No, Apple didn’t acquire music analytics startup Asaii, it hired the founders to work on Apple Music

On the heels of news of not one but two acquisitions from Apple last week, a report surfaced yesterday that Apple had picked up yet another company, the music analytics startup Asaii, for under $100 million; the report led to a “confirmation” from a shareholder in a separate report. But as it turns out, neither appear to be correct.

But we asked and Apple has declined to confirm the deal, and it gave no green light to use its usual statement — the one it often issues when smaller startups are acquired. (You can see a sample of it in this story about Apple buying computer vision startup Spektral last week, which we did get Apple to confirm.) That is, the company has not acquired the assets of the startup.

What it has done is hire a few employees of the company — specifically the three founders, Sony TheakanathAustin Chen and Chris Zhang — who are all now working at Apple at Apple Music. (Apple has done this before: for example, it hired a team from the mapping app PinDrop in the UK; at the time it was also misreported as an acquisition.)

It’s not clear if the three will be working on similar technology, or other kinds of tools to affect how music is discovered on Apple Music. Apple has already launched a beta of its own analytics service called Apple Music for Artists.

Asaii announced in September that it would shut down its service October 14 (yesterday). It also provided music analytics, but it focused on a wider picture across multiple platforms (not just a single silo like Apple Music or Spotify).

Spotify — the music streaming business that is currently Apple’s biggest rival — has added a number of features over the years (some built in-house, some by way of acquisition) to improve the services that it offers to artists to have more transparency on how well their music, and their “brands,” are performing on Spotify. For Spotify, it’s part of a suite of services to help them leverage Spotify as a distribution platform to improve their overall business as artists.

Some believe that Spotify will continue to ramp up these services over time to take on more of the functions of a traditional label in a bid to improve its margins, and also provide more utility to artists. It’s making those moves at a time when many musicians and songwriters have grown disillusioned with the music industry and how they can (or can’t, as the case may be) make money in it.

So it stands to reason that Apple, too, might be considering how it can build similar features into Apple Music — although the company has not confirmed that it will, nor will it be using Asaii’s existing tools to do so.

To be clear, Apple already has some features in place to help promote and understand how music performs on its platform. The beta of Apple Music for Artists, which launched in June of this year, currently provides details on plays, radio spins, song purchases and album purchases.

It also lets you look into trends around your music, control how your artist profile looks, and get insights into how and where your music gets discovered. Separately, it also provides various widgets you can use to promote your Apple Music tracks elsewhere, as well a guidelines on best practices.

But there is still a lot of ground to cover for Apple when it comes to music, both in terms of what it can provide artists as tools to improve their experience on there; and also in terms of how consumers discover and use music on the service. Both of these are potential areas that you might see getting developed over time.

Theakanath and Chen had both worked at Apple previously. PitchBook lists SkyDeck, an accelerator based at UC Berkeley, as its only investor. Meanwhile, Crunchbase lists The House Fund as its only investor, with no details on the amount raised.

Apple Ending Safari Support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 in March 2020

Apple today announced on its WebKit blog that it is ending support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 starting in March 2020. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is a security protocol used to protect web traffic.

Ahead of the planned deprecation, Apple recommends apps adopt TLS 1.2, which offers “security fit for the modern web.” Upgrading from TLS 1.0 and 1.1 provides the following benefits, according to Apple:

– Modern cryptographic cipher suites and algorithms with desirable performance and security properties, e.g., perfect forward secrecy and authenticated encryption, that are not vulnerable to attacks such as BEAST.

– Removal of mandatory and insecure SHA-1 and MD5 hash functions as part of peer authentication.

– Resistance to downgrade-related attacks such as LogJam and FREAK.

TLS 1.2 is the standard on Apple platforms and already represents 99.6 percent of connections made from Safari. Apple says TLS 1.0 and 1.1 account for less than 0.36 percent of all connections.

Other browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, and Microsoft’s Edge, are also planning to drop TLS 1.0 and 1.1 support starting in early 2020.
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Truphone, an eSIM mobile carrier that works with Apple, raises another $71M, now valued at $507M

Truphone — a UK startup that provides global mobile voice and data services by way of an eSIM model for phones, tablets and IoT devices — said that it has raised another £18 million ($23.7 million) in funding; plus it said it has secured £36 million ($47 million) more “on a conditional basis” to expand its business after signing “a number of high-value deals.”

It doesn’t specify which deals these are, but Truphone was an early partner of Apple’s to provide eSIM-based connectivity to the iPad; and it will also be offering a service for new iPhone XS and XR models, taking advantage of the dual SIM capability. Truphone says that strategic partners of the company include Apple (“which chose Truphone as the only carrier to offer global data, voice and text plans on the iPad and iPhone digital eSIM”); Synopsys, which has integrated Truphone’s eSIM technology into its chipset designs; and Workz Group, a SIM manufacturer, which has a license from Truphone for its GSMA-accredited remote SIM provisioning platform and SIM operating system.

