Roomlia Takes On HotelTonight With Mobile Hotel Reservations App

Today Roomlia has launched into the App Store to provide the fastest hotel booking on mobile.

Started by two former Expedia employees, Michael Reichartz and Jim Ferguson, Roomlia offers discounted hotel rooms up to seven days in advance with only a few clicks to complete booking. Unlike Expedia and its counterparts, Roomlia links you directly with your chosen hotel the moment you book, as opposed to negotiating rates and payments through the hotel site and the hotel itself.

Roomlia links directly with hotels’ operations systems to make sure that the experience is super quick and painless. When you first log in, you’re given an extensive list of cities. You can choose one, or search for one that isn’t on the list, and you’re immediately shown a list of hotels with pictures, ratings, and average prices.

Certain hotel rooms have extra deep discounts, which is displayed with a red flag on the listing. These only last a limited time.

Users can put in their hotel dates on the bottom using a calendar or a slider to show the number of nights desired. Roomlia users have the opportunity to book a stay as long as five nights.

HotelTonight, on the other hand, only gets you discounts on the day of booking.

Once you choose a hotel, you can simply swipe to the left to book, sending you directly into contact with the hotel to complete booking. Everything is done in two taps.

On the hotel side, hotels will be able to handle their inventory and minimize vacancy with greater lead times than traditional last-minute services.

The hospitality industry is aflutter with new technology, with smaller players coming in to streamline back-end operations, and bigger guys launching interesting tech initiatives to keep competitive. For example, Starwood launched a robotic butler, while Hilton Hotels has a new app that allows you to choose your room and check out without speaking to another human.

Roomlia launches today on the App Store with access to over 250 hotels and growing.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Which Apps Are Eating Your Battery? Normal Will Tell You.

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Somewhere, somehow, maybe less than a year after I got the latest version of my iPhone, its battery would mysteriously deplete in about half a day.

I wasn’t really sure why. But now I can find out.

There’s a new app called ‘Normal’ out from a pair of Stanford Ph.Ds in computer science named Adam Oliner and Jacob Leverich, who are turning some postdoctoral research into a company called Kuro Labs.

Their first project, Normal, is a battery diagnosis service that tracks and compares your app usage to other iOS device owners to see if there are any specific actions you can take to save battery life. The 99 cent app compares your phone’s battery usage over time with other people who have similar combinations of apps.

Hence, the name ‘Normal’ — is your phone’s battery life normal compared to other devices that are the exact same model?

“Battery is a pain point and there are not good solutions,” Oliner said. “The device doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. Why is it using so much energy? Is that normal or not? That’s what we’re trying to adjust.”

When you go inside Normal, you’ll see active apps, inactive battery hogs and other apps. For each app, there is a ring chart that will show you how much battery life you’ll save if you close a specific app.

normal-screenshotSo for instance, if I shut Facebook’s mobile app off, Normal estimates that I’ll save 26 minutes and 47 seconds of battery life. Or if I close inactive apps running in the background like Instagram, I’ll save an hour and seven minutes.

Certain apps can be re-configured to use up less battery. Oliner says Pinterest, for example, is not normally a battery hog but there are a few configurations that make it more energy intensive. There’s a screen inside the app that will tell you if a specific app is behaving normally compared to other identical apps on other smartphones.

The app is based on a project Oliner led at UC Berkeley that eventually became an app called Carat. The concept seems almost identical. That older app would quietly take measurements from your device, combine that data it with other people’s anonymized usage metrics, and then send back tips on whether to update your OS or kill or restart apps.

Now that Oliner is finished with postdoc work, he decided to start a new bootstrapped company with Leverich called Kuro Labs that may spin out more similar concepts. He hinted at looking at laptops or tablets.

“The closest analogous company is something like Bugsense, which diagnoses crashes,” he said. “But we’re doing energy instead.”

 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

GoGoVan Raises $6.5M Series A To Expand In Asia

Hong Kong-based GoGoVan, an app that connects van drivers and users for on-demand delivery services, announced today that it has completed a $6.5 million Series A led by Centurion Private Equity.

The company, which launched in July 2013 and currently has access to 18,000 registered commercial vehicles, plans to use the funding to add more features and expand into new markets in Asia. TechCrunch profiled the startup in June 2014.

GoGoVan says it is currently working with corporate clients including Kerry Logistics, SF Express and DHL and has processed more than one million transactions with a total value of over $120 million Hong Kong dollars (about $15.5 million), with 300,000 transactions per month in Hong Kong.

After expanding into Singapore this summer, GoGoVan plans to tackle other Asian cities.

