya ransomware attack — Prosecutors said the group of hackers, who work for the Russian GRU, are behind the “most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.”

Stitcher’s podcasts arrive on Pandora with acquisition’s completion — SiriusXM today completed its previously announced $325 million acquisition of podcast platform Stitcher from E.W. Scripps, and has now launched Stitcher’s podcasts on Pandora.

Original Content podcast: It’s hard to resist the silliness of ‘Emily in Paris’ — The show’s Paris is a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy that we’re happy to visit.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Stitcher’s podcasts arrive on Pandora with acquisition’s completion

By Sarah Perez

SiriusXM today completed its previously announced $325 million acquisition of podcast platform Stitcher from E.W. Scripps, and has now launched Stitcher’s podcasts on Pandora across all tiers of the streaming service. The deal brings top Stitcher titles to Pandora, 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,” among others.

On Pandora, the podcasts will be indexed using the company’s proprietary Podcast Genome Project technology. This system leverages automated technology — like natural language processing, collaborative filtering and other machine learning approaches — then combines that with human curation to make personalized recommendations to podcast listeners on Pandora’s app.

The podcasts will also continue to be available in the Stitcher app in North America, the company says.

The Stitcher acquisition brought with it several key assets, including its own mobile listening app, which includes a premium tier of exclusives, and the Midroll Media network for podcast advertising. Stitcher also creates its own original programs and runs multiple content networks, via Earwolf.

That means SirusXM gained thousands of top podcasts with the deal’s closure. The company also now claims it has the “largest addressable audience in North America” across all categories of digital audio, including music, sports, talk and podcasts thanks to the combination of satellite radio service SiriusXM, streaming app Pandora and now Stitcher.

The company believes the deal will help it attract more creators to its platform, thanks to the enhanced production, marketing and distribution capabilities it offers, following the deal’s close. Advertisers, meanwhile, will be able to more precisely target podcasts for better ad efficiency, and will gain access to improved measurements, says SiriusXM.

In terms of Stitcher’s execs, CEO Erik Diehn will now report to Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of SiriusXM, who also oversees content at Pandora. Stitcher’s chief revenue officer, Sarah van Mosel, will report directly to John Trimble, chief advertising revenue officer of SiriusXM.

“We are deepening our position in podcasting, the fastest-growing sector in digital audio, and with completion of this transaction, our vision is taking shape,” said SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer, in a statement about the deal’s completion. “With Stitcher and its varied assets, we are now a one-stop shop able to meet the needs of podcast creators, publishers and advertisers, while also providing listeners with access to great shows, series and programming.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted many consumer trends and accelerated others, podcasting still remains one of the fast-growing digital audio industries. Podcast downloads returned to pre-COVID levels this summer, and Spotify reported that podcast consumption more than doubled in Q2, and nearly a quarter (21%) of its active users now listen to podcasts.

Stitcher was not SiriusXM’s first acquisition focused on podcasts or ad technologies. It also bought podcast management platform Simplecast this June, and before that, it acquired AdsWizz for $66.3 million to power Pandora’s advertising efforts.

Apple launches a US-only music video station, Apple Music TV

By Sarah Perez

Apple is expanding its investment in music with today’s launch of “Apple Music TV.” The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour live stream of popular music videos and other music content, including exclusive video premieres, curated music video blocks, live shows, fan events, chart countdowns and guest appearances.

The service doesn’t have its own dedicated app, but is instead offered as a new feature within two of Apple’s existing entertainment apps. At launch, you can watch Apple Music TV from within the Browse tab of either the Apple Music app or the Apple TV app. (Accessible via apple.co/AppleMusicTV).

While Apple Music is a paid subscription service, Apple Music TV will be free to users in the U.S., the company says.

To kick off its launch, Apple Music TV today began with a countdown of the top 100 most-streamed songs ever across all of Apple Music, based on U.S. data.

