Friday, February 19, 2016

The iPhone Camera As A Professional Tool

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Foodie magazine Bon Appétit has done something quite risky with this month’s issue. Photographers have left their cameras at their desks and used iPhones to shoot all the photos for the 43-page feature story of the magazine. This wasn’t Apple’s idea — Bon Appétit was working on a Culture issue, and the iPhone is part of the food culture now.
“When we were discussing what the cover for the issue should be, we realized that nothing captures the zeitgeist of food culture like someone snapping a photo of their meal with their phone,” Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport told me. “It’s what we all do — all of us. And so we then thought, ‘Wait a minute — what if we actually shot the entire feature well with iPhones?’ And I guess you could say that’s just how we think. As editors, attempting something new and different is what keeps our jobs interesting.”
If it sounds like a gimmick, Cait Oppermann had a different reaction. “I was really excited about it, because despite being a photographer as my job, the camera I use most in my everyday life is actually my iPhone,” she said. “In some ways, it’s the camera I’m most comfortable with. But I actually felt kind of weird doing it professionally.”
And this is key to understanding what’s happening to professional photography right now. Some industries, like fashion and food, have been heavily influenced by mobile phone cameras and Instagram. If you want to spot the most interesting trends in food and fashion, you browse Instagram — and eventually, you post your own photos on Instagram.
That’s why it makes sense that a food magazine would try working with iPhones as everyone on staff is already using their phones so much. “If you love food, and eat well, and are willing to take the time, you can snap beautiful shots of food. And it’s in those images how we now share our love for food. Even professional photographers.” Rapoport said. “All of our main photographers are active on Instagram. But what’s interesting is that it’s a different medium than the printed page — so how they approach it is different than how they treat jobs for magazines like Bon Appétit.”
And the feature looks fantastic. At first, I wasn’t sure I was looking at the right photos as you would think they were shot with a DSLR camera. And yet, they were iPhone photos.
There are a few things worth noting. I would have done a terrible job compared to Bon Appétit’s photographers. It proves that the iPhone is a great creativity tool as it provides a lot of depth for professional photographers.
Photographers still used their computers to edit the shots. And the iPhone is a constrained tool as you can’t change the lens or tether the iPhone to a computer to instantly see the photos on a big screen. But you can do a lot with an iPhone.
Back in December, 60 Minutes unveiled that 800 people are working on the iPhone camera at Apple. Apple is dedicating a lot of resources on its camera as it thinks it could be an important differentiating factor with other phone manufactures and even previous iPhone models.
The company wants to push the boundaries of what you can shoot with a phone. And we’re going to hear stories about professional photographers leaving their DSLR at home more and more often.

Google Decouples Play Games From Google+, Lets Gamers Choose Their Own Names And Avatars

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Until today, you needed a Google+ account to use Google Play Games, Google’s online gaming service for bringing online multiplayer gaming, video recordings and social features like profiles and leaderboards to Android games.
Today, Google is launching an update to Play Games, however, that removes this requirement. All you need to sign up now is a regular Google account and instead of having to use your real name (or at least the one associated with your Google+ profile), you can now choose any random Gamer ID and avatar to represent you.
Google tells me these changes will roll out globally over the course of the next week, so if you don’t see it right away, just give it a few more days.
Google is also now making it easier to sign into Play Games. Instead of having to sign in for every game separately, all you have to do now is sign in once for your account. After that, you’ll be automatically signed in when you install a new app and start a new game.
As Google product manager Benjamin Frenkel (who now goes by the Gamer ID of ‘Caldorf’ on Google Play Games) told me, Google made these changes to improve the social experience and to remove as much friction as possible — though this is also obviously part of Google’s overall process of consciously uncoupling its services from Google+.

As Frenkel told me, your Gamer ID is linked to your email address and you will be able to search for your friends by their email addresses (and, of course, their Gamer IDs). As Google notes, though, you can always choose whether to make your Play Games activity and profile public or private and whether others can find you by your real name and email address.
Starting today, you can choose a new Gamer ID in the Google Play Games app. If you already have a Play Games account, you will also be asked to set up a Gamer ID the next time you sign into a new game that is Play Games enabled.
To personalize your account, you can now also choose from over 40 avatars to represent you in Play Games. For now, you can’t customize these avatars, but Frenkel left the door open for more customization options to arrive in the future.
Google says most developers won’t have to make any changes to their games, unless they added some additional scopes to the sign-in process. All those developers would have to do is to remove these extra calls, though, and the process should just work for their apps, too.

