Daily Crunch: Apple releases public beta of iOS 14

A beta version of Apple’s latest mobile operating system is available to the public, Coinbase may go public and researchers discover a frightening smartwatch vulnerability. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 9, 2020.

The big story: Apple releases public beta of iOS 14

Developers are no longer the only ones who can try out the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system — beta versions of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are now available to the general public.

Romain Dillet has already been playing around with the new iOS, and he said the biggest change is a rethinking of the home screen, with widgets that can be stacked and flipped, along with an App Library that groups all the apps on your phone by category.

The tech giants

WhatsApp Business, now with 50M MAUs, adds QR codes and catalog sharing — The Facebook-owned messaging app is introducing new tools for businesses to connect digitally with their customers.

Apple says it’s ‘committed’ to supporting Thunderbolt on new Macs after Intel details latest version — “We remain committed to the future of Thunderbolt and will support it in Macs with Apple silicon,” Apple said.

Amazon’s Alexa heads Toni Reid and Rohit Prasad are coming to Disrupt — Two of the main executives behind Amazon’s leading smart assistant are coming to Disrupt 2020, which will run (virtually) from September 14 to 18.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Coinbase reported to consider late 2020, early 2021 public debut — The cryptocurrency exchange platform may be considering a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO, according to Reuters.

Kernel raises $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology — The startup says it has created non-invasive technology for recording brain activity.

TikTok likes and views are broken as community worries over potential US ban — As of this afternoon, the company said a fix was in progress.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing — In a new survey from OMERS Ventures, 69% of VCs said they were willing to make a fully remote investment, but most of them haven’t actually done so.

As the pandemic drags on, interest in automation surges — Brian Heater looks at some of the ways COVID-19 may permanently alter the job market.

K Fund’s Jaime Novoa discusses early-stage firm’s focus on Spanish startups — The firm officially unveiled its €70 million second fund earlier this month.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Smartwatch hack could trick patients to ‘take pills’ with spoofed alerts — The vulnerabilities were found in SETracker, a cloud system that powers smartwatches and vehicles.

Coronavirus impact sends app downloads, usage and consumer spending to record highs in Q2 — Mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year, according to App Annie.

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 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

iOS 14 gets rid of the app grid to help you find the app you’re looking for

Apple unveiled the next major version iOS a few weeks ago. I’ve been playing around with beta versions of iOS 14 and here’s what you should expect when you update your iPhone to the final release of iOS 14 this fall.

The most interesting change is something you’re not going to notice at first. The home screen has been rethought. In some ways, the iPhone now works more like Android devices. You can add widgets to the home screen and there’s a new app launcher called the App Library.

If you’ve been using a smartphone for many years, chances are your device is cluttered with a dozen apps you frequently use, some of apps you only need a few times a year and a ton of apps that are no longer useful.

Maybe your home screen is perfectly organized and you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you. Arguably, you’re part of the minority. Many people tell me they don’t even know where app icons are located anymore and they just pull down to use the search feature.

With iOS 14, changes are not immediately visible. If you want to keep using your phone just like before, nobody is stopping you. But the home screen is now more customizable.

When you tap and hold on a home screen icon, there’s a new menu that lists all the widgets you can install on your home screen. Many default apps already support widgets, such as Reminders, Calendar, Stock, Weather, Music etc. And each widget comes in multiple sizes if you want to see more or less info.

The most interesting thing about widgets is that you can stack them and flip through them. Otherwise, they’d quickly take over your entire home screen. Apple also tries to surface the widget that is more relevant to the time of the day and what you’re doing.

The second big change with the home screen is that there’s a new page at the right of your last page. The App Library groups all your apps on your phone by category. Some icons are bigger than others as Apple tries once again to surface the most important apps to you.

In my experience, categories don’t work that well as they’re based on the broad categories of the App Store. But you can always tap on the search bar at the top to display an alphabetical list of your apps. It could be useful if you can’t remember the name of an app for instance.

Image Credits: Apple

Fighting app fatigue

Those changes for the home screen might seem minor, but they are important to change the current app paradigm. People simply don’t want to download new apps. They don’t want to create a new account and they don’t want to have another icon.

Now that you can hide pages of apps and that there’s the App Library, downloading new apps has become less intimidating. If you combine that with Sign in with Apple, you can go from no app to interacting with content in no time.

