Dirty Lemon parent Iris Nova will fund and distribute third-party beverages

Iris Nova, the Coca-Cola-backed startup that creates Dirty Lemon beverages, is announcing plans to spend $100 million over the next three to five years to expand its offerings.

Founder and CEO Zak Normandin said the money will go towards launching new beverage brands developed internally at Iris Nova, as well as investing in beverages created by other companies, which will then distributed via the Iris Nova platform.

“This is the way for us to compete with the bigger beverage companies,” Normandin said.

He added that he’s open to working with startups taking advantage of the shift away from “high calorie, high sugar beverages” as well as established beverage companies. Either way, they’ll get access to the Iris Nova platform, which allows them to accept orders via text message, and to distribute their beverages next-day or same-day to every major U.S. market.

Normandin said that by linking the investment and the platform partnership, Iris Nova is forcing itself to be “highly selective” about which beverages will be part of the portfolio.

He also said the company won’t work with directly competing products — for example, he won’t partner with two different coconut water brands, but he would work with a coconut water brand and a sparkling water brand. In exchange, the brands have to commit to using Iris Nova as their only e-commerce platform, aside from Amazon.

Although Normandin brought up The Coca-Cola Company several times as a point of comparison (“I think that if Coke were to start today, it would do things exactly the way we are”), he also emphasized that he isn’t trying to turn Iris Nova itself into a consumer brand. There will be advantages for consumers who order across the Iris Nova portfolio — namely, they won’t have to reenter their payment and shipping information — but Normandin said, “I don’t think there will ever be an Iris Nova marketplace.”

The company said it will start adding new beverages to the platform on July 1. The goal, Normandin said, is to introduce 12 brands by the end of the year. He isn’t sure what the internal-external mix will be, but he said the company has already made two external investments, while also having few beverage brands of its own ready to go, including the Tres Limón line of nonalcholic aperitifs.

“What we think is that billion-dollar brands will not exist in the future,” he said. “I have no specific loyalty to Dirty Lemon as a brand. Our goal is to meet the needs of consumers right now. Eventually, if it goes away, that’s fine — we’ll create new selections for that same consumer group.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Facebook’s searchable political ads archive is now global

Facebook has announced it’s rolled out a basic layer of political ads transparency globally, more than a year after launching the publicly searchable ads archive in the US.

It is also expanding what it dubs “proactive enforcement” on political ads to countries where elections or regulations are approaching — starting with Ukraine, Singapore, Canada and Argentina.

“Beginning today, we will systematically detect and review ads in Ukraine and Canada through a combination of automated and human review,” it writes in a blog post setting out the latest developments. “In Singapore and Argentina, we will begin enforcement within the next few months. We also plan to roll out the Ad Library Report in both of those countries after enforcement is in place.

“The Ad Library Report will allow you to track and download aggregate spend data across advertisers and regions.”

Facebook is still not enforcing identity checks on political advertisers in the vast majority of markets where it operates. Nor indeed monitoring whether political advertisers have included ‘paid for’ disclaimer labels — leaving the burden of policing how its ads platform is being used (and potentially misused) to concerned citizens, civic society and journalists.

The social network behemoth currently requires advertisers to get authorized and add disclaimers to political and issue-related ads in around 50 countries and territories — with around 140 other markets where it’s not enforcing identity checks or disclaimers.

“For all other countries included in today’s announcement, we will not be proactively detecting or reactively reviewing possible social issue, electoral or political ads at this time,” it confirms, before adding: “However, we strongly encourage advertisers in those countries to authorize and add the proper disclaimers, especially in a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape.”

“In all cases, it will be up to the advertiser to comply with any applicable electoral or advertising laws and regulations in the countries they want to run ads in. If we are made aware of an ad that is in violation of a law, we will act quickly to remove it. With these tools, regulators are now better positioned to consider how to protect elections with sensible regulations, which they are uniquely suited to do,” Facebook continues.

“In countries where we are not yet detecting or reviewing these types of ads, these tools provide their constituents with more information about who’s influencing their vote — and we suggest voters and local regulators hold these elected officials and influential groups accountable as well.”