During brief tests of the new service, we found it to be a fairly basic — though uncensored and ad-free — experience. The video stream only offered artist and song details at the beginning, instead of as the music played. It also didn’t take advantage of the integration with Apple Music to offer additional features to paying subscribers — like being able to favorite the song or add it to a playlist, for instance.

The stream would stop when the Apple Music app was closed, as it didn’t support background play.

Image Credits: Apple

There also weren’t any on-screen tools to share what you were watching via a social media post. You had to dig to find the “share” button under the three-dot, “more” menu. This would give you a link to tweet, but wouldn’t pre-fill it with text or hashtags, like the artist name or song.

While listening, you could stop the live stream and then return after a short pause. But after a bit, the stream disconnects and the thumbnail of the paused music video reverts to the placeholder Apple Music TV image. When live, the text and icons will be shown in red. They revert to white when you’ve disconnected, as a visual cue.

Despite its simplicity, Apple Music TV gives Apple an immediate new home for its music-related original content, which over the years has included exclusive interviews, concert films and more. It also provides Apple with another advantage when it goes to negotiate with artists for their premieres, as it introduces an additional platform for reaching an artist’s fans — not only with the premiere itself, but by offering artists blocks of airtime leading up to their next debut that they can use to promote their releases.

The new station can also leverage content produced for the Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1) radio station, as it goes about running these promotions.

For example, on Thursday, October 22, Apple Music TV will promote the upcoming release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You” with music video blocks featuring his greatest videos, plus an exclusive interview with Zane Lowe, and a special live stream fan event.

Apple says that Apple Music 1 won’t be producing exclusive content for the live-streamed station, but instead will run the video content it already produces across its radio stations — Apple Music 1, Apple Music Country, and Apple Music Hits — as interstitial content on Apple Music TV.

Fridays, meanwhile, will focus on new music. This Friday, October 23, at 9 AM PT, Apple Music TV will showcase two new exclusive video premieres — Joji’s “777” and SAINt JHN’s “Gorgeous.”

Apple Music TV’s biggest advantage, of course, is the fact that it’s freely accessible to millions of Apple device owners.

But it may struggle for traction as it lacks the features that make other live stream fan events or premieres engaging — like group chats or direct interactions with creators.

Instead, it’s more like a traditional TV broadcast — even MTV-like — compared with other online destinations where artists today connect with fans and promote their albums, like YouTube, VEVO or, more recently, Facebook, which just this year launched music videos.

Apple didn’t say if it planned to expand the new station outside the U.S.

This Week in Apps: Apple’s big event, lidar comes to iPhone, Android gets a new IDE

By Sarah Perez

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.

Top Story

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.

Weekly News Round-Up

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.

Funding and M&A

    • 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.

Downloads

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.

Shure’s Aonic 50 wireless noise-cancelling headphones offer best-in-class audio quality

By Darrell Etherington

The noise-cancelling over-ear headphone category is an increasingly competitive one, and consumers have never been more spoiled for choice. Shure entered the market this year with the Aonic 50, a premium-priced headset ($399) that offers active noise cancelling, Bluetooth connectivity and USB-C charging. Shure’s reputation for delivering top-quality sound is definitely part of the package, and there’s a lot more to recommend the Aonic 50 as well.

Basics

Shure offers the Aonic 50 in either black or brown finishes, and they have physical controls on the right ear cup for volume, turning noise cancellation on and off, power, activating voice assistances and skipping tracks. There’s a USB-C port for charging, and a 2.5mm stereo connector on the left ear cup for using the included cable to connect via wire, which allows you to use them even while the internal battery is depleted or the headset is powered down (albeit without active noise cancelling obviously).

The Aonic 50 also comes with a round, flat carrying case – the ear cups swivel to fit in the zippered storage compartment. This takes up more of a footprint than the typical folding design of these kind of ANC headphones, but it’s less bulky, too, so it depends on how you’re packing them whether this is good or bad.

