Avoiding USB-C on iPhones may get harder for Apple as Brazil considers mandate

Close-up shot of USB-C cable plug.

Enlarge (credit: Getty)

Brazil is the latest country to consider making USB-C charging a requirement for smartphones. On Tuesday, Anatel, Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency, announced a public consultation for a proposal to make USB-C charging a requirement for all cell phones sold in the country.

Anatel’s announcement said it was following in the European Union’s footsteps. The EU’s USB-C policy will require all smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, and some other consumer electronics with wired charging to receive power over USB-C in order to be sold in the region. Laptops will eventually have to meet the requirement, too. Anatel is currently only discussing a mandate for phones in Brazil.

The regulator also noted that some US senators are seeking a universal charger strategy similar to the EU’s policy.

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#apple, #brazil, #iphone, #policy, #smartphones, #tech, #usb, #usb-c

With Phone (1), Nothing hopes to succeed where Essential failed

An image of Phone (1), the first smartphone from Nothing, which will be unveiled on July 12.

Enlarge / An image of Phone (1), the first smartphone from Nothing, which will be unveiled on July 12. (credit: Nothing)

A consumer-electronics startup called Nothing has secured financing of more than $200 million to launch its debut smartphone, in the first attempt for several years by a newcomer to crack a market dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Nothing will unveil the design of its first smartphone, called Phone (1) on Wednesday, before it goes on general sale this summer. The device has a transparent back, revealing electronics components such as a wireless charging coil that are normally hidden, and runs on the Android operating system.

The company’s backers include Alphabet’s venture capital arm, EQT Ventures and former Apple designer Tony Fadell. They are betting that Carl Pei, Nothing’s chief executive, who previously cofounded Chinese smartphone brand OnePlus, can succeed where even Andy Rubin, the co-founder of the Android mobile operating system, failed.

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#nothing, #phone-1, #smartphones, #tech

Why Strangers Are Good for Us

Random engagement is at the core of our social contract.

#computers-and-the-internet, #conversation, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #smartphones, #social-conditions-and-trends

iPhones will be required to use USB-C charging by 2024 under EU policy

Extreme close-up photograph of USB cable.

Enlarge (credit: Tony Webster / Flickr)

The European Union (EU) has reached an agreement that will make USB-C charging no longer just a convenience but a requirement for iPhones and all other mobile phones by the fall of 2024. The plan extends to additional consumer electronics using wired charging, including digital cameras, tablets, and, at a later date, laptops.

Today’s announcement shows the EU Parliament and Council agreeing to terms for universal USB-C charging, something the parliament has spent 10 years arguing for. In September, the European Commission announced its intent to enact legislation requiring USB-C charging. The next step will be for the EU Parliament and Council to formally approve the agreement.

Once approved, the policy will also apply to handheld video game consoles, e-readers, earbuds, headphones, and headsets. Products in the named categories “that are rechargeable via a wired cable will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of their manufacturer,” the EU Parliament said in today’s announcement.

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#apple, #european-union, #iphone, #policy, #smartphones, #tech, #usb

With Cameras on Every Phone, Will Broadway’s Nude Scenes Survive?

Audiences are increasingly asked to lock their phones in pouches at comedy shows, concerts and some plays. But what happens onstage doesn’t always stay onstage.

#nudism-and-nudity, #smartphones, #social-media, #theater, #williams-jesse-1981

Want to reduce waste? These are some unique semi-green gadgets

Want to reduce waste? These are some unique semi-green gadgets

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Earth Day is April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

The best gadgets are the ones that find a way to enhance your world of work, play, or even just the daily grind. But there’s also another feature that can make a nice piece of tech even better: sustainability.

Continually buying the latest and greatest tech or gadget obviously creates a lot of waste. But thinking critically about the gadgets you buy can play a small part in reversing this trend.

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#apps, #ars-buying-guide, #ars-shopping, #laptops, #printers, #smartphones, #tech

Text Spam Is on the Rise. Here’s How to Spot It and What to Do

Text spam is on the rise. The latest version involves scammers sending messages to you seemingly from your own phone number. Here’s what to do.

#att-inc, #cellular-telephones, #computer-security, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #frauds-and-swindling, #mobile-applications, #smartphones, #spam-electronic, #t-mobile-us-inc, #telemarketing, #text-messaging, #verizon-communications-inc, #wireless-communications

Teenagers Report Growing Anxiety. Maybe That’s Rational.

America has been a stressful place lately.

#american-psychological-assn, #anxiety-and-stress, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #computers-and-the-internet, #internal-sub-only-nl, #smartphones, #social-media, #teenagers-and-adolescence

Verizon Investigates Spam Texts but Sees No Russia Link

The wireless carrier said that it was working with the F.B.I. and the Secret Service to investigate a recent wave of fraudulent messages, but said the source did not appear to be Russian hackers.

#cellular-telephones, #computers-and-the-internet, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #federal-trade-commission, #frauds-and-swindling, #privacy, #secret-service, #smartphones, #telemarketing, #telephones-and-telecommunications, #text-messaging, #verge-the-vox-media-llc, #verizon-communications-inc, #wireless-communications

Want a Value-Priced Gadget? Good Luck.

More Americans than ever are buying fancy phones and laptops. Will it last?

#electronics, #inflation-economics, #internal-sub-only-nl, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #smartphones

Apple iPhone SE Review: A Phone for the Anti-Consumer

Why spend more if you don’t have to? The new $430 iPhone meets all the criteria of what most of us need in a smartphone.

