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Main article: Mobile

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Pixel 4 review: Google ups its camera game

16:00 | 21 October

Google’s first-party hardware has always been a drop in the bucket of global smartphone sales. Pixel devices have managed to crack the top five in the U.S. and Western Europe, but otherwise represent less than 1% of the overall market. It’s true, of course, that the company got a late start, largely watching on the sidelines as companies like Samsung and Huawei shipped millions of Android devices.

Earlier this year, Google admitted that it was feeling the squeeze of slowing smartphone sales along with the rest of the industry. During Alphabet’s Q1 earnings call, CEO Sundar Pichai noted that poor hardware numbers were a reflection of “pressure in the premium smartphone industry.”

Introduced at I/O, the Pixel 3a was an attempt to augment disappointing sales numbers with the introduction of a budget-tier device. With a starting price of $399, the device seemingly went over as intended. The 3a, coupled with more carrier partners, helped effectively double year over year growth for the line. Given all of this, it seems like a pretty safe bet that the six-month Pixel/Pixela cycle will continue, going forward.

Of course, the addition of a mid-range device adds more onus for the company to differentiate the flagship. With a starting price of $799, the Pixel 4 certainly isn’t expensive by modern flagship standards. But Google certainly needs to present enough distinguishing features to justify a $400 price gulf between devices — especially as the company disclosed software upgrades introduced on flagship devices will soon make their way onto their cheaper counterparts.

Indeed, the much-rumored and oft-leaked devices bring some key changes to the line. The company has finally given in and added a dual-camera setup to both premium models, along with an upgraded 90Hz display, face unlock, radar-based gestures and a whole bunch of additional software features.

The truth is that the Pixel has always occupied a strange place in the smartphone world. As the successor to Google’s Nexus partnerships, the product can be regarded as a showcase for Android’s most compelling features. But gone are the days of leading the pack with the latest version of the operating system. The fact that OnePlus devices already have Android 10 means Google’s going head to head against another reasonably price manufacturer of quality handsets.

google pixel 4 009

The Pixel line steps up a bit on the design side to distinguish the product from the “a” line. Google’s phones have never been as flashy as Samsung’s or Apple’s, and that’s still the case here, but a new dual-sided glass design (Gorilla Glass 5 on both), coupled with a metal band, does step up the premium feel a bit. The product is also a bit heavier and thicker than the 3, lending some heft to the device.

There are three colors now: black, white and a poppy “Oh So Orange,” which is available in limited quantities here in the U.S. The color power button continues to be a nice touch, lending a little character to the staid black and white devices. While the screen gets a nice update to 90Hz OLED, Google still has no interest in the world of notches or hole punches. Rather, it’s keeping pretty sizable bezels on the top and bottom.

The Pixel 4 gets a bit of a screen size boost from 5.5 to 5.7 inches, with an increase of a single pixel per inch, while the Pixel 4 XL stays put at 6.4 inches (with a PPI increase of 522 to 537). The dual front-facing camera has been ditched this time out, instead opting for the single eight megapixel, similar to what you’ll find on the 3a.

Storage hasn’t changed, with both 64 and 128GB options for both models; RAM has been bumped up to a default 6GB from 4GB last time out. The processor, too, is the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, bumping from a Snapdragon 845 to an 855. Interestingly, however, the batteries have actually been downgraded.

google pixel 4 013

The 4 and 4 XL sport a 2,800 and 3,700mAh, respectively. That should be augmented a bit by new battery-saving features introduced in Android 10, but even still, that’s not the direction you want to see these things going.

The camera is, in a word, great. Truth be told, I’ve been using it to shoot photos for the site since I got the phone last week. This Google Nest Mini review, Amazon Echo review and Virgin Galactic space suit news were all shot on the Pixel 4. The phone isn’t yet a “leave your DSLR at home” proposition, of course, but damn if it can’t take a fantastic photo in less than ideal and mixed light with minimal futzing around.

