This Week in Apps: Apple’s record quarter, dating apps under investigation, Byte launches to problems

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, Apple released earnings and gave us hints about the power of its wearables market. Congress as begun investigating top dating apps. Google’s App Maker announced a shutdown is coming. The iPad turned 10 and people discussed where it’s going wrong.

We also take a look at Byte, the so-called Vine reboot. I’m not impressed. Not only did Byte launch with a comment spam problem, including pornbots, it’s also heavily filled with adult and sometimes dark humor. This includes videos featuring dick jokes, sex toys, drugs and jokes about child abuse, despite a 12+ age rating and many users who appear to be children.


Apple reports blockbuster earnings, details the growth of wearables

Android – TechCrunch

August Home ditches the bridge and Yale launches a smart lock in Europe

Assa Abloy, the world’s largest lock maker and the parent company of August Home and Yale, announced some new products at CES this week. The company didn’t talk about doorbell cameras at all — it could be related to recent Ring’s controversies.

As a well-known brand when it comes to smart lock in the U.S., August Home is iterating and refining with new products without any groundbreaking change. This time, the company is introducing a new August Wi-Fi Smart Lock.

This is the fourth generation lock from the startup that got acquired by Assa Abloy. It is 45% smaller than the previous version and it features a Wi-Fi chip on the device itself. It means that you no longer need to plug a bridge that connects to your Wi-Fi network and communicates with your lock.

As a result, battery life should be a bit worse on the new device. The company says that you can expect 3 to 6 months of battery compared to 6 months with the third generation device.

Like previous versions of August devices, it integrates directly in the deadbolt so that you don’t have to replace your lock altogether.

While August Home is quite popular in the U.S., the same can’t be said in Europe. It turns out that the lock market is quite fragmented with different locking system depending on the country.

But Yale is releasing a smart door lock called Linus that works pretty much like August Home locks in Europe. Yves Behar has designed both the new August Home lock and the Yale Linus lock. The company has designed different mounting plates so that it fits with as many European homes as possible.

You can lock and unlock your door using your phone, temporarily hand out digital key to guests and more. The Linus lock isn’t connected to the internet, so you have to get a bridge in case you’re interested in that functionality. There are integrations with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Airbnb and IFTTT.

When it comes to apps, the August Home and Yale apps are now identical. The company is just keeping both names for branding reasons.

Yale also took advantage of CES to announce a Smart Cabinet Lock that can lock your medicine cabinet for instance. The company has integrated that lock into a delivery box that you can put in front of your house. There’s a new smart safe as well.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Gadgets – TechCrunch

PopSockets launches a $60 wireless charger that works with its PopGrips

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, PopSockets is launching a new must-have item to its lineup of smartphone accessories — and one that solves a significant problem for PopGrip users. The company today is unveiling the PopPower Home wireless charger that allows you to wirelessly charge your supported Apple or Android smartphone by making room for the PopGrip on the back of your phone by way of a hole in the middle of the charging pad.

This design allows the mobile device to sit flush with the charging pad so it can wirelessly charge — something that hasn’t been possible with standard wireless chargers. Instead, PopGrips users would either have to remove their phone case (or swappable PopGrip) to take advantage of wireless charging, or they’d have to forgo it altogether and instead opt to charge their phone with a power cord, as usual.

The new PopPower Home charger solves this problem. It will also work through phone cases up to 5 mm thick and can charge devices that don’t have a PopGrip on the back, like other phones or the AirPods with Apple’s Wireless Charging Case — even if it’s protected by one of the AirPods case covers that PopSockets sells.

The new charger, powered by Nucurrent, features Qi certification with Extended Power Profile (EPP) to deliver up to 15 watts of wireless power for fast-charging wireless mobile devices. (Many other chargers are 5 to 10 watts, for comparison’s sake.) The phone’s brand/model, case thickness and battery depletion will affect the charge times, PopSockets says.

At launch, the PopPower Home supports both Apple and Samsung’s Fast Wireless charging modes. (PopSockets tells us Pixel phones that support wireless charging will also be supported.)

Using the case is as simple as plugging it in, then placing your phone or another device on top — making sure any attached PopGrip slides down into the hole in the middle. An LED indicator on the side will subtly alert you that the case is charging.

Like PopGrips themselves, the case comes in an array of designs, including Night Bloom, Mountainscape, Matte White, Cosmic Cloud and Carbonate Gray.

Unfortunately, the case only works with standard PopGrips, and excludes metal grips, PopGrip Mirror and PopGrip Lips.

PopPower Home is available today exclusively on for $ 60. That’s pricier than many of today’s wireless chargers, which tend to be $ 20 or less. But for dedicated PopGrips users, it’s worth it for the convenience of just being able to lay your phone down to charge.

At launch, only three styles are available, but the others will arrive in late January.

It’s not currently being sold as a bundle, but will arrive on Amazon later this year — possibly as soon as February.

Despite the price, the new product will likely do well because of PopSockets’ large, existing customer base. To date, the company has sold 165 million PopSockets, it says.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Gadgets – TechCrunch

In a first, Amazon launches a battery-powered portable Echo speaker in India

After launching nearly a dozen Echo speaker models in India in two years, Amazon said on Wednesday it is adding one more to the mix that addresses one of the most requested features from customers in the nation: Portability.

The e-commerce giant today unveiled the Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition, a new variant in the lineup that includes a built-in battery. The 4,800mAh enclosed battery will offer up to 10 hours of continuous music playing or up to 11 hours of stand-by life, the company said.

“Portability has been one of the most requested features in India,” said Miriam Daniel, VP of Alexa Devices. “You want to be able to carry Alexa with you from room to room within your homes. So we have designed something just for you.”

The battery-powered Echo model, designed exclusively for India, is priced at 5,999 Indian rupees ($ 84). Users can currently purchase it at an introductory price of 4,999 Indian rupees ($ 70) and the device will begin shipping on December 18.

Other than the built-in battery pack, the new speaker model offers an identical set of features — access to some 30,000 Alexa skills, compatibility with a range of home devices, of course, support for Alexa voice assistant — as other Echo variants. (The new model additionally carries an array of four LEDs that light up when a user taps the power button to show battery level.)

More to follow…

Gadgets – TechCrunch