#5g-wireless-communications, #apple-inc, #batteries, #cameras, #content-type-service, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #smartphones, #telephones-and-telecommunications, #wireless-communications

Apple Has to Try Hard Now

The tech giant used to give us only a few cool options. Now it has to work harder to win us over.

#apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #internal-sub-only-nl, #ipad, #smartphones

Patrick Gelsinger is Intel’s True Believer

Patrick Gelsinger is back running a company he first joined at 18. The chip maker was a Silicon Valley titan that lost its luster. As the world craves chips, can Intel make its comeback?

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #christians-and-christianity, #computer-chips, #computers-and-the-internet, #factories-and-manufacturing, #gelsinger-patrick, #intel-corporation, #politics-and-government, #religion-and-belief, #shortages, #silicon-valley-calif, #smartphones, #supply-chain, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

Johann Hari on How to Reclaim Your Focus

In his new book, Johann Hari investigates how our brains have been broken by technology — and what we can do to fight back.

#anxiety-and-stress, #books-and-literature, #children-and-childhood, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-personal-profile, #content-type-service, #conversation, #mental-health-and-disorders, #smartphones, #social-media

Google Plans Privacy Changes, but Promises to Not Be Disruptive

It says it will give other companies plenty of time to adapt to changes to its Android software. Similar changes made by Apple affected big internet companies.

#android-operating-system, #apple-inc, #chrome-browser, #computers-and-the-internet, #google-inc, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #privacy, #smartphones

How to Break a Phone Addiction

Whether smartphone overuse constitutes a true addiction is still up for debate, but experts say there are ways to cut back.

#addiction-psychology, #content-type-service, #mental-health-and-disorders, #mobile-applications, #smartphones, #social-media

Americans Can’t Quit SMS

The world loves WhatsApp and other texting apps. Americans are chatting in their own bubble.

#internal-sub-only-nl, #mobile-applications, #smartphones, #text-messaging, #whatsapp-inc

Google Faces New Antitrust Law in Europe

A small search engine company in the Czech Republic helped inspire a law that is poised to put major limits on tech giants like Google.

#android-operating-system, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #computers-and-the-internet, #czech-republic, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #google-inc, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #search-engines, #seznam-as, #smartphones, #suits-and-litigation-civil

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon

A Times investigation reveals how Israel reaped diplomatic gains around the world from NSO’s Pegasus spyware — a tool America itself purchased but is now trying to ban.

#apple-inc, #arms-trade, #central-intelligence-agency, #commerce-department, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #defense-and-military-forces, #djibouti, #drug-enforcement-administration, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #facebook-inc, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #google-inc, #government-contracts-and-procurement, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #international-relations, #israel, #justice-department, #khashoggi-jamal, #martinelli-ricardo, #mexico, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #mohammed-bin-zayed, #mossad, #netanyahu-benjamin, #niv-karmi, #nso-group, #omri-lavie, #panama, #privacy, #raytheon-company, #saudi-arabia, #secret-service, #shalev-hulio, #smartphones, #sullivan-jacob-j-1976, #surveillance-of-citizens-by-government, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-africa-command, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #washington-post, #wireless-communications

BlackBerry Phone Service Officially Ends

BlackBerry was once Canada’s most valuable company and a global force in tech. The final step in its downfall as a phone maker arrived this week.

#apple-inc, #balsillie-james-l, #blackberry, #blackberry-handheld-device, #canada, #smartphones

Biden Administration Warns Against Spyware Targeting Dissidents

The U.S. intelligence community offered steps that would mitigate — but not stop — spyware developed by firms like the NSO Group.

#computer-security, #cyberattacks-and-hackers, #national-counterintelligence-and-security-center, #nso-group, #smartphones, #software, #surveillance-of-citizens-by-government, #united-states-politics-and-government

Tech Won. Now What?

We’re grappling with how to handle the tech we have, and imagining what to make of the tech of our future.

#computers-and-the-internet, #driverless-and-semiautonomous-vehicles, #internal-sub-only-nl, #smartphones, #social-media

Israeli Company’s Spyware Is Used to Target U.S. Embassy Employees in Africa

The hack is the first known case of the spyware, known as Pegasus, being used against American officials.

#computer-security, #cyberattacks-and-hackers, #diplomatic-service-embassies-and-consulates, #israel, #nso-group, #smartphones, #uganda, #united-states-international-relations

How to Store Your Covid Vaccine Card or Test Results on Your Phone

To plan for safe travels and gatherings this holiday season, here are some simple ways to take your Covid-related health data with you.

#android-operating-system, #apple-inc, #bar-codes, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #google-inc, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #smartphones, #states-us, #travel-and-vacations, #vaccination-and-immunization, #vaccination-proof-and-immunization-records

Components shortage sends smartphone market into decline

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G standing folded on table

Enlarge / Foldable devices like the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G (above) helped Samsung keep its top spot. (credit: Samsung)

Component shortages have been wreaking havoc on the tech industry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and smartphones are no outlier. Decelerated production schedules have given way to smaller stock and delayed launches. All of this has resulted in a decline in smartphone sales in Q3 of 2021 compared to Q3 2020, Gartner reported today.

According to numbers the research firm shared today, sales to consumers dropped 6.8 percent. A deficit in parts like integrated circuits for power management and radio frequency has hurt smartphone production worldwide.

“Despite strong consumer demand, smartphone sales declined due to delayed product launches, longer delivery schedule, and insufficient inventory at the channel,” Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said in a statement accompanying the announcement.

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#apple, #foldable-smartphones, #samsung, #smartphones, #tech

DuckDuckGo wants to stop apps tracking you on Android

Gabriel Weinberg, creator of DuckDuckGo.

