Logitech’s cute Wi-Fi home security camera slims down and goes modular

Logitech, makers of seemingly ever kind of computer accessory imaginable, is giving its well-received Logi Circle home Wi-Fi connected home security a complete overhaul.

The company’s new Logi Circle 2 security camera isn’t just smaller, it’s also modular this time around.

The original Circle camera received our Mashable Choice award for its simple and thoughtful design, beautiful app, and easy-but-powerful features. The Circle 2, available in wired ($179) and wireless ($199) model, pushes those ideas over the top.

First things first, the camera itself is now a whole lot smaller. The ball-shaped body is gone, replaced with a slimmer design. I kinda prefer the older look, which looked a little more Apple-ish, but the slim down allows the magnetic mount to move from the base to its backside.

Wireless Circle 2 clips right into the wall mount via a thin metal rod.

Wireless Circle 2 clips right into the wall mount via a thin metal rod.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Wired version is held together by a metal ball joint to give the camera head the illusion that it's floating.

Wired version is held together by a metal ball joint to give the camera head the illusion that it’s floating.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The shrink down doesn’t come at the expense of improvements, though. Unlike the original, the Circle 2’s weatherproof so it works both indoors and outdoors.

Original Circle (left) vs. Circle 2 (right).

Original Circle (left) vs. Circle 2 (right).

Image: raymond wong/mashable

The Circle 2 easily attaches to mounts via its magnetic backside.

The Circle 2 easily attaches to mounts via its magnetic backside.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The lens’ field of view has been improved from 135 degrees to a wider 180 degrees — no motorized pivoted required like on some other Wi-Fi security cams.

Video capture resolution is still full HD 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) resolution — it would have been great to get a bump up to 4K or at least use 4K resolution for further digital enhancements like Nest’s upcoming Cam IQ — but, honestly, it should still look great. We had no issues with 1080p when we reviewed the original Circle cam.

Besides the redesign, and features upgrade, the most exciting thing about the Circle 2 is its modular design. Logitech says its users have been asking for a way to mount the Circle cam in different places that would have previously been impossible or too challenging.

Attach the Circle 2 to the Window Mount and stick to a window to monitor the outside world.

Attach the Circle 2 to the Window Mount and stick to a window to monitor the outside world.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

For example, if you want to mount the Circle 2 to a window to record outside, simply attach the Window Mount ($39). The mount also smartly helps combat glare by disabling the infrared sensor and optimizes night mode to work for better low-light capture.

Or if you want to mount the camera somewhere low to, say, monitor your pets, you might go with the new Plug Mount ($29).

The new Plug Mount fits right into a regular socket and keeps it powered.

The new Plug Mount fits right into a regular socket and keeps it powered.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Sure, these are all extra pieces you’ll have to buy, but the advantage of a modular system gives you the flexibility to change things up when you want to.

Other add-ons for the Circle 2 include the weatherproof extension kit ($29), which extends the camera’s cables by 15 feet and has a protective cover for the power adapter (great for outdoors), and a backup rechargeable battery that lasts up to three months.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Though it doesn’t have a 4K image sensor, one area the Circle 2 beats the Nest Cam is digital assistant integration. You can program Logitech’s own Pop Smart Buttons or voice commands through Amazon’s Alexa to do simple things like turn the camera on/off, start a recording, and start a live chat, to name a few things. It’ll also support Apple’s HomeKit through a software update.

And of course, the Circle 2 comes with the same excellent 24-hours of free encrypted cloud storage, which you can then use to create those awesome Day Brief timelapses (like the one below). If you need more storage, you can pay $3.99 for 14 days or $9.99 for 31 days; the latter comes with some more powerful extras like motion zones and person detection.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Wi-Fi security cameras are admittedly not super sexy, but when paired with voice assistants, they bring us closer towards bringing Star Trek technologies into our homes.

It’ll be interesting to pit the Nest Cam IQ against the Circle 2 and see which one comes out on top. Stay tuned for that when we get the cameras in for testing.

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Microsoft’s Surface Laptop comes with one big suck, but it’s easily fixable

Like so many students, the very first laptop I had was a MacBook (the plastic one, not the new 2-pounder). I bought it in the summer of 2007 after finishing my first year of college, and it lasted until I graduated.

I loved the machine even though it weighed a hefty five pounds and was an inch thick. It’s a tank by today’s thin and light laptop standards, but you have to remember something: Back then, a one-inch thick machine was the definition of thin.

Steve Jobs wouldn’t famously pull the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope until a year later, and the laptop wouldn’t go on to become the most popular laptop until 2010 when it got a redesign with more ports.

In the last decade, MacBooks have morphed into the gold standard. They’re still more expensive and underpowered compared to Windows laptops, but for students and professionals, Apple’s machines expertly balance style and performance.

Chromebooks are also a popular option for many students, but their inability to run many “real” apps outside of Google Docs, underpowered web apps, and Android apps (if your machine supports them), makes them less viable for many college students (at least according to the dozen or so that I asked).

