Daily Crunch: Judge delays TikTok ban

Americans can continue using TikTok for now, Google updates its developer policies and Uber gets approval to resume operations in London. This is your Daily Crunch for September 28, 2020.

The big story: Judge delays TikTok ban

The saga continues! The Trump administration’s ban on TikTok was scheduled to take effect today — but over the weekend, a federal court ruled that Americans can continue using the app while a legal challenge over the ban’s legality moves forward.

A federal judge had already put a similar injunction in place to prevent a ban on WeChat from moving forward.

Meanwhile, Oracle, Walmart and TikTok’s owner ByteDance have also reached a deal that’s been approved by the U.S. government and would allow the app to continue operating here. However, it seems like the various companies and governments involved in the deal aren’t exactly on the same page.

The tech giants

Google to better enforce Play Store in-app purchase policies, ease use of third-party app stores — Under threat of regulation, Google announced that it’s updating its Google Play billing policies to better clarify which types of transactions will be subject to Google’s commissions on in-app purchases.

Uber wins latest London licence appeal, but renewal is only for 18 months — The ride-sharing giant has faced a multi-year battle to have its license reinstated after the city’s transport regulator decided not to issue a renewal in 2017.

Roku introduces a new Ultra player, a 2-in-1 ‘Streambar’ and a new OS with support for AirPlay 2 — The Streambar combines 4K HDR streaming and premium audio into one product.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SoftBank will bring Bear’s serving robots to Japan, amid restaurant labor shortages — The investor detailed plans to bring Bear’s Servi robot to Japan in an effort to address restaurant labor issues.

GV bets on young team behind high school social app HAGS — The team is building an old-school social play focused on Gen Z high school socialization.

N26 hires Adrienne Gormley as its new chief operating officer — Gormley has spent the last six years working for Dropbox in Dublin.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

2 strategies for creating top-of-funnel marketing content — Even when you’re excellent at making the sale, you still need people to know you exist in the first place.

Deep Science: Robot perception, acoustic monitoring, using ML to detect arthritis — Devin Coldewey rounds up the latest research and discoveries.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Healthcare giant UHS hit by ransomware attack, sources say — The attack hit UHS systems early on Sunday morning, according to two people with direct knowledge of the incident.

Cannabis vape companies are experiencing a sales boom during the pandemic — From startups to major players, several leading manufacturers told TechCrunch that their companies are seeing a boom in sales since the start of the crisis.

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.

Daily Crunch: Reviewing the new Apple Watch

We’ve got an in-depth review of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple gives Facebook a temporary break on App Store fees and Alexis Ohanian is raising a new fund. This is your Daily Crunch for September 25, 2020.

The big story: Reviewing the new Apple Watch

Brian Heater has already been writing about the Apple Watch Series 6, but now he’s published his full review.

His verdict? Well, the core product hasn’t changed dramatically, but he notes that the biggest new feature, blood oxygen monitoring, requires a good fit, which makes sizing issues with the Solo Loop extra awkward. He also suggests that what we’re seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to monitoring functionality.

The verdict:

Taken as a whole, the Series 6 isn’t a huge leap forward over the Series 5 — and not really worth the upgrade for those who already own that recent vintage. But there are nice improvements throughout, augmented by good upgrades to watchOS that make the best-selling smartwatch that much better, while clearly laying the groundwork for Apple Watches of the future.

The tech giants

Apple is (temporarily) waiving its App Store fee for Facebook’s online events — This arrangement will last until December 31 and will not apply to gaming creators.

Twitter warns developers that their private keys and account tokens may have been exposed — Twitter has emailed developers warning of a bug that may have exposed sensitive data.

Google Meet and other Google services go down — Yesterday was a rough day for Google’s engineers.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Alexis Ohanian files for a new $150M fund, with a nod to his Olympian family — According to an SEC filing, Ohanian is raising a new fund, named 776 (the first Olympics were supposedly held in 776 B.C.E.).

Indonesian cloud kitchen startup Yummy gets $12 million Series B led by SoftBank Ventures Asia — Launched in June 2019, Yummy Corporation’s network of cloud kitchens now includes more than 70 facilities in Jakarta, Bandung and Medan.