There’s no doubt that this represents a small but important shift in philosophy for Google. After multiple generations of suggesting that software solutions could do more than enough heavy lifting on image processing, the company’s finally bit the bullet and embraced a second camera. Sometimes forward progress means abandoning past stances. Remember when the company dug its heels in on keeping the headphone jack, only to drop it the following year?

google pixel 4 010

The addition of a second camera isn’t subtle, either. In fact, it’s hard to miss. Google’s adopted a familiar square configuration on the rear of the device. That’s just how phones look now, I suppose. Honestly, it’s fine once you conquer a bit of trypophobia, with a pair of lenses aligned horizontally and a sensor up top and flash on bottom — as one of last week’s presenters half joked, “we hope you’ll use it as a flash light.”

google pixel 4 008

That, of course, is a reference to the Pixel’s stellar low-light capabilities. It’s been a welcome feature, in an age where most smartphone users continue to overuse their flashes, completely throwing off the photo in the process. Perhaps the continued improvements will finally break that impulse in people — though I’m not really getting my hopes up on that front. Old habits, etc.

The 4 and 4 XL have the same camera set up, adopting the 12.2-megapixel (wide angle) lens from their predecessors and adding a 16-megapixel (telephoto) into the mix. I noted some excitement about the setup in my write-up. That’s not because the two-camera setup presents anything remarkable — certainly not in this area of three, four and five-camera flagships. It’s more about the groundwork that Google has laid out in the generations leading up to this device.

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Essentially it comes down to this: Look at what the company has been able to accomplish using software and machine learning with a single camera setup. Now add a second telephoto camera into the mix. See, Super High Res Zoom is pretty impressive, all told. But if you really want a tighter shot without degrading the image in the process, optical zoom is still very much the way to go.

There’s a strong case to be made that the Pixel 4’s camera is the best in class. The pictures speak for themselves. The aforementioned TechCrunch shots were done with little or no manual adjustments or post-processing. Google offers on-screen adjustments, like the new dual-exposure control, which lets you manually adjust brightness and shadow brightness on the fly. Honestly, though, I find the best way to test these cameras is to use them the way most buyers will: by pointing and shooting.

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The fact is that a majority of people who buy these handsets won’t be doing much fiddling with the settings. As such, it’s very much on handset makers to ensure that users get the best photograph by default, regardless of conditions. Once again, software is doing much of the heavy lifting. Super Res Zoom works well in tandem with the new lens, while Live HDR+ does a better job approximating how the image will ultimately look once fully processed. Portrait mode shots look great, and the device is capable of capturing them at variable depths, meaning you don’t have to stand a specific distance from the subject to take advantage of the well-done artificial bokeh.

Our video producer, Veanne, who is admittedly a far better photographer than I can ever hope to be, tested out the camera for the weekend. 

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Although Veanne was mostly impressed by the Pixel 4’s camera and photo editing capabilities, here are three major gripes.

“Digital zoom is garbage.”

Google Pixel 4 digital zoom is garbage

 

“In low lighting situations, you lose ambiance. Saturday evening’s intimate, warmly lit dinner looked like a cafeteria meal.”

Pixel 4 camera sample

 

“Bright images in low lighting gives you the impression that the moving objects would be in focus as well. That is not the case.”

Other additions round out the experience, including “Frequent Faces,” which learns the faces of subjects you frequently photograph. Once again, the company is quick to point out that the feature is both off by default and all of the processing happens on the device. Turning it off also deletes all of the saved information. Social features have been improved, as well, with quick access to third-party platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

Google keeps pushing out improvements to Lens, as well. This time out, language translation, document scanning and text copy and pasting can be performed with a quick tap. Currently the language translation is still a bit limited, with only support for English, Spanish, German, Hindi and Japanese. More will be “rolling out soon,” per the company.

google pixel 4 003

Gestures is a strange one. I’m far from the first to note that Google is far from the first to attempt the feature. The LG G8 ThinQ is probably the most recent prominent example of a company attempting to use gestures as a way to differentiate themselves. To date, I’ve not seen a good implementation of the technology — certainly not one I could ever see myself actually using day to day.

The truth is, no matter how interesting or innovative a feature is, people aren’t going to adopt it if it doesn’t work as advertised. LG’s implementation was a pretty big disappointment.

