Trump says ZTE will pay $1.3B fine and overhaul its management to continue US business

U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that Chinese telecom firm ZTE will pay a $1.3 billion fine and undergo a significant overhaul of its management team in order to remain operational in North America.

ZTE looked to be in dire straits when it ceased its business in the U.S. earlier this month after a Department of Commerce order banned U.S. partners from selling components to the company in response to it flouting trade bans in Iran and North Korea.

The company has since been reprised — a strategy move within the U.S.-China trade stand-off — but Trump said today that its new life comes at a cost. That’s apparently a $1.3 billion fine, a new management team and board, and “high-level security guarantees.”

Senator Schumer and Obama Administration let phone company ZTE flourish with no security checks. I closed it down then let it reopen with high level security guarantees, change of management and board, must purchase U.S. parts and pay a $1.3 Billion fine. read more

Snips announces an ICO and its own voice assistant device

French startup Snips has been working on voice assistant technology that respects your privacy. And the company is going to use its own voice assistant for a set of consumer devices. As part of this consumer push, the company is also announcing an initial coin offering.

Yes, it sounds a bit like Snips is playing a game of buzzword bingo. Anyone can currently download the open source Snips SDK and play with it with a Raspberry Pi, a microphone and a speaker. It’s private by design, you can even make it work without any internet connection. Companies can partner with Snips to embed a voice assistant in their own devices too.

But Snips is adding a B2C element to its business. This time, the company is going to compete directly with Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers. You’ll be able to buy the Snips AIR Base and Snips AIR Satellites.

The base will be a good old smart speaker, while satellites will be tiny portable speakers that you can put in all your rooms. The company plans to launch read more

HTC adds some bells and whistles to the Vive Focus ahead of Western rollout

As HTC gears up for a stateside launch of their Vive Focus standalone headset, the company announced a number of changes that they’re bringing to the device currently available in China.

The company has long fancied itself the “premium” brand of VR, but at its annual developer conference it was tasked with showing off features that showed the company had more to offer than middle-of-the-road products with premium prices.

Some of the most notable announcements were that the device would be gaining phone integration with HTC devices, beginning with the company’s new U12+ smartphone, which will basically allow users to check out text messages and notifications without removing the headset. The feature seems to be a junior version of functionality available on the company’s PC-based Vive headset, which can deliver similar notifications but can do so from any Android or iOS device while also allowing users to send messages as well on certain devices.

In addition to the phone stuff, read more

Mobility startups: Apply to exhibit for free as a TC Top Pick at Disrupt SF ‘18

Mobility is one of the most rapidly advancing technologies going, and we’re searching for the rising stars of early-stage mobility startups to apply as a TC Top Pick for Disrupt San Francisco 2018 on September 5-7 at Moscone Center West. It’s a competitive application process, but if TechCrunch editors designate your company as a Top Pick, you get to exhibit for free in Startup Alley — the show floor and heartbeat of every Disrupt event. Besides, who doesn’t love free?

Mobile tech is on the cusp of a revolution, and we’re interested in startups focused on everything it entails — autonomous vehicles, sensors, drones, security — or something else altogether. Flying cars, anyone? Exhibiting in Startup Alley will expose your startup to more than 10,000 attendees, including potential investors, customers, partners and more than 400 media outlets.

Here’s how the TC Top Pick process works. First things first: apply now. Our expert read more

Gravy’s new mobile game show is ‘Price is Right’ mixed with QVC

Following the success of the live mobile game show HQ Trivia, a team of serial entrepreneurs have begun testing the market to see if another game show concept can work, too. Their new game show-inspired app, Gravy, is meant to be a riff on the “Price is Right” combined with a QVC-style shopping experience. That is, the “contestants” compete for discounts of 30 to 70 percent off the products advertised, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. In addition, through a side game, users can guess when the product – whose quantities are unknown – will sell out and at what price. Those who guess closest win a cash prize.

