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  BGR Show All 
Galaxy S10 5G will hit stores on April 5th, with a wild deal in tow
Galaxy S10 5G Release Date

The Galaxy S10 launch has been a major success for Samsung, there’s no question about that, but the company isn’t done with releasing new models. Let’s not forget that, in addition to the three 4G Galaxy S10 phones, Samsung also introduced a Galaxy S10 5G phone last month. The phone is even bigger than the Galaxy S10+, and it’ll hit stores well before 5G becomes widely available. However, that’s not even the craziest part, as one of Samsung’s launch bundles is easily the whackiest promotion we’ve ever seen.

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  1. Galaxy S10 5G will hit stores on April 5th, with a wild deal in tow

Galaxy S10 5G will hit stores on April 5th, with a wild deal in tow originally appeared on BGR.com on Thu, 21 Mar 2019 at 06:50:32 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


NASA wants to help you develop cool new space tech
nasa partnerships

It's been decades since NASA and its government contractors handled everything in-house, but the recent push by the agency to bring private companies into the fold is truly unprecedented. NASA's agreements with companies like SpaceX make it clear that the group is ready and willing to pay others to develop its hardware, and a new announcement from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory helps to hammer that point home.

NASA and JPL revealed today that they'll be accepting applications to be part of a group of 10 startups that will work with NASA to develop new space technologies. This "aerospace accelerator program," as NASA calls it, covers a wide range of potential applications, and NASA is very clearly open to partnering with companies that can prove they can aid future missions.

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  1. NASA wants to help you develop cool new space tech

NASA wants to help you develop cool new space tech originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 23:07:41 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


‘Game of Thrones’ will give Jaime Lannister a ‘beautiful’ send-off in season 8
Game of Thrones Season 8

A Kit Harington profile earlier this week seemed to indicate that Jon Snow will survive until the final episode of Game of Thrones' upcoming season 8. The actor implied during the interview that he was on location for the entire duration of the shoot, while others came and went.

But Jon Snow wasn’t the only one to talk to the press about what happens next in Game of Thrones, as actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau suggested that he is satisfied with his last scene as Jaime Lannister.

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  1. ‘Game of Thrones’ will give Jaime Lannister a ‘beautiful’ send-off in season 8

‘Game of Thrones’ will give Jaime Lannister a ‘beautiful’ send-off in season 8 originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 22:05:46 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Nvidia’s new AI software can turn a crude sketch into a stunning work of art
Nvidia art generation

It's somewhat difficult to square the hand-drawn animation that dominated the box office for decades with the almost hyper-realistic CGI that we see today, but as technology continues to advance, both art and animation will continue to change. To that point, Nvidia appears to be on the verge of changing the game once again with a new deep learning model capable of transforming the most basic of sketches into photo-realistic images.

The AI leverages generative adversarial networks (GANs), which you can read about here, to convert the maps you see in the video below into beautiful landscapes. In a nod to French post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, Nvidia decided to name the interactive app which uses the model "GauGAN."

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  1. Nvidia’s new AI software can turn a crude sketch into a stunning work of art

Nvidia’s new AI software can turn a crude sketch into a stunning work of art originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 21:03:29 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Americans would be more comfortable in Africa than anywhere else on Earth
human origins

If you find yourself constantly tweaking your home's thermostat in search of the perfect temperature, you might save some time by just moving to eastern Africa. That might sound drastic, but a new study reveals that you'd probably be a whole lot more comfortable than you are right now.

The research, which was published in Royal Society Open Science, reveals that the temperatures Americans typically gravitate towards when adjusting their thermostats closely match the conditions in Kenya and other regions in eastern Africa. This probably isn't just a coincidence.

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  1. Americans would be more comfortable in Africa than anywhere else on Earth

Americans would be more comfortable in Africa than anywhere else on Earth originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 20:08:54 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Dyson’s V11 breaks new ground with increased power and an LCD display
Dyson V11 preview

Dyson has led the charge in the evolution of the cordless vacuum for years, but this week, the company is unveiling the most futuristic stick vac to date. Meet the V11, which Dyson says is the result of more than ten years of cord-free vacuum and digital motor development. At a glance, it looks incredibly similar to the Cyclone V10, which arrived last April, but there are a variety of notable upgrades on board, some more obvious than others.

The advancement that Dyson's representatives were most eager to show off during our meeting was the intelligent Dynamic Load Sensor (DLS) system. This system is capable of detecting the resistance of the brush bar on the new High Torque cleaner head, and then communicating with the motor and the battery in order to increase or decrease the suction power depending on whether the vacuum is being used on a carpet or a hard surface.

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  1. Dyson’s V11 breaks new ground with increased power and an LCD display

Dyson’s V11 breaks new ground with increased power and an LCD display originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 19:06:09 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Someone found the first of six Iron Thrones HBO hid around the world for ‘Game of Thrones’
Game of Thrones iron throne

Well, that didn't take long. We told you on Monday about some of the novel promotions HBO is using to keep excitement high for the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones, which premieres on April 14. Those promotions include encouraging fans to go on a quest #ForTheThrone by searching for six of the series' signature Iron Thrones that HBO has hidden in far-flung locations around the world.

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  1. Someone found the first of six Iron Thrones HBO hid around the world for ‘Game of Thrones’

Someone found the first of six Iron Thrones HBO hid around the world for ‘Game of Thrones’ originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 18:35:13 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


World Health Organization joins fight against lax genetic editing standards
human genome editing

It's now been several months since Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed that he had successfully edited the genes of human embryos, which were then carried to term, resulting in the first genetically modified humans. His work was quickly shunned by all corners of the scientific community, and his fate remains unknown.

Last week, a large group of geneticists and researchers called for a moratorium on genetic editing until a robust regulatory framework could be established. Now, the World Health Organization is weighing in, and while it stops short of suggesting a prohibition on current genetics work, the group makes it clear that it supports regulations and oversight in genome editing.

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  1. World Health Organization joins fight against lax genetic editing standards

World Health Organization joins fight against lax genetic editing standards originally appeared on BGR.com on Wed, 20 Mar 2019 at 18:04:14 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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  TechNewsWorld Show All 
Google Stadia: Future of Gaming or Pie in the Cloud?
Google has pulled the wraps off Stadia, a new cloud-based gaming platform. Using the power of Google's global information infrastructure, Stadia can stream the highest-quality games to any screen, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in announcing the platform, which is expected to come online later this year. Stadia represents Google's vision for the future of gaming, "where the worlds of watching and playing games converge into a new generation game platform, perfectly built for the 21st century," added Google General Manager Phil Harrison.