Simply put, the Pixel’s gestures are not that. They’re better in that, well, they work, pretty much as advertised. This is because the underlying technology is different. Rather than relying on cameras like other systems, the handset uses Project Soli, a long-promised system that utilizes a miniature radar chip to detect far more precise movement.

Soli does, indeed work, but the precision is going to vary a good deal from user to user. The thing is, simply detecting movement isn’t enough. Soli also needs to distinguish intention. That means the system is designed to weed out accidental gestures of the manner we’re likely making all the time around our phones. That means the system appears to be calibrated to bigger, intentional movements.

picka 2

That can be a little annoying for things like advancing tracks. I don’t think there are all that many instances where waving one’s hands across a device Obi-Wan Kenobi-style is really saving all that much time or effort versus touching a screen. If, however, Google was able to customize the experience to the individual over time using machine learning, it could be a legitimately handy feature.

That brings us to the next important point: functionality. So you’ve got this neat new piece of tiny radar that you’re sticking inside your phone. You say it’s low energy and more private than a camera. Awesome! So, how do you suggest I, you know, use it?

There are three key ways, at the moment:

  • Music playback
  • Alarm Silencing
  • Waving at Pokémon

The first two are reasonably useful. The primary use case I can think of are when, say, your phone is sitting in front of you at your desk. Like mine is, with me, right now. Swiping my hand left to right a few inches above the device advances the track. Right to left goes a track back. The movements need to be deliberate, from one end of the device to the other.

And then there’s the phenomenon of “Pokémon Wave Hello.” It’s not really correct to call the title a game, exactly. It’s little more than a way of showcasing Motion Sense — albeit an extremely delightful way.

You might have caught a glimpse of it at the keynote the other day. It came and went pretty quickly. Suddenly Pikachu was waving at the audience, appearing out of nowhere like so many wild Snorlaxes. Just as quickly, he was gone.

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More than anything, it’s a showcase title for the technology. A series of five Pokémon, beginning with Pikachu, appear demanding you interact with them through a series of waves. It’s simple, it’s silly and you’ll finish the whole thing in about three minutes. That’s not really the point, though. Pokémon Wave Hello exists to:

  1. Get you used to gestures.
  2. Demonstrate functionality beyond simple features. Gaming, AR — down the road, these things could ultimately find fun and innovative ways to integrate Soli.

For now, however, use is extremely limited. There are some fun little bits, including dynamic wallpaper that reacts to movement. The screen also glows subtly when detecting you — a nice little touch (there’s a similar effect for Assistant, as well).

Perhaps most practical, however, is the fact that the phone can detect when you’re reaching for it and begin the unlocking process. That makes the already fast new Face Unlock feature ever faster. Google ditched the fingerprint reader this time around, opting for neither a physical sensor nor in-screen reader. Probably for the best on the latter front, given the pretty glaring security woes Samsung experienced last week when a British woman accidentally spoofed the reader with a $3 screen protector. Yeeesh.

There are some nice security precautions on here. Chief among them is the fact that the unlock is done entirely on-device. All of the info is saved and processed on the phone’s Titan M chip, meaning it doesn’t get sent up to the cloud. That both makes it a speedier process and means Google won’t be sharing your face data with its other services — a fact Google felt necessary to point out, for obvious reasons.

For a select few of us, at least, Recorder feels like a legitimate game changer. And its ease of use and efficacy should be leaving startups like Otter.ai quaking at its potential, especially if/when Google opts to bring it to other Android handsets and iOS.

I was initially unimpressed by the app upon trying it out at last week’s launch event. It struggles to isolate audio in noisy environments — likely as much of a hardware as software constraint. One on one and it’s far better, though attempting to, say, record audio from a computer can still use some work.

google pixel 4 004

Open the app and hit record and you’ll see a waveform pop up. The line is blue when detecting speech and gray when hearing other sounds. Tap the Transcript button and you’ll see the speech populate the page in real time. From there you can save it with a title and tag the location.

