Google’s Datally app adds more ways to limit mobile data usage

In November, Google introduced Datally, a data-saving app largely aimed at emerging markets where users often rely on prepaid SIM cards, and don’t have access to all-you-can-eat unlimited data plans. The app lets users granularly control which apps can use data, which resulted in a 30% savings on data usage during pilot testing and now saves users 21%, on average. Today, Google is giving Datally an upgrade with several new features that will help users cut data usage even further. One key feature is the introduction of daily limits, which allow you to control your data usage on a per-day basis. This one is more about creating better habits around data consumption, so you don’t accidentally burn through too much data in a day, then end up without any data left before the month ends. This also ties into to Google’s larger push to give users more insights into
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First look at Instagram’s self-policing Time Well Spent tool

Are you Overgramming? Instagram is stepping up to help you manage overuse rather than leaving it to iOS and Android’s new screen time dashboards. Last month after TechCrunch first reported Instagram was prototyping a Usage Insights feature, the Facebook sub-company’s CEO Kevin System confirmed its forthcoming launch.

Tweeting our article, Systrom wrote “It’s true . . . We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional . . . Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.”

Now we have our first look at the tool via Jane Manchun Wong, who’s recently become one of TechCrunch’s favorite sources thanks to her skills at digging new features out of apps’ Android APK

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Venmo is discontinuing web support for payments and more

PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app Venmo is ending web support for its service, the company announced in an email to users. The changes, which are beginning to roll out now, will see the Venmo.com website phasing out support for making payments and charging users. In time, users will see even less functionality on the website, the company says. The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo’s monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows:
NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website – this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com
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Gmail proves that some people hate smart suggestions

Gmail has recently introduced a brand new redesign. While you can disable or ignore most of the new features, Gmail has started resurfacing old unanswered emails with a suggestion that you should reply. And this is what it looks like: The orange text immediately grabs your attention. By bumping the email thread to the top of your inbox, Gmails also breaks the chronological order of your inbox. Gmail is also making a judgement by telling you that maybe you should have replied and you’ve been procrastinating. Social networks already bombard us constantly with awful content that makes us sad or angry. Your email inbox shouldn’t make you feel guilty or stressed. Even if the suggestions can be accurate, it’s a bit creepy, it’s poorly implemented and it makes you feel like you’re no longer in control of your inbox. There’s a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart
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Zelle forecast to overtake Venmo this year

Despite some concerns over its adoption by scammers, new payment service Zelle is shaping up to overtake rival Venmo this year, according to a new forecast from eMarketer. The firm expects Zelle to grow more than 73 percent in 2018, to reach 27.4 million users in the U.S., ahead of Venmo’s 22.9 million. Square Cash will trail with 9.5 million users. This growth isn’t necessarily chalked up to user preference, but rather, ubiquity. Zelle is backed by a network of over 30 U.S. banks, as their means of winning over users from other payment apps including Venmo, PayPal, and Square Cash. The banks had wanted to develop their own alternative these apps for several years, but only recently had those efforts gained momentum. The Zelle website now claims participation from over 100 financial institutions, as well as processor partners CO-OP Financial Services, FIS, Fiserv
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Snapchat launches privacy-safe Snap Kit, the un-Facebook platform

Today Snapchat finally gets a true developer platform, confirming TechCrunch’s scoop from last month about Snap Kit. This set of APIs lets other apps piggyback on Snap’s login for sign up, build Bitmoji avatars into their keyboards, display public Our Stories and Snap Map content, and generate branded stickers with referral links users can share back inside Snapchat.

Snap Kit’s big selling point is privacy — a differentiator from Facebook. It doesn’t even let you share your social graph with apps to prevent a Cambridge Analytica-style scandal.

Launch partners include Tinder bringing Bitmojis to your chats with matches, Patreon letting fans watch creators’ Stories from within its app, and Postmates offering order ETA stickers you can share in Snapchat that open the restaurant’s page in the delivery app. Developers that want to join the platform can sign up here.

