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Apple introduces the iPhone 12 – TechCrunch

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Apple embraces 5G, Facebook Messenger gets better integrated with Instagram and Kahoot raises $215 million. This is your Daily Crunch for October 13, 2020.

The big story: Apple introduces the iPhone 12

Apple’s big event today kicked off with the announcement of the HomePod Mini, but the real focus was on the iPhone — specifically, the iPhone 12.

Pricing for the new iPhone starts at $799. New features include 5G, a magnetic adapter for various accessories (including wireless chargers) and a more durable Corning glass display.

There are four models, so if you’re trying to decide which one you want, we’ve even created a handy chart to keep them all straight.

The tech giants

Alphabet’s latest moonshot is a field-roving, plant-inspecting robo-buggy — Announced with little fanfare in a blog post and site, the Mineral project is still very much in the experimental phase.

Messenger’s latest update brings new features, cross-app communication with Instagram – The changes are a part of Facebook’s overhauled messaging platform, announced in late September, which introduced the ability for Instagram users to communicate with people on Facebook.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Kahoot picks up $215M from SoftBank for its user-generated, gamified e-learning platform — After announcing a modest $28 million raise earlier this year, the user-generated gamified e-learning platform revealed a much bigger round today.

Astroscale raises $51M in Series E funding to fuel its orbital sustainability ambitions — The Japan-based company has been focused on delivering new solutions for orbital end-of-life.

Caliber, with $2.2M in seed funding, launches a fitness coaching platform — The company says it brings on about five of every 100 applications for coaches on the platform, accepting only the very best trainers.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Is the Twilio-Segment deal expensive? — A quick look at the deal’s historical analogs and what we can tell from the numbers.

Should you replace your developer portal with a hybrid integration platform? — Changing your integration approach can reduce time to market and boost revenue.

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

Everything else

Walt Disney announces reorganization to focus on streaming — Disney’s media businesses, ads and distribution and Disney+ will now operate under the same business unit.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Enola Holmes’ is thoroughly mediocre — I did not enjoy this movie.

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.

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Mophie introduces a modular wireless charging module – TechCrunch

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Here’s a clever addition for Mophie, one of the longstanding battery case makers, which is now a part of the same smartphone accessory conglomerate as Zagg, Braven, iFrogz and InvisibleShield. The Juice Pack Connect is a modular take on the category, with a battery pack that slides on and off.

For $80 you get a 5,400mAh battery (that should get you plenty of additional charge time) and a ring stand that props the phone up. Mophie may offer additional models at some point, but right now, the biggest selling point is less about add-ons and more the fact that you can slip the battery off the device when not needed and still use the case.

Image Credits: Mophie

It’s not entirely dissimilar from the modular uniVERSE case OtterBox introduced a bunch of years ago, but the big advantage here is that the charging works via Qi, so you don’t have to plug it into the phone’s port.

It’s not cheap (Mophie isn’t, generally). And, no, it’s not a MagSafe accessory. Instead, the add-on attaches to your case (needs to be one thin enough to support the charging, mind) using adhesive. The upside is that it works with a much larger number of phones, including multiple generations of iPhones and wireless-capable handsets like Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels.

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TCL announces a $400 5G handset – TechCrunch

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What’s most remarkable about the push for 5G is how quickly the prices came down on handsets sporting the next-gen wireless technology. The push toward affordable 5G devices is clearly as much an indicator as the current state of the smartphone space as anything — people just aren’t upgrading devices as quickly as the used to. And even more to the point, they’re reluctant to pay $1,000 when they do.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G has been a piece of that puzzle. And unsurprisingly, the mid-tier chip in found in TCL’s new $400 5G handset. Of course, TCL is positioning it as “under-$400” with that $399.99 price tag, which is technically correct — the best kind of correct.

It’s also not really right to say that the TCL 10 5G UW’s a”premium blend of performance, power, stylish design and 5G connectivity that until now has only been available on more expensive flagship smartphones.” Affordable 5G handsets isn’t an entirely new phenomenon — nor are affordable 5G handsets with decent specs and design. But even so, the price point is still notable at this stage in the 5G upgrade cycle — which, frankly, is why we’re writing about it here.

The price/5G combo is the main thing to like here, coming in at even less than, say, the OnePlus Nord, a recent high water mark in the 5G/price point combo. And there are a few other things that should appeal to potential buyers, as well, including a 4,500mAh battery coupled with reverse charging for other devices. There are three rear-facing cameras: a 48-megapixel main, an eight-megapixel ultra wide and a five-megapixel macro, the latter of of which is starting to appear on more phones.

It arrives October 29, and is, notably, a Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent company) exclusive here in the U.S., using the carrier’s mmWave technology.

 

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Linktree raises $10.7M for its lightweight, link-centric user profiles – TechCrunch

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Simple, link-centric user profiles might seem might not seem like a particularly ambitious idea, but it’s been big enough for Linktree.

The Melbourne startup says that 8 million users — whether they’re celebrities like Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa or brands like HBO and Red Bull — have created profiles on the platform, with those profiles receiving more than 1 billion visitors in September.

Plus, there are more than 28,000 new users signing up every month.

“This category didn’t exist when we started,” CEO Alex Zaccaria told me. “We created this category.”

Zaccaria said that he and his co-founders Anthony Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys created Linktree to solve a problem they were facing at their digital marketing agency Bolster. Instagram doesn’t allow users to include links in posts — all you get is a single link in your profile, prompting the constant “link in bio” reminder when someone wants to promote something.

Meanwhile, most of Bolster’s clients come from music and entertainment, where a single link can’t support what Zaccaria said is a “quite fragmented” business model. After all, an artist might want to point fans to their latest streaming album, upcoming concert dates, an online store for merchandise and more. A website could do the job in theory, but they can be clunky or slow on mobile, with users probably giving up before they finally reach the desired page.

Linktree founders Anthony Zaccaria, Alex Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys

So instead of constantly swapping out links in Instagram and other social media profiles, a Linktree user includes one evergreen link to their Linktree profile, which they can update as necessary. Selena Gomez, for example, links to her latest songs and videos, but also her Rare Beauty cosmetics brand, her official store and articles about her nonprofit work.

Zaccaria said that after launching the product in 2016, the team quickly discovered that “a lot more people had the same problem,” leading them to fully separate Linktree and Bolster two years ago. Since then, the company hasn’t raised any outside funding — until now, with a $10.7 million Series A led by Insight Partners and AirTree Ventures.

“We had the option to just continue to grow sustainably, but we wanted to pour some fuel on the fire,” Zaccaria said.

In fact, Linktree has already grown from 10 to 50 employees this year. And while the company started out by solving a problem for Instagram users, Zaccaria described it as evolving into a much broader platform that can “unify your entire digital ecosystem” and “democratize digital presence.” He said that while some customers continue to maintain “a giant, brand-immersive website,” for others, Linktree is completely replacing the idea of a standalone website.

Zaccaria added that Instagram only represents a small amount of Linktree’s current traffic, while nearly 25% of that traffic now comes from direct visitors.

Linktree activism

Image Credits: Linktree

Black Lives Matter has also been a big part of Linktree’s recent growth, with activists and other users who want to support the movement using their profiles to point visitors to websites where they can donate, learn more and get involved. In fact, Linktree even introduced a Black Lives Matter banner over the summer that anyone could add to their profile.

Linktree is free to use, but you have to pay $6 a month for Pro features like video links, link thumbnails and social media icons.

Zaccaria said that the new funding will allow the startup to add more “functionality and analytics.” He’s particularly eager to grow the data science and analytics team, though he emphasized that Linktree does not collect personally identifiable information or monetize visitor data in any way — he just wants to provide more data to Linktree users.

In a statement, Insight Managing Director Jeff Lieberman said:

As the internet becomes increasingly fragmented, brands, publishers, and influencers need a solution to streamline their content sharing and connect their social media followers to their entire online ecosystem, ultimately increasing brand awareness and revenue. Linktree has successfully created this new “microsite” category enabling companies to monetize the next generation of the internet economy via a single interactive hub. The impressive traction and growing number of customers Linktree has gained over the last few months demonstrates its proven market fit, and we could not be more excited to work with the Linktree team as they transition to the ScaleUp phase of growth.

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