Facebook Plans To Put Ads In Messenger

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A leaked document Facebook sent to some of its biggest advertisers reveals that Facebook will launch ads within Messenger in Q2 2016.
The document also notes that Facebook has quietly launched a URL short link that instantly opens a chat thread with a business. Facebook confirmed the existence of the URL short link. That seems to back up the validity of the leaked document.
Facebook Business Messages
An example of messages between businesses and users
Regarding Messenger ads specifically, Facebook told me “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation. That said, our aim with Messenger is to create a high quality, engaging experience for 800 million people around the world, and that includes ensuring people do not experience unwanted messages of any type.” That last part sounds like Facebook trying to reassure users that even when there are ads, they won’t be completely unsolicited, and it’s going to be very careful.
Messenger is one of Facebook’s most popular and fastest-growing products, with 800 million monthly active users. Yet the social network has never monetized it directly before.
Thankfully for users, Facebook isn’t going to let brands send ad messages to just anyone or even people who’ve liked their Pages. Only those who have voluntarily chatted with a business can be sent ads. This should somewhat limit the spam potential and annoyance. Right now, almost all messages come from one’s friends, so Facebook will likely try to preserve this high signal-to-noise ratio with limits on advertising.
The news somewhat contradicts what Mark Zuckerberg said to calm users of WhatsApp when Facebook acquired it in early 2014. “I don’t personally think ads are the right way to monetize messaging,” Zuckerberg said on an analyst call. WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum went further in a 2012 blog post, stating that “Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought,” but also a waste of engineering resources.
Yet as more content from friends, news publishers, video makers and brands compete for limited space in people’s News Feeds, Facebook has apparently grown willing to let advertisers pay to ping people directly. It’s not the only one opening new direct channels between the two. Twitter today announced new ways for companies to offer customer service through DMs.

Replacing The 1-800 Number

Facebook’s Head Of Messenger David Marcus
Facebook has been slowly enhancing the ways businesses can privately communicate with people since late 2011. That’s when it first began letting users send messages to Pages, which were only then allowed to message them back. Originally, this was designed to let businesses move messy or irate customer service conversations off their Wall where other fans could see.
Facebook redoubled its business chat efforts when it hired PayPal President David Marcus to run Messenger in 2014. He came with a vision that Facebook could do a better job of letting companies talk with customers than phones and 1-800 numbers with clumsy touch-tone menus and hold times.
At its F8 conference in March 2015, Facebook announced its Businesses On Messengerprogram that let e-commerce customers get receipts and chat with customer service reps to change orders. It also allowed businesses to integrate with third-party tools like Zendesk and Conversocial to manage their incoming messages.
Over the following months, Facebook enhanced chat capabilities for businesses by letting them show a big “Send Message” or “Contact Us” button on their Page, create saved replies, show a badge that grades them on how fast they respond, and reply to wall posts with private messages.
Facebook also recently introduced “Click To Message” News Feed ads that let businesses pay to get people to chat with them. Plus, it’s been secretly testing a chat bot platform that allows developers to create e-commerce experiences and personal assistants within Messenger.

