Technology improvements over the past few years mean that most fully wireless earbuds are a lot better than they used to be. That has led to something of a narrowing of the field among competitors in this arena, but some of the players still stand out – and Jabra have definitely delivered a standout performer with its newest Elite Active 75t fully wireless earbuds.
Jabra’s Elite Active 75t is a successor to its very popular 65t line, with added moisture resistance designed specifically for exercise use, as indicated by the ‘Active’ in the name. At $199.99, these are definitely premium-priced – but they’re a lot more affordable than many of the other offerings in the category, especially with their IP57-water and sweat resistance rating.
The Elite Active 75t also feature an esteemed 7.5 hours of battery life on a single charge, and their compact charging case carries backup power that adds up to a total of 28 hours potential run time across a single charge for both. The case charges via USB-C and also offers a fast-charge capability that provides 60 minutes of use from just 15 minutes of charging.
While they don’t offer active noise cancellation, they do have passive noise blocking, and an adjustable passthrough mode so that you can tune how much of the sound of the world around you you want to let in – a great safety feature for running or other activities.
They use Bluetooth 5.0 for low power consumption and extended connection range, have an auto-pause and resume feature for when you take out one earbud, and include a 4-mic array to optimize audio quality during calls.
Jabra has accomplished a lot on the design front with the Elite Active 75t. Their predecessor was already among the most compact and low-profile in-ear wireless buds on the market, and the Elite Active 75t is even smaller. These are extremely lightweight and comfortable, too, and their design ensures that they stay put even during running or other active pursuits. In my testing, they didn’t even require adjustment once during a 30-minute outdoor run.
Their comfort makes them a great choice for both active use and for all-day wear at the desk – and the 7.5 hours of battery life doesn’t seem to be a boast, either, based on my use, which is also good for workday wear.
Another key design feature that Jabra included on the Elite Active 75t is that both earbuds feature a large, physical button for controls. This is much better and easier to use than the touch-based controls found on a lot of other headsets, and makes learning the various on-device control features a lot easier.
Finally in terms of design, the charging case for the Elite Active 75t is also among the most svelte on the market. It’s about the size of two stacked matchboxes, and easily slides into any available pockets. Like the earbuds themselves, the case features a very slightly rubberized outer texture, which is great for grip but, as you can see from the photos, is also a dust magnet. That doesn’t really matter unless you happen to be tasked with photographing them, however.
One final note on the case design – magnetic snaps in the earbud pockets mean you can be sure that your headset buds are seated correctly for charging when you put them back, which is a great bit of user experience thoughtfulness.
It’s easy to see why the Jabra Elite Active 75t is already a favorite among users – they provide a rich, pleasant sound profile that’s also easily tuned through the Jabra Sound+ mobile app. Especially for a pair of earbuds designed specifically for active use, these provide sound quality that goes above and beyond.
Their battery life appears to line up with manufacturer estimates, which also makes them class-leading in terms of single charge battery life. That’s a big advantage when using these for longer outdoor activities, or, as mentioned, when relying on them for all-day desk work. Their built-in mic is also clear and easy to understand for people on the other side of voice and video calls, and the built-in voice isolation seems to work very well according to my testing.
In my experience, their fit is also fantastic. Jabra really seems to have figured out how to build a bud that stays in place, regardless of how much you’re moving around or sweating. It’s really refreshing to find a pair of fully wireless buds that you never have to even think about readjusting them during a workout.
Jabra has done an excellent job setting their offering apart from an increasingly crowded fully wireless earbud market, and the Elite Active 75t is another distinctive success. Size, comfort and battery life all help put this above its peers, and it also boasts great sound quality as well as excellent call quality. You can get better sounding fully wireless earbuds, but not without spending quite a bit more money and sacrificing some of those other advantages.
Conservative members of the United Kingdom’s government have pushed Prime Minister Boris Johnson to draw up plans to remove telecom equipment made by the Chinese manufacturer Huawei from the nation’s 5G networks by 2023, according to multiple reports.