Shure offers a mobile app for iOS and Android called ShurePlus Play that can provide EQ controls, as well as more specific tuning of both the active noise cancelling, and the environmental mode that pipes in outside sound. This allows for a lot of customization, but with one major caveat – EQ settings only apply when playing music via the app itself, which is an unusual and disappointing choice.

Design and performance

Shure’s Aonic 50 excel in a couple of areas where the company has a proven track record: Sound quality and comfort/wearability. The ample faux leather-wrapped padding on both the headband and the ear cups make them very comfortable to wear, even for longer sessions, which is great for work for home practicality. I often forgot I had them on while moving around the house, which gives you an idea of how well they fit.

As for sound, Shure has aimed for a relatively neutral, flat tone that provides an accurate recreation of what the original producer intended for any track, and the results are great. Music detail is clear, and they’re neither too heavy on bass or overemphatic on treble. This is a sound profile that audiophiles will appreciate, though it might not be the best for anyone who’s looking for a bass-heavy soundstage. That said, bass-favoring headphones are easy to find in this category, so Shure’s offering, with its clear highs, stands apart from the field in the ANC arena. To be clear, the bass is excellent, but overall the market has moved towards muddy, artificially enhanced bass vs. true rendering, which the Aonic 50 delivers.

The button controls on the Aonic 50 are well-placed and cover the spectrum in terms of what you’d want to be able to control right from the headset. USB-C charging is much-appreciated in an era where that’s far and away the standard for most of the mobile devices in your life, as well as many computers. The included stereo cable is a great addition for when the battery runs out – but Shure’s advertised 20-hour or so battery life estimate is accurate, so it’ll be quite a while before you have to resort to that as long as you remember to charge once in a while.

If there’s one place where Shure’s performance falls a bit short, it’s in noise cancellation. The ANC does a decent job of blocking out unwanted environmental sound, but it’s not quite up to the standard of the like of Bose or Sony’s top-end ANC headphones. It still gets the job done most of the time, and the trade-off is better sound.

Bottom line

As I said above, people looking for active noise cancelling headphones are spoiled for choice these days. But the Shure Aonic 50 offers something that discerning audio pros won’t be able to find from alternatives including those from Bose or Sony, and that’s an excellent soundstage and sound quality that just can’t be beat. Wearability is also tops, which makes these a great options for audiophiles who want a wire-free, sound-blocking solution for a home office.

Google Pixel 5 review: Keeping it simple

By Brian Heater

I’m going to be totally honest with you. I don’t really understand Google’s phone strategy right now. And for what it’s worth, I’m not really sure Google does either. I wrote about it here, but I’ll save you from having to read an additional 800 words on top of all these. The short version is that Google has three phones on the market, and there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of distinction between them.

The Pixel is a portrait of a hardware division in transition. That applies to a number of aspects, from strategy to the fact that the company recently saw a minor executive exodus. It’s pretty clear the future of Google’s mobile hardware division is going to look quite different from its present — but 2020’s three phones are most likely a holdover from the old guard.

What you’re looking at here is the Pixel 5. It’s Google’s flagship. A device that sports — among other things — more or less the same mid-range Qualcomm processor as the 4a announced earlier this year. It distinguishes itself from that budget handset, however, with the inclusion of 5G. But then here comes the 4a 5G to further muddy the waters.

There are some key distinctions that separate the 5 and 4a 5G, which were announced at the same event. The 5’s got a more solid body, crafted from 100% recycled aluminum to the cheaper unit’s polycarbonate. It also has waterproofing and reverse wireless charging, a fun feature we’ve seen on Samsung devices for a few generations now. Beyond that, however, we run into something that’s been a defining issue since the line’s inception. If you choose not to use hardware to define your devices, it becomes difficult to differentiate your devices’ hardware.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Since the very beginning of the Pixel line, the company has insisted that it will rely on software advances to push the products forward. It’s a nice sentiment after years of feature arms races between the likes of Apple and Samsung. But that means when it comes time to introduce new devices, the results can be fairly lackluster. That certainly applies to the Pixel 5.

