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This Week in Apps: Clubhouse opens up, Twitter talks bitcoin, Snap sees record quarter

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

This Week in Apps will finally be a newsletter! It will launch on August 7. Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

This Week in Apps took a little vacation this month, so we’re back this week with a big round-up of all the news we missed — and then some. And a super-sized section of apps getting funded, too! Let’s play some catch-up…

Platforms: Apple

ATT isn’t killing mobile game performance. An Apptopia report found that Apple’s launch of App Tracking Transparency has so far had no clear impact on mobile game download performance or monetization performance. The firm says this could be the result of any number of factors, including publishers using fingerprinting techniques (despite not being permitted), increased ad budgets on large networks like Facebook, increased spend on user acquisition, use of IDFV (vendor identifier) by larger publishers or higher than expected opt-in rates than was predicted.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Image Credits: Apptopia

iOS 14.7 launched, adding support for Apple Card Family with combined credit limits, a Home app with support for multiple timers on HomePod, support for the MagSafe Battery Pack, Podcast app enhancements and more. iPadOS 14.7 also became available, offering bug fixes, security updates, as well as the same Apple Card Family and HomePod support.

Meanwhile, the iOS 15 beta 3 added the ability to update your device using Software Update even if less than 500 MB of storage is available. This could be a big deal for getting users onto the most recent version of iOS, which has in the past been more difficult when users’ phone storage is nearly full.

Apple added the ability to assign tax categories to apps and in-app purchases on App Store Connect. The categories are based on the app’s content — like videos, books, news, etc. — and allow Apple to administer taxes at the specific rates that apply to that type of application or purchase.

Apple expanded Ultra Wideband functionality in the Apple Watch Series 6, iPhone 11 and 12 to more countries, including Argentina, Pakistan, Paraguay and the Solomon Islands. Some countries don’t allow the technology still, and it must be disabled, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Apple asked Judge Gonzalez Rogers to consider three other antitrust cases that have since been decided since the start of Epic Games’ antitrust lawsuit, which is now being deliberated. The cases include a recent decision by the courts to throw out the FTC lawsuit against Facebook.

Platforms: Google

Android beta 3 came out. The new release dropped a month after beta 2, and includes features like scrolling screenshots, face detect auto-rotate, more Material You theme options and new icons, the ability to disable Assistant corner swipe activation, tweaks to features like one-handed mode and internet toggles and changes to the camera, Chrome, toggles, launcher and more.

Android phones’ backup system was upgraded to “Backup by Google One,” an improvement that now backs up photos, videos and MMS messages with more granular control, in addition to the app data, SMS messages, call logs and device preferences the old system covered.

Google won’t enforce the original September 30, 2021 deadline that would have required all Play Store apps to switch over to the Play Billing IAP system. The company will now allow developers to request an extension for adopting the new policy, in the wake of the big antitrust lawsuit filed by AGs across 36 U.S. states and D.C.

Epic Games filed an update in its antitrust lawsuit against Google over its Play Store policies, but most of the information it contains has been redacted. From the visible tidbits, Epic discusses Google’s relationship with Apple and its agreement to pay between $8 and $12 billion to be the default search provider; as well as Epic’s plans to launch Fortnite on the Samsung Galaxy Store.

Verizon joined AT&T and T-Mobile in preloading the Android Message app as the default texting app on all Android phones it sells, meaning that now all three major U.S. carriers support RCS — the next-gen standard to replace SMS — as the default Android experience.

E-commerce

Amazon got the recently launched app Fakespot pulled from the App Store. An extension of the fake review-spotting website, Fakespot app was taken down because it was wrapping the Amazon website without permission, which Amazon successfully argued could be exploited to steal customer data. Amazon also said Fakespot injected code into its website, which opened up an attack vector. Apple said it gave Fakespot time to correct its issues before the takedown.

Augmented Reality

✨ Snap called out its AR advances during its Q2 earnings where the company posted record revenue and the largest user growth in four years. The company’s Cartoon 3D Style Lens went viral in the quarter on other social networks, including TikTok, generating 2.8 billion impressions on Snapchat alone. Snap also partnered with Disney on location-based Lenses for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The company is now working on shopping features that could potentially allow users to try on clothes using AR.

Fintech

Popular investment app Robinhood is targeting its IPO valuation up to $35 billion in a filing released on the 19th. The company first filed to go public in early July after raising billions earlier in the year. The fintech giant expects to debut between $38 and $42 per share.

Fintech giant Revolut launched a travel booking feature called Stays, which allows users to book hotels and other accommodations in its app, in a move to become more of a “super app” that offers multiple services through one interface.

Venmo removed the app’s global, public feed as part of its major redesign. The public feed put user privacy at risk, and follows a number of complaints about Venmo’s oversharing throughout the years. Recently, Venmo’s privacy leaks led BuzzFeed News to uncover President Biden’s Venmo account.

✨ Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said bitcoin will be a “big part” of Twitter’s future. On the company’s earnings call, the exec spoke for the first time about how he envisions bitcoin can integrate with Twitter’s products, including commerce, subscriptions and other new additions like the Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows. The company posted the fastest revenue growth since 2014 in a pandemic rebound, but user growth slightly declined.

Social

Instagram confirmed it’s testing a new feature called Limits that would allow users to lock down their accounts in a moment of crisis. Found in privacy settings, users could quickly toggle on options to limit the ability for new followers or accounts who don’t follow you to comment or message you. The Limits could be applied for a set period of time you specify, in terms of days or even weeks.

Facebook launched a new tool available to U.S. Facebook Groups that allows users to ask for prayers. The prayer request tool could help drive engagement on the platform by turning into a product something users were already doing. Facebook’s head of faith partnerships told Reuters COVID gave new urgency to the building of the feature.

