All posts in “Mobile”

Why it’s so hard to know who owns Huawei

It’s one of the greatest technology “startup” success stories of the personal computer and smartphone eras. Yet, despite selling 59 million smartphones and netting $27 billion in revenue last quarter in its first-ever public earnings report this morning, a strange and tantalizing question shrouds the world’s number two handset manufacturer behind Samsung.

Who owns Huawei?

To hear the company tell it, it’s 100% employee-owned. In a statement circulated last week, it said that “Huawei is a private company wholly owned by its employees. No government agency or outside organization holds shares in Huawei or has any control over Huawei.”

That’s a simple statement, but oh is it so much more complicated.

As with all things related to Huawei, which outside of its 5G archrival Qualcomm is probably the tech company most entrenched in geopolitics today, the story is never as simple as it appears at first glance.

Daily Crunch: Samsung delays the Galaxy Fold

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Samsung reportedly pushes back Galaxy Fold release

Four days out from the Galaxy Fold’s official release date, Samsung is pushing things back a bit, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. There’s no firm time frame for the launch, though the phone is still expected “in the coming weeks.”

TechCrunch’s reviewer Brian Heater says he hasn’t experienced any issues with his device, but a number of others reported malfunctioning displays.

2. Tencent’s latest investment is an app that teaches grannies in China to dance

Called Tangdou, or “sugar beans” in Chinese, the app announced that it has raised a Series C funding round led by Tencent.

3. SiriusXM’s new streaming-only ‘Essential’ plan targets smart speaker owners

The company has launched a new plan called SiriusXM Essential, targeting those who listen in-home and on mobile devices. The streaming-only plan is also more affordable — $8 per month, versus the $15.99 per month (and up) plans for SiriusXM’s satellite radio service for cars.

4. Confirmed: Pax Labs raises $420M at a valuation of $1.7B

That’s right, $420 million for a vape maker. CEO Bharat Vasan said, “This financing round allows us to invest in new products and new markets, including international growth in markets like Canada and exploring opportunities in hemp-based CBD extracts.”

5. Sony launches a taxi-hailing app to rival Uber in Tokyo

The service is a joint venture between Sony, its payment services subsidiary and five licensed taxi companies. Because ride-hailing with civilian cars is illegal in Japan, the service will focus on connecting licensed taxis with passengers.

6. The Exit: an AI startup’s McPivot

An in-depth interview with investor Adam Fisher about the recent McDonald’s acquisition of Dynamic Yield. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

This week’s episode of Equity addresses the aforementioned cannabis vaping round, followed up by an Equity Shot about the Fastly S-1. Meanwhile, on Original Content we reviewed Donald Glover’s “Guava Island” and discussed the new season of “Game of Thrones.”

Samsung confirms Galaxy Fold delay, shares ‘initial findings’ on faulty units

Samsung has just confirmed that it will delay the release of the Galaxy Fold. Confirming this morning’s report, the company sent TechCrunch a statement noting that the foldable will not make its previously announced Friday ship date.

Once again, no details on availability are forthcoming — which is honestly probably for the best, as the company assesses the situation. The news follows reports of malfunctioning displays from multiple reviewers. They were in the minority — ours is still working just fine — but three or four in such a small sample size is enough to raise concern.

The company says it will “announce the release date in the coming weeks.”

The statement is understandably still a bit defensive, but this time out, Samsung actually has “initial findings” to share from those faulty units. According to the company,

Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance.

It’s bad news for the device that’s being positioned as the future of both Samsung and the mobile space in general, but the company’s been through worse PR and come out largely unscathed. The Galaxy Note 7 ultimately did little to damage Samsung’s bottomline, thanks to a booming component business. And that product was already shipping — resulting in two separate recalls.

At least here the company was able to delay the device before it started shipping. It’s hard to say precisely how widespread these issues are — and preproduction units are notorious for having issues. But the statement does appear to a cautious admission that there’s more going on here than just reviewers accidentally peeling back the protective layer.

Down To Shop is a tongue-in-cheek mobile shopping network

Cyrus Summerlin and Max Hellerstin, who previously created the Push for Pizza app (which allowed users to order a pizza with the push of a button), are officially launching their new startup today, Down to Shop.

The app bills itself as both a modern reinvention of QVC and “the funnest way to shop.” It allows users to watch funny videos featuring products that can be purchased directly from the app.

In an email, Hellerstein said the pair created Down to Shop out of dissatisfaction with existing advertising and e-commerce. Summerlin described it as “a hypermedia commerce platform.”

“We’ve created a self aware, fun and entertaining, interactive environment that gets customers to engage with brands like never before — because they want to,” Summerlin said. “What a concept!”

To do this, Down to Shop says it has recruited a creative team of Upright Citizens Brigade alums and Instagram influencers like Wahlid Mohammad to star in its shows, which are written, filmed and edited in the startup’s Los Angeles studios. The content is built around four-week seasons, with daily episodes across five shows each season.

Down to Shop

You can actually download the iOS app now, then swipe through different videos and games. Judging from the videos available at launch, the app is holding true to its promise of “content first, advertising second,” with laidback, tongue-in-cheek shows that also happen to feature promoted products.

By playing games and watching videos, you also earn Clout, the in-app currency that be used to make purchases. As for the products available to purchase, the company says it’s already working with more than 60 brands, including Sustain Condoms, Dirty Lemon (water) and Pretty Litter (cat litter).

Down to Shop’s investors include Greycroft, Lerer Hippeau and Firstmark. The startup isn’t disclosing the size of its funding, but according a regulatory filing, it raised $5.9 million last fall.

Samsung reportedly pushes back Galaxy Fold launch

Can’t say we didn’t see this coming. Four days out from the Galaxy Fold’s official launch date, Samsung is pushing things back a bit, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal that cites “people familiar with the matter.”

There’s no firm timeframe for the launch, though the phone is still expected “in the coming weeks,” at some point in May. We’ve reached out to Samsung for comment and will update accordingly. When a number a reviewers reported malfunctioning displays among an extremely small sample size, that no doubt gave the company pause.

I’ve not experienced any issues with my own device yet, but this sort of thing can’t be ignored. Samsung’s initial response seemed aimed at mitigating pushback, writing, “A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.”

It also went on to note that the problems may have stemmed from users attempting to peel back a “protective layer.” Things took a turn to the more cautious over the weekend, however, when it was reported that the phone’s launch events in parts of Asia would be delayed (we reached out about that, as well, but haven’t heard back). Since then, a larger delay has seemed all but inevitable.