VOCHI raises additional $2.4 million for its computer vision-powered video editing app

VOCHI, a Belarus-based startup behind a clever computer vision-based video editing app used by online creators, has raised an additional $2.4 million in a “late-seed” round that follows the company’s initial $1.5 million round led by Ukraine-based Genesis Investments last year. The new funds follow a period of significant growth for the mobile tool, which is now used by over 500,000 people per month and has achieved a $4 million-plus annual run rate in a year’s time.

Investors in the most recent round include TA Ventures, Angelsdeck, A.Partners, Startup Wise Guys, Kolos VC, and angels from other Belarus-based companies like Verv and Bolt. Along with the fundraise, VOCHI is elevating the company’s first employee, Anna Bulgakova, who began as head of marketing, to the position of co-founder and Chief Product Officer.

According to VOCHI co-founder and CEO lya Lesun, the company’s idea was to provide an easy way for people to create professional edits that could help them produce unique and trendy content for social media that could help them stand out and become more popular. To do so, VOCHI leverages a proprietary computer-vision-based video segmentation algorithm that applies various effects to specific moving objects in a video or to images in static photos.

“To get this result, there are two trained [convolutional neural networks] to perform semi-supervised Video Object Segmentation and Instance Segmentation,” explains Lesun, of VOCHI’s technology. “Our team also developed a custom rendering engine for video effects that enables instant application in 4K on mobile devices. And it works perfectly without quality loss,” he adds. It works pretty fast, too — effects are applied in just seconds.

The company used the initial seed funding to invest in marketing and product development, growing its catalog to over 80 unique effects and more than 30 filters.

Image Credits: VOCHI

Today, the app offers a number of tools that let you give a video a particular aesthetic (like a dreamy vibe, artistic feel, or 8-bit look, for example). It can also highlight the moving content with glowing lines, add blurs or motion, apply different filters, insert 3D objects into the video, add glitter or sparkles, and much more.

In addition to editing their content directly, users can swipe through a vertical home feed in the app where they can view the video edits others have applied to their own content for inspiration. When they see something they like, they can then tap a button to use the same effect on their own video. The finished results can then be shared out to other platforms, like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

Though based in Belarus, most of VOCHI’s users are young adults from the U.S. Others hail from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and parts of Europe, Lesun says.

Unlike some of its video editor rivals, VOCHI offers a robust free experience where around 60% of the effects and filters are available without having to pay, along with other basic editing tools and content. More advanced features, like effect settings, unique presents and various special effects require a subscription. This subscription, however, isn’t cheap — it’s either $7.99 per week or $39.99 for 12 weeks. This seemingly aims the subscription more at professional content creators rather than a casual user just looking to have fun with their videos from time to time. (A one-time purchase of $150 is also available, if you prefer.)

To date, around 20,000 of VOCHI’s 500,000 monthly active users have committed to a paid subscription, and that number is growing at a rate of 20% month-over-month, the company says.

Image Credits: VOCHI

The numbers VOCHI has delivered, however, aren’t as important as what the startup has been through to get there.

The company has been growing its business at a time when a dictatorial regime has been cracking down on opposition, leading to arrests and violence in the country. Last year, employees from U.S.-headquartered enterprise startup PandaDoc were arrested in Minsk by the Belarus police, in an act of state-led retaliation for their protests against President Alexander Lukashenko. In April, Imaguru, the country’s main startup hub, event and co-working space in Minsk — and birthplace of a number of startups, including MSQRD, which was acquired by Facebook — was also shut down by the Lukashenko regime.

Meanwhile, VOCHI was being featured as App of the Day in the App Store across 126 countries worldwide, and growing revenues to around $300,000 per month.

“Personal videos take an increasingly important place in our lives and for many has become a method of self-expression. VOCHI helps to follow the path of inspiration, education and provides tools for creativity through video,” said Andrei Avsievich, General Partner at Bulba Ventures, where VOCHI was incubated. “I am happy that users and investors love VOCHI, which is reflected both in the revenue and the oversubscribed round.”