In a related development it says it’s expanded access to its Ad Library API globally.

It also claims to have made improvements to the tool, which launched in March — but quickly attracted criticism from the research community for lacking basics like ad targeting criteria and engagement metrics making it difficult for outsiders to quantify how Facebook’s platform is being used to influence elections.

A review of the API by Mozilla shortly after it launched slated Facebook for not providing researchers with the necessary data to study how political influence operations play out on its platform — with a group of sixty academics put their name to the open letter saying the API does the opposite of what the company claims.

Facebook does not mention that criticism in today’s blog post. It has also provided little detail of the claimed “improvements” to the API — merely writing: “Since we expanded access in March, we’ve made improvements to our API so people can easily access ads from a given country and analyze specific advertisers. We’re also working on making it easier to programmatically access ad images, videos and recently served ads.”

The other key election interference concern linked to Facebook’s platforms — and which the company also avoids mention of here — is how non-advertising content can be seeded and spread on its networks in a bid to influence political opinion.

In recent years Facebook has announced various discoveries of inauthentic behavior and/or fake accounts. Though it is under no regulatory obligations to disclose everything it finds, or indeed to find every fake.

Hence political ads are just the tip of the disinformation iceberg.


Source: Tech Crunch

Facebook may finally let you turn off those annoying notification dots

Sick of those anxiety-inducing red dots constantly appearing on the Groups, Watch, or other tabs in your Facebook app? Well the social network may be easing up a little in its unending war for your attention. Facebook is now testing a toggle to turn off the red in-app notification dots on its homescreen. Until now you had to manually open each of Facebook’s features to extinguishing the maddening flame of the notification badge. This could make Facebook feel more tranquil, and keep you focused on whatever you actually opened the app to do.

“It’s related to the work we’re doing with the well-being team. We’re thinking about how people spend their time in the app and making sure that it’s time well spent” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. Many people can’t feel settled if there are red dots begging to be tapped — a psychological quirk Facebook takes advantage of. The company seems to be realizing that its growth hacking can backfire if its pleas for engagement actually deter us from opening its app in the first place.Turn Off Facebook Notification Dots

The Facebook Notification Dots setting was first spotted in its prototype form by reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong, hidden in the Android app’s code earlier this summer. Today, social media consultant Matt Navarra noticed the feature being publicly tested. Facebook now confirms to TechCrunch that this is a new global test that started recently on iOS and Android for a subset of users. “We are testing new ways to give people more control over the notifications they receive in the Facebook app” a spokesperson tells me.

Facebook plans to continue offering additional ways to personalize notifications so you don’t miss what’s important but aren’t drowned in noise. “People don’t necessarily want to see a notification on the badge [the in-app dots on tabs] if they’re already getting notifications in the jewel [the red counter on the Facebook app icon on your phone’s homescreen]” the spokesperson tells me. It considered a snooze option but went with an on/off switch that’s the least confusion. The Notification dots feature is likely to roll out to everyone unless it suddenly proves to decimate Facebook usage.

Facebook Notification Dots

How To Turn Off Facebook Notification Dots

If you have access to this feature test, you’ll find the option in your Facebook app under the three-lined More/Menu tab -> Settings & Privacy -> Settings -> Notifications -> Notification Dots. There you can “Choose which shortcuts will show you notifications dots” with options for “Videos On Watch”, “Profile”, “Groups”, “Menu”.

One tab/shortcut where you can’t disable the dots is Notifications, which actually makes sense since that’s the main way the app alerts you to activity around your profile and content. But since you already get a heads-up about new Groups posts or when you’re tagged in a photo there, the notification dots on the other tabs are just redundant and distracting.

Facebook notification settings

If you want to control which activities trigger alerts in your Notifications tab, you can go to More/Menu tab -> Settings & Privacy -> Settings -> Notifications -> Notification Settings -> Mobile. There you can see a list of your recent notifications and turn off ones like it in case you’re sick of hearing about friends starting fundraisers, reminders about upcoming events, or comments after yours on a Group post. The Notification Settings page also lets you turn off sound for Facebook notifications, axe them from specific groups or other apps, turn down the frequency of On This Day alerts, and choose what notifications get bumped up to email or text message.

