Архив рубрики: Apps

Amazon launches $1.2 mobile Prime Video plan in India

Amazon is doubling down on one of the biggest strengths of its Prime Video streaming service: aggressive pricing.
The e-commerce giant on Wednesday launched Prime Video Mobile Edition, an even more affordable tier of the on-demand video streaming service — now also bundling some mobile data.
Prime Video Mobile Edition, for which Amazon has partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel, will feature 28-day mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) access to customers in India for Rs 89 ($1.22). This tier will include 6GB of mobile data that customers can consume during the subscription period. There’s also a slightly expensive plan for Prime Video Mobile Edition that will charge customers Rs 299 but will offer 1.5GB mobile data for each day of the subscription. To anyone who subscribes to Prime Video Mobile Edition, Amazon says it will pick the tab for the first month.

Amazon Prime subscription costs $1.7 a month in India and includes access to Prime Video and Prime Music.

The new Prime Video plan is currently only available in India. Its launch comes two years after Netflix unveiled a similar plan in India.
Affordable pricing is key for on-demand steaming services that are looking to make inroads in India, the world’s second-largest internet market. Even as more than 600 million users are online in the country today, only a fraction of them currently pay to access digital subscriptions. In a recent report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated that gaming and video streaming market in India could clock as much as $5 billion in gross value transactions by March 2025.

Netflix launches Rs 199 ($2.8) mobile-only monthly plan in India

“India is one of our fastest growing territories in the world with very high engagement rates. Buoyed by this response, we want to double-down by offering our much-loved entertainment content to an even larger base of Indian customers. Given high mobile broadband penetration in the country, the mobile phone has become one of the most widely used streaming devices,” said Jay Marine, vice president, Amazon Prime Video Worldwide, in a statement.
Airtel, the second-largest telecom operator in India, is the first roll-out partner for Prime Video Mobile Edition, said Sameer Batra, director, Mobile Business Development at Amazon, suggesting that the company may ink similar deals with other telecom operators in the country as it looks to expand the “reach of our service to the entire pre-paid customer base in India.”
Nearly every on-demand video streaming service in India, including Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar, maintain various partnerships with local telecom operators and satellite TV providers to reach more users in the country. Amazon did not explicitly say when or if it plans to extend Prime Video Mobile Edition outside of India.

Amazon launches $1.2 mobile Prime Video plan in India

YouTube and WhatsApp inch closer to half a billion users in India

WhatsApp has enjoyed unrivaled reach in India for years. By mid-2019, the Facebook-owned app had amassed over 400 million users in the country. Its closest app rival at the time was YouTube, which, according to the company’s own statement and data from mobile insight firm App Annie, had about 260 million users in India then.
Things have changed dramatically since.
In the month of December, YouTube had 425 million monthly active users on Android phones and tablets in India, according to App Annie, the data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. In comparison, WhatsApp had 422 million monthly active users on Android in India last month.

Factoring in the traction both these apps have garnered on iOS devices, WhatsApp still assumes a lead in India with 459 million active users1, but YouTube is not too far behind with 452 million users.
With China keeping its doors closed to U.S. tech giants, India emerged as the top market for Silicon Valley and Chinese companies looking to continue their growth in the last decade. India had about 50 million internet users in 2010, but it ended the decade with more than 600 million. Google and Facebook played their part to make this happen.
In the last four years, both Google and Facebook have invested in ways to bring the internet to people who are offline in India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Google kickstarted a project to bring Wi-Fi to 400 railway stations in the country and planned to extend this program to other public places. Facebook launched Free Basics in India, and then — after the program was banned in the country — it launched Express Wi-Fi.
Both Google and Facebook, which identify India as their biggest market by users, have scaled down on their connectivity efforts in recent years after India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, took it upon himself to bring the country online. After he succeeded, both the companies bought multibillion-dollar stakes in his firm, Jio Platforms, which has amassed over 400 million subscribers.
Jio Platforms’ cut-rate mobile data tariff has allowed hundreds of millions of people in India, where much of the online user base was previously too conscious about how much data they spent on the internet, to consume, worry-free, hours of content on YouTube and other video platforms in recent years. This growth might explain why Google is doubling down on short-video apps.
The new figures shared with TechCrunch illustrate a number of other findings about the Indian market. Even as WhatsApp’s growth has slowed2 in India, it continues to enjoy an unprecedented loyalty among its users.
More than 95% of WhatsApp’s monthly active users in India use the app each day, and nearly its entire user base checks the app at least once a week. In comparison, three-fourths of YouTube’s monthly active users in India are also its daily active users.
The data also showed that Google’s eponymous app as well as Chrome — both of which, like YouTube, ship pre-installed3 on most Android smartphones — has also surpassed over 400 million monthly active users in India in recent months. Facebook’s app, in comparison, had about 325 million monthly active users in India last month.
When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson pointed TechCrunch to a report from Comscore last year, which estimated that YouTube had about 325 million monthly unique users in India in May 2020.
A separate report by research firm Media Partners Asia on Monday estimated that YouTube commanded 43% of the revenue generated in the online video market in India last year (about $1.4 billion). Disney+ Hotstar assumed 16% of the market, while Netflix had 14%.

