Архив метки: Latin America

As more high-end smartphone makers explore budget devices, Motorola takes a shot at premium

As smartphone sales began to plateau and slow over the past couple of years, many device makers arrived at the same conclusion: people want cheaper phones. It’s clear why companies like Apple and Samsung took the message to heart, as the smartphone market downturn appeared to coincide with the standardization of $1,000 premium devices.
While Motorola is undoubtedly best known for its budget devices these days, the company is using the opportunity to take things in an entirely different direction. The Edge+ finds the company entering true premium territory with the arrival of its first $1,000 device. It’s an even more dramatic move than OnePlus’s recent release of the $899 8 Pro.
A mainstay in the budget and mid-tier, the Motorola name doesn’t exactly conjure images of premium products. The Lenovo-owned smartphone maker’s ventures in pricier models have tended more toward the gimmicky — or, at very least niche — with the warmly received modular Moto Z and the largely panned foldable Razr reboot.

The Edge+ is a more earnest approach to premium. The selling points are the camera, display and 5G — pretty standard fare these days in the world of premium handsets. For the first time in recent memory, Motorola is positioning itself to go head-to-head with the Samsungs and Apples of the world. 
Okay, so specs. There’s a 6.7-inch display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 90Hz refresh rate. It’s curved on the sides — similar to what Samsung has been offering for a while now. And like Samsung, the company is using that extra narrow real estate to offer up things like notifications, call alerts, alarms and battery status. Basically stuff to offer a quick view without having to pick up the phones.
There’s a flagship-level Snapdragon 865 inside, coupled with a healthy 12GB of memory. Oh, and there’s 5G here, too, with access to both mmWave and sub-6GHz  bands. The company is also touting the quality of its speakers — one of the most overlooked aspects of smartphone hardware. I haven’t actually tried them out — or seen the phone in person yet. Social distancing and all that.

There are three rear-facing cameras, including a massive 108-megapixel main, which lets in a lot of light, an eight-megapixel telephoto and 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle. There’s no devoted macro camera, unlike other recent Motorola models, but the 16-megapixel should be able to do some close-up shots.
The Edge+ arrives May 14 as a Verizon exclusive (something Motorola has, unfortunately, done many times before) in the States and on a bunch more carriers in Canada. It will arrive in Europe in May, and other markets, including India and Latin America, at a latter date.
A lower-tiered Edge will be available with a downgraded processor and camera array, but the same display. That’s coming to Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region, with U.S. availability arriving later. 

As more high-end smartphone makers explore budget devices, Motorola takes a shot at premium

Mobile banking app Empower Finance just closed a $20 million Series A round

Another afternoon, another round of funding for a mobile banking app. This time, it’s Empower Finance, a San Francisco-based company that’s headed up by former Sequoia Capital partner Warren Hogarth and which just closed on $20 million in Series A funding from Icon Ventures and Defy Ventures.
David Velez, who is the founder and CEO of Nubank, the largest fintech in Latin America, also joined the round.
We’d first written about the company in 2017, when Hogarth was just getting the business off the ground. Fast-forward a bit and Empower now employs 35 people and has attracted more than 600,000 active users to its platform, says Hogarth. What has drawn them in: the company’s promise of combining AI and actual human financial planners to help millennials in particular accrue some wealth, including, more newly, through its own checking account product and through a savings account that’s currently promising 1.60% in annual percentage yield with no minimums, no overdraft fees and unlimited withdrawals.
It’s all part of an overall offering that crunches through account holders’ bank and credit card accounts, and recommends how much they save into which account, how much they should spend given their overall picture, various ways they can cut costs and where and when they’ve surpassed their pre-configured budgets.
Of course, the company has so much competition it’s dizzying, but like the various upstarts against which it’s battling for mindshare, the opportunity that Empower is chasing is enormous, too. Though companies like Chime can seem overpriced given how fast investors have marked up their rounds — Chime’s newest financing, announced in December, was done at a $5.8 billion post-money valuation, which was four times more than the company was worth at the outset of 2019 — digital banks are still tiny fish in an ocean of institutional financial services, representing something like 3% of the market.
They’re gaining more market share by the day, too, including by charging far lower fees for much more.
In Empower’s case, users pay $6 a month, but Hogarth says they also save $300 a year in additional fees they would pay a brick-and-mortar bank. He insists that on average, it also helps them save $1,300 more annually, too.
As for all those other companies — Mint, Acorns, the list goes on — Hogarth sounds surprisingly sanguine. “If you look at it from the outside, it looks crowded. But the consumer financial services in the U.S. is a $2 trillion business, and we haven’t had a fundamental shift since maybe Schwab came along 30 years ago.”
Indeed, says Hogarth, because Empower and its rivals are mobile and branchless and don’t have legacy software to contend with, they’re able to take 60 to 70% of the cost structure out of the business.
What that means on an individual company level is that even if each upstart can attract 2 to 3 million customers, they can get to a multibillion-dollar market cap. At least, that kind of math is “why there’s so much interest in this space,” says Hogarth.
It’s also why people like Nubank’s Velez, who have seen this story play out in Europe and Latin America and who are seeing the early phases of it in the U.S., are apparently keeping the money spigot open for now.
Empower had earlier raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Sequoia, followed by a $4.5 million round led by Initialized Capital.

Mobile banking app Empower Finance just closed a $20 million Series A round