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Apple iPhone XR: Three features I love, and one I hate

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Apple’s iPhone XR is the best iPhone available for most users. Not only is the XR more affordable than the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, but the overall experience doesn’t forgo many of the headlining features that XS users will have access to.

Also: Apple reveals what the R stands for in iPhone XR

I’ve been using the iPhone XR as my main device for the past week. At times, I forgot I wasn’t using my iPhone XS Max, and other times I was yearning for my personal device. Here are three things I love about the iPhone XR, and one thing I’m not all that impressed by.

Apple iPhone XR: What I love

The display

Look, we can sit here and argue how on paper the iPhone XS and XS Max OLED display is better than the iPhone XR’s LCD display. We can talk about how, technically, the iPhone XR’s screen is a lower resolution than the iPhone 8 Plus. And how all of that means that the iPhone XR’s display is inferior, and surely going to provide a worse experience.

And we’d be wrong. Technically, yes, on paper, those are the facts. But in practice, while holding the iPhone XR in your hand and looking at a photo or watching a video, this display is every bit as good as the iPhone XS.

Also: Apple’s iPhone XR: The Reasonable choice

Not once during the past week have I looked at something on the iPhone XR and wished I had the XS Max. Even with the two phones side by side, the differences are minimal. There’s a little more clarity on the iPhone XS Max, but it’s not so much that it jumps out at you immediately. You have to look for it.

The Liquid Retina display on the iPhone XR is just fine. Great, even. And at 6.1-inches, between the XS and XS Max displays, I found the XR’s overall size to be a happy middle ground.

Battery life

Perhaps it’s simply due to not having a large number of pixels to deal with on the iPhone XR’s display, but the battery life of the iPhone XR is incredible. I took the iPhone XR to New York where I attended and covered Apple’s October event, and not one time during the trip did I drop below a 20-percent charge.

Also: Apple knows the days of record iPhone sales are over, and wants you to stop obsessing over how many it now sells

When traveling, I constantly have my iPhone in hand. I’m coordinating with coworkers, keeping tabs on my family back home, using Maps to figure out where I’m going and how to get there, and have music streaming through my AirPods. On flights, I usually watch a few shows in the Netflix app. All this happens over the course of 12- to 14-hour days and is typically hard on any phone. I carry external battery packs on trips for this very reason.

Not only did I not have to use a battery pack with the iPhone XR, at no point did I even contemplate it. The battery was able to keep up with whatever I threw at it, and it did so with ease.


Camera

The iPhone XR doesn’t have a dual camera setup as the iPhone XS does. There’s a single 12-megapixel wide-angle camera. The telephoto setup that the iPhone X and iPhone XS uses is not only for closer shots but to collect depth information for Portrait Mode photos.

The iPhone XR can still take Portrait Mode photos, which typically have a subject in focus, and the background has a distinct amount of blur. These types of photos are usually reserved for more expensive, dedicated cameras and lenses. However, over the past few years, companies such as Apple and Samsung have used a two camera set up to recreate the effect, with some help from software.

Also: Apple was right, people love expensive iPhones

With the iPhone XR, Apple is relying heavily on software and a single camera to recreate the same effect. It’s the same approach Google has used with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3.

There are some limitations to the iPhone XR’s Portrait mode. For instance, you can only use Portrait Mode on humans. If the software doesn’t detect a human face, the feature simply won’t work. There are third-party apps that allow you to get around this limitation, but the example photos I’ve seen on Twitter aren’t very good.

That said, the photos I’ve captured of humans with Portrait mode have looked just as good as the iPhone XS Max.

The iPhone XR camera, for me at least, is every bit as good as the iPhone XS Max. Not once did I find myself wishing I had the telephoto lens for a specific shot — and I even used the XR to capture photos of the Apple event earlier this week.

In some ways, I appreciated the removal of yet another option and the streamlining of the decision-making process. I didn’t have to switch between cameras to see what framed the shot how I wanted. I simply launched the camera, lined up the shot, and pressed the shutter button.

Apple iPhone XR: My loudest complaint

Haptic Touch

Two weeks ago, I was convinced I didn’t use 3D Touch all that often. The feature, which turns your iPhone’s display into a pressure-sensitive pad, is used to do things like preview messages or weblink, view messages on the lock screen, and move the cursor through text.

The iPhone XR doesn’t have 3D Touch. Instead, it uses Haptic Touch. What amounts to a glorified long-press, Haptic Touch will tap your finger when it’s used, the same way 3D Touch does. Right now, Haptic Touch is only used in three places on the iPhone XR: Activate the camera and flashlight shortcuts on the lock screen, in Control Center, and on the space bar to move the cursor in a text field.

Also: Would you buy a $2000 iPhone? I know some of you would

Those three areas are where users used 3D Touch the most, and with that knowledge, Apple prioritized where it implemented Haptic Touch.

Within 10 minutes of using the iPhone XR, I realized I use 3D Touch… a lot. I use it for things like previewing links in Tweetbot, or for shortcuts to mute conversations in Facebook Messenger. But the most common place is to peek at an alert on the lock screen, and then take action on it.

For example, when I press on a Gmail alert on the lock screen of my iPhone XS Max, I get a preview of the message, and then two options just below it. I can reply or archive the message. More often than not, I preview the message and archive it. It’s a quick process: Press, read, tap Archive. On the iPhone XR, that’s not possible.

Instead, I have to swipe to the left on the alert, tap on View, and then the preview opens up with the option to reply or archive.

The lack of 3D Touch adds two extra steps to something I do countless times with countless apps every day. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something I’ve sorely missed while using the iPhone XR.

Apple wouldn’t tell me if they have plans to add to the number of places Haptic Touch is used on the iPhone XR, but I hope this is one area that’s added — and fast.

ZDNet’s Matthew Miller recently reviewed the iPhone XR, so be sure to read through his thoughts about Apple’s mainstream iPhone.

Even with the lack of 3D Touch, I still think the iPhone XR is the reasonable choice for most iPhone users. The areas that Apple made sacrifices in the name of lowering costs don’t have a dramatic impact on the overall experience. In some ways, such as display and battery life, it’s actually bettered the experience.

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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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.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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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.

Bitwarden

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.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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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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