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2018-07-19T22:45:38.946Z
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Hackers can steal your phone number by reassigning it to a different SIM card, use it to reset your passwords, steal your Instagram and other accounts and sell them for bitcoin. As detailed in a harrowing Motherboard article today, Instagram accounts are especially vulnerable because the app only offers two-factor authentication through SMS that delivers a password reset or login code via text message.

But now Instagram has confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s building a non-SMS two-factor authentication system that works with security apps like Google Authenticator or Duo. They generate a special code that you need to log in that can’t be generated on a different phone in case your number is ported to a hacker’s SIM card.

Buried in the Instagram Android app’s APK code is a prototype of the upgraded 2FA feature, discovered by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. Her work has led to confirmed TechCrunch scoops on Instagram Video Calling, Usage Insights, soundtracks for Stories and more.

When presented with the screenshots, an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch that yes, it is working on the non-SMS 2FA feature, saying, “We’re continuing to improve the security of Instagram accounts, including strengthening 2-factor authentication.”

Instagram actually lacked any two-factor protection until 2016 when it already had 400 million users. In November 2015, I wrote a...

With the upcoming release of iOS 12, Apple is introducing a new app called Shortcuts that will allow users to build custom voice commands for Siri that can be used to kick off a variety of actions in apps. While some apps will directly prompt users to add a Shortcut to Siri, the new Shortcuts app will offer more shortcut suggestions to try, plus the ability to create your own shortcuts and workflows. Now, there’s a new resource for shortcut fans, too – Sharecuts, a directory of shortcuts created and shared by the community.

The site is still very much in the early stages.

Plus, iOS 12 is still in beta testing itself, and the Shortcuts app can only be installed by developers who request access via an invite.

But by the time iOS 12 releases to the public later this fall, Sharecuts’ directory will be filled out and a lot more functional.

The premise, explains Sharecuts’ creator Guilherme Rambo, was to make an easily accessible place where people could share their shortcuts with one another, discover those others have shared, and suggest improvements to existing shortcuts.

“I was talking to a friend [Patrick Balestra] about how cool shortcuts are, and how it should be easier for people to share and discover shortcuts,” says Guilherme. “He mentioned he wanted to build a website for that  – he even had the idea for the name Sharecuts – but he was on vacation without a good internet connection...

On the heels of Google getting served a $5 billion fine by the EU over monopolistic practices related to its Android operating system, the European Commission today resurfaced another ongoing case in the world of large U.S. tech companies. The EC said that it has added to its investigation into Qualcomm and its predatory pricing of UMTS baseband chips. Specifically, today the Commission has sent more details relating to elements of the “price cost” test that it had applied to measure just how much below cost Qualcomm was selling UMTS baseband chips to edge out competitors.

If the case is decided against Qualcomm, the company could face an additional fine of up to 10 percent of its worldwide revenues. In 2009, these were $10.4 billion, while in 2017, global turnover was over $22 billion.

The original, 2015 case was based on a complaint filed by Icera — once a big player in baseband chips — and dates back to practices between 2009 and 2011 and alleged that Qualcomm used its market position to negotiate artificially low prices for UMTS chips — used in 3G phones — in order to oust out Icera. Others that made similar chips include Nvidia.

Qualcomm has wasted little time in responding to the notice posted by the EC.

“This investigation, now in its ninth year, alleges harm in 2009-2011, to a competitor who chose years later to exit the market for reasons unrelated to Qualcomm,” said...

Let’s be real: you are most certainly never going to be as good as Steve Nash, Chris Paul, James Harden — or really any professional NBA player. But it probably won’t stop you from trying to practice or model your game around your favorite players, and spend hours upon hours figuring out how to get better.

And while there are going to be plenty of attempts to smash image recognition and AI into that problem, a company called NEX Team is hoping to soften the blow a bit by helping casual players figure out their game, rather than trying to be as good as a professional NBA player. Using phone cameras and image recognition on the back end, its primary app HomeCourt will measure a variety of variables like shot trajectory, jump height, and body position, and help understand how to improve a player’s shooting form. It’s not designed to help that player shoot like Ray Allen, but at least start hitting those mid-range jumpers. The company said it’s raised $4 million from Charmides Capital and Mandra Capital, as well as Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Sam “Trust The Process” Hinkie (sigh), Mark Cuban and Dani Reiss.