The decision by Johnson, who wanted Huawei’s market share in the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure capped at 35 percent, brings the UK back into alignment with the position Australia and the United States have taken on Huawei’s involvement in national communications networks, according to both The Guardian and The Telegraph.
The debate over Huawei’s role in international networking stems from the company’s close ties to the Chinese government and the attendant fears that relying on Huawei telecom equipment could expose the allied nations to potential cybersecurity threats and weaken national security.
Originally, the UK had intended to allow Huawei to maintain a foothold in the nation’s telecom infrastructure in a plan that had received the approval of Britain’s intelligence agencies in January.
“This is very good news and I hope and believe it will be the start of a complete and thorough review of our dangerous dependency on China,” conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told The Guardian when informed of the Prime Minister’s reversal.
As TechCrunch had previously reported, the Australian government and the U.S. both have significant concerns about Huawei’s ability to act independently of the interests of the Chinese national government.
“The fundamental issue is one of trust between nations in cyberspace,” wrote Simeon Gilding, until recently the head of the Australian Signals Directorate’s signals intelligence and offensive cyber missions. “It’s simply not reasonable to expect that Huawei would refuse a direction from the Chinese Communist Party.”
Given the current tensions between the U.S. and China, allies like the UK and Australia would be better served not exposing themselves to any risks from having the foreign telecommunications company’s technology in their networks, some security policy analysts have warned.
“It’s not hard to imagine a time when the U.S. and China end up in some sort of conflict,” Tom Uren of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) told TechCrunch. “If there was a shooting war, it is almost inevitable that the U.S. would ask Australia for assistance and then we’d be in this uncomfortable situation if we had Huawei in our networks that our critical telecommunications networks would literally be run by an adversary we were at war with.”
U.S. officials are bound to be delighted with the decision. They’ve been putting pressure on European countries for months to limit Huawei’s presence in their telecom networks.
“If countries choose to go the Huawei route it could well jeopardize all the information sharing and intelligence sharing we have been talking about, and that could undermine the alliance, or at least our relationship with that country,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, according to a report in The New York Times.
In recent months the U.S. government has stepped up its assault against the technology giant on multiple fronts. Earlier in May, the U.S. issued new restrictions on the use of American software and hardware in certain strategic semiconductor processes. The rules would affect all foundries using U.S. technologies, including those located abroad, some of which are Huawei’s key suppliers.
At a conference earlier this week, Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping admitted that while the firm is able to design some semiconductor parts such as integrated circuits (IC), it remains “incapable of doing a lot of other things.”
“Survival is the keyword for us at present,” he said.
Huawei has challenged the ban, saying that it would damage the international technology ecosystem that has developed to manufacture the hardware that powers the entire industry.
“In the long run, [the U.S. ban] will damage the trust and collaboration within the global semiconductor industry which many industries depend on, increasing conflict and loss within these industries.”
Daniel Graf has had a long career in the tech industry. From founding his own startup in the mid-2000s to working at Google, then Twitter, and finally Uber, the tech business has made him extremely wealthy.
But after leaving Uber, he wasn’t necessarily interested in working at another business… At least, not until he spent an afternoon in the spring of 2019 with an old friend, General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja, walking in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood and hearing Taneja talk about a new startup called Mindstrong.
Taneja told Graf that by the fall of that year, he’d be working at Mindstrong… and Taneja was right.
“I was intrigued by healthtech previously,” said Graf. “The problem always was…and it sounds a little too money oriented.. but if there’s no clear visibility around who pays who in a startup, the startup isn’t going to work,” and that was always his issue with healthcare businesses.
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 21: Daniel Graf accepts a Webby award for Google Maps for Iphone at the 17th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Webby Awards)
With Mindstrong, which announced today that it has raised $100 million in new financing, the issue of who pays is clear.