Enlarge / Gabriel Weinberg, creator of DuckDuckGo. (credit: Washington Post | Getty Images)

At the end of April, Apple’s introduction of App Tracking Transparency tools shook the advertising industry to its core. iPhone and iPad owners could now stop apps from tracking their behavior and using their data for personalized advertising. Since the new privacy controls launched, almost $10 billion has been wiped from the revenues of Snap, Meta Platform’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Now, a similar tool is coming to Google’s Android operating system—although not from Google itself. Privacy-focused tech company DuckDuckGo, which started life as a private search engine, is adding the ability to block hidden trackers to its Android app. The feature, dubbed “App Tracking Protection for Android,” is rolling out in beta from today and aims to mimic Apple’s iOS controls. “The idea is we block this data collection from happening from the apps the trackers don’t own,” says Peter Dolanjski, a director of product at DuckDuckGo. “You should see far fewer creepy ads following you around online.”

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#android, #biz-it, #duckduckgo, #privacy, #search, #smartphones, #tech

What Apple’s New Repair Program Means for You (and Your iPhone)

Apple said it would soon provide parts, tools and manuals to those who wanted to fix their own iPhones and Mac computers.

#apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #consumer-protection, #content-type-service, #environment, #iphone, #smartphones, #software, #sustainable-living

Apple’s New Microchip Could Transform Computing

Apple’s custom processors suggest that computers are nowhere near hitting their performance limits.

#apple-inc, #computer-chips, #computers-and-the-internet, #intel-corporation, #laptop-computers, #smartphones

Google Pixel 6 Review: Playing Catch-Up With the iPhone

With long battery life and nice cameras, the new Google devices excel at what popular phones have done for years. Is that enough?

#android-operating-system, #apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #batteries, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #google-inc, #innovation, #iphone, #japanese-language, #mobile-applications, #photography, #smartphones, #software, #translation-and-interpreters

The True Cost of Upgrading Your Phone

Buying a $1,000 iPhone can be equivalent to giving up $17,000 in retirement savings or 2,500 cups of coffee.

#apple-inc, #calculators, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #iphone, #orman-suze, #personal-finances, #samsung-group, #savings, #smartphones

You may soon be able to answer phone calls on your Chromebook

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, on white background

Enlarge / Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. (credit: Samsung)

Chromebooks, which are powered by Chrome OS, are generally viewed as a simpler alternative to Windows and macOS systems. But as more Chromebooks flirt with four-figure price tags—take, for example, the Asus Chromebook Flip C436, Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, and recently announced Acer Chromebook Spin 514—consumers will start to demand at least a little more functionality. To that end, a feature being worked on in Chromium’s open source code reviews tool would give Chromebooks an ability that Windows and macOS machines already have.

Based on an “add feature” flag spotted in the Chromium Gerrit by Chrome Unboxed, you might soon be able to answer phone calls on your Chromebook through its Phone Hub feature. The description for the flag, made to “enable the Incoming/Ongoing call notification feature,” says that it “enables the incoming/ongoing call feature in Phone Hub.”

Currently, you can use Phone Hub to view your Android phone’s notifications and recently used Chrome tabs and send and receive text messages. The ability to answer phone calls would give you one less reason to pick up your phone. Windows users with Android devices already have this option via Your Phone, and macOS users with iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches have the same ability with the Continuity feature.

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#android, #chrome-os, #chromebook, #google, #smartphones, #tech

Anne Imhof’s Stylish (and Shareable) Provocations

The German artist shot to art-world fame with a performance at the Venice Biennale that captivated social media. Her latest work looks sure to please a smartphone-wielding audience, too.

#art, #douglas-eliza, #imhof-anne, #palais-de-tokyo, #smartphones

What’s a Pulse Oximeter, and Do I Really Need One at Home?

A tiny fingertip device can give you valuable information about your health during a bout of Covid-19 or any respiratory illness.

#content-type-service, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hemoglobin, #oxygen, #pulse-oximetry, #smartphones, #tests-medical, #wearable-computing

In Venice, High-Tech Tracking of Tourists Stirs Alarm

Can cellphone data and surveillance cameras help restore the city’s old-world charm, or just destroy what magic remains?

#brugnaro-luigi-1961, #cameras, #privacy, #smartphones, #travel-and-vacations, #venice-italy

How to Find ‘Stalkerware’ on Your Devices

These spyware apps record your conversations, location and everything you type, all while camouflaged as a calculator or calendar.

#android-operating-system, #apple-inc, #calculators, #computer-security, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #domestic-violence, #google-inc, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #privacy, #smartphones, #software, #stalking-crime

European Union announces plans to require all mobile devices to use USB-C

iPads with USB-C ports.

Enlarge / iPads with USB-C ports. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

The European Commission has announced its intent to enact legislation that would mandate all consumer electronic devices sold in the European market have a USB-C port for charging.

Should the new rules be enacted, they would make it illegal to sell consumer electronic devices that lack that port. The law would apply to smartphones, video game consoles, portable speakers, cameras, and some types of headphones—but it would not apply to devices that only use wireless charging.

It also would not prevent devices from having additional ports for charging, as long as they also have a USB-C charging port.

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#apple, #european-commission, #european-union, #legislation, #lightning, #ports, #regulation, #smartphones, #tech, #usb-c

Security audit raises severe warnings on Chinese smartphone models

A child uses a smartphone.

Enlarge / Be sure you know what you’re getting into before buying and using unfamiliarly branded smartphones—especially international models not originally intended for your country. (credit: Clover No. 7 Photography via Getty Images)

The Lithuanian National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recently published a security assessment of three recent-model Chinese-made smartphones—Huawei’s P40 5G, Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G, and OnePlus’ 8T 5G. Sufficiently determined US shoppers can find the P40 5G on Amazon and the Mi 10T 5G on Walmart.com—but we will not be providing direct links to those phones, given the results of the NCSC’s security audit.

