All posts in “Apps”

Moment Pro Camera app brings big camera controls to your phone

The company that brought you the best glass for your mobile device now gives you DSLR-like controls with their Pro Camera app. Features include full manual adjustment over ISO, shutter speed, white balance, image format and more.

It should be noted that if you don’t have a shiny new device you won’t be able to use the app to its full potential since some of its key features include 3D touch, dual lens control, RAW image format, 120 and 240 fps, and 4k resolution.

Moment says the app is for “anyone looking for pro, manual controls on their phone.” Being one of TechCrunch’s resident image makers, I figured I should take the app out for a spin and pit it against the stock camera app. I enlisted my photogenic friend, Jackie, to be my muse.

Scrolling through the manual settings was very easy and the UI never felt fumbly. The histogram is nice to have and utilizes that iPhone notch well. The app doesn’t have portrait mode, however, which Jackie and I would have loved because who doesn’t love that buttery (fake) bokeh – amirite? Manipulating the exposure in video mode was equally as easy. The app didn’t have an audio meter or level settings, so folks recording dialog or VO need to plan accordingly. Luckily, our shoot didn’t need it since we were shooting slow-mo.

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For a couple extra bucks you can get the same manual controls, audio levels, + RAW with ProCam 5. But if you’re already invested in the Moment Lens ecosystem and primarily shoot photography then the upgrade could be a worthwhile addition.

You can save photos in HEIF, JPG, RAW and TIFF format. For video, you have the option to shoot in 24, 30, 60, 120, and 240 fps in either 720p, 1080p or 4k resolution. Free to try. $2.99 iOS and $1.99 Android to upgrade.

Instacart taps Postmates to help with deliveries in SF during peak demand

Instacart has tapped Postmates to offer better delivery services during peak hours in a San Francisco pilot.

While Instacart will still handle all the shopping for its customers, it will hand off some deliveries to Postmates at times when there is high demand on the Instacart platform.

Postmates, obviously, has offered delivery-as-a-service for merchants and brands since its inception, and some of those brands, such as Walmart, offer their own delivery services. But this marks the first time that Postmates has offered delivery-as-a-service to a business that itself is already a delivery service.

This comes at a time when the grocery space is at an inflection point. Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition of Whole Foods has spurred a race to offer quick and convenient grocery delivery from a number of the bigger players, such as Target and Walmart. On top of that, the grocery industry is highly fragmented, offering a huge opportunity for the catch-all of Instacart’s service.

But quantity means almost nothing without quality, and Instacart’s pilot with Postmates is meant to ensure that delivery times don’t lag in the late morning and early afternoon, when most Instacart orders are set to be delivered.

Instacart’s Northwest General Manager Michelle McRae explained that there is a load balance involved in the partnership with Postmates.

“Like many on-demand services, Instacart sees demand peaks on certain days and at certain times,” said McRae. “The pilot is a way to offer delivery during peak hours and utilize Postmates delivery staff at times where Postmates would be most underutilized. Instacart users overwhelmingly prefer mid-morning and mid-afternoon, where is different from when people want hot, prepared food.”

McRae also stressed that the pilot would not affect current Instacart shoppers or delivery contractors, as Postmates is simply offering delivery capacity during peak demand times.

Perhaps more interesting, Postmates sees a big opportunity to work with on-demand services in offering extra delivery either at or below the cost of hiring more delivery people.

“We definitely see this as a bigger part of Postmates’ future,” said Postmates SVP Dan Mosher. “Most brands are moving toward a world where they want to provide quick convenient delivery but they don’t have the capabilities. As we scale, we have the delivery density to drive economics in a really cost-effective way, not only to restaurants and retailers but to other on-demand services as well.”

He added that enterprise delivery services will never eclipse Postmates’ direct-to-consumer business.

The pilot is currently only going down in San Francisco, but Instacart said that it is considering expanding it to other geographies and other delivery services as the pilot continues. The deal is not exclusive, as Postmates is currently working with Walmart to help deliver their groceries to customers.

Adobe could bring Photoshop to the iPad

Adobe currently has three dozens apps in the App Store. But one app is still missing. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company could be working on a full-fledged version of Photoshop for the iPad. And it makes sense for a ton of reasons.

First, it’s clear that the iPad has become powerful enough to run complicated image editing software. Just two days ago, Serif launched Affinity Designer for the iPad, an Adobe Illustrator competitor. You can also look at benchmarks to find out that the iPad Pro is now more powerful than most mid-range laptops.