TikTok ads get more tools and upgrades. TikTok partnered with Vimeo to integrate the latter’s video tools with the TikTok platform. The deal gives SMBs the tools they need to create effective video ads via Vimeo’s AI-driven production tool, Vimeo Create, and the ability to publish ads directly into TikTok’s Ad Manager. The companies also collaborated on custom video templates optimized for TikTok. The video app also launched Spark Ads, which allow brands to use existing posts from influencers in their ad campaigns.

Instagram added new controls that allow users to limit “sensitive” content in the app’s Explore tab. The feature appears in the settings menu and lets users choose to allow or limit content that could be “upsetting or offensive,” or “limit even more.”

Instagram also began testing a new “collab” feature in India and the U.K. that lets users invite another account as a collaborator on posts or Reels. If the other person accepts, both accounts will appear in the header of the post or Reel.

Twitter is killing Fleets, its misguided effort to offer its own version of “Stories” in an app where content flows so quickly it effectively already feels “ephemeral,” even if the posts don’t auto-delete. Twitter hoped Stories would give hesitant users a place they felt comfortable posting, but that didn’t happen. The feature will be removed on August 3.

Tumblr’s community lashed out at the company’s new subscription feature, now in beta, that would allow bloggers to get paid for their content. The system, called Post+, offers the ability to paywall content, which subscribers can pay for at price points of $3.99, $5.99 or $9.99 per month. But some angry Tumblr users didn’t like the idea of paying, or at least, not being able to pay the blogger directly without the company taking a cut. They harassed and even sent death threats to one early tester. (Perhaps it’s time to move to Substack?)

Messaging

WhatsApp is testing multi device support that works without the phone. The company recently rolled out a limited public beta that will allow users to use the service on up to four non-phone devices without having the registered phone switched on or otherwise connected to the internet.

Facebook Messenger introduced “soundmojis,” which are, as you’d expect, emojis that include sound. The sounds include laughter and applause as well as those sourced from pop culture — like snippets from Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” movies like “F9,” and various musicians. It also later added a search bar for emoji reactions, and a recently used emojis section.

Streaming & Entertainment

✨ Clubhouse opens to all. The pandemic’s favorite audio chat app Clubhouse this week exited beta and become publicly available to everyone. That means users no longer need to know someone with an invite in order to sign up. The app continues to grow thanks to its Android release. In June, the app was installed 7.7 million times across iOS and Android. It also just launched an in-app messaging feature called Backchannel to allow users to chat both one-on-one and in groups as they host or listen.

Apple Music updated its Android app to add support for Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio. The Dolby Atmos-powered Spatial Audio feature requires a compatible phone, however, and even some Pixel devices don’t qualify.

TikTok found to drive music discovery. A recent study of around 1,500 TikTok users found that 75% discovered artists on the video app, and 63% said TikTok was a source for music they hadn’t heard before.

Spotify partnered with Facebook-owned Giphy to connect users to artists’ music through GIFs. The new GIFs will allow users to click a button to hear the artist’s songs on Spotify directly. The GIFs can be found in the Giphy mobile app or on the web.

Triller, the one-time TikTok rival that has since expanded into PPV events, has now moved into long-form video, including both prerecorded and live shows. As part of this effort, Triller livestreamed the Essence Festival of Culture on its app.

YouTube added the ability for users to directly pay creators for their videos through a new feature called Super Thanks. This is YouTube’s fourth Paid Digital Good alongside Super Chat, Super Stickers and channel subscriptions, and is the first that lets fans tip creators for uploads instead of just livestreams.

HBO Max partnered with Snap to allow Snapchat users to stream a selection of free episodes inside the Snapchat app with their friends. That means users can both stream and chat with others as they watch, and even react with Bitmoji.

Gaming

Top gaming title and award winner Genshin Impact released its 2.0 update on Android devices. This update brings cross-save functionality for all platforms, a brand-new region called Inazuma and the new Thunder Sojourn event, as well as new characters, stories and weapons.

Facebook bypassed building a native iOS app for its cloud gaming service and instead launched to the web at fb.gg. The company did not want to go the App Store route due to Apple’s restrictions on apps that offer app stores of sorts and its commissions on in-app purchases.

Health & Fitness

A poll suggests around 20% of U.K. adults have now deleted the NHS COVID app, most because they want to avoid orders that would have them self-isolate. Among younger users ages 18 to 34, more than one-third had removed the app.

Edtech

Duolingo said it aims to be valued as much as $3.41 billion in its U.S. IPO, with 5.1 million shares that will be offered between $85 and $95 each, raising more than $485 million at the top end of the range.

Reading

Amazon’s Kindle app launched a serialized fiction store called Kindle Vella, which will allow readers to unlock episodic, self-published stories via in-app purchases that range from $2 for 200 tokens to up to $15 for 1,700 tokens. The Wattpad-like feature is only available on the Kindle iOS app for the time being.

Utilities

Chrome for iOS lets you lock your private tabs. The new version rolled out support for using either Face ID or Touch ID to lock incognito tabs, along with other features, like full-page screenshots, and more.

Google’s iOS search app now lets you choose an option to delete your last 15 minutes of search history — perfect for those times when you forgot to launch an incognito tab.

Government & Policy

China has given 145 apps until July 26 to take corrective measures over what authorities said was their illegal collection of user information by misleading customers or by requesting excessive permissions. Apps from Amazon, ByteDance, NetEase, Tencent and others are among those being called out by Beijing in the crackdown.

China’s most popular fitness app, Keep, backed by SoftBank and Tencent, pulled its U.S. IPO after Chinese regulators announced an investigation into data security concerns at ride-hailing app Didi. The move indicates that China’s probe is having larger impact on the stock market, as China’s biggest podcasting platform, Ximalaya, also recently canceled its U.S. IPO.

