South Korea, Italy also calling out Apple for slowing iPhones


Apple continues to get into hot water over a power management feature that throttles performance on older iPhones to avoid unexpected battery shutdowns.

A South Korean consumer group has now filed a complaint, though it’s not clear whether the complaint will trigger a formal investigation (via Reuters).

The group, Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, had already filed a lawsuit against the company.

This is just the latest in a series of complaints Apple is facing over the issue around the world. Earlier this week a consumer group in China wrote to company with concerns.

The French government is also investigating whether Apple’s actions constitute ‘programmed obsolescence’ (which is illegal in the country).

US senator John Thune has also written to Apple to express…

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Google inks patent deal with Tencent


Google has yet more news from China after the U.S. search firm announced a patent cross-licensing agreement with Chinese tech giant Tencent.

The terms were not disclosed, but Google said the tie-in with Tencent, which is valued at over $500 billion, covers “a broad range of products and technologies” and is “long-term.” The two firms pledged to work together on future innovation and technology.

“We’re pleased to enter into a patent cross-license with Tencent. By working together on agreements such as this, tech companies can focus on building better products and services for their users,” Google’s Head of Patents Mike Lee said in a statement.

Google’s core search service remains blocked in China, but this announcement follows a string of development that have seen…

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SEC cools traders’ hot plans for cryptocurrency-based exchange traded funds


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has serious concerns about the securities industry’s plans to create exchange traded funds around cryptocurrency.

In a strongly worded letter to the heads of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the Investment Company Institute, the director of the division of investment management, Dalia Blass said that there were “significant outstanding questions” around how funds that held large amounts of cryptocurrencies (and related products) would satisfy the necessary regulatory requirements.

In the letter Blass identified a number of areas of concern for the regulatory agency including the valuation of underlying cryptocurrency assets held by mutual funds or exchange traded funds; the actual liquidity of the assets…

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Crunch Report | Amazon reveals 20 finalists for second HQ

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Varo Money raises $45 million for mobile banking without fees


There are a number of startups looking to disrupt traditional banking. We’ve covered Chime, Zero and Jiko, just to name a few.

Another one of those is Varo Money and they’ve raised $45 million led by private equity giant, Warburg Pincus and The Rise Fund, a global impact fund that’s part of another private equity firm, TPG. (That’s the one U2’s Bono is involved with).

Investors believe there’s a huge market opportunity to disrupt big banks and build a more cost-effective and consumer-friendly platform that appeals to Millennials.

Young people “want something that is really simple and intuitive,” Varo Money CEO Colin Walsh told TechCrunch. “We think that this is the beginning of what could be a fairly disruptive change in a very established industry.”

Varo offers…

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Tile lays off dozens after a disappointing holiday


Tile, one of the best known item-tracking gadgets out there, has laid off some 30 people and reportedly stopped the potential hires of another 10, TechCrunch has learned. This comes less than a year after the company raised a $25 million B round last May. The layoffs are reportedly due to disappointing sales over the holidays.

When reached for comment, Tile offered the following statement:

As part of our 2018 planning process, the Tile leadership team determined that a recalibration of our priorities was necessary so that the company can focus on the development of our Tile Platform business and core hardware products. Unfortunately, this means that we had to say goodbye to roughly 30 Tile colleagues. Tile remains the leader in smart location, and we will continue creating a world…

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Tile lays off dozens after a disappointing holiday


Tile, one of the best known item-tracking gadgets out there, has laid off some 30 people and reportedly stopped the potential hires of another 10, TechCrunch has learned. This comes less than a year after the company raised a $25 million B round last May. The layoffs are reportedly due to disappointing sales over the holidays.

When reached for comment, Tile offered the following statement:

As part of our 2018 planning process, the Tile leadership team determined that a recalibration of our priorities was necessary so that the company can focus on the development of our Tile Platform business and core hardware products. Unfortunately, this means that we had to say goodbye to roughly 30 Tile colleagues. Tile remains the leader in smart location, and we will continue creating a world…

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AI voice assistant developer Rokid raises $100M Series B extension to build its US presence

Rokid founder and CEO Mingming Zhu

Rokid, a Chinese startup that makes an AI voice assistant and smart devices, just raised a Series B extension round led by Temasek Holdings, with participation from Credit Suisse, IDG Capital and CDIB Capital. The size of the round was not released, but a source familiar with the deal told TechCrunch that it is $100 million.

The company’s previous funding was its Series B round, which was announced in November 2016. Founder and chief executive officer Mingming Zhu says Rokid raised a Series B+ instead of a C round because the company, which is based in Hangzhou, China with research centers in Beijing and San Francisco that develop its proprietary natural language processing, image processing, face recognition and robotics technology, is still…

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Apple revamps web design for App Store


Apple has updated the look of its web-based App Store, 9to5Mac first reported. It definitely has the feel of the iOS 11 App Store, which Apple completely redesigned and launched last September. But, unlike iOS 11, there’s no focus on app discovery.

The functionality is about the same as before, but what it comes down to is the clean design that feels simpler — perhaps due to the increased amount of white space. There’s also a bit more of an emphasis on reviews.

If the app is optimized for iPhone X, Apple now shows iPhone X screenshots rather than screenshots from older phone models. Oh, and now Apple reminds you that its apps are only available on the App Store for iOS devices.

Let’s check it out.

Here’s before:

And here’s after:

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