Moto G5 Plus Blue Sapphire Colour Variant Also Spotted

Lenovo brand Moto’s newest offerings, the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus, were launched at MWC 2017 last month. The Moto G5 Plus went on sale in India last week and it is now being reported that pre-orders for the smartphone have opened up in the UK. It also looks like the larger model will be offered in a Sapphire Blue variant, after press renders of the Moto G5 were leaked on Wednesday.

Moto G5 Plus Blue Sapphire Colour Variant Also Spotted

On Wednesday, some press renders of the Moto G5 in a new Blue Sapphire colour were leaked online by tipster Roland Quandt. The same source, later tweeted a press render of the Moto G5 Plus in Sapphire Blue, confirming that the colour option will be available for both the devices. It is yet to be announced when the new colour will be made available. So far, both the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus were available in Lunar Grey and Fine Gold colour variants with the Sapphire Blue being announced exclusively for three carriers.

Coming back to the Moto G5 Plus, the smartphone has been listed for pre-order on UK-based Carphone Warehouse. The site lists only a 32GB storage option for the handset, and there’s no mention on when the 64GB variant will be available. The Moto G5 Plus will be available in Fine Gold and Lunar Grey colour options with the Sapphire Blue variant not being listed as of now.

The Moto G5 Plus was launched in India starting at Rs. 14,999. The smartphone sports a 5.2-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) IPS LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. It is powered by a 2GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core SoC and is coupled with either 3GB or 4GB of RAM in India. The handset is offered in 16GB or 32GB of internal storage in the country, which is expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB).

Optics for the Moto G5 Plus include a 12-megapixel rear camera, complete with dual autofocus pixels, 4K video recording, an f/1.7 aperture, and dual-LED flash and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a wide-angle lens. Connectivity options include 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS/ A-GPS, NFC, Bluetooth v4.2, 3.5mm audio jack, and Micro-USB. The Moto G5 Plus is fitted with a 3000mAh non-removable battery with TurboPower charging. It measures 150.2x74x9.7mm and weighs 155 gram.

Zen Admire Swadesh With 4G VoLTE, 22 Regional Language Support Launched in India

Zen Mobile on Thursday unveiled a new 4G smartphone, called Admire Swadesh. The company highlights that the new smartphone supports 22 regional Indian languages as well as a dual-WhatsApp feature. It is priced at Rs. 4,990 and will be available in Champagne and Blue colour options. The company says it will be bundling a free screen guard and case along with six months screen replacement warranty as a launch offer.

The dual-SIM Zen Admire Swadesh runs Android Marshmallow 6.0. The smartphone sports a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) IPS display and is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM.

Zen Admire Swadesh With 4G VoLTE, 22 Regional Language Support Launched in India

The Zen Admire Swadesh features a 5-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and flash and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Internal storage stands at 8GB with the option to expand further via microSD card (up to 32GB).

Connectivity options on the Zen Admire Swadesh include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, among other things. The smartphone packs a 2000mAh battery that promises up to 30 hours of standby time.

As we mentioned, the most notable highlight is support for 22 regional Indian languages in including Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi. A Language lock feature lets you choose the language from the main screen. The dual-SIM smartphone also lets you set up two WhatsApp accounts.

“Admire Swadesh is yet another brilliant 4G VoLTE device which will be a true delight for the consumers who are looking at upgrading to 4G-enabled smartphones. We at Zen Mobile, aim to offer a perfect combination of high end features and experience at a great value to consumers across Tier II and Tier III markets,” Sanjay Kalirona, CEO, Zen Mobile, said.

“Regional languages are becoming increasingly important, specially, in a country like India where multiple languages are spoken. Keeping that in mind, we have introduced 22 regional language support feature in Admire Swadesh to serve the unique needs of Indian consumers, and to overcome communication hindrance. We, at Zen Mobile are poised to drive the next step smartphone evolution by offering a comprehensive Zeneration 4G portfolio of quality devices. Going forward, we will continue focus on strengthening our 4G portfolio in 2017, by launching exciting new devices at the most competitive price points,” he added.

Starling Bank, a digital-only UK challenger bank, launches beta

Starling Bank, one of a number of digital-only or so-called “challenger” banks in the U.K., is launching a beta of the app that powers its current account, the first time it has been available beyond a very small group of private testers close to the company. Those already on the beta waiting list will begin being invited into the app as of today.

