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Apple Watch Series 5 review: This is the watch I’ve been waiting for Review

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From the outside, and on paper, there’s not a huge difference between last year’s Apple Watch Series 4, and the recently released Series 5. The aluminum and stainless steel models look identical, but the Series 5 has bragging rights, thanks to new titanium and ceramic housings.

There is, however, one big difference between the Apple Watch Series 5 and every Apple Watch that came before it: It has a display that never turns off. Well, it’s an always-on display that stays whenever you wear it. The time is constantly visible, just like a traditional watch, and according to Apple, it has no ill effects on battery life.

For around two weeks now, I’ve used the Apple Watch Series 5 in place of my Series 4. Before I started testing, I didn’t expect to notice much of a difference between the two, and for the most part, that’s been the case.

But what I foolishly underestimated was the impact that the always-on display would have on the overall Apple Watch experience. And now, I’m not sure I can go back.


(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

It’s a real watch now

The always-on display (AOD) of the Series 5 has changed the way I use the Apple Watch throughout most of my day. The screen does more than constantly show the time, but it also shows watchface complications. For me, that means I can glance down and see if I have any unread messages or view my next agenda item from the calendar complication without any effort.

If you’ve ever owned an Apple Watch — or any smartwatch for that matter — you surely know the awkward routine of raising your wrist to look at the watch, only for it not to light up. Instead, you lower your wrist and raise it again, or you turn your wrist really fast as if you’re opening a door, and yet nothing happens. Eventually, you tap on the display or press a button to wake the watch. It’s a dance that’s even more complicated if your hands are full.

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That routine is all but gone with the Series 5. After you lower your wrist, everything on the display gets a little smaller, and the display’s brightness lowers but remains on, constantly displaying all the information you deem important enough to add as a complication to your watchfaces.

With Series 5, I can passively check the time, instead of actively checking the time. A quick glance, and I’m back doing whatever task is in front of me at the time.

That awkward routine of checking the time on previous-generation Apple Watches isn’t completely gone, however. But instead of going through it to check the time, I randomly feel a tap for a new notification, and raise my wrist to view it, only for the watchface to remain visible. It’s not until after I tap on the screen that the watch truly wakes up and the notification is shown.

I don’t know what’s more frustrating: Not being able to check the time, or seeing the time instead of notification.

Still, adding an always-on display makes the Apple Watch feel like more than just an iPhone accessory or a gadget. It feels like a real watch now.

apple-watch-series-5-2.jpg

(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

For me, it’s the same battery life

With a screen that never turns off, it’s natural to have a concern about the impact on battery life. When the Series 5 was announced, Apple stated that it kept the same 18-hour battery life as previous models, and over the past two weeks, that’s what I’ve experienced.

Actually, let me clarify: I didn’t measure 18 hours of use, but at the end of each day, I would place the Series 5 on its charger with around 30% battery left. That’s in line with what I’ve experienced on the Series 4 model for the past year.

I’ve seen headlines from other reviews that state battery life is worse, and that getting through a full day of use isn’t possible with AOD turned on. In the end, there are a lot of variables at play here, and let’s be honest, iOS 13 and WatchOS 6 have had their fair share of bugs and issues. I’ve had a lot of issues just getting Apple Watch apps to install, 

Hopefully, Apple can figure out what’s causing others to see decreased battery life and fix it in a future update. For me, though, I’m happy with the battery life of the Series 5.

Here’s the real question

For first-time Apple Watch buyers, do you buy the $199 Apple Watch Series 3 or the $399 Apple Watch Series 5? I’ve used every Apple Watch since it was first announced, and on the surface, it feels like the Series 5 isn’t that big of an upgrade (especially compared to the Series 4), but after two weeks of testing, the Series 5 feels like what the Apple Watch should have been from the start.

In addition to the AOD, you’re getting a bigger screen, fall detection, and Apple’s ECG app for detecting irregular heart rhythms. For me, my money’s on peace of mind, a watch that feels like a watch, and the larger display.



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How a16z’s investment into Adam Neumann further solidifies the ‘concrete ceiling’ – TechCrunch

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It was the fundraise heard around Twitter.

Adam Neumann, the infamous entrepreneur behind WeWork, raised a stunning $350 million from Andreessen Horowitz for a yet-to-launch real estate company called Flow. The investment gave Neumann’s latest venture a more than $1 billion valuation, as reported by The New York Times, and came amid what is supposed to be an investor pullback in a bear market.

It is the largest individual check a16z has ever written and the second time the firm backed a Neumann-founded company this year.

There is no need to rehash every single thing that Neumann did wrong; AppleTV+ did that already in the miniseries “WeCrashed.” His calamitous tenure at WorkWork garnered him a reputation for worker mismanagement and he led his company to a disastrous IPO. He nevertheless walked away with a roughly $1 billion exit package. He failed up, and the announcement of his a16z round was a reminder that he is still failing up.

“The news [of Neumann’s raise] was not shocking to me,” Nicole Tinson, the founder of the inclusion platform HBCU 20×20, told TechCrunch. “I actually anticipated this because discrimination in funding is no different than discrimination in any avenue.”

One cannot out-educate, out-network and out-assimilate the systemic barriers designed to discriminate against them.

The news put reality in a harsh light, a breaking point for many. Women are tired of shattering glass ceilings; their hands are slashed from the dropping shards. Some founders are also exhausted from taking swings at the concrete ceiling, where gender, racial and often socioeconomic conditions combine to create a discriminatory barrier so strong it cannot shatter like glass; it’s sturdy like concrete and must arduously be drilled through.

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SAIC Mobility Robotaxi valued at $1B after $148M Series B – TechCrunch

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SAIC Mobility Robotaxi, an arm of state-owned Chinese automaker SAIC aiming to launch a commercial robotaxi service, raised $148 million (RMB 1 billion). The funds will be used to scale its robotaxi service in China, which it will operate in partnership with autonomous vehicle company Momenta.

SAIC Group led the Series B round that also saw participation from Momenta, Gaoheng Management Consulting and other institutions. The funding brought SAIC Mobility’s total valuation to more than $1 billion, according to the company.

SAIC Mobility’s robotaxis are powered using Momenta’s “Flywheel L4” technology, which is designed to use deep learning rather than a rules-based, machine learning approach. Momenta contends that the technology allows the robotaxis to quickly iterate and improve its algorithms.

The funding comes eight months since the two companies launched two 100-day trials in the cities of Shanghai and Suzhou. The pilot, which launched in December, tested a fleet of 60 vehicles, all of which had a safety driver behind the wheel at all times. SAIC says it reached a daily order volume of about 20 rides per vehicle, and that its overall user satisfaction rate was 98%. About 80% of riders used the service two or more times after their initial experience, according to the companies.

The next step is to advance SAIC’s trial in Shanghai and Suzhou into a service as SAIC Mobility gears up for eventual commercialization. Local regulations don’t support commercialization and SAIC wants to be ready when new regulations are released early next year, according to a SAIC spokesperson.

With Momenta on its side, SAIC Mobility has a good chance of scoring a commercial deployment permit in Suzhou. The company has a joint venture with the Suzhou branch of the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), which has oversight of more than 100 large state-owned enterprises, to “scale up” robotaxi deployment in the city.

Launching in Shanghai will put SAIC Mobility in competition with other big players, like Baidu, which also has an autonomous ride-hailing service, Apollo Go, in the city. Baidu also recently got the green light to operate a commercial robotaxi service, without a human driver present, in Wuhan and Chongqing. Baidu is also operating Apollo Go commercially in Beijing, with a human safety operator present, alongside Pony.ai.

Momenta and SAIC have said in the past that they aim to deploy 200 vehicles across China by 2022. To reach this aim, the two companies will use the Series B to buy and develop more vehicles, more than doubling the current number in its fleet, and to continue to improve on both the ride-hailing app, as well as the autonomous capabilities of the vehicles, said the spokesperson.