Facebook escaped an EU ban on its use of WhatsApp customer data but will face an investigation of its new terms of service that sparked customer outrage. The European Data Protection Board said the new practices must be examined in a “swift” fashion by the EU privacy watchdog.

Security & Privacy

A Catholic priest was outed by way of his phone’s location data found in a data set from a data vendor. This data is commonly aggregated and sold by data vendors, and can then be analyzed for timestamped location data. The signals collected on the priest’s phone were gathered from Grindr, and tracked to his home and other bars and clubs.

Reports found that military-grade spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and licensed to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used to hack the phones of journalists, activists, politicians and other business executives, whose phones appeared on a list of 50,000 numbers. Amnesty International has now provided a toolkit that can help people identify if their phones had been among those targeted.

💰 Voice-based social app Zebra raised $1.1 million in a pre-seed round for its messaging app that pairs photos with voice chat. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s early-stage venture firm Seven Seven Six led the round.

💰 Sololearn raised $24 million led by Drive Capital for its Duolingo-like coding education app. The app delivers short bursts of bite-sized content and offers a community of helpers and influencers, not formal teachers.

💰 Belarus-based video editing app VOCHI raised $2.4 million in a late-seed round after growing its app to over 500,000 MAUs and achieving a $4 million+ annual run rate in a year’s time. The company now has 20,000 paid subscribers for its advanced filters and video effects, but makes 60% of its effects catalog available for free.

💰 Instant grocery delivery app Gopuff is raising $750 million at a $13.5 billion valuation, according to an SEC filing, but sources say the fundraise is higher — $1 billion at a $15 billion valuation.

💰 Investment app Titan raised $58 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), valuing the business at $50 million. The Robinhood rival has 30,000 users and is also backed by General Catalyst, BoxGroup, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and a group of professional athletes and celebrities including Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Durant, Jared Leto and Will Smith.

💰 Fitness app HealthifyMe raised $75 million in Series C funding from LeapFrog and Khosla Ventures to grow its user base in India, Southeast Asia and North America. The app has around 1,500 trainers and coaches on the platform, with plans to add 1,000 more to support its expansion.

💰 Free-to-play games publisher Tilting Point raised $235 million to fund its business of acquiring users for partnered games, or what the company refers to as its “progressive publishing model.” The company borrows from its line of credit to fuel advertising for games that show promise, allowing them to grow users and revenues, and then shares in the growth that it achieves.

💰 Virtual and in-person care app Carbon Health raised $350 million at a valuation of $3.3 billion in a round led by Blackstone’s Horizon platform. The company has 80 clinics across the U.S.

💰 Yoobic raised $50 million in Series C funding for its chat and communications app aimed at frontline service workers. Highland Europe led the round. The startup works with 300 brands across 80 countries.

💰 Travel rewards app Miles raised $12.5 million in Series A funding in a round led by Scrum Ventures that included Japan Airlines, Translink Capital and others. The app aims to offer travel rewards, with a focus on clean transportation.

🤝  Salesforce’s deal to acquire workplace communication app Slack officially closed. The $27.7 billion deal was first announced in December 2020.

🤝  Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games bought New York-based Sketchfab, a 3D model sharing platform.

💰 Fintech app M1 Finance raised $150 million in a SoftBank-led Series E, valuing the business at $1.45 billion. The app offers automated investing, borrowing and banking/spending accounts, and has grown to $4.5 million assets under management.

💰 Mobile.dev raised $3 million in seed funding from Cowboy Ventures and others for its service that aims to catch bugs and errors in apps before they launch. The two-person team includes a former Uber engineer and has already bagged Reddit as a client.

💰 On-demand coworking space app Deskimo gets Y Combinator backing for its app currently available in Singapore and Hong Kong that helps remote workers find alternative spaces to work at times, like the occasional meeting.

💰 London-based financial “super app” Revolut raised $800 million in Series E funding co-led by Softbank Vision Fund 2 and Tiger Global, valuing the business at $33 billion. This makes Revolut the most valuable fintech in the U.K.

💰 Indian startup Inshorts, maker of a news aggregator app and a social media app called Public, raised $60 million in a new round led by Vy Capital, valuing the business at $550 million.

💰 Miami’s Play2Pay raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Telesoft Partners to convert mobile user engagement into bill payments. The company offers a way for consumers to lower their bills by playing mobile games, watching videos and competing in challenges and surveys.

💰 South Korea’s largest travel app Yanolja Co. raised $1.7 billion in funding from SoftBank. The app began as a hotel booking service and has since expanded to include transportation and leisure activities.

💰 Venezuela-based delivery app Yummy raised $4 million to expand its delivery operations across Latin America. Backers included Y Combinator, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, Canary, Hustle Fund, Necessary Ventures and the co-founders of TaskUs. The company has connected with over 1,200 merchants and completed over 600,000 deliveries. It now plans to move into ridesharing.

🤝 Tumblr and WordPress.com owner Automattic acquired the popular podcast app Pocket Casts, which had sold to a combined group comprised of WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life back in 2018. The app went up for sale in January, after NPR reportedly lost $800,000 on it the year prior.

💰 Israeli AI-driven health app Sweetch raised $20 million in Series A round led by Entreé Capital. The app encourages users to change their behaviors using AI smarts, after learning about your lifestyle through mobile sensors. The app is distributed through health organization partners, not the App Store.

Skate City: Tokyo

Apple Arcade has added a handful of reimagined classic games in recent days, including an updated version of Alto’s Odyssey, called Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City, which adds a new locale and other features. This week, Apple Arcade added a new version of Snowman’s popular game, Skate City. The expansion coincides with the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and includes 21 new challenges, 30 new goals, new soundtracks and more. Another classic, Tetris Beat, is on the way soon.

