Apps

DraftKings is testing a fantasy contest focused on a single NFL game

DraftKings is testing a fantasy contest focused on a single NFL game

A few days ago DraftKings announced an NFL product called Showdown , which lets you play in a fantasy football contest centered around just a single football game.

This means that all your players will be drafted from just the two teams playing in that game. Lineups will consist of only six players – four offensive players and two defensive players.

Later today it’s being tested for the first time during the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints playoff game at 4:40pm ET. And DraftKings plans to continue offering Showdown throughout the NFC and AFC championship game. If it’s well received, don’t be surprised to see DraftKings make it available during the regular season next year, or even expand it to other sports.

This new offering is important for a few reasons. First, it allows DraftKings to offer fantasy contests well into the postseason and potentially during the Super Bowl. Before this new offering the company required users to draft NFL lineups with players from multiple games, meaning users couldn’t play on days with only one NFL game, like during the playoffs. In turn DraftKings likely has been missing out on a ton of missed revenue and fan interaction during the time of the season where fans are most into the games.

It’s also important because the six-player structure used by Showdown simplifies fantasy sports on DraftKings in general, making it more accessible to casual fans who don’t like spending time perfecting their lineups and just want to casually play to make the game they’re watching more exciting.

The single-game format complies with all state laws passed over the last few years that legislate daily fantasy sports, which all generally just require that contest not be based on the performance of a single team or athlete.

Going forward, expect to see more products from DraftKings and other daily fantasy sports providers that continue to simplify game play in an effort to appeal to a broader group of casual sports fans.

Featured Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Published at Sun, 07 Jan 2018 20:40:48 +0000

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Apple Confirms All iOS Devices, Macs Affected by 'Spectre,' 'Meltdown,' Some Fixes Already in Place

Apple Confirms All iOS Devices, Macs Affected by 'Spectre,' 'Meltdown,' Some Fixes Already in Place

Here’s the complete statement from Apple:

Security researchers have recently uncovered security issues known by two names, Meltdown and Spectre. These issues apply to all modern processors and affect nearly all computing devices and operating systems.

All Mac systems and iOS devices are affected, but there are no known exploits impacting customers at this time. Since exploiting many of these issues requires a malicious app to be loaded on your Mac or iOS device, we recommend downloading software only from trusted sources such as the App Store.

Apple has already released mitigations in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2 to help defend against Meltdown. Apple Watch is not affected by Meltdown. In the coming days we plan to release mitigations in Safari to help defend against Spectre. We continue to develop and test further mitigations for these issues and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

The fixes haven’t affected processor performance according to Apple:

Apple released mitigations for Meltdown in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2. watchOS did not require mitigation. Our testing with public benchmarks has shown that the changes in the December 2017 updates resulted in no measurable reduction in the performance of macOS and iOS as measured by the GeekBench 4 benchmark, or in common Web browsing benchmarks such as Speedometer, JetStream, and ARES-6.

You can read more about both vulnerabilities here.

Published at Fri, 05 Jan 2018 01:22:59 +0000

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Apple's Jimmy Iovine Will Leave the Company in August

Apple's Jimmy Iovine Will Leave the Company in August

The timing of the move is apparently timed to Iovine’s stock options fully vesting. He joined Apple in 2014 after Beats Electronics was acquired for $3 billion.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

Iovine, 64, is unlikely to stay even if he gets a new offer, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The longtime record-label executive’s vision for Apple’s music and video projects has sometimes clashed with the views of others at the company, including Eddy Cue, who runs the services business.

After joining Apple, he has been a guiding force behind the Apple Music subscription service, which has currently more than 30 million subscribers. That’s far behind first-place service Spotify, which just announced 70 million subscribers.

Published at Fri, 05 Jan 2018 01:51:19 +0000

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Spotify hits 70 million subscribers

Spotify hits 70 million subscribers

Ahead of going public , Spotify just announced it’s killing it on the subscriber front. As of today, Spotify has 70 million subscribers compared to Apple Music’s 30 million. Last July, Spotify had more than 60 million paid listeners and over 140 million active users.

There’s essentially no better time than one day after news leaks about Spotify’s confidential filing to go public to announce a new milestone. Just yesterday, Axios broke the news that Spotify filed with the SEC at the end of December.

However, TechCrunch’s Katie Roof has heard differently, citing sources who say Spotify is targeting a debut for the first quarter of this year. As Roof notes, there also is talk that it might not be an IPO, but rather a direct listing on the stock market that does not require a fundraising event.

Spotify’s milestone also comes shortly after Wixen Music Publishing hit the music streaming company with a $1.6 billion lawsuit. The suit, filed December 29, alleges copyright infringement, specifically alleging Spotify is using thousands of its songs without a proper license. The lawsuit seeks at least $1.6 billion in damages and injunctive relief.

Featured Image: Antoine Antoniol / Contributor/Getty Images

Published at Thu, 04 Jan 2018 23:54:49 +0000

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Mapbox makes another acquisition to bolster its navigation toolkits

Mapbox makes another acquisition to bolster its navigation toolkits

Mapbox , the Softbank-backed developer of mapping applications that competes with Google Maps TomTom and Here, has acquired the intellectual property and developers behind MapZen’s Valhalla project in a bid to strengthen its navigation toolkits.

The acquisition, made as Mapzen was winding down, brings the Valhalla development team in-house for a bargain price that Mapbox chief executive Eric Gunderson declined to disclose.

“It’s one of those classic things where having a long-term relationship you become close to people and when shit starts going a little sideways, there’s an opportunity,” Gunderson told me of the acquisition.

Through the work both companies had been doing on the Valhalla open source project, Mapbox’s developers had been collaborating with the team behind the project for over a year.

Mapping is a critical component of any autonomous technology for self-driving cars, and powers a wide array of advertising services and features on mobile devices.

Late last year, Mapbox raised around $146 million from Softbank to become a credible competitor to Google Maps and Here in autonomous driving and in new arenas like augmented reality. Already companies like Snap, Mastercard, Instacart, and Airbnb use the Mapbox SDK for their applications.

The access to those users gives Mapbox anonymized telemetry data from an aggregated 200 million users.

Echoing a statement Gunderson made last year when the company bought another emerging mapping technology company, Mapdata, he said that the company has 900,000 developers using its SDK in various products, and all of that location data is being fed back to Mapbox to strengthen its mapping tools.

Unlike other routing services that pre-compute directions based on information acquired from every road in a given area. The Vahalla toolkit means that routing decisions can be made in real-time — improving efficiency for companies that desperately need it.

Delivery services, logistics companies, and ride-hailing services see better mapping and routing as a revenue generator. The faster a driver can reach a destination the faster they’re able to pick up a new fare or make another delivery, which reduces the need for more drivers on the road and increases profits for companies.

“The world is live updating and that means you need to have a constant sensor network out there,” says Gunderson. And unlike Waze and Google Maps which own the underlying data associated with any use of their tools, Mapbox lets the app developers who use its service keep the data about their customers. All Mapbox wants is the anonymized location.

“We get anonymous latitude and longitude data back and then stitch that back into the network… using the sensor network, but the sensor network is your phone,” says Gunderson. He said that through the SDK, Mapbox actually has more sensors on the road than almost any other company (Google Maps is till the monster here, through the data they collect with Android).

Mapzen’s Valhalla development team

“This is going to immediately have benefits for some of our OEM auto customers,” Gunderson said. “Turn by tun directions with real time traffic data and a more lightweight footprint (for the application),” are all benefits that OEM’s will enjoy, he said. “The data transfer is very light to devices and it’s also super customizable. It will allow the routing network to build more customizable data experiences.”

Published at Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:30:14 +0000

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Lea’s live event assistant for Messenger makes buying tickets easier

Lea’s live event assistant for Messenger makes buying tickets easier

Buying event tickets online isn’t a great experience. Sites like Ticketmaster are the default, but are difficult to use and expensive. A startup called Lea wants to offer a more modern experience by combining event search, discovery, seat selection and payment all in a single application that works right in Facebook Messenger.

Yes, that’s right – Lea is a chatbot.

And while bots haven’t had the warmestreception as of yet, they’re increasingly becoming a common way for consumers to interact with apps and brands. But in the case of Lea, the chatbot-style interface may actually work better than using a ticketing website or dedicated mobile app, like Ticketmaster’s.

According to Lea’s CEO Brian Canty, the original idea – back when the company was known as Ticktate – was to offer a concierge-like application for buying event tickets. Similar to Postmates, the company would send people to the box office to buy tickets on users’ behalf. But this idea didn’t scale, Cato explains. It was expensive and the box offices themselves pushed back because of their deep ties to Ticketmaster.

When the company joined 500 Startups in 2016, it was still self-funded, and in search of a model that worked. That is, one that still made it easier to find and buy event tickets, while offering users the feel of the “high-touch, hand-holding” experience they seemed to like from before, says Canty.

Initially, Lea tried building a bot that used natural language processing (NLP, which understands language) to aid with users’ inquires about tickets. But after six months of testing, the team found that the technology on its own wasn’t matching up to user expectations.

“We decided to pull out all the NLP and just take advantage of the Facebook platform to build something that accompanies the fan throughout the full journey of going to an event,” explains Canty. “Everything from discovery – we pull in their Spotify information, suggest events based on their location and what their friends like – to a chat extension, Facebook’s feature for allowing people to chat in a group with a bot and make purchases,” he says.

The bot today works only with Spotify, but the company aims to support Apple Music and SoundCloud in time.

It offers users the ability to search for specifics artists, bands and concerts, or they can leverage Lea’s discovery mechanisms to stay informed of events they may like. Every week, Lea pushes out an update with around five suggested events and then tracks those you click to improve its future recommendations.

When you find an event you like, you can make the purchase right from Messenger or your Messenger group chat, without leaving the app.

Every step the user takes in Lea is guided by the bot using prompts, but Lea hopes to add NLP back in to augment the experience in the future.

As for the ticket prices, they’re market-based. Lea – like StubHub, SeatGeek, GameTime and others – works with third-party ticket exchanges, which price tickets based on their current value. That is, if the event is sold out, they may be higher than the box office; if it’s not, they may be lower. Like competitors, it offers a large database of around 20 million+ tickets.

But Lea is hoping to sell consumers on the convenience of the chatbot experience, not necessarily by offering the absolute lowest ticket prices. That will depend on consumer adoption of chatbots in general, which is still a risky bet.

It also hopes to entice users by offering the full end-to-end experience in a single place.

“If you think about a typical ticketing company, discovery is done off-platform – like a Songkick or Bandsintown,” notes Canty. With Lea, the app starts with discovery, lets people plan in group chat as usual, then facilitates the purchase. “But after the purchase, there’s a lot that can still be done in the digital format – things that can be value-adds,” he says.

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Lea has a lot of plans in that area. It aims to generate revenue with third-party integrations for things like concessions, parking, and merchandise sales in future versions, for example. (Today it only takes a 20 percent cut of ticket sales so it need more revenue streams). It also wants to work with more platforms, like Slack, Telegram, WhatsApp, iMessage and SMS, voice platforms, and others.

Though it’s still early, Lea is seeing some traction, notes Canty.

As of the third week in December 2017, the company had sold $500,000 worth of tickets and has grown to 23,000 users. At one point, almost half the users were repeat customers. (But this isn’t always the case – not everyone goes to concerts all the time, so repeat usage needs to be measured over a longer period of time.)

To aid with its development, Lea recently closed on $600,000 in angel funding from a number of notable investors.

The list includes Danny Zhang, CTO of Wish; Haroon Mirza, GP of Skyrocket Ventures, Investor in SnapTravel; Vito Bialla, Bialla Ventures, Investor in Freshly; Chun Han, Director of Data Science at Yahoo!; Jeanne Lim, CMO of Hanson Robotics (creators of Sophia Bot);  Hao Zheng, CEO of Plus.ai; and Seth Flowerman, Investor in Ticketbis.

The app is available here for Facebook Messenger.

Published at Thu, 04 Jan 2018 18:44:53 +0000

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MoneyLion raises $42M to grow its personal finance platform for the middle class

MoneyLion raises $42M to grow its personal finance platform for the middle class

MoneyLion , the part lending, part savings and part wealth management app targeted at the financial middle class has raised $42M in Series B funding.This brings total equity funding to $67M since being founded in 2013.

The startup provides an all-in-one platform for anything finance related. A user connects their bank accounts and credit cards and then gets personalized advice based on their spending patterns, as well as access to loans to help with fluctuating monthly income and expenses.

Essentially, the startup takes the spectrum of financial services that a customer would typically get from 3 or 4 different banks or providers and rebundles them into one app.

The round was led by existing investor Edision Partners, who has now invested a total of $27M in MoneyLion. Other existing investors like Fintech Collective, Grupo Sura, and new investors Greenspring Associates and Danhua Capital also participated. Chris Sugden, Managing Partner at Edision explained that the firm was attracted to the fact that MoneyLion’s product is targeted at the financial middle class.

“Many traditional financial institutions and fintech platforms cater to super-prime, mass affluent consumers, which is only a small part of the U.S. market. In fact, more than 75 percent of America’s consumers remain underserved by financial services provides. By delivering both a liability and wealth management digital solution on the same platform, MoneyLion brings a complete financial toolkit for consumers who earn less than $100,000” explained Sugden.

A great example – MoneyLion has a rewards program that gives customers points for doing things like connecting a bank account or keeping their credit utilization low. These points can be redeemed for gift cards and other perks, essentially giving American Express-style rewards to middle class customers who may not have a points-earning credit card.

And MoneyLion isn’t only providing financial services to an underserved middle class – they’re also showing that they can make money while doing it. The startup generates most of its revenue from its loan product – it’s originated over 250,000 loans to date to a group of 1.5M total users. MoneyLion also generates revenue via lead generation by recommending other financial service offerings to consumers who may benefit from them.

The startup also recently launched MoneyLion Plus, a subscription service that provides access to lower APR loans and an automated savings tool. While the service costs $29 per month users are refunded $1 for each day they log in, meaning the service is essentially free if users log in every day.

Published at Thu, 04 Jan 2018 11:00:16 +0000

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The Best Games Of December 2017

The Best Games Of December 2017

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2017 finished strong on the App Store with some great games released in the month. It was tough to cut it down to the true stand outs, and then rank them. This past month was highlighted by an all new puzzle experience, an intense platformer, a compelling decision based sequel, and more.

Unfolding Panels

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Annapurna Interactive

An all new puzzle experience with shifting panels and beautiful artwork.

Rearrange the panels to create a continuing storyline among beautiful artwork. Each shifting panel reveals new intricacies and mysteries in an ornately detailed puzzle game.

Playdead's INSIDE

Playdead’s INSIDE

Playdead

The best part is that after a few sudden changes, you come to expect them, which builds up suspense as you move through the world.

Inside continues the 2D puzzle platformer formula of Limbo, and enhances it in nearly every way. Prepare for a suspenseful storyline filled with eerie moments.

Reigns: Her Majesty

Reigns

Devolver Digital

Reigns returns in an all new time period with all new swipe based choices.

The follow up to Reigns introduces a queen as the protagonist in the era of Enlightenment. Swipe left and right to handle the various attacks at your throne.

FEZ Pocket Edition

FEZ Pocket Edition

Polytron Inc.

Fez has been ported to iOS to deliver classic 2D platforming with a 3D twist.

FEZ, the perspective-shifting puzzle platformer that started it all, has finally arrived on mobile.

Sid Meier's Civilization® VI

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Aspyr Media, Inc.

A complete port of the 6th installment of the 4X strategy franchise.

The goal is any Civilization game is to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate to try to conquer the entire map. The game is free to download with 60 moves included, and then it’s a one time $60 purchase that is half off until January 4th, 2018.

Life Is Strange

Life Is Strange

SQUARE ENIX INC

An episodic decision based adventure game with the ability to rewind time.

An episodic decision based adventure game with the ability to rewind time.

Lotus Digital

Lotus Digital

Dire Wolf Digital

A digital board game that is all about growing flowers with every turn.

Build up your Lotus garden, petal by petal so that they can grow to maturity and grant wisdom in the digital board game port. You can use special abilities and guardians to help grow and protect your garden as players battle for the most wisdom.