Apple’s MacBook domination on campuses and in Starbucks is arguably the strongest case for why Microsoft’s first clamshell laptop, the Surface Laptop, exists. 

Unmistakably Surface-y

The Surface Laptop is made of durable aluminum.

The Surface Laptop is made of durable aluminum.

Image: lili sams/mashable

The Surface Laptop builds on the Surface Pro’s success. Although the Surface Pro was never meant to sell in volume — it’s mostly an aspirational reference design meant to nudge PC makers towards Microsoft’s 2-in-1 vision — it has helped ingrain this idea that Microsoft is an underdog that builds hardware Apple won’t.

Just like how you know an Apple product when you see one, the same goes for Microsoft’s entire lineup of Surface devices.

The Surface Laptop is a very handsome machine. It comes in silver, gold, blue, and burgundy — all very attractive colors. The 2.76 pound laptop is lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and thinner, too.

Its aluminum body is sturdy and sits firmly on a table or on your lap. The Surface Laptop has a wedge-shaped design and flaunts it hard; you won’t find rounded tapers to create the illusion that its thinner.

You only get one USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack. Woulda been nice to get two USBs.

You only get one USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack. Woulda been nice to get two USBs.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

Most of its ports (USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack) sit on the left side. On the right side is a lone SurfaceConnect magnetic plug. I appreciate the full-sized USB 3.0 port, but one just isn’t enough; a second one would have been great, or at least one USB-C port. There’s also no SD card slot (a trend I don’t like), which basically means students will need to buy a separate memory card reader or a USB hub to get more ports. Even though Microsoft thinks USB-C isn’t ready for primetime, you’ll probably still end up in #donglehell.

That's not an SD card slot. It's the SurfaceConnect magnetic charging port.

That’s not an SD card slot. It’s the SurfaceConnect magnetic charging port.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The number of ports may be a little lacking, but the screen, keyboard and trackpad are sublime.

The 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen (2,256 x 1,504 resolution) has super slim bezels around it, and it’s covered with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. I found the screen both remarkably sharp and bright, and incredibly responsive. 

The touchscreen is excellent.

The touchscreen is excellent.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

I used to feel touchscreens on a laptop were silly, especially on Windows machines, which have tiny icons not designed for fingers, but I now really like them. “Gorilla arm” isn’t really an issue since you’re not using the touchscreen all the time, only sometimes. It’s a shame Apple thinks touchscreens are wrong for Macs. My only qualm with the touchscreen is how it wobbles when you poke at it, but that’s a necessary concession to get the screen so thin.

Hate the MacBook's flat keyboard? Surface Laptop's keys are superb.

Hate the MacBook’s flat keyboard? Surface Laptop’s keys are superb.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The keyboard and trackpad are some of the best I’ve ever used on a laptop. If you’ve typed on a Surface Pro or Surface Book, you’ll know how bouncy the keys are — the Surface Laptop’s keys with 1.5mm travel are satisfying and the opposite of the flat-as-hell keys on Apple’s MacBooks (the Air’s still got the old keys, though). 

Likewise, the trackpad is exceptionally smooth and nearly on par with a MacBook’s. That Microsoft can make a great trackpad only upsets me more that PC makers like HP and Lenovo still can’t get their shit together.

It looks great now, but how well will the Alcantara fabric hold up over time?

It looks great now, but how well will the Alcantara fabric hold up over time?

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The most eye-catching thing about the keyboard and trackpad is, of course, the Alcantara fabric that surrounds it. The soft touch material is indeed soft and really keeps your fingers warm when you’re typing and scrolling. Microsoft says the material’s got a “polyurethane covering for durability, including water and chemical resistance.” 

I’m not sure how well the Alcantara cover will hold up to years of Cheetos dust, Red Bull spills, and whatever other gross things it may come into contact with in a dorm room. But I can tell you the edges on my review unit started to fray a little after a week in my bag.

I tested the $1,299 model with 7th-gen Intel Core Intel Core i5-7200U, Intel HD 620 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage, and it powered through like a real champ. 

I wasn’t gaming on it or anything (mostly web browsing, typing, and streaming Netflix and YouTube videos) — just typical college student stuff — but even so it never chugged. I can’t speak for the 4GB model, though. But based on my past experience testing laptops with 4GB of RAM I can tell you they bottleneck very quickly.

Walled in

The Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S. It’s Windows 10, but with one huge caveat: You can only install apps from the Windows Store. In this regard, Windows 10 S is basically like iOS.

Microsoft gives a few reasons for why Windows 10 S is better for students. One, it’s safer. Barring users from downloading and installing apps (from who knows where) means fewer virus-infested machines. Two, allowing Windows Store-approved apps improves performance and battery life. And three, Windows 10 S computers are easier to manage by network admins who want to quickly deploy a specific version and set of apps to devices.

You’d be stupid to say no to security and better performance, but are they worth restricting yourself to apps only in the Windows Store?

For me, the answer is no. I need Chrome for work and I use many apps that aren’t available in the Windows Store. But I’m not the target audience — students are — so I asked a bunch of my friends’ siblings who are in high school or college. 