The additional funds will put VOCHI on the path to a Series A as it continues to work to attract more creators, improve user engagement, and add more tools to the app, says Lesun.

Instagram confirms test of new anti-harassment tool, Limits, designed for moments of crisis

Instagram head Adam Mosseri confirmed the company is testing a new feature called “Limits,” which would give users the ability to temporary lock down their accounts when they’re being targeted by a flood of harassment. The announcement of the new feature was made today during a video where Mosseri condemned the recent racism that took place on Instagram’s platform following the Euro 2020 final, and noted the company was working on improvements to both internal and customer-facing tools to help address this problem.

The company had previously commented on and condemned the racist abuse, which had seen England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho viciously harassed by angry fans making racist comments after the team’s defeat earlier this month. Mosseri explained at the time the company was using technology to try to prioritize user reports, and it mistakenly marked some reports as benign comments instead of referring them to human moderators. One of the possible complications was that many of the harassing comments were using emoji, which Instagram’s systems may have struggled to understand given emoji can have different meanings in different contexts.

Today, Mosseri again acknowledged Instagram’s mistake and noted it has since fixed the issue. He said Instagram had been proactively sweeping the footballers’ comments, but hadn’t anticipated the wave of user reports.

He also pointed out that Instagram receives millions of user reports per day and even getting 1% of them wrong leads to tens of thousands of problematic posts that remain on the platform in error.

Mosseri then mentioned several user-facing tools that could help people deal with harassment more directly on their own accounts to prevent abuse. This includes Instagram’s tools like Block and Restrict. The latter is tool that allows users to approve a user’s comments before anyone else sees them or read someone’s messages without sending read receipts. Another more recently added tool called Hidden Words lets users block certain keywords in both comments and direct messages.

He added that Instagram was also testing a new tool called Limits, which would allow users to lock down their accounts in a “moment of risk.” This feature could have helped the footballers, as it would have offered simple settings to limit unwanted comments and reactions.

The feature had been spotted earlier this month by social media consultant Matt Navarra, who shared screenshots of how it worked, but Instagram had yet to formally announce it.

In the images that were shared, users with the feature would find a new section called Limits in Instagram’s privacy controls which explained that they could temporarily limits comments and messages from specific groups of followers.

Users could then toggle on or off groups to limit, including recent followers and accounts that are not following you, as these could include accounts that were spam or those created just to harass you. As is often the case, when there’s a flood of incoming abuse, it will not come from an account’s longtime followers, but rather from newcomers who have sought out the account just to harass them.

The feature will also allow users to set a duration for the Limits in terms of a number of days or even weeks.

An Instagram spokesperson also confirmed the feature worked as the images show, noting it would be a tool that would help people manage “intense instances of harassment or abuse.”

“Maybe you’re in high school and you are going through break up or you just switched schools. Or maybe you are professional footballer and you’re receiving a lot of harassment,” explained Mosseri, when detailing how Limits could be useful in different situations. “Whatever it is, we know that people sometimes are in temporary moments of real risk of pain, and we want to give them tools to protect themselves in those situations,” he added.

Instagram declined to say when the feature would become publicly available, but noted it’s being tested on mobile in select countries for the time being.

Samsung will announce new foldables on August 11

Samsung just sent out invites for its next Unpacked event. There are those companies that like to sneak hints into their invites — and then there’s Samsung. The note leads with the big, bold words “Get ready to unfold” and features a pair of flat-colored objects that can reasonably be said to resemble the form factors of the Galaxy Z Fold and Flip, respectively.

In keeping with…the general state of the world over the past year-and-a-half, the event will be held virtually on Wednesday, August 11. Interestingly, the company is also opening up preorders on its “next flagship,” sights and specs unseen. Perks for early preorders include “12 free months of Samsung Care+, up to an extra $200 trade-in credit and a special pre-order offer.”