The app will automatically tag keywords and make everything else searchable for easy access. In its first version, it already completely blows Apple’s Voice Memos out of the water. There’s no comparison, really. It’s in a different league. Ditto for other apps I’ve used over the years, like Voice Record.

Speaking to the product, the recording was still a little hit or miss. It’s not perfect — no AI I’ve encountered is. But it’s pretty good. I’d certainly recommend going back over the text before doing anything with it. Like Otter and other voice apps, you can play back the audio as it highlights words, karaoke-style.

The text can be saved to Google Drive, but can’t be edited in app yet. Audio can be exported, but not as a combined file. The punctuation leaves something to be desired and Recorder is not yet able to distinguish individual voices. These are all things a number of standalone services offer, along with a web-based platform. That means that none of them are out of business yet, but if I was running any of them, I’d be pretty nervous right about now.

As someone who does interviews for a living, however, I’m pretty excited by the potential here. I can definitely see Recorder become one of my most used work apps, especially after some of the aforementioned kinks get ironed out in the next version. As for those who don’t do this for a living, usefulness is probably a bit limited, though there are plenty of other potential uses, like school lecturers.

google pixel 4 005

The Pixel continues to distinguish itself through software updates and camera features. There are nice additions throughout that set it apart from the six-month-old 3a, as well, including a more premium design and new 90Hz display. At $799, the price is definitely a vast improvement over competitors like Samsung and Apple, while retaining flagship specs.

The Pixel 4 doesn’t exactly address what Google wants the Pixel to be, going forward. The Pixel 3a was confirmation that users were looking for a far cheaper barrier of entry. The Pixel 4, on the other hand, is priced above OnePlus’s excellent devices. Nor is the product truly premium from a design perspective.

It’s unclear what the future will look like as Google works to address the shifting smartphone landscape. In the meantime, however, the future looks bright for camera imaging, and Google remains a driving force on that front.

 


0

HTC releases a cheaper blockchain phone

16:22 | 19 October

Whatever you might say about HTC (and believe me, there’s plenty to say), at least the company takes some fascinating chance. As newly minted CEO Yves Maitre admitted to me at Disrupt a couple of weeks back, the once mighty smartphone giant has lost the thread in recent years. But if nothing else, the Exodus project marks a glimpse at some potential smartphone future.

With this weekend’s launch of the Exodus 1s at Berlin’s Lightning conference, HTC aims to make it clear that the project is more than just a one-off. The new device lowers the barrier of entry to €219 (~$244). All said, not a bad price for those looking to dabble in the technology. Oh, and obviously it’s available in all of the various equivalent cryptocurrencies.

Exodus1s 6V 19Oct1

The specs are fittingly pretty dismal. There’s a Snapdragon 435, running Android 8.1. The screen is a 5.7 inch HD+, coupled with a decent 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Oh, and there’s a microUSB port and, good news, a headphone jack. Honestly, it’s a pretty low-end device, all told.

The big difference here being the the inclusion of a hardware wallet and Bitcoin node access. “We gave users the ability to own their own keys, and now we’ve gone one step further to allow users to run their own full Bitcoin node,” HTC’s Phil Chen said in a release tied to the news. “We are providing the tools for access to universal basic finance; the tools to have a metaphorical Swiss bank in your pocket.”

Exodus1s PerRight 19Oct1

Maitre told me the other week he still believes mainstream use of blockchain on these devices is more than two or three years out. What the 1s provides, however, is an inexpensive way to see what the technology provides today. Interested parties in Europe, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE can order it online starting today.

 


0

The Information will launch Ticker, a tech news app that costs $29 per year

19:30 | 17 October

Since it was founded by journalist Jessica Lessin in 2013, The Information has stood out in the tech news landscape for its focus on an ad-free, subscription-driven business model (a focus that seems increasingly prescient).

Now, the upcoming launch of an app called Ticker suggests that the company is looking to expand its audience while maintaining that subscription model.

The Information describes Ticker as its first consumer app. The assumption is that anyone who’s currently paying the $399 annual fee for an Information subscription needs it for their job — whether they’re an investor, entrepreneur or some other professional in the tech industry.

