Apple introduces the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max

Another year, another set of brand spankin’ new iPhones. But this year, little has been left to the imagination as leaks have continued to spring up over the course of the past few months.

Today, however, the new iPhone becomes official. Apple has introduced a new models of the premium iPhone, the iPhone XS, which comes in three finishes, gold, silver and space grey.

So let’s take a look at the details.

Design

The new iPhone doesn’t look all that different from the iPhone X, but that is always the case with the “S” years. The phones come in gold, silver and space grey and are made with surgical grade steel, as well as a new glass formulation for durability.

The Apple team has also upgraded the dust and water resistance of the iPhone, bumping it to IP68 rated, with water resistance up to 2 meters deep for several minutes. Schiller added that the phone was tested in many liquids, including orange juice, tea, wine and beer.

Display

The new display on the iPhone XS is a Super Retina OLED display, but it has 60 percent greater dynamic range than the previous generation. Displays come in two sizes — 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch — with 458 pixels per inch.

The bigger phone is called the iPhone XS Max.

Unfortunately, on both models, that notch is still hanging out at the top of the phone, but not without good reason. Housed in that sliver of bezel is an infrared camera, flood illuminator, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, speaker, microphone, front camera, and dot projector.

Much of this, of course, allows for FaceID to continue on this next gen of the iPhones. It has a faster secure enclave and faster algorithms have improved FaceID in the iPhone Xs, with Phil Schiller saying it’s the most secure facial authentication in a smartphone ever.

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Instacart now serves 70 percent of U.S. households

Toward the end of 2017, Instacart penned a partnership with one of the country’s biggest grocery retailers, Kroger. At the time, it was a smaller deal with one of Kroger’s chains called Ralphs.

But today Instacart is expanding its partnership with Kroger, bringing Instacart delivery to 75 additional Kroger markets, growing Instacart’s Kroger footprint by 50 percent nationwide. The expansion will be completed by late October, bringing Instacart delivery to more than 1,600 Kroger stores.

This builds on Instacart’s momentum, following partnership deals with chains like Albertsons, Aldi, Sam’s Club, and Loblaw.

In all, Instacart is now available to 70 percent of all households across the country. Last year, the company announced its goal to reach 80 percent of U.S. households by the end of 2018, and its most recent funding round seems to be propelling the startup to achieve that goal.

In February, Instacart raised $200 million led by Coatue Management, as well as Glade Brook Capital Partners and existing investors. The round valued Instacart at $4.2 billion.

Since Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, Instacart has been put in a challenging position. But, in many ways, that challenge has represented opportunity. The nearly $14 billion acquisition has spurred an even more rapid evolution of the grocery industry, leaving incumbents with a choice: Acquire (or build) your own delivery platform or partner with Instacart to compete with online grocery purchase and delivery from Amazon.

Some retailers, like Target, have chosen to purchase their own platform. But other big players, such as Albertsons and Sam’s Club, seem to have been motivated by the Whole Foods deal to partner up with Instacart.

This has grown Instacart’s marketplace to feature more than 300 different retail partners on the platform, which has in turn helped grow Instacart’s community of shoppers, which has topped 50,000 this year.

As this growth continues, a great deal is dependent on Instacart’s ability to maintain the quality of the product. But the company is also taking steps toward shoring up the platform. Instacart has begun testing a partnership with Postmates to help make deliveries during peak hours in San Francisco.

Kairos’ Brian Brackeen to show off facial recognition tech at Disrupt SF

Privacy and security continue to be a top-line issue in our world today. This puts facial recognition in a bit of a grey area, as it could offer incredible benefits to our security and open up vulnerabilities when it comes to our privacy.

Luckily, Kairos CEO and cofounder Brian Brackeen will be joining us at Disrupt to chat about all this and more.

The idea for Kairos came when Brackeen was working on HR time-clocking systems at Apple. People were cheating the system, which spurred Brackeen to implement facial recognition. Long before Apple ever introduced FaceID, Brackeen knew that this type of verification would have big implications on the broader ecosystem.