So Graf joined the company in November as chief executive, taking over from Paul Dagum, who remains with Mindstrong as its chief scientific officer.
“Daniel joined the company as it was moving from pure R&D into being something commercially available,” said Taneja, in an email. “In healthcare, it’s increasingly important to understand how to build for the consumer and that’s where Daniel’s experience and background comes in. Paul remains a core part of the team because none of this happens without the science.”
The company, which has developed a digital platform for providing therapy to patients with severe mental illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to obsessive compulsive disorders, is looking to tackle a problem that costs the American healthcare system $20 billion per month, Graf said.
Unlike companies like Headspace and Calm that have focused on the mental wellness market for the mass consumer, Mindstrong is focused on people with severe mental health conditions, said Graf. That means people who are either bipolar, schizophrenic or have major depressive disorder.
It’s a much larger population than most Americans think and they face a critical problem in their ability to receive adequate care, Graf said.
“1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, 1 in 25 experience serious mental illness, and the pandemic is making these numbers worse. Meanwhile, more than 60% of US counties don’t have a single practicing psychiatrist,” said Joe Lonsdale, the founder of 8VC, and investor in the latest Mindstrong Health round, in a statement.
Dagum, Mindstrong Health’s founder has been working on the issue of how to provide better access and monitor for indications of potential episodes of distress since 2013. The company’s technology provides a range of monitoring and measurement tools using digital biomarkers that are currently being validated through clinical trials, according to Graf.
“We’re passively measuring the usage of the phone and the timing of the keyboard strokes to measure how [a patient] is doing,” Graf said. These smartphone interactions can provide data around mental acuity and emotional valence, according to Graf — and can provide signs that someone might be having problems.
The company also provides access to therapists via phone and video consultations or text-based asynchronous communications, based on user preference.
“Think of us more as a virtual hospital… our care pathways are super complex for this population,” said Graf. “We’re not aware of other startups working with this population. These folks, the best you get right now is the county mental health.”
Mindstrong’s Series C raise included participation from new and existing investors, including General Catalyst, ARCH Ventures, Optum Ventures, Foresite Capital, 8VC, What If Ventures and Bezos Expeditions, along with other, undisclosed investors.
And while mental health is the company’s current focus, the platform for care delivery that the company is building has broader implications for the industry, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to General Catalyst managing director, Taneja.
“I expect that we’ll see discoveries in biomarker tech like Mindstrong’s that could be applied horizontally across almost any area of healthcare,” Taneja said in an email. “Because healthcare is so broad and varied, going vertical like Mindstrong is makes a lot of sense. There’s opportunity to become a successful and very impactful company by staying narrowly focused and solving some really hard problems for even a smaller part of the overall population.”
The days of the big product event are on hold for the foreseeable future. Until then, a big blog post will have to do. A day after announcing that Microsoft would be shifting focus away from dual-screen devices, Chief Product Officer Panos Panay took to the company’s Devices blog to show off a slew of new products.
The headliners here are the latest versions of the Surface Book and Surface Go. There are also updates on the line’s headphone offerings. The compact Go is one of the more compelling additions to the Surface family, and the original model was fairly well received, so let’s start with that.
The goal of the initial Go was offering a more affordable entry level into the Surface line, coupled with a portable form factor — smaller and cheaper. The Go 2 retains its predecessor’s footprint, while increasing screen size ever so slightly, from 10 inches to 10.5. The processor has been upgraded to an 8th-gen Intel, up from a Pentium. Both the microphones and the front-facing camera got upgrades as well, along with some new apps for the Surface Pen. The Go will be available May 12, priced at $399.
The Surface Book’s upgrades are largely internal. There’s a 10th-gen Intel processor, coupled with 32GB of RAM and improved graphics. Microsoft says the laptop should get up to 17.5 hours of life on a charge. That one’s available May 21, starting at $1,599.
