Mobile cryptocurrency wallet BRD is announcing that it has raised $15 million in Series B funding.
The funding comes from SBI Crypto Investment, a subsidiary of Japanese financial services company SBI Holdings (formerly a subsidiary of SoftBank). BRD said the funding will allow it to grow its product and engineering teams, and to expand in Japan and across Asia.
“SBI Group’s investment in BRD allows us to firmly cement ourselves in the Asian market,” said BRD co-founder and CEO Adam Traidman in a statement. “It shows incredible support for the foundation that we have built in North America and reinforces our proven ability to scale the success we have achieved in the past 4 years. The new investment will ensure our long-term global growth, and we are incredibly excited about collaborating with SBI as a strategic investor and business partner to make that happen.”
It’s surprising to see a crypto startup raising money now, given the broader crypto downturn. After all, BRD bills itself as the simplest way to start buying and storing cryptocurrencies — but does that mean anything if consumers are being scared away from investing?
When I asked Spencer Chen, the company’s vice president of global marketing (and an occasional friend of mine), about the industry’s recent challenges, he argued, “The need for a single, global currency still exists.”
“That’s what all got lost in 2018 as the fast-money, traders, and speculators came piling into the crypto space,” Chen told me via email. “It really convoluted the core mission of a natively digital currency. Money that worked just like the open internet. As a company that’s built-to-last and committed to the core mission of crypto currency, there was nothing more frustrating than to witness the many steps backwards the industry at large took in 2018.”
In fact, BRD says it doubled its total install base in 2018, ending the year with 1.8 million users globally. It also says it’s currently being used to store the equivalent of $6 billion mostly in Bitcoin and Ethereum — with a 24 percent increase in monthly active users between November and December, after it started accepting stablecoins (which are pegged to the value of a fiat currency).
BRD has now raised a total of $55 million. It’s also announcing a partnership with Coinify, allowing users to make cryptocurrency purchases using bank accounts in the European market.
Smartphone sales down 6% as chip shortages begin to impact market – TechCrunch
Canalys reported this morning that global smartphone sales are off 6% this quarter, and it’s not because of lack of demand. It’s due to the worldwide chip shortage.
The pandemic has had a negative impact across supply chains, and chips have been particularly hard hit. Canalys principal analyst Ben Stanton says that manufacturers are trying to keep up as best they can, but the chip shortage is a legitimate roadblock right now. “On the supply side, chipset manufacturers are increasing prices to disincentivize over-ordering in an attempt to close the gap between demand and supply. But despite this, shortages will not ease until well into 2022,” he said in a statement.
What did the market look like this past quarter as a result of these supply chain issues? Well, the usual suspects maintained their market share positions with Samsung holding steady year over year at 23%. Meanwhile Apple saw YoY sales increase 3% to 15% this quarter. Xiaomi held steady in third place at 10% with no change YoY.
Manufacturers have to be concerned at this turn of events, especially as we head into the crucial holiday shopping season. Apple released the new iPhone 13 at the end of September, too late for this quarterly report, but no doubt timed for the shopping season. The chip shortage issues could put a damper on its plans. Even though both Samsung and Apple make their own chipsets for their mobile devices, each company is still feeling the impact of the chip component shortage.
As a result, Stanton says it will be unlikely consumers will see any cost cutting this year, as manufacturing costs continue to spiral upward. Instead, he anticipates that we may see more bundling of phones with other devices as a buying incentive. “Customers should expect smartphone discounting this year to be less aggressive. But to avoid customer disappointment, smartphone brands which are constrained on margin should look to bundle other devices, such as wearables and IoT to create good incentives for customers.”
CNBC reported just yesterday that the consumer chip shortage could persist even longer than Stanton is predicting, perhaps as long as two to three years, according to president of Hisense, Jia Shaoqian, whose company makes devices like home appliances and consumer goods.
Google modernizes US mobile search results with continuous scrolling – TechCrunch
Google announced today it’s changing the way search works on mobile devices, initially in the U.S. Now, when you reach the bottom of a set of search results on your phone, you won’t have to tap to go to the next page. Instead, the next set of results will automatically load so you can continuously scroll down to see more information.
The change will roll out on the mobile web and will be supported on the Google mobile app for both iOS and Android in the U.S. for most English-language searches for the time being. Because it’s a staggered release, you may initially encounter some results which scroll and others that do not.