HumanForest suspends London e-bike sharing service, cuts jobs after customer accident — The service suspension comes only a few months after HumanForest started the trial in North London.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Want to hire and retain high-quality developers? Give them stimulating work — With demand for developers on the rise, companies are under pressure to do everything they can to attract and retain talent.

Privacy data management innovations reduce risk, create new revenue channels — A new generation of infosec tools is needed to address the unique risks associated with the management of privacy data.

4 things to remember when adapting AI/ML learning models during a pandemic — New machine learning and AI-powered tools highlight a few pervasive challenges faced by both machines and the humans that create them.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Cambridge Analytica’s former boss gets 7-year ban on being a business director — Alexander Nix signed a disqualification undertaking earlier this month, which the U.K. government said yesterday it had accepted.

NASA commissions report to show its economic impact: $64B and 312K jobs — Perhaps anticipating budget pushback from the federal government, NASA has released its first-ever agency-wide economic report.

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.

Apple is (temporarily) waiving its App Store fee for Facebook’s online events

Last month, Facebook introduced support for paid online events — and since many of the businesses offering those events have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic, the company also said it would not collect fees for the next year. At the same time, it complained that Apple had “dismissed” its requests to waive the App Store’s customary 30% fee on in-app purchases.

Today, Facebook is announcing a reversal on Apple’s part: Online event fees will be processed through Facebook Pay, without Apple collecting its 30% cut, meaning businesses will receive all of the earnings from their online events, minus taxes. This arrangement will last until December 31 and will not apply to gaming creators.

The news comes after Facebook publicly pressured Apple to change its stance. It even submitted an iOS app update stating that “Apple takes 30% of this purchase” in the events payments flow. (Facebook said Apple rejected the update for including information that’s “irrelevant” to users.)

And while the two companies appear to have come to an agreement, today’s statements from Facebook are still a bit barbed.

“This is a difficult time for small businesses and creators, which is why we are not collecting any fees from paid online events while communities remain closed for the pandemic,” said Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne. “Apple has agreed to provide a brief, three-month respite after which struggling businesses will have to, yet again, pay Apple the full 30% App Store tax.”

Similarly, in discussing the exception for gaming creators, Facebook Gaming Vice President Vivek Sharma said, “We unfortunately had to make this concession to get the temporary reprieve for other businesses.”

When asked about the change, Apple provided the following statement: “The App Store provides a great business opportunity for all developers, who use it to reach half a billion visitors visitors each week across 175 countries. To ensure every developer can create and grow a successful business, Apple maintains a clear, consistent set of guidelines that apply equally to everyone.”

More specifically, Apple said it’s giving Facebook until the end of the year to implement in-app payments for these events and bring them into compliance with App Store rules.

This also comes as Fortnite-maker Epic Games is waging a legal battle and publicity campaign against Apple’s App Store fees, with Fortnite removed Fortnite from the iOS App Store. Epic is also part of a just-announced group of publishers called the Coalition for App Fairness, which is pushing for app store changes or regulation.

Apple is (temporarily) waiving its App Store fee for Facebook’s online events

Last month, Facebook introduced support for paid online events — and since many of the businesses offering those events have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic, the company also said it would not collect fees for the next year. At the same time, it complained that Apple had “dismissed” its requests to waive the App Store’s customary 30% fee on in-app purchases.

Today, Facebook is announcing a reversal on Apple’s part: Online event fees will be processed through Facebook Pay, without Apple collecting its 30% cut, meaning businesses will receive all of the earnings from their online events, minus taxes. This arrangement will last until December 31 and will not apply to gaming creators.

The news comes after Facebook publicly pressured Apple to change its stance. It even submitted an iOS app update stating that “Apple takes 30% of this purchase” in the events payments flow. (Facebook said Apple rejected the update for including information that’s “irrelevant” to users.)

And while the two companies appear to have come to an agreement, today’s statements from Facebook are still a bit barbed.