But those implications can be just as negative as they can positive, a fact that Brackeen is keenly aware of.

“Facial recognition-powered government surveillance is an extraordinary invasion of the privacy of all citizens — and a slippery slope to losing control of our identities altogether,” Brackeen wrote in a TechCrunch post in June. That’s why Brackeen has decided that Kairos facial recognition technology won’t be used by any government entities or law enforcement.

However, Kairos has been working to help banks and other enterprise corporations with security and user verification, which could end up being a game-changer in the growing world of crypto.

Kairos also sees an opportunity to help brands and marketers understand the sentiment of users viewing and interacting with their content, which is why the company recently acquired EmotionReader.

But the promise of facial recognition is dependent on near-perfect accuracy.

At Disrupt SF, we’ll put Kairos to the test. Brackeen will hop on stage and demo the tech in a way that’s never been done before. We’ll also have the chance to ask him about the larger implications of facial recognition and what it means to build a business without wavering on your principles.

Disrupt SF will take place in San Francisco’s Moscone Center West from September 5 to 7. The full agenda is here, and you can still buy tickets right here.

Hear how to build a brand from Tina Sharkey, Emily Heyward and Philip Krim at Disrupt

For startups, especially e-commerce companies, branding is everything.

A slogan, an ad, even the design of the logo can make the difference between success and failure. But understanding how to develop a brand and strategically evolve that brand over time isn’t the easiest task. Luckily, three experts are coming to Disrupt to talk through the ins and outs.

Red Antler’s Emily Heyward, Brandless’ Tina Sharkey, and Casper CEO Philip Krim will join us at TC Disrupt SF in early September, and it’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.

Emily Heyward cofounded Red Antler in 2007 after working in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree focused on postmodern theory and consumer culture. At Red Antler, she serves as Chief Strategist and has helped brands like AllBirds, BirchBox and Casper find their unique voice in a cluttered market.

Tina Sharkey hails from Brandless, the new e-commerce company that brings its own line of household and food items to the market for $3 each. Brandless has raised nearly $300 million since launching in 2016, an impressive feat on its own. What makes Brandless so attractive to investors? Tina Sharkey’s unwavering focus on understanding her customers. Alongside democratizing these products, and bringing eco-friendly and FDA-approved ‘safer choice’ goods to the masses, Sharkey makes data around consumer behavior a priority at the company, which helps with insights on how to sell Brandless’s portfolio of more than 300 products.

Heyward and Sharkey will be joined by Casper CEO and cofounder Philip Krim. Casper sprung onto the market in 2013 with a relatively simple premise: sell a quality mattress for cheaper. While it makes sense, it’s not the sexiest brand proposition. But with the help of Heyward and Red Antler, and a keen sense of the type of customer who chooses Casper over a traditional mattress, Casper has become one of the most effectively marketed brands out there right now.

We’re thrilled to hear from this trio of greatness at Disrupt SF.

Check out the full agenda here. Tickets are still available even though the show is less than two weeks away. Grab one here.

New Battlefield V trailer gives a glimpse of Battle Royale mode

Battle Royale mode is taking over the gaming sphere. Alongside Fortnite, PUBG and H1Z1, a number of big titles are adding Battle Royale to their popular games, including CoD: Black Ops IV and Battlefield V.

In fact, EA DICE just released a new trailer for Battlefield V that seems to show a glimpse of the Battle Royale mode.

The Devastation of Rotterdam trailer shows loads of in-game footage, cutscenes and general action on the Rotterdam map. But at the end, the trailer goes to an aerial shot of a ring of fire, and inside a small number of soldiers continue to battle it out.

This may very well be the first look we’re getting at Battlefield V’s Battle Royale mode, which was teased at E3 this year.

The game doesn’t come out until October 19, at which point it will be available on PS4, Xbox, and PC.