Confusingly, there’s also a totally separate menu that’s accessible from the Notifications tab’s settings gear icon. There you can temporarily or permanently mute push notifications and choose where you receive each type. Obviously there should be a link between these two different spaces. A great next step for Facebook would be allowing user to batch notifications, Instead of either being constantly pestered or totally in the dark, it could let users opt for an occasional digest of notifications, like once per day or when they get to 10 alerts.

Facebook and Instagram Your Activity Counter

A year ago Facebook trumpeted how it launched a Time Well Spent dashboard in its app and Instagram for showing how long per day you use the apps with an option to set a reminder to stop after enough minutes. But buried inside Menu -> Settings & Privacy -> Your Time on Facebook, the toothless feature we’d previously scooped isn’t doing much good. If Facebook wants to be a principled citizen of our devices, it shouldn’t be so hard to say when we do or don’t want to be nagged for attention.


Source: Tech Crunch

With a portfolio including Acorns, Sweetgreen and Ro Health, Torch Capital raises $60M for its first fund

Jonathan Keidan, the founder of Torch Capital, had already built a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen, before he raised single dollar for his inaugural venture capital fund, which just closed with $60 million.

Keidan, a consummate networker who began his professional career as a manager working with acts like The Nappy Roots, The Getaway People and a young John Legend, just managed to be in the right place at the right time, he says (thanks, in part, to his gift for gab).

The final close for Torch Capital’s first fund is just the beginning for Torch, which is angling to be one of the premiere firms for early stage consumer internet and consumer facing enterprise software.

The firm began raising its first fund in October 2017 and held a $40 million first close just about one year ago. Keidan and his partners had targeted $50 million for his first investment vehicle, but wound up hitting the hard cap of $60 million, in part due to high demand from the New York-based entrepreneurs that Keidan considers his peers.

In addition to backers like the George Kaiser Family Foundation and billionaire Hong Kong fashion mogul Silas Chou, Keidan was able to tap startup founders like Jennifer Fleiss, the co-founder of Rent the Runway; Casper co-founders Philip Krim and Neil Parikh; and Bryan Goldberg, the founder of Bleacher Report and owner of Bustle Media Group (which includes Gawker, Bustle, Elite Daily, Mic, The Outline, and The Zoe Report, which collectively form Bustle Digital Group).

“Because I’ve taken a more startup approach i was recruiting raising money and doing deals at the same time,” says Keidan. 

Screen Shot 2019 06 24 at 7.08.10 AM

A sampling of Torch Capital’s portfolio investments

Along with partners Sam Jones, a former London-based investment banker; Katie Reiner, an investor at the data-driven growth fund, Lead Edge Capital; Curtis Chang, a technology-focused investment banker from HSBC’ and Chantal Haldorsen, a serial startup executive; Keidan has certainly done deals.

He started investing as an angel while still working at his own media company InsideHook, and began forming special purpose vehicles for larger investments as soon as he departed, about three years ago.

For the first year-and-a-half, Jones and Keidan worked on the SPVS, which allowed them to put together a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen — as well as startups like ZocDoc and the ketchup brand, Sir Kensington’s.

Since launching the fund, Keidan and his partners did 15 investments in the first year — including investments into . the consumer-focused Ro Health, which sells erectile dysfunction medication, supplements for hair growth, and more recently menopausal products for women.

Torch Capital has also backed the fintech company, Harness Wealth, sustainable cashmere manufacturer and retailer, Naadam; and Splendid Spoon, a vegan breakfast and lunch prepared food provider akin to Daily Harvest.

Keidan’s interest in investment stems from his experience in the music industry. It was a time when Spotify was just beginning to emerge and Napster had already shaken up the market. The creation of digital platforms enabled artists to connect more directly with the consumer in a way that traditional companies couldn’t understand.

Instead of embracing the technology labels and artists fought it, and the writing on the wall (that the labels and artists would lose) became clear… at least for Keidan. 

