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ZAGG Messenger Folio for Apple iPad Mini 5 review: Affordable keyboard with Pencil holder

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WWDC 2019: Finally, Apple frees the iPad and Watch from iPhone’s shadow
Can the iPad now become a serious business tool? Are the iPad and Mac platforms headed toward unification? Will developers take the time to get it right? TechRepublic’s Karen Roby gets some answers from Jason Perlow and Jason Cipriani. Read more: https://zd.net/2Wlin3A

When Apple announced the new iPad Air and iPad Mini, both with Apple Pencil support, I just couldn’t resist so I picked up a new iPad Mini 2019 for myself. Check out my full review to see what I think of this diminuitive tablet.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using the ZAGG Messenger Folio for the Apple iPad Mini 2019. It is priced at just $64.99, which is a reasonable price for a keyboard, case, and media kickstand. Apple doesn’t offer any sort of external keyboard option for the iPad Mini so it’s up to third parties like ZAGG to satisfy this need.

Also: Apple iPad Mini 2019 review: A beloved classic with internal improvements and Apple Pencil support

Upper case assembly

The top portion, in landscape orientation, has three hard plastic pieces that are designed to securely hold the iPad Mini in positon. There are two upper corner pieces and one piece on the bottom, about an inch long, that secures your iPad into the case. Slide your iPad Mini into the two corner pieces and then press your iPad Mini down into the cover to snap the central bottom piece over the edge.

There is a cutout in the left upper corner plastic bracket for the power button with an area cut out of the fabric cover to help you more easily manipulate the volume buttons. There is also a cutout in the fabric case for the Lightning port on the right side of the upper assembly.

There is an opening in the back of the cover for the camera. The speakers and 3.5mm headset jack are not covered at all so remain fully accessible while using this keyboard folio. The lower two-thirds of the back flips out and serves as a wide kickstand to hold the iPad Mini at a good viewing angle for media. There is a piece of material under the flap to keep the flap from extending out too far. Sitting on a table or desk lets you extend this flap for different viewing angles, but the fabric piece only limits the extension out to one angle.

One of the best features of the ZAGG Messenger Folio is the Apple Pencil holder found along the top (in landscape). I hate that there is no way to conveniently carry the Apple Pencil with your iPad and this feature helps make the Apple Pencil a more useful utility for my daily usage. The holder is a simply fabric loop that tightly holds the first generation Apple Pencil securely in place.

Also: iPad Air (2019) review: Apple’s newest tablet combines productivity with affordability

Lower keyboard assembly

The bottom piece is the keyboard and serves as the front cover when you close the case and carry it around. The keyboard is permanently mounted to the lower fabric case and connects to your iPad Mini via Bluetooth. A fully charged keyboard is rated to last for up to three months between charging.

There is a row of keys above the five typical keyboard rows that serve as the following shortcuts:

  1. Home
  2. Lock
  3. Task switcher and search (with FN press)
  4. Switch keyboard input language and keyboard hide/show (with FN press)
  5. Media control for back
  6. Media control for play/pause
  7. Media control for forward
  8. Mute toggle
  9. Volume down
  10. Volume up
  11. Bluetooth button to pair
  12. Keyboard power button

There are five rows of keys below this top line with a full number row, directional arrows, FN key, CMD, CTL, Alt/Option, and two Shift keys. There is no backlighting available on this keyboard, but the white letters on the black plastic keys make it easy to use in most lighting conditions.

Despite the small size of the iPad Mini limiting the width of the keyboard, there is actually decent space between the keys and the keys are large enough for me to tap on with my fingertips. The keys have excellent travel and feedback when pressed too. There is only just over an inch of the keyboard to serve as a wrist rest, which is fine when I hold my hands up above this small keyboard anyway.

The keyboard charges via microUSB, found down on the lower right of the keyboard. There are two notches that small tabs on the top cover fit into with a magnet in the wrist rest to help hold the case closed and keep the display off while you are carrying the iPad in the case.

Daily usage experiences

Some may think I am being ridiculous using a keyboard with an iPad Mini, but I started using UMPCs more than a decade ago and have been able to adapt to small keyboards. I’m actually working on documenting my life story for my daughters while commuting on the train thanks in large part to the ZAGG Messenger Folio and the iPad Mini.

While I was primarily looking for a keyboard to use with the iPad Mini, the ZAGG Messenger Folio also provides an Apple Pencil holder and kickstand for viewing media. This entire package has served me well while traveling and commuting on the train daily, in addition to being used around the office as my portable computing device.

The keyboard is well designed and very functional while the Apple Pencil holder is convenient. The only thing I would have liked to have seen is a better kickstand design that supported more viewing angles. Then again, a lot is offered here by ZAGG for just $64.99.

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Facebook launches BARS, a TikTok-like app for creating and sharing raps – TechCrunch

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Facebook’s internal R&D group, NPE Team, is today launching its next experimental app, called BARS. The app makes it possible for rappers to create and share their raps using professionally created beats, and is the NPE Team’s second launch in the music space following its recent public debut of music video app Collab.

While Collab focuses on making music with others online, BARS is instead aimed at would-be rappers looking to create and share their own videos. In the app, users will select from any of the hundreds of professionally created beats, then write their own lyrics and record a video. BARS can also automatically suggest rhymes as you’re writing out lyrics, and offers different audio and visual filters to accompany videos as well as an autotune feature.

There’s also a “Challenge mode” available, where you can freestyle with auto-suggested word cues, which has more of a game-like element to it. The experience is designed to be accommodating to people who just want to have fun with rap, similar to something like Smule’s AutoRap, perhaps, which also offers beats for users’ own recordings.

Image Credits: Facebook

The videos themselves can be up to 60 seconds in length and can then be saved to your Camera Roll or shared out on other social media platforms.

Like NPE’s Collab, the pandemic played a role in BARS’ creation. The pandemic shut down access to live music and places where rappers could experiment, explains NPE Team member DJ Iyler, who also ghostwrites hip-hop songs under the alias “D-Lucks.”

“I know access to high-priced recording studios and production equipment can be limited for aspiring rappers. On top of that, the global pandemic shut down live performances where we often create and share our work,” he says.

BARS was built with a team of aspiring rappers, and today launched into a closed beta.

Image Credits: Facebook

Despite the focus on music, and rap in particular, the new app in a way can be seen as yet another attempt by Facebook to develop a TikTok competitor — at least in this content category.

TikTok has already become a launchpad for up-and-coming musicians, including rappers; it has helped rappers test their verses, is favored by many beatmakers and is even influencing what sort of music is being made. Diss tracks have also become a hugely popular format on TikTok, mainly as a way for influencers to stir up drama and chase views. In other words, there’s already a large social community around rap on TikTok, and Facebook wants to shift some of that attention back its way.

The app also resembles TikTok in terms of its user interface. It’s a two-tabbed vertical video interface — in its case, it has  “Featured” and “New” feeds instead of TikTok’s “Following” and “For You.” And BARS places the engagement buttons on the lower-right corner of the screen with the creator name on the lower-left, just like TikTok.

However, in place of hearts for favoriting videos, your taps on a video give it “Fire” — a fire emoji keeps track. You can tap “Fire” as many times as you want, too. But because there’s (annoyingly) no tap-to-pause feature, you may accidentally “fire” a video when you were looking for a way to stop its playback. To advance in BARS, you swipe vertically, but the interface is lacking an obvious “Follow” button to track your favorite creators. It’s hidden under the top-right three-dot menu.

The app is seeded with content from NPE Team members, which includes other aspiring rappers, former music producers and publishers.

Currently, the BARS beta is live on the iOS App Store in the U.S., and is opening its waitlist. Facebook says it will open access to BARS invites in batches, starting in the U.S. Updates and news about invites, meanwhile, will be announced on Instagram.

Facebook’s recent launches from its experimental apps division include Collab and collage maker E.gg, among others. Not all apps stick around. If they fail to gain traction, Facebook shuts them down — as it did last year with the Pinterest-like video app Hobbi.

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Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450M, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant – TechCrunch

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Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services, from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning to the practice known as “social listening”.

Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech.

In a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.”

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its hometown of Brighton, on the southern coast of England.

The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5 million from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and a Series A round from Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Europe. That was followed by a $33 million Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015.

With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously.

Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

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Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions – TechCrunch

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Twitter reveals its move into paid subscriptions, Australia passes its media bargaining law and Coinbase files its S-1. This is your Daily Crunch for February 25, 2021.

The big story: Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions

Twitter announced its first paid product at an investor event today, showing off screenshots of a feature that will allow users to subscribe to their favorite creators in exchange for things like exclusive content, subscriber-only newsletters and a supporter badge.

The company also announced a feature called Communities, which could compete with Facebook Groups and enable Super Follow networks to interact, plus a Safety Mode for auto-blocking and muting abusive accounts. On top of all that, Twitter said it plans to double revenue by 2023.

Not announced: launch dates for any of these features.

The tech giants

After Facebook’s news flex, Australia passes bargaining code for platforms and publishers — This requires platform giants like Facebook and Google to negotiate to remunerate local news publishers for their content.

New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads — The sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Sergey Brin’s airship aims to use world’s biggest mobile hydrogen fuel cell — The Google co-founder’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell.

Coinbase files to go public in a key listing for the cryptocurrency category — Coinbase’s financials show a company that grew rapidly from 2019 to 2020 while also crossing the threshold into unadjusted profitability.

Boosted by the pandemic, meeting transcription service Otter.ai raises $50M — With convenient timing, Otter.ai added Zoom integration back in April 2020.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market — The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “DOCN.”

Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck — For founders aiming to entice investors, the pitch deck remains the best way to communicate their startup’s progress and potential.

Five takeaways from Coinbase’s S-1 — We dig into Coinbase’s user numbers, its asset mix, its growing subscription incomes, its competitive landscape and who owns what in the company.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads — The new streaming service launches on March 4.

Register for TC Sessions: Justice for a conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup world — This is just one week away!

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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