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1 For simplicity, I have not factored in the traction WhatsApp Business and YouTube Kids apps have received in India. WhatsApp and YouTube also maintain apps on KaiOS, which powers JioPhone feature handsets in India. At last count — which was a long time ago — more than 40 million JioPhone handsets had shipped in India. TechCrunch could not determine the inroads any app has made on this platform. Additionally, the figures of YouTube on Android (phones and tablets) and iOS (iPhone and iPad) will likely have an overlap. The same is not true of WhatsApp, which restricts one phone number to one account. So if I have WhatsApp installed on an iPhone with my primary phone number, I can’t use WhatsApp with the same number on an Android phone — at least not concurrently.
2 WhatsApp Business appears to be growing fine, having amassed over 50 million users in India. And some caveats from No. 1 also apply here.
3 Users still have to engage with the app for App Annie and other mobile insight firms to count them as active. So while pre-installing the app provides Google an unprecedented distribution, their apps still have to win over users.

YouTube and WhatsApp inch closer to half a billion users in India

Local news app News Break raises $115M

The popular news app News Break is announcing that it has raised $115 million in new funding.
The press release claims this round makes News Break “one of the first new unicorns of 2021,” but the startup declined to disclose its actual valuation.
Founder and CEO Jeff Zheng said that when he started the company in 2015, the goal was to differentiate itself from other news aggregation apps by focusing on local news, and to “help or empower these local content creators.”

To be clear, you can find similar stories in News Break that you’d see in other news apps (there’s a whole section for coronavirus news, for example, and this morning you’ll see plenty of headlines about yesterday’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol), but you’ll also see plenty of stories that are highlighted specifically based on your location.

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“Technology is interweaving with every aspect of the company — in how we empower local publishers and local journalists to generate content more effectively and to reach an online audience more effectively,” Zheng said. “We have AI tools to help provide all these relevant articles … We have location profiles and what you’re most interested in, which we basically match against the content.”

Jeff Zheng. Image Credits: News Break

The local focus may be increasingly valuable given the broader economic challenges facing the local news business — as Zheng put it, there’s “strong user demand” for local news but “weak supply.” And the strategy seems to have paid off for News Break so far, with the app reaching the top spot in the News category of Apple’s U.S. App Store multiple times (it’s currently ranked No. 4), and in Google Play as well. The startup says it’s currently reaching 12 million daily active users.
Zheng said that while News Break already shares ad revenue with publishers, he’s hopeful that the value it provides those publishers will only grow over time: “We want to give as much money back to the creators as possible.”
When I suggested that publishers and journalists may be leery about relying too much on a third-party platform to reach their audience, Zheng argued that News Break’s incentives are very different from the big internet and social media platforms.
“We are local-centric,” he said. “If local publishers are struggling, if the newspapers are diminishing every year, then sooner or later we are out of business.”
And while Zheng previously led Yahoo Labs in Beijing and was also founding CEO at Chinese news startup Yidian Zixun — plus, the startup has team members in Beijing and Shanghai — he emphasized that this is a “U.S. high-tech company incorporated in Delaware, headquartered in Mountain View,” with the majority of its workforce in the United States and a focus on the U.S. market. The distinction could become important if News Break continues to grow, given the U.S. government’s current attempts to ban some Chinese companies.

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News Break previously raised $36 million in funding. The new round was led by Francisco Partners, which is taking a seat on the News Break board. IDG Capital also participated.
In a statement, Francisco Partners Principal Alan Ni said:
News Break’s breakout multi-year successes in the local news space is what first brought them to our attention. We are inspired by their mission and extremely impressed by the work they have done to bring local-news distribution into the 21st Century through cutting-edge machine learning and media savvy. We are thrilled to be partnering with News Break’s talented leadership team as they continue to drive local news innovations while also rapidly expanding their business into adjacent local verticals beyond news.