In addition to that, Apple is introducing App Clips. They are sort of mini apps that you can launch without installing an app. It’s a small part of an app that you can easily share. I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet as third-party developers have yet to take advantage of App Clips.

There are many ways to share App Clips. You can launch those apps from the web, from Messages, from Maps, from NFC tags or from QR codes. Get ready to see stickers at cafés, on scooters or in museums. Scan a code or tap your phone on it and you get an app-like experience. If you want to dive deeper, you can download the full app from the App Library.

But it’s also going to have some major impacts on utility apps, apps that you don’t use that often or travel apps for instance. Sure, you may keep your favorite social app on your home screen. But you’re going to forget about apps that only live in the App Library.

Developers will be happy that downloading apps is easier. And yet, it is going to be harder to make people come back to your app after the first launch.

Image Credits: Apple

Some app refinements

Let me list some quality-of-life improvements that are going to make your phone works better. In Messages, you can now pin conversations to the top. Group conversations are also receiving a major update with the ability to @-mention people, reply to specific messages and set a group of photos. Once again, Apple is bringing Messages closer to WhatsApp and Telegram. But it’s not a bad thing.

In Maps, there are many new features that I already detailed in a separate post. I encourage you to read it if you want to learn more about guides, electric vehicle routing, cycling directions and more.

The Home app has been improved with a new row of icons that describe the status of your home. For instance, you can see the temperature, see if a door is open, see if lights are on, etc.

Like every year, Notes and Reminders are getting some small improvements. For instance, document scanning has been improved, search has been improved, you can assign reminders to others and more. Those apps have become really powerful with these small incremental updates.

Image Credits: Apple

All the rest

There are many things that I haven’t mentioned yet or that I haven’t tried because I can’t use those features yet. Similarly, it’ll take some time before developers start adopting those features. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Incoming calls don’t take over the entire screen anymore. You get a notification at the top of the screen, which is so much better if you don’t want to answer a call.
  • Similarly, Siri doesn’t overtake the screen. Your display fades out. I think more people are going to use Siri because of this as it doesn’t feel as invasive.
  • Your AirPods will automatically switch between your iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc.
  • When you’re on a FaceTime call or watching a video, you can switch to another app and keep the video in a corner. There’s not much else to say other than it’s nice.
  • Cycling directions in Apple Maps: I’m a bike lover but the feature isn’t available in Paris. It’s hard to know whether directions make sense in San Francisco or New York as I don’t know cycling infrastructure that well in those cities.
  • When you pull down to search for something, iOS now automatically highlights the first result. You can tap Go on the keyboard to hit the first result. It’s so much better.
  • HomeKit-compatible security cameras can now recognize faces based on tags in Photos.
  • You can unlock cars with your phone using NFC if you have a compatible car.
  • Following the acquisition of Dark Sky, you’ll be able to see next-hour precipitation in Apple’s Weather app.
  • You’ll be able to choose a different web browser and email client as default apps with iOS 14.

What about stability?

The big issue of iOS 13 was that it was quite buggy when it launched in September 2019. It’s hard to know whether iOS 13 is going to perform better on this front as it’s still a beta.

But, as you can see, Apple didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with default apps. There are a ton of improvements across the board, but no big redesign of Photos or Messages for instance. And I think it’s a good thing.

Changes on the home screen as well as App Clips could have wider implications for developers. It could change the way you discover and install apps today. So it’s going to be interesting to see if the developer community embraces App Clips.

Apple just released the first iOS 14 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 14 and iPadOS 14, 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 14.0 this fall. 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 14 earlier this 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. You may even lose data on iCloud. Proceed with extreme caution.

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.

The biggest change of iOS 14 is the introduction of widgets on the home screen, a new App Library to browse all your apps and the ability to run App Clips — those are mini apps that feature a small part of an app and that you can run without installing anything.

There are also many refinements across the board, such as new features for Messages with a big focus on groups with @-mentions and replies, a new Translate app that works on your device, cycling directions in Apple Maps in some cities and various improvements in Notes, Reminders, Weather, Home and more.

If you want to learn more about iOS 14, I looked at some of the features in the new version:

Coronavirus impact sends app downloads, usage and consumer spending to record highs in Q2

As the world continued to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the second quarter of 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app downloads, usage, and consumer spending. According to new data from app store intelligence firm App Annie, mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April. Consumer spending in apps, meanwhile, hit a record high of $27 billion in the second quarter. And app downloads reached a high of nearly 35 billion.