Apple Boosts Performance in New iPad Air and Mini
Apple has announced a new 10.5-inch iPad and a refresh of the iPad mini. The 10.5-inch iPad Air, which will sell for $499, provides 64 gigabytes of solid state storage and WiFi support. It has Apple's latest mobile processor, the A12 Bionic chip, and supports Apple Pencil and the company's smart keyboard. "The Bionic A12 is a cut above the processors used in all other tablets on the market," Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. The new 7.9-inch iPad mini, which will sell at a base price of $399 with WiFi support also has an A12 chip.

MOREbot Introduces Kids to Robotics Using 3D Printed Parts
MORE Technologies last week launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for development of its open source robot ecosystem. The company will fund the project if it reaches its goal by April 21. As of this writing, $6,485 of that $20,000 goal has been pledged. It teaches real tech skills to the next generation of innovators and problem solvers using MOREbot -- a series of open source, customizable robotics kits designed for classroom or home use. MOREbot is an expandable modular STEM learning robotic ecosystem.

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Instagram Launches In-App Shopping Experiment
Instagram has introduced Checkout on Instagram -- an in-app purchasing tool -- as a closed beta for consumers in the United States. Among the 20 participating brands are Adidas, Nike, Burberry, Dior, Huda Beauty, Prada and Michael Kors. "Users in the U.S. can buy from a majority of these brands starting today, with all of them coming on board over the coming weeks," said Instagram spokesperson Paige Cohen. Instagram will continue adding brands to the closed beta, and it plans to expand Checkout beyond the U.S. in the future, she added.

Boosting E-Commerce Sales Through Storytelling
Storytelling is a central part of e-commerce marketing, and it's vital that brands both know their own stories and understand how to tell them. Everything from brand loyalty to purchasing decisions relies on a company having an engaging and well-told story. "Facts tell, but stories sell," remarked Samantha Reynolds, president of Echo Storytelling Agency. "We decide what to buy based on emotion, and then we use logic and data to reassure ourselves that we made the 'right' decision." A good story can distinguish one company from another, particularly in a crowded field.

How to Bring Relationships Back to CRM
Customer relationship management is a term you've likely heard if you have ever worked in the tech space. CRM software solutions have not always been as far-reaching as they are today. Over the last 40 years, CRM has evolved from a range of disparate business solutions developed for various customer needs. The earliest CRM tools were devices like Rolodexes. True CRM didn't exist in earnest until the '90s when innovators like Brock Control Systems began to explore the automation possibilities of new database systems.

From Virtual to Value: Building Meaningful Experiences With Gamification
Amid shifting consumer habits and the digitization of everything, the retail landscape has undergone significant transformations over the past decade, and it continues to evolve as quickly as ever. These transformations bring about a slew of challenges and opportunities for retailers to improve the overall shopping experience. With traditional retail strategies gradually losing their efficacy in reaching their intended target audience, more innovative alternatives have entered the market. One such technique is gamification.

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Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant duke it out at CES 2018

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant duke it out at CES 2018CES 2018 had more than its fair share of wacky items and compelling gadgets, but one of the biggest trends to emerge, once again, from the popular tech expo was voice-enabled devices. And, of course, it was all about Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.



The weirdest tech of CES 2018

The weirdest tech of CES 2018Here are seven items at CES 2018, some of which address legitimate use cases and some of which may be closer to mad-scientist territory.



Sennheiser co-CEO: Why we're betting on AR and VR with 3-D audio

Sennheiser co-CEO: Why we're betting on AR and VR with 3-D audioAt CES 2018, Sennheiser announced two new products that focus on recording or playing back 3-D audio.



Honda wants to prove robots can help you, not kill you

Honda wants to prove robots can help you, not kill youHonda wants to change your perception of robots. And it's hoping to do so with four new concept robots.



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  News Show All 
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Museum Curator In Florida Races Against Time To Preserve Holocaust Items - NPR
Museum Curator In Florida Races Against Time To Preserve Holocaust Items  NPR

Since Holocaust survivors are getting older and their stories are fading away, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is putting curators in regions where ...


Pence woos 2016 anti-Trumpers to bankroll billion-dollar reelection - POLITICO
Pence woos 2016 anti-Trumpers to bankroll billion-dollar reelection  POLITICO

When Vice President Mike Pence appeared before some of the GOP's most powerful donors at the iconic Pebble Beach golf course on Monday evening, he did ...


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  Latest news Show All 
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Apple iPad Air hands-on (2019): Just 'Pro' enough
It used to be that, if you wanted to buy the best possible iPad, you splurged on an iPad Air. It wasn't just sleek -- it was terribly powerful, too. (Well, for the time, anyway.) In 2015, though, the company launched the iPad Pro, and before long, th...

Apple iPad mini hands-on (2019): A love letter to old fans
I've always been really fond of Apple's iPad mini; I bought the first one as a Mother's Day gift, and the iPad mini 4 was one of the first big reviews I ever wrote for Engadget. Unfortunately, Apple hasn't shown its smallest tablet nearly as much...

The Morning After: Apple's new AirPods look very familiar
Hey, good morning! You look fabulous. Apple's slow reveal of refreshed hardware continued yesterday with the new AirPods many people have been waiting for. There's also a flood of news coming in from the Game Developers Conference, and our first rea...

Kaia's motion-tracking workout app remembers which rep you're on
Kaia Health caught our attention last year with an app that tracks your motion using your phone's camera in a bid to help you achieve perfect squat form, though we found it didn't quite hit the mark. Still, Kaia is elevating the concept with an updat...

Telltale's 'The Walking Dead' delivers its final episode next week
The final season of Telltale's The Walking Dead series will come to an end next week, when the fourth and last episode is released by TWD creator Robert Kirkman's Skybound Games. When Telltale Games virtually shut down and laid off everyone working o...

Apple rolls out pastel Watch bands and iPhone cases for spring
Apple has revealed new Watch bands and iPhone cases for spring, and they sure look like an explosion of colorful pastel hues to fit the season. You can now get an iPhone XS or XS Max silicone case ($39) in Spearmint, Papaya and Delft Blue, and the XS...

Shampoo magnate uses glasses-free 3D to push budget phones
Remember how shampoo magnate John Paul DeJoria threw himself into the mobile world five years ago? He's now offering smartphones -- and they might be appealing if you find most budget phones a little boring. Rokit's newly launched Io 3D and Io Pro...

