All posts in “Mobile”

LG’s V50 ThinQ could be the first 5G phone announced for the U.S.

The LG V40 ThinQ (pictured) might be replaced with a 5G-ready V50 ThinQ.
The LG V40 ThinQ (pictured) might be replaced with a 5G-ready V50 ThinQ.

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable

5G phones — real ones you can actually buy soon — are coming.

OnePlus and Samsung have already pledged to release 5G smartphones sometime in 2019, but LG might beat everyone to launching one first if a newly leaked image of its alleged 5G-ready V50 ThinQ ends up being real.

Phone leaker extraordinaire Evan Blass aka @evleaks published an image of what he claims is the LG V50 ThinQ. 

The successor to the V40 ThinQ will reportedly be one of the first phones capable of connecting faster 5G wireless networks and is likely to be announced at Mobile World Congress on Feb. 24 during LG’s press conference.

The alleged press render reveals quite a bit of information on the yet-to-be-announced phone. Besides a yellow 5G logo on the back and within the status bar on the front, there also appears to be three cameras on the rear. Based on the V40 ThinQ, we can safely assume these will be a regular wide-angle lens, telephoto lens, and ultra-wide lens. One new aesthetic change: the cameras are flush with the body and don’t protrude (yay!).

The front also has dual cameras, which will probably be similar if not identical to the V40 ThinQ’s 8-megapixel standard selfie camera and 5-megapixel ultra-wide selfie camera.

There’s also a rear-positioned fingerprint reader suggesting LG will not follow its competitors with in-display fingerprint readers. Vivo was the first phone maker to release a phone with an in-display fingerprint reader and OnePlus and Huawei both followed by the end of 2018. Samsung is also expected to introduce an in-display fingerprint reader in its upcoming Galaxy S10, which will be announced on Feb. 20 at its Unpacked event in San Francisco.

Android Authority also believes the V50 ThinQ will sport a giant 4,000 mAh battery, which is about 21 percent larger than the 3,300 mAh battery in the V40 ThinQ. That’s good because 5G will be a battery hog until the modems shrink down over time.

The last thing we learned from the image is the likely V50 ThinQ carrier: Sprint. Yes, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier and the only network that’s suing AT&T for misleading consumers with its fake “5GE” branding is  apparently diving into 5G.

LG will most likely reveal everything there is know about the V50 ThinQ at Mobile World Congress (if it doesn’t get leaked before). The biggest question will be: how much? 5G phones could cost as much as $300 more than 4G LTE phones according to OnePlus CEO Pete Lau. Also, how much will 5G data plans cost? They surely won’t be cheap at first.

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ChargedUp picks up £1.2M seed to grow its mobile charging network across UK

ChargedUp, a U.K. startup that offers a mobile charging network that takes inspiration from bike-sharing, has closed £1.2 million in seed investment. Leading the round is Sir John Hegarty’s fund The Garage, and the ex-Innocent Smoothie founders fund JamJar. The funding will be used to grow the offering across the U.K. and for international expansion.

Founded by Hugo Tilmouth, Charlie Baron, Hakeem Buge and Forrest Skerman Stevenson, ChargedUp has set out to solve the dead mobile phone battery problem with a charging network. However, rather than offer fixed charging points, the team has developed a solution that lets you rent a mobile charging pack from one destination and return it at different location if needed. That way, mobile phone use remains mobile.

“It’s annoying and inconvenient to be out and about with a dying phone battery,” says CEO Hugo Tilmouth. We’ve all been there and I was inspired to do something about it through my own experiences. I was at a cricket match at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground and waiting for a call for a last round interview with a large tech firm, and was running very low on charge! I ended up having to leave the cricket ground, buy a power bank and then rode a Boris Bike home and the light bulb went off in my head! Why not combine the flexibility of the sharing economy with the need of a ‘ChargedUp’ phone!”.

The solution was to create multiple distribution points across a city, located in the venues where people spend most of their time. This includes cafes, bars and restaurants. “Our solution uses an app to enables users to find the nearest stations, unlock a sharable power bank, and then return it to any station in the network and only pay for the time they use. Our goal is to be never five minutes from a charge,” adds Tilmouth

In the next six months, ChargedUp says it will expand its network of over 250 vending stations in London’s bars, cafes and restaurants across to other large metropolitan areas in the U.K. Last month, the young startup partnered with Marks and Spencer to trial the platform in its central London stores. If the trial is successful, ChargedUp says it could lead to providing its phone charging solution to all M&S customers by the end of 2019.

“Since launch we have delivered over 1 million minutes of charge across the network, and our customers love the service,” says Tilmouth. “Like the sharing scooter and bike companies, we operate a time based model. We simply charge our users a simple price of 50p per 30 mins to charge their phones. We also make revenue from the advertising space both on our batteries and within our app”.

With regards to competition, Tilmouth says ChargedUp’s most direct competitor is the charging lockers found in some public spaces, such as ChargeBox. “We do not see this as a viable alternative to ChargedUp as users are forced to lock their phones away preventing them from using them while it charges. They are also prone to theft and damage. We are also differentiated by our use of green energy offsetting throughout the network,” he says.

Meanwhile, in a statement investor Sir John Hegarty talks up the revenue opportunities beyond rentals, which includes advertising, rewards and loyalty. “At its simplest, ChargedUp addresses a massive need in the market, mobile devices running out of power. But more than that, ChargedUp provides advertisers with a powerful medium that connects directly with their audience at point of purchase,” he says.

Prior to today’s seed round, ChargedUp received investment from Telefonica via the Wayra accelerator and Brent Hoberman’s Founders Factory.

TikTok spotted testing native video ads

TikTok is testing a new ad product: a sponsored video ad that directs users to the advertiser’s website. The test was spotted in the beta version of the U.S. TikTok app, where a video labeled “Sponsored” from the bike retailer Specialized is showing up in the main feed, along with a blue “Lean More” button that directs users to tap to get more information.

Presumably, this button could be customized to send users to the advertiser’s website or any other web address, but for the time being it only opened the Specialized Bikes (@specializedbikes) profile page within the TikTok app.

However, the profile page itself also sported a few new features, including what appeared to be a tweaked version of the verified account badge.

Below the @specializedbikes username was “Specialized Bikes Page” and a blue checkmark (see below). On other social networks, checkmarks like this usually indicate a user whose account has gone through a verification process of some kind.

Typical TikTok user profiles don’t look like this — they generally only include the username. In some cases, we’ve seen them sport other labels like “popular creator” or “Official Account” — but these have been tagged with a yellowish-orange checkmark, not a blue one.

In addition, a pop-up banner overlay appeared at the bottom of the profile page, which directed users to “Go to Website” followed by another blue “Learn More” button.

Oddly, this pop-up banner didn’t show up all the time, and the “Learn More” button didn’t work — it only re-opened the retailer’s profile page.

As for the video itself, it features a Valentine’s Day heart that you can send to a crush, and, of course, some bikes.

The music backing the clip is Breakbot’s “By Your Side,” but is labeled “Promoted Music.” Weirdly, when you tap on the “Promoted Music” you’re not taken to the soundbite on TikTok like usual, but instead get an error message saying “Ad videos currently do not support this feature.”

The glitches indicate this video ad unit is still very much in the process of being tested, and not a publicly available ad product at this time.

TikTok parent ByteDance only just began to experiment with advertising in the U.S. and U.K. in January.

So far, public tests have only included an app launch pre-roll ad. But according to a leaked pitch deck published by Digiday, there are four TikTok ad products in the works: a brand takeover, an in-feed native video ad, a hashtag challenge and a Snapchat-style 2D lens filter for photos; 3D and AR lens were listed as “coming soon.”

TikTok previously worked with GUESS on a hashtag challenge last year, and has more recently been running app launch pre-roll ads for companies like GrubHub, Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and others. However, a native video ad hadn’t yet been spotted in the wild until now.

According to estimates from Sensor Tower, TikTok has grown to nearly 800 million lifetime installs, not counting Android in China. Factoring that in, it’s fair to say the app has topped 1 billion downloads. As of last July, TikTok claimed to have more than 500 million monthly active users worldwide, excluding the 100 million users it gained from acquiring Musical.ly.