What happens when you search for Chrome (it doesn't exist) n the Windows Store.

What happens when you search for Chrome (it doesn’t exist) n the Windows Store.

Image: screenshot: raymond wong/mashable

No surprise, all of them gave Windows 10 S’s huge app restriction a thumbs down. Sure, Windows 10 S runs Office 365, Google Docs works just fine in Edge, and you’ll find some popular apps like Netflix, VLC Player, but if you want, for example, Adobe’s Create Suite (Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, etc.) or even another web browser, you’re totally screwed unless the app makes it into the Windows Store.

You could probably find alternative apps, but college students often use custom apps that come with their textbooks — none of which will work on the Surface Laptop unless… you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Students I asked all gave Windows 10 S’s huge app restriction a thumbs down.

Surface Laptop owners can upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro and basically remove the Windows Store-only apps restriction until December 31, 2017. After that, upgrading will cost $50. 

But while upgrading to Windows 10 Pro will “un-cripple” the Surface Laptop (there’s no going back to Windows 10 S), it comes at the expense of the aforementioned advantages.

You could argue that there’s no such thing as a truly secure computer — it’ll always be a cat and mouse game between Microsoft and hackers — and no laptop truly gets all-day battery life with real-world usage (I got around 6-8 hours of mixed usage; Microsoft advertises up to 14.5 hours of local video playback), and I agree.

How’s a student supposed to pick? I say be fearless and just upgrade. The Surface Laptop doesn’t get significantly slower and the power adapter’s compact enough to lug around. It’s not like it’s 2005 and laptops only get two hours of battery life on a single charge.

Making a decision

Surface Laptop might be the best alternative to the MacBook Air/Pro.

Surface Laptop might be the best alternative to the MacBook Air/Pro.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The Surface Laptop can be summed up in a single word: finally.

After years of beating the 2-in-1 drum, Microsoft’s finally made a laptop that’s a real laptop through and through (sorry, but the Surface Pro isn’t a laptop if the keyboard isn’t included).

The Surface Laptop starts at $999, but nobody should buy this model; 4GB of RAM won’t get anyone very far. Which means the lowest-priced model to consider is the $1,299 version I tested. (Don’t forget to add $50 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if you miss the cutoff by the end of year.)

A $999 MacBook Air (2017) gets you more ports and double the RAM, but also a lower non-touch display and punier graphics. The new $1,299 MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar) is a more comparable machine, and it’s got the better specs for the same money (without a touchscreen, of course).

It’s a tough call. How important is a touchscreen to you?

For a first laptop, Microsoft got a lot right. It’s not perfect (no laptop is), but it’s damn close and it’s still one of the better Windows 10 laptops that I actually wanted to keep using because the hardware is so nice. 

But if you buy one, do your self a favor and upgrade to Windows 10 Pro ASAP.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

The Good

Bright, high-res touchscreen Fantastic keyboard and trackpad Speedy performance Great battery life

The Bad

Apps restricted to Windows Store unless you upgrade to 10 Pro No SD card slot No USB-C port $50 to upgrade to Win 10 Pro in 2018

The Bottom Line

Microsoft’s first laptop is a winner, but only if you upgrade it.

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Beats 1 radio’s Zane Lowe on superstar DJs, exclusive releases, and the age of curation

Before he was calling Jimmy Iovine boss, world-renowned radio DJ Zane Lowe spent 12 years as BBC Radio 1’s music guru from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday through Thursday.

He was playing Adele songs in 2007. He got god proclamations from Kanye West in one of his many interviews. When he said a song was the Hottest Record in the World — a segment in his shows — the temperature was usually right. And yet, as we chatted before his DJ set at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City, Lowe said his first two years as Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio creative director “changed the way I think about everything in terms of media, broadcast, and radio.”

Lowe is constantly moving, even under grey New York City skies dreary enough to slow the most caffeinated mind. During our frenetic interview, he brushed off his knee and fidgeted with the string on his sweatshirt in the middle of his answers. Later on he’ll proceed to rip through dozens of songs in 40 minutes during his first live DJ set in years, eventually cueing up Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock to send the crowd of millennials into a frenzy.

And, it would seem, as the chief of Apple’s always-on internet radio station, Lowe can’t stop moving until the music does.

The two year anniversary of Beats 1 Radio is coming up on June 30. How do you see these past two years in the context of your long career in terrestrial radio? 

“More than ever now that the artist can reach the audience and the audience can reach the artist directly.”

When I first arrived at Apple I brought a lot of credible experiences I had at Radio 1 BBC, and some of those we applied successfully. A lot of them didn’t fit, because it’s a streaming service and it’s just not the same. That became really evident really quickly, especially when you’re broadcasting on a global platform on a device that is in someone’s hand at all times. You have to move at a different pace and you have to think about the world differently and focus on different things. … We had to realize we weren’t that local heartbeat that you get when you wake up in the morning and you find out what the traffic is saying, or what happened in your city at that time.