HalloApp

Image Credits: HalloApp

Two early WhatsApp employees have launched a private social networking app called HalloApp on both iOS and Android. The ad-free app is somewhat similar to WhatsApp as it also allows for encrypted, private chats with friends and family, including group chats. The app also features a Home feed with posts from friends. The company plans to eventually monetize via subscriptions if it gains traction.

Anyone

Image Credits: Anyone

Audio app Anyone launched its “marketplace for advice” app on iOS and Android after previously operating in a closed beta. The app allows users to pay for access to busy people whose advice they’d like to seek out, but limits calls to just five minutes. (Advice givers can opt to donate the money to charity, if they don’t want to profit from the help they’re giving.) The company claims to vet advisors before they’re allowed to offer calls, in order to keep the advice on the platform high-quality.

Streamlabs’ Crossclip

Image Credits: Streamlabs

Streamlabs, a maker of livestreaming software, launched a new iOS app that allows creators to easily turn their Twitch clips into a format that works on TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and Facebook. The app works by allowing streamers to enter the URL of a clip, selecting the output format (landscape, vertical or square) and choosing a pre-loaded layout. You can also crop the clip, blur the background and select from different layouts depending on which frames you want to feature. The app is free with a subscription of $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr to remove the watermark and add more features, including higher-quality exports.


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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/24/this-week-in-apps-clubhouse-opens-up-twitter-talks-bitcoin-snap-sees-record-quarter/

Techcrunch

This Week in Apps: PayPal launches ‘super app,’ Twitter adds crypto tips, Apple won’t take Fortnite back

Published

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Epic Games dares Apple to let Fortnite for iOS back in the App Store

Image Credits: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Following the judge’s ruling in the Epic-Apple antitrust lawsuit, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney asked Apple to reinstate Epic’s developer account. But as Epic said, it aims to appeal the court’s ruling, Apple informed the company that it won’t be reinstating Epic’s account until the appeals have been resolved. In effect, that means Fortnite may not return to iOS for years, if Epic is forced to wait for the appeal’s decision to be made final.

Sweeney made the request public by tweeting out a letter he sent to Apple making the request and the company’s response. The letter promises Apple that Fortnite would play by the rules — something that it didn’t do before, when it breached its contract with Apple by implementing its own payments to force the lawsuit. The letter also noted it had already disabled Epic payments server-side since it can’t update the app on users’ devices. And it said it paid Apple the $6 million in fees ordered by the court, which had been gained as a result of routing around Apple’s in-app purchases with its own system.

But what makes the letter interesting is that it’s not just Epic asking for re-entry. It’s daring Apple to follow the current court order.

The judge’s decision deemed Apple “not a monopoly,” which Apple then jubilantly celebrated, saying it’s something “we’ve known all along,” quoting the judge’s statement that Apple’s success was “not illegal.” However, the one part of the case where Epic won was where the judge declared Apple’s current in-app purchase (IAP) system anticompetitive. The court’s decision was that Apple would now have to accommodate developers by giving them the choice to include buttons or links to other places where users could pay for their in-app purchases outside the App Store, in addition to Apple’s IAP option.

Sweeney’s letter tells Apple Fortnite will play by the rules if Apple will. That is, if Apple follows the court’s guidelines to allow buttons and external links to other purchasing mechanisms, then Epic would resubmit the Fortnite app. In other words, Epic is ready to take advantage of the now legal option to route around Apple’s IAP system.

Apple, though, wasn’t having it. Apple’s legal team called Epic’s behavior in the past “duplicitous” when it breached its contract, and Apple saw no reason to reinstate the account until the court’s decision is made final. And of course, Sweeney tweeted that too, noting that appeals may take up to five years. (So bad news, Fortnite players.)

Apple’s decline may help to signal to other developers not to try to break its rules, but for Epic it sets the stage for the next battle — one where it’s not just daring Apple to let it back in based on the new terms, but one where it’s also daring Congress to act, too. After all, Epic’s position seems to be, if Apple can boot out a multibillion-dollar company that made amends for breaking rules it believed to be illegal, then what hope would smaller developers have to ever fight back against the tech giant? And once kicked out, there is no other path to iOS. This seems to try to position Apple as the monopolist that the court said it wasn’t — which is what the appeal is all about.

Apps to have a record Q3, with $34B in consumer spending 

Image Credits: App Annie

A new forecast from (the recently busted) App Annie indicates the third quarter will be another good one for the app economy. Consumers worldwide will spend $34 billion on apps and games in Q3, a 20% year-over-year increase in spending. The jump indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on consumer habits and behavior is having a lasting effect when it comes to how people are now using apps for entertainment, shopping, work and education. Consumer spending on iOS apps grew 15% year over year to $22 billion, and 15% year-over-year on Google Play, to reach around $12 billion. Most of this revenue is generated by gaming apps, which account for 66% of the spend across both app stores. In terms of non-gaming apps, iOS commands 76% of consumer spending

Downloads in Q3 will also grow by 10% year-over-year to reach a record high of 36 billion, driven by Google Play and particularly downloads in emerging markets like India and Brazil, and others.

