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5 features I’d love to see come to every smartphone in 2019

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Over the course of any given year, I have the benefit of using a lot of smartphones. Most of the time, my memories of using a particular phone blurs into one black, rectangular blob of glass and metal.

Also: Phones and more: The best of everything mobile in 2018

But sometimes there are features that stand out. As I reflect back on the year and look forward to 2019, it’s clear to me there are five features I would love to see come to every smartphone in the near future.

In-display fingerprint reader


(Image: CNET)

After using the OnePlus 6T’s fingerprint reader, it’s evident having a physical location, commonly on the back of a phone, is no longer the best option for smartphone makers.

Also: In-screen fingerprint sensors coming to 100 million phones CNET

Using a series of sensors and lights, the OnePlus 6T’s fingerprint sensor is located just below the display and is capable of reading a fingerprint through the display.

The benefit I appreciate the most about a fingerprint sensor under the display is that I’m already touching and interacting with the screen when I need to unlock the phone, so it eliminates the extra step of finding the sensor on the back of the phone — as routine as that has become.

With the OnePlus 6T, I pick up the phone, wake the screen, leaving my finger on the display, and continue using the phone.

I think I like this unlock method as much as I like Face ID, if not a little bit more.

With Qualcomm’s newly announced Snapdragon 855 SoC, which includes the components for OEMs to implement in-display fingerprint sensors in next year’s crop of smartphones, we will presumably see an uptick in phones with this technology.

Call Screen

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(Screenshot: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The sheer number of scam and spam calls we receive on our phones is staggering. Even with the help of third-party apps or carrier services, I answer a robocall telling me there’s an issue with my non-existent credit card at least once a week.

Also: Pixel 3 Call Screen and Now Playing are my favorite features CNET

Google’s Pixel Call Screen feature — and its subsequent update that added transcripts — means you don’t have to actually talk to someone who is trying to upsell you on internet service or ask you to take a political survey.

Google’s Call Screen feature, at a minimum, should be released to more Android phones through the Google Phone app.

Night Sight

Google’s Night Sight feature isn’t a gimmick, but a truly useful feature. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a photo of a special moment ruined by a dark environment.

Low light photography is a task that nearly all smartphones struggle with, and the fact that Google has figured out the magic blend of AI and machine learning to make low light photos something you look forward to taking isn’t a small feat.

Also: Google’s Night Sight camera mode is pretty darn impressive

Every smartphone manufacturer should have teams dedicated to figuring out how Google pulled off Night Sight and implementing it in their respective products.

speck-presidio-iphone-xs-2.jpg

A physical mute switch

Apple uses one, as does OnePlus, and it’s seriously underrated. A physical mute switch provides the benefit of being able to quickly feel if a phone is on silent, or sounds are active, without the need to wake the phone. It’s easy enough to move while your phone is in your pocket as you walk into the movies or a meeting, and move back as you walk out.

Also: OnePlus 6T review: Outstanding reception, solid battery life

Most Android phones require the phone to be awake, unlocked, and press the volume buttons multiple times — or using a tile in the quick settings dropdown — both methods, however, take longer are more interaction than simply moving a switch on the side of a phone.

Shortcuts-like app

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Siri gets better in iOS 12 by allowing you to create and run shortcuts for tasks that you might want to do at certain times of the day, as a result of an event, or when at a certain location.

Apple’s Shortcuts app is one iOS feature I simply can’t live without on a daily basis. Sure, iMessage is fantastic. FaceTime, often times, magical when I’m traveling.

Also: Best iOS 12 features: What’s new and what’s still missing

But Shortcuts and the workflows that it holds within ensures I keep an iOS device of some sort on me at all times. On Tuesday, I shared a handful of shortcuts I use on a regular basis with CNET’s Scott Stein, and afterward, I realized just how much I rely on Shortcuts to efficiently handle repetitive work tasks.