Crowdfunded Nanoloop synth doesn't need a Game Boy to make beats
Nanoloop has been a cornerstone of chiptune music for years, but using one has meant either owning a Game Boy or making do with a mobile app. You won't have to make those compromises for much longer. Developer Oliver Wittchow and crew are crowdfund...

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Giant Military Contract Has a Hitch: A Little-Known Entrepreneur
Deap Ubhi has spent his tech career bouncing around. Now he’s tangled up in a little battle over one of the biggest government I.T. contracts in history.
In Andrew Yang, the Internet Finds a Meme-Worthy Candidate
Mr. Yang’s presidential campaign has catapulted out of obscurity thanks in part to a devoted online following, including some fans he’d rather not have.
Google Fined $1.7 Billion by E.U. for Unfair Advertising Rules
The antitrust fine, the third imposed on Google by the European Union since 2017, reinforces Europe’s regulatory role as the world’s most aggressive tech watchdog.
The New Social Network That Isn’t New at All
When an inveterate tweeter and social media hound decided to change his ways, what did he turn to? An email newsletter.
How to Not Ruin Your Life (or Just Die of Embarrassment) With a Screen Share
There are settings to help you avoid this. Here’s how to use them.
Tech Fix: I Deleted Facebook Last Year. Here’s What Changed (and What Didn’t).
Our personal tech columnist didn’t lose touch with his true friends — but strange things did occur, including Instagram thinking he was a woman.
The Sometimes Catastrophic, but Mostly Just Embarrassing Consequences of Screen Sharing at Work
If you’ve presented in a meeting, you know the potentially calamitous effects of projecting your laptop screen — your naked, interior world, that is — before unsuspecting co-workers.
New Paid Apple News Service Said to Feature Wall Street Journal
The New York Times and The Washington Post are among the publishers that opted out of the subscription service because of its terms, two people familiar with the plans said.
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  WSJ.com: WSJD Show All 
Grocers Brace for Another Blow From Amazon
Competition from Amazon.com has pushed grocers to focus on home delivery and lower prices. Now it is taking aim at supermarkets’ high-profit products: those found in the beauty aisle.

Huawei Executive Files Suit Over Canadian Detention
Meng Wanzhou claims her legal rights were violated when she was detained at Vancouver International Airport in December following an extradition arrest request from the U.S.

Facebook Sues Chinese Companies for Creating Fake Accounts
Facebook and Instagram sued four companies and three people based in China for creating and selling fake accounts, likes and followers, according to a posting on the social media giant’s website.

SpaceX Crew Capsule, With a Dummy Astronaut, Docks With Space Station
A new-generation SpaceX capsule autonomously docked with the international space station on Sunday, in a successful test of computers and maneuvering systems deemed essential to carry U.S. astronauts on future missions.

Galaxy S10 Review: Samsung Finally Gets Everything Right
Samsung has long made good hardware, and the Galaxy S10 is its best yet. But for the first time, the company also nailed the software.

A Doctor's Prescription for More AI in Medicine
Eric Topol makes the case for how artificial intelligence can improve health care, despite privacy concerns.

Democrats Turn to Online Tool for Organizing Volunteers
MobilizeAmerica gives Democratic campaigns and progressive causes a centralized sign-up system for events, door-knocking and shifts calling and texting voters.

Help, We're Drowning in Recycling! Cue the 'Internet of Trash'
No amount of technology, innovation or policy can solve our massive recycling crisis, but a litany of trash-tech companies are at least trying.

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  CNET News Show All 
AT&T boss gets robocall during live interview - CNET
Not even Randall Stephenson is safe.
HBO Now vs HBO Go: What's the difference? - CNET
Both streaming apps let you watch Game of Thrones as soon as it airs on HBO's channel. So which one's best for you?
Huawei P30 Pro will cost more than the Galaxy S10 Plus according to leak - CNET
The quad-rear camera behemoth will cost 999 euros, which converts roughly to $1,130.
Galaxy Fold vs. Motorola Razr: Foldable phone specs compared - CNET
Samsung could have a serious foldable competitor that packs innovation into a tiny nostalgic package.
HBO Theranos doc's director: Elizabeth Holmes is like Scientology, Steve Jobs - CNET
The director of HBO's The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, plus the whistleblower who brought the wrongdoings to light, talk about the woman at the center of it all.
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  SlashdotShow All 
Humans Might Be Able To Sense Earth's Magnetic Field
A new study from researchers at the California Institute of Technology suggests that humans can sense the Earth's magnetic field. "We have not as a species lost the magnetic sensory system that our ancestors [millions of years ago

1,600 Korean Hotel Guests Were Secretly Filmed and Live-Streamed Online
dryriver shares a report from CNN: About 1,600 people have been secretly filmed in hotel rooms in South Korea, with the footage live-streamed online for paying customers to watch, police said Wednesday. Two men have been arrested

San Francisco Moves To Ban E-Cigarettes Until Health Effects Known
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Officials in San Francisco have proposed a new law to ban e-cigarette sales until their health effects are evaluated by the U.S. government. The law appears to be the first of its

HardOCP Is Getting 'Mothballed' As Kyle Bennett Accepts Job At Intel
Slashdot reader grasshoppa writes: Kyle Bennett, long-time owner/operator of one of the last independent review sites, HardOCP, announced that effective April 1st he will be leaving it behind to start a new career at Intel. "Effec

AT&T CEO Interrupted By a Robocall During a Live Interview
At an Economic Club event in Washington, DC today, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was interrupted on stage by a robocall, pausing an interview in front of dozens of people and driving home that absolutely no one is safe from the

Google Will Implement a Microsoft-Style Browser Picker For EU Android Devices
Back in 2009, the EU's European Commission said Microsoft was harming competition by bundling its browser -- Internet Explorer -- with Windows. Eventually Microsoft and the European Commission settled on the "browser ballot," a sc

Volvo To Add In-Car Sensors To Prevent Drunk Driving
Volvo is installing cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents. These new safety features come a couple weeks after the auto

Four Wikipedias To 'Black Out' Over EU Copyright Directive
Sherwin Siy and Jan Gerlach, writing for the Wikimedia Foundation: Volunteer editor communities in four language Wikipedias -- German, Czech, Danish, and Slovak -- have decided to black out the sites on 21 March in opposition to t


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  Gigaom Show All 
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  WSJ.com: WSJD Show All 
Grocers Brace for Another Blow From Amazon
Competition from Amazon.com has pushed grocers to focus on home delivery and lower prices. Now it is taking aim at supermarkets’ high-profit products: those found in the beauty aisle.

Huawei Executive Files Suit Over Canadian Detention
Meng Wanzhou claims her legal rights were violated when she was detained at Vancouver International Airport in December following an extradition arrest request from the U.S.