Apple Updates & News

  • Apple released the public versions of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8. iOS 15 adds a number of new features, most notably Focus modes, which allow you to personalize your experience based on your current context (work, sleep, driving, etc.); a revamped (and sort of controversial) Safari update; improvements to Apple’s core apps; and more.
  • Apple also released to developers iOS 15.1, beta 1. The new beta adds SharePlay, the co-viewing feature for FaceTime, which did not make it in time for the public release of iOS 15. It also allows users to store their vaccination records in the Health app by taking a photo. (Or, if your health provider syncs your medical records, it may be in there already.)
  • But! New data from Mixpanel indicates users are taking longer to upgrade to iOS 15 compared with iOS 14 at launch. In its first two days, iOS 14 had been adopted by 14.5% of users, compared with 8.5% for iOS 15.
  • Apple rolled out StoreKit 2 and new in-app purchase capabilities. StoreKit 2 adds new Swift-based APIs that allow developers to determine product entitlements and eligibility for offers, get a user’s history of in-app purchases, find out the latest status of a subscription, provide a way to request refunds and manage subscriptions from within an app, and more. An App Store Server API is also in production for getting users’ IAP history and subscription status. App Store server notifications, which provide real-time updates on IAPs to enable developers to create customized experiences, are coming soon.
  • iOS 15 brings a major ASO update to the App Store. Now, the store will hide the screenshots for the apps you already have installed on your phone, which allows other apps and games to gain more visibility. This will be particularly important for those that appear in searches for major brands.

Android Updates & News

Image Credits: Google

  • Google’s Android Automotive OS will come to Honda vehicles in 2022. The integrated version of Android Auto is already available in select Ford, GM and Volvo vehicles.
  • Google booted a game and suspended a developer’s account for using sexually explicit ads to direct users to their app. The ads were causing outrage across social media, including Twitter and TikTok, due to the nature of the ads, which encouraged players to commit sexual assault.

E-commerce/Food Delivery

  • Amazon is shutting down its Amazon Go app. The app allowed shoppers to go checkout-free at Amazon’s high-tech convenience stores where cameras and shelf sensors track what you buy. The functionality provided by Amazon Go is now being integrated into Amazon’s main app, the company said.
  • Uber Eats added a new map feature that allows users to search for food nearby by typing in either words or an emoji. That is, you could type in an emoji of a hamburger 🍔, and the map would display the exact distance from your location. The company said the change was introduced because a majority of users would switch to other map apps to find nearby food. Users will also be able to see delivery and pickup options within Uber Eats and the Uber app itself.

Image Credits: Uber Eats

Fintech

  • PayPal launched its new “super app,” which combines a variety of fintech tools under the hood. The app offers direct deposit with the ability to get paid up to two days early, improved bill pay, a digital wallet, peer-to-peer payments, messaging, shopping tools ported over from its acquisition of Honey, crypto capabilities and a “high-yield” savings account (well, it’s 0.40% APY) powered by Synchrony Bank. Some of the features are arriving now, others in the weeks and months ahead. And the rollout itself is staggered so you might not see the update right away, either.

Image Credits: PayPal

  • Following the threat of an SEC lawsuit, Coinbase canceled its planned launch of a “Lend” product which would have allowed users to lend their crypto holdings back to the exchange for the promise of earning interest rates that are much higher than traditional savings accounts offer. This sort of functionality is already offered by other platforms, like Gemini, which is why Coinbase was proceeding toward a launch before the SEC’s intervention.
  • Robinhood has begun quietly testing a new crypto wallet feature and cryptocurrency transfer features in a beta version of its app.
  • European fintech app Revolut launched commission-free stock trading in the U.S. to compete with Robinhood and others.
  • Square’s payment processing app glitched last weekend, which caused its automatic tipping screen to disappear for hours. The bug hurt restaurant workers, baristas and small business owners who lost out on what would have otherwise been hundreds of thousands in tips.
  • China banned crypto. The country’s central bank said all cryptocurrency-related activities are now prohibited and overseas exchanges providing services in China are now illegal.

Social

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Twitter continued to accelerate its product releases with this week’s introduction of even more features, including those in the crypto space. The company added support for Bitcoin tipping in its recently launched “Tip Jar” feature, which allows users to receive one-time payments through third-party services. Now, users will be able to add a Bitcoin Lightning wallet (via Strike’s API) or their Bitcoin address to accept crypto tips. Twitter also plans to support NFT authentication so creators could connect their crypto wallets to Twitter to showcase their NFTs. And Twitter said it’s planning to roll out recording to Spaces, launch a creator fund and other safety features, among other things.
  • Tumblr launched its subscription service Post+ into open beta in the U.S. The product has been controversial, as users worried about how it could impact the site’s culture. Some users were concerned it gave the appearance of something akin to Twitter’s verified badge, offering an elevated status. Tumblr has since responded to user feedback by removing the blue Post+ badge that appeared next to the names of users who enabled the feature.

Image Credits: Tumblr

  • Facebook’s stock tumbled after the company announced Apple’s privacy changes would have a bigger impact in Q3 and noted it had been underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%. The latter had greatly panicked advertisers into thinking Apple’s ATT changes were even worse than feared. Investors didn’t respond well to the admission of the forecast, however, and the stock dropped several points after the announcement was made.
  • Pinterest partnered with Albertsons to make recipe pins shoppable. The grocery chain is looking to drive recipe hunters from pins to checkout.

Photos

  • Apple said it would add a new setting to its iPhone 13 that would allow users to turn off automatic camera switching to the macro camera when users get too close to their subject. There was already a setting that would disable the switching for video recording, which indicated that Apple knew that some people would prefer manual control over the switching.

Messaging

  • Telegram added a host of new features, including interactive emoji that display full-screen when tapped, new chat themes and livestream recording in an effort to continue to better compete with Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage and other messaging apps. The latter new addition could be particularly useful for creators, as admins will be able to record video and audio directly from a livestream or video chat. The recorded sessions are then stored in the Saved Messages section.

Image Credits: Telegram

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Apple’s Podcasts app in iOS 15 added personalized recommendations to its “Listen Now” tab, in an effort to improve podcast discovery. Sections titled “If you Like [Show Name]” will suggest other sows that listeners like you are engaging with, while other recommendations will be based on topics you like. A new Shared with You section in Listen Now will display recommendations from friends and family.