The new app, meanwhile, is designed for anyone who might be interested in keeping up-to-date with the latest tech news, and it’s priced much more affordably, at $29 per year. (Information subscribers will get access as well.)

The Information ticker app

Apparently the app was inspired by the Briefing section of The Information website, which offers quick summaries (usually drawn from reporting by other publications) of major tech news.

Ticker, meanwhile, will include a section called Today with summaries of the day’s tech headlines — similar to Briefing, but written for a consumer audience. It will also include a calendar highlighting upcoming IPOs, conferences and other events that readers might want to know about. (Not included: The Information’s full articles and original reporting.)

“More and more, we’ve been hearing from readers who don’t have a business reason to follow tech but are finding it more and more central to their lives,” Lessin said in a statement. “We are launching Ticker for them — giving them access to the best summaries of the most significant news, written by our team at The Information.”

The company plans to launch Ticker later this fall. In the meantime, you can sign up here.

 


0

This app waits on hold for you

19:35 | 16 October

DoNotPay helps you get out of parking tickets, cancel forgotten subscriptions, and now it can call you when it’s your turn in a customer service phone queue. The app today is launching “Skip Waiting On Hold”. Just type in the company you need to talk to, and DoNotPay calls for you using tricks to get a human on the line quick. Then it calls you back and connects you to the agent so you never have to listen to that annoying hold music.

And in case the company tries to jerk you around or screw you over, the DoNotPay app lets you instantly share a legal recording of the call to social media to shame them.

How To Get Off hold

Skip Waiting On Hold comes as part of the $3 per month DoNotPay suite of services designed to save people time and money by battling bureaucracy on their behalf. It can handle DMV paperwork for you, write legal letters to scare businesses out of overcharging you, and it provides a credit card that automatically cancels subscriptions when your free trial ends.

“I think the world would be a lot fairer place if people had someone fighting for them” says DoNotPay’s 22-year-old founder Joshua Browder. $3 per month gets the iOS app‘s 10,000 customers unlimited access to all the features with no extra fees or commissions on money saved. “If DoNotPay takes a commission then we have an incentive to perpetuate the problems we are fighting against.”

Browder comes from a family of activists. His father Bill Browder got the Magnitsky Act passed, which lets the US government freeze the foreign assets and visas of human rights abusers. It’s named after Bill’s Russian lawyer who was murdered in Moscow after uncovering a $230 million government curruption scheme linked to President Putin’s underlings.

DoNotPay app

“These big companies [and governments] are getting away with a lot” Browder tells me. He hit a breaking point when frustrated with the process of appealing parking tickets. He built DoNotPay to cut through hassles designed to separate us from our money. In April it raised a $3.5 million seed round led by Felicis to develop an Android version after picking up early funding from Andreessen Horowitz. Surprisingly, the startup has never been sued.

For Skip Waiting On Hold, DoNotPay built out a database of priority and VIP customer service numbers for tons of companies. For legality, if you opt in to recording the exchanges, the app automatically plays a message informing both parties they’ll be recorded. A human voice detection system hears when a real agent picks up the phone, and then rings your phone. It’s like having customer service call you.

Not only can DoNotPay help you get in touch about cancelling subscriptions, scoring refunds, or retreiving information. It’s like “a body camera for customer service calls” Browder says. “Before they make a decision that rips off the customer, they’ll think ‘this could be made public and go viral and hurt our business.'” For example, an airline that jacks up prices for rescheduled flights surrounding hurricanes could be shamed for profiting off of natural disasters.

Record and share customer service calls

The full list of DoNotPay services includes:

  1. Customer service disputes where it contacts companies about refunds for Comcast bills, delayed flights, etc
  2. The free trial credit card that auto-cancels subscriptions before you’re actually charged
  3. Traffic and parking appeals where it generates a letter for you based on answers to questions like if signs were too hard to read or there was a mistake on the ticket
  4. Hidden money discovery that finds refunds in your bank fees, identifies forgotten subscriptions, gets you free stuff on your birthday, and more
  5. Government paperwork assistance that can help you get DMV appointments and fill out forms
  6. Skip Waiting On Hold

Browder hopes that with time, companies and governments will make all these chores easier for everyone. To avoid putting itself out of a job, DoNotPay is constantly looking for new annoyances to eliminate. “I’m from the UK. America seems to be a pay-to-play society. The more money you have to more rights you have” Browder concludes. But those rights could be restored for all by building a robot lawyer that’s affordable to everyone.