“This is a difficult time for small businesses and creators, which is why we are not collecting any fees from paid online events while communities remain closed for the pandemic,” said Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne. “Apple has agreed to provide a brief, three-month respite after which struggling businesses will have to, yet again, pay Apple the full 30% App Store tax.”

Similarly, in discussing the exception for gaming creators, Facebook Gaming Vice President Vivek Sharma said, “We unfortunately had to make this concession to get the temporary reprieve for other businesses.”

When asked about the change, Apple provided the following statement: “The App Store provides a great business opportunity for all developers, who use it to reach half a billion visitors visitors each week across 175 countries. To ensure every developer can create and grow a successful business, Apple maintains a clear, consistent set of guidelines that apply equally to everyone.”

More specifically, Apple said it’s giving Facebook until the end of the year to implement in-app payments for these events and bring them into compliance with App Store rules.

This also comes as Fortnite-maker Epic Games is waging a legal battle and publicity campaign against Apple’s App Store fees, with Fortnite removed Fortnite from the iOS App Store. Epic is also part of a just-announced group of publishers called the Coalition for App Fairness, which is pushing for app store changes or regulation.

Daily Crunch: Amazon unveils its own game-streaming platform

Amazon announces a new game service and plenty of hardware upgrades, tech companies team up against app stores and United Airlines tests a program for rapid COVID-19 testing. This is your Daily Crunch for September 24, 2020.

The big story: Amazon unveils its own game-streaming platform

Amazon’s competitor to Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud is called Luna, and it’s available starting today at an early access price of $5.99 per month. Subscribers will be able to play games across PC, Mac and iOS, with more than 50 games in the library.

The company made the announcement at a virtual press event, where it also revealed a redesigned Echo line (with spherical speakers and swiveling screens), the latest Ring security camera and a new, lower-cost Fire TV Stick Lite.

You can also check out our full roundup of Amazon’s announcements.

The tech giants

App makers band together to fight for App Store changes with new ‘Coalition for App Fairness’ — Thirteen app publishers, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, Spotify and others, launched a coalition formalizing their efforts to force app store providers to change their policies or face regulation.

LinkedIn launches Stories, plus Zoom, BlueJeans and Teams video integrations as part of wider redesignLinkedIn has built its business around recruitment, so this redesign pushes engagement in other ways as it waits for the job economy to pick up.

Facebook gives more details about its efforts against hate speech before Myanmar’s general election — This includes adding Burmese language warning screens to flag information rated false by third-party fact-checkers.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Why isn’t Robinhood a verb yet? — The latest episode of Equity discusses a giant funding round for Robinhood.

Twitter-backed Indian social network ShareChat raises $40 million — Following TikTok’s ban in India, scores of startups have launched short-video apps, but ShareChat has clearly established dominance.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek pledges $1Bn of his wealth to back deeptech startups from Europe — Ek pointed to machine learning, biotechnology, materials sciences and energy as the sectors he’d like to invest in.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

3 founders on why they pursued alternative startup ownership structures — At Disrupt, we heard about alternative approaches to ensuring that VCs and early founders aren’t the only ones who benefit from startup success.

Coinbase UX teardown: 5 fails and how to fix them — Many of these lessons, including the need to avoid the “Get Started” trap, can be applied to other digital products.

As tech stocks dip, is insurtech startup Root targeting an IPO? — Alex Wilhelm writes that Root’s debut could clarify Lemonade’s IPO and valuation.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

United Airlines is making COVID-19 tests available to passengers, powered in part by Color — United is embarking on a new pilot project to see if easy access to COVID-19 testing immediately prior to a flight can help ease freedom of mobility.

Announcing the final agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 — TechCrunch reporters and editors will interview some of the top leaders in transportation.

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.

Daily Crunch: Shopify confirms data breach

Shopify blames “rogue” employees for a data breach, Google Maps adds COVID-19 data and China pushes back against the TikTok deal. This is your Daily Crunch for September 23, 2020.

The big story: Shopify confirms data breach

The e-commerce platform blamed two “rogue members” of its support team, alleging that they stole customer data from “less than 200 merchants.” Shopify said it has fired the employees in question and referred the matter to the FBI.

In a blog post, the company said the affected data includes names, postal addresses and order details, but not “complete payment card numbers or other sensitive personal or financial information.” The company also said that there’s no evidence that the data has been utilized.

A merchant shared with TechCrunch a copy of their notification from Shopify, which said that the last four digits of customers’ payment cards had also been taken.

The tech giants

Amazon removes the $500 Prime Bike, says it has nothing to do with the Peloton knock-off — Echelon Fitness said it developed the Prime Bike “in collaboration with Amazon,” but Amazon is saying that isn’t the case.

Google Maps gets a COVID-19 layer — Google Maps users will be able to see a color-coded map indicating the number of cases per 100,000 people.

Top 20 iOS homescreen customization apps reach 5.7M installs after iOS 14 release — The three most-downloaded apps (Widgetsmith, Color Widgets and Photo Widget) account for 95% of these 5.7 million downloads.

Startups, funding and venture capital

China says it won’t approve TikTok sale, calls it ‘extortion’ — An editorial in the official English-language newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party said China has no reason to approve the “dirty” and “unfair” deal.

Zoom’s earliest investors are betting millions on a better Zoom for schools — ClassEDU is a new startup from former Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen aiming to answer the question: What if someone created a Zoom experience that was designed, not just marketed, for classrooms?

Endel raises $5M to create personalized ‘sound environments’ that improve productivity and sleep — I tried it out myself, listening to Endel’s mix of soothing music and white noise as I worked.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Fundraising lessons from David Rogier of MasterClass — Rogier says entrepreneurs should try to raise funds before launching.

Scaling to $100 million ARR: 3 founders share their insights — For this Disrupt panel, Alex Wilhelm spoke to Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain, Kaltura president Michal Tsur and GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij.

Dear Sophie: Possible to still get through I-751 and citizenship after divorce? — Another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Data breach at New York Sports Clubs owner exposed customer data — Town Sports International, the parent company of New York Sports Clubs and Christi’s Fitness gyms, is mopping up after a security lapse exposed customer data.

Curly the curling robot throws stones like a pro — Researchers designed Curly to be a robot that can observe the real world and act accordingly in a precise and strategic manner.

TC Sessions Mobility 2020 kicks off in two weeks — Speakers include Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel and Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of battery technology for Panasonic Energy of North America.

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.

Endel raises $5M to create personalized ‘sound environments’ that improve productivity and sleep

The pitch for Berlin-based Endel is pretty straightforward, according to its co-founder and CEO Oleg Stavitsky.

“The way I usually describe Endel is: This is a technology that is built to help you focus, relax and sleep,” Stavitsky told me. “Of course, the way we do that is a little more complicated than that.”

The startup is announcing today that it has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Kevin Rose of True Ventures, with participation from SleepScore Ventures, Techstars Ventures (Endel was part of the Techstars Music Accelerator), Impulse Ventures, Plus 8 Equity Partners, Waverley Capital, Amazon Alexa Fund, Target Global and various angel investors.

Stavitsky said that the team prevously worked together on children’s app company Bubl. After selling Bubl, Stavitsky said they began to explore the opportunities around sound — after all, he noticed the growth of playlists designed to help with things like sleep and focus, as well as the growth in mindfulness apps.

“When we started, we said, ‘Let’s just build this machine that can generate ambient music,'” he recalled. But he said that as the team did more research, they realized, “It has to be personalized. It cannot just be one song or one playlist or one soundscape. It really depends on the space you’re in.”

So that’s essentially what Endel has built. The startup says its Endel Pacific technology creates “sound environments” designed for your needs — whether that’s focusing, sleeping, relaxing or just when you’re on-the-go. Those environments are shaped, in part, by things like the time of day and the weather, as well as the user’s heart rate and motion.

Endel ecosystem

Image Credits: Endel

Rose said he was excited by “this idea of the closed loop system that uses real-time feedback to manipulate and change the body in a very positive way.” And he emphasized that Endel is “backed by science.”

Stavitsky said Endel’s approach draws a several areas of science, including research around circadian rhythms (so that it complements where you are in your daily sleep cycle), the pentatonic scale (so that its sounds are pleasant) and sound masking (so that you’re less likely to hear anything distracting).

The company is working with partners to do more to validate the science behind its approach, but it says it’s already applied the experience sampling method developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who developed and wrote the book on the concept of flow) to show that its sound environments can lead to a 6.3x increase in concentration and a 3.6x decrease in anxiety.

I tried it out myself, listening to Endel’s mix of soothing music and white noise as I working yesterday (including, of course, as I was writing this post). I won’t claim that I felt a dramatic increase in energy or focus, but as time went on, I noticed was working for a longer period of time than I normally do without getting distracted.

Oleg Stavitsky

Endel CEO Oleg Stavitsky

The startup has released apps for iOS, Apple Watch, macOS, Amazon Alexa, and Android, and it has been downloaded nearly 2 million times. A subscription costs $29.99 per year.

Stavitsky said Endel is also building a significant business around partnerships, for example by working with Japan’s ANA Airlines to feature its technology on planes, and there are supposedly deals with automakers and smart speaker manufacturers as well.

The startup has also signed a deal with Warner Music to algorithmically create songs and albums. Stavitsky said he’s hoping to do more work with musicians, so that when they release new music, there can be a traditional album but also “a functional, adaptive album that is available to you as a soundscape when you have to work, when you want to go to sleep.”

“The big vision is to ultimately go beyond sound,” he added — starting with an Apple TV app due later this year that incorporates video.

Endel has now raised a total of $7.1 million.

Daily Crunch: This TikTok deal is pretty confusing

Companies send out conflicting messages about the TikTok deal, Microsoft acquires a gaming giant and the WeChat ban is temporarily blocked. This is your Daily Crunch for September 21, 2020.

The big story: This TikTok deal is pretty confusing

This keeps getting more confusing. Apparently TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has reached a deal with Walmart and Oracle that will allow the Chinese social media app to continue operating in the United States, and the deal has been approved by Donald Trump. But it’s hard to tell exactly what this agreement entails.

ByteDance said it would retain 80% control of TikTok, while selling 20% of the company to Walmart and Oracle as “commercial partner” and “trusted technology partner,” respectively. However, Oracle released a seemingly conflicting statement, claiming that Americans will have majority ownership and “ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global.”

So what’s going on here? We’re trying to figure it out.

The tech giants

Microsoft set to acquire Bethesda parent ZeniMax for $7.5B — ZeniMax owns some of the biggest publishers in gaming, including Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios.

Trump administration’s WeChat ban is blocked by US district court — More news about the Trump administration’s efforts to ban some high-profile Chinese apps: A district court judge in San Francisco has temporarily stayed the nationwide ban on WeChat.

Nikola’s chairman steps down, stock crashes following allegations of fraud — This comes in the wake of a report from a noted short-seller accusing the electric truck company of fraud.

Startups, funding and venture capital

With $100M in funding, Playco is already a mobile gaming unicorn — Playco is a new mobile gaming startup created by Game Closure co-founder Michael Carter and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron.

Indian mobile gaming platform Mobile Premier League raises $90 million — Mobile Premier League operates a pure-play gaming platform that hosts a range of tournaments.

A meeting room of one’s own: Three VCs discuss breaking out of big firms to start their own gigs — We talked to Construct Capital’s Dayna Grayson, Renegade Partners’ Renata Quintini and Plexo Capital’s Lo Toney.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Edtech investors are panning for gold — At Disrupt, investors told us how they separate the gold from the dust.

Despite slowdowns, pandemic accelerates shifts in hardware manufacturing — China continues to be the dominant global force, but the price of labor and political uncertainty has led many companies to begin looking elsewhere.

The Peloton effect — Alex Wilhelm examines the latest VC activity in connected fitness.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Ireland’s data watchdog slammed for letting adtech carry on ‘biggest breach of all time’ — The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is putting more pressure on the country’s data watchdog to take enforcement action.