Second, now that you can effortlessly sync your files and projects across multiple devices, many people work using multiple devices. It’s been true for many years if you’re just working on a Microsoft Word file on your work computer and your personal laptop for instance. Maybe you use Dropbox or OneDrive to stay on the same page. But it’s also true with huge media libraries now.

A few years ago, people looked at their devices based on contexts. Maybe you had a work laptop, a couch-computing iPad, a big desktop computer for games, etc. But this is a thing of the past now that you can literally work from all your devices.

And when it comes to Photoshop, the Apple Pencil and touch screen makes the iPad a particularly useful device. Maybe you need a big screen to look at a photo, but maybe you want to use the Apple Pencil to interact with the photo.

Bringing Photoshop to the iPad could let you seamlessly work on the same file across multiple devices, switching back and forth between those two devices. Illustrators could really use this kind of flexibility and ditch their Wacom tablet.

You might remember that Apple has put together a Pro Workflow Team for the same reason. You could imagine launching Final Cut Pro X or Logic Pro X on an iMac and on an iPad to interact with a project in different ways. Apple may not be working on Macs with a touchscreen, but it’s clear that there will be ways to interact with a creative project using your finger or the Apple Pencil.

Finally, bringing Photoshop to the iPad makes sense on a business model perspective. Now that Adobe has shifted to a subscription model, the company needs to increase stickiness as much as possible. If you end up spending more time in Adobe apps because your favorite app is on all platforms, you’ll keep paying for Creative Cloud every month.

This project will be an engineering achievement. But this isn’t the first time Adobe is developing a single app for multiple platforms.

Bloomberg says that we might hear more from Photoshop for iPad at the Adobe Max conference in October. Adobe’s chief product officer of Creative Cloud Scott Belsky confirmed that the company was working on releasing these new versions as quickly as possible.

Headout lands $10M Series A to help tourists book last-minute outings

Imagine being in a new city with a few hours to kill, but no idea what to do. Headout is a travel app that enables tourists to book outings at very short notice, in most cases on the same day. The startup announced today that it’s raised a $10 million Series A led by returning investors Nexus Venture Partners and Version One Ventures to support its ambitious growth targets.

Over the next 18 months, co-founder and CEO Varun Khona says the startup wants to expand from 20 cities to 100 cities in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The app recently added French, German and Spanish in select markets and aims to have all of its inventory available in 12 languages by the end of next year. Its bookings includes sightseeing tours, museum tickets and shows.

Headout’s Series A brings its total raised to $12 million. Its seed round was announced in 2015, when TechCrunch first profiled the company. The startup claims it has grown eight times over the past 12 months and is profitable.

As it enters new markets, however, Headout will be up against a roster of competitors that also offer experience bookings for tourists. These include Klook, TripAdvisor-owned Viator, Get Your Guide and Airbnb’s Experiences feature.

Khona says Headout’s main edge is tailoring its inventory and technology platform for “spontaneous last-minute mobile use cases.” It’s also a managed marketplace, meaning it standardizes pricing and quality, with the hope of creating a consistent experience across all outings. The startup says this focus on combining quality with unit economics means it’s enabled customers to save an average of 18% on last-minute bookings.

Facebook would make a martyr by banning Infowars

Alex Jones’ Infowars is a fake news-peddler. But Facebook deleting its Page could ignite a fire that consumes the network. Still, some critics are asking why it hasn’t done so already.

This week Facebook held an event with journalists to discuss how it combats fake news. The company’s recently appointed head of News Feed John Hegeman explained that, “I guess just for being false, that doesn’t violate the community standards. I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice.”

In response, CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted: “I asked them why InfoWars is still allowed on the platform. I didn’t get a good answer.” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel meanwhile wrote that allowing the Infowars Page to exist shows that “Facebook simply isn’t willing to make the hard choices necessary to tackle fake news.”

Facebook’s own Twitter account tried to rebuke Darcy by tweeting, “We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news. We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.” But harm can be minimized without full-on censorship.

There is no doubt that Facebook hides behind political neutrality. It fears driving away conservative users for both business and stated mission reasons. That strategy is exploited by those like Jones who know that no matter how extreme and damaging their actions, they’ll benefit from equivocation that implies ‘both sides are guilty,’ with no regard for degree.

Instead of being banned from Facebook, Infowars and sites like it that constantly and purposely share dangerous hoaxes and conspiracy theories should be heavily down-ranked in the News Feed.