 


0

Up close with Google’s new Pixel 4

19:04 | 15 October

This is the Pixel 4, the handset that literally everyone saw coming. Even by Google’s standards, the handset leaked like crazy. Some was almost certainly by design as the company looked to hype up its new flagship amid slowing smartphone sales. That said, showing up for preorder on two different sites in the past few days is a lot, even by Pixel Standards.

From the front, at least, the new device doesn’t really stand out The standard Pixel 4 maintains some pretty sizable bezels on the top and bottom, even as most of the industry has moved toward a notch or hole punch to accommodate the camera.

CMB 8458

The back of the device is another story entirely, of course. After a few generations of pushing back on multiple camera setups, Google is finally embracing them with the 4. The pair of cameras are positioned in a square configuration, similar to the iPhone 11.

The sensor is up top and the flash is on the bottom, with the wide angle and telephoto sitting next to one another in the middle. There’s a 12- and 16-megapixel, per earlier leaks. I’ve included a handful of random shots I’ve taken here. They leave a little to be desire — more when we get our hands on the device later for a proper review, but this should give you some idea of what we’re working with here.

CMB 8438

Honestly, I’m pretty excited to see what’s on offer with the device here. Google’s always done a good job using AI/ML to augment the single lens configuration, so the idea of what it’s capable of producing in tandem with dual lenses could well make it a contender for one of the best camera phones on the market.

 

CMB 8437

Imagining has been improved across the board here, including the already solid Night Sight, Portrait Mode and zoom, which uses a hybrid of digital and the physical telephoto lens. I mean, if it’s good enough for Annie Leibovitz, right?

Recorder is an exciting new prospect for someone who makes a living interviewing people such as myself. I tried it out, but honestly, it leaves a bit to be desired in this super noisy setting. Again, a more official writeup of that later, though I do appreciate that the company is doing the transcribing on-board, versus the cloud.

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That means a faster response and no concern over more sensitive stuff. Once recording, you’ll see a gray wave form that turns blue when speech is detected. Tapping “transcript” will show the speech. From there you can share it via social media or save it to Google Drive.

CMB 8450

It’s fun to see Google embracing gestures here, as a natural followup to its squeezable Active Edge. Admittedly, it’s something that plenty of phone makers have tried with limited success Perhaps the inclusion of the new radar chip will save it from accidental gestures and make it more user friendly.

Screen Shot 2019 10 15 at 12.01.18 PM

Or maybe the inclusion of a kind of game where you can wave at Pikachu and other Pokemon will help with adoption. I don’t have particularly high hopes on either one, if I’m being honest Training users on a new form of input is an uphill climb, though the gestures are pretty responsive. At least everyone is already familiar with face unlocks which is augmented by the aforementioned radar feature, detecting the user as they reach for the phone and beginning the unlock process from there.

The handset ships October 24, starting at $799. Look for a much meatier review in the near future.

 

 


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Reddit now lets iOS users share to Snapchat

17:23 | 14 October

Reddit users can now share their favorite content from the site to Snapchat, thanks to a new integration that allows sharing of text, link, and image-based posts on iOS from Reddit’s “Safe for Work” communities. The move makes Snapchat the first platform partner that Reddit is testing content sharing integration with, the company says, and it hopes the result will be an influx of younger users to the site.

Unlike many social media platforms, Reddit has tended to skew a little older when it comes to its user demographics. According to Pew Research Center, just 22% of U.S. adults aged 18 to 29 used the site, compared with 34% of those 30 to 49 and 25% of those 50 to 64. And 19% were aged 65 and up, Pew found. While that particular study was performed a few years ago, a 2019 study continues to show Reddit as one of the lesser-used online platforms among all U.S. adults, Pew found.