But honestly, it’s generally best to wait until you actually see the thing and maybe even read a review or two.

There’s a lot to unpack (so to speak) ahead of the event. First, I’m probably not alone in expecting that the company would focus its next big event on the upcoming Galaxy Watch. The big event at MWC was a bit of a dud (not unlike MWC itself), offering up more information on the upcoming wearable partnership with Google, in lieu of announcing any hardware.

As the company noted at the time, “The upcoming One UI Watch will debut at an upcoming Unpacked event later this summer, sporting the new UI, as well as the forthcoming joint Samsung/Google platform.”

It seems reasonably likely that this will be the event where that will occur, even if the new watch doesn’t get top billing. For one thing we’re running out of summer. For another, rumors have the new Galaxy Watch set for a late-August (the 27th) release.

All told, this could well be a pretty huge summer event for the company, bucking last year’s trend of meting out devices one by one at virtual invents. Word on the street is we could be seeing a Galaxy Watch 4, Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy S21 FE (“Fan Edition” — basically the latest version of the company’s budget flagship) and even the Galaxy Buds Pro, which will more directly take on the AirPods Pro (which are getting a bit long in the tooth).

What’s missing in all of this? No points if you said the Note. Samsung’s well-loved phablet is reportedly not coming this year, as chip shortages continue to plague the industry. That would be a big hit to Samsung’s six-month cycle, though we’ll see how that all plays out soon enough.

The August 11th event kicks off at 10AM ET / 7AM PT.

Yummy raises $4M, aims to be ‘super app of Venezuela’

Yummy, a Venezuela-based delivery app on a mission to create the super app for the country, announced Friday it raised $4 million in funding to expand its dark store delivery operations across Latin America.

Funding backers included Y Combinator, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, Canary, Hustle Fund, Necessary Ventures and the co-founders of TaskUs. The total investment includes pre-seeding capital raised in 2020.

“This appears to be a contrarian bet, but Yummy has quickly become the No. 1 super app in Venezuela and proven that the team can scale the business in a difficult territory,” Mateen said in a statement. “Now Vicente and the rest of the Yummy team will expand into more traditional markets with the necessary experience and support to overcome inevitable challenges that they will face.”

Vicente Zavarce, Yummy’s founder and CEO, launched the company in 2020 and is currently part of Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort. Born in Venezuela, Zavarce came to the U.S. for school and stayed to work in growth marketing at Postmates, Wayfair and Getaround before starting Yummy. Zavarce was a remote CEO over the past year, stuck in the U.S. due to travel restrictions, but said he is making the most of it.

Yummy’s app can be downloaded for free, and the company charges a delivery fee or merchant fee. In contrast to some of his food delivery competitors, Zavarce told TechCrunch Yummy’s fees are “the lowest in the market” so they do not affect the merchant’s ability to use the app.

Yummy order heat map. Image Credits: Yummy

The company is pulling together additional key components for its super app strategy, which includes launching a ridesharing vertical this year. Yummy has already connected more than 1,200 merchants with hundreds of thousands of customers.

And, over the past year the company completed more than 600,000 deliveries of food, groceries, alcohol and shopping. It reached $1 million in monthly gross merchandise volume while also growing 38% in revenue month over month.

Over the past eight years, the political and economic challenges faced by the country have led to its recent adoption of the U.S. dollar, Zavarce said. In some cases up to 70% of transactions are happening in dollars on the ground. He said this has protected the business against hyperinflation and ultimately created the opportunity for startups to begin operating in Venezuela.

Because of that, combined with more consumer technology innovation over the past decade, Zavarce said there is no reason why Venezuela should not have the best last-mile logistics. It’s there that Yummy has an opportunity to connect multiple vertices into a super app with little to no competition.

“Eventually, other players will enter, but because we have a super app, we already have an amazing frequency of usage,” he added. “We also already have exclusivity with 60% of the food delivery marketplace, which has enabled us to build a moat around the market. We believe we are the right people to execute on this and feel it is our responsibility to do it.”