Snap Kit could help the stumbling public company colonize the mobile

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Musical.ly kills its standalone live-streaming app Live.ly

Musical.ly is merging the functionality from its two-year old live-streaming platform Live.ly into its main app, and has disabled Live.ly’s standalone app as part of the transition process. The Live.ly app will eventually be pulled from the App Store and Google Play, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Instead of being able to go live, Live.ly users are presented with a message about the changes, informing them that live streaming has now moved over to Musical.ly. This change is also confirmed via Live.ly’s App Store update text, which says:
Live.ly is becoming part of musical.ly!
– You can go live on musical.ly right now! Plenty of live content there!
Live.ly first launched in May 2016, offering Musical.ly users a live-streaming platform, where the streams were directly viewable on Musical.ly, as well as within the Live.ly mobile app.
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N26 launches a revised metal card

Fintech startup N26 is updating its N26 Metal product and launching it tomorrow. You might remember that the company first announced its premium card at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin in December 2017. Shortly after the conference, the card was available in early access for existing N26 Black customers. But the company had to go back to the drawing board and update the card design. N26 Metal customers had some complaints about the design of the card in particular. While the original metal card was primarily made of a sheet of tungsten, the metallic part was still surrounded by plastic. Customers complained about scratches and the overall feel of the card. It didn’t really feel like a metal card. It was more or less a heavy plastic card with a metal core. You could easily get scratches and the MasterCard logo was just a sticker.

Safety app Watch Out acquires paywall startup BitWall

BitWall, a Bitcoin-focused startup promising to help online publishers make money, has been acquired. Its new owner is Watch Out, the company behind an app that sends alerts about things like product and food recalls and weather-realted emergencies. It’s not the most obvious acquirer, but the companies say BitWall can help Watch Out improve its data, payments and loyalty systems. “We are excited to bring BitWall into the Watch Out! ecosystem,” said Watch Out CEO Michael Lucas in the acquisition announcement. “Our mission is to provide a secure consumer-protection platform while delivering hyper-targeted content when and where it matters most, whether that be a safety alert or a digital reward. BitWall and its team help us do that.” Apparently there’s a TechCrunch connection to the story, too — BitWall co-founder and CEO Nic Meliones told me he first got connected to Watch Out at our Disrupt SF
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Facebook demands advertisers have consent for email/phone targeting

Facebook is hoping to avoid another privacy scandal by adding new accountability and transparency requirements for businesses that use its Custom Audiences too to target you with ads based on your email address or phone number. Starting July 2nd, advertisers will have to declare whether contact info uploaded for ad targeting was collected with proper user consent by them, one of their partners, or both. Users will be able to see this info if they opt to block future ads from that business. Companies can only share Custom Audiences info with partners like ad agencies if they’re formally connected through Facebook’s business manager tool. And Facebook will start to show advertisers reminders that they need consent for contact info ad targeting and force all users connected to an ad account to confirm these terms. The new consent tool launch confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from March that Facebook would crack down
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Opendoor raises $325M to make buying and selling homes a near-instant process

Investors are placing another huge bet on a startup looking to reinvent a decades-old process into something that’s near instant, this time pouring $325 million into Opendoor — a company that wants to bring the complex operation of buying or selling a home down to something similarly as simple as hailing a Lyft. The idea of Opendoor is one not so dissimilar from a consumer theory that’s blossomed into companies worth tens of billions of dollars — consumers hate complex processes and are willing to hand off those processes to technology companies if they can make it even a little simpler. Home-buying and selling can be one of the more intense ones, requiring a lot of moving pieces and coordinating multiple time tables and schedules. Opendoor’s theory is that it can create a sizable business by dropping that time and energy cost to zero and effectively create a new technology-powered
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Google’s Family Link software now recommends ‘teacher-approved’ apps

Google today is expanding the capabilities of its Android parental control software, Family Link, to go beyond helping parents better manage their child’s device and app usage. Now, the Family Link app will also help parents learn about what apps they may want to install for their kids, as well. In a new discovery section, Family Link will feature a list of educational apps for children ages six through nine that parents can install with a tap. The apps are “recommended by teachers,” the section proclaims. Google explains that it worked with teachers from across the U.S. to come up with this curated list of apps with educational value. The teachers were recruited to rate content based on their expertise in learning and child development, and had a diverse background in terms of things like years of experience, demographics, and locations in the U.S. The apps must
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Google brings offline neural machine translations for 59 languages to its Translate app

Currently, when the Google Translate apps for iOS and Android has access to the internet, its translations are far superior to those it produces when it’s offline. That’s because the offline translations are phrase-based, meaning they use an older machine translation technique than the machine learning-powered systems in the cloud that the app has access to when it’s online. But that’s changing today. Google is now rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Today, only a small number of users will see the updated offline translations, but it will roll out to all users within the next few weeks. The list of supported languages consists of a wide range of languages. Because I don’t want to play favorites, here is the full list: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian,
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Scooter startup Bird is reportedly about to hit a $2B valuation

More financing is coming in for Bird, this time potentially valuing the company at $2 billion, according to a new report by Axios. There’s not a ton to add here compared to the last round (which happened just weeks ago), as the same dynamics are probably in play here. While Uber was a bet on car rides and generally getting around, Bird is that but at a dramatically more granular level — thinking short hops of a few miles in congested areas. Startups that are exceedingly hot can sometimes pull off these rolling rounds where investors are coming in at various points, especially as the model further proves out over time. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you’ve probably seen Bird (and Lime) scooters hanging out on the sidewalks — potentially knocked over in a spot where someone might trip over them while checking his or her phone.
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Amino raises $45M for to bring fan communities to smartphones