Initially available for iOS, with an Android beta to follow at the end of the month, the Starling Bank app lets you sign up to a full current account, thanks to the restricted banking license it was issued in July. Upon approval of your account, which involves things like photographing your passport or driving license via the app, you are issued a Starling Bank MasterCard debit card that can be used in the U.K. and abroad.

You also are able to set up regular payments (i.e. Direct Debits using an account number and sort code), and make one-off payments in and out of the account, including via the Faster Payments network.

And, similar to a plethora of other nascent challenger banks or neo-banking apps (that is, fintech startups that offer a current account experience without actually operating a bank/holding a banking license), the Starling Bank app lets you view your current account activity in real time, something most legacy banks fail or fall over trying to do. This takes the form of push notifications and the “Starling Pulse,” a real-time feed that displays all your account activity.

Another interesting aspect of the Starling Bank UI, which I’ve already had a short time playing with, is the way you secure the app. In addition to being asked to provide a 6-10 digit passcode, you are asked to record a short video message of you reading out a specific phrase. This, the startup tells me, is then used for the purpose of “biometric identification” in case you find yourself locked out of the app.

“We decided to go straight to build the full current account rather than go on a side trip to build a pre-paid card first,” Starling Bank founder Anne Boden told me in a call yesterday when I made the obvious comparison to rival Monzo, which launched its app in public beta last March but won’t launch a current account till later this summer.

“We wanted to put all our energies and creativity into producing something that provides all the services you need, not just a card,” says Boden. “Plus lots more things we can do because we built our technology ourselves.”

The staggered beta launch also comes a day after Starling Bank announced a partnership with currency exchange company TransferWise as part of the challenger bank’s broader strategy to offer a marketplace of additional financial services within the app. That’s an idea that is also being pursued by Monzo and a host of other fintech startups that want to be the hub for your financial life by letting you connect one app to all of the financial services and products you use or require.

“I think I started talking about marketplaces and banking three years ago,” says the Starling Bank founder with a chuckle. “I’ve had a career in banking and I’ve worked in lots of banks that felt they were the best provider of all the products for all of their customers… ‘sell a current account and cross-sell this service or that service.’ But customers are much more sophisticated now-a-days, they like to make their own decisions and have a whole range of products to choose from.”

Instead, Starling decided that it wanted to do one thing “really, really well,” which is to offer a current account, a product heavily reliant on technology. “And we are going to co-exist with other products, other providers,” she says. In addition to currency exchange, for example, this could include mortgages.

“The world is changing, there’s an ecosystem out there of innovative and creative fintech organizations. We are going to be the center of that ecosystem, linking customers to the right products from the right partners.”

The startup is also embracing so-called “open banking,” which the European Union and the U.K. government have legislated to force all banks to eventually do, something Boden supports. To get on the front foot, Starling Bank is holding its first hackathon next month based on its soon-to-launch current account open API.

Lastly, I asked why Starling needed to be a bank, when so much innovation is — and will be — possible by simply building on top of existing banking rails. The answer? It’s the business model, stupid.

“We can respond to all of the great things happening out there in the fintech market, but we also have a revenue model that’s sustainable… we’ll take in deposits and lend out a portion as overdrafts,” Boden says. “We’re not going to punish you for going overdrawn [with hidden charges]. It’s all about being transparent and fair.”

Smart diabetes management service Livongo Health raises $52.5M and looks to new markets

Glen Tullman doesn’t like it when someone tells him he’s sick when he’s feeling fine.

It’s something he thinks his customers probably don’t want to hear, either. Tullman runs a startup called Livongo Health, which offers a blood glucose monitor accompanied with a service designed to intervene and help coach people through managing diabetes. Livongo Health helps with best practices, but is also designed to intervene before things start to get bad. And Tullman hopes that by collecting enough data and applying the right technology, they can create a tool that will be able to figure out the right touch for getting people to manage — and care about — their chronic conditions.

To do that, Livongo Health has raised an additional $52.5 million in a round led by General Catalyst and Kinnevik. The actual product is a cellular-connected blood sugar monitor, which takes your blood sugar readings and then sends that information to Livongo Health’s monitoring services. If the reading falls outside of normal bounds, the company will flag that person and offer some kind of recommendation — like drinking a glass of fruit juice, or going for a walk. If it strays too far out of the norm, they’ll get a call from a specialist who will walk them through what to do next.

“Person using it has to love it,” Tullman said. “They can’t just like it, otherwise they won’t use it. We can help them, but only in the moment. Context matters. If I called you up and said, ‘I can be there in 15 minutes to fix a flat tire,’ you’d say why are you bothering me. But if you had a flat you’d be like, ‘that’s awesome,’ and you wouldn’t ask how much it costs.”

That last part is meant to be one of the big selling points of Livongo Health, because Tullman said the service aims to get a call to the person within 90 seconds after the reading comes through. The company seeks to reduce the barrier to getting people to use the devices as much as possible. For example, strips for blood sugar tests are also free, and all the data is stored and is easily accessible so the users don’t have to constantly take notes on what their current status is.

At the moment, Livongo Health is focused on diabetes management. But given that the company has been able to wedge itself into the budgets of payers and into the minds of consumers, it seems natural that it would treat it as a launch point. Tullman said the next step, in addition to trying to expand internationally, is to also grow into management for other chronic diseases. Many people who manage diabetes might also deal with other chronic conditions, Tullman said, like hypertension or depression.

Livongo Health works with self-insured employers and pharmacy benefit providers to offer the company’s products to prospective patients as an option. While the company is only a little more than three years old, Tullman says it’s already collected enough data to demonstrate that Livongo Health is able to save as much as $100 a month for payers in the long run.

Early on, it might be difficult to get a profile of what a patient may be like. Further down the line Livongo Health could let a user know that their blood sugar doesn’t typically change that much in the afternoon, but early on the company still needs to capture as much as they can about the person. But starting off, Livongo Health is able to get some basic information from the payer and then will ask simple questions while they’re waiting for their blood sugar tests to complete to help build that profile.

From a purely market perspective, it’s clearly an important one given the amount of activity. There are multiple different kinds of startups — like Siren Care, which weaves sensors into fabrics for tracking problems associated with diabetes — trying to help build products for managing diabetes. There are also other startups working on diabetes management like One Drop. Still, this amount of financing gives a company like Livongo Health a robust budget in order to continue expanding beyond just creating a good hardware and on-the-spot experience for managing diabetes.

“[Tullman] and I sketched this business out on a piece of paper and we have been involved from the start,” General Catalyst partner Hemant Taneja said. “[The] core thesis was that technology could make a difference in the lives of millions of consumers with diabetes and other co-morbidities and our customers are finding that to be the case. Consumers are enrolling in large numbers and saving on healthcare costs for their insurance companies and employers.”

Scaling the educator network might be one of the more difficult parts. The human touch at the end is one of the most important parts of the experience, Tullman said, but it still has to intelligently divvy up the limited number of educators it has among the thousands — or, in the future, potentially millions — of customers in order to ensure that experience blankets its entire user base. That could easily spiral into a problem of just getting enough bodies into the door, but Tullman said a lot of the development being done is on ensuring that those coaches are able to figure out what are the highest-priority patients.

“Only when you go out of range, really high or low, does a human intervene and talk to you, and because of that for about every 2,500 members we have a coach,” Tullman said. “It’s a bit like Uber, they work from home and have very sophisticated software they’re running to tell who they’re talking with and what they need. And, they still need to respond in 90 seconds. We know that if you think about it, for a million people, we need 400 coaches. If you think about 30 million, that’s 12,000 coaches — the American Association of Diabetes Educators has more members than that.”

Snap is already more valuable than these 9 companies

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, had a stellar first day in its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange, popping 44 percent. The self-proclaimed camera company that began its roots as an ephemeral photo-sharing app first priced its IPO at $17 per share on Wednesday. The stock opened at $24 and closed the day at $24.51. The company’s market cap is being reported as $34 billion (fully diluted).

Many questions still remain for the future of Snap, like how it plans to grow its user base and ultimately become profitable. But investors are betting big on 26-year-old Evan Spiegel and the company’s promise of innovation. While it’s too early to know exactly what will happen to Snapchat, going public is a significant milestone. Here are nine public companies that Snap is more valuable than on its first day as a publicly traded company.