Effectively, they should be quarantined, so that when they or their followers share their links, no one else sees them.

“We don’t have a policy that stipulates that everything posted on Facebook must be true — you can imagine how hard that would be to enforce,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “But there’s a very real tension here. We work hard to find the right balance between encouraging free expression and promoting a safe and authentic community, and we believe that down-ranking inauthentic content strikes that balance. In other words, we allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed.”

Facebook already reduces the future views of posts by roughly 80 percent when they’re established as false by its third-party fact checkers like Politifact and the Associated Press. For repeat offenders, I think that reduction in visibility should be closer to 100 percent of News Feed views. What Facebook does do to those whose posts are frequently labeled as false by its checkers is “remove their monetization and advertising privileges to cut off financial incentives, and dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”

The company wouldn’t comment directly about whether Infowars has already been hit with that penalty, noting “We can’t disclose whether specific Pages or domains are receiving such a demotion (it becomes a privacy issue).” For any story fact checked as false, it shows related articles from legitimate publications to provide other perspectives on the topic, and notifies people who have shared it or are about to.

But that doesn’t solve for the initial surge of traffic. Unfortunately, Facebook’s limited array of fact checking partners are strapped with so much work, they can only get to so many BS stories quickly. That’s a strong endorsement for more funding to be dedicated to these organizations like Snopes, preferably by even keeled non-profits, though the risks of governments or Facebook chipping in might be worth it.

Given that fact-checking will likely never scale to be instantly responsive to all fake news in all languages, Facebook needs a more drastic option to curtail the spread of this democracy-harming content on its platform. That might mean a full loss of News Feed posting privileges for a certain period of time. That might mean that links re-shared by the supporters or agents of these pages get zero distribution in the feed.

But it shouldn’t mean their posts or Pages are deleted, or that their links can’t be opened unless they clearly violate Facebook’s core content policies.

Why downranking and quarantine? Because banning would only stoke conspiratorial curiosity about these inaccurate outlets. Trolls will use the bans as a badge of honor, saying, “Facebook deleted us because it knows what we say is true.”

They’ll claim they’ve been unfairly removed from the proxy for public discourse that exists because of the size of Facebook’s private platform.

What we’ll have on our hands is “but her emails!” 2.0

People who swallowed the propaganda of “her emails”, much of which was pushed by Alex Jones himself, assumed that Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails must have contained evidence of some unspeakable wrongdoing — something so bad it outweighed anything done by her opponent, even when the accusations against him had evidence and witnesses aplenty.

If Facebook deleted the Pages of Infowars and their ilk, it would be used as a rallying cry that Jones’ claims were actually clairvoyance. That he must have had even worse truths to tell about his enemies and so he had to be cut down. It would turn him into a martyr.

Those who benefit from Infowars’ bluster would use Facebook’s removal of its Page as evidence that it’s massively biased against conservatives. They’d push their political allies to vindictively regulate Facebook beyond what’s actually necessary. They’d call for people to delete their Facebook accounts and decamp to some other network that’s much more of a filter bubble than what some consider Facebook to already be. That would further divide the country and the world.

When someone has a terrible, contagious disease, we don’t execute them. We quarantine them. That’s what should happen here. The exception should be for posts that cause physical harm offline. That will require tough judgement calls, but knowing inciting mob violence for example should not be tolerated. Some of Infowars posts, such as those about Pizzagate that led to a shooting, might qualify for deletion by that standard.

Facebook is already trying to grapple with this after rumors and fake news spread through forwarded WhatsApp messages have led to crowds lynching people in India and attacks in Myanmar. Peer-to-peer chat lacks the same centralized actors to ban, though WhatsApp is now at least marking messages as forwarded, and it will need to do more. But for less threatening yet still blatantly false news, quarantining may be sufficient. This also leaves room for counterspeech, where disagreeing commenters can refute posts or share their own rebuttals.

Few people regularly visit the Facebook Pages they follow. They wait for the content to come to them through the News Feed posts of the Page, and their friends. Eliminating that virality vector would severely limit this fake news’ ability to spread without requiring the posts or Pages to be deleted, or the links to be rendered unopenable.

If Facebook wants to uphold a base level of free speech, it may be prudent to let the liars have their voice. However, Facebook is under no obligation to amplify that speech, and the fakers have no entitlement for their speech to be amplified.

Image Credit: Getty – Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, Flickr Sean P. Anderson CC