Following some advice from mentors including the super-producer and music mogul, Quincy Jones, Keidan went to business school. He graduated from Columbia in 2007 with an MBA and then did what all former music managers do after their MBA training — he joined McKinsey as a consultant. The stint at McKinsey led Keidan to Jack Welch’s online education venture and from there, Keidan started InsideHook.

Keidan grew the company to over 2 million subscribers in the five years since he helped launch the business in 2012. From that perch he saw the rise of direct to consumer startups and began making angel investments. His first was ZocDoc, his second, Sir Kensingtons (which sold to Unilever) and his third was the real estate investment platform, Compass.

That track record was enough to convince Chou, the Hong Kong billionaire that turned around Tommy Hilfiger and built Michael Kors into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse in the world of ready to wear fashion.

Like the rest of the venture industry, Keidan sees the technology tools that have transformed much of business are now remaking the ease and reach of building direct to consumer brands. Unlike most, Keidan has spent time working on the ground up to develop brands (artists and songwriting talent in the music business).

Everything that Torch Capital invests in has at least one eye on an end consumer, whether that’s direct consumer investments like Ro, Sweetgreen or the business surveying startup, Perksy.

Torch invests between $500,000 and $1 million in seed deals and will invest anywhere between $1 million to $3 million in Series A deals, according to Keidan.

“What makes a consumer company successful at scale is very different than enterprise software or consumer internet deals,” said Keidan. “VCs were having trouble getting their heads around this… [their companies] were overvalued too early… and when they couldn’t meet those goals they were doing things that were detrimental to the brand.”

Keidan thinks he has a better approach.

“Between InsideHook and watching companies grow and my own investments i’d seen the nuances of what it takes to get to scale,” he said.


Source: Tech Crunch

Only 100 seats left: Apply to hack at the TC Hackathon at Disrupt SF

Hustle up, hackathon fans. The TechCrunch Hackathon at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4 may be more than three months away, but it’s filling up fast. There’s no application deadline. Instead, we’re capping the number of participants at 800 — and we have approximately 100 spots left. Don’t get shunted to the waiting list. Apply to the Hackathon today.

It doesn’t cost anything to compete in the hackathon. You’ll get free Expo Only passes for days one and two, and then we’ll upgrade you to an Innovator pass for day three of Disrupt SF.

Here’s how it all works. The TC hackathon sponsors offer a variety of contests — real-world challenges that require working solutions. Each sponsored challenge comes with its own prizes, including cash money.

You can bring a team of 4-6 people, or you can come solo and we’ll help you find a team when you arrive. Teams will use a variety of APIs, data sets and other tools to design, create and submit a working product in approximately 24 hours.

You’ll need talent, focus and stamina to build something out of nothing under this kind of intense pressure. We’ll do our part to keep your blood sugar levels up with free food and drink — including plenty of Red Bull and coffee. Plus, one of our hackathon sponsors, Kinship, will be hosting a custom contest at the Hackathon to explore how data could enrich the lives of pets to help them live healthier and happier. With access to unique pet data, and a puppy lounge (!!!) with animal shelters for much needed puppy love, they are looking to engage with founders, developers, designers and anyone passionate about pet space to create a brighter future for pets around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing more sponsors, contests and prizes.

When the time runs out, all teams submit their work. The judges will review all completed projects — science-fair style — on day two. They’ll pick 10 finalists to step onto the Extra Crunch Stage and deliver a two-minute product pitch.

After the judges consult, the sponsors announce their winning teams and award their prizes. And then — drum roll please — TechCrunch announces its grand prize winner for the best overall hack. The grand prize? A cool, $10,000. You’ll find more details and the event agenda on the Hackathon website.

We have just about 100 hackathon seats left at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4. Don’t miss your chance to dazzle us with your mad coding skills, compete against some of the world’s best devs, solve a real-world problem and maybe even win some cool prizes. Fill out the Hackathon application now.

Is your company interested in sponsoring the Hackathon at Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


Source: Tech Crunch

WordPress management site WP Engine acquires Flywheel as it moves to a $1B valuation and IPO

WordPress now accounts for 34 percent of all websites globally, and today one of the key companies that helps handle the creation and management of some of those WP-hosted sites is getting a little bigger through some consolidation in the wider ecosystem. WP Engine, which works with businesses to build and manage their WordPress-hosted sites, has aquired Flywheel, a smaller competitor.

Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, WP Engine’s CEO and chairperson Heather Brunner said in an interview, but she confirmed to TechCrunch that it involved her company raising a small round (amount also undisclosed) from its existing investors to help finance the deal. WP Engine’s investors include Silver Lake (which last year put a whopping $250 million into the company) along with WordPress developer Automattic, Silverton, GuidePost Growth Equity (formerly known as North Bridge) and Eric Ries (of “Lean Startup” fame).

Brunner also declined to talk valuation of WP Engine, although she noted that current annual recurring revenue is at $132 million, and that Flywheel’s is $18 million, and with a current growth rate of 50%, together the two are on track to make $200 million in ARR by 2020 and likely pass the $1 billion mark for valuation, en route to a public listing.

“It is our aspiration to build a public-ready company, and this acquisition is part of making that happen,” she said. (Ironically, that could mean that WordPress’s partner, and sometimes competitor, could go public before it does.)

The deal is a sign of some consolidation in the ecosystem that has built up around WordPress. WP Engine is a veritable powerhouse in that ecosystem, having been an early mover in the space — WordPress backed it back in 2011 — and now working on building and managing sites for some 120,000 brands and agencies in 150 countries (likely totalling multiples of that in terms of actual sites).

WP Engine, as Brunner describes it, focuses largely on mid-market and larger businesses, while Flywheel — founded and currently based out of Omaha — has focused on smaller businesses. That makes the two natural complements to each other, but Brunner notes that there will be more gained from the union.

“The team there is very product focused,” she noted. “They’ve built a suite that we feel has been focused around small agencies, but they are also the types of tools that larger agencies will benefit from.” She is referring to the product Local by Flywheel, a local development application used by more than 150,000 developers.

Flywheel, founded in 2012, had only raised around $6 million in funding, including a $4 million round several years ago. The economies of scale of throwing in its lot with WP Engine will give it a much wider exposure and access to new customers.

“We founded Flywheel with the belief that in order to help creatives do their best work, we needed to create an internal culture that encourages our employees to do the same,” said Dusty Davidson, CEO and co-founder of Flywheel, in a statement. “That philosophy has led us to build an incredible company and some of the most well-loved products in WordPress, supported by an impressive group of talented people and the most remarkable open source community in the world.”

WP Engine has made a few other acquisitions prior to this, of other partners in the WordPress ecosystem, marking it out as a consolidator in the field. Brunner noted that while some of the company’s growth efforts might lead it to further acquisitions, it is also pursuing a second track of working with third party partners and acting as the intermediary platform for companies to bring in other services in aid of running their sites. Partners in the WP Engine ecosystem — alongside WordPress itself, of course — include Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, Google, HubSpot and New Relic, she noted.


Source: Tech Crunch

Reminder: Meet TechCrunch in NYC tomorrow

And we’re back! TechCrunch is returning to NYC for a Meet and Greet tomorrow at The Yard in Herald Square. It’s been a couple years since we’ve held an event in NYC and we’ve missed it.

Join Managing Editor Jordan Crook, Battlefield Host and Senior Writer Anthony Ha, Head of Startup Battlefield Neesha Tambe, and Hardware Editor Brian Heater on Tuesday, June 25th from 5:00pm – 6:15pm. From ExtraCrunch, our new subscription tier, to Startup Battlefield, TC’s world renowned startup launch competition, learn more about the new things at TechCrunch. You’ll have an opportunity to meet investors, startup founders and other folks in the startup community as well.

TechCrunch is actively searching for the next best startups to feature in Startup Battlefield this fall at Disrupt San Francisco and Hardware Battlefield in Shenzhen, China. If you are an investor or community manager for early stage startups, join us tomorrow evening to refer your companies. Early stage founders are invited to attend and learn more about Startup Battlefield. Founders of later stage startups are encouraged to come and network with TechCrunch Editorial at the event.

