The gap between Android and iPhone has narrowed dramatically in recent years. It used to be an article of faith that iPhones were technically superior, and the only reason someone would choose Android was because they couldn’t afford one of Apple’s devices or because they had a philosophical objection to Apple’s “walled garden.”
Today, whatever technological gaps once existed between the latest iPhones and the top Android devices have essentially vanished. Sure, Apple’s CPUs are little engineering marvels, and the hardware is top-notch. But the competition is close enough to make those differences merely interesting rather than compelling.
For the past year or so, I’ve been switching between a succession of Android devices and a pair of iPhones. (At the moment, I have a Samsung Galaxy S9+, an iPhone XS, and a Google Pixel 3.) Each one is impressive when looked at strictly on its own merits. But day in and day out, I find I’m using those Android devices, and the iPhone tends to stay on its charging dock when I leave the office.
So, what are the factors, big and small, that cause me to prefer Android? Let’s start with the hardware itself.
You have a lot more choices in Android hardware.
When you’re in the market for a new smartphone, Apple offers three hardware choices (unless you’re willing to buy last year’s model for a minuscule discount). The current iPhone lineup comes in two sizes, big and bigger, and two price ranges, expensive and really expensive. And those devices are rarely discounted.
By contrast, your Android choices cover a wide range of sizes, shapes, feature sets, and price points. Some high-end Android devices (I’m looking at you, Samsung) have price tags that are comparable to those of a new iPhone, but the real sweet spot is in the midrange, where devices like the OnePlus 7 Pro ($669) and the Pixel 3 ($799) compete head to head with flagship phones costing up to twice as much.
USB-C is the future, while Lightning represents an increasingly awkward past.
From long experience, I know three things about Apple’s Lightning cables: They have an annoying tendency to break; they cost a small fortune to replace; and they require their own little collection of dongles to be useful. But, if you own an iPhone, those pricey Lightning cables are not optional.
They’re also not useful for anything that isn’t another iPhone or iPad. Meanwhile, the Android universe has moved en masse to the more modern and far more versatile USB-C standard. Pretty much every device I own these days uses USB-C, including laptops from Dell, Microsoft, Lenovo, and even … Apple. When I travel, I can carry a single charger and one cable that works with every non-Apple mobile device.
Someday, Apple will surrender to the inevitable and replace its Lightning connectors with USB-C. Until then, it’s one more cable that iPhone owners have to carry.
You want a headphone jack? No problem…
Raise your hand if you’ve ever prepared to plug a set of headphones into your iPhone and discovered that you left that pesky headphone dongle back on your desk. Thankfully, there are plenty of Android devices (including the new Pixel 3a) that still offer 3.5mm jacks.
From hardware, we move to the code that runs under the glass, and specifically, to the navigation and organization paradigms that define a mobile operating system
Settings is never more than a swipe away.
Android and iOS offer similar shortcuts to get to some common system settings. On an iPhone, you swipe down from the top right to get to Control Center, which has a selection of shortcuts you can use to turn on Airplane Mode, adjust screen brightness and volume, use the calculator, and so on. The shortcuts make excellent use of the Force Touch feature.
But you know what you can’t do from Control Center? You can’t get to the main Settings page. So, you can turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off, but if you want to pair a new device or connect to a different access point, you have to exit Control Center, find the Settings icon, and open it.
Swiping down from the top of an Android screen, by contrast, shows a half-dozen common Settings icons above the current notifications. Swipe again to see a bigger assortment of Settings icons (customizable, of course). Tap the label beneath the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon to jump straight to the relevant Settings page. Or click the little gear icon to open the full Settings list.
You can replace the launcher.
The single most frustrating aspect of using an iPhone is its inflexible home screen. You get one icon per app, which you can in turn arrange into folders on multiple screens. But you can’t arrange those icons as you like them; you can only rearrange their order, which makes the whole process of organizing the home screen a little like solving one of those 15-square puzzles.
On an Android device, by contrast, the default Android launcher is easy to replace. Device makers regularly do this, with mixed results, but the real benefit is that you can replace the default launcher with one that you prefer. I really like the Microsoft Launcher, which started out as a side project but has turned into a serious effort, with version 5 just around the corner.
Naturally, the Microsoft Launcher is optimized to work with Microsoft apps; fortunately, there’s a pretty good selection of those apps, including all the Office apps and Outlook for email. But even without those apps, it’s worth it just for the improvements in the dock.
Pinned icons are actually useful.
On an iPhone, icons on the home screen are shortcuts for individual apps, period. You want quick access to a particular website, or photo, or document? Sorry, you’ll have to open its app first, then look for it.
By contrast, icons on the Android home screen can represent individual items that aren’t apps. My home screen has shortcuts to Excel workbooks, pages from OneNote notebooks, and even PDF files of boarding passes and other electronic tickets.
Android has widgets! On the home page!
Both Android and iOS offer a special home page, available by swiping right, where you can add widgets for quick(er) access to calendar items, weather forecasts, a news feed, and so on.
On my Android phone, though, I can add widgets directly to the main home screen. The centerpiece of my home screen at the moment, for example, is a widget from the Dark Sky app, which shows the current date and time in a large, easy-to-read format, with a four-day weather forecast beneath it.
You can add widgets for email and calendar apps, music players, cloud services. Google and Microsoft both have a large selection of widgets, and even Apple has an Android widget for its Apple Music player. In my experience, widgets are best used sparingly, but they really can improve productivity.
There’s a Back button.
For its first decade or so, iPhone had one and only one button, which you could tap, double-tap, or press and hold to accomplish tasks. Android, by contrast, historically included a row of three soft buttons along the bottom. The Home and Recents buttons function pretty much the same as the tap and double-tap options on a classic iPhone, but the Back button is unique.
On both platform, the dedicated app buttons are slowly disappearing, replaced by a series of gestures, but the concept of a dedicated Back function in Android remains. App developers try all sorts of tricks to replicate that functionality in iOS apps, with mixed results, but I miss the Back button every time I use an iPhone for any length of time.
You can clear all notifications with a single tap.
There is some sort of algorithm that governs the display of notifications on the iPhone home screen, but I’ll be damned if I can figure it out. Sometimes there’s a big X that you can tap to clear older notifications; other times the only way to get rid of notifications is one at a time.
You can also manage how notifications are grouped and when they’re displayed on iOS, but to do that you have to exit Notification Center and go to Settings > Notifications.
On Android devices, both tasks are much simpler. When you swipe down to display current notifications, there’s a Clear All button at the bottom of the list. There’s also a Manage Notifications link that jumps directly to the associated page in Settings, where you can customize options for each app. Those are small touches, but they reduce friction and make everyday usability much better.
You can change your default browser.
On either mobile platform, browsers use the underlying engine supplied by the operating system. The main reason for using an alternate browser is to save and sync shortcuts, tabs, passwords, and history across devices.
On an iPhone, you can define Open With settings on a per-app basis, so the Gmail app opens links in Chrome or Outlook opens links in Edge. But you can’t define that browser preference systemwide, so if you open a link from another app, it will almost certainly open in Safari.
That’s not a problem in Android, thanks to the Default Apps setting, where you can specify which browser you want to use for links. While there, you can also choose alternate apps to use for phone calls, SMS messages, voice assist, and tap-to-pay functions, too.
The volume control is far more flexible.
No matter who makes your mobile device, it will have Volume Up and Volume Down buttons on the side. It will also have separate, software-based volume controls. But iOS and Android handle those controls in very different ways.
On an iPhone, you can adjust the ringer volume independently of other sounds by going to Settings > Sound and Haptics, and turning the Change With Buttons option off. Choose a volume for the ringer, and you’re done. In that configuration, you can silence the ringer with the switch just above the volume controls, but the Volume Up/Down buttons will affect only system sounds and apps.
Android, by contrast, has the option to allow different volume settings for calls, media, notifications, alarms, and ringtones. That’s especially useful on long road trips, where you can mute notification sounds so that they don’t interrupt the music you’re listening to.
That’s my list. If you’ve got a different set of annoyances or a workaround I missed here, please leave a comment.
Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch
The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.
The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).
Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.
“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on] all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)
The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.
The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.
Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.
Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.
“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”
Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.
These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)
Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.
Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.
If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.
“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”
Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch
Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.
Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.
In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.
Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.
On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.
It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.
Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.
“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”
downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch
As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).
Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital.
Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.
The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.
The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.
Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories. and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.
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