Plans for the new funding include user acquisition — the company has close to 200,000 registered users already — and to expand in Peru and Chile by August. At the same time, Zavarce will spend some of that capital to attract more users across Venezuela. He also expects to be in Ecuador and Bolivia by the end of the year.

 

Xiaomi global shipments push past Apple for No. 2 spot

A banner quarter for Xiaomi helped the Chinese mobile company snag the No. 2 spot in global smartphone shipments, according to newly posted Q2 numbers from research firm Canalys. It’s pretty stunning growth for the company, up 83% year-over-year for the quarter and capturing 17% of the global market.

The surge puts Xiaomi at No. 2, globally, behind only Samsung’s 19% by a relatively small margin. Apple is at third with 14% (after its own solid growth has slowed), while fellow Chinese manufacturers Oppo and Vivo round out the top five at 10% a piece.

Huawei, of course, is nowhere to be seen among the top companies. It’s a pretty massive drop, due in no small part to blacklisting that has both barred the company from certain markets (namely, the U.S.) and cut off access to U.S. mobile products, including Google’s Android and various apps.

Image Credits: Canalys

Canalys cites aggressive pricing as a big factor in Xiaomi’s success — particularly contrasted with premium priced offerings from Samsung and Apple.

“It is now transforming its business model from challenger to incumbent, with initiatives such as channel partner consolidation and more careful management of older stock in the open market,” the analyst firm’s Research Manager Ben Stanton said in a release. “It is still largely skewed toward the mass market, however, and compared with Samsung and Apple, its average selling price is around 40% and 75% cheaper respectively. So a major priority for Xiaomi this year is to grow sales of its high-end devices, such as the Mi 11 Ultra.”

The company certainly isn’t a household name in the States (the company has dealt with its own issues here), but of late it has found particular success in Latin America, Africa and Western Europe. It seems that there are still plenty of markets available to continue its expansion as it looks to take on Samsung, even as Oppo and Vivo hope to continue their own respective rapid global growth.

Nigeria leads mobile app market growth in Africa as use of gaming apps surge 44% from Q1 2020

The pandemic’s effect on the global app market has not been hard to miss. In the first quarter and first half of this year, consumer spending in mobile apps hit new records at $32 billion and $64.9 billion, respectively.

In Africa, it can be tough to call out exact numbers on consumer spending because the continent gets hardly a mention in global app market reports. Yet, other metrics are worth looking at, and a new report from AppsFlyer in collaboration with Google has some important insights into how the African app market has fared since the pandemic broke out last year.

The report tracked mobile app activities across three of Africa’s largest app markets (Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa) between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021.

From the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2021, the African mobile app industry (which is predominantly Android) increased by 41% in overall installs. This was analyzed from 6,000 apps and 2 billion installs in the three markets. Nigeria registered the highest growth, with a 43% rise; South Africa’s market increased by 37% and Kenya increased 29%.

Lockdown numbers

On March 22, 2020, Rwanda imposed Africa’s first lockdown. Subsequently, other countries followed; (those in the report) Kenya (March 25), South Africa (March 27), and Nigeria (March 30).

As more people spent time at home from Q2 2020, app installs increased by 20% across the three countries. South Africans were the quickest to take to their phones as the lockdowns hit with installs increasing by 17% from the previous quarter.

On the other hand, Nigerians and Kenyans recorded a 2% and 9% increase, respectively. The report attributes the disparity to the varying levels of restrictions each country faced; South Africa experienced the strictest and most frequent.

Per the report, gaming apps showed strong performance between Q1 and Q2 2020. The segment experienced a 50% growth compared to an 8% increase in nongaming apps pulled. It followed a global trend where gaming apps surged to a record high in Q2 2020, at 14 billion downloads globally.