Image Credits: Apple

  • TikTok celebrated the return of Broadway shows in New York with a slate of live programming produced by artists, Broadway partners and creators, including performances from Broadway casts; backstage tours showing off costumes, props and practice spaces; costume and makeup tutorials; and tips and tricks from theater professionals; and more.
  • Discord started testing YouTube integration just weeks after YouTube cracked down on popular Discord music bots. The feature, called Watch Together, lets Discord members watch YouTube videos (including music videos) together, either via a playlist or by pasting in YouTube links.
  • Clubhouse announced Wave, a new way to casually talk with friends on the app. The feature will replace starting private rooms with friends. After you “wave” at people who follow you, anyone who accepts will be able to join your private room as a speaker.
  • Clubhouse also hired Chelsea Macdonald as head of entertainment partnerships. She previously worked in similar roles at Community, Red Bull and Instagram.

Gaming

  • The Pokémon Company offered a sneak peek at the upcoming Pokémon Trading Card Game Live, which will be available on iOS, Android, PC and Mac devices. In addition to the classic card trading game, the new mobile game will also offer customization options and accessories for your trainer.
  • Outfit7’s newly launched My Talking Angela 2, a pet simulation game in its popular Talking Tom franchise, jumped to No. 1 by global downloads for its debut, while Genshin Impact reclaimed the No. 2 spot.
  • Pokémon Unite reached the No. 1 spot in game downloads in over 62 Countries on Day 1 (September 21st, 2021) of its release on the iOS App Store.

Health & Fitness

  • A report claims disgruntled Noom users said they felt misled by the diet app which had claimed to be an “anti-diet” lifestyle app, but whose plans were really just calorie restriction — like any other diet app. They were also frustrated by its expensive pricing and canned responses sent by burned-out diet coaches.
  • Apple’s Research app was updated with the option to transfer study progress data to other devices via iCloud backup.

Productivity

  • Google updated its suite of apps for iOS 15, adding support for new features like Focus Mode, Spotlight integrations and iPad widgets.

Government & Policy

  • TikTok parent company ByteDance added time limits for kids under 14 for the Chinese version of TikTok, called Douyin. Now, teens under 14 will be able to access Douyin only between the hours of 6 AM and 10 PM and will be limited to 40 minutes per day of usage. The changes follow a broader crackdown by the government on the tech industry, which includes reducing the time kids spend online, which it views as harmful.
  • An Indian antitrust probe determined Google abused its dominant position in the country to illegally hurt competitors by reducing device manufacturers’ ability and incentive to sell devices running their own version of Android. It also found that Google’s requirement to pre-install its own apps is in violation of India’s competition law.

Security & Privacy

  • Apple improved its Face ID security with iOS 15 to make it more difficult to spoof by using a 3D model for someone’s face.
  • Apple patched a new zero-day bug that was exploited in the wild by attackers to hack into iPhones and Macs running older versions of iOS and macOS. Successful exploitation of the bug leads to arbitrary code execution with kernel privileges on compromised devices. Meanwhile, a researcher has published a complaint that Apple has been non-responsive to their reports of other zero-days.
  • A report from The Washington Post dug into the shady ways apps were tracking users in the post-IDFA era. For instance, the game Subway Surfers was shown to be sending specific data points to Chartboost, which could then potentially use the data to uniquely identify your iPhone, a technique known as fingerprinting. This continues even if the user has asked the app not to track them.

Image Credits: Lightricks

💰 Facetune maker Lightricks raised $130 million in Series D funding, which included $100 million in primary and $30 million in secondary funding, and values the company at $1.8 billion. The new round was co-led by New York-based VC firm Insight Partners and Hanaco Venture Capital and will be put toward further product growth across its line of editing and creativity apps, as well as acquisitions.

💰 Digital bookkeeping app FloBiz raised $31 million in Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital India, Think Investments and its existing investors Elevation Capital and Beenext. The app has been downloaded more than 5 million times and has a heavier presence in regions like Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

💰 London-based grocery delivery app Jiffy raised $28 million in Series A funding led by family-owned investment company Heartland. The app has over 20,000 customers across six London-area delivery zones and promises fresh groceries in 15 minutes.

📈 Seattle fintech Remitly, available on web and mobile, priced its IPO at $43 per share, above the expected range of $38 to $42, valuing the business at $6.9 billion.

💰 Pakistan fintech TAG raised $12 million in funding from investors, including New York-based Liberty City Ventures and Canaan Partners, valuing the company at $100 million. Pakistan is the third-largest unbanked market with 100 million users without a bank account, which is driving demand for digital banking services.

💰 Livestream shopping app NTWRK raised $50 million from Goldman Sachs and luxury group Kering. NTWRK had previously raised a $10 million Series A, according to Crunchbase data.

Lounge (iOS, Mac, web)

Image Credits: Lounge

Lounge launched a remote work app into open beta which creates a more social environment for smaller, fully remote teams. The app introduces the concept of virtualized “desks” showing the time of day for that individual. It also offers “rooms” that can be organized by the company’s org chart or projects, or the rooms can be virtual representations of physical spaces — like a meeting room for gatherings or company cafeteria, where employees could hang out virtually. Desks and rooms can be locked and made private or they can be unlocked and open. Lounge also adopts features from consumer social apps like photo-sharing and drop-in audio for virtual “desk visits,” and displays employee’s participation in company-wide events, like steps or meditation challenges. Lounge is entering a public beta, which means you’ll have to request access for entry. (Read the details on TechCrunch)

Pokémon Unite (iOS and Android)

Image Credits: The Pokémon Company

The strategic battle game that first arrived on Nintendo Switch this summer has now arrived on mobile. Pokémon Unite offers the same free-to-start multiplayer online battle arena game, with the same maps and monsters as on the Switch. It also introduces Unite Squads for teaming up Trainers, who can create either their own squads or search for existing ones. With the mobile launch, the game supports cross-platform play, allowing users to continue their Switch game on their smartphone, and to play along with others regardless of which device is being used. Both Android and iOS are supported. Following its debut, Pokémon Unite reached the No. 1 spot in game downloads in over 62 Countries on Day 1 (September 21st, 2021) of its release on the iOS App Store, App Annie found. (Read the details on TechCrunch)