Check out the trailer below:

Coming to a theater near you: Amazon?

It looks like Amazon may be gearing up to make more moves in the brick-and-mortar world. Bloomberg reports that the e-commerce behemoth is putting itself in the running to acquire Landmark Theatres, which claims to be the United States’ largest chain of movie theaters focused on art house (indie and foreign) movies, with a network of 56 cinemas, covering 268 screens in 27 markets.

Bloomberg’s sources say that Amazon is going up against other potential acquirers in purchasing the business from Wagner/Cuban Cos., but that no final decisions have been made.

The companies aren’t publicly commenting on the reports, but it’s an interesting scenario to consider because of all the ways that it seems to fit into Amazon’s wider strategy. 

The company has done an incredible job of making it easy (and cheap) to buy virtually anything you want from it in the digital world, whether it’s necessities like toiletries, books, groceries, clothes and electronics, or digital products like movies, music and cloud storage space for your app or game, in as little as one click. Through its marketplace model — where it is both a middleman between consumers and sellers, and the seller itself of different goods and services — Amazon wants to be wherever people want to spend money.

But there are certain forms of retail that may never translate to the online world. Experiential retail — dining out at restaurants, going to a bar or event, picking a melon that you can smell before you pay for it and, of course, going to the movies — requires that you get up and go somewhere to do it.

Amazon knows this, and so it’s slowly, quietly amassing selective assets that will let people engage in the more physical side of commerce. These have included book stores, and its own futuristic, checkout-free food shops. And of course it spent $13.7 billion to gobble up the natural food leviathan Whole Foods.

The latter of these is very instructive when you consider how a movie theater chain might fit into the Amazon pantheon. Amazon’s Prime Fresh grocery delivery service gives busy users the convenience of skipping the grocery store, but Whole Foods also gives Amazon a way of capturing buyers who might prefer to make trips to a grocery store.

But that’s not all it does. It’s added Whole Foods discounts as yet another sweetener for Prime subscribers; it’s extending its formidable logistics muscle to Whole Foods ordering and delivery (first for Prime subscribers, naturally); and of course it has put in pop-up shops selling its other products, like the Kindle and the Echo, in prime spots when you enter a store.

Amazon owning a chain of theaters spells out a lot of opportunities for it in terms of expanding its interests in film; in experiential, physical commerce; and in leveraging the rest of the pieces in its commercial empire.

The world of movie theaters has been hobbling for years, with droves of consumers these days foregoing increasingly expensive tickets and snacks and opting to watch a slightly smaller screen in the comfort of their own home. But to the disruptive eye, that ageing business model is catnip, and so unsurprisingly, MoviePass has come along, seeing that there was an opportunity to try to revive the cinema experience by offering subscriptions for a flat rate to get more bums on those seats.

Yes, MoviePass is bleeding money, and it looks like a mess for many other reasons, but it’s had an impact, so much so that AMC has taken notice and launched its own competitor.

The world’s largest theater chain almost certainly won’t experience the same sort of pains that MoviePass has, because it both controls the means of distribution and has a sizeable support infrastructure, and of course owns the cinemas.

But if AMC has a safety net, then Amazon — one of the world’s most valuable companies — has airbags, collision sensors, seatbelts, automatic braking and maybe even an Alexa-powered predictive voice to tell you what to do next. If Amazon ran a loss-making chain of cinemas, it would be but a little drop in the bucket for it.

Amazon already has one of the biggest digital subscription businesses in the world, with more than 100 million Prime members, as of April 2018. Tacking a subscription to cinemas on to that, which either made going free or discounted, is a no-brainer.

But wait! You get more for the price of the Landmark Theatres! Amazon, as we know, also has a budding media business, offering movies, TV and music to Prime users. Included in that is its own original content machine, Amazon Studios, responsible for shows like Transparent and movies like Manchester by the Sea.

A theater chain acquisition would further open the distribution channels for Amazon’s own films, and give Amazon a much tighter grip on the costs for that distribution. And with a position covering theatrical, DVD and digital distribution windows, you can bet that will give Amazon more leverage when negotiating screen rights to films that it hasn’t produced itself.

Controlling distribution could also prove useful during awards season — the timing of a film’s release goes a long ways toward determining nominees. (And yes, those screens also become one more place where Amazon can run ads, too, in its budding advertising empire.)

And don’t forget the fact that theaters are, at the end of the day, also retail real estate.

It’s a long-known fact that cinemas make most of their money on concessions, and they have accordingly built out large lobby areas where people can mill about and spend money before and after sitting down in the darkened screening rooms. In addition to selling all the usual concessions (both made by Amazon and its marketplace partners), Amazon could use those spaces as they have with Whole Foods, creating retail experiences for products that might have nothing at all to do with what you came to the cinema for in the first place, but then suddenly seem like interesting places to try out something new.

Is it any wonder that even without Amazon or Landmark responding to Bloomberg’s report, theater chain stocks dropped on word of the news?

Gaming star Ninja sparks outrage by refusing to stream with women

At a Samsung event last week, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins explained why he doesn’t stream with female gamers.

“If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever,” said Ninja, who is married, in an interview with Polygon.

As you might expect, this stance was met with plenty of backlash.

Ninja then doubled down on his stance, clarifying that it comes down to an issue of online harassment.

First and foremost, everyone has the prerogative to make decisions for their own personal life. If Ninja believes that the online harassment suffered (by just about any internet celebrity) is too much for him and his family to deal with, and that playing with women will exacerbate that harassment, then that is his choice.

The problem is that it goes against his usual stance of taking responsibility for his position as a role model.

As Kotaku aptly points out, Ninja has made real moves toward being a role model for his 10 million+ Twitch followers, from cutting down on cursing on stream to giving to charity and other important causes. In fact, Ninja sees his commitment to charities and his role as an activist as one of the most amazing things he’s done in his life.

And he’s well aware of his influence. He often “raids” less popular Twitch streamers’ channels, including some women, to give them exposure.

So why be a role model who doesn’t include women?

Yes, being a celebrity comes with an inordinate amount of online harassment. And that sucks. But it also comes with a level of responsibility. Not everyone has the platform to make an actual difference in this world. And when our Vice President, and other influencers, have decided that being alone in the same room (virtual or otherwise) with women opens them up to too much vulnerability, they make it that much harder for women to achieve the same influence.

Remember, gaming is about as extreme a culture as a woman can find herself in. Not only are women excluded in this male-dominated community, but they’re often sexually and verbally harassed, which isn’t helped much by the fact that games themselves portray women as props moreso than protagonists.

Ninja is the most influential gamer of our generation, the likes of which have never been seen before. The success of female streamers and gamers surely isn’t reliant on him. But he could very well change the hearts and minds of a generation of young men who may stop thinking of women as less, and might start thinking of them as equals.

H1Z1 officially comes to the PS4

H1Z1 has spent a couple months on PS4 in an open beta. But today, the Battle Royale game is officially making its debut on the PlayStation platform.

Much like Fortnite Battle Royale, which has swept the gaming world unlike almost any title before it, H1Z1 drops 100 players into a map where they must loot up and survive. Unlike Battle Royale, H1Z1 is relatively more realistic, with a much larger map, more drab colors, and a handful of drivable vehicles.

Interestingly, H1Z1 was one of the earlier Battle Royale games during the game type’s wave of popularity, catching the attention of pro gamers back in 2015. Back then, the game was only available via Steam.

Since, games like PUBG and Fortnite have grown wildly, forcing H1Z1 makers Daybreak to play a bit of catch up.

But today, H1Z1 goes officially live on the PS4, giving gamers who are sick of Fortnite’s bubbly world a chance to get into the Battle Royale world in a different way.