Pandemic accelerated cord cutting, making 2020 the worst-ever year for pay TV — According to new research from eMarketer, the cable, satellite and telecom TV industry is on track to lose the most subscribers ever.

Original Content podcast: ‘Wireless’ shows off Quibi’s Turnstyle technology — I interviewed the director of the new Quibi series.

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.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock is now live on Roku

NBCUniversal and Roku announced late last week that they’d resolved the dispute that was keeping NBCU’s streaming Peacock app off Roku’s smart TV platform. And as of this morning, Peacock has launched on Roku .

When Peacock launched in July, it was not available on either Roku or Amazon Fire TV — in Roku’s case, the reported issue was how much of Peacock’s ad inventory Roku would be able to sell.

The dispute escalated on Friday, with NBCU threatening to pull its TV Everywhere apps from Roku as well. Instead, the day ended with the companies announcing a deal.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with [NBCU parent company] Comcast that will bring Peacock to Roku customers and maintains access to NBCU’s TV Everywhere apps,” Roku said in a statement. “We look forward to offering these new options to consumers under an expanded, mutually beneficial relationship between our companies that includes adding NBC content to The Roku Channel and a meaningful partnership around advertising.”

NBCU still hasn’t announced a deal that would bring Peacock to Fire TV. And HBO Max, the other new streaming app from a major media company, still isn’t available on either Roku or Fire TV.

Peacock is available in a number of different tiers, with a free, ad-supported plan offering a select library of NBCU content, with more content (including Peacock originals like “Brave New World”) available for $4.99 a month, and then an ad-free tier that costs $9.99 per month.

“We are excited to bring Peacock and its unrivaled catalog to millions of Americans who enjoy entertainment on their favorite Roku devices,” said Maggie McLean Suniewick, Peacocck’s president of business development and partnerships, in a statement. “Roku customers are engaged streamers and we know they’ll love access to a wide range of free and paid content.”

Original Content podcast: ‘Wireless’ shows off Quibi’s Turnstyle technology

“Wireless” is probably the best showcase so far for Quibi’s Turnstyle technology.

That’s the technology that allows the streaming video app to switch seamlessly between landscape and portrait mode depending on the orientation of your phone. With other Quibi shows, you’re essentially getting two views of the same footage — but with “Wireless” (which is executive produced by Steven Soderbergh), you’re switching between traditional cinematic footage (in landscape) and a view of the protagonist’s phone (in portrait).

In this bonus episode of the Original Content podcast, director Zach Wechter told me that he and his co-writer Jack Seidman wrote the initial script — about a college student played by Tye Sheridan who gets trapped in the snow after a car crash, with only his iPhone to save him — before they decided on the phone-centric format. But when they heard about Turnstyle, “It just felt like a match made in heaven that would allow us to facilitate this idea.”

I wondered whether that required going back and adding a bunch of phone interactions to the story, but said Wechter said, “It was quite the opposite. One thing we found in testing was when the phone plot moved really fast, it would be hard, because there are these two perspectives happening at once.”

So that actually meant “reducing some fo the intriacy of the plot happening on the phone” to ensure that viewers didn’t get lost.

And if you’re wondering which mode to focus on as you watch, Wechter has some simple advice: “Go with your gut.” He said he had a “roadmap” for when he was hoping to nudge viewers to turn their phones — like when there’s a notification sound or Sheridan focuses on his phone — “but I think the most important part of the experience is that we’re not indicating when our viewers turn, that it becomes this sort of passive-but-active viewing experience.”

Wechter described making the show — essentially a feature length film divided into episodes of 10 minutes or less — as shooting “two films that had to dance together” in just 19 days. And he made things even more challenging by insisting that all the phone/FaceTime calls and even the text messages be filmed live, rather than just recording both ends separately.

“When I think about directing and my job, really the most fundamental part of it to me is making the actorss comfortable, and I think that having a scene partner is paramount,” he said. “It was a long conversation about why we couldn’t just have them act off of a recording and shoot it separately — because it took a lot of logistical effort and resources to do it — but it really makes the scenes feel very alive and realistic.”

You can listen to the full interview in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)