TechCrunch New York Meet and Greet

Host: The Yard – Herald Square

Time: 5:00pm – 6:15pm

Location: 106 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

RSVPThe event is free, but you will need a ticket to attend


Source: Tech Crunch

Daily Crunch: Details on the new Raspberry Pi

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. The Raspberry Pi Foundation unveils the Raspberry Pi 4

While the Raspberry Pi first started as a simple computer designed to teach kids how to code, it has become a versatile device with many different use cases.

When it comes to physical design, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B looks like the previous flagship model. It’s a single-board computer with a lot of connectors that is the size of a deck of cards. But everything has been updated.

2. Echo Show 5 review

Brian Heater says that if you’re looking for a smart home hub to double as an alarm clock, the Lenovo Smart Clock is your best bet. But if video playback and chat are important, Amazon’s got you covered.

3. Google’s new media literacy program teaches kids how to spot disinformation and fake news

The company is launching six new media literacy activities for the curriculum that will teach kids things like how to avoid a phishing attack, what bots are, how to verify that information is credible, how to evaluate sources, how to identify disinformation online, spot fake URLs and more.

4. Who’s going to use the big bad Libra?

If you’ve been wondering who’s actually going to use Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, Jon Evans has some thoughts.

5. The power of Ravelry’s stance against white supremacy reaches beyond the knitting community

This weekend, Ravelry enacted a policy that explicitly bans support of Donald Trump and his administration in content posted to the site, including project entries, patterns, forum posts and profiles.

6. Transitioning from engineering to product with Adobe’s Anjul Bhambhri

An interview with the vice president of platform engineering at Adobe. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

The Equity team discusses the role VCs have played in the development of Facebook’s Libra, Original Content reviews the Netflix series “When They See Us” and most importantly, Mixtape is back with a conversation with Uber’s Meena Harris.


Source: Tech Crunch

iOS 13 brings many much needed quality-of-life improvements

In developer lingo, quality-of-life updates are all about refining things that already work. Thanks to these incremental improvements, it should make the end-user experience much more enjoyable. And with iOS 13, it feels like Apple’s main focus is on this concept.

Dark Mode is basically the only new flashy feature of iOS this year. But that’s not a bad thing. From my experience, all the tiny refinements across the board are really convincing. iOS 13 is a much more interesting release than iOS 12 for instance.

I’ve been playing with early beta versions of iOS 13, so here’s what you should be looking for.

Dark Mode is gorgeous

Dark Mode is here, and it looks great. It’s a system-wide trigger that completely transforms the look and feel of your iPhone — you have to play with it to really feel the difference. The easiest way to activate it is by opening the Control Center panel, long pressing on the brightness indicator and turning it on.

While you can trigger it manually, you can also select an automated mode in the settings. Right now, my phone becomes dark at night and lights up in the morning. iOS uses your current location to time the change with the sunset and sunrise.

Widgets, notifications and menus now use black or transparent black as much as possible. You can choose new Apple wallpapers that change when you turn on Dark Mode, or you can optionally dim your custom wallpapers at night.

Apple has updated all its apps to support Dark Mode, from Notes to Mail, Messages, Safari and more. And it works really well with those apps.

But the issue is that many third-party apps haven’t been updated for Dark Mode yet. So it’s a disappointing experience for now, but I’m sure many app developers will update their apps before the final release of iOS 13.

Many apps already support a dark version that you can trigger in the app settings. But Apple really wants third-party developers to follow the system-wide option going forward. So those apps will have to be updated as well.

Low-level improvements

iOS still looks like iOS. But if you carefully pay attention to your first experience of iOS 13, you’ll notice two things. First, animations have been sped up — it feels like unlocking your phone, opening and closing an app or swiping on a notification are much faster. It’s hard to know if those actions have been optimized or if it’s just Apple hitting the fast-forward button.

Second, Face ID is better. It’s not a dramatic change, but your phone recognizes you a tiny bit faster than before. iPhone users will appreciate that they don’t have to buy a new phone for this free improvement.

The two other iOS 13 changes that you can experience in any app is that the keyboard now supports swipe-to-type and the share sheet has been updated. It is now separated in three areas: a top row with suggested contacts to send photos, links and more depending on your most important contacts.