It was good, because it made us really realize we’re doing it for the good of music. It was a really distraction-free environment based around supporting artists and driving the best, exciting music to the audience and just adding value to that relationship. That relationship is all that ever mattered, and more than ever now that the artist can reach the audience and the audience can reach the artist directly. So, if you are going to get in between that and be a part of that conversation, you have to add value, and that’s what Beats 1 does.

Beats 1 has a lot of big artists who have their own radio shows. In just two years, those programs have resulted in huge moments from Drake, Travis Scott, DJ Khaled, Frank Ocean and so many others. How did that all come about?

That idea came from just sitting around and talking with a few people who work with me on Beats about how we can build something that feels very directly connected to the artist. I always thought a lot of times artists would come through to my radio shows and it would feel like a job. … Promotion, that’s where the job starts. I always wondered why couldn’t radio feel creative to the artist … Why can’t it be an extension of the creative process? Making an album, doing a music video, designing a set, making a setlist … those are all creative exercises. [We asked] “Can we make promotion creative?” I think that and the fact that we had very little time to build it, we didn’t want to run around the world reaching out to all our favorite radio DJ’s and getting in that whole traffic jam of trying to convince everyone to come over one way or another.

zane lowe interview beats 1 apple music anniversary drake

We’ve been overwhelmed by A) how good it’s been and how great the artists are at doing it, and B) how much demand there was to want to do it. That’s what’s been really cool. You’ll see artists and they’ll say … “Can I lead up to the release of my record by doing this?” “Can I take some control of my message?” … probably the most fun part of the job is sitting around and working out what the radio station needs or getting a phone call and email from somebody like, “Hey man, can I ride with you guys for a few months, or for a while and try this out?”

Those radio shows bring back the feeling of music being a communal event. When Drake premiered his album More Life on his show, it felt like everyone was tuned into Beats 1. Which moment of the artists shows had the biggest impact? 

It’s hard to say because for me, personally, when I would listen to the Chilly Gonzalez show (Music’s Cool) once a month, I would get this huge thrill. This guy is talking through the similarities between Chopin and Drake and playing it on his piano, adding value to my life. This feels like a podcast with music. … But, then when Drake plays More Life out, you realize the whole world is listening and it’s exciting. Equally, when I hear Mike D come out with echo and delay all over his voice on his Echo Chamber show I’m just so blown away that Mike D is with us and put so much time and love into his show. So, all of them have their own moment and sometimes the impact is surprising.

We just look at everybody who gets involved and wants to make radio with us, and do cool shit with us.

We love it when artists take over their own message and their own music, and own that moment. That’s a big part of why we built it. … Equally, just hearing Beats 1 go out on the playlist hour, and hearing what we’re doing with our Up Next [documentary series], and tying into what the playlist sounds like, then playing a bit of an interview we did with an artist … I’m just sitting there like, “Wow, this doesn’t stop.” The whole idea is this ADD experience. We don’t get into who did better on any level or any numbers, because we don’t look at it that way. We just look at everybody who gets involved and wants to make radio with us, and do cool shit with us. We look at it with respect.

Apple Music has had a lot of exclusive releases, but labels seem to be cutting back on streaming-service exclusives in general. Has that affected Beats 1’s listenership?

It hasn’t at all. Distribution is a choice. Artists can choose to put their music out however they want and there are enough platforms for them to do that. Arcade Fire just put their song out on vinyl at a festival before it went on streaming services. … Our job is to present [the music] in the best way possible. That’s why Beats 1 exists. To basically create excitement and context around records.

In this day of streaming content, music has become this: (rubs index finger and thumb together). It’s not tangible. You can’t really hold it anymore and you don’t know where it goes when you put it out. … What we try to do is say, “Hey, let’s try and bring that conversation, that community, that excitement around the releasing of music.” We need that moment when it is real and tangible to feel exciting, too.

You have an extensive history of discovering and putting the world on notice of new artists. Has the music discovery process changed moving from traditional Radio to an online streaming service like Beats 1?

Really good question. Undoubtedly, at the end of the day. When I first started in radio it felt more controlled and felt like things were being delivered to you: “If you like it, we’d love if you played it.” Now, I’m getting music coming at me left, right, and center. You have to listen a lot more, open your ears a lot more, and you trust the audience completely, which I already did, but a lot of that conversation is being led by you [the listener]. You have ways to distribute and share music with your friends.

Here’s the thing: Everyone talked about going into this curation age. What that means to me is everyone is a curator. It’s not just me, or 10 other people who have been given this responsibility of finding music. Everyone is doing it all the time. You can find a record right now, share that link to your friend, send a picture, take a shot of it at a concert, put it up on your social media. You’re curating your life and the lives of the people you know. You’re constantly curating, all the time.

Rather than try to put ourselves in front of all of that, what we’re saying is we want to build a place where you as a curator can listen and learn something too, so it’s not a singular experience for yourself. You can go to Beats 1 and go, “This speaks my language, as a curator.” … It’s kind of like a club house for that. It’s like a satellite broadcast for everyone who cares enough about music to curate and share it fast. That’s why we move so fast. The way I discover music, it’s like it’s the most exciting and wide open time ever. Ever!