From a hardware perspective, it’s not a particularly exciting phone. That’s probably fine for many. Smartphones have, after all, become more commodity than luxury item, and plenty of users are simply looking for one that will just get the job done. That said, Google’s got some pretty stiff competition at the Pixel 5’s price point — and there are plenty of Android devices that can do even more.

There are certainly some upgrades in addition to the above worth pointing out, however. Fittingly, the biggest and most important of all is probably the least exciting. The Pixel 4 was actually a pretty solid device hampered by one really big issue: an abysmal battery life. The 2,800mAh capacity was a pretty massive millstone around the device’s neck. That, thankfully, has been addressed here in a big way.

Google’s bumped things up to 4,080mAh. That’s also a pretty sizable bump over the 4a and 4a 5G, which sport 3,885mAh and 2,130mAh, respectively. That extra life is extra important, given the addition of both Battery Share and 5G. For the sake of disclosure, I should mention that I still live in an area with basically no 5G (three cheers for working from home), so your mileage will vary based on coverage. But using LTE, I was able to get about a day and a half of use out of the handset, besting the stated “all-day battery).

This is helped along by a (relatively) compact display. Gone are the days of the XL (though, confusingly, the 4a 5G does have a larger screen with a bit lower pixel density). The flagship is only available in a six-inch, 2,340 x 1,080 size. It’s larger than the Pixel 4’s 5.7 inches, but at a lower pixel density (432 versus 444 ppl). The 90Hz refresh rate remains. Compared to all of the phones I’ve been testing lately, the Pixel 5 feels downright compact. It’s a refreshing change to be able to use the device with one hand.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The camera is probably the aspect of the handset where the opposing hardware-first and software-first approaches are the most at conflict with one another. Google was fairly convinced it could do everything it wanted with a single lens early on, but eventually begrudgingly gave in to a two-camera setup. The hardware is pretty similar to last year’s model, but the 16-megapixel 2x optical telephoto has been replaced by a 16-megapixel ultra-wide. Whether that represent progress is largely up to your own personal preference. Frankly, I’d prefer a little more non-distorted zooming.

Google, of course, is building on a solid foundation. I really loved the Pixel 4’s photos. The things Google’s imaging team has been able to do with relative hardware constraints is really impressive, and while you’re lacking the scope of a premium Samsung device or high-end iPhone, casual photo snappers are going to be really happy with the shots they get on the Pixel 5.

[gallery ids="2061057,2061047,2061059,2061056,2061058,2061055,2061053,2061052,2061060,2061051,2061049,2061048"]

Night Sight has been improved and now turns on when the phone’s light sensor detects a dark scene. My morning walks have gotten decidedly darker in recent weeks as the season has changed, and the phone automatically enters the mode for those pre-dawn shots (COVID-19 has made me an early riser, I don’t know what to tell you). The feature has also been added to portrait mode for better focused shots.

The Pixel’s Portrait Mode remains one of the favorites — though it’s still imperfect, running into issues with things like hair or complex geometries. It really doesn’t know what to do with a fence much of the time, for instance. The good news is that Google’s packed a lot of editing options into the software here — particularly for Portrait Mode.

You can really go crazy in terms of bokeh levels and placement and portrait lighting, a relatively subtle effect that lends the appearance of changing a light source. Changing the effects can sometimes be a bit laggy, likely owing to the lower-end processing power. All said, it’s a good and well-rounded photo experience, but as usual, I would really love to see what Google’s imaging team would be able to do if the company ever gives it a some real high-end photography hardware to play around with. Wishful thinking for whatever the Pixel 6 becomes, I suppose.

In the end, the two biggest reasons to recommend upgrading from the Pixel 4 are 5G and bigger battery. The latter is certainly a big selling point this time out. The former really depends on what coverage is like in your area. The 5G has improved quite a bit of late, but there are still swaths of the U.S. — and the world — that will be defaulting to LTE on this device. Also note that the $200 cheaper 4a 5G also offers improvements in both respects over last year’s model.