Facebook Sues Chinese Companies for Creating Fake Accounts
Facebook and Instagram sued four companies and three people based in China for creating and selling fake accounts, likes and followers, according to a posting on the social media giant’s website.

SpaceX Crew Capsule, With a Dummy Astronaut, Docks With Space Station
A new-generation SpaceX capsule autonomously docked with the international space station on Sunday, in a successful test of computers and maneuvering systems deemed essential to carry U.S. astronauts on future missions.

Galaxy S10 Review: Samsung Finally Gets Everything Right
Samsung has long made good hardware, and the Galaxy S10 is its best yet. But for the first time, the company also nailed the software.

A Doctor's Prescription for More AI in Medicine
Eric Topol makes the case for how artificial intelligence can improve health care, despite privacy concerns.

Democrats Turn to Online Tool for Organizing Volunteers
MobilizeAmerica gives Democratic campaigns and progressive causes a centralized sign-up system for events, door-knocking and shifts calling and texting voters.

Help, We're Drowning in Recycling! Cue the 'Internet of Trash'
No amount of technology, innovation or policy can solve our massive recycling crisis, but a litany of trash-tech companies are at least trying.

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Finland's ombudsman to investigate any Nokia-branded phones data breaches
Finland's data protection ombudsman said on Thursday he would investigate whether there was any data breach by Nokia-branded phones after Norway's public broadcaster reported that it had proof the mobiles had sent data to China.
Israeli property management software firm Guesty raises $35 million
Israeli property management software provider Guesty said on Thursday it has raised $35 million in funding, bringing its total raised to date to $60 million.
Tencent posts worst ever profit drop on gaming freeze, one-off charges
Tencent Holdings, Asia's second-most valuable listed firm, reported on Thursday a sharper-than-expected 32 percent fall in fourth-quarter profit, the most on record for a quarter, as a regulatory review by China weighed on its gam
From California to Oslo: foreign subsidies fuel Norway's e-car boom, for now
On the outskirts of Oslo, a row of Fiat 500es imported from California stand parked in the snow outside the Buddy Electric dealership, part of a global flow of pre-owned electric cars to Norway powered by green subsidies elsewhere
Value of China's metal e-waste to double to $24 billion by 2030 - Greenpeace
The potential value of recyclable metals in discarded mobile phones, laptops and desktop computers in China will more than double to around $24 billion by 2030, environmental group Greenpeace forecast on Thursday.
Australia's PM slams social media 'grubs' after Aussie Rules player abused
Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison has described social media users who posted abusive comments beneath a photograph of Australian Rules player Tayla Harris as "cowardly grubs".
South Korea chipmaker shares rise on Micron's industry recovery outlook
Shares of South Korean chip giants jumped on Thursday after U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc forecast recovery in a memory market saddled with oversupply as device demand sags.
China smartphone maker Xiaomi beats profit view, sees more global expansion
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp said on Tuesday its fourth-quarter net profit more than tripled to 1.85 billion yuan ($275.59 million), on stronger revenue.
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  TechCrunch Show All 
Review: Apple’s new iPad mini continues to be mini

The iPad mini is super enjoyable to use and is the best size tablet for everything but traditional laptop work. It’s very good and I’m glad Apple updated it.

Using Apple Pencil is aces on the smaller mini, don’t worry about the real estate being an issue if you like to scribble notes or make sketches. It’s going to fall behind a larger iPad for a full time artist but as a portable scratch pad it’s actually far less unwieldy or cumbersome than an iPad Pro or Air will be.

The only caveat? After using the brilliant new Pencil, the old one feels greasy and slippery by comparison, and lacks that flat edge that helps so much when registering against your finger for shading or sketching out curves.

The actual act of drawing is nice and zippy, and features the same latency and responsiveness as the other Pencil-capable models.

The reasoning behind using the old pencil here is likely a result of a combination of design and cost-saving decisions. No flat edge would require a rethink of the magnetic Pencil charging array from the iPad Pro and it is also apparently prohibitively expensive in a way similar to the smart connector. Hence its lack of inclusion on either Air or mini models.

Touch ID feels old and slow when compared to iPad Pro models, but it’s not that bad in a mini where you’re almost always going to be touching and holding it rather than setting it down to begin typing. It still feels like you’re being forced to take an awkward, arbitrary additional action to start using the iPad though. It really puts into perspective how fluidly Face ID and the new gestures work together.

The design of the casing remains nearly identical, making for broad compatibility with old cases and keyboards if you use those with it. The camera has changed positions and the buttons have been moved slightly though, so I would say your mileage may vary if you’re brining old stuff to the table.

The performance of the new mini is absolutely top notch. While it falls behind when compared to the iPad Pro it is exactly the same (I am told, I do not have one to test yet) as the iPad Air. It’s the same on paper though, so I believe it in general and there is apparently no ‘detuning’ or under-clocking happening. This makes the mini a hugely powerful tiny tablet, clearly obliterating anything else in its size class.

The screen is super solid, with great color, nearly no air gap and only lacking tap-to-wake.

That performance comes at a decently chunky price, $399. If you want the best you pay for it.

Last year I took the 12.9” iPad Pro on a business trip to Brazil, with no backup machine of any sort. I wanted to see if I could run TechCrunch from it — from planning to events to editorial and various other multi-disciplinary projects. It worked so well that I never went back and have not opened my MacBook in earnest since. I’ll write that experience up at some point because I think there’s some interesting things to talk about there.

I include that context here because, though the iPad Pro is a whole ass computer and really capable, it is not exactly ‘fun’ to use in non standard ways. That’s where the iPad mini has always shined and continues to do so.

It really is pocketable in a loose jacket or coat. Because the mini is not heavy, it exercises little of the constant torsion and strain on your wrist that a larger iPad does, making it one-handed.

I could go on, but in the end, all that can be said about the iPad mini being “the small iPad” has already been said ad nauseam over the years, beginning with the first round of reviews back in 2012. This really is one of the most obvious choices Apple has in its current iPad lineup. If you want the cheap one, get the cheap one (excuse me, “most affordable” one). And if you want the small one, get the iPad mini.

The rest of the iPads in Apple’s lineup have much more complicated purchasing flow charts — the mini does indeed sell itself.

Back even before we knew for sure that a mini iPad was coming, I wrote about how Apple could define the then very young small tablet market. It did. No other small tablet model has ever made a huge dent on the market, unless you count the swarm of super super crappy Android tablets that people buy in blister packs expecting them to eventually implode as a single hive-mind model.

Here’s how I saw it in 2012:

“To put it bluntly, there is no small tablet market…Two years ago we were talking about the tablet market as a contiguous whole. There was talk about whether anyone would buy the iPad and that others had tried to make consumer tablets and failed. Now, the iPad is a massive success that has yet to be duplicated by any other manufacturer or platform.

But the tablet market isn’t a single ocean, it’s a set of interlocking bodies of water that we’re just beginning to see take shape. And the iPad mini isn’t about competing with the wriggling tadpoles already in the ‘small tablet’ pond, it’s about a big fish extending its dominion.”

Yeah, that’s about right, still.

One huge difference, of course, is that the iPad mini now has the benefit of an enormous amount of additional apps that have been built for iPad in the interim. Apps that provide real, genuine access to content and services on a tablet — something that was absolutely not guaranteed in 2012. How quickly we forget.

In addition to the consumer segment, the iPad mini is also extremely popular in industrial, commercial and medical applications. From charts and patient records to point-of-sale and job site reference, the mini is the perfect size for these kinds of customers. These uses were a major factor in Apple deciding to update the mini.

Though still just as pricey (in comparison) as it was when it was introduced, the iPad mini remains a standout device. It’s small, sleek, now incredibly fast and well provisioned with storage. The smallness is a real advantage in my opinion. It allows the mini to exist as it does without having to take part in the ‘iPad as a replacement for laptops’ debate. It is very clearly not that, while at the same time still feeling more multipurpose and useful than ever. I’m falling in real strong like all over again with the mini, and the addition of Pencil support is the sweetener on top.


Guesty, a tech platform for property managers on Airbnb and other rental sites, raises $35M

The growth of Airbnb — and likewise other platforms like Booking.com, VRBO and Homeaway for listing and renting short-term accommodation in private homes — has spawned an ecosystem of other businesses and services, from those who make money renting their homes, to cleaning companies that make properties “Airbnb-ready”, to those who help design listings that will get more clicks. Airbnb has seen some wild success so far, but it turns out that being a part of that ecosystem can be a lucrative business, too.

Today, Guesty — a Israeli startup that provides a suite of tools aimed at property managers that list on these platforms — is announcing that it has raised $35 million, money that it will use to fuel its growth, after seeing the number of properties managed in some 70 countries through its tech double to over 100,000 in the last year.

The company is not disclosing valuation with this round, which was led Viola Growth with participation also from Vertex Ventures, Journey Ventures, Kingfisher Investment Advisors, La Maison Compagnie d’Investissement, TLV Partners and Magma Ventures. But Amiad Soto, the CEO and co-founder, noted that it too has “more than doubled” since its last funding almost a year ago. PitchBook notes that round was around $90 million post-money, so this would put the current valuation at at least $180 million, likely more.

The idea for Guesty came about like many of the best startup ideas do: out of a personal need. In 2013, twin brothers Amiad and Koby were renting out their own apartments on Airbnb, and found themselves spending a lot of time doing the work needed to list and manage those properties.

Their first stab at a business was an all-in-one service to help hosts get their properties ready and subsequently tidied up for listings. “I was cleaning apartments, Koby was doing the business development, and my girlfriend was doing the laundry,” Soto told me in an interview. They quickly realised that this was never going to scale, “and also that our competitive advantage was building software. We are computer geeks.”

So the company quickly pivoted to building a platform that could provide all the tools that property managers — who work with individual property hosts/owners and had started emerging as key players as Airbnb itself scaled out — needed to juggle multiple listings. (That girlfriend is now his wife, so seems like they may have pivoted just in time.)

Guesty started as SuperHost and, like Airbnb, went through the Y-Combinator accelerator. It eventually rebranded to Guesty, and it now provides tools in a dozen areas that touch property managers and the job they do: Channel Manager (“channel” being the platform where the property is being listed), Multi-Calendar, Unified Inbox, Automation Tools, Mobile Management App, Branded Website Task Management, Reporting Tools, Owners Portal, Payment Processing, Analytics, Open API, 24/7 Guest Communication.

The plan is to complement that in coming years with more “smart” tools: the company is introducing AI and machine learning elements that will help it suggest more services to users, and for managers to use to do their jobs better. (One example of how this might work: if you have a property manager in New York City, and the city regulator changes something in the tax code for properties in Brooklyn, this will now be suggested through to managers whose properties are affected, and this can help with pricing modelling down the line if the manager, say, wanted to keep a specific margin on rentals.)

Perhaps because short-term property renting is a relatively new area of the accommodation and residential market, it’s fairly fragmented, and so Guesty is providing a clear move to consolidate and simplify some of that work.

“There are about 700 different services and other things that go into short-term property rentals,” Soto noted when I asked him about this. “It would take me hours to go through it all with you.”

And indeed, the market itself is much bigger than what Guesty is currently working with. Soto estimates that there are around 7 million properties now collectively getting listed on these short-term letting platforms, speaking to the opportunity ahead.

Guesty very much got its start with Airbnb and that helped it not only establish what property managers needed, but also to forge a close relationship with Airbnb at a time when it wasn’t yet building many bridges to third-party services. Soto said Guesty built its own private API to use with Airbnb, and subsequently helped inform how Airbnb eventually built an API that others could use.

It’s still a trusted partner in that regard. Now that Airbnb is moving into multi-dwelling arrangements — that is, rooms in hotels (which will now expand with its HotelTonight acquisition), plus multiple apartments in single buildings for big groups that might want to secure bookings at several places at once — it will very soon be launching a tool for these kinds of listings. Guesty has helped in the building of that, too.

Still, the opportunity for short-term lettings is bigger than Airbnb itself these days. Booking.com and its many subsidiary businesses have made a big move into this area, as have many other companies, and Guesty now handles bookings on a number of “channels”. Soto said on average, the number of bookings on its platform that are listing on Airbnb is 60 percent, with some vacation spots seeing the percentage much lower, and some urban markets seeing a much higher penetration.

Equally, there are a ton of companies that have been building technology to ease the process of listing and managing properties on all these platforms that include Vacasa, Turnkey, Airsorted, Kigo and many more.

This might be one of those cases where being an early mover in identifying a market opportunity has worked in a startup’s favor. Guesty’s strong work with Airbnb has helped the startup build stronger ties with those companies that hope to compete with it and give Airbnb a run for its money: Booking.com, Soto notes, is a premier partner these days.

“Guesty was the first to recognize the potential of the property management market and has quickly become a category leader with its vertical-oriented, end-to-end approach,” said Natalie Refuah, partner at Viola Growth, in a statement. “Technology and AI continue to disrupt the innovation stack, acting as a catalyst to the digitization of “traditional” areas such as real estate and travel. Guesty is leading the charge, fostering a more seamless experience for property managers while providing clear advantages to customers and ultimately, their guests. We believe that with its experienced and elite executive team, Guesty is fully equipped to modernize and revolutionize the property management ecosystem.” Refuah is joining Guesty’s Board of Directors.


Razer hooks up with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming

Razer is summoning a big gun as it bids to develop its mobile gaming strategy. The Hong Kong-listed company — which sells laptops, smartphones and gaming peripherals — said today it is working with Tencent on a raft of initiatives related to smartphone-based games.

The collaboration will cover hardware, software and services. Some of the objectives include optimizing Tencent games — which include megahit PUBG and Fortnite — for Razer’s smartphones, mobile controllers and its Cortex Android launcher app. The duo also said they may “explore additional monetization opportunities for mobile gaming” which could see Tencent integrate Razer’s services, which include a rewards/loyalty program, in some areas.

The news comes on the same day as Razer’s latest earnings,  which saw annual revenue grow 38 percent to reach $712.4 million. Razer recorded a net loss of $97 million for the year, down from $164 million in 2017.

The big name partnership announcement comes at an opportune time for Razer, which has struggled to convince investors of its business. The company was among a wave of much-championed tech companies to go public in Hong Kong — Razer’s listing raised over $500 million in late 2017 — but its share price has struggled. Razer currently trades at HK$1.44, which is some way down from a HK$3.88 list price and HK$4.58 at the end of its trading day debut. Razer CEO Min Liang Tan has previously lamented a lack of tech savviness within Hong Kong’s public markets despite a flurry of IPOs, which have included names like local services giant Meituan.

Nabbing Tencent, which is one of (if not the) biggest games companies in the world, is a PR coup, but it remains to be seen just what impact the relationship will have at this stage. Subsequent tie-ins, and potentially an investor, would be notable developments and perhaps positive signals that the market is seeking.

Still, Razer CEO Min Liang Tan is bullish about the company’s prospects on mobile.

The company’s Razer smartphones were never designed to be ‘iPhone-killers’ that sold on volume, but there’s still uncertainty around the unit with recent reports suggesting the third-generation phone may have been canceled following some layoffs. (Tan declined to comment on that.)

Mobile is tough — just ask past giants like LG and HTC about that… — and Razer’s phone and gaming-focus was quickly copied by others, including a fairly brazen clone effort from Xiaomi, to make sales particularly challenging. But Liang maintains that, in doing so, Razer created a mobile gaming phone market that didn’t exist before, and ultimately that is more important than shifting its own smartphones.

“Nobody was talking about gaming smartphones [before the Razer phone], without us doing that, the genre would still be perceived as casual gaming,” Tan told TechCrunch in an interview. “Even from day one, it was about creating this new category… we don’t see others as competition.”

With that in mind, he said that this year is about focusing on the software side of Razer’s mobile gaming business.

Tan said Razer “will never” publish games as Tencent and others do, instead, he said that the focus on helping discovery, creating a more immersive experience and tying in other services, which include its Razer Gold loyalty points.

Outside of gaming, Razer is also making a push into payments through a service that operates in Southeast Asia. Fuelled by the acquisition of MOL one year ago, Razer has moved from allowing people to buy credit over-the-counter to launch an e-wallet in two countries, Malaysia and Singapore, as it goes after a slice Southeast Asia’s fintech boom which has attracted non-traditional players that include AirAsia, Grab and Go-Jek among others.


Nigerian fintech startup OneFi acquires payment company Amplify

Lagos based online lending startup OneFi is buying Nigerian payment solutions company Amplify for an undisclosed amount.

OneFi will take over Amplify’s IP, team, and client network of over 1000 merchants to which Amplify provides payment processing services, OneFi CEO Chijioke Dozie told TechCrunch.

The move comes as fintech has become one of Africa’s most active investment sectors and startup acquisitions—which have been rare—are picking up across the continent.

The purchase of Amplify caps off a busy period for OneFi. Over the last seven months the Nigerian venture secured a $5 million lending facility from Lendable, announced a payment partnership with Visa, and became one of first (known) African startups to receive a global credit rating. OneFi is also dropping the name of its signature product, Paylater, and will simply go by OneFi (for now).

Collectively, these moves represent a pivot for OneFi away from operating primarily as a digital lender, toward becoming an online consumer finance platform.

“We’re not a bank but we’re offering more banking services…Customers are now coming to us not just for loans but for cheaper funds transfer, more convenient bill payment, and to know their credit scores,” said Dozie.

OneFi will add payment options for clients on social media apps including WhatsApp this quarter—something in which Amplify already holds a specialization and client base. Through its Visa partnership, OneFi will also offer clients virtual Visa wallets on mobile phones and start providing QR code payment options at supermarkets, on public transit, and across other POS points in Nigeria.

Founded in 2016 by Segun Adeyemi and Maxwell Obi, Amplify secured its first seed investment the same year from Pan-African incubator MEST Africa. The startup went on to scale as a payments gateway company for merchants and has partnered with banks, who offer its white label mTransfers social payment product.

Amplify has differentiated itself from Nigerian competitors Paystack and Flutterwave, by committing to payments on social media platforms, according to OneFi CEO Dozie. “We liked that and thought payments on social was something we wanted to offer to our customers,” he said.

With the acquisition, Amplify co-founder Maxwell Obi and the Amplify team will stay on under OneFi. Co-founder Segun Adeyemi won’t, however, and told TechCrunch he’s taking a break and will “likely start another company.”

OneFi’s purchase of Amplify adds to the tally of exits and acquisitions in African tech, which are less common than in other regional startup scenes. TechCrunch has covered several of recent, including Nigerian data-analytics company Terragon’s buy of Asian mobile ad firm Bizsense and Kenyan connectivity startup BRCK’s recent purchase of ISP Everylayer and its Nairobi subsidiary Surf.

These acquisition events, including OneFi’s purchase, bump up performance metrics around African tech startups. Though amounts aren’t undisclosed, the Amplify buy creates exits for MEST, Amplify’s founders, and its other investors. “I believe all the stakeholders, including MEST, are comfortable with the deal. Exits aren’t that commonplace in Africa, so this one feels like a standout moment for all involved,”

With the Amplify acquisition and pivot to broad-based online banking services in Nigeria, OneFi sets itself up to maneuver competitively across Africa’s massive fintech space—which has become infinitely more complex (and crowded) since the rise of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money product.