Facebook’s Most Forceful Ad Yet

Now Facebook is pushing brands to use these tools to encourage people to message them so they’ll eventually be able to send ads in return. According to the leaked document, it’s also recently released a new tool: the Messenger URL short link. It’s now live for all Pages, through the format and then the Facebook Username of the Page, like
Facebook Messenger URL Short LinkBrands can share and promote their link. When tapped by a user, it will start a conversation with the brand either in the Messenger app, or on Facebook’s mobile web or desktop site. Facebook confirmed to me that a few partners include Canadian telecom Rogers are already trying out the shortcode, but Facebook didn’t talk about it.
This short link is essentially the next-generation version of a 1-800 number. Instead of calling 1-800-FLOWERS, you’d be able to just click something like and chat at your own pace with a customer service agent. No “Press 1 to hear a list of options.” No “Please hold.”
If businesses achieve a 90 percent response rate to messages within 24 hours over the past week, their Messenger handle will become searchable on Facebook, the document details. This could further stoke in-bound message threads that will eventually become opportunities to show ads.
It’s unclear exactly what businesses will be able to put in Messenger ads, but there are plenty of possibilities. The document says the ads are supposed to carry on the existing discussion users started. The ads could perhaps:
  • Inform customers about a flash sale, free gift or other promotion
  • Announce a product launch, and encourage foot traffic or provide a link to buy the item online
  • Deliver a new video, GIF or other piece of content created by the brand
  • Follow up with retargeting-style reminders that an item the user previously considered buying is no longer out of stock or has dropped in price
Facebook Business Message ThreadsConsidering this is the most direct and forceful way for businesses to advertise to or interact with potential customers, Facebook could likely charge steep rates.
There’s always a chance that early tests to Messenger ads receive negative feedback and the plan gets scuttled. The last thing Facebook wants to do is cram spam into Messenger and give people a reason to return to SMS or another chat platform. Expect these ads to be slowly and thoroughly tested before possibly being rolled out.
Right now pretty much every time Messenger buzzes, you know it’s one of your friends and is probably worth looking at. Facebook will have to aggressively thwart spam or misuse of Messenger ads to make money while keeping its chat app at the center of our mobile lives.

Anyline Raises €1.5M To Let You Add Optical Character Recognition To Your App

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Anyline, the Austrian startup that provides mobile OCR tech to enable developers to add text recognition to their own apps, has raised €1.5 million in funding. The list of investors is interesting, too.
It includes angel investor Johann ‘Hansi’ Hansmann, busuu co-founder Bernhard Niesner, Lukas Püspök, and the U.S.-based VC-fund iSeed Ventures. However, most notable is that the round was led by Gernot Langes-Swarovski Group.
As one investor put it to me, “the fact that the Swarovski family led the round shows that finally ‘old’ money is moving into Austrian startups”.
Offering its own mobile Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology — which uses a smartphone’s camera to accurately scan and recognise any kind of text, code or number — Anyline co-founder and CEO Lukas Kinigadner tells me the startup is built on the premise that “people screw up a lot”.
“Mistakes happen easily when you’re writing down a 10-digit-number and then have to type it in again a few moments later. Anyline can be the big helper on the side of a human, making data import faster, more accurate and safer,” he says.
Applications for Anyline’s SDK including adding barcode or passport scanning to an app. Or things like scanning electricity meter values, serial numbers and “other process enhancing information”.
“So far, we’ve seen lots of traction from enterprises which have digitalization projects running and need a reliable third party software provider,” adds Kinigadner.
“Marketing and vision-wise we are targeting software developers, who are having fun in realising awesome use cases like a ‘Scrabble letter anagram builder’ in order to educate the market about all the possibilities Anyline can bring.”
To that end, the startup says it plans to bring its OCR tech to smart glasses and will launch a Augmented Reality (AR) solution later this year. Current partnerships include a plugin for the AR technology of wikitude, a ready-to-download SDK for Epson Moverio Pro smart glasses and a distribution partnership with Konica Minolta.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Samsung Touts Fitness, Privacy Smarts For Incoming Galaxy S7 Flagships