The Surface Headphones have gotten an upgrade, as well, with up to 20 hours of battery life on a charge. There’s improved sound quality and adjustable active noise cancellation, while the ear cups have been redesigned to offer more rotation for the users. Those will be priced at $249. They’re hitting stores (well, online, at least) May 12.
Ditto for the long-awaited Surface Earbuds. One of the odder additions to the family, the AirPods competitor seeks to set itself apart with the inclusion of various Office-related features, including Word, Outlook and PowerPoint diction. Those include a wireless charging case, all priced at $199.
Since first uploading a YouTube teaser video of its tech five years ago, Magic Leap’s presence in the augmented reality industry has been controversial.
Some have lauded the team’s ambitions, while others I’ve talked to say the company’s posturing has dissuaded investors from taking chances on other AR hardware startups, which has hampered the industry’s advance.
Regardless of its impact, Magic Leap carries outsized weight, leading one to question what would happen to other AR companies if the company’s situation worsened.
The company announced layoffs today, with reports indicating that it is dismissing around 1,000 employees — about half of the company. Magic Leap’s added news of a major pivot to enterprise makes it seem like that wasn’t its primary strategy over the past year. From my perspective, the company looks like it is on a path to a fire sale and will be dependent on executing a dramatic turnaround, which grows tougher under current economic conditions.
Magic Leap has few users, so a theoretical shutdown would likely have a lesser impact than other unicorn flare-outs; still, losing a company on the forefront of a technology lauded by many as the next ubiquitous platform will certainly impact others that are striving to bring this tech to market.
The impact for startups moving forward would be nuanced. Without a substantial software suite of its own, Magic Leap relied heavily on developer partnerships, though in recent months many of those seemed to promote enterprise use cases. AR/VR startups are already in a rough position, and one less developer platform could force more companies to de-prioritize headset-based platforms and shift their focus to mobile.
The best founders seek out great mentors and guidance from folks who know best, but during the coronavirus pandemic, asking for help when it’s needed is critical for all entrepreneurs.
Ureeka, a startup founded by Melissa Bradley, David Jakubowski and Rob Gatto, is looking to provide that mentorship and guidance through their platform, which just closed on an $8.6 million funding round from Bullpen Capital, Chicago Ventures and Salesforce Ventures.
“There is an intentionality in our business to go after what we see as the fastest growing, largest and most interesting market opportunity, which is not the Harvard and MIT pedigree, but underrepresented entrepreneurs,” said Bradley. “Small and medium businesses account for 99 percent of all business in this country and there has been a real missed opportunity around serving them.”
The company says that female led venture-backed business performance is 63 percent higher than investments in all male teams, while the same businesses have 12 percent higher revenue and use 33 percent less capital, with a 15-25 percent lower failure rate. Since the recent recessions, businesses owned by people of color are the fastest growing segment, with 38 percent growth between 2008 and 2012, according to Ureeka. Meanwhile, Hispanic-owned businesses have seen 46 percent growth from 2007 to 2012, with $700 billion in sales globally, creating 8 million jobs with a total payroll of $254 billion, the startup says.
Ureeka pairs these entrepreneurs with mentors and coaches to get answers to their most pressing questions. The idea for the startup came when the cofounders were judging a pitch competition in Michigan and got to talking about the challenges associated with starting a company, particularly for underrepresented founders.
The Ureeka founders noted that black, hispanic and women founders begin businesses with approximately half of the capital that white men do, on average, and that loan rejection is three times higher for minority entrepreneurs than their white counterparts.
“In talking with Melissa, I realized that there are some basic things I was taking for granted,” said Jakubowski, formerly Head of Data & Analytics, Emerging Business & Partnerships at Facebook . “For example, I could pick up the phone and have an answer to my question in 30 minutes.”
After testing for months, Jakubowski and Bradley (Managing Director of Project 500, adjunct professor at Georgetown’s Business school and presidential appointee under both President Clinton and President Obama) launched Ureeka to give access to mentorship to underrepresented small and medium business owners, agnostic of sector or region.
