Twitter might have killed off its Music app but now it’s working with the world’s top concert promoter. Today at the NewFronts conference in New York, Twitter announced it is partnering with Live Nation to exclusively livestream video of concerts. Artists including Train, Portugal The Man, August Alsina, and Marian Hill are slated to have shows streamed on Twitter. The first will… Read More
We’re here at the Motorola event in New York, and I just got my hands on the Droid Razr M, the “little big secret” that Motorola’s been amping up for. As you’d expect for a phone of this size, it feels excellent in the hand, with a 4.3-inch qHD display. As I’ve said over and over again, this screen size is the sweet spot.
The most impressive thing about the Razr M is the way they managed to fit a relatively large display in such a small frame. Because of this, the M ends up having some of the thinnest bezels I’ve ever seen on a smartphone. In terms of viewing video, web pages, and gaming, this is pretty sweet. However, during normal use, even for just a few seconds, I found myself accidentally touching the screen and launching apps when I didn’t mean to.
For $99, this bothers me less, but I’d probably feel differently if I was a full-time owner of the device. Perhaps more interesting than any of this is that well-spec’d, 4.3-inch phones are now selling for mid-range prices.
Moving on: The Razr M was just as snappy as you’d expect, powered by that 1.5GHz dual-core processor. On the other hand, I’m seriously bummed about Motorola’s custom overlay. ICS runs like “butter,” ironically, but you can’t enjoy its aesthetic prowess with Moto’s skin laid over top.
The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera shoots 1080p video, which is fine, but it isn’t quick like lightning by any means. The shutter takes a hot second to capture the picture, but that may also be blamed on the relatively slow autofocus.
In other news, I love the design of this phone. I already mentioned it’s comfortable in the hand, and much of that has to do with its tapered design. The phone gets increasingly thinner towards the bottom. It sports the same Kevlar fiber casing as every other Razr, but the actual Kevlar fiber bit takes up a smaller part of the phone’s backside than it does on bigger, flatter Razrs.
All in all, this is an excellent device, especially at its price point. We’ll hit you with a full review ASAP, as we’re all getting a device today. You can, too, if you’d like, as pre-orders begin today.
Tagwhat tries to connect online content to real-world locations, and it’s taking that idea step further with a new feature that it calls the Superslider.
Co-founder and CEO Dave Elchoness says that there’s an enormous amount of content on the web that’s related to location but not geotagged — which means that you might completely miss the relevance of a neighborhood or building as you pass through. For example, if you’re traveling to New York and you walk past Katz’s Deli, you might miss out on the fact that it’s the setting for the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally. In fact, I’ve been inside the deli several times without knowing that. (I did watch my friends eat a particularly disgusting meal there, so it wasn’t a total loss.)
To solve that problem, Tagwhat has created a collection of geotagged content (the content is either written by the Tagwhat team and the community, or it’s pulled from publishing partners and open sources like Wikipedia) that you can browse on your iPhone or Android. When you open the app, you’re presented with a selection of notable nearby locations — this afternoon I tried it out from the TechCrunch office, and I was able to read a description of The Creamery coffee shop and the Wikipedia article on the 4th and King Caltrain station. You can narrow search to specific channels like “movies” and “Wikiupedia,” and you can also bring up a map and directions for each entry.
The Superslider adds a social layer to the experience. After all, if you’re interested in reading about a spot, you may also be interested in seeing who else has checked in there, or who’s tweeting about it. And that’s what the Superslider allows — it’s a slider that you can bring up beneath any Tagwhat entry, allowing you to browse and post related content to Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. The algorithm matching locations to social content works well, but it’s not infallible — when I opened the Superslider for the Creamery, I saw the Creamery’s Facebook page (great!), but most all of the tweets were actually related to other locations, like Coldstone Creamery (less so).
Elchoness says the Superslider will expand over time to include other apps — not just social ones, either. You might be walking past AT&T Park and the Supderslider could bring up the ESPN app showing the latest scores. Ultimately, Elchoness says Tagwhat could become an “app of apps.”
“A lot of folks have been thinking about mobile in the wrong way,” he says. “It needs to be simple and easy to use. No one’s going to be hopping to lots of different apps for very long.”