In-app purchasing revenue and almost year-on-year growth

According to AppsFlyer, the biggest trend it noticed was in in-app purchasing revenue. In Q3 2020, in-app purchasing revenue numbers grew with a staggering 136% increase compared to Q2 2020, and accounted for 33% of 2020’s total revenue, “highlighting just how much African consumers were spending within apps, from retail purchases to gaming upgrades.”

In-app purchasing revenue among South African consumers increased by 213%, while Nigeria and Kenyan consumers recorded 141% and 74% increases, respectively.

On the advertising front and on an almost year-on-year basis, in-app advertising revenue also increased significantly as Africans were glued to their smartphones more than ever. Per the report, in-app advertising revenue increased 167% between Q2 2020 to Q1 2021.

For gaming and non-gaming apps, which was highlighted between the first two quarters, they both increased by 44% and 40% respectively in Q1 2021 compared to Q2 2020.

Fintech and super apps

In the last five years, fintech has dominated VC investments in African startups. It’s a no brainer why there is so much affinity for the sector. Fintechs create so much value for Africa’s mobile-first population, with large sections of unbanked, underbanked and banked people. This value is why all but one of the continent’s billion-dollar startups are fintech.

African fintechs have grown by 89.4% between 2017 and 2021, according to a Disrupt Africa report. Now, there are more than 570 startups on the continent. Many fintechs are mobile-based, therefore reflecting the number of fintech apps Africans use each day. Consumers in South Africa and Nigeria saw year-on-year growth in finance app installs by 116% and 60%, respectively.

AppsFlyer says that like fintech apps, super apps are on the rise as well. These “all-in-one” apps offer users a range of functions such as banking, messaging, shopping and ride-hailing. The report says their rise, partly due to device limitations on the continent, owes much to the same conditions that have led to a surge in fintech apps: systemic underbanking.

“Super apps remove some of the barriers that these users face, as well as providing a level of customer insight and experience that traditional banks cannot,” the report said.

Daniel Junowicz, RVP EMEA & Strategic Projects for AppsFlyer, commenting on the trends highlighted in the report said, “…The mobile app space in Africa is thriving despite the turmoil of last year. Installs are growing, and consumers are spending more money than ever before, highlighting just how important mobile can be for businesses when it comes to driving revenue.”

European challenger bank Bunq raises $228 million at $1.9 billion valuation

Amsterdam-based challenger bank Bunq has been self-funded by its founder and CEO Ali Niknam for several years. But the company has decided to raise some external capital, leading to the largest Series A round for a European fintech company.

The startup is raising $228 million (€193 million) in a round led by Pollen Street Capital. Bunq founder Ali Niknam is also participating in the round — he’s investing $29.5 million (€25 million) while Pollen Street Capital is financing the rest of the round.

As part of the deal, Bunq is also acquiring Capitalflow Group, an Irish lending company that was previously owned by … Pollen Street Capital.

Founded in 2012, Ali Niknam has already invested quite a bit of money into his own company. He poured $116.6 million (€98.7 million) of his own capital into Bunq — that doesn’t even take into account today’s funding round.

But it has paid off as the company expects to break even on a monthly basis in 2021. The company passed €1 billion in user deposits earlier this year. So why is the company raising external funding after turning down VC firms for so many years?

“Everything has a right time. In the beginning of Bunq, it was important to get a laser user focus in the company. Having to also focus on fundraises and the needs of investors distracts. Bunq now is mature enough to start scaling up significantly, so more capital is welcome,” Niknam said.

In particular, the company expects to acquire smaller companies to fuel its growth strategy. Challenger banks have also represented a highly competitive market over the past years in Europe. It’s clear that there will be some consolidation at some point.

Bunq offers bank accounts and debit cards that you can control from a mobile app. It works particularly well if your friends and family are also using Bunq as you can instantly send money, share a bunq.me payment link with other people, split payments and more.

In particular, if you’re going on a weekend trip, you can start an activity with your friends. It creates a shared pot that lets you share expenses with everyone. If you live with roommates, you can also create subaccounts to pay for bills from that account.