“We don’t call ourselves a basketball company, we think of ourselves as a mobile AI company,” CEO and co-founder David Lee said. “It happens that basketball is the first sport where we’re applying our tech. When you think about digitizing sports, as a runner or cyclist, you’ve had access to a feedback loop for a while [on treadmills...

Apple’s App Store continues to outpace Google Play on revenue. In the first half of the year, the App Store generated nearly double the revenue of Google Play on half the downloads, according to a new report from Sensor Tower out today. In terms of dollars and cents, that’s $22.6 billion in worldwide gross app revenue on the App Store versus $11.8 billion for Google Play – or, 1.9 times more spent on the App Store compared with what was spent on Google Play.

This trend is not new. Apple’s iOS store has consistently generated more revenue than its Android counterpart for years due to a number of factors – including the fact that Android users historically have spent less on apps than iOS users, as well as the fact that there are other Android app stores consumer can shop – like the Amazon Appstore or Samsung Store, for example. In addition, Google Play is not available in China, but Apple’s App Store is.

Last year, consumer spending on the App Store reached $38.5 billion, again nearly double that of Google Play’s $20.1 billion.

As the new figures for the first half of 2018 indicate, consumer spending is up this year.

Sensor Tower estimates it has increased by 26.8 percent on iOS compared with the same period in 2017, and it’s up by 29.7 percent on Google Play.

The growth in...

Uber is aiming to perfect the art of the pickup with three features it says minimize cancellations. Guaranteed pickup windows boost confidence that you’ll make your flight, and give you a credit of $10 if your scheduled ride is late. Pre-written messages let drivers and riders let each other know they’ll “Be right there” or “I’ve arrived” with a single tap.

And most flashily, three years after I suggested Uber let you hold up a colored screen so your driver could find you amidst a crowd of hailers, it’s introducing Spotlight. Each driver gets assigned a semi-unique color gradient to look for. Hit the Spotlight button, that color takes over your screen, and you can wave it to help your driver locate you. 

These optimizations show the depths Uber is willing to go to shave seconds off of pickups. That can reduce unpaid waiting time for drivers while boosting the number of rides they complete per hour for the startup. And the peace of mind that they’ll be able to hop in right when they’re ready could lure riders away from competitors as Uber dukes it out across the globe. The updates are rolling out on iOS and Android in the U.S. and Canada today.

“Human-to-human interaction is hard. Driver-initiated cancellations after the driver has arrived at the pickup point are particularly stressful,” Uber senior product manager for rider experience Ryan Yu tells me. But...

A decision in a long running EU antitrust probe of Google’s Android OS is due to land shortly.

European Commission officials are trailing a press conference with competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager — to announce “antitrust decision” at 1pm CET, with a link to watch the event streamed live.

Press conference with Commissioner @vestager today at 13h00 CET on an antitrust decision – follow it live here: https://t.co/cN0JhSI5Yw — Ricardo Cardoso (@RCardosoEU) July 18, 2018

Bloomberg is reporting the EU’s fine for Android will be in the region of $5BN — which would be the largest ever antitrust penalty handed down by the Commission.

Stay tuned for more as we get it… 

Moment, the company that brought you the best glass for your mobile device, now gives you DSLR-like controls with their Pro Camera app. Features include full manual adjustment over ISO, shutter speed, white balance, image format and more.

It should be noted that if you don’t have a shiny new device you won’t be able to use the app to its full potential as some of its key features include 3D touch, dual lens control, RAW image format, 120 and 240 fps and 4K resolution.

Moment says the app is for “anyone looking for pro, manual controls on their phone.” Being one of TechCrunch’s resident image makers, I figured I should take the app out for a spin and pit it against the stock camera app. I enlisted my photogenic friend, Jackie, to be my muse.

Scrolling through the manual settings was very easy and the UI never felt fumbly. The histogram is nice to have and utilizes that iPhone notch well. The app doesn’t have portrait mode, however, which Jackie and I would have loved, because, who doesn’t love that buttery (fake) bokeh — amirite? Manipulating the exposure in video mode was equally as easy. The app didn’t have an audio meter or level settings, so folks recording dialog or VO need to plan accordingly. Luckily, our shoot didn’t...