In addition to the Superslider, Tagwhat has also added a travel log feature, allowing users to mark locations as “been there” and “want to go”, essentially saving those entries in a list for future browsing.
By the way, if the name sounds familiar, it’s because we wrote about Tagwhat back when it was focusing on augmented reality, before the launch of its current apps. You can download the Tagwhat iPhone app here and the Android app here.
Zimride, a San Francisco-based startup that helps commuters share rides, is bringing itself to the East Coast with a new route between New York and Washington D.C.
With an already popular route between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this will add another one on the other side of the country. The average passenger from New York to Washington D.C. should pay about $25 for a seat, and the average Zimride driver should make $150 if they sell three seats.
“With recent Chinatown bus closures in New York city and increased summer weekend travel along the country’s most trafficked corridor, the time is right to bring our rideshare success east,” co-founder John Zimmer tells us.
The geographic expansion caps off a very hectic spring and summer for Zimride. The company just added a third leg of its business in on-demand, mobile ride-sharing. Called Lyft, the product resembles Uber’s model except that it uses regular people who bring their own cars. Zimride, of course, vets drivers for their driving history, criminal records, auto safety and so on. They add some personal touches too with a fist-bump for every passenger and pink moustaches on the cars.
Lyft comes on top of two other prongs of Zimride’s business. There is the original ride-sharing program that works with universities. Then there is long-distance ride-sharing. To engender trust, Zimride uses Facebook to show friends or interests in common. Passengers and drivers can also review each other for reliability and response times. Zimmer says all three arms of the business have made the company enough revenue that it doesn’t necessarily need to raise another round of funding. The business supports more than 30 employees.
Since launching back in 2007, the company has seen close to 200 million miles shared and 360,000 users. A year ago, it hit 100 million miles. The company has raised just over $7 million from Mayfield Fund, Floodgate, K9 Ventures, Keith Rabois and Facebook’s original incubator fbFund.
Anyone who’s ever driven in a city can attest to the fact that it’s an utter pain in the rear to find somewhere to park. New York in particular is a nightmare for skittish drivers (like myself), but mobile parking service Pango is poised to help ease the hassle of city cruising and parking.
After launching in Israel in 2007, their zeal for expansion has prompted Pango to take their first official step into the United States with the launch of their mobile app and their first so-called smart garage in New York City (on 77th and Lexington, to be more precise).
Here’s the onboarding process in a nutshell — after installing the app (available on iOS, Android, or BlackBerry), potential parkers are tasked with creating an account and will need to plug in their license plate number and credit card credentials in order to be properly tracked and charged.
After that process is over, users will be able to search for different Pango locations to park at, but for now users in NYC need only pull into the smart garage and press a button to summon a valet. Once users are done poking around the Guggenheim (or whatever it is people do in the Upper East Side), they can use the app to alert the garage that they’re on en route back to their car, so the vehicle can be prepared to go. The amount owed is charged directly to the card on file — the service doesn’t currently cost anything beyond the garage’s usual fees — so all that’s left is to hop in and speed off.
And this is just the beginning — Pango told TechCrunch that they’re targeting other major metro areas to expand into, as well as bringing their on-street and non-valeted garage parking models live over the next few months. In fact, they’re already made some progress on that front as they soft-launched their on-street mobile parking service in Latrobe, Pennsylvania of all places last month.
It’s a funky concept to be sure, but it’s one that certainly seems to be doing the company well. At last glance, the company has entered into app-friendly partnerships with parking garages in 50 cities across five countries — Israel, Poland, Germany, France, and the U.S. What’s more, the company handles more than 2 million parking transactions monthly, and make their money by splitting revenue with the garage proprietor or the owners of the areas where they plan to set up their Pango parking meters.
Now there’s no shortage of services looking to disrupt the odious process of parking — Panda and Disrupt Battlefield finalist KurbKarma immediately spring to mind — but what makes Pango such a compelling option is the lack of friction involved. Exchanging pleasantries with the valet aside, the entire process essentially consists of a few button presses. At this stage though they’re being outpaced by some of the competition (Panda is currently live in Baltimore and Washington D.C. with two more cities waiting in the wings), and while their momentum has seen them take hold in 50 cities in just under five years, only time will tell if they’re able to replicate that level of success in the States.