The growth in app usage has been fueled by social distancing and lockdown measures, as countries around the world try to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Image Credits:

In India, for example, time spent in apps grew 35% in Q2 2020 from Q4 2019. Italy and Indonesia saw growth of 30% and 25%, respectively. In the U.S., time spent in apps grew 15%.

App Annie says that now, the average user is spending 4 hours and 20 minutes per day on their smartphones.

Image Credits: App Annie

 

But consumers aren’t just launching apps they already have installed on their phones — they’re also downloading new ones. In the second quarter, consumers downloaded a nearly 35 billion new apps, an all-time high.

Google Play accounted for 25 billion of those downloads, representing 10% year-over-year growth. India and Brazil were the the two largest markets for Google Play in the quarter.

Image Credits: App Annie

iOS downloads grew 20% year-over-year to reach nearly 10 billion. The U.S. and China were iOS’s biggest markets for downloads, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia saw the most quarter-over-quarter growth. The latter was likely attributed to a nationwide lockdown and school closures, driving app downloads in the country to a all-time high in April and 100% year-over-year growth on iOS.

Games were downloaded at record levels in the quarter, App Annie noted, totalling 14 billion games. In the first week of Q2, weekly mobile game downloads broke records at over 1.2 billion, and weekly download levels remained at 1 billion on average throughout the quarter, up 20% year over year.

Image Credits: App Annie

Non-gaming apps represented over half (55%) of the new downloads on Android and 70% of those on iOS.

More specifically, top categories outside of games included “Tools” and “Entertainment” on Google Play and “Photo and Video” and “Entertainment” on iOS. But other categories saw strong growth, including “Business,” “Health & Fitness” and “Education” which saw quarter-over-quarter growth in downloads of 115%, 75% and 50% respectively on Google Play.

On iOS, “Health and Fitness,” “Shopping,” and “Medical” apps saw strong quarter-over-quarter growth of 30%, 25% and 20%, meanwhile.

With record downloads and usage, consumer spending also grew significantly as a result, particularly among streaming video services.

Image Credits:

 

In the second quarter, consumers spent a record $27 billion in apps, up 15% year-over-year to $17 billion on iOS and up 25% to $10 billion on Android.

Games accounted for $19 billion of the spend, up 15% quarter-over-quarter. Google Play saw sizable growth at 25% quarter-over-quarter, which was 2x the growth rate on iOS.

Image Credits: App Annie

Non-gaming apps were 35% of the spend on iOS. The U.S. and China the largest contributors in both games and non-game apps on iOS in the quarter. However, the U.S. notably took back the top position as the largest market for consumer games — a spot previously held by China — with 30% quarter-over-quarter growth in Q2.

Non-games were 15% of the spend on Google Play. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea were the largest markets in both non-games and games alike on Google Play.

Top Google Play categories in addition to “Games” included “Social” and “Entertainment.” Growth in the “Entertainment” category was driven largely by Disney+ and Twitch, App Annie noted.

On iOS, “Entertainment” and “Photo and Video” were the largest categories by consumer spend, in addition to “Games.” Here, TikTok drove growth for the “Photo and Video” category, becoming the No. 1 top grossing app on iOS App Store globally in Q2 2020 thanks to sales of virtual gifts used to tip streamers.

Image Credits: App Annie

While much of the activity taking place on mobile devices during the pandemic is related to having fun — like watching videos or playing games, for example — several of the top apps in the quarter were work-related.

Zoom, for instance, became the No. 2 of most downloaded app globally in Q2 2020.  Google Meet was No. 7.

TikTok, meanwhile, was the top app by downloads and spending, and the No. 7 by monthly active users. That will likely change in the months ahead, due to its ban in India. A proposed U.S. ban has also recently seen TikTok rivals gaining ground. Amid this disruption, local competitors in India have seen increased usage, and elsewhere, competitors like Byte and Likee have surged.

 

 

 

 

Tinder now testing video chat in select markets, including U.S.

Tinder announced this morning it will begin to test video chat in its mobile dating app with some members in select worldwide markets, including in the U.S. The feature, which allows Tinder matches to go on “virtual” dates when both opt in, will first be available to users in Virginia, Illinois, Georgia and Colorado in the U.S., as well as in Brazil, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Peru and Chile, also with some members.

Parent company Match had first promised it would introduce video chat in Tinder as part of its Q1 2020 earnings report and touted the feature as a way Tinder was evolving its business in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The company had also then detailed the pandemic’s impact on its app, which had slowed Tinder user growth in the quarter as social distancing requirements and government lockdowns went into effect.