For example, the Combine Screenshots shortcut is something I use nearly every single day and saves me countless minutes by combining several screenshots into one image with a few taps on my iPhone or iPad’s screen. Without it, I would have to import the screenshots to my Mac, open a program like Pixelmator or Photoshop, create a canvas, and then space out the images and export the end result.

I have searched for and tried many similar Android apps, only to find poorly designed apps lacking the same overall capabilities.

Previous and related coverage:

The 10 best smartphones of 2018

All significant smartphone launches have now passed and as we approach the end of the year, the ten best shake out after more extended usage of each. All ten phones are excellent and certain aspects make each a possible contender for the top spot.

Top 12 Raspberry Pi alternatives (Best of 2018)

Here is a selection of single board computers for homebrew projects and automation, with prices starting at only $5.

Best tech gadgets of 2018

Time to take a tour of what I consider to be the best tech gadgets of 2018. There are some that you’ll no doubt expect to find in this list, and others that will probably come as a surprise. All have been personally tested for quality, performance, and durability.



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Without a clear ask, your pitch deck is useless – TechCrunch

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You’ve brushed off your Keynote skills, you’re giddy that you’re finally going to be able to start paying yourself a living wage, and you are excited to start pitching your startup’s next round of funding to your investors. It’s heady times, for sure, but hit the other pedal there for a moment, friend — you may be forgetting something.

After working with hundreds of founders on raising money — including the fantastically popular Pitch Deck Teardown series here on TechCrunch+ — there’s one slide that almost every founder gets woefully wrong. The slide is often referred to as The Ask. Or, as one investor friend calls it, the “what is my $10 million going to buy me”? slide.


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The Ask is a sensitive topic to a lot of inexperienced entrepreneurs, which makes sense. Trying to right-size a funding round can be a little overwhelming, and there are a thousand different ways of building a startup. If you were successful in raising $8 million, you can do things one way. If you raised $12 million, you could perhaps launch more features of your product a little faster, or experiment more, or go after an additional market earlier. You know that. Your senior staff knows that. Your investors know that. But regardless, you need a Plan A.

What do those key metrics need to look like in order to raise not this round of funding, but your next one?

What do you need to do?

A lot of founders will tell you that they are trying to raise enough money to survive for the next 18 months. That’s probably true, but that will be true regardless of how much money you raise. A better approach is to think about what you need to accomplish to raise your next round of funding, and then work backward from there. This is probably a combination of metrics and milestones.

Metrics are the measurable parts of your business that grow and evolve over time. One of the best metrics you have is revenue, but there could be many others: the number of sales, average order value (AOV), monthly or annual recurring revenue (MRR or ARR, respectively), customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (LTV), daily and monthly active users (DAU and MAU), retention rate (usually expressed by its inverse, churn rate) and much more. What do those key metrics need to look like in order to raise not this round of funding, but your next one?

Milestones are also measurable parts of the business, but instead of tracking them over time, they tend to be binary: You’ve either hit a milestone or you haven’t. For startups, this could be key hires; finding the perfect, experienced CFO that can help take your company public is one major milestone a lot of companies at some point need to hit. Product launches (coming out of beta), launches in particular markets (launching only in California) and localization (launching your app in Spanish and French, for example) are also important milestones. Financial milestones are also common; the first time you make a single dollar from any customer is a huge shift in the business. When a customer, on average, starts to make you more money than it costs you to acquire them is another. For earlier-stage companies, completing a customer validation phase by talking to, say, 100 potential customers is a milestone.

When you’re raising money, you will be mapping out a set of milestones that you need to hit in order to validate your company. In addition, you’ll set a number of trigger points for metrics — hitting $1 million ARR, having 5,000 daily active users or finding a combination of customer acquisition channels that means you can acquire customers at a reasonable blended CAC, for example.

So let’s examine how to put together a great “ask” slide by ascertaining what it takes to determine how much you need to raise, how to create a specific set of goals and how to bring it all together in a coherent whole.