Who is your favorite artist you have discovered since joining Beats 1?

Great question, man. I love 6Lack, I’m so glad we got to kick off the Up Next program with him. It was great to see that really take shape. I love A.CHAL. I’m waiting for that to connect and just fly. I think Jessie Reyez is amazing. I heard she had a great show [at the Governors Ball]. I think where she’s going is super special.

I’m just going to straight up say it: Halsey. That first week [of Beats 1] playing New Americana was — a moment. It was a really cool moment. It almost felt like her journey started when our journey started. We talk about this all the time whenever I see her.

You’ve been in the music industry during its transition from physical to digital to streaming. As a huge music lover, are there any features you wish existed or were more popular in the new streaming era?

I’m going to get in trouble for this, but I would like there to be a more obvious and more visible way for credit to be shared. Who wrote what, who produced what, who engineered it, who made the coffee, who contributed to this experience? Making music isn’t just an end result, it’s a process. Everybody that sits in a studio and lovingly works on something deserves to get their credit. By the way, that credit is important for the survival of people who are doing their jobs.

I only know who Jimmy Iovine is because he produced Tom Petty, U2, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, and all of these amazing artists. … Now I know him as my boss. Before that, I knew him as this incredible record producer. I knew that because I would turn the record over and look at the back of it.

I’m not trying to say we need to go backwards, I’m all about going forward. I just think some things should come along for the ride. I think there should be a way to see who wrote and produced what, without it being on a social media post.

Canvas replaces over-the-phone job interviews with texting

Why it matters to you

The next time you interview for a job, it could be via text message.

We’ve all been there: You send your spruced-up resume and references to a job recruiter, get a friendly acceptance email from said recruiter, and set up a phone interview. That’s where things get tricky — once you’ve spent days or weeks nailing down a time that fits both of your calendars, you’re stuck with logistical challenges like dodgy cell reception, background noise, and awkward questions that sound much better in an email than over the phone. That’s why Canvas, a new startup, is tackling things from a different angle: Text messaging.

Canvas, the brainchild of Aman Brar, Kelly Lavin, and Jared Adams, takes a “messaging-first” approach to job interviews. Instead of scheduling a phone call with a recruiter, prospective employees text them via a smartphone, PC, or tablet, as if they’re exchanging messages with a friend. Brar compared it to online dating.

“In today’s society, we’re willing to screen a potential spouse with a swipe on an app, but we’re still screening job candidates over the phone,” Brar told Digital Trends. “When you find a match, you don’t call and ask awkward questions about how long they dated their last partner. If texting is a good enough way to find your life partner, it’s more than adequate for recruiting talent.”

A lot goes on behind the scenes. Recruiters contact job applicants through the Canvas dashboard, a PC-optimized web client or a mobile app for iOS and Android. It looks like Slack or Facebook Messenger — recruiters see a list of candidates they’re actively chatting with on the left-hand side, the body of the ongoing conversation in the center, and the candidate’s name, city of origin, phone number, and social media profiles on the right-hand side.

But Canvas is a lot more specialized. Recruiters can “like” and “dislike” responses from candidates, and insert notes during the course of the interview (these are hidden from the candidates). They can embed media, too, like culture videos, job descriptions, applications, and benefits packages, and rate applicant responses on a five-star scale.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Canvas, though, is its artificial intelligence features, which tap IBM Watson to serve up questions, links, and documents relevant to the top of conversation. If a candidate asks about a company’s pay scale and 401k, for example, Canvas might helpfully pull up a draft contract and a list of benefits, and even show buttons that sends the documents in a single click.

canvas app news chat share candidate

When an interview wraps up, Canvas stores the contents for posterity, and generates a one-sheet summary consisting of the candidate’s name, qualitative score (out of five stars), basic profile information, and a two-column outline of “positive” comments and “negative” comments. A built-in sharing function generates an email link to the page, and in the coming weeks will let recruiters mask candidates’ names to protect their privacy.

The real benefit of Canvas, Brar said, is the flexibility it affords. He points out that when it comes to business communication, a vast majority of the 50 million millennials that’ll be hired between now and 2025 — roughly 88 percent — prefer texting to phone calls.

“With Canvas, there’s no need to schedule a phone interview — prospective employees can text questions and responses at the times most convenient to them,” Brar said, “and media embeds save them the trouble of having to dig through websites and company directories to find resources.”

But Brar thinks it’s a boon for enterprise, too. “Most recruiters can only fit four or five phone calls in a day,” he said. “With Canvas, they can interview 40 or 50.”

It’s already gaining traction in the corporate world. Canvas, which launched with $1.7 million in seed funding, has early adopters that span from startups to Fortune 500, companies located in Silicon Valley, and even the Midwest. It counts Scott Day, senior vice president of people and culture for OpenTable and former head of talent strategy for Airbnb, as well as Jeff Perkins, founder of Huntbridge and former vice president of human resources at SpaceX, among the members of its leadership advisory board.