The Xiaomi phone includes software modules specifically designed to leak data to Chinese authorities and to censor media related to topics the Chinese government considers sensitive. The Huawei phone replaces the standard Google Play application store with third-party substitutes the NCSC found to harbor sketchy, potentially malicious repackaging of common applications.

Huawei's P40 is still stuck on Android 10, while Xiaomi ships with 10 but can be upgraded to 11. Only the OnePlus 8T shipped from the factory with Android 11 installed.

Huawei’s P40 is still stuck on Android 10, while Xiaomi ships with 10 but can be upgraded to 11. Only the OnePlus 8T shipped from the factory with Android 11 installed. (credit: Lithuanian NCSC)

The OnePlus 8T 5G—arguably, the best-known and most widely marketed phone of the three—was the only one to escape the NCSC’s scrutiny without any red flags raised.

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#android-security, #biz-it, #huawei, #infosec, #lithuania, #oneplus, #smartphones, #xiaomi

Upgrading? Here’s What You Can Do With an Old Mobile Device.

Before you retire that smartphone or tablet to the bottom of a drawer, there are ways to get more life out of it around the house.

#android-operating-system, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #smartphones

Worried About Your Teen on Social Media? Here’s How to Help.

For kids, developing a healthier relationship with Instagram and other platforms can be tricky.

#computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #facebook-inc, #instagram-inc, #psychology-and-psychologists, #smartphones, #social-media

Apple iPhone 13 Review: The Most Incremental Upgrade Ever

The new iPhone is 10 percent faster than the last one, and the photos are slightly better. In a word: Huh.

#apple-inc, #cameras, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #innovation, #iphone, #photography, #privacy, #smartphones

Virtual Reality Will Conquer Your Face

Brace yourself for an onslaught of devices that connect your eyes to the digital world.

#apple-inc, #facebook-inc, #google-glass, #smartphones, #social-media, #virtual-reality-computers, #wearable-computing

Apple patches a NSO zero-day flaw affecting all devices

Apple has released security updates for a newly discovered zero-day vulnerability that affects every iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. Citizen Lab, which discovered the vulnerability and was credited with the find, urges users to immediately update their devices.

The technology giant said iOS 14.8 for iPhones and iPads, as well as new updates for Apple Watch and macOS, will fix at least one vulnerability that it said “may have been actively exploited.”

Citizen Lab said it has now discovered new artifacts of the ForcedEntry vulnerability, details it first revealed in August as part of an investigation into the use of a zero-day vulnerability that was used to silently hack into iPhones belonging to at least one Bahraini activist.

Last month, Citizen Lab said the zero day flaw — named as such since it gives companies zero days to roll out a fix — took advantage of a flaw in Apple’s iMessage, which was exploited to push the Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, to the activist’s phone. The breach was significant because the flaws exploited the latest iPhone software at the time, both iOS 14.4 and later iOS 14.6, which Apple released in May. But also the vulnerabilities broke through new iPhone defenses that Apple had baked into iOS 14, dubbed BlastDoor, which were supposed to prevent silent attacks by filtering potentially malicious code. Citizen Lab calls this particular exploit ForcedEntry for its ability to skirt Apple’s BlastDoor protections.

In its latest findings, Citizen Lab said it found evidence of the ForcedEntry exploit on the iPhone of a Saudi activist, running at the time the latest version of iOS. Citizen Lab now says that the same ForcedEntry exploit works on all Apple devices running, until today, the latest software.

Citizen Lab said it reported its findings to Apple on September 7. Apple pushed out the updates for the vulnerability, known officially as CVE-2021-30860. Citizen Lab said it attributes the ForcedEntry exploit to NSO Group with high confidence, citing evidence it has seen that it has not previously published.

When reached, Apple declined to comment. NSO Group did not immediately comment.

Developing… More soon…

#apple, #imessage, #ios, #ipad, #ipads, #iphone, #mobile-phones, #nso-group, #operating-systems, #pegasus, #security, #smartphones, #spyware, #technology

Smart Glasses Made Google Look Dumb. Now Facebook Is Giving Them a Try.

The company has teamed up with Ray-Ban to create glasses that can take photos, record video, answer phone calls and play podcasts.

#bosworth-andrew-1982, #computers-and-the-internet, #eyeglasses, #facebook-inc, #fashion-and-apparel, #mobile-applications, #photography, #privacy, #ray-ban, #smartphones, #social-media, #sunglasses, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #wearable-computing

Report: India may be next in line to mandate changes to Apple’s in-app payment rules

Summer is still technically in session, but a snowball is slowly developing in the world of apps, and specifically the world of in-app payments. A report in Reuters today says that the Competition Commission of India, the country’s monopoly regulator, will soon be looking at an antitrust suit filed against Apple over how it mandates that app developers use Apple’s own in-app payment system — thereby giving Apple a cut of those payments — when publishers charge users for subscriptions and other items in their apps.

The suit, filed by an Indian non-profit called “Together We Fight Society”, said in a statement to Reuters that it was representing consumer and startup interests in its complaint.

The move would be the latest in what has become a string of challenges from national regulators against app store operators — specifically Apple but also others like Google and WeChat — over how they wield their positions to enforce market practices that critics have argued are anti-competitive. Other countries that have in recent weeks reached settlements, passed laws, or are about to introduce laws include Japan, South Korea, Australia, the U.S. and the European Union.