While most people find what they’re looking for in the first few results, says Google, those who are looking for additional information tend to browse through four pages of search results. That’s why the company is making the change, we’re told. Now, those users will be able to more seamlessly move between pages without having to click the “see more” button at the bottom of the page.
Google notes this could be helpful in particular for searches where people are looking for a variety of ideas or inspiration on a given topic, instead of just quick answers.
However, there are other benefits of this design, as well, which Google did not reference.
For starters, the continuous scroll doesn’t force you to stop at some arbitrary point in your search then tap a link to move forward — a holdover from the desktop era of web search. That “click for more” type of design feels outdated in a world where in-app feeds — like Facebook’s News Feed for instance — present a never-ending stream of information and updates. And by continuing to scroll, Google’s users may end up spending more time in the app where they’ll also see more ads.
The continuous scroll could also give Google more flexibility in terms of ad placement. Instead of limiting ads to the top of a results page, they could be inserted amid the search results as you move down — more like how ads on social networking feeds appear.
While Google didn’t publicly detail its plans for ads with this change, the company told us upon follow up it will redistribute the number of text ads that appear between the top and bottom of pages for U.S.-English mobile queries. Now, text ads will show at the top of the second page and beyond, while fewer text ads will show at the bottom of each page. But, there is no change to how Shopping and Local ads show at this time, we understand.
In addition, as Google Search has become cluttered with info boxes, search suggestions, products to buy, and buttons that take you to other search verticals, like Videos, it’s become more difficult to tap the correct button to move forward in the search results. This is particularly true because Google will shade other buttons darker in hopes of catching your eye and encouraging a click to another destination.
The change to search follows a modern redesign of the results page on mobile announced earlier this year, which focused on making search results easier to read through the use of added whitespace in some areas and color in others; a larger, bolder font (Google’s own, in fact); and a move away from rounded, shaded boxes in favor of straight lines; among other things.
However, that change was more about how the search results looked, not how they functioned.
Google says the new continuous scroll will begin to roll out today in the U.S.
Spotify expands access to its in-car entertainment device ‘Car Thing’ – TechCrunch
Spotify’s in-car entertainment system known as just “Car Thing,” launched this spring on an invite-only basis, is now becoming more broadly available. The company announced today Car Thing will become available to U.S. users who want to purchase the $79.99 device. Previously, Spotify had distributed the product for just the cost of shipping during its limited release testing period, noting that this was Spotify’s first hardware and it wanted to “get things right.”
Now, Spotify says U.S. users who had previously signed up for the Car Thing waitlist will be offered the ability to purchase the device ahead of others. However, any current Spotify user — free or Premium — can sign up for the Car Thing waitlist. The product will roll out to these customers in time.
The device requires a Spotify Premium membership (either an Individual, Family or Student plan). Users will also need a smartphone for the mobile data. But you won’t need a paid subscription in order to enter your name on the waitlist at this time.
The device itself is a lightweight (3.4 oz.), thin (4.6″ x 2.5″ x 0.7″) music and podcast player that offers a combination of voice control, knobs, buttons, and a touchscreen display for navigating its menus and selecting the media you want to hear. Through Car Thing, users can access Spotify’s entire catalog of music and podcasts while in their vehicle.
The idea is to offer a way for vehicle owners without built-in infotainment systems, like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, to have an easier way to access Spotify’s personalized listening experience.
Car Thing can be mounted inside the car in a number of different ways, thanks to the variety of different mounts that ship alongside the gadget along with a car charger and USB-C cable.
Its main interface features four preset buttons that let you save your favorite content for quick access. By default, these are configured with your Liked Songs and Spotify’s Daily Drive and Morning Commute playlists, with the last preset empty. You can change any of these to match your own preferences.
You can also speak to Car Thing using the “Hey Spotify” voice commands, which the device receives through its four microphones at the top. Currently, Spotify’s policy regarding its use of voice data explains the company will collect recordings and transcripts of what you say along with information about the content it returned to you, and may use the data to improve the feature over time.
Since its limited launch earlier this year, Spotify has already released some software updates aimed at improving the Car Thing experience. The company says it will continue to do so in the future, as well, as the device rolls out to more people.
Spotify did not say how many Car Thing devices have been shipped to date.
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