The team’s future plans include a smartphone and web app for candidates, and “richer” experiences for both recruiters and prospective employees — including AI-powered features.

“We think we can do more there — especially with natural language processing,” Brar said, referring to the field in computer science concerned with AI’s ability to interpret words and phrases. “We have ideas for much richer experiences down the line.”

Intudo Ventures launches $10M fund for Indonesia’s fast-growing startup ecosystem


Indonesia is one of Southeast Asia’s most promising startup market. Today, its ecosystem gained a new investor with the launch of Intudo Ventures’ debut fund, which has more than $10 million to invest into about 12 to 16 early-stage startups, as well as joint ventures with overseas companies that want to break into the Indonesian market.

Intudo was founded by Eddy Chan and Patrick Yip (pictured above), who are working with founding advisor Timothy Chen. Collectively, the three have invested in a notable roster of companies including PayPal, SpaceX, Palantir, Netscreen, and Fortinet. Intudo (a combination of the Bahasa Indonesian words for integrity, sincerity, and serendipity) will look for companies in e-commerce, finance, healthcare, education, and media.

While Indonesia’s startup industry and venture capital ecosystem are still young, Chan told TechCrunch that Intudo’s team “sees strikingly similar trends to what we observed in China in the early 2000s.”

Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest country by population, with about 260 million people, and it is also one of the fastest-growing Internet markets by penetration, with Internet users (most mobile-first) expected to jump from a current 92 million to 215 million in 2020.

Furthermore, Indonesia’s population is relatively young and increasingly affluent, and this gives consumer startups a lot of opportunities.

For example, Indonesian-based marketplace Tokopedia has raised about $248 million from investors including SoftBank, while Alibaba poured $1 billion into Lazada last year to gain a stronger foothold in Southeast Asia e-commerce. A few other examples of tech companies and investors paying close attention to Southeast Asia—and Indonesia in particular—include Tencent (which recently led a $1.2 billion round in on-demand transportation startup Go-Jek), Amazon, and JD.com.

Another parallel between Indonesia and China’s startup industries is the high-profile of founders who have worked or studied abroad. Called “sea turtles” in China, Chan refers to their Southeast Asian counterparts as S.E.A. Turtles and he says they will have an important influence on Indonesia’s tech sector by bringing knowledge and networks acquired while overseas.

Some S.E.A. Turtles returned to Indonesia specifically to launch startups, while others were recruited by the local offices of tech leaders like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, or Tencent before leaving to found their own companies.

Either way, Intudo’s goal is to help promising returnees nail down the right time to have a major impact on Indonesia’s ecosystem. In China, Chan says, ’sea turtles’ had significant influence in the 2000s, but as the tech sector matured, their advantages became less unique.

“Nowadays, with the clear establishment of best practices, talent, and infrastructure in place in China, ‘sea turtle’ talent still fits a niche, but is no longer as much of a game changing factor,” says Chan.

“We feel the Indonesian startup industry/venture capital ecosystem is still emerging, making it ripe for S.E.A. Turtles to return to help build out best practices and infrastructure, which will allow them to capitalize the growth of the venture capital ecosystem. If they do not return in the next few years, the window may have closed and they may be left on the outside looking in.”

Intudo will focus on leading seed and Series A rounds, with initial investments ranging from $200,000 to $1.25 million, and the total amount invested from the fund into a startup ranging from about $1 million to $2.5 million. (Chan says that while Silicon Valley-based startups usually raise about $1 million to $5 million for seed funding, and $5 million and $15 million for Series A rounds, in Indonesia that figure is usually divided by five because of differences in cost structure. In other words, Indonesia-based startups usually raised about $200,000 to $1 million for seed rounds, and $1 million to $3 million in Series A financing, though recently he has seen funding amounts and valuations for some startups increase dramatically by their Series B and Series C rounds, so that they are comparable to similar companies in Silicon Valley).

For joint ventures, Intudo will look at companies that have already raised their Series B or C and want to expand into Indonesia.

Chan says Intudo is “very bullish on the consumer sector and the opportunity to build some world-class direct-to-consumer brands,” as well as financial tech because credit card penetration in Indonesia is still very low. He adds that inefficiencies in the country’s healthcare system also creates opportunities in the health sector if the right distribution partners are found.

SoftWear Automation raises $4.5 million to build robots that sew


Remember the good old days when cartoon robot toys were all the rage? Maybe you were a Transformers kid or maybe you were into Microbots. And, if you were very lucky, you got to experience to joy of the mini transforming Sewbots.

If you were lucky you got the Sewbots Command Center and if you were really, really lucky you can now get the SoftWear Automation Sewbot, a fully functional sewing robot that can make pillows, pants, mattresses and towels. Five years ago the company received a grant for DARPA to product the first real sewing robots and they succeeded, ultimately raising $4.5 million to further advance the sewing state of the art.

Founded by a set of Georgia Tech science professors, the company was a “response to the effects of offshoring textile and apparel manufacturing had on the US economy,” said CEO Palaniswamy “Raj” Rajan. They’ve received a $2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation and a $3 million Series A from CTW Venture Partners. This latest round is a Series A1.