Plus, Daybreak has added in a Fortnite-style Battle Pass for the season, letting PS4 players unlock reward levels for $5.49. H1Z1 is also getting a couple new weapons, including a Sniper Rifle and an RPG, as well as an ARV that can fit a full team of five.

You can check out the launch trailer below:

InVision hires former Twitter VP of Design Mike Davidson

InVision continues its slow march toward design world domination, today announcing the hire of Mike Davidson who will take over as Head of Partnerships and Community.

Davidson was previously the VP of Design at Twitter, where he built a 100-person team that was responsible for every aspect of Twitter’s user experience and branding, including web, mobile web, native apps, and business tools.

Before Twitter, Davidson worked at ESPN/Disney until 2005, when he founded NewsVine, which was purchased by NBCNews in 2007. Davidson then took on a Vice President roll for five years before starting at Twitter.

At InVision, Davidson will oversee partnerships, product integrations, strategic acquisitions and community building. This includes leading InVision’s Design Leadership Forum, which hosts private events for design leaders from big companies like Facebook, Google, Lyft, Disney, etc. Davidson will also work with the new Design Transformation team at InVision to help create educational experiences for InVision’s customers.

Davidson says he plans to spend the next 30 to 60 days talking as little as possible, and listening to the feedback he hears from his team around what can be improved.

“InVision has a seamless workflow that includes everyone in the company in the design process,” said Davidson. “If there’s one goal I’d like to realize, it’s that. Design is a team sport these days, which wasn’t the case 10 or 20 years ago.”

In Davidson’s own words, the position at InVision is “less about business to business and more about designer to designer.” Davidson will be meeting predominantly with the design teams from various companies to discuss not only how InVision can help them build better experiences, but how InVision can incorporate those design teams’ personalities into the product.

InVision was built on the premise that the screen is the most important place in the world, considering that every brand and company is now building digital experiences across the web and through mobile applications. CEO Clark Valberg hopes to turn InVision into the Salesforce of design, and partnerships, acquisitions and product integrations are absolutely vital to that.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have an authentic leader like Mike step into this role to help us further build out our design community — which is as important to us as our product — and to help drive design maturity inside of every organization,” said Valberg. “Digital product design is shaping every industry in the world, and as the leader in the space, we see it as our responsibility to support and foster community and advanced education.”

HoneyLove looks to reinvent shapewear

Betsie Larkin spent the first ten years of her professional career as an EDM artist. She released two solo albums, toured five continents and worked with the likes of Armin van Buuren and Ferry Corsten. But after being constantly frustrated by shapewear she wore under her stage outfits, she felt compelled to try her hand at a new industry.

That’s how HoneyLove was born.

HoneyLove, backed by Y Combinator, aims to disrupt the traditional shapewear market by making an affordable, high-quality product that actually works.

In her research before starting HoneyLove, Larkin identified two big problems with shapewear. The first is that it tends to bunch up, causing constant readjustment, and the second is that it tends flatten out everything, even the curves people want to show off. That’s why Larkin developed HoneyLove Sculptwear.

HoneyLove uses supportive structures in side the seams of the garment, similar to the flexible boning used in old-school corsettes, and encases those structures in a soft channel of protective fabric. This simple enhancement ensures that the garment doesn’t bunch up around the legs or waistband.

HoneyLove also inserts its patent-pending BoostBands, made from a combination of compression fabric and a flat elastic panel, in the back of the legs of the garment to accentuate the natural curve between the bottom and the upper legs, according to Larkin.

The company manufactures at a gold-certified responsible (WRAP) factory that is dedicated to shapewear in the Guangdong province of China.

HoneyLove first started out on Kickstarter in February, and raised a whopping $300,000 in pre-orders after posting a $30,000 goal. The product is now available via the HoneyLove website for $89, which sits right in the middle of the larger market, where you can find cheap shapewear for as little as $35 and high-end shapewear for as much as $150.