All posts in “Mobile”

Daily Crunch: Apple adds new iPhone parental controls

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1. The iPhone’s new parental controls can limit who kids can call, text and FaceTime and when

With the release of iOS 13.3, parents will for the first time be able to set limits over who kids can talk to and text with during certain hours of the day. These limits will apply across phone calls, Messages and FaceTime.

In practice, this means parents could stop their child from texting friends late at night or during the school day. It also allows parents to manage the child’s iCloud contacts remotely.

2. Pear, whose seed-stage bets are followed closely, just raised $160 million for its third fund

That’s more than twice the $75 million that the firm raised for its second fund in 2016 and triple the $50 million it raised for its debut fund back in 2013.

3. Uber guarantees space for skis and snowboards with Uber Ski feature

Starting on December 17 in select cities, an Uber Ski icon will pop up on the app, allowing passengers to order a ride with confirmed extra space or a ski/snowboarding rack. Nundu Janakiram, Uber’s head of rider experience, said to expect more features like this.

4. Accel and Index back Tines, as the cybersecurity startup adds another $11M to its Series A

Founded in February 2018 by ex-eBay, PayPal and DocuSign security engineer Eoin Hinchy, Tines automates many of the repetitive manual tasks faced by security analysts so they can focus on other high-priority work.

5. How Station F is boosting the French tech ecosystem

Three years after unveiling Station F at Disrupt, its director, Roxanne Varza, came back to our stage to provide an update on the world’s biggest startup campus, where there are now 1,000 companies at work.

6. Hyperproof wants to make it easier to comply with GDPR and other regulations

As companies try to figure out how to comply with regulations like GDPR, ISO or Sarbanes Oxley, Hyperproof is launching a new product to workflows that will allow them to gain compliance in a more organized way.

7. Introducing ‘Dear Sophie,’ an advice column for US-bound immigrant employees

Dear Sophie is a collaborative forum hosted by Extra Crunch and curated by Sophie Alcorn, who is certified as a specialist attorney in immigration and nationality law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.

BMW says ‘ja’ to Android Auto

BMW today announced that it is finally bringing Android Auto to its vehicles, starting in July 2020. With that, it will join Apple’s CarPlay in the company’s vehicles.

The first live demo of Android Auto in a BMW will happen at CES 2020 next month and after that, it will become available as an update to drivers in 20 countries with cars that feature the BMW OS 7.0. BMW will support Android Auto over a wireless connection, though, which somewhat limits its comparability.

Only two years ago, the company said that it wasn’t interested in supporting Android Auto. At the time, Dieter May, who was the senior VP for Digital Services and Business Model at the time, explicitly told me that the company wanted to focus on its first-party apps in order to retain full control over the in-car interface and that he wasn’t interested in seeing Android Auto in BMWs. May has since left the company, though it’s also worth noting that Android Auto itself has become significantly more polished over the course of the last two years, too.

“The Google Assistant on Android Auto makes it easy to get directions, keep in touch and stay productive. Many of our customers have pointed out the importance to them of having Android Auto inside a BMW for using a number of familiar Android smartphone features safely without being distracted from the road, in addition to BMW’s own functions and services,” said Peter Henrich, Senior Vice President Product Management BMW, in today’s announcement.

With this, BMW will also finally offer support for the Google Assistant, after early bets on Alexa, Cortana and the BMW Assistant (which itself is built on top of Microsoft’s AI stack). As the company has long said, it wants to offer support for all popular digital assistants and for the Google Assistant, the only way to make that work in a car is, at least for the time being, Android Auto.

In BMWs, Android Auto will see integrations into the car’s digital cockpit, in addition to BMW’s Info Display and the heads-up display (for directions). That’s a pretty deep integration, which goes beyond what most car manufacturers feature today.

“We are excited to work with BMW to bring wireless Android Auto to their customers worldwide next year,” said Patrick Brady, Vice President of Engineering at Google. “The seamless connection from Android smartphones to BMW vehicles allows customers to hit the road faster while maintaining access to all of their favorite apps and services in a safer experience.”

Wotch is building a creator-friendly video platform

The team at Wotch has created a new social video platform — but wait, don’t roll your eyes quite yet.

“Obviously, we’re very used to someone creating a new internet video-sharing platform,” said co-CEO Scott Willson. “It must be very irritating for everyone to hear that.”

And yet Willson and his co-founder/co-CEO James Sadler have attempted it anyway, and they’re competing today as part of the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin. They’re only 22 years old, but Sadler said they’ve been working together for the past few years, with past projects including the development of e-learning platforms.

They were inspired to create Wotch because of YouTube’s recent problems around issues like demonetization, where many YouTubers lost the ability to monetize their videos through advertising, and other controversies like an attempted overhaul of its verification system.

Willson said YouTube has been “leaving out creators in terms of communications,” and as the controversies grew, the pair thought, “There has to be a better way of doing this.”