Adobe currently has three dozens apps in the App Store. But one app is still missing. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company could be working on a full-fledged version of Photoshop for the iPad. And it makes sense for a ton of reasons.

First, it’s clear that the iPad has become powerful enough to run complicated image editing software. Just two days ago, Serif launched Affinity Designer for the iPad, an Adobe Illustrator competitor. You can also look at benchmarks to find out that the iPad Pro is now more powerful than most mid-range laptops.

Second, now that you can effortlessly sync your files and projects across multiple devices, many people work using multiple devices. It’s been true for many years if you’re just working on a Microsoft Word file on your work computer and your personal laptop for instance. Maybe you use Dropbox or OneDrive to stay on the same page. But it’s also true with huge media libraries now.

A few years ago, people looked at their devices based on contexts. Maybe you had a work laptop, a couch-computing iPad, a big desktop computer for games, etc. But this is a thing of the past now that you can literally work from all your devices.

And when it comes to Photoshop, the Apple Pencil and touch screen makes the iPad a particularly useful device. Maybe you need a big screen to look at a photo, but maybe you want...

Netflix didn’t add as many subscribers as a bunch of people on Wall Street that on a quarterly basis govern whether or not it’ll be more valuable than Comcast, and that is probably a bad thing since it’s one of the primary indicators of its future potential for said finance folk.

While it’s still adding subscribers (a lot of them), it fell below the forecasts it set for itself during the second quarter. This comes amid a spending spree by the company, which is looking to create a ton of original content in order to attract a wider audience and lock them into that Netflix ecosystem. That could include shows like GlowJessica Jones3%, or even feature films. But it’s still a tricky situation because it needs to be able to convert shows from that kind of crazy spend schedule into actual subscribers.

Here’s the main chart:

So it’s basically down across the board compared to what it set for itself. And here’s the stock chart:

CEOs and executives will normally say they’re focused on delivering long-term value to shareholders, or some variation of that wording, but Netflix is a company that’s been on an absolute tear over the course of the past year. It’s more than doubled in value, overtaking said previously mentioned cable company and signaling that it, too, could be a media consumption empire that will take decade to...

In honor of World Emoji Day (yes, that’s a thing), Apple is previewing some of its upcoming emoji. Later this year, Apple’s emoji set will feature people with a variety of hairstyles and colors, including curly hair, red hair and white hair. What you’re about to see are simply Apple’s take on emoji that were previously approved by the Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee.

Folks with curly hair, rejoice!

Let’s hear it for the red heads

 

Like white on rice

 

No hair? No problem

 

Other fun emoji include a freezing face, peacock, mango, lobster, nazar amulet, superheroes and kangaroo.

Back in March, Apple proposed new emojis to represent people with disabilities in Unicode’s next batch of emoji. Then in May, Unicode announced some of the draft candidates for its next emoji release in Q1 2019 to include some of Apple’s proposed emoji, which featured a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid and more. If you want to hear more about what goes into emoji approval, be sure to check out this interview with Jeremy Burge, vice-chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee.

 

Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion.

Pronounced “Ka-pwing” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins.

Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay $20 a month to remove it.

While sites like Imgur and Imgflip offer lightweight tools for static memes and GIFs, “the tools and community for doing that for video are kinda inaccessible” says co-founder and CEO Julia Enthoven. “You have something you install on your computer with fancy hardware. You should able to create and riff off of people” even if you just have your phone, she tells me. 100,000 users are already getting crafty with Kapwing.

“We want to make these really relevant trending formats so anyone...

The Opera Android browser will soon be able to hold your cryptocurrencies. The system, now in beta, lets you store crypto and ERC20 tokens in your browser, send and receive crypto on the fly, and secures your wallet with your phone’s biometric security or passcode.

You can sign up to try the beta here.

The feature, called Crypto Wallet, “makes Opera the first major browser to introduce a built-in crypto wallet” according to the company. The feature could allow for micropayments in the browser and paves the way for similar features in other browsers.