These entrepreneurs can hop on the platform with a question and get an answer from a mentor or coach in under two hours. Mentors, experts from just about any sector of business, give their time to the platform for free. Coaches, on the other hand, are paid contractors (many of whom have their own business or operational position at a large company). Ureeka members can also start up conversations with other members, and access on-demand webinar-style content on topics that are common to the whole community, such as adapting to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ureeka has more than 200 mentors on the platform, many of whom hail from companies like Facebook, Snap, Salesforce, Google, and Adobe, among others. Ureeka members can also pay a premium ($3,000/year) to have access to a dedicated coach, who can then follow along with the various questions and issues that arise and ultimately skip over the exposition and context-gathering part of the conversation. Those that opt for a dedicated coach get two hours each month of one-to-one video chat with their coach.
Alongside the funding announcement, Ureeka is also announcing that it will be facilitating the SMB grant programs from Facebook and Salesforce. Facebook’s grant program will provide $100 million to SMBs in the United States, and Salesforce’s Small Business Grants will provide $10,000 individually to SMBs.
According to the company, Ureeka members see 2x revenue growth once they’re connected to mentors and coaches, and the founders noted that many Ureeka members graduate to mentors or coaches and pay it forward to new members.
The for-profit business charges $200/year for members to join, and the company takes less than 15 percent margin. Ureeka is also waiving its fee for all businesses impacted by coronavirus through 2020.
The company also has a vendor partnership program, helping members find the right vendor for their need without being overwhelmed by thousands of Google search results. In fact, many vendors are Ureeka members themselves, creating a virtuous circle within the Ureeka community. Big corporations that would like to be included in the Ureeka vendor program must provide a dedicated line of communication for the Ureeka community.
Two Tesla employees, who had been working at home for nearly two weeks, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an internal email sent Thursday morning by the company’s head of environmental, health, and safety department and viewed by TechCrunch .
The employees were not symptomatic in the office, and both are quarantined at home and recovering well, according to the email from Tesla’s EHS department head Laurie Shelby. Their co-workers, who were already working from home for nearly two weeks as well, were notified so they can quarantine, the email read. The email did not disclose what locations the employees were working at.
“In both cases, interactions with the individuals had a low likelihood of transmission based on the minimal staff onsite and social distancing measures we took earlier this month,” Shelby wrote in the email.
Tesla could not be reached for comment. Business Insider previously reported on the same internal email.
The email has heightened concern among several Tesla employees that TechCrunch has spoken to, as they weigh the risk of coming into work or using paid-time off or unpaid leave to stay at home. Tesla employs more than 48,000 people at its headquarters, factories, sales and service centers and delivery hubs throughout the U.S. While some employees are able to work from home, the company still has workers at its delivery and service centers as well as an estimated 2,500 people at its Fremont, Calif. factory.
Tesla suspended production at its Fremont factory beginning March 23, days after a shelter-in-place order went into effect in Alameda County due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some basic operations that support Tesla’s charging infrastructure and what it describes as its “vehicle and energy services operations” have continued at the factory, which under normal circumstances employs more than 10,000 people.
The decision to suspend production at Fremont came after a multi-day public tussle between the automaker and local officials in Alameda County over what was considered an “essential” business.
Tesla has also suspended operations at its factory in Buffalo, N.Y., except for “those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains,” the company said in a statement. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday that he plans to reopen the Buffalo factory to produce ventilators, a critical piece of medical equipment used in severe cases of COVID-19.
The email comes just two days after reports of at least two positive COVID-19 cases at SpaceX, another company headed up Musk. The positive cases at SpaceX sent some employees into quarantine, CNBC reported. The company is making hand sanitizer in house and taking other steps to protect nervous workers, according to CNBC. TechCrunch could not reach SpaceX for comment.
COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, has rippled through corporate and industrial America. Manufacturers have suspended production of vehicles, tech companies have ordered employees to work from home and city, county and state governments have issued a variety of orders to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.
For instance, California Gv. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home directive that ordered all nonessential businesses to close and for residents to only leave their homes for essential needs like groceries or to visit the pharmacy. Other states where Tesla has operations such as New York are also under a stay-at-home order.
Musk’s actions during the pandemic have caused a variety of reactions among employees, critics and his millions of Twitter followers. He has appeared dismissive of COVID-19 in emails to employees and on Twitter, where he has spread a misinformation on the disease, including that children are “essentially immune,” a statement that contradicts with information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In one internal email sent to SpaceX employees, Musk noted that they were more likely to die in a car crash than from the disease.
Even as Musk seemed to downplay the disease, he has also stepped up to donate medical supplies needed by hospitals and has directed employees to not come to work if they feel ill or are uncomfortable. Tesla employees have received emails from human resources head Valerie Workman that if they could not or were reluctant to come to work they could use PTO or take unpaid time off after they exhaust their PTO. The email told one employee (who spoke to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity) that they would be not be penalized for their decision or face disciplinary action for attendance based on health or impossibility to come to work.
Musk has also donated essential personal protective equipment to hospitals that are facing a shortage of these supplies and has committed to trying to help ramp up production of ventilators.
Ford, GM and Tesla have been given the “go ahead” to make ventilators to help alleviate a shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump said in a tweet Sunday that ended with a challenge to auto executives to show how good their companies are.
Ventilators are a critical piece of medical equipment for patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. And since there is no clinically proven treatment yet, ventilators are relied upon to help people breathe and fight the disease. There are about 160,000 ventilators in the United States and another 12,700 in the National Strategic Supply, the NYT reported.
The tweet follows a plea Sunday morning from NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the federal government to nationalize medical supply acquisition instead of leaving it to individual states. Cuomo is one of a growing group of officials to call for Trump to order companies to produce medical supplies under the Defense Production Act, a law that allows the federal government to compel private industry to produce materials needed for national defense.
Without the nationalization, states are competing against each other for supplies, Cuomo said. Prices have spiked as a result, putting more pressure on a health care system.
Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are? @RepMarkMeadows @GOPLeader @senatemajldr
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2020
Trump has issued an executive order that invokes the Defense Production Act, but it’s unclear if it has been used. Trump said last week during a press conference that it had been, but Federal Emergency Management Agency head Peter Gaynor told reporters Sunday that the president has not yet ordered any companies to make more critical supplies.
I’m calling on the Federal Government to nationalize the medical supply chain.
The Federal Government should immediately use the Defense Production Act to order companies to make gowns, masks and gloves.
Currently, states are competing against other states for supplies.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 22, 2020
Several automakers said last week they were looking into the feasibility of producing ventilators. GM said Friday that it is working with Ventec Life Systems to help increase production of respiratory care products such as ventilators that are needed by a growing number of hospitals as the COVID-19 pandemics spreads throughout the U.S. The partnership is part of StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated effort of private companies to respond to COVId-19, a disease caused by coronavirus.
Ford told TechCrunch in an email Sunday that it stands ready to help the administration, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment.
“We have had preliminary discussions with the U.S. and U.K. governments and looking into the feasibility,” the Ford spokesperson Rachel McCleery said. “It’s vital that we all pull together to help the country weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever.”
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Saturday that he had a discussion with Medtronic about ventilators. Medtronic later confirmed those talks in a tweet. He had previously tweeted that SpaceX and Tesla will work on ventilators, without providing specifics.
Tesla could not be reached for comment.
Addressing #COVID19 is a group effort. We are grateful for the discussion with @ElonMusk and @Tesla as we work across industries to solve problems and get patients and hospitals the tools they need to continue saving lives. We're all in this together. https://t.co/MdZ3u8k2nR
— Medtronic (@Medtronic) March 21, 2020