And in India specifically, the regulator is currently working through a similar investigation as it relates to in-app payments in Android apps, which Google mandates use its proprietary payment system. Google and Android dominate the Indian smartphone market, with the operating system active on 98% of the 520 million devices in use in the country as of the end of 2020.

It will be interesting to watch whether more countries wade in as a result of these developments. Ultimately, it could force app store operators, to avoid further and deeper regulatory scrutiny, to adopt new and more flexible universal policies.

In the meantime, we are seeing changes happen on a country-by-country basis.

Just yesterday, Apple reached a settlement in Japan that will let publishers of “reader” apps (those for using or consuming media like books and news, music, files in the cloud and more) to redirect users to external sites to provide alternatives to Apple’s proprietary in-app payment provision. Although it’s not as seamless as paying within the app, redirecting previously was typically not allowed, and in doing so the publishers can avoid Apple’s cut.

South Korean legislators earlier this week approved a measure that will make it illegal for Apple and Google to make a commission by forcing developers to use their proprietary payment systems.

And last week, Apple also made some movements in the U.S. around allowing alternative forms of payments, but relatively speaking the concessions were somewhat indirect: app publishers can refer to alternative, direct payment options in apps now, but not actually offer them. (Not yet at least.)

Some developers and consumers have been arguing for years that Apple’s strict policies should open up more. Apple however has long said in its defense that it mandates certain developer policies to build better overall user experiences, and for reasons of security. But, as app technology has evolved, and consumer habits have changed, critics believe that this position needs to be reconsidered.

One factor in Apple’s defense in India specifically might be the company’s position in the market. Android absolutely dominates India when it comes to smartphones and mobile services, with Apple actually a very small part of the ecosystem.

As of the end of 2020, it accounted for just 2% of the 520 million smartphones in use in the country, according to figures from Counterpoint Research quoted by Reuters. That figure had doubled in the last five years, but it’s a long way from a majority, or even significant minority.

The antitrust filing in India has yet to be filed formally, but Reuters notes that the wording leans on the fact that anti-competitive practices in payments systems make it less viable for many publishers to exist at all, since the economics simply do not add up:

“The existence of the 30% commission means that some app developers will never make it to the market,” Reuters noted from the filing. “This could also result in consumer harm.”

Reuters notes that the CCI will be reviewing the case in the coming weeks before deciding whether it should run a deeper investigation or dismiss it. It typically does not publish filings during this period.

#android, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #asia, #australia, #competition-commission-of-india, #computing, #european-union, #google, #government, #india, #itunes, #japan, #mobile, #operating-system, #policy, #smartphone, #smartphones, #software, #south-korea, #technology, #united-states, #wechat

How Far Can You Go to Resist Being the Subject of a Viral Video?

One boy’s violent act of retribution raises uncomfortable questions about the world we’ve made for children.

#instagram-inc, #privacy, #smartphones, #social-media, #tiktok-bytedance, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #youtube-com

Jolla hits profitability ahead of turning ten, eyes growth beyond mobile

A milestone for Jolla, the Finnish startup behind the Sailfish OS — which formed, almost a decade ago, when a band of Nokia staffers left to keep the torch burning for a mobile linux-based alternative to Google’s Android — today it’s announcing hitting profitability.

The mobile OS licensing startup describes 2020 as a “turning point” for the business — reporting revenues that grew 53% YoY, and EBITDA (which provides a snapshot of operational efficiency) standing at 34%.

It has a new iron in the fire too now — having recently started offering a new licensing product (called AppSupport for Linux Platforms) which, as the name suggests, can provide linux platforms with standalone compatibility with general Android applications — without a customer needing to licence the full Sailfish OS (the latter has of course baked in Android app compatibility since 2013).

Jolla says AppSupport has had some “strong” early interest from automotive companies looking for solutions to develop their in-case infotainment systems — as it offers a way for embedded Linux-compatible platform the capability to run Android apps without needing to opt for Google’s automotive offerings. And while plenty of car makers have opted for Android, there are still players Jolla could net for its ‘Google-free’ alternative.

Embedded linux systems also run in plenty of other places, too, so it’s hopeful of wider demand. The software could be used to enable an IoT device to run a particularly popular app, for example, as a value add for customers.

“Jolla is doing fine,” says CEO and co-founder Sami Pienimäki. “I’m happy to see the company turning profitable last year officially.

“In general it’s the overall maturity of the asset and the company that we start to have customers here and there — and it’s been honestly a while that we’ve been pushing this,” he goes, fleshing out the reasons behind the positive numbers with trademark understatement. “The company is turning ten years in October so it’s been a long journey. And because of that we’ve been steadily improving our efficiency and our revenue.

“Our revenue grew over 50% since 2019 to 2020 and we made €5.4M revenue. At the same time the cost base of the operation has stablized quite well so the sum of those resulted to nice profitability.”

While the consumer mobile OS market has — for years — been almost entirely sewn up by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, Jolla licenses its open source Sailfish OS to governments and business as an alternative platform they can shape to their needs — without requiring any involvement of Google.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Russia was one of the early markets that tapped in.

The case for digital sovereignty in general — and an independent (non-US-based) mobile OS platform provider, specifically — has been strengthened in recent years as geopolitical tensions have played out via the medium of tech platforms; leading to, in some cases, infamous bans on foreign companies being able to access US-based technologies.

In a related development this summer, China’s Huawei launched its own Android alternative for smartphones, which it’s called HarmonyOS.

Pienimäki is welcoming of that specific development — couching it as a validation of the market in which Sailfish plays.