By a number of estimates, the continent’s 1.2 billion people include the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population. An improving smartphone and mobile-connectivity profile for Africa (see GSMA) turns that problem into an opportunity for mobile based financial solutions. Hundreds of startups are descending on this space, looking to offer scaleable solutions for the continent’s financial needs. By stats offered by Briter Bridges and a 2018 WeeTracker survey, fintech now receives the bulk of VC capital to African startups,

OneFi is looking to expand in Africa’s fintech markets and is considering Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana and Egypt and Europe for Diaspora markets, Dozie said.

The startup is currently fundraising and looks to close a round by the second half of 2019. OnfeFi’s transparency with performance and financials through its credit rating is supporting that, according to Dozie.

There’s been sparse official or audited financial information to review from African startups—with the exception of e-commerce unicorn Jumia, whose numbers were previewed when lead investor Rocket Internet went public and in Jumia’s recent S-1, IPO filing (covered here).

OneFi gained a BB Stable rating from Global Credit Rating Co. and showed positive operating income before taxes of $5.1 million in 2017, according to GCR’s report. Though the startup is still a private company, OneFi looks to issue a 2018 financial report in the second half of 2019, according to Dozie.


Windows Virtual Desktop is now in public preview

Last year, Microsoft announced the launch of its Windows Virtual Desktop service. At the time, this was a private preview, but starting today, any enterprise user who wants to try out what using a virtual Windows 10 desktop that’s hosted in the Azure cloud looks like will be able to give it a try.

It’s worth noting that this is very much a product for businesses. You’re not going to use this to play Apex Legends on a virtual machine somewhere in the cloud. The idea here is that a service like this, which also includes access to Office 365 ProPlus, makes managing machines and the software that runs on them easier for enterprises. It also allows employers in regulated industries to provide their mobile workers with a virtual desktop that ensures that all of their precious data remains secure.

One stand-out feature here is that businesses can run multiple Windows 10 sessions on a single virtual machine.

It’s also worth noting that many of the features of this service are powered by technology from FSLogix, which Microsoft acquired last year. Specifically, these technologies allow Microsoft to give the non-persistent users relatively fast access to applications like their Outlook and OneDrive applications, for example.

For most Microsoft 365 enterprise customers, access to this service is simply part of the subscription cost they already pay — though they will need an Azure subscription and pay for the virtual machines that run in the cloud.

Right now, the service is only available in the US East 2 and US Central Azure regions. Over time, and once the preview is over, Microsoft will expand it to all of its cloud regions.


Microsoft Defender comes to the Mac

Microsoft today announced that it is bringing its Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to the Mac. Previously, this was a Windows solution for protecting the machines of Microsoft 365 subscribers and assets the IT admins that try to keep them safe. It was also previously called Windows Defender ATP, but given that it is now on the Mac, too, Microsoft decided to drop the ‘Windows Defender’ moniker in favor or ‘Microsoft Defender.’

“For us, it’s all about experiences that follow the person and help the individual be more productive,” Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Office and Windows, told me. “Just like we did with Office back in the day — that was a big move for us to move it off of Windows-only — but it was absolutely the right thing. So that’s where we’re headed.”

He stressed that this means that Microsoft is moving off its “Windows-centric approach to life.” He likened it to bringing the Office apps to the iPad and Android. “We’re just headed in that same direction of saying that it’s our intent that we can secure every endpoint so that this Microsoft 365 experience is not just Windows-centric,” Spataro said. Indeed, he argued that the news here isn’t even so much the launch of this service for the Mac but that Microsoft is reorienting the way it thinks about how it can deliver value for Microsoft 365 clients.

Given that Microsoft Defender is part of the Microsoft 365 package, you may wonder why those users would even care about the Mac, but there are plenty of enterprises that use a mix of Windows machines and Mac, and which provide all of their employees with Office already. Having a security solution that spans both systems can greatly reduce complexity for IT departments — and keeping up with security vulnerabilities on one system is hard enough to begin with.

In addition to the launch of the Mac version of Microsoft Defender ATP, the company also today announced the launch of new threat and vulnerability management capabilities for the service. Over the last few months, Microsoft had already launched a number of new features that help businesses proactively monitor and identify security threats.

“What we’re hearing from customers now, is that the landscape is getting increasingly sophisticated, the volume of alerts that we’re starting to get is pretty overwhelming,” Spataro said. “We really don’t have the budget to hire the thousands of people required to sort through all this and figure out what to do.”

So with this new tool, Microsoft uses its machine learning smarts to prioritize threads and present them to its customers for remediation.

To Spataro, these announcements come down to the fact that Microsoft is slowly morphing into more of a security company than ever before. “I think we’ve made a lot more progress than people realize,” he said. “And it’s been driven by the market.” He noted that its customers have long asked Microsoft to help them protect their endpoints. Now, he argues, customers have realized that Microsoft is now moving to this person-centric approach (instead of a Windows-centric one) and that the company may now be able to help them protect large parts of their systems. At the same time, Microsoft realized that it could use all of the billions of signals it gets from its users to better help its customers proactively.


The Plum Guide raises $18.5M to expand its ‘vacation homes for the elite’ service

Fancy knowing how ‘the other half’ lives? Well, part of it is down to tools which have been built specifically for them. Michelin Guide will tell you about the best restaurants on the planet. Similarly the The Plum Guide bills itself as the “Michelin Guide for Homes” as it picks the world’s best vacation rentals, holiday homes, short term lets and Airbnbs from over 25 different sites, then puts them into one. It does this using a combination of data and human curation.

It’s now raised £14m ($18.5m) from some of Europe’s leading early-stage investors to support its rollout to 12 new cities this year.

The Plum Guide differs from mass market booking platforms by selecting only the top 1% of properties in any city to feature on its site. By the end of 2019 that will mean almost 12,000 verified homes in the most sought-after cities for holiday rentals.

The latest funding round is led by Talis Capital, with participation from Latitude and Hearst Ventures, as well as Octopus Ventures – who led the Series A funding round.

It needs all this money because as well as using a data approach, it also sends actual human beings to vet every property in person and apply a “scientific Plum Guide test” which covers 150 points from proximity to cafes and transport, to speed of WiFi.

Since launching in London in 2015, the company claims to have achieved year-on-year growth of three times revenues, for three years’ running, adding homes in five new cities to the platform and saw repeat bookings jump 27% after it opened in Paris, its second location after London. It says customer referrals drive a quarter of all bookings.

In a statement Doron Meyassed, Founder and CEO, said: “We are on a mission to build a marketplace of the world’s most beautiful holiday homes. This isn’t some vague qualitative ambition. We mean it. We are taking a systematic and obsessive approach to vetting every single home on the planet and accepting only the top 1%.”