Tinder ended Q1 with 6 million subscribers, up from 5.9 million in December 2019 — meaning it only added 100,000 paid subscribers during the quarter. For comparison, in the year-ago quarter it added 384,000 paid users. Tinder’s average revenue per user (ARPU) also grew just 2%, mainly due to purchases of à la carte features, not subscriptions.

Tinder says it had tested video at various times before the COVID-19 outbreak, but said it never saw significant adoption. The pandemic has changed things, however. Today, Tinder allows users to search for matches worldwide through its Passport feature, making its dating app more of a social network. Meanwhile, Tinder users who do want to date now feel almost forced to use video for their early interactions instead of going on briefer “getting to know you” coffee or drink dates, as before.

Without a video option in the app, these users often turned to third-party apps like Snapchat or other video chat apps for these early connections. Meanwhile, daters who prioritized a video option may have even made the switch to rival Bumble, which has offered video for a year. Facebook also recently said it would add video for its Facebook Dating users, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Tinder’s hand.

Image Credits: Tinder

The new feature itself is simple to use. Once two people have matched and are chatting in the app, they can indicate they’re ready to move to a video session by tapping the new video icon. The clever part is that the feature itself isn’t enabled until both matches opt in. The company notes that Tinder users won’t be informed if a match toggles on the video chat feature. The idea is to wait until the discussion comes up naturally, as it often does in a text-based chat.

When both users have toggled on video chat, they have to agree to ground rules before the chat begins. Tinder says calls should remain “PG,” with no nudity or sexual content. The chats are also supposed to stay “clean,” meaning no harassment, hate speech, violence or other illegal activities. Users also agree calls will need to be age-appropriate, meaning without minors involved.

The feature, which Tinder calls “Face to Face,” is enabled on a match-by-match basis, not universally for all matches.

How exactly Tinder plans to properly moderate what appears to be a fantastic new solicitation platform remains less clear. In addition, Tinder’s move to embrace video means it could be putting sex offenders in front of the camera. As an investigative report last year from ProPublica found, most of the Match-owned dating apps, including Tinder, were not screening for sexual predators.

For now, Tinder says users are asked to review the call when it wraps.

In a pop-up, users who finish a video call will be asked whether they would go Face to Face again. Here, they’ll also have the option to report the user, if needed. These sorts of retroactive rating systems don’t do much for anyone who feels unsafe in the moment, of course, and it’s not clear to what extent Tinder will step in to police calls in progress.

Asked for specifics, Tinder declined to share. (In an earlier report, Tinder CEO Elie Seidman suggested Tinder would use machine learning models to monitor chats.)

Also unclear is to what extent Tinder would step into to stop what may otherwise be consensual sexual activity, including of the paid variety.

Tinder doesn’t seem worried about these off-brand use cases for video chat, however. It says it recently surveyed around 5,000 members in the U.S. and around half of them have already had video dates with a match off its platform over the past month, indicating a willingness to try video for online dating. In addition, 40% of Gen Z members said they wanted to keep using video as an initial step before agreeing to meet in real life, even when places like restaurants and bars were re-opened.

“Connecting face-to-face is more important than ever, and our video chat feature represents a new way for people to get to know one another in-app no matter their physical distance,” said Rory Kozoll, head of Trust and Safety Products at Tinder, in a statement about the launch. “Face to Face prioritizes control to help our members feel more comfortable taking this next step in chats if and when it feels right for them. We’ve built a solid foundation, and look forward to learning from this test over the coming weeks,” Kozoll added.

The feature is launching in testing only starting today, in select markets.

Samsung will reveal the next Galaxy Note on August 5

Samsung’s next big Unpacked event is scheduled for August 5. As is the trend these days, the unveiling will be online-only, following in the footsteps of big virtual events from the likes of. Microsoft and Apple. It’s Samsung’s first crack at the format. The company just made it under the pre-COVID-19 shutdown wire back in February for the Galaxy S20 launch.

The headliner of next month’s event will no doubt be the next version of Samsung’s popular phablet line. The Galaxy Note S20 has leaked online a fair bit already, because Samsung. The most notable occasion was the beginning of the month, when the company’s Russia site briefly posted a copper colored version of the Note 20 Ultra. Fitting, the invite for the event features a copper S-Pen dripping into a big similarly-colored puddle. 