The company said that this funding, which was made by way of a rights issue, values Truphone at £386 million ($507 million at today’s rates) post-money. Truphone told TechCrunch that the funding came from Vollin Holdings and Minden Worldwide — two investment firms with ties to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who also owns the Chelsea football club, among other things — along with unspecified minority shareholders. Collectively, Abramovich-connected entities control more than 80 percent of the company.

We have asked the company for more detail on what the conditions are for the additional £36 million in funding to be released and all it is willing to say is that “it’s KPI-driven and related to the speed of growth in the business.” It’s unclear what the state of the business is at the moment because Truphone has not updated its accounts at Companies House (they are overdue). We have asked about that, too.

For some context, Truphone most recently raised money almost exactly a year ago, when it picked up £255 million also by way of a rights issue, and also from the same two big investors. The large amount that time was partly being raised to retire debt. That deal was done at a valuation of £370 million ($491 million at the time of the deal). Going just on sterling values, this is a slight down-round.

Truphone, however, says that business is strong right now:

“The appetite for our technology has been enormous and we are thrilled that our investors have given us the opportunity to accelerate and scale these groundbreaking products to market,” said Ralph Steffens, CEO, Truphone, in a statement. “We recognised early on that the more integrated the supply chain, the smoother the customer experience. That recognition paid off—not just for our customers, but for our business. Because we have this capability, we can move at a speed and proficiency that has never before seen in our industry. This investment is particularly important because it is testament not just to our investors’ confidence in our ambitions, but pride in our accomplishments and enthusiasm to see more of what we can do.”

Truphone is one of a handful of providers that is working with Apple to provide plans for the digital eSIM by way of the MyTruphone app. Essentially this will give users an option for international data plans while travelling — Truphone’s network covers 80 countries — without having to swap out the SIMs for their home networks.

The eSIM technology is bigger than the iPhone itself, of course: some believe it could be the future of how we connect on mobile networks. On phones and tablets, it does away with users ordering, and inserting or swapping small, fiddly chips into their devices (that ironically is also one reason that carriers have been resistant to eSIMs traditionally: it makes it much easier for their customers to churn away). And in IoT networks where you might have thousands of connected, unmanned devices, this becomes one way of scaling those networks.

“eSIM technology is the next big thing in telecommunications and the impact will be felt by everyone involved, from consumers to chipset manufacturers and all those in-between,” said Steve Alder, chief business development officer at Truphone. “We’re one of only a handful of network operators that work with the iPhone digital eSIM. Choosing Truphone means that your new iPhone works across the world—just as it was intended.” Of note, Alder was the person who brokered the first iPhone carrier deal in the UK, when he was with O2.

Truphone has not released numbers detailing how many devices are using its eSIM services at the moment — either among enterprises or consumers — but it has said that customers include more than 3,500 multinational enterprises in 196 countries. We have asked for more detail and will update this post as we learn more.

Apple to Australia: “This is no time to weaken encryption”

Apple to Australia: “This is no time to weaken encryption”

Apple has filed its formal opposition to a new bill currently being proposed by the Australian government that critics say would weaken encryption.

If it passes, the “Assistance and Access Bill 2018” would create a new type of warrant that would allow what governments often call “lawful access” to thwart encryption, something that the former Australian attorney general proposed last year.

The California company said in a filing provided to reporters on Friday that the proposal was flawed.

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Fitbit Charge 3 review: Peppering a fitness tracker with smartwatch powers

Fitbit Charge 3 review: Peppering a fitness tracker with smartwatch powers

Fitbit contracted smartwatch fever last year. And since the debut of its Ionic smartwatch, the company’s signature fitness trackers haven’t made as many waves as they once did. That’s due in part to users embracing the smartwatch more as the technology improves over time.

But fitness trackers aren’t dead—or at least, Fitbit hopes they aren’t—and the company’s new Charge 3 tracker is designed for users who want some smartwatch features in a fitness tracker’s simple-band package.

Even today, fitness trackers have a few advantages over smartwatches: they’re easier to wear since they have slimmer, lighter profiles. They’re less complicated because they’re designed primarily to keep you fit (not necessarily for things like emailing on the go). And, perhaps the most important distinction of all, fitness trackers are generally less expensive than smartwatches.

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Review: The HyperJuice Adapter Lets You Charge Your AirPods Wirelessly, But It’ll Cost You

With Apple’s AirPower still missing in action, accessory makers have started coming up with alternate solutions to allow the AirPods to charge using a Qi-based wireless charger.

Hyper’s HyperJuice Wireless Charger Adapter is one such solution, adding wireless charging support to the AirPods for $50. The HyperJuice Adapter, which is made from a white plastic to match the AirPods, snaps on to the AirPods Charging Case.



One side of the HyperJuice Adapter is shorter than the other, and this side is meant to be positioned at the back of the case to leave the Bluetooth button on the back of the AirPods accessible. The front side of the adapter is longer and comes up close to the lid of the AirPods.