The company’s Sewbots has produced 2 million home goods since 2015. The robots are designed to hold onto and sew cloth and other materials by “mapping” the surface as it sews. Sewing in general has been a thorny problem for decades and the Sewbots are some of the first robots to do it without resorting to heavily snatched materials.

“Most automation in textiles and apparel is operation specific — focused on automating a particular process— and still require an operator to feed and manage the machine,” said Rajan. “Using our patented computer vision technology, SoftWear’s fully automated Sewbots are able to replace the operator without making any modifications to the material.”

While a robot that can sew bathmats is not nearly as cool as Cy-Kill, Spay-C, or Leader-1 you can still be the first kid on your block to entirely change the face of a labor-intensive manufacturing process that has long been the bane of the industrialized world everywhere. The choice is yours.

Sony updates its PlayStation franchises with new Uncharted, Gran Turismo, God of War and others

Sony has been in control of a solid games catalog, both exclusive and multi-platform for the better part of this console generation. This year’s E3 presentation was no different, with updates to famous franchises like God of War, Gran Turismo, Ace Combat and more.

Of course, there were also tons of indie and new studio titles announced for both the PS4 Pro console itself and the PS VR platform.

Click through (desktop) or scroll down (mobile) to see what new games you’ll likely be playing next year.

Google wants to guilt you into installing solar panels on your roof

Oh, you haven't installed solar panels yet? That's too bad...
Oh, you haven’t installed solar panels yet? That’s too bad…

Image: Mike Nelson/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Google is hoping that some good old-fashioned peer pressure will push more people to embrace solar energy. 

Project Sunroof, the search giant’s solar panel mapping tool and calculator, is adding a nosy new feature, Data Explorer. Now, when you pull up an address using the tool, which visualizes how much sunlight hits each building in an area, you won’t just see which roof is best suited to harness solar energy. You’ll also be able to select an option to check out a map tracking every rooftop that’s already outfitted with solar panels in the area. 

Seeing your neighbors with solar panels could make you much more likely to adopt them yourself. A study published by Yale economics professor Kenneth Gillingham found that people are much more likely to install solar panels if their neighbors had taken the plunge — which means that we’re all just trying to keep up with those green Joneses next door.   

“It happens at the street level, it happens within zip codes, it happens within states,” Gillingham told The Atlantic in an interview about Data Explorer. “It seems to be a common feature of human decision-making that crosses many boundaries.”

Google’s engineers built the tool by training machine learning algorithms to recognize solar panels, then applying them to the nearly 60 million buildings worth of data the tool has tracked since its expansion earlier this year. Buildings the algorithm IDs are tagged with a tiny red dot when you’re zoomed in, while larger swathes of the map are analyzed by region.

This household's neighbors are really putting on the pressure.

This household’s neighbors are really putting on the pressure.

Image: screenshot/google

The tool has identified roughly 700,000 solar installations in the U.S., which comes up short of the 1.3 million estimated by the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) count — but like any good program, its creator says it needs some more data to improve. 

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The new Honor 9 boasts a Kirin 960 processor with a 12MP and 20MP dual camera

Why it matters to you

The Honor 9 isn’t just a high-spec phone, but it comes at a great price too — meaning it could be a good choice for your next handset, if it’s ever available in the U.S.

Honor took the wraps off of a new flagship phone to add to its arsenal — the company, which is owned by Huawei, unveiled the new Honor 9 — which looks a lot like the Honor 8, but with a number of serious improvements.

For starters, the Honor 9 boasts HiSilicon’s top-tier processor, the Kirin 960 — which is coupled with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, depending on the variant that you end up going for. That storage is also expandable. Not only that, but the Honor 9 boasts a fingerprint sensor built into the front home button, rather than on the back, as was the case on the older phone.

honor 9 news honor9

The display on the Honor 9 is a 5.15-inch 1,080p display, which is not necessarily on par with other flagship phones on the market — but should still be relatively crisp. When it comes to the camera, you get a dual-lens shooter with a 12MP and 20MP sensor, which is similar to Huawei’s flagship, the P10. That camera boasts two-times optical zoom, laser autofocus, and a f/2.2 aperture. The front-facing camera sits in at 8MP, which should be plenty for most selfie-lovers.

The design of the phone is pretty nice, too. You get a choice of gray, blue, or amber gold colors, and it comes in at only 7.45-inches thick, which is pretty thin.

The phone also boasts dual-SIM support, NFC, and a 3.5mm headphone jack — which is apparently a feature to speak of these days.

Unfortunately, there is no word yet as to whether or not we will get access to the device in the U.S. but it will be available in China for 2,700 Yuan, or around $400, for the 64GB model, or 3,000 Yuan, which equates to $440, for the 128GB model. That is not really that bad of a price for a phone with flagship specs — so if it does eventually come to the U.S. it could be a serious contender.

How Apple’s App Store turned into a scammer’s paradise

Apple’s App Store has a problem.