“SAIC Mobility Robotaxi’s success is the organic combination of ‘operational experience’ and ‘leading autonomous driving technology,’” said Cao Xudong, CEO of Momenta, in a statement. “Our two companies together will continue to develop the technology, products and commercial implementation to meet the future and diverse travel needs of end users. We believe that this will become the industry benchmark for autonomous driving and in-depth cooperation between leading car companies and operating platforms, and the future of scalable [uncrewed] driving.”

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Pomelo exits stealth mode with $20M seed to rethink international money transfer – TechCrunch

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Eric Velasquez Frenkiel had a seemingly simple thought when visiting his family in the Philippines, impressed by the cashless economy that had formed. Instead of sending money to his family once a year – a costly, fee-heavy affair – why can’t he just leave his credit card there?

As with many things in fintech, it wasn’t that simple. But the seed of the idea made the former enterprise chief executive turn his career into a bet on one of fintech’s most elusive problems.

Pomelo, Frenkiel’s new startup launching out of stealth today, wants to make it easier to send remittance payments and conduct international money transfer, with a credit twist.

To execute on that vision, Pomelo has raised a $20 million seed round led by Keith Rabois at Founders Fund and Kevin Hartz at A* Capital, with participation from Afore Capital, Xfund, Josh Buckley and the Chainsmokers. The round also included a $50 million warehouse facility, which will allow Pomelo to give upfront cash to people who want to make transfers.

Venture investors are not the only cohort showing interest; over 120,000 people have joined Pomelo’s waitlist over six months, according to Frenkiel. (It’s important not to confuse this Pomelo with another Pomelo, a fintech-as-a-service platform for Latin America that has raised $9 million in funding). Oh, fintech.

Here’s how the startup works: if someone wants to send money overseas, they make a Pomelo account, which comes with up to four credit cards. The creator of the account – let’s just assume that they’re the one that is sending the money – can set limits, pause cards and view spending habits.

Pomelo’s key tweak is around credit. Senders can give cash, in the form of credit, to family members – which the startup thinks will help with instant access to funds, fraud and chargeback protection and, for potential immigrants that may use this to send money back home, a way to boost one’s credit score with more transaction history.

Challenges still await any fintech, whether traditional or scrappy upstart, that is betting its business on backing potentially risky individuals. For example, Pomelo doesn’t want to rely on credit score when deciding whether or not to trust a sender, because the metric historically leaves out those who don’t have a bounty of access to financial literacy or spending.

Image Credits: Pomelo

“If you do have a credit score and you have enough credit history, you would get up to $1,000 a month,” Frenkiel said. “But if you don’t have credit or wish to improve your credit, we give you a credit builder.” Customers are invited to supply a secure deposit, so that there’s a way to prove creditworthiness down the road, and Pomelo is able to “actually balance the need to extend credit but also ensure we stay in business long term.”

International money transfer continues to be an expensive affair for senders. Unsurprisingly, that pain point has led to a plethora of startups. Startups offer a sliding scale proposition, meaning it costs more to send more money, or a flat-fee value proposition, with a $5 fee for all transfers regardless of size. Per the World Bank, around 6% of a total check is removed via fees and exchange rate markups.

Rethinking remittance thus feels like a common pitch. Frenkiel says that Pomelo’s closest competitors are Xoom and Remitly, although he thinks they differentiate in two keys ways: the focus on credit, and a “fundamentally new revenue model.”

Pomelo doesn’t make money from senders via transfer fees, instead leaning its business on interchange fees paid by merchants. “You shouldn’t have to pay money to send money,” Frenkiel adds.

While interchange fees have their own slew of issues as a business model, let’s end with some insurance: both Visa and Mastercard were interested in partnering with the startup, but the latter won the deal.

“MasterCard allows us to work in more than 100 countries,” Frenkiel said. “Obviously, we’re starting off with a few, but the idea is that there’s far more endpoints to take MasterCard or Visa than having banking as a prerequisite to send money… we hope we can eventually deliver a product to wherever MasterCard is accepted around the world. ”

The startup is servicing the Philippines, but soon plans to expand to Mexico and India as well as other geographies.

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