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Not to be outdone on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge leaks that were all over the Internets yesterday, Samsung has published an official launch website for its forthcoming pair of flagships — which includes a new promo video for the S7 Edge with some heavy hints about features, along with some general themes Samsung is pushing for the S7 line. The company’s previous teaser video for the S7 focused on its Gear VR platform.
So what additional details can we glean? In the new video (embedded at the end of this post) — titled “Get Ready for the #NextGalaxy” — a handset that might well be the S7 Edge is shown getting heavily rained on, so check the box for water resistance/water-proofing…
S7 Edge
Despite the 2014 Galaxy S5 sporting water resistance, last year’s S6 flagships were not officially water resistant; Samsung reserved that feature for another handset, the Galaxy S6 Active. Boo-hiss! But it looks like the company has had a change of heart and will be bringing water-resistance back to its flagship line. Or at least to the S7 Edge. Let’s hope so.
The promo video also shows an unnamed device strapped to the arm of a runner — Indonesian archer, Dellie Threesyadinda — and being used in conjunction with Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch to monitor heart rate, so fitness unsurprisingly remains a core focus. Albeit that’s been true of Samsung’s flagships since at least the S5, which came with a built in heart-rate monitor.
Another feature briefly flagged by Samsung in the video is wireless charging — albeit the company built that into its S6 flagships last year, and has offered support for wireless charging via optional accessories for several generations of its flagship line, so nothing new to see here.
It’s more like Samsung hoping to finally get people excited about a feature that has failed to excite folks for years now…
S7 Edge wireless charging
Frankly speaking, current gen wireless charging is a roundly uninspiring technology. Charging technology that still requires you to place a device onto a charging pad is really no step up from having to plug in a device to charge it. When wireless charging works over the air, without any need for charger pads, then it will finally be a tech upgrade worth having. But we’re not there yet.
Samsung’s promo video ends with a camera-related shot of the incoming device. Since smartphones are far more frequently used to snap pictures nowadays vs time spent being used as an actual telephone that’s entirely as you’d expect. Phones should really be renamed pocket cameras.
S7 EdgeOne of the teaser slogans on the Samsung website — “bring light to the night” — also includes a close up shot of a camera lens, suggesting further low light camera enhancements are incoming to the S7 line. This is also to be expected, given that trying to squeeze ever better performance out of (relatively) tiny camera sensors has been an ongoing preoccupation of smartphone makers in recent years.
The other Samsung S7 teaser slogans are a little underwhelming, including the awkwardly worded “worry-less discovery”, which looks to be a reference to the aforementioned waterproofing feature.
There’s also the strangely worded “experience privacy at its finest”, which suggests Samsung might be taking a leaf out of Apple’s public pro-privacy stance. Which would be more interesting. Or it might be a ref to Samsung’s long-standing Knox security platform. We’ll find out more on Sunday when the company does its official unboxing.
Samsung privacy
Judging by yesterday’s S7-related leaks Samsung is not doing any kind of major redesign for its new flagships. So the unnamed handset shown in the video could just as plausibly be the S6 Edge as the S7 Edge, albeit the intention is clearly to showcase features incoming in the next generation models.
What don’t we see being flagged up in this latest promo? There’s no sign of the slated pressure-sensitive screen. Nor an SD card slot, removable battery or USB-C charger port. But the latter sort of techie details aren’t how any company sells to the mass market so that’s also to be expected. Still, hardcore Android fans should probably steel themselves to be disappointed that Samsung might not have had a rethink on bringing user expandable memory back after all.
And if Samsung is spending promo video time flagging up tired old wireless charging vs highlighting faster charging via USB-C, well, that faster charging rumor might not come to pass either. Either way, it’s not long to wait for official confirmation.
TC will be on the ground at Samsung’s press conference in Barcelona on Sunday evening to get hands on with the new kit so stay tuned.

LG Outs Its Next Phablet, The Slender LG Stylus 2

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There’s less than a week to go until LG’s pre-MWC press conference, where the company is expected to lift the veil on a new flagship smartphone, the LG G5. But the South Korean mobile maker has another handset to show off in Barcelona — which it’s just announced today.
The 5.7 inch LG Stylus 2 is the follow on phablet to the G4 Stylus, which launched in May last year. The screen size of the sequel is the same but LG has shaved a few millimeters off the thickness, with the Stylus 2 measuring just 7.4mm vs 9.4mm for last year’s model.
It’s also a few grams lighter, weighing in at 145g vs 163g for the G4 Stylus. Despite being so slender the phablet does include an SD card for user expandable memory. It also packs a 3,000mAh removable battery.
Another changed is a tweak to the bundled stylus, which LG is now calling a “pen”. It says the new stylus has a “nano-coated tip” — for, it claims, enhanced accuracy vs the rubber-tipped stylus of 2015’s phablet. It’s also touting a new Calligraphy Pen font which is says will let people write with the stylus as if it were a fountain pen.
Another new feature aims to avoid phone and stylus being separated, so the phone will pop up a warning message when the handset is detected to be in motion yet the stylus bay is empty. So no more stylus separation anxiety.
Under the hood of the Android 6.0 device there’s a 1.2GHz Quad-Core chip, 1.5GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage (user expandable as noted above), so in classic phablet style it’s not going to be treading on the toes of the top of the range smartphone flagships.
Round the back, there’s a 13MP camera situated near LG’s now trademark rear power key placement (love it or hate it). And the handset will come in a choice of three colors: white, brown and “titan” (aka a charcoal/metallic shade).
There’s no specific confirmation of pricing yet but LG says the price-tag will be “of a mid-tier phone” — adding that it’s aiming the handset firmly at the “mass-tier segment” (aka where there’s still some growth to be found in smartphones).
The company will be showing the Stylus 2 at MWC next week. TC will be on the ground in Barcelona to get hands on so stay tuned.