And with a growing advertising business that’s set to cross $100 million in revenues this year, Reddit needs to even out its user demographics and increase its overall usage to be competitive.

image3

To use the new sharing feature, Reddit users who have Snapchat installed on their iOS device will be able to tap the “Share” icon on a posts in the Reddit iOS app, then select the Snapchat option.

You can then choose to send the post to a few friends or post it to your story so all your friends can see it. The content will appear in Snaps and Snap Stories as a new sticker designed specifically for this integration that includes the Reddit logo and source information.

If the viewer also has the Reddit app installed, they can swipe up on the Snap to visit the post. If they don’t have the app installed, they’ll be directed to the App Store to download it.

image2 1

“Reddit empowers discovery and discussion that many Snapchatters love. With this integration, Snapchatters will be able to share interesting posts they find, adding new context and conversation-starters to their Snaps,” said Ben Schwerin, VP of Partnerships at Snap Inc., in a statement about the launch. “As shared Snaps drive engagement back to Reddit — this helps advance the power of community and connection across both platforms,” he added.

Because Reddit tends to host a wide range of content — some of which may violate Snapchat’s terms of use —  the new integration is only being enabled on Reddit’s “Safe for Work” subreddit communities, which are those that don’t host adult content. The communities must also be in good standing, Reddit says.

image1 1

“Snapchat is the first platform partner with whom we’re testing a content sharing integration, and we’re excited to see how the feature will shape the sharing habits and experiences among our users,” said Vaibhav Sahgal, Reddit’s Head of Growth Product, in a statement. “We hope the integration empowers redditors to share Reddit content more frequently, while simultaneously exposing new users to the unique content only found on Reddit.”

The launch follows Reddit’s $300 million funding round led by China’s Tencent earlier this year, that valued the site at $3 billion. This puts Reddit in competition with Facebook and Google for internet ad dollars — a challenge considering its userbase has historically skewed older and male, and users are often anonymous.

The company says the sharing feature will roll out to Android users soon. 

 

 


0

Pelion Venture Partners adds Jeff Kearl as a managing director, opens Southern California presence

16:30 | 14 October

The Salt Lake City-based Pelion Venture Partners is opening an outpost in Southern California and has added Jeff Kearl as a managing director to head up operations in the region.

Kearl was the chief executive officer of Stance, a direct-to-consumer retailer selling socks and clothing basics, and has a long history of investing in startup companies throughout Southern California, according to a statement.

In addition to Stance, Kearl serves on the board of directors for Domo, a cloud software company; Scopely, the mobile game developer; and Just Water, the water company co-founded by the actor and musician, Jaden Smith. He previously served as chairman of the board for the audio technology retailer,  Skullcandy, and was the EVP for the internet marketplace, Logoworks.

“A physical presence in Southern California will allow us closer access to a fast growing and underserved capital market,” Kearl wrote in an email. “85% of the venture capital dollars in LA are coming from investors outside of LA. Pelion believes by partnering with founders and VCs in Southern California we can create and add more value to this exciting tech scene.”

Pelion has already invested money into the Southern California tech ecosystem and Kearl’s presence will double down on that commitment, he wrote in an email.

“In the past several years, Pelion has invested in 7 companies in Southern California,” wrote Kearl. “Given our conviction on founders and startups in Southern California, we are making a conscious effort to increase our activity in the area and expect these numbers to increase dramatically.”

 

 


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Samsung’s Galaxy Fold concierge service is live in the US for those who need it

16:50 | 13 October

Part of Samsung’s reboot of the Galaxy Fold was the announcement of a Premiere Service. Along with a reinforced version of the phone and a lot more warning labels, the company announced that it would also be a 24/7 care service…just in case something happened with the device.

I had some issues with my in just over a day, after not running into any trouble with the original version of the phone. Given how gingerly the company insists users act with the device, my issue doesn’t appear to be particularly widespread — good news for Samsung on that front. Even so, this sort of things feels pretty necessary for a $2,000 (and up) phone that is effectively in mass beta testing.

close fold

Two weeks after making the device available in the States, Premier Service has gone live. Sammobile noted the addition of Fold Concierge via a new software update, bringing with it support via phone or video chat. The list of potentially helpful features ranges from on-boarding with the device to a $149, same-day screen replacement service. That can be accommodated in person at a number of locations.