That’s a massive user base, and attractive to advertisers. Plus, native video ads like the one seen in testing would allow brands to participate in the community, instead of interrupting the experience the way video pre-rolls do.

TikTok has been reached for comment, but was not able to provide one at this time. We’ll update if that changes. Specialized has not responded to a request for comment.

First look at Twitter’s Snapchatty new Camera feature

Twitter has been secretly developing an enhanced camera feature that’s accessible with a swipe from the home screen and allows you to overlay captions on photos, videos, and Live broadcasts before sharing them to the timeline. Twitter is already used by people to post pictures and videos, but as it builds up its profile as a media company, and in the age of Snapchat and Instagram, it is working on the feature in hopes it will get people doing that even more.

Described in Twitter’s code as the “News Camera”, the Snapchat-style visual sharing option could turn more people into citizen journalists… or just get them sharing more selfies, reaction shots, and the world around them. Getting more original visual content into Twitter spices up the feed and could also help photo and video ads blend in.

Prototypes of the new Twitter camera were first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra a week ago, and he produced a video of the feature today.

He describes the ability to swipe left from the homescreen to bring up the new unified capture screen. After you shoot some media, overlays appear prompting you to add a location and a caption to describe “what’s happening”. Users can choose from six colored backgrounds for the caption and location overlay card before posting, which lets you unite words and imagery on Twitter for the first time to make a splash with your tweets.

Meanwhile, code digger and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong has found Twitter code describing how users should “Try the updated Twitter camera” to “capture photos, videos, and go live”. Bloomberg and CNBC had previously reported that Twitter was building an improved camera, but without feature details or screenshots.

Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s currently developing the new camera feature. A Twitter spokesperson told us “I can confirm that we’re working on an easier way to share thing like images and videos on Twitter. What you’re seeing is in mid-development so it’s tough to comment on what things will look like in the final stage. The team is still actively working on what we’ll actually end up shipping.” When asked when it would launch, the spokesperson told us “Unfortunately we don’t have a timeline right now. You could expect the first half of this year.”

Twitter has largely sat by as visual sharing overtook the rest of the social media landscape. It’s yet to launch a Snapchat Stories feature like almost every other app — although you could argue that Moments was an effort to do that — and it seems to have neglected Persicope as the Live broadcasting trend waned. But the information density of all the words on Twitter might make it daunting to mainstream users compared to something easy and visual like Instagram.

This month, as it turns away from reporting monthly active users, Twitter reported daily active users for the first time, revealing it has 126 million that are monetizable compared to Snapchat’s 186 million while Instagram has over 500 million.

The new Twitter camera could make the service more appealing for people who see something worth sharing, but don’t always know what to say,

Firefox for iOS gets persistent private browsing tabs

Firefox for iOS is getting an update today that brings a new layout for its menu and settings, as well as new organization settings in the New Tabs features to iPhone and iPad users. But more importantly, it is also introducing persistent Private Browsing tabs that allow you to keep private browsing tabs alive across sessions.

Typically, when you exit Firefox, your private browsing sessions will exit, too. Now, when you relaunch Firefox, you’ll be right back in your private browsing sessions. And while it’s important to remember that private browsing doesn’t render you anonymous, it does automatically erase your cookies, passwords and browsing history. Sometimes you want those to persist across your sessions, though, given that it’s annoying to have to re-enter your passwords every time you quite the app, for example, and now Firefox lets you do that until you actively exit the private browsing mode.

“Keeping your private browsing preferences seamless is just another way we’re making it simple and easy to give you back control of the privacy of your online experience,” Mozilla explains in today’s announcement.

With this updates, users now also get different options to organize the view they see when they open a blank new tab. You can now chose between having new tabs open to your bookmarks list, Firefox Home (which features your top sites and recommendations from the Mozilla-owned Pocket), a list of your recent history or a custom URL (with your own homepage, for example). Or, if you just like to see a white page, you can also opt to see a blank page.

As for the new settings and menu layout, Mozilla notes that these now closely mirror the Firefox desktop version. That means you can now access your bookmarks, history, Reading List and download from the Library menu item, for example.