From the release:

We believe the web of today will be the interface to the decentralized web of tomorrow. This is why we have chosen to use our browser to bridge the gap. We think that with a built-in crypto wallet, the browser has the potential to renew and extend its important role as a tool to access information, make transactions online and manage users’ online identity in a way that gives them more control.

In addition to being able to send money from wallet to wallet and interact with Dapps, Opera now supports online payments with cryptocurrency where merchants support exists. Users that choose to pay for their order using cryptocurrency on Coinbase Commerce-enabled merchants will be presented with a payment request dialog, asking them for their signature. The payment will then be signed and transmitted directly from the browser.

While it’s still...

Pinterest is trying to further tap its popularity as a place to plan events, this time adding ways for users to collaborate across boards that are baked directly into the app.

Group boards will have their own designated feed, where users will be able to communicate with others collaborating on that board and also get updates on new member additions or added pins. There are also the other typical social structures you’d expect on an app these days, including @-mentions or liking comments. It’s another step to get people onto Pinterest and sticking around as they look to plan events, and create more ways to make the platform more and more sticky. It’s also another quality-of-life improvement that Pinterest seems to have needed for quite some time.

It’s those kinds of events — weddings, parties and others — that propelled Pinterest initially to become one of the larger social networks in the early 2010s. The company late last year said it had more than 200 million monthly active users, which while small compared to the likes of Instagram or Facebook, serves as a hub for a different kind of user behavior than you might find on those other platforms. The majority of the content on Pinterest is high-resolution products from businesses, where people will search for or save those products as they look to plan future life events.

Pinterest has tried to position itself as one of the best ways to discover new ideas,...

HTC isn’t gone just yet. Granted, it’s closer than it’s ever been before, with a headcount of fewer than 5,000 employees worldwide — that’s down from 19,000 in 2013. But in spite of those “market competition, product mix, pricing, and recognized inventory write-downs,” the company’s still trucking on.

And while its claim to being “the leading innovator in smart phone devices,” is up for debate, the Taiwanese manufacturer has never shied away from a compelling gimmick. Announced earlier this year, the Exodus definitely fits the bill. The “world’s first major blockchain phone” is still shrouded in mystery, though the company did reveal a couple of key details this week at RISE in Hong Kong intended to keep folks interested while it irons out the rest of the product’s hiccups.

Chief among the reveals is an admittedly nebulous release date of Q3 this year. It’s hardly specific, but it does make the phone a little bit more real — unlike the images, which are still limited to the above blueprint picture at press time.

Here’s a quote from the company’s chief crypto officer, a position that really exists.

In the new internet age people are generally more conscious about their data, this a perfect opportunity to empower the user to start owning their digital identity. The Exodus is a great place to start because the phone is the most personal device, and it is also the place where all your data...

Mobile games publisher and marketer Tilting Point is dramatically increasing its commitment to its user acquisition fund.

The company announced a $12 million fund at the end of 2016, which it said would help developers grow their games while remaining independent. Today it  revealed that it’s committing $132 million in annual spending to the fund.

CEO Kevin Segalla said that as mobile app stores become more and more crowded, “user acquisition has gotten incredibly complicated,” so most indie developers “don’t have the tech and the expertise to do it.”

That’s where Tilting Point comes in. President Samir El Agili said the company has built “machine learning technology to maximize and optimize user acquisition.” It likes to work on games that are at the “crossroads,” taking a solid game with a sustainable business model, then dramatically accelerating its growth with advertising.

The initial fund led to partnerships on Disruptor Beam’s Star Trek Timelines and Nukebox Studios’ Food Truck Chef.

Segalla said that given the fund’s success, the question became, “How can we do this at a much larger scale?” which led to the much larger fund commitment, thanks to capital committed by CFC Capital (Tilting Point’s majority shareholder) and Metropolitan Partners Group.

Just to be clear, the $132 million isn’t a price tag that Tilting Point is putting on its own services, and instead represents money that will actually be spent on advertising.

Segalla argued that the deals are structured in a way where Tilting Point’s incentives...

Slack’s search functions are getting another little quality-of-life update today with the introduction of filters, which aims to make search a little more granular to find the right answers.

