In many aspects, Beats’ $249 Powerbeats Pro are the antithesis of Apple’s $199 AirPods: The AirPods forgo buttons for touch controls, while the Powerbeats Pro has three buttons; the AirPods are one size fits all, while the Powerbeats Pro have interchangeable tips and are adjustable; the AirPods aren’t designed for fitness buffs, while the Powerbeats Pro are designed primarily with fitness buffs in mind; and the AirPods are minimalistic, while the Powerbeats Pro aren’t and unapologetically so.
At their core, however, the AirPods are Powerbeats Pro are very much the same product. Both use Apple’s underlying technology — specifically, the H1 chip — to integrate seamlessly with Apple’s ecosystem of products. Pairing the earbuds with every Apple product you own is a two-second process, battery life and range are incredible, and you talk to Siri thanks “Hey Siri” integration.
The first thing I noticed when opening the packaging was the size of the charging case. It’s the first thing anyone who has used the AirPods will notice. The case, and therefore the earbuds, are much larger than the AirPods. The case isn’t what I could consider pocketable. Sure, it will most likely fit in your jean pockets, but it’s not going to be comfortable.
In addition to the charging case and the earbuds themselves, Beats includes a black Lightning cable and three additional sets of ear tips. The different sized ear tips are easy to swap out, and allow you to find the right fit for each of your ears.
I started with the pre-installed tips, but eventually changed to the smallest size. I found it the be the right size for my ears and their comfort, with the added benefit of a tighter seal with my ear improving the sound quality.
I’ve never really enjoyed wearing earbuds that have an ear hook, mainly because I wear glasses. I can’t seem to find a comfortable way to position the ear hook and the stem from my glasses, leading to soreness on the back of my ear. It’s a problem amplified by the fact that I often wear a baseball hat, which then fights with my glasses and the ear hook. The same was true about my experience with the Powerbeats Pro for the first couple of days. Eventually, either my ears adjusted or I found the right alignment, and I’m finding the earbuds more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.
I don’t run, but I did test how well the Powerbeats Pro stay in place with a couple of short jogs, and at no point did I feel as if the earbuds moved around or felt as if they were going.
There are three total buttons on the main body of each earbud. The Beats logo doubles as a button that’s used to control playback. There’s also a volume up and down button that comes in handy when you don’t want to talk to Siri to adjust volume. A sensor on the inside of each earbud detects your ear and will auto connect or begin playing audio when you first put it in your ear. Taking it out will pause whatever you’re listening to — and, yes, that feature works for Android and iPhone users alike.
Charging the case is done via a Lightning port on the back of the case, with an indicator light on the front of the case letting you know if the case’s current level. The earbuds themselves go into the case, with magnets holding the buds in place and helping align the two charging pins with the contacts on their underside.
Pairing the Powerbeats Pro with an iOS device takes just a couple of seconds. With your iOS device unlocked, open the Powerbeats Pro case and wait for an alert. Tap connect, and you’re done. As Apple does with the AirPods, the pairing is carried over to the rest of your iCloud-linked Apple devices automatically. Meaning, you don’t have to worry about pairing the earbuds with your Mac, iPad, or Apple Watch if you used an iPhone for initial setup.
Android and Windows users aren’t left out, though. You can pair the Powerbeats Pro as you would any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds. The button controls still work, and as previously mentioned, so does the automatic ear detection feature.
Beats touts nine hours of battery life, with the charging case capable of adding another 15 hours to that total. In theory, with the case and earbuds fully charged, you should have enough power for 24 hours of listening. I think the longest amount of continuous listening I achieved was just over four hours, and there was still over 50% charge left on both earbuds. If you do run out of battery, five minutes in the charging case adds 1.5 hours of power. Leave the earbuds in the case for 15 minutes, and Beats claims you’ll get four hours of use.
The range of the Powerbeats Pro was impressive, regardless of the device I was currently using. At one point during my testing, I was using the Powerbeats Pro with a Pixel 3 XL, and accidentally left my phone in the basement of my house. I went upstairs, out through my garage, and to the front curb of my house before the audio stopped. It was only when I reached for my phone that I realized it was still sitting on the counter in my basement, over 100 feet away, with several walls and layers of concrete in between. The same range and lack of interference when using the Powerbeats Pro with an iPad Pro and iPhone XS Max.
Most days, I work from home in a quiet office. Testing earbuds or headphones and their ability to block out background noise isn’t really possible in that environment, so during my testing of the Powerbeats Pro, I ventured out to a coffee shop.
The Powerbeats Pro do a better job at blocking out background noise than the AirPods, but don’t block everything out. I could still hear the the constant chatter, a random whir of a blender, and the occasional banging of a cup against the counter. The decreased background noise is a benefit of having changeable ear tips (presumably, a benefit that would increase if you’re able to find foam tips to replace the soft ear tips that come in the box).
When it comes to sound quality, the Powerbeats Pro sound slightly crisper, with better bass when compared to the AirPods. Prior to switching to the smaller ear tips, I wasn’t convinced there was a real difference in sound quality between the two. But after finding the right fit and using them for a few more days, I’m firmly of the belief that the Powerbeats Pro are the better-sounding earbuds, which goes to show that finding the right fit for your ears is key to improving the overall experience, especially when it comes to sound.
I’m still torn on whether or not I like using the Powerbeats Pro more than the AirPods. I like the idea of better battery life, but then again, I rarely find myself completely draining the AirPods in one listening session. I do enjoy the improved sound quality of the Powerbeats Pro, though I never really found the AirPods lacking. And I do appreciate the smaller footprint of the AirPod’s charging case and earbuds themselves, but the Powerbeats Pro case easily fits in my backpack.
I think the bottom line is this: If you hate the look of the AirPods but don’t want to miss out on the ease of pairing and switching device, battery life, and impressive range — the Powerbeats Pro are made for you.
Disclosure: ZDNet earns commissions from some of the products featured on this page.
Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch
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.”
Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch
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.
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.”
downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch
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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