Amino has raised a big Series C round of funding — $45 million from GV, Venrock, Union Square Ventures, Goodwater Capital and Time Warner Investments, with Hearst Ventures joining as a new investor. Co-founder and CEO Ben Anderson has described Amino as an way to help people who have “passionate niche interests” find others who feel the same way, via smartphone apps. The company started out with apps focused a handful of topics like K-pop, anime and Doctor Who, but it later added the ability for anyone to launch a new community in the main Amino app, and there are now more than 2.5 million communities. Of course, some of these communities are more active than others, and there’s some overlap between them — but Max Sebela, who’s general manager for Amino’s English-language apps, said there’s less than you might think, because “each interest is actually a universe
Amino Voice Chats
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TheSkimm brings its news service to Android

TheSkimm, the female-led media company best known for its newsletter that summarizes, in plain language, the top news and highlights from the day before, is today launching a mobile app for Android devices. Previously available on the iPhone, theSkimm’s new app combines a mobile version of its newsletter, along with a calendar of important events, immediate updates on events happening now, weekly audio episodes focused on complex topics, and a new feature called “Text theSkimm.” As you may have guessed by the name, Text theSkimm allows mobile app subscribers to text the company directly to receive information about important decisions they’re making, like those about investing, asking for a raise, or their healthcare options. On this front, theSkimm competes with other self improvement-via-text services, including Shine, another female-founded startup which recently raised $5 million for its own suite of apps and services. TheSkimm, meanwhile, is backed by
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Uber bets on developing world growth with low-data Uber Lite

“The next hundreds of millions of riders for us are going to come from outside of the United States”, Uber’s head of rider experience Peter Deng tells me. The transportation giant already sees 75 million riders per month and 15 million rides per day. But to grow in the developing world, it had to rethink its app to work on the oldest phones and slowest networks. So Deng’s team traveled the globe asking people what they needed from Uber, but also what they didn’t. The result is Uber Lite. It’s launching today in India before rolling out to more countries, though there’s still a waitlist form instead of a download link. The Android app takes up just 5 megabytes. “You delete three selfies, you have room for Uber” Deng laughs. 300-millisecond response time means its quick to hail a ride, even for the 4 percent of users in India
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Now Snapchat lets you unsend messages like Faceboook promised

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook messages were retracted from the inboxes of some users, six sources told TechCrunch in April. Facebook quickly tried to normalize that breach of trust by claiming it would give everyone the ability to unsend messages in the coming months. We haven’t heard a word about it since, and Facebook told me it had nothing more to share here today. Well Snap is stepping up. Snapchat will let you retract your risque, embarassing, or incriminating messages thanks to a new feature called Clear Chats that’s rolling out globally over the next few weeks. Hold down on a text, image, video, memory, sticker, or audio note in a one-on-one or group chat Snapchat message thread and you’ll see a Delete button. Tap it, and Snapchat will try to retract the message, though it admits it won’t always work if the recipient lacks an internet connection or updated version of
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Instagram plans June 20th launch event for long-form video hub

Last week TechCrunch reported Instagram will launch a long-form video hub to compete with a tentative June 20th launch date. Now Instagram is asking reporters to RSVP for a June 20th “special event”, confirming our scoop’s date. The invitation simply reads “Instagram has some news to share, and we want you to be the first to hear about it.” This is Instagram’s chance to evolve from social media to just ‘media’, stealing longer mobile viewing sessions away from YouTube and Snapchat Discover. 

Here are the details of long-form video hub that we’ve heard from our sources:

Xiaomi posts $1.1B quarterly loss ahead of much-anticipated IPO

A month after it filed for a much-anticipated Hong Kong IPO, Xiaomi has revealed a little more financial information after a monster 621-page document disclosed a $1.1 billion (seven billion RMB) loss for the first quarter of the year. The IPO, which could raise up to $10 billion value Xiaomi at high as $100 billion, is set to be the largest IPO raise since Alibaba went public in the U.S. in 2014. That prospect got a boost with a dose of positive financial growth despite a loss incurred by one-off payments. The document, which was filed was an application to issue a CDRs as part of a dual-listing that would include Mainland China, showed that Xiaomi’s revenue for the quarter jumped to 34 billion RMB, or $5.3 billion. That’s compared to 114.6 billion RMB ($17.9 billion) in total sales for all of last year, according to digging
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