IBM Launches New Mainframe With Focus On Security And Hybrid Cloud

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Mainframes aren’t dead yet. IBM is launching a new version of its z13 mainframe for mid-sized enterprises today that introduces a number of new security features. With up to 4 TB of RAM, the z13s also supports 8x as much memory as IBM’s previous single-frame mainframes.
24627171620_6a50dc9791_oIBM also says the z13s offers faster processing speeds than some of its previous mainframes in this price range, but the focus of the z13s is clearly on security.
One feature that makes today’s mainframes different from standard servers is that they include numerous specialized processors for features like memory control, I/O, and cryptography.
The z13s includes new cryptography hardware that can encrypt and decrypt data twice as fast as its predecessors for example. To speed up the z13s’ cryptography functions, the mainframe now features a faster cryptography co-processor card with more memory than IBM’s previous mid-range machines.
“This means clients can process twice as many high-volume, cryptographically-protected transactions as before without compromising performance,” the company says. “This equates to processing twice as many online or mobile device purchases
To ensure security, the z13s also supports IBM’s security analytics services and multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure only authorized users can gain access to the system. This marks the first time IBM has built MFA right into its z/OS operating system.
Like everybody else in the cloud and server business, IBM is also now focusing on hybrid deployments. It’s no surprise then that the company is positioning the z13s for this use case. Specifically, IBM’s security features are meant to enable a secure end-to-end hybrid cloud environment that integrates identity management, data protection and monitoring, as well as security analytics and threat monitoring.
The company sadly doesn’t break out pricing for the z13s (or any of its mainframes, really), but the price for IBMs standard z13 mainframes can quickly surpass $100,000 and it only goes up from there.

Synology Brings Its First Router To The U.S.

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Synology isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S. yet, but the Taiwanese company is definitely trying to make more of a name for itself here. The company has long offered its various DiskStation network-attached storage (NAS) devices, but now it’s also bringing its first router (the RT1900ac) to the U.S. market.
The Synology router is now available in the U.S. for a suggested retail price of $149.99. That puts it in line with other mid-range 802.11ac routers likes TP-LINK’s popular Archer C8 or the Netgear AC1750, which feature somewhat similar hardware specs. It’s also cheaper than Google’s current lineup of OnHub routers, which both clock in at over $199.
RT1900ac (back)For the longest time, routers weren’t all that interesting. Their hardware did what it was supposed to, but the software was often more than clunky. That has changed over the last few years and with OnHub, Google showed that it’s possible to make a piece of smartly designed hardware that was also easy to use and — for most people — probably resulted in a significant upgrade from their current router (and especially the built-in one in their cable modem).
While Google tried to make using its routers as easy as possible by hiding a lot of the complexity, Synology also makes setting the router up extremely easy, but if you want to delve deeper, it doesn’t stop you from fiddling with any of the settings.
Getting started with the router is simply a matter of plugging in the power and Ethernet cables, and setting up an admin account and password for your WiFi network on the device. That shouldn’t take more than a minute. After that, you’re online.
You can easily create a guest network (either on a 5GHz or 2.4GHz network — or both — and with our without access to your local network), set up beamforming to focus your signal toward a certain device and manage bandwidth usage on a per-application basis.
In addition, you can install new apps on the router that turn it into a VPN, DNS file and media server with an attached USB drive (there is also an SD card slot), for example. And if the blinking lights on the front of the router annoy you while you try to sleep, you can turn them on and off on a set schedule.
All of this is done through Synology’s Router Manager (SRM), which is basically a desktop-like interface. From there, you manage all of the router’s functions through a basic point-and-click interface. If you’ve used one of Synology’s NAS devices before (which also nicely integrate with the router), that interface will look very familiar.
At the end of the day, chances are you just want your router to work. While it doesn’t offer the kind of nifty automatic channel switching that Google’s OnHub introduced, the router’s overall performance is pretty much on par with that from my TP-LINK OnHub. Transferring files between devices is fast, YouTube videos on my Xbox One play without delays and buffering, and all of my Wi-Fi connections have been rock solid. Add all of the extra features that Synology offers on top of that and you have yourself a very solid router.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Finally, There’s An App For Noodle Soup Lovers — And It’s Great