Under that row of contacts, you get the usual row of app icons to open something in another app. If you scroll down, you access a long list of actions that vary from one app to another.

Siri and the Shortcuts app have been improved and now work more closely together. In addition to a more natural Siri voice, Shortcuts is now installed by default with iOS, which is great news for automation and scripting on your phone.

And I was surprised to see all my voice-activated Siri Shortcuts in the Shortcuts widget. For instance, since iOS 12, I’ve been able to say “Hey Siri, I’m heading home with Citymapper” to launch Citymapper with directions to my home. There’s now a button in the Shortcuts app to trigger that Siri Shortcut.

More interestingly, you can now create automated triggers to launch a shortcut. For instance, you can create scenarios related to CarPlay, a location or even a cheap NFC tag. Here are some examples:

  • Launch a music playlist when I connect my phone to CarPlay or to my car using Bluetooth.
  • Dim my screen and turn on low power mode when I activate airplane mode.
  • Turn off my Philips Hue lights when I put my phone on an NFC sticker on my nightstand.

App improvements

All first-party apps have been improved in one way or another. Some changes are small, but a few apps have received a massive update.

Photos looks completely different with a new main tab. Instead of a relatively boring-looking grid of photos, you now get four sub-tabs that should help you navigate your photo library more efficiently.

‘Years’ lets you jump straight to a specific year. The ‘Months’ view is the most interesting one as iOS tries to sort your photos in smart albums based on dates and locations. When you open an event, you get the best photos of this event in the ‘Days’ tab. Some photos, such as duplicates, are hidden by default.

And the last tab, ‘All Photos,’ features the traditional never-ending grid of all your photos in your camera roll. Everything is still there. Live photos and videos now automatically play by default in some views. I’ve never been a fan of autoplaying videos but I guess that’s what people like.

The camera has been slightly improved, especially when it comes to Portrait mode with better segmentation of hair. And photo editing has been redesigned — it looks more like VSCO now.

While Maps is getting a gradual update with better mapping data, most people won’t notice changes for a while. You can see real-time transit data, your flight status and share lists of places with friends, though. It might not replace Citymapper, FlightLogger or Mapstr, but more contextual data is key when it comes to competing with Google Maps.

Speaking of Google Maps, there’s a new Look Around feature that could have been called Apple Street View. I recommend trying the feature in San Francisco because it’s stunning. This isn’t just 360 photo shots — those are 3D representations of streets with foregrounds and backgrounds.

Messages is getting some much-needed improvements. You can now choose a profile name and profile picture and share it with your contacts. I hate the default grey avatar, so it’s great to let people push a profile picture to other people.

If you have a Memoji-compatible device, you can now share Memoji stickers. If you’ve used Bitmoji in the past, this is Apple’s take on Bitmoji. And finally, search has been improved and is now actually useful. You can find an address or a specific message in no time.

Health has been redesigned but features more or less the same data. But it’s worth noting that Apple now lets users track, visualize and predict menstrual cycles from the Health app.

Privacy

iOS 13 has a big emphasis on privacy as well thanks to a new signup option called “Sign In with Apple.” I couldn’t try it as I couldn’t see the option in any app. But Sarah Perez already wrote a great explainer on the topic.

In a few words, this button will let you create an account for a service without inputing an email address and password, and without connecting with your Google or Facebook account. Apple keeps as little data as possible — it’s all about creating a unique identifier and storing that in your iCloud keychain.

Apple is adding more ways to control your personal information. If an app needs your location for something, you can now grant access to your location just once. The app will have to ask for your permission the next time. Similarly, iOS 13 can tell you when an app has been tracking your location in the background with a map of those data points.

But I didn’t realize iOS 13 also blocks Bluetooth scanning by default in all apps. Many apps scan for nearby Bluetooth accessories and compare that with a database of Bluetooth devices around the world. In other words, it’s a way to get your location even if you’re not sharing your location with this app.