In a statement, Steven Lam, GoGoVan’s co-founder and CEO, said “In Hong Kong, within nine months of our launch in July 2013, we captured close to 50% of the independent logistics providers. We are confident we will achieve the same result in Singapore.”

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Spring, David Tisch’s Latest Venture, Is Instagram For Shopping

For the past year, investor and serial entrepreneur David Tisch has been working with his brother Alan to build an enjoyable way to shop on mobile. Today, that fruits of that labor springs onto the scene.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold Spring, the most advanced effort at fashion-focused mobile shopping yet.

For all intents and purposes, you could absolutely call spring an Instagram for shopping.

But it goes beyond just that to incorporate pieces of a few other favorite apps, including Uber and Tinder.

When first signing on to the app, it looks like Instagram dressed up in white. You’re given the opportunity to “follow” brands that you like, and simply scroll through the feed to love items or to buy.

When you find an item you want, you can scroll through multiple images Tinder-style, with a description and a price all displayed on the main feed. If you’re still interested, you simply click the buy button and choose your size.

Upon your first purchase, Spring will ask for your address and credit card info, and from that moment your payment details are saved within the app.

For that purchase and every purchase after that, it takes one simple motion to complete the purchase, a swipe. Interestingly enough, Amazon has a patent on single-click buying, so the swipe gets around that in a way that lets form follow the function of the app.

I myself have slid that little buy bar back and forth a few times before fully committing to a purchase, which seems like relatively standard behavior while shopping.

Folks have been talking about building a universal shopping cart for a long time, but big fashion and retail brands want to control every part of their own experience.

Spring actually delivers on that promise of a universal shopping cart by offering a platform for brands, without forcing multiple competing vendors to dress up in the same uniform and ultimately lose a piece of their brand.

 

 

Fashion brands can upload their own looks the same way that other brands control their social media presences on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Those items are displayed chronologically and in real-time on the feed, and only the brands that each user follow gets a spot on the home stream.

However, there are a couple other tabs that hep users find items and brands outside their usual tastes. Discover offers up categorized content that is compiled by various brands or influencers. Browse, on the other hand, gives you the option the shop by clothes type or popularity.

There is no social component or public profiles, but rather a one-to-many dialogue between brands and their followers on mobile.

Spring is launching with almost 100 brands on the platform, ranging from high end designers like Carolina Herrera to less expensive brands like Warby Parker and Greats Brand.

More than 50 other brands are set to join the platform soon, with more being added every week once the platform is up and running.

Vendors handle all pieces of order fulfillment, shipping, and customer service. And in return for complete control over the experience, brands will pay an transaction fee for every purchase made.

Spring recently raised a $7.5 million Series A round to make this possible. 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Candy Crush Maker King Drops 20% After Reporting Disappointing Earnings

Candy crushed.

King, maker and purveyor of Candy Crush, reported earnings today and was whacked by investors after detailing revenue that disappointed, and lowering its top line guidance. The company also announced a $150 million dividend.

The company earned $0.59 per share on a non-GAAP basis on revenue of $594 million. Investors had expected the company to report $0.59 per share in non-GAAP profit on revenue of $608 million, however.

In addition to that revenue miss, King guided that its gross bookings for the current quarter will total between $500 million and $525 million — its gross bookings for the full year will tally up to between $2.25 billion and $2.35 billion. Investors are not pleased.

A venture capitalist familiar with the public technology markets indicated to TechCrunch that King had been valued as a growth stock. Its lowered guidance belies that concept. The correction in its share price therefore isn’t surprising.

The company’s $150 million dividend works out to $0.469 per share. That’s a decent chunk for a company whose shares sell for $14.24, but only goes so far to plug the gap in the value of the company’s stock that went public at $22.50.

Finally, King’s “executive officers, directors, founders, and affiliated funds, including Bellaria Holding S.a.r.l of whom Apax WW Nominees Ltd is the sole shareholder, together representing 80% of outstanding shares, have agreed to a new lock up with the Company through the date following the Company’s announcement of fourth quarter and full year 2014 earnings.” That measure could ease pressure on the company’s shares. However, the announced lockup has done little so far to mitigate the beating its share price is taking.

King had a big hit. Market skepticism that the company couldn’t grow abounded. It appears that the bears were more right than the bulls.

The company is worth around $4.5 billion at current after-hours prices.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Snapchat Is Now The #3 Social App Among Millennials

Snapchat is now the third most popular social app among millennials, according to a recent report by comScore, which finds that Snapchat has 32.9% penetration on these young users’ mobile phones, trailing only Instagram (43.1%) and Facebook (75.6%).