The company also says searches are going to be more personalized. All of this is an attempt to get to the right files or conversations quickly as Slack — a simple collection of group chats and channels that can get out of hand very fast — something a little more palatable. As companies get bigger and bigger, the sheer amount of information that ends up in it will grow faster and faster. That means that the right information will generally be more difficult to access, and if Slack is going to stick to its roots as a simple internal communications product, it’s going to have to lean on improvements under the hood and small changes in front of users. The company says search is now 70 percent faster on the back end.

Users in Slack will now be able to filter search results by channels and also the kinds of results they are looking for, like files. You can go a little more granular than that, but that’s the general gist of it, as Slack tries to limit the changes to what’s happening in front of users. Slack threads, for example, were in development for more than a year before the company finally rolled out the long-awaited feature. (Whether that feature successfully changed things...

iOS users have been reporting problems with excessive battery drain after updating to iOS 11.4.

On Sunday, 9to5Mac reported on a raft of posts on Apple forums complaining about excessive battery drain since updating. ZDNet also flagged complaints around the issue early last month.

The update to Apple’s mobile operating system was released at the end of May, adding support for Messages in iCloud, plus some media and entertainment features, such as AirPlay 2 and support for two HomePod speakers to work as a stereo pair.

Safe to say, radically reduced battery life was not among the listed additions.

This TC writer also noticed an alarming depreciation in battery performance after updating to iOS 11.4 at the end of last month — with the battery level dropping precipitously even when the handset was left untouched doing nothing.

Looks like updating to iOS 11.4 has decimated iPhone battery life — Natasha (@riptari) June 30, 2018

We reached out to Apple immediately after noticing the problem — but the company has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Judging by forum complaints, other iOS users have also found that updating to iOS 11.4 impacts the standby battery life of their device.

In my case checking the (beta) battery health feature in the iPhone settings threw no light on the abnormal performance, with maximum capacity reported as a (healthy sounding) 91%, as well a...

Yesterday, we learned that 18-month-old, Bay Area-based electric scooter rental company Lime is joining forces with the ride-hailing giant Uber, which is both investing in the company as part of a $335 million round and planning to promote Lime in its mobile app. According to Bloomberg, Uber also plans to plaster its logo on Lime’s scooters.

Lime isn’t being acquired outright, in short, but it looks like it will be. At least, Uber struck a similar arrangement with the electric bike company JUMP bikes before spending $200 million to acquire the company in spring.

There are as many questions raised by this kind of tie-up as answered, but the biggest may be what the impact means for Lime’s fiercest rival in the e-scooter wars, 15-month-old L.A.-based Bird, which several sources tell us also discussed a potential partnership with Uber.

Despite recently raising $300 million in fresh capital at a somewhat stunning $2 billion valuation, could its goose be, ahem, cooked?

At first glance, it would appear so. Uber’s travel app is the most downloaded in the U.S. by a wide margin, despite gains made last year by its closest U.S. competitor, Lyft, as Uber battled one scandal after another. It’s easy to imagine that Lime’s integration with Uber will give it the kind of immediate brand reach that most founders can only dream about.

A related issue for Bird is its relationship with Lyft, which . ....

Google is making several updates to Google Pay, its recently-rebranded service for all its different payments tools. Most of these updates were announced earlier this year, but now, Google says they’re actually going live in the app.

One of the additions is peer-to-peer payments. You could already pay or request money from a friend through Google Pay Send, but as of today, you can also do it into the main Google Pay app.

Gerardo Capiel, Director of Product Management at Google Pay, noted that this makes it easier to split the bill with your friends — if you bought something with Google Pay, you can tap on the purchase and then request payment from up to five people.

Since Google is basically combining two apps,  it sounds like Google Pay Send isn’t long for this world — as Capiel put it, “We want to basically bring everything into Google Pay,” but he said the timing is “TBD” on when Pay Send might be shut down.

The Google Pay app is also gaining the ability to save mobile tickets and boarding passes, to be found in a new Passes tab that will also include loyalty cards and gift cards. Ticketmaster and Southwest are supported at launch, and Google says it has plans to add Eventbrite, Singapore Airlines and Vueling.

While some of Google Pay’s functionality (like the new Passes Tab) is limited to Android, Capiel said the goal...