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Tracking Klarna’s plunging valuation – TechCrunch

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Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann

A humbling time for Klarna

Welp, I had a whole other topic planned for my intro today and then the Klarna news hit.

In case you missed it, on July 1, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank is reportedly raising $650 million at a $6.5 billion valuation, giving new meaning to the phrase “down round.” The news was shocking, to say the least. Why, you ask? Well, in June of 2021, Klarna was valued at $45.6 billion after closing on a $639 million round of funding — making it the highest-valued private fintech in Europe at that time.

When Klarna confirmed that raise on June 10, 2021, CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski sat down with me (via Zoom) in an exclusive interview, detailing why he was so excited about the company’s “explosive growth” in the U.S. and how it planned to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally. He also said that an IPO was still in its sights “but not anytime soon.” The company then had 18 million users in the U.S.

Fast-forward to 2022. As of February, Klarna had 23 million monthly active users in the U.S. and 147 million globally. It reported 32% higher revenue of $1.42 billion for 2021.

By May, Klarna had laid off 10% of its workforce, or 700 people.

As TC’s Romain Dillet reported, the company didn’t name a single reason for the layoffs. Instead, Siemiatkowski listed different macro and geopolitical factors that led to the decision.

“When we set our business plans for 2022 in the autumn of last year, it was a very different world than the one we are in today,” he said. “Since then, we have seen a tragic and unnecessary war in Ukraine unfold, a shift in consumer sentiment, a steep increase in inflation, a highly volatile stock market and a likely recession.”

Now the company could be slashing its valuation by an astounding 1/7 to $6.5 billion. Notably, Klarna has not confirmed this, but, startlingly, the projection for the company’s alleged latest funding round and new valuation has steadily declined in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 16 that Klarna was considering raising capital at a valuation of around $15 billion. Even that new figure represented both a dramatic decline from Klarna’s mid-2021 valuation of more than $45 billion and the $30 billion figure it was reported to be targeting earlier this year, as our own Alex Wilhelm noted here. So from $45 billion to $30 billion to $15 billion to $6.5 billion. It’s hard to imagine it going even more downhill from here.

It’s also important to note, though, that Klarna is not the only BNPL provider that has seen a decline in valuation. As another tech enthusiast tweeted on Friday, competitor Affirm’s stock is also down significantly. On July 1 alone, shares were down 5% to $17.13 at the time of my writing this at about 2:30 p.m. CT, giving Affirm a market cap of $4.9 billion. That’s down from a 52-week-high of $176.65. Ouch.

Image Credits: Twitter

Weekly News

Speaking of valuations, Alex examined how after financial technology startups saw their fortunes rise during the venture capital boom in 2021, they’re now suffering from a slump of a similar scale. The damage, he wrote, is not unidimensional. Instead, pain around the fintech sphere is varied and multifactorial.

The layoffs in fintech continue. Amount, a company that reached unicorn status last year, recently laid off 18% of its workforce. The exact number of how many people were affected is not known, but when TechCrunch reported on its last raise in May of 2021, the company said that it had 400 employees. If that is still the case, then about 72 people were let go. Amount was spun out of Avant — an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity — in January of 2020 to provide enterprise software built specifically for the banking industry. It partners with banks and financial institutions to “rapidly digitize their financial infrastructure and compete in the retail lending and buy now, pay later sectors,” CEO Adam Hughes told TechCrunch last year.

The Federal Trade Commission is suing Walmart for sitting by while scammers bilked customers out of more than $197 million, the agency alleged in a statement. It’s seeking a court order that would force Walmart to give money back to customers, on top of civil fines. In a brief response, Walmart described the lawsuit as both “factually flawed and legally baseless.” Money transfer scams are widespread, and they can involve everything from promises to share an inheritance to lies about a family emergency. They happen just about everywhere, from Zelle, Venmo and Cash App to crypto ATMs and popular dating apps. In this case, the FTC alleges that Walmart “turned a blind eye to fraud” that went down inside its stores.