That means the app is more popular than Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Google+ or Tumblr among the millennial demographic, which comScore defines as those between the ages of 18 and 34.

It also puts into perspective why Facebook once valued the company at $3 billion, and why Snapchat had the vision – or hubris, perhaps – to turn that offer down. Millennials are the youngest, most active generation of mobile social networking users, and their habits are setting the stage to be the new “default” for the generations that follow, like Generation Z or Generation Alpha, or whatever we’re calling the born-with-iPad-in-hand kids.

Leading-Social-Media-Apps_reference

As comScore explains, Snapchat’s overall audience penetration among smartphone users was just 12.1% back in November 2013, when reports of the Facebook deal began to circulate. That made the company’s decision to decline the multi-billion dollar acquisition appear risky and maybe even rash – especially since Facebook and MySpace only began to see their user growth really accelerate once they hit 15%-20% penetration – something which Snapchat had not yet achieved.

But Snapchat is now at 18% penetration among smartphone-using adults, says comScore, citing figures from June 2014.

Snapchat-App-Smartphone-User-Penetration-by-Age_reference

More importantly, when you dive deeper into Snapchat’s user demographics, it seems that Snapchat has long since passed critical mass among users ages 18-24, where it now sees around 50% penetration. Combined with the slightly older 25-34 crowd, Snapchat’s penetration among the broader Millennial demographic is at 32.9%, as noted above.

 

“At this reach threshold, Snapchat has likely established a certain degree of staying power within this demographic segment that gives it some runway to evolve beyond its core value proposition,” says comScore VP of Marketing & Insights, Andrew Lipsman.

Snapchat’s ability to reach a critical mass matters because it demonstrates that apps that aren’t purely text messaging replacements, like Whatsapp (which sold to Facebook for an astounding $19 billion) can hit it big. Messaging apps as alternatives to pricey SMS was a void waiting to be filled on mobile, where apps like LINE, Kakao Talk, Whatsapp, WeChat, Kik, Tango, Viber and others each attract hundreds of millions of users.

Some of these “messaging” apps are more than simple utilities though, offering a platform for games and other apps to run on top of their social underpinnings.

182401-snapchatourstory

Similarly, with the launch of the collaborative “Our Story” feature, Snapchat also took its first big steps beyond the friend-to-friend photo messaging experience, offering a platform that could potentially appeal to paying customers like music festivals or sports teams looking to reach the Millennial crowd.

And while comScore’s numbers validate those who believed in Snapchat’s potential, there’s also that gut feeling that this is an app that will continue to resonate with today’s younger smartphone users. It’s a reimagining of a social network for the generation who grew up chastised for over-sharing on Facebook and other social media platforms; for those who watched as Facebook shifted the ground underneath them, tricking users into public sharing with privacy policies that were moving targets.

It makes sense that this group – a group who invented concepts like whitewalling on Facebook, where a third of users have deleted or deactivated entire social accounts – would gravitate toward an app that treats content as disposable.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

T-Mobile Is Testing An App That Unlocks Your Smartphone With A Single Button

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The good news: T-Mobile is playing with the idea of letting you unlock your phone (so that it can run on other carriers) with a single click. Hurray! No more convincing customer service to help you, or digging through endless forums for a tutorial that may turn your phone into a fancy paper weight.

The not-so-good news: they’re only testing it on a kind-of-meh Samsung phone for now — and even there, there are some catches.

The biggest catch is a fair one: to unlock your phone permanently, it has to be completely paid off. So, no, you can’t pop into a T-Mobile store, get the phone at a discount on an installment plan, then unlock it, cancel your plan, and ride off into the sunset.

You also need to have been with T-Mobile for at least 40 days, and your account must be in good standing.

But what if you only need the phone to be unlocked for a while, like when you’re traveling? Though it seems like T-Mobile is still working out exactly what the guidelines for a temporary unlock are, a second button within the app allows you to unlock the phone for up to 30 days without quite as many rules.

Alas, as mentioned, T-Mobile is currently only testing this on a phone that you probably haven’t even heard of: Samsung’s Galaxy Avant. If you’re on some other locked down T-Mobile phone, you’re stuck doing it the old way. [Or just skip all this nonsense and buy a phone that comes unlocked out of the box, like the fantastic Nexus 5]

Our buddies over at Android Central checked what happened when they stuffed the app into other Android phones, and it’s about what you’d expect: the app itself boots up just fine, but the unlock buttons are worthless.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch