Google’s public transit app, Chrome update, Zipcar launching EVs in London, Yandex’s smart speaker, Xiaomi’s new devices, Taxify growth & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
$1B value of California-based electric scooter company Bird, after raising $150M in a new financing led by Sequoia Capital. This makes Bird the first scooter unicorn. The company, which launched in LA, allows users to rent dockless electric scooters through an app and leave them on the street when they’re done. Estonia-based ride-hailing firm Taxify also reached unicorn status after raising $175M on a $1B post-money valuation; the company operates across more than 25 countries in Europe and Africa.
$250M. Lyft to acquire bike-share operator Motivate in deal worth ~$250M; Uber acquired bike-share service Jump in April.
34k links from Google search results have been removed by request of European politicians and government officials since the 2014 “right to be forgotten” ruling; 655k total requests have sought the removal of ~2.5M links
📰 What’s going on
Apple to expand the functionality of iPhone NFC chips to include smart lock control, transit fare payments and identity verification.
Apple will use OLED displays for all 2018 iPhone models; shares in LCD supplier Japan Display dropped ~10% on the news.
Apple to unveil a new Digital Health initiative and an updated version of ARKit at WWDC next week, plans to announce new mobile features intended to combat addiction; Mac updates target deeper integration with iOS.
Apple is set to launch HomePod in Canada, Germany, and France on June 18; the device will support German and French upon launch, with Canadian French added later this year.
Google’s Area 120 incubator launches Pigeon (iOS — invite required): an app for planning public transit travel in New York City; takes into account user-reported crowds and delays to provide the best options for quick travel; users can also post comments to report inconveniences, dangers, etc.
Google launches Expeditions AR tours in general availability; AR was previously limited to classroom users; the platform now has 800 standard tours and 100 AR tours.
Google rolls out Chrome 67 for Windows, MacOS, and Linux; includes support for WebAuthn, an open standard for password-free logins; also features WebXR Device API which lets AR and VR developers create universal experiences across mobile and desktop-based headsets.
Google launches Neighbourly, a Q&A service for communities in India; the Android app lets users ask and answer questions about the local area (a read-only web version is also available); Google says over time the service will match users with questions they’re likely able to answer.
Facebook is removing the Trending feature, which aids in the discovery of popular topics; launched in 2014, Trending has accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers; will be deactivated next week.
Yandex launches Yandex.Station, a $160 smart speaker; powered by Yandex’s AI assistant Alice; the company is also introducing Yandex.Plus, an Amazon Prime-like service; both available in Russia only.
Mapping platform Mapbox launches the Vision SDK, which provides AI-powered AR navigation; can be used in conjunction with the company’s tools and APIs to provide AR alerts for pedestrian detection, exceeding the speed limit, more.
Chinese authorities approve Alibaba-owned food delivery company Ele.me to operate within the country’s recently established drone delivery routes; the 17 routes cover a Shanghai industrial zone; Ele.me says food can be delivered within 20 minutes of order confirmation; there is no additional fee for drone delivery.
iZettle partners with UK-based Busk In London to test cashless tips for street musicians; a number of artists have been given a contactless reader that pairs with a smartphone.
Firefox 63 will include protections from web site-hosted cryptocurrency miners; will also include improved tracking protections; due in October.
Xiaomi announces Mi 8, Mi 8 Explorer Edition, and Mi 8 SE; Mi 8 (~$420) features a 6.2-inch OLED notch display, Snapdragon 845 processor, and dual-array back cameras; Explorer Edition (~$580) includes 3D facial recognition, in-display fingerprint reader, and transparent back; 5.9-inch Mi 8 SE (~$280) runs Snapdragon 710 processor; Mi 8 and Mi 8 SE launch in China next month, Explorer Edition will be available at a later date; unknown if or when the devices will be launch elsewhere.
Xiaomi announces ~$25 Mi Band 3; the fitness tracker features an OLED display and promises 20 days of battery life; also waterproof to 50 meters; initially launching in China (date unknown), with plans to rollout to more markets.
Ovie launches a Kickstarter for a connected food container system; features color-changing tags to let users know how long food has been stored; works with Alexa for creating reminders, finding recipe suggestions.
Zipcar to deploy 325 electric vehicles in London by year’s end; will be the UK’s largest zero-emissions car-sharing program; the first 100 Volkswagen e-Golfs will go live in July.
Dara Khosrowshahi says Uber is in talks to add Waymo’s self-driving cars to its service; he noted Uber’s ride-hailing network is the world’s largest and suggested Waymo would benefit from being on it. Dara expects IPO on second half of 2019.
📚 Stuff to think about
18 of the top 20 tech companies are in the Western U.S. and Eastern China. HBR looks at what drives this power map, and how things may shift.
Jeff Bezos speaks about Blue Origin’s moon ambitions at the Space Development Conference; he said that within decades it will be easier to do certain things in space than to do them on earth; he said lunar industry and residence will be a shared privilege, with multiple countries working together.
Richard Branson announces he’s been undergoing astronaut training and plans to go to space within months; Branson expects to be one of the first space tourists and says his commercial space travel company, Virgin Galactic, is in neck-and-neck competition with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to make the first tourist space trip.