I guess one side of the HyperJuice had to be longer to house the wireless charging coil, but with the long side of the HyperJuice Adapter positioned right at the lid of the case, it’s a little bit harder to open the lid one handed with a thumb.



Having the longer side at the front also made the whole setup feel backwards to me, especially because the front of the HyperJuice features the HyperJuice logo and FCC regulatory information.



Inside of the adapter, there’s a Lightning connector that plugs into the Lightning port of the AirPods Charging Case, which is how the wireless charging works. On the bottom of the adapter, there’s a small green LED that lets you know when the HyperJuice Adapter is successfully charging with a wireless adapter.

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Why missing Saudi journalist’s Apple Watch is an interesting, but unlikely, lead

Police investigating the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are searching for his Apple Watch to obtain his health and location data before his disappearance. But that may prove impossible, according to new details learned by TechCrunch.

The Saudi-born U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist went missing last week after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, reportedly to obtain marriage papers. His soon-to-be wife was waiting outside the consulate with Khashoggi’s iPhone.

Khashoggi never emerged from the consulate, sparking a manhunt. It has been reported but not confirmed that he was killed inside the consulate. The Washington Post reports that U.S. intercepts showed efforts by the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman to lure the reporter back to the kingdom and detain him.

Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the Saudi government. The Saudi kingdom has denied any involvement with his disappearance.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing Turkish officials, that investigators were looking to Khashoggi’s black Apple Watch that he was wearing as he entered the consulate. The inference was that any data collected by the Apple Watch could glean answers into health data, such as his heart rate, location or other clues.

Turkey does not have the watch, Reuters said, suggesting it may have been lost, destroyed or remains in the custody of Saudi authorities.

TechCrunch staff have scoured several photo libraries and social media and found one image of Khashoggi wearing a third-generation Apple Watch — based on the red dot on the watch’s crown. The 2017 model comes with an optional LTE connection.

Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey in May 2018 wearing a third-generation Apple Watch. (Image: Al Sharq Forum/Twitter)

But even if Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate wearing that model, a third-generation Apple Watch does not support cellular connections in Turkey, effectively ruling out any chance that his health data synced either with his iPhone outside or Apple’s servers.

It’s also unlikely that the watch connected to a known Wi-Fi network inside the consulate, or that the watch was within close enough range to sync with his iPhone outside using Bluetooth.

In any case, if health data from Khashoggi’s watch was transmitted over the air to Apple’s iCloud where it could be synced with his iPhone, the data is end-to-end encrypted with his passcode.

Not even Apple — and therefore law enforcement — can access this data, meaning any evidence of his whereabouts will be on his iPhone.

There have been several cases of watches and fitness trackers helping authorities find missing persons, as well as help secure prosecutions. As much as wearables help track a person’s fitness and activity, they store and transmit data that’s often stored in the cloud. That data is often obtainable by law enforcement, which critics say is a privacy risk.

App Store generated 93% more revenue than Google Play in Q3

There’s always been a gap between how much money Apple’s App Store makes when compared with Google Play. But in the third quarter of 2018, that gap widened considerably – possibly to the widest point yet. According to a new report from Sensor Tower, the App Store earned nearly 93% more than Google Play in the quarter, the largest gap since at least 2014 – or, when Sensor Tower began tracking Google Play data.

The firm says that approximately 66% of the $18.2 billion in mobile app revenue generated in Q3 2018 came from Apple’s App Store. The store made $12 billion in the quarter, up 23.3% from the $9.7 billion it made during the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Google Play earned $6.2 billion in the quarter, up 21.5% from the year-ago quarter’s $5.1 billion.

Based on Sensor Tower’s chart of top-grossing apps across both stores, subscriptions are continuing to aid in this revenue growth. Netflix remained the top-grossing non-game app for the third quarter in a row, bringing in an estimated $243.7 million across both platforms. Tinder and Tencent Video remained in the second and third spots, respectively.

Mobile game spending also helped fuel the revenue growth, with spending up 14.9% year-over-year during the quarter to reach $13.8 billion. In fact, it accounted for 76% of all app revenue across both platforms in the quarter, with $8.5 billion coming from the App Store and $5.3 billion from Google Play.

In terms of app downloads, however, Google Play still has the edge thanks to rapid adoption of lower-cost Android devices in emerging markets, the report said. App installs grew 10.9% across both stores, reaching 27.1 billion, up 24.4% from Q3 2017.

The rankings of the most downloaded apps also got a big shakeup in Q3, thanks to Bytedance’s short-video app TikTok absorbing Musical.ly during the quarter. As a result of the merger, it’s now the No. 4 ranked app worldwide, having grown 15% quarter-over-quarter and 440% year-over-year.

That puts it ahead of both Instagram (No. 5) and Snapchat (No. 10), in terms of Q3 app downloads, and sets the stage for Bytedance becoming a more serious player in the social app market.

Sensor Tower’s full report is available here.