The key, Sadler added, is giving video creators a bigger say in the process: “We’re very hands-on with these creators. We’re not just sending them an automated email.”

In fact, they’re giving creators an opportunity to buy equity in Wotch to get a stake in the company’s success. They’re also appointing a creator board that will be consulted on company policy.

Wotch creators will be able to make money by selling subscriptions, merchandise and ads — not the standard pre-roll or mid-roll ads (which Willson described as “irritants”), but instead partnerships where they incorporate brand products and messages in their videos.

Asked whether this might create the same tension between advertisers and creators that YouTube has been struggling with, Willson argued, “What it comes down to is correctly matching advertisers with creators.” Some advertisers don’t mind working with video-makers who are “pushing the boundaries” — they just need to know what they’re getting into.

Sadler also said that Wotch will be providing creators with more data about their viewers, like identifying their most loyal fans, their most engaged fans and their first “wotchers.”

And the site will take a different approach to content moderation, using technologies like video frame analysis to identify “risky” content, as well as relying more on community moderation. Sadler said it will be a “consensus” approach, rather than the “dictatorship” of other platforms.

“We’re rewarding users for helping to cleanse these platforms,” he added.

Wotch isn’t identifying any of the big creators who he says have signed on, but Sadler told me that the company is largely focused on emerging markets and has already recruited 25 of the top creators in Brazil (where YouTube has an enormous audience, to sometimes detrimental effect) and throughout South America. Those creators won’t be posting on Wotch alone, but they will be creating exclusive videos for the service.

Sadler said it’s those creators who will draw the viewers: “Consumers are loyal to the creators and not the platforms.” And once they’re drawn in, they’ll also experience “a more social platform — see the things your friends are ‘wotching,’ see the things that your favorite creators are ‘wotching.’”

The startup has raised funding from Dominic Smales, the CEO of influencer marketing company Gleam Futures; Bidstack co-founder Simon Mitchell; and Melody VR founder and COO Steve Hancock. Smales is also leading the creator board.

While a beta version of Wotch is already live, Sadler and Willson plan to launch a revamped version of the service early next year. You can get an early preview of the changes by using the promotional code “TECHCRUNCH.”

The vast majority of US consumers aren’t spending $1,000+ on phones

Pricing in the smartphone wars has taken a sharp turn in recent years on the premium end of the spectrum. Ever since the arrival of the iPhone X, flagship devices have often arrived in excess of $1,000, as company push toward more premium components in order to remain competitive.

Likely surprising no one, most consumers aren’t spending that much on devices. According to numbers from NPD’s latest Mobile Phone Tracking study, however, the numbers are pretty stark. Less than 10% of U.S. consumers are spending that much on devices. That could foretell some bleak numbers for 5G sales, as early units routinely run around $1,200.

Not an encouraging sign as many manufacturers look toward 5G as the next major driver amid flagging global sales. One thing to consider here is that most phones are good at this point. Even mid-tier smartphones are pretty solid. While the devices have become a commodity, few if any users truly need to spend that much on a product. There’s a reason Samsung, Google and even Apple have been focused on lower cost alternatives of late.

There are, however, reasons for manufacturers to be hopeful. For one thing, the arrival of 5G is often cited as one of the primary sources of slowed sales. Many premium users are likely waiting for more network coverage and devices before purchasing their next phone. NPD says that nearly 3/4ths of consumers are at least aware that 5G is a thing.

Also notable is Qualcomm’s recent 765 announcement, which should help make 5G devices accessible for consumers are a lower price point in the coming year. 

Fourteen attorneys general will challenge T-Mobile and Sprint merger in court this week

After months of statements, the biggest challenge yet to T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed merger kicks off today in a Manhattan court. The trial is the result of pushback from a coalition of attorneys general of 13 states and the District of Columbia, who have raised flags over the proposed $26 billion merging of the country’s third- and fourth-largest carriers.

“Today we stand on the side of meaningful competition and affordable options for consumers,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Our airwaves belong to the public, who are entitled to more, not less. This merger would hurt the most vulnerable people among us– leaving consumers with fewer choices and higher prices. We’re fighting in court with a 14-state strong coalition for then, and for all Americans, and we’re confident the law is on our side.”

The AGs contend that such a merger will decrease competition in the U.S. telecom market, by knocking the number of major carriers down to three. T-Mobile and Sprint, on the other hand, have argued that it will do the opposite, suggesting that the companies’ pooled powers would better equip them to take on Verizon and AT&T in the rush to 5G.

Over the summer, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued an order essentially arguing with the carriers and suggested the deal move forward. “The evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas,” he said in August.

The trial is expected to last three weeks, per The Wall Street Journal, kicking off with today’s opening statements. Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure and soon-to-be-former T-Mobile CEO John Legere will take the stand to make their case against the AGs.