The startup was created by Mark McGuire, Brian Wiegand, and Craig Andler – the founding team behind Jellyfish.com, an older social shopping network that was acquired by Microsoft back in 2007, to help create Bing Shopping. They’ve also paired up on other projects, including read more

Yahoo shuts down social savings app Tanda only months after launch

Well, that didn’t take long. Yahoo Finance’s new social savings app Tanda, which launched just this January, is already shutting down. The company announced the news of the app’s closure via a blog post, which vaguely hinted at a lack of traction. That appears to be true – the app isn’t even in the top 1,500 in the Finance category on the App Store, according to Sensor Tower’s data.

It had been installed around 37,000 times to date across both iOS and Android.

Still, tens of thousands in the first few months isn’t an entirely horrible showing for app that received almost no attention, marketing effort or media outreach. (We happened upon it practically by accident – not because Yahoo reached out to press. Yes, even though Yahoo is owned by Oath which also owns us, there wasn’t any internal heads-up. Or even any external pitching. In case you’re wondering!)

The app had allowed people to save money together for short-term goals using the concept of a “money pool” where read more

Fortnite had a $296 million April

Just how big Fortnite? Very big. Very, very big. $296 million in April, big. That’s according to SuperData Research (via The Verge), a service that tracks digital game sales. The number, which includes sales from the console, mobile and PC versions of the game, is up $73 million from just last month.

The sandbox’s survival game’s April numbers are also more than double the $126 million it earned back in February. The title is currently atop Superdata’s console chart, and is number five on the PC, several slots ahead of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. According to the survey it “once again it broke the record for most additional content revenue in a single month by a console game.”

As for mobile, the title didn’t crack the top 10, but the smartphone has clearly been a driving force in recent growth. Fortnite arrive on iOS in the middle of March, and its upcoming read more

Twitter will give political candidates a special badge during US midterm elections

Ahead of 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Twitter is taking a visible step to combat the spread of misinformation on its famously chaotic platform. In a blog post this week, the company explained how it would be adding “election labels” to the profiles of candidates running for political office.

“Twitter has become the first place voters go to seek accurate information, resources, and breaking news from journalists, political candidates, and elected officials,” the company wrote in its announcement. “We understand the significance of this responsibility and our teams are building new ways for people who use Twitter to identify original sources and authentic information.”

These labels feature a small government building icon and text identifying the position a candidate is running for and the state or district where the race is taking place. The label information included in the profile will also appear elsewhere on Twitter, even when tweets are embedded off-site.

The labels read more

Tesla brings on new VP of engineering from Snap

Tesla announced a number of new hires today, including Stuart Bowers, who is joining as VP of engineering. Bowers is joining Tesla from Snap, where he worked as VP of monetization engineering. Other new hires include Neeraj Manrao, who left Apple to become Tesla’s director of energy manufacturing, and Kevin Mukai, who is now director of product engineering at Tesla’s Gigafactory.

“We’re excited to welcome a group of such talented people as we continue to ramp Model 3 and accelerate towards a more sustainable future,” Tesla wrote on its blog. “We’ll be announcing more hires in the coming days, so stay tuned.”

These new hires come following a couple of departures. In April, Tesla VP of Autopilot Jim Keller left for Intel, with Pete Bannon serving as Keller’s replacement. Bannon is a former Apple chip engineer who helped design Apple’s A5-AP chips. Earlier this month, Sameer read more

Apple will add government App Store takedown requests to transparency reports

Apple’s set to up the ante with its transparency report. The same day it dropped the latest version of the twice-yearly document, the company committed to including in future updates government takedown requests for the App Store. The report covering July 1 through December 31 of this year, which is due out in 2019, should be the first to detail that information.

The information should prove a valuable insight into both Apple’s activities and the asks of governments around the world. Future reports will detail the specific government that issued the request, along with whether or not the company ultimately complied.

No word yet on whether the company will detail the specific apps. That would certainly prove even more informative, as far as the motivation behind said request. In the Government and Private Party Requests portion of this most recent document, Apple briefly read more