Robinhood made headlines three times over the past week. First, Taylor looked at how the stock trading and investing app was blindsided by the surge in interest from the first big “meme stock” after Redditors and other retail investors rallied around $GME and sent its price into the stratosphere. Jacqueline Melnik then addressed the rumors that FTX is looking to acquire Robinhood in this piece. And then Alex broke down for us why a crypto exchange might want to buy Robinhood in the first place.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), less than 2% of financial institutions’ CEOs are women, and for executive board members the figure is less than 20%. Why does this matter? Apart from the obvious lack of opportunities for talented women, there are broader implications for business resilience as well as economic policy at national and international levels. Read more at Fintech Futures.

Cash App last week launched Round Ups, allowing customers to invest their spare change into a stock of their choice or bitcoin every time they use their Cash Card. Cash App said the product would allow Cash Card users “to seamlessly accumulate bitcoin and stock investments through everyday purchases.”

If you haven’t heard yet, there is a fintech conference on the water coming to San Diego, California, on August 10. Fintech Fest 1.0 is bridging together leaders from Brex, Encore Bank, Mastercard, Checkout.com, Figment, Sift and many others for business meetings and discussions on the largest boat on the West Coast. You can get 40% off ticket prices this week only.

Speaking of discounts, be sure to take advantage of this amazing deal. TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here. More information here. And the two-for-one ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt sale will expire on July 5.

Funding and M&A

Seen on TechCrunch

Drive now, pay later: Startups make EVs more accessible by putting off the biggest bill

A look into how Conversion Capital plans to back early-stage fintech startups out of its new 6x larger fund

HomeLister wants to make selling your home more of a DIY affair, and cheaper

Brazilian motorcycle rental startup Mottu revs up with $40M to help more Latin Americans become couriers

Here’s Carta’s response to venture becoming more global

Sava, a spend management platform for African businesses, gets $2M pre-seed backing

And elsewhere

GoCardless goes after Plaid with Nordigen buy

Knox Financial to expand loan products with $50M in funding

Zilch draws $50M more funding to buck BNPL industry woes

That’s it for this week. For our readers in the U.S., I really hope you’re enjoying the long weekend and Happy Independence Day. And to all of you, have a wonderful week ahead. To borrow from my dear friend and colleague Natasha, you can support me by forwarding this newsletter to a friend or following me on Twitter. Xoxo, Mary Ann

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Equity crowdfunding appears immune to market volatility, on track for its best year yet – TechCrunch

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Equity crowdfunding — or community raises, as the fundraising platforms involved prefer to call it — has grown steadily over the last few years. Regulations governing the process continue to evolve in the market’s favor, and 2022’s venture funding pullback may be the final piece needed to quiet the fundraising strategy’s naysayers for good.

This year looks poised to be monumental for equity crowdfunding, which entails raising capital through specific filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including Reg CF and Reg A, from a mix of investors that don’t have to be accredited.

Over the past few years, equity crowdfunding has shed much of the stigma that used to imply that only companies that weren’t good enough for VC raised this way. Some traditional VCs have even scouted on the platforms or encouraged their portfolio companies to pursue the process. But with the fundraising climate now showing cloudy skies, equity crowdfunding is getting ready for a field day.


TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here. (More on TechCrunch+ here if you need it!)


More than $215 million was invested in startups on equity crowdfunding platforms this year through the end of May, according to the Arora Project, a Republic-owned platform that curates crowdfunding initiatives and tracks data, up from around $200 million in the same period last year. Crowdfunding campaigns raised a total of $502 million in 2021.

While that isn’t too big of a leap, industry players are encouraged by the growth and see scope for more improvement later in the year, as crowdfunding typically sees an uptick around the fourth quarter.

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