Flipboard expands into local news

Local news app News Break raises $115M

Google pilots a search feature that aggregates short-form videos from TikTok and Instagram

Google is testing a new feature that will surface Instagram and TikTok videos in their own dedicated carousel in the Google app for mobile devices — a move that could help the company retain users in search of social video entertainment from fully leaving Google’s platform. The feature itself expands on a test launched earlier this year, where Google had first introduced a carousel of “Short Videos” within Google Discover  — the personalized feed found in the Google mobile app and to the left of the home screen on some Android devices.
To be clear, this “Short Videos” carousel is different from Google’s Stories, which rolled out in October 2020 to the Google Search app for iOS and Android. Those “Stories” — previously known as “AMP Stories” — consist of short-form video content created by Google’s online publishing partners like Forbes, USA Today, Vice, Now This, Bustle, Thrillist and others.
Meanwhile, the “Short Videos” carousel had been focused on aggregating social video from other platforms, including Google’s own short-form video project Tangi, Indian TikTok competitor Trell, as well as Google’s own video platform, YouTube — which has also been experimenting with short-form content as of late.

The expansion to include Instagram and TikTok content in this carousel was first reported by Search Engine Roundtable (via Brian Freiesleben’s tweet). They were able to access the feature by searching for “packers” in the Google app then scrolling down the page.
We were able to replicate this, as well. (See below image.)

Image Credits: screenshot of Google search results

We found the Short Videos carousel appears when you scroll past the Google Knowledge Base box for the Green Bay Packers, followed by the the scores, Top Stories, Twitter results, Top Results, Images, Videos and other content, like a listing of the players, standings and more.
Both Instagram and TikTok videos were available in the Short Videos row. When clicked, you’re taken to the web version of the social platform — not the native mobile app, even if it’s installed on your device. The end result is that Google users are more likely to remain on Google, as all it takes is a tap on the back arrow to return to the search results after watching the video.
Google has been indexing video content for years and partnered with Twitter on 2015 to index search results. It’s not clear to what extent it has any formal relationship with Facebook/Instagram or TikTok, however. (If those companies comment, we’ll update.)
Google declined to formally comment or further detail its plans, but a company spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch the feature was currently being piloted on mobile devices. They clarified that means it’s a limited, early-stage feature. In other words, you won’t find the video carousel on every search query just yet. But over time, as Google scales the product, it could become an interesting tool for indexing and surfacing top video content from social media — unless, of course, the platforms choose to block Google from doing so.
The feature is currently available in a limited way on the Google app for mobile devices and on the mobile web, the company said.

Google pilots a search feature that aggregates short-form videos from TikTok and Instagram

Daily Crunch: Telegram prepares to monetize

Telegram will introduce ads, TikTok’s parent company is moving into drug discovery and President Trump continues his battle against Section 230. This is your Daily Crunch for December 23, 2020.
The big story: Telegram prepares to monetize
Telegram founder Pavel Durov said the messaging app will introduce advertising next year on public one-to-many channels. Durov wrote on his Telegram channel the ad platform will be “one that is user-friendly, respects privacy and allows us to cover the costs of server and traffic.”

He also pointed to premium stickers as another way that Telegram could monetize, while emphasizing that existing features will remain free and that he does not support showing ads in private chats.
In addition to discussing the company’s monetization plans, Durov said that Telegram is “approaching” 500 million users.
The tech giants
Nikola’s stock crashes after announcing cancelation of contract with Republic Services for 2,500 garbage trucks — This is the latest deal to unravel for Nikola as it tries to patch up following recent devastating reports.
TikTok parent ByteDance hiring for AI drug discovery team — “We are looking for candidates to join our team and conduct cutting-edge research in drug discovery and manufacturing powered by AI algorithms,” the company said in a job posting.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Chinese autonomous driving startup WeRide bags $200M in funding — The new funding will see WeRide joining hands with Yutong, a 57-year-old company, to make autonomous-driving minibuses and city buses.
Voyager Space Holdings to acquire majority stake in commercial space leader Nanoracks — Nanoracks provided the Bishop Airlock that was installed on the International Space Station.
Honk introduces a real-time, ephemeral messaging app aimed at Gen Z — Instead of sending texts off into the void and hoping for a response, friends on Honk communicate via messages that are shown live as you type.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
Dear Sophie: What’s ahead for US immigration in 2021? — Sophie Alcorn weighs in on what’s next for U.S. visas and green cards.
Looking ahead after 2020’s epic M&A spree — This year, four deals involving chip companies totaled over $100 billion on their own.
Heading into 2021: Venture fundraising, liquidity and the everything bubble — Alex Wilhelm’s final column of the year.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
Everything else
Trump vetoes major defense bill, citing Section 230 — President Trump has vetoed the $740 million National Defense Authorization Act, a major bill that allocates military funds each year.
XRP cryptocurrency crashes following announcement of SEC suit against Ripple — The XRP token’s value has declined more than 42% in the past 24 hours.
TaskRabbit is resetting customer passwords after finding ‘suspicious activity’ on its network — The company later confirmed the activity was a credential stuffing attack, where existing sets of exposed or breached usernames and passwords are matched against different websites to access accounts.
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: Telegram prepares to monetize