“I wouldn’t necessarily see Huawei coming out with the HarmonyOS value proposition and the technology as a competitor to us — I think it’s more proving the point that there is appetite in the market for something else than Android itself,” he says when we ask whether HarmonyOS risks eating Sailfish’s lunch.

“They are tapping into that market and we are tapping into that market. And I think both of our strategies and messages support each other very firmly.”

Jolla has been working on selling Sailfish into the Chinese market for several years — and that sought for business remains a work in progress at this stage. But, again, Pienimäki says Jolla doesn’t see Huawei’s move as any kind of blocker to its ambitions of licensing its Android alternative in the Far East.

“The way we see the Chinese market in general is that it’s been always open to healthy competition and there is always competing solutions — actually heavily competing solutions — in the Chinese market. And Huawei’s offering one and we are happy to offer Sailfish OS for this very big, challenging market as well.”

“We do have good relationships there and we are building a case together with our local partners also to access the China market,” he adds. “I think in general it’s also very good that big corporations like Huawei really recognize this opportunity in general — and this shapes the overall industry so that you don’t need to, by default, opt into Android always. There are other alternatives around.”

On AppSupport, Jolla says the automative sector is “actively looking for such solutions”, noting that the “digital cockpit is a key differentiator for car markers — and arguing that makes it a strategically important piece for them to own and control.

“There’s been a lot of, let’s say, positive vibes in that sector in the past few years — new comers on the block like Tesla have really shaken the industry so that the traditional vendors need to think differently about how and what kind of user experience they provide in the cockpit,” he suggests.

“That’s been heavily invested and rapidly developing in the past years but I’m going to emphasize that at the same time, with our limited resources, we’re just learning where the opportunities for this technology are. Automative seems to have a lot of appetite but then [we also see potential in] other sectors — IoT… heavy industry as well… we are openly exploring opportunities… but as we know automotive is very hot at the moment.”

“There is plenty of general linux OS base in the world for which we are offering a good additional piece of technology so that those operating solutions can actually also tap into — for example — selected applications. You can think of like running the likes of Spotify or Netflix or some communications solutions specific for a certain sector,” he goes on.

“Most of those applications are naturally available both for iOS and Android platforms. And those applications as they simply exist the capability to run those applications independently on top of a linux platform — that creates a lot of interest.”

In another development, Jolla is in the process of raising a new growth financing round — it’s targeting €20M — to support its push to market AppSupport and also to put towards further growing its Sailfish licensing business.

It sees growth potential for Sailfish in Europe, which remains the biggest market for licensing the mobile OS. Pienimäki also says it’s seeing “good development” in certain parts of Africa. Nor has it given up on its ambitions to crack into China.

The growth round was opened to investors in the summer and hasn’t yet closed — but Jolla is confident of nailing the raise.

“We are really turning a next chapter in the Jolla story so exploring to new emerging opportunities — that requires capital and that’s what are looking for. There’s plenty of money available these days, in the investor front, and we are seeing good traction there together with the investment bank with whom we are working,” says Pienimäki.

“There’s definitely an appetite for this and that will definitely put us in a better position to invest further — both to Sailfish OS and the AppSupport technology. And in particular to the go-to market operation — to make this technology available for more people out there in the market.”

 

#africa, #android, #appsupport, #automotive, #china, #europe, #google, #harmonyos, #huawei, #jolla, #linux, #meego, #mobile, #mobile-linux, #nokia, #operating-systems, #russia, #sailfish, #sailfish-os, #sami-pienimaki, #smartphones, #tc, #tesla

Phone Upgrade Guide: Should You Buy Now or Wait?

Apple, Samsung and others want us to replace our phones constantly, but many of our problems with current devices can be fixed.

#android-operating-system, #apple-inc, #batteries, #cameras, #computer-security, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #data-storage, #google-inc, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #samsung-group, #smartphones, #software

This Week in Apps: OnlyFans bans sexual content, SharePlay delayed, TikTok questioned over biometric data collection

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

Top Stories

OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content

OnlyFans logo displayed on a phone screen and a website

(Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Creator platform OnlyFans is getting out of the porn business. The company announced this week it will begin to prohibit any “sexually explicit” content starting on October 1, 2021 — a decision it claimed would ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform. The news angered a number of impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their main source of income.

However, word is that OnlyFans was struggling to find outside investors, despite its sizable user base, due to the adult content it hosts. Some VC firms are prohibited from investing in adult content businesses, while others may be concerned over other matters — like how NSFW content could have limited interest from advertisers and brand partners. They may have also worried about OnlyFans’ ability to successfully restrict minors from using the app, in light of what appears to be soon-to-come increased regulations for online businesses. Plus, porn companies face a number of other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content like child sex abuse material, revenge porn or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter which has led to lawsuits at other large porn companies.

The news followed a big marketing push for OnlyFans’ porn-free (SFW) app, OFTV, which circulated alongside reports that the company was looking to raise funds at a $1 billion+ valuation. OnlyFans may not have technically needed the funding to operate its current business — it handled more than $2 billion in sales in 2020 and keeps 20%. Rather, the company may have seen there’s more opportunity to cater to the “SFW” creator community, now that it has big names like Bella Thorne, Cardi B, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Blac Chyna, Bhad Bhabie and others on board.