The company offers different plans that range from €2.99 per month to €17.99 per month — there’s also a free travel card with a limited feature set. By choosing a subscription-based business model, the startup has a clear path to profitability as most users are paid users.

Verizon demos THOR, it’s new vehicle for frontline rapid humanitarian response

The increasingly intense heats bearing down feverishly across the globe are accelerating the number, scale, and complexity of disasters worldwide. Just in the past few weeks, we have seen record heat in the United States Pacific Northwest that has led to hundreds of deaths — with more heat on the way.

Heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, typhoons and many other types of weather-related disasters create huge challenges for infrastructure providers like energy utilities and telecoms, who have to keep uptime as close to 100% as possible for their customers even in the midst of some of the most challenging environments humans have ever witnessed.

To that end, Verizon (which, as a reminder, is the ultimate parent company for TechCrunch for a few more weeks) announced today the first demo unit of what it dubs its THOR vehicle, for Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response. Designed on top of a Ford F650 pickup truck chassis, THOR is designed to provide highly-mobile and resilient connectivity to frontline responders and citizens through wireless technologies like 5G Ultra Wideband and satellite uplinks.

Verizon’s THOR vehicle can deploy wireless technologies like 5G and satellite uplinks to rapidly deploy connectivity to frontline responders. Image Credits: Verizon

The company developed the prototype in partnership with the Department of Defense’s NavalX and the SoCal Tech Bridge, and unveiled the prototype last week at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, just north of San Diego.

In addition to wireless connectivity, THOR can also potentially deploy a variety of drone capabilities. For instance, a vehicle could deploy a drone for search and rescue operations, or to help augment firefighters with intelligence on how a wildfire is developing over time.

As I discussed a few weeks ago in “When the Earth is gone, at least the internet will still be working,” telcos like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are increasing spending on a variety of resiliency initiatives, ranging from the rapid staging of mobile wireless equipment to novel solutions like AT&T’s FirstNet One, a dirigible capable of flying near a disaster zone to offer wireless services.

DisasterTech as I have been dubbing it has been gaining more attention of late from investors and companies both big and small as governments, the private sector, insurers, and individuals have to confront and respond to the intensifying nature of storms globally.

Twitter considers new features for tweeting only to friends, under different personas, and more

Twitter has a history of sharing feature and design ideas it’s considering at very early stages of development. Earlier this month, for example, it showed off concepts around a potential “unmention” feature that would let users untag themselves from others’ tweets. Today, the company is sharing a few more of its design explorations that would allow users to better control who can see their tweets and who ends up in their replies. The new concepts include a way to tweet only to a group of trusted friends, new prompts that would ask people to reconsider the language they’re using when posting a reply, and a “personas” feature that would allow you to tweet based on your different contexts — like tweets about your work life, your hobbies and interests, and so on.

The company says it’s thinking through these concepts and is looking to now gather feedback to inform what it may later develop.

The first of the new ideas builds on work that began last year with the release of a feature that allows an original poster to choose who’s allowed to reply to their tweet. Today, users can choose to limit replies to only people mentioned in the tweet, ony people they follow, or they can leave it defaulted to “everyone.” But even though this allows users to limit who can respond, everyone can see the tweet itself. And they can like, retweet or quote tweet the post.

With the proposed Trusted Friends feature, users could tweet to a group of their own choosing. This could be a way to use Twitter with real-life friends, or some other small network of people you know more personally. Perhaps you could post a tweet that only your New York friends could see when you wanted to let them know you were in town. Or maybe you could post only to those who share your love of a particular TV show, sporting event, or hobby.

Image Credits: Twitter

This ability to have private conversations alongside public ones could boost people’s Twitter usage and even encourage some people to try tweeting for the first time. But it also could be disruptive to Twitter, as it would chip away at the company’s original idea of a platform that’s a sort of public message board where everyone is invited into the conversation. Users may begin to think about whether or not their post is worthy of being shared in public, and decide to hold more of their content back from the wider Twitter audience, which could impact Twitter engagement metrics. It also pushes Twitter closer to Facebook territory where only some posts are meant for the world, while more are shared with just friends.