1. Twitter (Market cap $11.20 billion)

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A worst-case scenario for Snap would be to mimic Twitter’s highly anticipated 2013 IPO. The company was off to a soaring start, but struggled to grow its user base over the years.

2. Ferrari (Market cap $12.46 billion)

Ferrari F12

Snap is more valuable than Italian sports car manufacturer Ferrari ($RACE), which went public in 2015 after separating from Fiat Chrysler.

3. Best Buy (Market cap $14.08 billion)

Curbside Best Buy

Consumer electronics and entertainment retailer Best Buy went public way back in 1985, but today is less valuable than the photo-sharing app that has only been around for six years.

4. Seagate (Market cap $14.44 billion)

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Seagate, best known for its hard drives, has seen revenue fall over the past few years. The data storage solution company went public on the NYSE in 2002, but has been eclipsed by other, sexier cloud storage providers.

5. Hershey (Market cap $16.57 billion)

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Snap is about twice as valuable as The Hershey Company, which went public in 1978. To put this into perspective, Hershey owns more than 80 brands, including Reese’s, Jolly Rancher, Kit Kat and Twizzlers.

6. Viacom (Market cap $16.73 billion)

 

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On its first day as a public company, Snap was more valuable than a media conglomerate that split from CBS in 2005. Viacom is one of the world’s largest broadcasting and cable companies, with brands including MTV, BET and Paramount Pictures.

7. Hilton (Market cap $19.18 billion)

hilton

Snap is more valuable than Hilton Worldwide, the hospitality company. Hilton owns a network of more than 4,000 hotels, resorts and timeshare properties.

8. United Continental (Market cap $23.06 billion)

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Snapchat is more valuable than the combination of two major airlines, United and Continental, which merged in 2010.

9. American Airlines (Market cap $23.05 billion)

Boeing American Airlines

American Airlines is a popular airline brand, but it has struggled financially in recent years, at one point even filing for bankruptcy. The company has been able to turn things around and has improved its position on the stock market.

The FBI’s new online FOIA portal is now live

It’s March, and beyond seasonal allergies and college basketball, that means the FBI’s controversial changes to its FOIA request system are now fully implemented.

For reporters and government transparency advocates, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an essential tool. Enacted in 1966, the act requires the government to provide answers to specific requests for information, and as any FOIA requester knows, the more specific the better chance of getting what you’re after. As the Columbia Journalism Review observed in a FOIA retrospective, the information gleaned from FOIA requests can be the seed of much larger investigations — “everything from nuclear tests in Alaska to vice-president Spiro Agnew’s resignation, from the last moments of the space shuttle Challenger to the attacks on September 11.”

For the FBI, a popular target for FOIA requests, the new online portal replaces the standard email system. According to the bureau, the new online portal transitions the agency from a manual system to an automated system that will help it handle its large volume of requests, though detractors argue that the new web portal creates additional barriers to those seeking information from the FBI and makes tracking the paper trail more difficult.

Some significant changes have been implemented as the FBI’s Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (eFOIA/eFOIPA) system exited the beta and went live at the beginning of March. The major changes from beta testing include dropping a requirement for the requester to provide a phone number, removing a cap on how many requests may be submitted per individual and shifting to a 24/7 availability schedule.

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To request information using the new eFOIA system, you’ll need to enter and confirm your email address, complete a recaptcha check and agree to a surprisingly bare bones terms of service:

Please read before continuing…

The eFOIPA system allows all types of Freedom of Information/Privacy Act (FOIPA) requests; to include requests on first parties (Privacy Act requests), deceased individuals, policies and procedures, events, organizations, and any other topic.

FOIA responses will be electronically transmitted. Privacy Act responses will not be electronically transmitted. These responses will be sent to you via standard mail.

A valid e-mail address will be required for authentication. The combined file size of all attachments may not exceed 30 megabytes.

The system will then send an automated verification email with a link for filing an eFOIA request. The new online portal requires the filer to provide their organization name, as still requires a mailing address, though as we noted before, phone number is now optional. An FAQ page with some additional basic guidance appears to clear up at least some of the questions that Oregon Senator Ron Wyden posed in an open letter to the FBI last month.

Afraid of change? If you feel more comfortable doing things the really old-fashioned way, you can just file your FBI FOIA request by fax or mail, though we wouldn’t exactly recommend it.