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If you’re a noodle soup enthusiast — and if you’re notyou really should be — here’s an app that’ll get you salivating.
“Wait, there’s an app for noodle soup???” I hear you say…
Yes, that’s right. Believe it or not noodle soup is a delightful culinary genre in its own right, not just a dish. Whether it’s pho from Vietnam, miso from Japan or guay tiew from Thailand, noodle soup is full of variety, depth and flavor.
Worry not about the various different options though, because iOS app Noodler is here to cover you. Beyond a beautiful design that features anime-inspired illustrations, this ‘oracle’ app is packed with meal ideas — more than three million soup ‘designs’ in fact — each of which comes with a list of ingredients and cooking directions.
You’ll be greeted with a randomly generated soup idea right when you open the app. If that strikes your interest, simply tap on the bowl to be taken through to the instructions page. Otherwise, hit refresh and new combination will appear for your perusal. I repeated the process a few times before I found something that looked right up my alley.

The app is the work of New York-based writer/illustrator Michele Humes, who studied at the French Culinary Institute, and Joshua Sierles, a developer and designer who is located in Sevilla, Spain.
“Noodler is my love letter to noodle soup and dedicated to showcasing the beauty of the form,” Humes told TechCrunch via email. “We made it a true app with a discovery element, rather than passing off an ebook as an app — in order to showcase the versatility of the noodle soup format.”
Apple, for one, seems to agree. The company has featured Noodler multiple times in its China-based app store — which is how it came to our attention — but so far it is yet to showcase the app in other parts of the world.
Those without an iPhone are not covered by Noodler right now, but Sierles said work has already begun on an Android version, which we can expect to see soon.
“Since we built the app with React Native, a relatively new cross-platform framework from Facebook, this is turning out to be relatively easy to do,” he explained. (Hopefully not famous last words here.)
Right now, Noodler is available free of charge, but the plan is to monetize by limiting the number of available recipes and offering a one-time purchase to unlock the full library. That, my noodle soup loving friends, is enough of a reason to go look at the app today — you’ll find it in the App Store here.

Movebubble, The App That Aims To Make Renting In London Suck Less, Scores $1.6M Investment

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Movebubble, the startup that wants to make renting in London suck a little less, has picked up $1.6 million in further funding, bringing total investment to just over $3.4 million. Investors include Adam Williams (former Spotify MD), Richard Leigh (co-founder and MD of London and Capital), and Robert Stiff.
The company, which launched on-stage at our very own TechCrunch Disrupt London late last year, offers an app that lists properties available to rent and helps manage the rental process, including booking viewings.
Specifically, Movebubble promises to put renters first, letting them share information on different areas of London and give feedback on properties.
Crucially, it also claims to offer real-time availability of the properties listed through the app, solving one of the major pain-points of searching for a place to rent: by the time you contact a landlord or their agent, the property is already taken.
“There are 1.9 million renters in London, and so many ways that finding somewhere to rent is stressful and frustrating, from properties listed not actually being available, to ringing up multiple agents about a variety of properties in utter confusion, to not knowing which area of a city is best for you to live,” Movebubble founder Aidan Rushby tells TechCrunch.
“We check the real-time availability of properties, let renters book and manage viewings in one place and offer curated area guides based on renters’ preferences. For the first time, we let renters help each other with their searches, through sharing their insights on properties.”
This renter-first approach, says Rushby, is in contrast with competitors Rightmove and Zoopla, which focus more on the supply side of the rental process, doing very little beyond listing properties to rent.
“The problem with Rightmove and Zoopla is that they don’t see the renter through to the point of viewing properties – renters have to ring up so many different estate agents (there are over 2,000 in London) that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of bookings and you have to note down all these details elsewhere,” he says.
That’s a point echoed by investor and Movebubble director Arik Peretz, who says he “fell in love” with Movebubble because it brings greater efficiency and transparency to the rental market.
Meanwhile, it’s not currently possible to actually rent a property through the Movebubble app, but this is on the startup’s immediate roadmap, which, once rolled out, would pit it more against something like Rocket Internet’s NestPick.