Still, $700 is a pretty reasonable price point for a well-rounded — if unexciting — phone like the Pixel 5. And Google’s got other things working in its favor, as well — pure Android and the promise of guaranteed updates. If you’re looking for something with a bit more flash, however, there are plenty of options in the Android world.

What the iPhone 12 tells us about the state of the smartphone industry in 2020

By Brian Heater

The smartphone industry was in transition well before COVID-19 was a blip on anyone’s radar. More than 13 years after the launch of the original iPhone, these products have long since transitioned from luxury items to commodities, losing some of their luster in the process. The past several years have seen slower upgrade cycles as consumers grew reluctant to pay $1,000 or more for new devices.

And while the iPhone 12 was no doubt in development long before the current pandemic, the pandemic’s global shutdown has only exacerbated many existing problems for smartphone makers. The clearest representation of Apple’s reaction is in the sheer number of iPhones announced at today’s “Hi Speed” event. Long gone are the days when a company could rest on a single flagship or two.

Today’s event brought a grand total of four new iPhone models, ranging in price from $699 to $1,099: the 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. As with the Apple Watch, the company is keeping last year’s iPhone 11 around and has cut the price to $599. That puts the older model in the high-mid-range for Android devices, but represents a far cheaper entry point than we’re accustomed to for Apple phones.

Turbo Systems becomes Appify and launches app marketplace

By Ron Miller

When Jen Grant joined Turbo Systems, the no-code mobile application platform, as CEO in March, she came on board just as COVID was shutting down businesses, but she went straight to work and over the last six months she has led two major initiatives that the company announced today: a name change and a new app marketplace.

For starters, the company is changing its name to Appify to more accurately reflect its mission around building mobile apps. She says that they found most people related the term “turbo” to cars. They began looking for a better name that was more closely aligned with what they do when her team stumbled across Appify.

“We had been playing around with different names and what are we were about, and a lot of what we’re about is amplifying your business and your systems and your people with apps. And so when we kind of stumbled across Appify and the domain name was available, we moved quite quickly,” Grant explained.

While she was at it, Grant was talking to customers, and while the core company mission is to make it easy to build mobile apps, especially in the field service space, she felt that they could make it even easier. Rather than asking customers to build the apps themselves, they could provide a marketplace with some pre-built apps and simply let them customize them for their workflows.

“What we have done with the Appify Marketplace is instead of saying, here’s a box of parts, now fix your business problem, we’re saying, here’s an app that you can launch in minutes. It has all of the functionality that you will need […] and you can then very easily customize it using this no code platform to make it specific to your business,” she said.

The marketplace is launching today with a couple of apps aimed at the company’s core field service market including Field Sales, which allows salespeople in the field to send a bid or quote from a tablet directly from the field without having to return to the office. The other is a Field Service app for repair people, which provides all of the information about the repair, while allowing the service rep to update the customer record from the field using a mobile device.

Grant says this is just the start and there are many apps on the road map that they will be releasing in the coming months. Eventually, they may have systems integrators use the platform to build apps for specific industries as they move forward.

Appify was born as Turbo Systems in 2017 and has raised over $11 million, according to Pitchbook data.

Daily Crunch: Apple introduces the iPhone 12

By Anthony Ha

Apple embraces 5G, Facebook Messenger gets better integrated with Instagram and Kahoot raises $215 million. This is your Daily Crunch for October 13, 2020.

The big story: Apple introduces the iPhone 12

Apple’s big event today kicked off with the announcement of the HomePod Mini, but the real focus was on the iPhone — specifically, the iPhone 12.

Pricing for the new iPhone starts at $799. New features include 5G, a magnetic adapter for various accessories (including wireless chargers) and a more durable Corning glass display.

There are four models, so if you’re trying to decide which one you want, we’ve even created a handy chart to keep them all straight.

The tech giants

Alphabet’s latest moonshot is a field-roving, plant-inspecting robo-buggy — Announced with little fanfare in a blog post and site, the Mineral project is still very much in the experimental phase.