Amplosion

Image Credits: Amplosion

With iOS 15, there are a number of new and improved Safari extensions now available. But one worth checking out is Amplosion, created by Christian Selig, also the developer of popular Reddit client app Apollo. The extension allows you to easily redirect from Google AMP pages to their normal, non-AMP counterparts. If, however, you prefer the AMP versions of some websites, you can add them to an in-app Allowlist. The extension will show you how many pages it’s blocked via an in-app counter and home screen widgets. There’s even an Easter egg in the form of a digital dog named Lord Waffles that lives in the app who has his own widget too. The extension is also fully open source for transparency. The app is a $2.99 download on the App Store.

We have to agree, this is waaaay better than “bug fixes:” 

Yes, it is:

Image Credits: David Barnard on Twitter (opens in a new window)

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/25/this-week-in-apps-paypal-launches-super-app-twitter-adds-crypto-tips-apple-wont-take-fortnite-back/

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Techcrunch

When the biggest Disruption is to just sit down and focus

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Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here. 

And just like that, TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 has come to an end. I’m exhausted, but it’s hard not to feel optimistic for the future after spending three days hearing vulnerable thoughts from some of the brightest minds in tech, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins to comic-turned-creator Alexis Gay.

If I had to distill a singular takeaway from the hours of programming, demo floor and Startup Battlefield, it would be this: Disruption needs direction. We’re in the middle of unprecedented times, and while that’s been good news for some entrepreneurs (and bad news for very many), focus may be what leads us out of it.

The theme kept popping up in the panels that I hosted or tuned into. For example, when I bugged BBG Ventures’ Nisha Dua about how to best spend first-check capital, she kept homing in on the need for entrepreneurs to invest their north star, aka the most defensible and innovative part of their business, over flashier alternatives. When I bugged Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn about where his now-public company is going next, he drew a line that stopped right before disrupting the college degree. And of course, when I asked Reid Hoffman about how early-stage founders can better attract capital, he outlined why it’s important to have an opinion and stick by it — controversy preferred. Even Nth Cycle, the runner up of TC Battlefield, wants to revolutionize metals processing by complementing existing processes, not ignoring them altogether.

It was refreshing to hear grounded yet inventive perspectives throughout the week. For those who missed it, we’ll be publishing recaps of all panels over the next week. Here are some of my favorite panels so far:

And of course, check out our podcast about TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield, where we go behind the scenes and talk about the finalists.

Thanks to all of you that came out to learn, listen and support. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into bootstrapping and a crypto crackdown that you should probably be paying attention to.

Bootstrapping 101

Young woman standing on top of tall green bar graph against white background

Image Credits: Klaus Vedfelt (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Mailchimp’s sale sparked a conversation about bootstrapping, so my colleagues Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm dug into what it means to skip capital and grow off of revenues (imagine!). In their latest collab, the duo explained what bootstrapping is like today — in a world of infinite APIs, well-trained techies and ample demand for better software services.

Here’s what to know: They argue that the money is reaching farther than it ever has in the past.

But startups that don’t need — or perhaps simply do not want — to raise expensive equity capital while scaling have more tools within arm’s reach than ever before. Revenue-based financing is now an established concept. Some companies are taking it even further. Pipe has built a marketplace where companies can sell revenue — or perhaps we should describe it as a marketplace where revenue can be traded. A more active market for the buying and selling of revenue should help with price discovery, perhaps resulting in more attractive prices for founders and a more liquid market for their future receipts; the more capital that founders can access by selling top line instead of shares, the more viable bootstrapping may prove.

Beyond this:

China’s latest crackdown

crypto

Image Credits: Robinhood

China’s central bank said that all cryptocurrency-related transactions are illegal in the country and must be banned. The crackdown, within the world’s most populated nation, will limit internal, financial and payment companies from facilitating trading on their platforms, reports Manish Singh.

Here’s what to know, according to Singh: “Regulators in China have been weighing a ban on crypto mining for several years. But in recent quarters, several local firms have started to embrace crypto. Chinese app maker Meitu bought Bitcoin and Ether worth $40 million in March.” It’s unclear if this ban will be different from other tensions, or if the home of the largest crypto mining services will soon be chilled.

Crypto digest:

Around TC

Thanks to all who attended TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. It was heartwarming to see such an engaged, disruptive and genuinely fun audience come out to our virtual stage. In classic TC fashion, though, one event done, another one to go!

Next up we’re going to have TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS 2021. It’s our debut event that is laser focused on software as a vertical, and given how booming the subsector is, the timing couldn’t be better. Buy discounted passes to the event and check out the agenda for a sneak peek at some announced speakers.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

California makes zero-emission autonomous vehicles mandatory by 2030

Attack of the $200M robotic raises

Clubhouse announces Wave, making it easier to start casual private rooms

A rewards program for your rent payments? Meet Bilt

The iPhone 13 Pro goes to Disneyland

Freshworks, Toast go public and we have takes

Seen on Extra Crunch

Dear Sophie: What’s the difference between IEP and the latest proposed startup visa?

It turns out fintech is worth as much as SaaS

Indications of a hot market abound as Freshworks, Toast price IPOs

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/25/when-the-biggest-disruption-is-to-just-sit-down-and-focus/

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Why my new NFT is worth nearly $400 and other observations from a fascinating week in tech

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Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here

Hello everyone! Disrupt was this week, which meant that I spent more time than usual with my feet up, watching panels and startup pitches. It was good fun, but also meant that I had fewer calls than I might in a more regular week. So, what follows is an abbreviated newsletter that is a touch more observational than reported, if you follow. Let’s have some fun!