It’s a pretty unique offer from a big consumer electronics company — though the Fold is nothing if not unique, I suppose. I’ve got a fuller write up of my impressions of the handset here. The TLDR version is the I can’t recommend the purchase of what is very much a first generation device that’s double the price of a standard flagship. If you’re so inclined, however, Samsung’s got a hotline for you.

 


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Electric moped startup Revel could expand to Texas next

20:50 | 11 October

Revel, the New York-based shared electric moped startup, appears to be preparing to expand into Texas, according to job listings first spotted and reported by Thinknum Alternative Data.

The expansion into Texas would be Revel’s fourth market and its first west of the Mississippi River, a move that would be consistent with comments CEO and co-founder Frank Reig made earlier this week to TechCrunch.

Revel, which launched in 2018, has more than 1,400 mopeds in Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn and Queens, New York. The company announced Thursday that it raised $27.6 million in a Series A round led by Ibex Investors. The equity round included newcomer Toyota AI Ventures and further investments from Blue Collective, Launch Capital and Maniv Mobility.

Revel plans to use the funds to expand its fleet of scooters within the cities it currently operates as well as  into new markets. Reig wouldn’t name where Revel will launch next. However, he provided a few hints.

Revel is targeting about 10 cities by mid-2020, Reig said in an interview earlier this week. He added that likely candidates would be major U.S. cities with temperate weather conditions. That puts cities in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California as likely destinations.

Thinknum, which tracks companies and creates data sets that measure hiring, revenue and other factors, charted out job listings at Revel. What the company found was nearly a dozen jobs posted since July that will be based in Texas.

While Revel’s job listings point to Texas, the company isn’t ready to talk.

“We can’t confirm specific launch timelines right now, but Revel is having productive conversations with markets in Texas among other places,” a company spokesperson said in response to TechCrunch’s inquiry. “We look forward to bringing our service to new cities in the coming months.”

Revel is different from other shared mobility-as-a-service providers, especially scooter companies, because it doesn’t use gig economy or contract workers. It only employs full-time workers. This would suggest that Revel isn’t merely experimenting with Texas; it has intentions to build out operations there.

The job listings include openings for a manager, mechanic and customer service support. Some of these jobs actually list Texas City, Texas as the destination. It’s not clear if this is actually where Revel will deploy. Texas City is about 42 miles southeast of Houston.

 


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Waymo and Renault to explore autonomous mobility route in Paris region

18:26 | 11 October

Waymo and Renault are working with the Paris region to explore the possibility of establishing an autonomous transportation route between Charles De Gaulle airport and La Défense, a neighbourhood just outside of Paris city limits that plays host to a large number of businesses and skyscrapers, including a large shopping center. This is part of the deal that Renault and Nissan signed with Waymo earlier this year, to work together on potential autonomous vehicle services in both Japan and France.

This route in particular is being explored as a lead-up project to potentially be ready in time for the Paris Olympic Games, which are taking in place in Summer 2024. The goal is to offer a convenient way for people living in the Île-de-France area where Paris is located to get around, while also providing additional transportation options for tourists and international visitors. The region is committing €100 million (around $110 million) to developing autonomous vehicle infrastructure in the area to serve this purpose, across a number of different projects.

“France is a recognized global mobility leader, and we look forward to working with the Ile-de-France Region and our partner Groupe Renault to explore deploying the Waymo Driver on the critical business route stretching from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport to La Défense in Paris,” said Waymo’s Adam Frost, Chief Automotive Programs and Partnerships Officer, in a emailed statement.

Defined routes designed to meet a specific need, especially in time for showcase events like the Olympics, seems to be a likely way that Waymo and others focused on the deployment of autonomous services will work in terms of pilot deployments, since it’s a perfect blend of demand, regulatory exemption and motivation and city/partner support.

 


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