Shady developers are gaming the App Store’s policies and its search ads to get users to download apps that trick them into paying for subscriptions for scam apps.

While there have long been apps from less reputable developers in the App Store, one developer called attention to just how bad the problem has become in recent months. 

Johnny Lin, a developer who once worked for Apple, published a lengthy Medium post over the weekend detailing how widespread the problem is. The whole post is really worth the read, but the bottom line is this: by buying a few strategically picked search ads and using a bit of SEO, a shady developer can make tens of thousands of dollars off a garbage app by aggressively pushing users to buy subscriptions. 

“It was really eye opening and shocking to see the wrong types of behavior being rewarded like that,” says Lin. 

One of the more egregious apps he found was an app named “Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN” that asked users to pay $99.99 a week for a completely worthless service. The app was making $80,000 a month, according to data from marketing firm Sensor Tower.

Apple removed the app, and several others Lin highlighted, after his post went viral, but the App Store is still rife with shady apps that use subscriptions and misleading descriptions to trick people into spending lots of money on junk apps. 

Take this app, called “QR code –,” the 8th most profitable utility app in the App Store, according to Apple. The app, which is just a very basic QR code scanner, aggressively pushes users to agree to a $0.99 weekly or a $4.99 monthly subscription (why the monthly rate costs more than a four-week subscription is beyond me) in order to use the QR code scanner. 

Upon launching the app, it forces you to commit to either a free trial or a weekly app subscription before you can scan anything. Putting aside the fact that there are dozens of free alternatives (and Apple plans to add QR code scanning to its camera in iOS 11), a free trial doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Problem is, the way Apple’s app subscriptions work, agreeing to a “free” trial can automatically opt you in to an auto-renewing subscription. If you aren’t paying attention, or don’t quite understand how these subscriptions work, you could easily end up paying for a monthly or weekly fee you never intended.

More people are falling for this than you might think, too. Much like the apps Lin found, “QR code -” is also gaming Apple’s App Store search ads. Search ads ensure it earns the top spot when you search for terms like “qr scanner” or “qr code,” giving it more visibility and, to some, credibility than its legitimate counterparts. 

That top spot translates to a lot of downloads, many of which (either knowingly or, more likely, unknowingly) become paying subscribers. The app was released into the App Store on April 10, 2017, and made $30,000 from in-app purchases in May alone, according to data from Sensor Tower. No wonder it’s ranked #8 on Apple’s charts of top grossing utility apps. 

Clearly there should be more scrutiny on developers who buy search ads, particularly for specific terms like “virus cleaner” or “antivirus.” (As John Gruber points out, Apple should ban “virus-scanning” apps altogether since iOS’ developer restrictions make the both unnecessary and useless.) 

To be fair, search is a new frontier for Apple. Google has spent more than a decade battling people who use spammy methods to game its search engine so some learning curve is to be expected. Still, that less reputable app developers would use these tactics in the first place is both predictable and entirely preventable.

Fixing its subscriptions requires much more than banning some keywords, though. Apple has made efforts to reduce app review times over the last year as part of its bigger efforts to make its App Store more developer-friendly. 

fixing its subscriptions requires much more than banning some keywords

App reviews, which used to take days or even weeks, are often now completed in a matter of hours, with the average wait time being one day, according to third-party data from appreviewtimes.com

Apple has been notoriously opaque about its review process, which has been a source of frustration to many developers over the years. “Developers work so hard and they have to go through the app review process, which for many people is this black hole where you click submit and cross your fingers and hope for the best,” Lin says.

But while few people know the inner workings of the App Store, he fact that so many of these apps made it in suggests it has become much more automated than it previously was (I have to believe no human reviewer would allow a typo-riddled app with $99.99 weekly subscriptions through.)

Lin also posits one remedy would be for Apple to place more scrutiny on apps that have subscriptions over a certain amount of money as a way of ensuring quality. 

The 'malware scanning' app Lin spotted that aggressively pushes users to a $99.99 weekly subscription.

The ‘malware scanning’ app Lin spotted that aggressively pushes users to a $99.99 weekly subscription.

Image: screen grab courtesy of johnny lin

Aside from changing its developer policies, Apple could do a lot to improve the usability of in-app subscriptions. Subscriptions are astonishingly easy to opt into via TouchID and exceedingly difficult to cancel (PSA: instructions here). And, if you do fall victim to one of these apps, obtaining a refund is as confusing as canceling your subscription in the first place. 

subscriptions are astonishingly easy to opt into

Apple didn’t respond to Mashable’s request for comment on app subscriptions or whether those who had unwittingly paid exorbitant amounts for app subscriptions would get refunds. 

That Apple would be reluctant to acknowledge problems with its subscription model is unsurprising, though. Subscriptions have been a boon for Apple, which has set multiple records since it opened up subscriptions to all developers (previously, only certain apps like music and video streaming, could charge a subscription fee). The move has also been good for developers, who can nab a greater share of subscription revenue than they did with standard in-app purchases.

But the company should put in place more safeguards to prevent these types of developers from tricking users in the first place — or risk losing credibility.

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