Messenger’s latest update brings new features, cross-app communication with Instagram – The changes are a part of Facebook’s overhauled messaging platform, announced in late September, which introduced the ability for Instagram users to communicate with people on Facebook.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Kahoot picks up $215M from SoftBank for its user-generated, gamified e-learning platform — After announcing a modest $28 million raise earlier this year, the user-generated gamified e-learning platform revealed a much bigger round today.

Astroscale raises $51M in Series E funding to fuel its orbital sustainability ambitions — The Japan-based company has been focused on delivering new solutions for orbital end-of-life.

Caliber, with $2.2M in seed funding, launches a fitness coaching platform — The company says it brings on about five of every 100 applications for coaches on the platform, accepting only the very best trainers.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Is the Twilio-Segment deal expensive? — A quick look at the deal’s historical analogs and what we can tell from the numbers.

Should you replace your developer portal with a hybrid integration platform? — Changing your integration approach can reduce time to market and boost revenue.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Walt Disney announces reorganization to focus on streaming — Disney’s media businesses, ads and distribution and Disney+ will now operate under the same business unit.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Enola Holmes’ is thoroughly mediocre — I did not enjoy this movie.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Apple’s stock dips and Verizon’s recovers during iPhone event

By Alex Wilhelm

Earlier today Apple announced a slew of new hardware. In case you’ve not yet caught up, there’s a $99 HomePod Mini coming, new iPhones, a new method for shouting at your electronics, the return of MagSafe, some cost-cutting masquerading as environmentalism and, of course, new flagship phones.

And in a move that caused telecom investors to sit up straight and pay attention, Apple trotted out Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for part of the presentation — which is why we add our parent company’s parent company to our usual post-Apple-event share price reaction roundup.

Market reaction

Shares of Apple were mixed before the event, managing to work their way back to flat during morning trading ahead of the event. Down before Apple kicked off its iPhone shebang, equity in the phone giant dipped and then rallied as the event got underway.

But the partial erasure of losses was short-lived, and Apple wound up losing ground during the presentation (chart via YCharts, annotations via TechCrunch):

For Apple shareholders then, not a day worth writing home about.

The Apple event appeared to have a more electric impact on my employer. See if you can spot the point at which Verizon appeared as part of the event (chart via YCharts, annotations via TechCrunch):

Now that is the sort of reaction that we hope to see from events of this sort. Why? Because it implies that the company on stage has managed to do something so notable that its share price moved; this is another way of saying that investors were surprised by what they learned.

Apple events tend to leak in advance these days, so perhaps the usual lack of share price movement from the company’s equity is to be expected.

Verizon’s news, in contrast, was more of a surprise. The company “announce[d] its nationwide 5G network” in the words of The Verge. Investors liked that, but later sold the company’s shares back down a bit.

Apple’s iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max: what’s the difference?

By Brian Heater

Gone are the days a company like Apple could simply roll out a single flagship handset or two. Consumer demands have evolved quite a bit in the more than 13 years since the company released its first smartphone, and its offerings have had to evolve with it. That means now, more than ever, offering a broad range of choice in terms of feature set, size and price.

Apple actually announced four phones at today’s event: the iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Add to that the fact that the company is keeping the 11 around at a lower price point, and that leaves iOS devotees with more options than ever when it comes to purchasing a new handset, with starting prices ranging from $599 to $1,099. And, of course, configurations go up from there.

All of the new devices announced today share some key common features: 5G connectivity, the new magnetic MagSafe connector, OLED displays and the A14 chip, for starters. They also get the new iPad Pro-style design, complete with straight edges that allow for the placement of additional antennas for the next-gen wireless connectivity. From there, however, things get more complicated. There’s a range here in size, cameras and capacity for starters.

Here’s a handy chart to keep it all straight:

chart comparing iPhone 12 models

[click to enlarge]

Here’s everything Apple announced at its ‘Hi, Speed’ iPhone event

By Greg Kumparak

Just shy of one month after their last event, Apple was back today with another one. Everyone had a pretty good feeling this would be the one where they announced this year’s new iPhone… instead, Apple announced four new iPhones, plus a new HomePod, for good measure.