“We are clearly targeting a highly discerning group of affluent professionals that live in global megacities, love to travel and value great design, quality and locations,” says Meyassed. “Previously they have stayed away from the open marketplace booking platforms, which they consider too risky compared with the reassurance that a hotel provides.”

In other words, the startup is eating away at the luxury hotel market.

Matus Maar, Managing Partner and Co Founder at Talis Capital, said: “The consumer market has entered into an age of curation where data, ratings and reviews need to be carved into useful information to support buying decisions. We see huge value in businesses and teams that create a competitive advantage by being strategically data driven.”

George Henry, partner at LocalGlobe, commented: “Travel and accommodation continues to be a fast-growing market but the supply has become incredibly fragmented, especially in the p2p market. As consumer travel has always suffered from a very low NPS, we believe that a differentiated brand offering a more hands-on service powered by expert curation and data is going to continue to deliver a very unique experience.

The Plum Guide is in direct competition with the big home booking platforms (Airbnb, Booking.com, Home Away etc.) but claims it competes by using its algorithm to build a database of all the homes available in the city, then systematically putting it through five rounds of filtration to come up with the top homes. It also competes by ‘matchmaking’ people with the best homes.


PicsArt hits 130 million MAUs as Chinese flock to its photo editing app

If you’re like me, who isn’t big on social media, you’d think that the image filters that come inside most apps will do the job. But for many others, especially the younger crowd, making their photos stand out is a huge deal.

The demand is big enough that PicsArt, a rival to filtering companies VSCO and Snapseed, recently hit 130 million monthly active users worldwide, roughly a year after it amassed 100 million MAUs. Like VSCO, PicsArt now offers video overlays though images are still its focus.

Nearly 80 percent of PicsArt’s users are under the age of 35 and those under 18 are driving most of its growth. The “Gen Z” (the generation after millennials) users aren’t obsessed with the next big, big thing. Rather, they pride themselves on having niche interests, be it K-pop, celebrities, anime, sci-fi or space science, topics that come in the form of filters, effects, stickers and GIFs in PicsArt’s content library.

“PicsArt is helping to drive a trend I call visual storytelling. There’s a generation of young people who communicate through memes, short-form videos, images and stickers, and they rarely use words,” Tammy Nam, who joined PicsArt as its chief operating officer in July, told TechCrunch in an interview.

PicsArt has so far raised $45 million, according to data collected by Crunchbase. It picked up $20 million from a Series B round in 2016 to grow its Asia focus and told TechCrunch that it’s “actively considering fundraising to fuel [its] rapid growth even more.”

picsart

PicsArt wants to help users stand out on social media, for instance, by virtually applying this rainbow makeup look on them. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo

The app doubles as a social platform, although the use case is much smaller compared to the size of Instagram, Facebook and other mainstream social media products. About 40 percent of PicsArt’s users post on the app, putting it in a unique position where it competes with the social media juggernauts on one hand, and serving as a platform-agnostic app to facilitate content creation for its rivals on the other.

What separates PicsArt from the giants, according to Nam, is that people who do share there tend to be content creators rather than passive consumers.

“On TikTok and Instagram, the majority of the people there are consumers. Almost 100 percent of the people on PicsArt are creating or editing something. For many users, coming on PicsArt is a built-in habit. They come in every week, and find the editing process Zen-like and peaceful.”

Trending in China

Most of PicsArt’s users live in the United States, but the app owes much of its recent success to China, its fastest growing market with more than 15 million MAUs. The regional growth, which has been 10-30 percent month-over-month recently, appears more remarkable when factoring in PicsArt’s zero user acquisition expense in a crowded market where pay-to-play is a norm for emerging startups.

“Many larger companies [in China] are spending a lot of money on advertising to gain market share. PicsArt has done zero paid marketing in China,” noted Nam.

Screenshot: TikTok-related stickers from PicsArt’s library

When people catch sight of an impressive image filtering effect online, many will inquire about the toolset behind it. Chinese users find out about the Armenian startup from photos and videos hashtagged #PicsArt, not different from how VSCO gets discovered from #vscocam on Instagram. It’s through such word of mouth that PicsArt broke into China, where users flocked to its Avengers-inspired disappearing superhero effect last May when the film was screening. China is now the company’s second largest market by revenue after the U.S.

Screenshot: PicsArts lets users easily apply the Avengers dispersion effect to their own photos

A hurdle that all media apps see in China is the country’s opaque guidelines on digital content. Companies in the business of disseminating information, from WeChat to TikTok, hire armies of content moderators to root out what the government deems inappropriate or illegal. PicsArt says it uses artificial intelligence to sterilize content and keeps a global moderator team that also keeps an eye on its China content.

Despite being headquartered in Silicon Valley, PicsArt has placed its research and development center in Armenia, home to founder Hovhannes Avoyan. This gives the startup access to much cheaper engineering talents in the country and neighboring Russia compared to what it can hire in the U.S. To date, 70 percent of the company’s 360 employees are working in engineering and product development (50 percent of whom are female), an investment it believes helps keep its creative tools up to date.

Most of PicsArt’s features are free to use, but the firm has also looked into getting paid. It rolled out a premium program last March that gives users more sophisticated functions and exclusive content. This segment has already leapfrogged advertising to be PicsArt’s largest revenue source, although in China, its budding market, paid subscriptions have been slow to come.

picsart 1

PicsArt lets users do all sorts of creative work, including virtually posing with their idol. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo

“In China, people don’t want to pay because they don’t believe in the products. But if they understand your value, they are willing to pay, for example, they pay a lot for mobile games,” said Jennifer Liu, PicsArt China’s country manager.

And Nam is positive that Chinese users will come to appreciate the app’s value. “In order for this new generation to create really differentiated content, become influencers, or be more relevant on social media, they have to do edit their content. It’s just a natural way for them to do that.”


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Futuristic hover bike promises 15,000 foot climbs and 150 MPH top speed (and you can pre-order it now)

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Snapchat is getting into games — here’s what we’d like to see

Snapchat is getting into the game, literally. Rumor has it an in-app gaming platform, along with a handful of games, are coming to the social network. While we don’t yet know which titles Snap has snapped up, there are some games that we think will work best within the app — and a few things it should avoid. According to a report from Cheddar, Snap Inc will be revealing its platform, codenamed “Project Cognac,” at an event in April. It’ll allegedly show a few third-party games that’ll work with the app, alongside (one would hope) some games of its own. The…

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