Observation one: NFT speculation is good fun

I recently dipped a single toe into the world of NFTs. After covering the space, it was time to participate in a very minor fashion as you can learn a lot more by doing than merely reading. Of course I try to avoid any and all possible ethical quandaries, but I don’t think that my owning two-figures’ worth of crypto so that I could attempt to purchase a low-cost JPEG will really upset the apple cart.

It all went to hell, but an NFT that a kind Twitter user sent me is racking up bids. While I have not derived much pleasure from the particular image that I now own the digital signature to on a particular blockchain more than, say, most other online images, it has been sporting to watch folks try to buy it off me.

Several bids worth hundreds of dollars have cropped up (the latest sitting at $382.94), which made me sit back and wonder who really wants my image. I presume that I’m seeing speculation over value collection in the offers, but I do now better understand why NFT fans are stoked by their cottage industry. After all, who doesn’t want to magically generate real-world value from an image that, until recently, would have had essentially zero value? It feels like cheating. (To be clear, I am not selling my NFT as I don’t want to bother with the taxes, and it does seem like selling it for profit would generate some sort of ethics issue. So I guess I will hodl? Forever?)

Observation two: This is a great moment for fintech IPOs

The scalding public-market reception for Boston-based fintech unicorn Toast this week showed the world that it is possible to get software-like valuations for payments revenues, provided a sufficiently quick growth rate. Our read was that the warmth with which Toast was welcomed to the stock market indicated that it’s a great time for fintech unicorns to get off their collective duffs and go public.

I stand by that. But what I had perhaps missed was just how much value is sitting by the sidelines. Not in terms of valuation — we already know those numbers — but in terms of user numbers. Observe the following tweet:

I wouldn’t have guessed that Chime was in fifth place, but those figures imply simply huge payment flows which, as we have recently seen, are currently valued like rivers of gold. So NuBank and Chime and Dave and others, let’s do this thing? Please?

Observation three: Chinese tech is increasingly toxic

News this week broke that the Zoom-Five9 deal could be in for regulatory issues over the acquiring company’s Chinese roots. If Zoom having R&D operations in China means that it’s megabuy of Five9 goes poof, it would be an indicator not only of increasing distance between the two globally leading economies, but also a door-closing moment on a possible source of tech liquidity.

Also this week Lithuania warned that hardware from Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi is able to detect and block certain terms that China’s government likes to censor. Now, maybe that’s just how Xiaomi makes all its phones, but it’s not a great look. The country has “told its civil servants to jettison their Chinese-made smartphones after experts found they contained automatic censorship software and other security flaws,” The Times reported.

Again, toxic.

Alex

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/25/2208197/

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Techcrunch

Why my new NFT is worth nearly $400 and other observations from a fascinating week in tech

Published

on

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here

Hello everyone! Disrupt was this week, which meant that I spent more time than usual with my feet up, watching panels and startup pitches. It was good fun, but also meant that I had fewer calls than I might in a more regular week. So, what follows is an abbreviated newsletter that is a touch more observational than reported, if you follow. Let’s have some fun!

Observation one: NFT speculation is good fun

I recently dipped a single toe into the world of NFTs. After covering the space, it was time to participate in a very minor fashion as you can learn a lot more by doing than merely reading. Of course I try to avoid any and all possible ethical quandaries, but I don’t think that my owning two-figures’ worth of crypto so that I could attempt to purchase a low-cost JPEG will really upset the apple cart.

It all went to hell, but an NFT that a kind Twitter user sent me is racking up bids. While I have not derived much pleasure from the particular image that I now own the digital signature to on a particular blockchain more than, say, most other online images, it has been sporting to watch folks try to buy it off me.

Several bids worth hundreds of dollars have cropped up (the latest sitting at $382.94), which made me sit back and wonder who really wants my image. I presume that I’m seeing speculation over value collection in the offers, but I do now better understand why NFT fans are stoked by their cottage industry. After all, who doesn’t want to magically generate real-world value from an image that, until recently, would have had essentially zero value? It feels like cheating. (To be clear, I am not selling my NFT as I don’t want to bother with the taxes, and it does seem like selling it for profit would generate some sort of ethics issue. So I guess I will hodl? Forever?)

Observation two: This is a great moment for fintech IPOs

The scalding public-market reception for Boston-based fintech unicorn Toast this week showed the world that it is possible to get software-like valuations for payments revenues, provided a sufficiently quick growth rate. Our read was that the warmth with which Toast was welcomed to the stock market indicated that it’s a great time for fintech unicorns to get off their collective duffs and go public.

I stand by that. But what I had perhaps missed was just how much value is sitting by the sidelines. Not in terms of valuation — we already know those numbers — but in terms of user numbers. Observe the following tweet:

I wouldn’t have guessed that Chime was in fifth place, but those figures imply simply huge payment flows which, as we have recently seen, are currently valued like rivers of gold. So NuBank and Chime and Dave and others, let’s do this thing? Please?

Observation three: Chinese tech is increasingly toxic

News this week broke that the Zoom-Five9 deal could be in for regulatory issues over the acquiring company’s Chinese roots. If Zoom having R&D operations in China means that it’s megabuy of Five9 goes poof, it would be an indicator not only of increasing distance between the two globally leading economies, but also a door-closing moment on a possible source of tech liquidity.

Also this week Lithuania warned that hardware from Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi is able to detect and block certain terms that China’s government likes to censor. Now, maybe that’s just how Xiaomi makes all its phones, but it’s not a great look. The country has “told its civil servants to jettison their Chinese-made smartphones after experts found they contained automatic censorship software and other security flaws,” The Times reported.

Again, toxic.

Alex

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/25/2208197/

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