Twitter says the benefit of this private, “friends only” format is that it could save people from the workarounds they’re currently using — like juggling multiple alt accounts or toggling between public to protected tweets.

Another new feature under consideration is Reply Language Prompts. This feature would allow Twitter users to choose phrases they don’t want to see in their replies. When someone is writing back to the original poster, these words and phrases would be highlighted and a prompt would explain why the original poster doesn’t want to see that sort of language. For instance, users could configure prompts to appear if someone is using profanity in their reply.

The feature wouldn’t stop the poster from tweeting their reply — it’s more a gentle nudge that asks them to be more considerate.

These “nudges” can have impact. For example, when Twitter launches a nudge that suggested users read an article before they amplify it with a retweet, it found that users opened articles before sharing them 40% more often. But in the case of someone determined to troll, it may not do that much good.

The third, and perhaps most complicated, feature is something Twitter is calling “Facets.”

This is an early idea about tweeting from different personas from one account. The feature would make sense for those who often tweet about different aspects of their lives, including their work life, their side hustles, their personal life or family, their passions, and more.

Image Credits: Twitter

Unlike Trusted Friends, which would let you restrict some tweets to a more personal network, Facets would give other users the ability to choose whether or not they wanted to follow all your tweets, or only those about the “facet” they’re interested in. This way, you could follow someone’s tweets about tech, but ignore their stream of reactions they post when watching their favorite team play. Or you could follow your friend’s personal tweets, but ignore their work-related content. And so on.

This is an interesting idea, as Twitter users have always worried about alienating some of their followers by posting “off-topic” so to speak. But this also puts the problem of determining what tweets to show which users on the end user themselves. Users may be better served by the algorithmic timeline that understands which content they engage with, and which they tend to ignore. (Also: “facets?!”)

Twitter says none of the three features are in the process of being built just yet. These are only design mockups that showcase ideas the company has been considering. It also hasn’t yet made the decision whether or not any of the three will go under development — that’s what the user feedback it’s hoping to receive will help to determine.

Apple just released the first iOS 15 beta to everyone

This is your opportunity to get a glimpse of the future of iOS, iPadOS and watchOS. Apple just released the first public beta of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8. Those releases are the next major versions of the operating systems for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Unlike developer betas, everyone can download these betas — you don’t need a $99 developer account. But don’t forget, it’s a beta.

The company still plans to release the final version of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8 this fall. But Apple is going to release betas every few weeks over the summer. It’s a good way to fix as many bugs as possible and gather data from a large group of users.

As always, Apple’s public betas closely follow the release cycle of developer betas. And Apple also released the second developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 15 today. So it sounds like the first public beta is more or less the same build as the second developer build.

But remember, you shouldn’t install a beta on your primary iPhone or iPad. The issue is not just bugs — some apps and features won’t work at all. In some rare cases, beta software can also brick your device and make it unusable. You may even lose data on iCloud. Proceed with extreme caution.

But if you have an iPad, iPhone or Apple Watch you don’t need, here’s how to download it. Head over to Apple’s beta website from the device you want to use for the beta and download the configuration profile — do that from your iPhone for the watchOS beta. It’s a tiny file that tells your device to update to public betas like it’s a normal software update.

Once it’s installed, reboot your device, then head over to the Settings (or Watch) app. You should see an update. In September, your device should automatically update to the final version of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 or watchOS 8 and you’ll be able to delete the configuration profile.

The biggest change of iOS 15 is a new Focus mode. In addition to ‘Do not disturb’, you can configure various modes — you can choose apps and people you want notifications from and change your focus depending on what you’re doing. For instance, you can create a Work mode, a Sleep mode, a Workout mode, etc.

There are many new features across the board, such as a new Weather app, updated maps in Apple Maps, an improved version of FaceTime with SharePlay and more. Safari also has a brand new look.