U.S. lawmakers demand info on TikTok’s plans for biometric data collection

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers are challenging TikTok on its plans to collect biometric data from its users. TechCrunch first reported on TikTok’s updated privacy policy in June, where the company gave itself permission to collect biometric data in the U.S., including users’ “faceprints and voiceprints.” When reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

Earlier this month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which said they were “alarmed” by the change, and demanded to know what information TikTok will be collecting and what it plans to do with the data. This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid out $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Image Credits: Apple

  • ⭐ Apple told developers that some of the features it announced as coming in iOS 15 won’t be available at launch. This includes one of the highlights of the new OS, SharePlay, a feature that lets people share music, videos and their screen over FaceTime calls. Other features that will come in later releases include Wallet’s support for ID cards, the App Privacy report and others that have yet to make it to beta releases.
  • Apple walked back its controversial Safari changes with the iOS 15 beta 6 update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. Now the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering access to its usual set of buttons as when it was at the top. Users can also turn off the bottom tab bar now and revert to the old, Single Tab option that puts the address bar back at the top as before.
  • In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that was reverse-engineered by a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, was a generic version, and not the complete version that will roll out later this year.
  • The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails, which included dirt on a number of other companies like Netflix, Hulu, Sony, Google, Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft, Amazon and more. These offered details on things like Netflix’s secret arrangement to pay only 15% of revenue, how Microsoft also quietly offers a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Apple initially saw the Amazon Appstore as a threat and more.

Platforms: Google

  • A beta version of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) which rolled out with the fourth Android beta release added something called “Camera Switches” to Switch Access, a toolset that lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches allows users to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows and more.
  • Google announced its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system and more, for $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price point than the soon to arrive Pixel 6.
  • An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial revealed that Google had quietly paid developers hundreds of millions of dollars via a program known as “Project Hug,” (later “Apps and Games Velocity Program”) to keep their games on the Play Store. Epic alleges Google launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.

Augmented Reality

  • Snap on Thursday announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio as well as large companies that incorporate Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps. KP will join in September, and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships.

Fintech

  • Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new partnership with Japanese financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). The company said it plans to launch other localized versions of its existing global services in the future.

Social

Image Credits: Facebook

  • Facebook launched a “test” of Facebook Reels in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The new feature brings the Reels experience to Facebook, allowing users to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feed. The company is heavily investing its its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
  • Twitter’s redesign of its website and app was met with a lot of backlash from users and accessibility experts alike. The company choices add more visual contrast between various elements and may have helped those with low vision. But for others, the contrast is causing strain and headaches. Experts believe accessibility isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and Twitter should have introduced tools that allowed people to adjust their settings to their own needs.
  • The pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users to share child exploitation images, according to research from the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center.
  • Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different types of hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, as well as shaved or bald and protective styles. 

Photos

  • Photoshop for iPad gained new image correction tools, including the Healing Brush and Magic Wand, and added support for connecting an iPad to external monitors via HDMI or USB-C. The company also launched a Photoshop Beta program on the desktop.

Messaging

  • WhatsApp is being adopted by the Taliban to spread its message across Afghanistan, despite being on Facebook’s list of banned organizations. The company says it’s proactively removing Taliban content — but that may be difficult to do since WhatsApp’s E2E encryption means it can’t read people’s texts. This week, Facebook shut down a Taliban helpline in Kabul, which allowed civilians to report violence and looting, but some critics said this wasn’t actually helping local Afghans, as the group was now in effect governing the region.
  • WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that will show a large preview when sharing links, which some suspect may launch around the time when the app adds the ability to have the same account running on multiple devices.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Netflix announced it’s adding spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14, joining other streamers like HBO Max, Disney+ and Peacock that have already pledged to support the new technology. The feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center, when it arrives.
  • Blockchain-powered streaming music service Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
  • YouTube’s mobile app added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters, and jump into the chapter they want directly from the search page.
  • Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts, where users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s library of 70 million songs for a radio DJ-like experience.
  • Podcasters are complaining that Apple’s revamped Podcasts platform is not working well, reports The Verge. Podcasts Connect has been buggy, and sports a confusing interface that has led to serious user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.

Dating

  • Tinder announced a new feature that will allow users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, which will allow the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when a user signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.

Gaming

Image Source: The Pokémon Company

  • Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a livestream this week. The strategic battle game first launched on Nintendo Switch in late July.
  • Developer Konami announced a new game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, which will come exclusively to Apple Arcade. The game is described as a “full-fledged side-scrolling action game,” featuring a roster of iconic characters from the classic game series. The company last year released another version of Castelvania on the App Store and Google Play.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has now surpassed $3 billion in player spending since its 2015 debut, reported Sensor Tower. The game from Bandai Namco took 20 months to reach the figure after hitting the $2 billion milestone in 2019. The new landmark sees the game joining other top-grossers, including Clash Royale, Lineage M and others.
  • Sensor Tower’s mobile gaming advertising report revealed data on top ad networks in the mobile gaming market, and their market share. It also found puzzle games were among the top advertisers on gaming-focused networks like Chartboost, Unity, IronSource and Vungle. On less game-focused networks, mid-core games were top titles, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War. 

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Health & Fitness

  • Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app for Apple employees that allowed them to track fitness goals, talk to clinicians and coaches at AC Wellness (a doctors’ group Apple works with) and manage hypertension. According to Insider, 50 employees had been tasked to work on the project.
  • Samsung launched a new product for Galaxy smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, that allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.

Image Credits: Samsung

Adtech

Government & Policy

  • China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, for illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users location data and contact list and harassed them with pop-up windows. The apps have until August 25 to make changes before being punished.

Security & Privacy

  • A VICE report reveals a fascinating story about a jailbreaking community member who had served as a double agent by spying for Apple’s security team. Andrey Shumeyko, whose online handles included JVHResearch and YRH04E, would advertise leaked apps, manuals and stolen devices on Twitter and Discord. He would then tell Apple things like which Apple employees were leaking confidential info, which reporters would talk to leakers, who sold stolen iPhone prototypes and more. Shumeyko decided to share his story because he felt Apple took advantage of him and didn’t compensate him for the work.