Didn’t have time to follow along live? Here are the highlights:

HomePod Mini

Image Credits: Apple

Apple kicked things off by announcing the HomePod Mini — which, as you’ve probably gathered from the name, is a smaller version of its HomePod speaker.

Apple’s focus with the HomePod Mini definitely seems to be getting you to buy multiple units and spreading them around your house — they started off by recapping Siri’s smart home capabilities, then introduced a new feature called “Intercom,” which lets you broadcast a message to all of your HomePods from your iPhone, Apple Watch, CarPlay or another HomePod. Put two HomePods in the same room, Apple says, and they’ll automatically become a stereo pair.

HomePod Mini will cost $99, and, like its bigger counterpart, will come in two colors: white and space grey. Pre-orders will start on November 6th, with the first units shipping “the week of November 16th.”

Four new iPhones

iPhone 12 family lineup

Image Credits: Apple

Why would Apple announce one new iPhone when they could announce four?

With a lineup that will probably lead to a bit of confusion, Apple today announced the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The devices get a little bigger, a little fancier and a bit more expensive as you go down the line. Want a deeper look at how the specs on the four new models compare? Find our side-by-side here.

The big focus here is on improved displays, improved cameras (night mode on the wide and ultra-wide cameras!) and the introduction of 5G support across the lineup. The form factor borrows some angles from iPhones of yesteryear, with flat sides that’ll probably remind you of the iPhone 4 or 5.

The iPhone 12 Mini will start at $699 and come with a 5.4″ display, while the iPhone 12 will start at $799 with a 6.1″ display. The iPhone 12 Pro will start at $999 with a 6.1″ display, but polishes up the spec sheet with a stainless steel body (versus aluminum on the non-pro models) and the addition of a 12MP telephoto lens. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will start at $1,099, but packs a massive 6.7″ display. The Pro models also pack lidar sensors, allowing them to do things like ultra-fast focusing in low-light situations, or 3D room scanning.

The displays on all of the new iPhones will feature a new “Ceramic Shield” technology that Apple built in partnership with Corning, which the company says improves the odds of your device surviving a fall by 4x. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini will come in blue, green, red, white and black; the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, meanwhile, will come in blue, gold, black and white.

All four phones will run on Apple’s A14 Bionic chip — the same one that powers the iPad Air the company just announced last month.

So when will these things actually start shipping? The pre-order/ship dates are a liiiiittle bit tangled — so if you’ve got a model picked out already, make sure you’ve got the right date marked on your calendar: the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro go up for pre-order on 10/16, shipping on 10/23. The iPhone 12 Mini and the 12 Pro Max, meanwhile, go up for pre-order on 11/6 and ship on 11/13.

(Apple also noted that it will continue to sell the iPhone 11, dropping the base price by $100 down to $599.)

MagSafe

iPhone 12 Pro Silicone Case_Leather Wallet with MagSafe

Image Credits: Apple

“MagSafe” is back! Sort of. Well, in name, at least.

Borrowing a name from the charging system of Apple laptops past, the new iPhone’s MagSafe system allows it to automatically snap into the optimal place on a wireless charger, while also allowing for snap-on accessories like magnetic cases or credit card holders.

The company also announced the MagSafe Duo Charger (a folding setup meant to allow you to charge both an iPhone and an Apple Watch) and noted that MagSafe-compatible accessories from third parties like Belkin were on the way.

MagSafe Duo Charger

Image Credits: Apple

No more power adapter or headphones in the box

It’s been rumored for months, but now it’s official: Apple will no longer be including headphones or a wall power adapter with the iPhone. The company cites the potential environmental impact as their reasoning, noting that there are already “billions” of compatible chargers out in the world. The new iPhones will ship with a USB-C to Lightning cable — just not the bit that plugs into the wall.

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