The premium version of the handset sports a folded zoom lens, much like the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Additional leaks appear to confirm some minor changes to the handsets design, including the swapping of some buttons and moving the S-Pen slot to the left of the charging port. Other details will almost certainly leak out between now and August 5, because that’s just how these things go. There will likely be a slew of other devices on the docket for the event, as well. Samsung likes to pack a lot into Unpacked, after all. Accessories, audio products and wearables are all candidates. 

Notably, Samsung also announced that it will be holding its own virtual event in the early September timeframe. The company had initially planned to attend IFA, but ultimately — and understandably — thought better of it. The August 5 event, meanwhile, kicks off at 10AM ET/7 AM PT. It will be available via Samsung.com

Amazon adds ‘hands-free’ Alexa to its Alexa mobile app

Amazon is making it easier for mobile users to access its Alexa virtual assistant while on the go. The company announced today it’s making it possible to use Alexa “hands free” from within its Alexa mobile app for iOS and Android, meaning customers will be able to use Alexa to make lists, play music, control their smart home devices and more, without having to touch their phone.

Customers can first command their phone’s digital assistant, like Siri or Google Assistant, to launch the Alexa app to get started with the hands-free experience. They can then speak to Alexa as they would normally, saying something like “Alexa, set the thermostat to 72,” “Alexa, remind me to call Jen at 12 pm tomorrow,” “Alexa, what’s the weather?” and so on. Customers can even request to stream music directly within the Alexa app itself, if they choose.

Before, users would have to tap the blue Alexa button at the bottom of the screen before Alexa would listen.

Once the wake word is detected, an animated blue line will appear at the bottom of the app’s screen to indicate Alexa is streaming the request to the cloud.

Amazon had previously integrated the Alexa experience into its other apps, including its flagship shopping app and Amazon Music. In the latter, it rolled out a hands-free Alexa option back in 2018, allowing users to control playback or ask for music without having to tap. But the Alexa app has remained a tap-to-talk experience until now, which doesn’t quite mesh with how Alexa works on most other devices, like Amazon Echo speakers and screens, for example.

After updating the app, customers will be presented with the option to enable the hands-free detection and can then begin to use the feature. A setting is also being made available that will allow users to turn the feature off at any time.

Amazon notes the feature will only work when the phone is unlocked and the Alexa app is open on the screen. It won’t be able able to launch Alexa from a locked phone or when the app is closed and off the screen, running in the background. (As we don’t have the app update yet ourselves, we are unable to directly confirm this detail.)

To use the new feature, customers will have to first update their Alexa app to the latest version on the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

Amazon says the feature is rolling out over the next several days to users worldwide, so you may not see the option immediately.

Motorola announces €349 5G phone for Europe, promises a sub-$500 model for US this year

Last year Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 765, promising to usher in an era of low-cost 5G devices. Motorola, naturally, was more than happy to take advantage of the technology. While the company has been flirting with premium devices (with mixed results), budget devices will almost certainly be the company’s bread and butter for the foreseeable future.

Today the Lenovo brand announced the launch of the Moto G 5G. Set for release tomorrow in Europe, the device is most notable for its €349 ($395) starting price, which puts it well below the market average, as 5G continues to be the realm of the flagship for many competitors.

The device has a number of other features on-board worth noting, including a 21:9 6.7-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate and a quad-camera set up on the rear. That second bit includes a 48-megapixel main camera with quad pixel tech to allow for more light in shots, an ultra-wide lens, a dedicated macro lens for closeups and a depth-sensing camera.

The macro lens is still fairly rare on smartphones, with Motorola really being the one company that has included the tech on multiple models. For most, it’s probably more a nice curiosity, though there are certainly occasions that call for it. Speaking of curiosities, there’s also a dual-selfie camera on the front, which includes a 16-megapixel main and a wide-angle to cram more people into shots.

Honestly, it’s shaping up to be a pretty interesting product, as far as budget handsets go. There’s also a healthy 5,000 mAh battery, which should go a ways toward keeping the phone alive even with the demands of 5G and the 90 Hz display. The base-level version comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and another  €50 will get you 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It’s also coming to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in “coming months.”

Meanwhile, Motorola’s also promising to deliver on a sub-$500 5G handset for the North American market at some time in the fall, adding to the Moto 5G Mod for the Z line as a method for accessing the next-gen wireless tech with its devices.