Funding and M&A

? South Korea’s GS Retail Co. Ltd will buy Delivery Hero’s food delivery app Yogiyo in a deal valued at 800 billion won ($685 million USD). Yogiyo is the second-largest food delivery app in South Korea, with a 25% market share.

? Gaming platform Roblox acquired a Discord rival, Guilded, which allows users to have text and voice conversations, organize communities around events and calendars and more. Deal terms were not disclosed. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week, after failing to meet Wall Street expectations.

? Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding led by GPI Capital, valuing the business at over $3.5 billion. The company raised a similar amount just last year, but is now benefiting from renewed growth in travel following COVID-19 vaccinations and lifting restrictions.

? Indian quiz app maker Zupee raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by Silicon Valley-based WestCap Group and Tomales Bay Capital. The round values the company at $500 million, up 5x from last year.

? Danggeun Market, the publisher of South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot, raised $162 million in a Series D round of funding led by DST Global. The round values the business at $2.7 billion and will be used to help the company launch its own payments platform, Karrot Pay.

? Bangalore-based fintech app Smallcase raised $40 million in Series C funding round led by Faering Capital and Premji Invest, with participation from existing investors, as well as Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million users who are transacting about $2.5 billion per year.

? Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. Founded by NFL star Jason Fox, the app lets anyone share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ or comment on others’ music picks.

? U.S. neobank app One raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm), bringing its total raise to date to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools aimed at middle-income households who manage their finances on a weekly basis.

Public Markets

?Indian travel booking app ixigo is looking to raise Rs 1,600 crore in its initial public offering, The Economic Times reported this week.

?Trading app Robinhood disappointed in its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company, when it posted a net loss of $502 million, or $2.16 per share, larger than Wall Street forecasts. This overshadowed its beat on revenue ($565 million versus $521.8 million expected) and its more than doubling of MAUs to 21.3 million in Q2.  Also of note, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.

Downloads

Polycam (update)

Image Credits: Polycam

3D scanning software maker Polycam launched a new 3D capture tool, Photo Mode, that allows iPhone and iPad users to capture professional-quality 3D models with just an iPhone. While the app’s scanner before had required the use of the lidar sensor built into newer devices like the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in a variety of applications, including 3D art, gaming, AR/VR and e-commerce. Data export is available in over a dozen file formats, including .obj, .gtlf, .usdz and others. The app is a free download on the App Store, with in-app purchases available.

Jiobit (update)

Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, this week partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect, a premium add-on that offers Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that work with the Jiobit mobile app. SOS Mode can be triggered by a child’s caregiver when they detect — through notifications from the Jiobit app — that a loved one may be in danger. They can then reach Noonlight’s dispatcher who can facilitate a call to 911 and provide the exact location of the person wearing the Jiobit device, as well as share other details, like allergies or special needs, for example.

Tweets

When your app redesign goes wrong…

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Prominent App Store critic Kosta Eleftheriou shut down his FlickType iOS app this week after too many frustrations with App Review. He cited rejections that incorrectly argued that his app required more access than it did — something he had successfully appealed and overturned years ago. Attempted follow-ups with Apple were ignored, he said. 

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Anyone have app ideas?

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Are Apple’s Tools Against Child Abuse Bad for Your Privacy?

The backlash to Apple’s efforts to fight child sexual abuse show that in the debate between privacy and security, there are few easy answers.

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Taking consumer subscription software to the great outdoors

The pandemic has been extremely painful for many. But as lockdowns lifted and people began resuming their outdoor hobbies, mobile-first businesses have seen growth accelerate as consumers turned to digital tools to improve their time outdoors.

The Dyrt, for example, is the top camping app on the Apple and Google Play App Stores. The app sits at the confluence of two trends: An increased interest in outdoor recreation and travel, and an explosion in consumer subscription software (CSS).

The Dyrt launched its premium offering in 2019, The Dyrt PRO, in time to take advantage of the rising number of Americans making the great outdoors part of their lifestyle. A year later, it had a new subscriber every two minutes paying for features like offline maps and detailed camping information.

CSS businesses at the forefront of outdoor activities have closed major deals in recent years such as hunting app OnX (Summit Partners), hiking app Alltrails (Spectrum Equity), Surfline (The Chernin Group) and mountain bike leader Pinkbike (Outside Media). Companies like Netflix and Spotify have trained consumers to pay monthly or annual fees for software that enhances their lives, creating a business model investors view as reliable and poised for growth.

I think of different outdoor activities almost like individual genres on Netflix. Dominating camping or surfing might be like capturing the streaming market for comedy or horror.

Fitness and the outdoor passion space is one of the most exciting CSS categories in a growing landscape that includes everything from family planning/management services to entertainment and education. I believe CSS is still in the early stages of its growth — perhaps where B2B SaaS was a decade ago.

So what sets apart the great CSS businesses from the good ones?

Passion equals profits on the CSS flywheel

The beauty of the CSS model is the complete alignment between the business and its customers. CSS companies don’t have to please advertisers, and they can design purely for their users.

This dynamic is particularly powerful for CSS companies in the outdoors space, which make your favorite outdoor activity better with performance analytics and enhanced information such as maps, reviews, air quality reports and fire warnings. Consumers are happy to spend money on the activities and hobbies they enjoy, and CSS companies are able to make pleasing those consumers their top priority.

The result is what I call the CSS flywheel, in which a quality CSS product attracts and retains loyal users. Those users contribute their data through posts, photos and reviews, which creates a better product that further attracts new users, and so on.