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Published at Wed, 03 Jan 2018 19:30:00 +0000

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How to Receive a $29 iPhone Battery Replacement

How to Receive a $29 iPhone Battery Replacement

The first option, recommended by Apple, is to bring your iPhone into an Apple Store or authorized service center for the battery replacement. Select the “Bring in for Repair” option and then verify your carrier and location.

You’ll then see a list of nearby locations where you can make an appointment for the replacement.

Apple has noted that initial supplies of same replacement batteries could be limited. And in a quick search, many Apple Stores and other providers didn’t currently have any appointments. So there may be a rush of users looking to take advantage of the discount.

If you’re not near any Apple Store or other authorized repair shop, you can also send in an iPhone for battery replacement. Apple can send you a box to ship an iPhone, or you can drop off a package at a local UPS store. That option usually takes five business days.

Published at Wed, 03 Jan 2018 20:33:11 +0000

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Apple Developer Program fee waivers are now available for nonprofits, schools and government

Apple Developer Program fee waivers are now available for nonprofits, schools and government

Apple announced today it will begin allowing select publishers to waive the membership fees associated with its App Developer Program. Specifically, the new fee waivers will be offered to “nonprofit organizations, accredited educational institutions, and government entities,” says Apple. For starters, the waivers will be available in the U.S., but the company had said in December it plans to make them available to more markets over time.

This change originally came about due to the uproar over Apple’s new App Store policies, which banned templated-based apps from the store. The move has drastically impacted small businesses, schools, nonprofits and other organizations from being able to effectively and affordably conduct business on the App Store.

In its revised App Store developer guidelines, Apple had said it would reject any apps created from “a commercialized template or app generation service.”

Unfortunately for the small players in this space, templates and third-party services are often how they enter the App Store. They generally don’t have the resources or in-house developer talent to create a custom app from scratch, as Apple would prefer.

After developer outcry, media coverage (like ours), and attention from Congress, Apple made a revision to the guidelines to lessen the blow. To be clear, the company still wants nothing to do with templated apps. Instead, it thinks apps should offer something more than what you could access on the mobile web – they should be a different, unique experience.

This position makes sense in terms of removing the “clutter” from the App Store and sets a quality bar for developers to meet, which in turn ensures a quality experience for consumers. But it also ignores the fact that apps are the primary way mobile users access the internet. For example, 2017 data from Flurry showed that mobile browser usage dropped from 20 percent in 2013 to just 8 percent in 2016, with the rest of mobile users’ time spent in apps.

To help make its demands for “un-templated” apps more palatable, Apple rewrote the guidelines to carve out exceptions and clarify things further.  It said that apps with a “picker” model (like a restaurant finder) were still acceptable. And it said that app template providers were no longer allowed to submit apps on behalf of their small business clients or other organizations – like nonprofits, schools, and government entities.

To make sure Apple wasn’t unduly impacting this non-business customer base, Apple said it would begin waiving the $99 Apple Developer Program membership fee in “early 2018.” That day has now arrived.

To have the fee waived, qualifying organizations and institutions can submit a fee waiver, after they’ve enrolled in the developer program (if they hadn’t already). The fee waiver will request information that includes the EIN/tax ID issued by the IRS, the Apple ID, and the organization’s D‑U‑N‑S Number (to verify its identity and legal status).

Apple says the organization must also be a legal entity – it will not accept DBAs, fictitious businesses, trade names, or branches. This is, in part, because Apple was concerned about how the app templating providers were submitting apps on behalf of clients. That meant the businesses whose apps were in the App Store weren’t actually reading through Apple’s terms or binding themselves in legal agreements.

In addition, Apple says the person enrolling the app into the developer program must also have the legal authority to do so. That is, they need to be the organization’s owner/founder, executive team member, senior project lead, or have legal authority granted to you by a senior employee, says Apple. Again, this is because Apple wants to establish a direct relationship with all its app publishers.

The fee waiver is available to existing organizations whose apps are already live, too. This will allow them to waive the fee when it comes up for annual renewal going forward. However, no refunds – full or partial – will be offered, says Apple.

Published at Wed, 03 Jan 2018 19:55:49 +0000

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