Motorola announces €349 5G phone for Europe, promises a sub-$500 model for US this year

Last year Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 765, promising to usher in an era of low-cost 5G devices. Motorola, naturally, was more than happy to take advantage of the technology. While the company has been flirting with premium devices (with mixed results), budget devices will almost certainly be the company’s bread and butter for the foreseeable future.

Today the Lenovo brand announced the launch of the Moto G 5G. Set for release tomorrow in Europe, the device is most notable for its €349 ($395) starting price, which puts it well below the market average, as 5G continues to be the realm of the flagship for many competitors.

The device has a number of other features on-board worth noting, including a 21:9 6.7-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate and a quad-camera set up on the rear. That second bit includes a 48-megapixel main camera with quad pixel tech to allow for more light in shots, an ultra-wide lens, a dedicated macro lens for closeups and a depth-sensing camera.

The macro lens is still fairly rare on smartphones, with Motorola really being the one company that has included the tech on multiple models. For most, it’s probably more a nice curiosity, though there are certainly occasions that call for it. Speaking of curiosities, there’s also a dual-selfie camera on the front, which includes a 16-megapixel main and a wide-angle to cram more people into shots.

Honestly, it’s shaping up to be a pretty interesting product, as far as budget handsets go. There’s also a healthy 5,000 mAh battery, which should go a ways toward keeping the phone alive even with the demands of 5G and the 90 Hz display. The base-level version comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and another  €50 will get you 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It’s also coming to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in “coming months.”

Meanwhile, Motorola’s also promising to deliver on a sub-$500 5G handset for the North American market at some time in the fall, adding to the Moto 5G Mod for the Z line as a method for accessing the next-gen wireless tech with its devices.

‘Hamilton’ gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in U.S., with app downloads up 72%

The much-anticipated addition of “Hamilton” seems to have paid off for Disney+. According to new data from app store analytics firm Apptopia, Disney’s streaming service saw a big jump in downloads over the July 4 holiday weekend in the U.S., following the worldwide debut of “Hamilton” on Friday, July 3rd. Between Friday and Sunday, that translated to over half a million new global downloads (513K+) for the Disney+ mobile app, excluding India and Japan. Some 266,084 of those downloads were in the U.S, the firm estimated.

These figures represent a 46.6% increase over the average seen during the previous four weekends in June (Friday through Sunday), Apptopia noted. But the numbers don’t include India or Japan as Disney+ is streamed via Hotstar in the former; and in the latter, via a partnership with NTT Docomo through an existing service that later transitioned to Disney+.

The download figures also represented a 72.4% increase over the four prior weekends in June, in the U.S, indicating that a significant amount of interest in “Hamilton,” not surprisingly — given its “founding fathers” subject matter — comes from U.S. subscribers.

Notably, these downloads represent paid subscribers, not free trial users, as Disney+ ended its free week-long trial offering back in June. 

Rival firm Sensor Tower estimates a slightly different “Hamilton”-related bump for Disney+. During the week of June 29 to July 5, downloads spiked 64% over the week prior, Yahoo reported.

Apptopia also founded that “Hamilton” represented the biggest content launch of all of 2020, so far, in terms of downloads. That means it also outpaced the streaming launch of “Frozen 2,” which arrived while consumers were under coronavirus lockdowns. It was also bigger than “Onward,” “Artemis Fowl,” and others, the firm found.

Image Credits: disney

Of course, mobile download numbers don’t provide a full picture of how many signed up just for “Hamilton.” Many of the new Disney+ subscribers likely only signed up via a TV app and have yet to download the mobile companion.

If Roku’s online channel store offered a “top charts” section with rankings, we would have another window into Disney+ popularity given its status of a top streaming device and TV maker in the U.S. But it’s worth pointing out that Roku’s user base has given the Disney+ app a 4.3-star rating across 1,55,006 total reviews. For comparison, Netflix has 3,675,383 reviews — which shows how quickly the still relatively new service Disney+ is gaining on the market leader.

In May, Disney announced its streaming service had grown from 33.5 million subscribers as of March 28 to 54.4 million Disney+ subscribers as of May 4.

The service appeals to those who follow Disney’s top brands like Star Wars and Marvel, for example, but it’s also found a lot of growth among families who now more than ever need content to keep kids entertained amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has limited families’ usual activities and kept kids indoors. And at the $6.99 per month price point (or $69.99/yr), it’s one of the more affordable streaming services available.