You now get a standard permission popup for apps that actually need to scan for Bluetooth devices — Mobike uses Bluetooth to unlock bikes and Eve uses Bluetooth to interact with connected objects, for instance. But the vast majority of apps have no reason to scan for Bluetooth devices. You can decline Bluetooth permission and use Bluetooth headphones normally.

Random tidbits

Let’s go through some tiny little updates:

  • App updates are smaller because iOS doesn’t download everything from their servers — only files that are relevant to your current device.
  • Files works with Samba file servers, and you can zip/unzip files.
  • Safari features a new site settings popup to request the desktop site, disable a content blocker or enable reader view. This is much cleaner than before.
  • Notes has a new gallery view.
  • Mail lets you customize font style, size and color. You can also indent text, create bulleted lists, etc.
  • Find My iPhone and Find My Friends have been merged in a new Find My app. It also theoretically can help you find misplaced devices using other Apple devices from other people around your device — everything is supposed to be end-to-end encrypted.

Things I couldn’t try

  • CarPlay has been redesigned for the first time in years. But I don’t own a car.
  • You can store security camera footage in iCloud if your camera is HomeKit-compatible. But I don’t own a security camera.
  • ARKit has been improved and can detect people in the real world.
  • You can install custom fonts from the App Store and manage them from the settings. You can then use those fonts in any app.
  • Lyrics in the Music app now scroll just like in a karaoke. I haven’t tried that.
  • The Reminders app has been redesigned but I wasn’t using the app before. It feels like a full-fledged task manager now. Maybe I should use it.

Overall, iOS 13 feels like a breath of fresh air. Everything works slightly better than it used to. None of the changes are outrageous or particularly surprising. But they all contribute to making iOS a more enjoyable platform.


Source: Tech Crunch

Apple just released the first iOS and iPadOS 13 beta to everyone

This is your opportunity to get a glimpse of the future of iOS — and iPadOS. Apple just released the first public beta of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, the next major version of the operating systems for the iPhone and iPad. Unlike developer betas, everyone can download those betas without a $99 developer account. But don’t forget, it’s a beta.

The company still plans to release the final version of iOS and iPadOS 13.0 this fall (usually September). But Apple is going to release betas every few weeks over the summer. It’s a good way to fix as many bugs as possible and gather data from a large group of users.

As always, Apple’s public betas closely follow the release cycle of developer betas. And Apple released the second developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 13 just last week. So it sounds like the first public beta is more or less the same build as the second developer build.

But remember, you shouldn’t install an iOS beta on your primary iPhone or iPad. The issue is not just bugs — some apps and features won’t work at all. In some rare cases, beta software can also brick your device and make it unusable. Proceed with extreme caution.

I’ve been using the developer beta of iOS and it’s still quite buggy. Some websites don’t work, some apps are broken.

But if you have an iPad or iPhone you don’t need, here’s how to download it. Head over to Apple’s beta website and download the configuration profile. It’s a tiny file that tells your iPhone or iPad to update to public betas like it’s a normal software update.

You can either download the configuration profile from Safari on your iOS device directly, or transfer it to your device using AirDrop, for instance. Reboot your device, then head over to the Settings app. In September, your device should automatically update to the final version of iOS and iPadOS 13 and you’ll be able to delete the configuration profile.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 13. This year, in addition to dark mode, it feels like every single app has been improved with some quality-of-life updates. The Photos app features a brand new gallery view with autoplaying live photos and videos, smart curation and a more immersive design.

This version has a big emphasis on privacy as well thanks to a new signup option called “Sign in with Apple” and a bunch of privacy popups for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi consent, background location tracking. Apple Maps now features an impressive Google Street View-like feature called Look Around. It’s only available in a handful of cities, but I recommend… looking around as everything is in 3D.

Many apps have been updated, such as Reminders with a brand new version, Messages with the ability to set a profile picture shared with your contacts, Mail with better text formatting options, Health with menstrual cycle tracking, Files with desktop-like features, Safari with a new website settings menu, etc. Read more on iOS 13 in my separate preview.

On the iPad front, for the first time Apple is calling iOS for the iPad under a new name — iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved, the Apple Pencil should feel snappier, Safari is now as powerful as Safari on macOS and more.


Source: Tech Crunch