Apple Recalls Some MacBook USB-C Cables Because Of Intermittent Charging Flaw

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Apple is recalling certain MacBook USB-C charge cables because of a design flaw. The affected MacBook charge cables were sold worldwide up to last summer.
In a note about the charge cable recall on its website Apple says a “limited number” of its USB-C charge cables for the MacBook, which were included with the laptop through June 2015 may fail “due to a design issue”. It’s not specifying the exact problem but says MacBooks using the affected cables may not charge or may only charge intermittently.
The new USB-C port was only introduced by Apple to its MacBooks in March 2015, in a classic Cupertino convergence move that saw it combine multiple port functions — power, data input/output, accessories and display connection — into just the one USB-C port. So not without the other C-word, controversy, too.
Apple is replacing affected USB-C charge cables free of charge with a new, redesigned version. It notes that affected cables may also have been sold as standalone accessories, as well as being bundled with MacBooks, and these purchases will also be covered by the replacement program.
Affected cables have “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” stamped on them. Whereas the new, redesigned cables include a serial number after that text — as per the below image:
Apple USB-C charge cable recall
Apple says MacBook owners who provided a valid mailing address during the product registration process or Apple Online Store purchase will automatically be sent a new cable by the end of February 2016. All other eligible cable owners can request a replacement via Apple’s online replacement process.
It’s the second hardware accessory recall for Apple in less than a month. The company announced a recall for certain two-prong plugs at the end of January because of what it said was a “very rare” risk of the adaptors breaking and giving the user an electric shock.
Apple also offers a free battery replacement program for certain iPhone 5 devices, sold between September 2012 and January 2013, which are affected by a problem with the battery suddenly discharging or not holding charge adequately.

Apple Music Tops 11 Million Subscribers; iCloud Reaches 782 Million

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At the beginning of this year, Apple Music had surpassed 10 million subscribers, according to a report from the Financial Times. Now, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has confirmed this figure. In fact, he gave a more precise number – the company has just passed over 11 million subscribers, he says. This tidbit and more were revealed on John Gruber’s “The Talk Show” podcast where Cue and SVP Craig Federighi joined to dish about features in upcoming OS releases, Apple’s intentions around its public beta, and more.
The Apple Music subscriber count is especially interesting because of how quickly the service has been growing. Apple’s debut in the streaming music space launched last June, offering users free, three-month trials on iOS. The app then arrived on Android in November. Those who didn’t choose to cancel began paying the $9.99 per month fee to remain subscribed.
Apple also recently closed off some of the features on its free tier in order to boost subscriptions. Specifically, it shut off access to its curated Apple Music radio stations, and instead made Beats 1 radio the only free station for those who aren’t subscribers. To what extent that has impacted growth still remains to be seen, however.
Other numbers surrounding Apple’s products and services were unveiled, as well. While we already knew there were 1 billion Apple devices, thanks to figures reported in Apple’s Q1 ’16 “Earnings Supplemental Material” documentation, there were a number of surprises, too.During the interview, the execs were dropping mini-scoops left and right. For example, the two revealed that Apple is working on an updated Remote app that will allow it to do everything that Apple TV’s own remote can. In fact, this will also allow multiple users to operate Apple TV at the same time – one on the Remote app, the other using the Apple TV remote.
It was revealed that Apple’s iCloud service now reaches 782 million users; Apple’s iMessage users send 200,000 messages per second; Apple Pay has processed billions of dollars in payments; the App Store and iTunes see 750 million transactions every week; and Siri handles billions of requests per week.
Plus, there was one number that’s worth noting, if not something to necessarily brag about: Apple Maps’ team has corrected 2.5 million issues based on customer feedback. (It’s not just your gut, I guess – Apple Maps has been getting better.)
The whole episode is worth listening to in its entirety, and can be found on Gruber’s Daring Fireball website here.