T-Mobile to retire Sprint's LTE network in June 2022

T-Mobile this week announced plans to retire Sprint’s LTE network in 2022, with the shutdown due to arrive six months after Sprint’s 3G assets are scheduled to cease operations.

Announced in a post to its support website, T-Mobile’s planned shutdown of Sprint’s LTE services is currently slated for June 30, 2022. The company previously said Sprint’s 3G network will be retired on January 1.

T-Mobile confirmed the timeline in a statement to Light Reading.

The shutdown is the next step of T-Mobile’s plan to combine its assets with Sprint’s following a hard-won $26 billion merger that was finalized in April 2020. With Sprint now under its umbrella, T-Mobile is moving forward with an initiative to build out a sprawling 5G network using spectrum and towers previously owned by Sprint.

“Across the industry, wireless companies are working to retire older network technologies as part of an important progression that will greatly enhance the performance of 4G and 5G, giving customers a better wireless experience,” T-Mobile says in the support document. “To ensure all customers can enjoy a more advanced 4G and 5G network, we will be retiring older network technologies to free up resources and spectrum that will help us strengthen our entire network, move all customers to more advanced technologies and bridge the Digital Divide.”

T-Mobile previously announced plans to retire its GSM 2G and UMTS 3G networks, though a firm shutdown date has not been set.

The Sprint brand began a wind down process last summer and roughly 33% of existing customers are now on T-Mobile’s network, Light Reading reports.

Most Sprint users were able to take advantage of T-Mobile’s infrastructure shortly after the merger closed and in April of last year. At the time, T-Mobile said it would allow Sprint subscribers to roam on its LTE towers for free.

Industry rivals Verizon and AT&T are also moving to shutter legacy networks as the shift to 5G continues. AT&T is looking to shut down its 3G network in early 2022, while Verizon plans to do the same a year later, the report said.

App Store spotlights first in-app event in iOS 15 beta

Apple is beginning to highlight in-app events in iOS 15, with one of the first being a TikTok Summer Camp session that was featured on the App Store’s “Today” page on Tuesday.

Announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June and slated to debut with iOS 15 this fall, in-app events enable developers to surface timely events in apps and games. Apple will feature certain events on the App Store to help app makers reach a wider audience.

It appears that Apple is testing the function ahead of its debut. As noted by graphic designer and podcaster Brahm Shank on Twitter, devices running iPadOS 15 were shown information for a TikTok Summer Camp session in the App Store’s Today page earlier today. The same feature was also seen on iOS 15.

As noted by MacRumors, the in-app event is displayed as a card in the Today view complete with start time and link to TikTok’s App Store page. The card includes specifics about the event, which for today’s TikTok event sees creators and artists discussing content revolving around outdoor themes.

Users can set a reminder to participate in the in-app event via a handy alarm icon on the event card.

In addition to the curated selections and personalized recommendations on the Today, Games and Apps tabs in the App Store, in-app events are featured in a special section on an app’s product page and displayed prominently in App Store search results. Users can also search for events directly in the App Store, Apple says in a developer webpage detailing the feature. Developers have the option of charging for certain events, like limited game modes or special presentations.

In-app events will be available to the public when iOS 15 launches this fall.

Apple's online storefront is temporarily offline in US

The online Apple Store was taken offline Tuesday afternoon, with the webpage and Apple Store app both displaying a familiar “Be right back” message that typically appears just prior to a product launch.

Apple Store downtimes usually result in new products being loaded into the storefront, though Apple has in the past taken the store offline briefly for routine maintenance.

Apple has not announced what changes will take effect when the store returns.

Most hardware releases predicted for this fall will likely be consolidated into one or two press events, not leaving much for a random Tuesday in August. It should also be noted that Apple’s store rarely goes down when minor accessories like watch bands are stocked for sale.

This post will be updated when the online Apple Store returns.

What Square’s acquisition of Afterpay means for startups

On Sunday Square announced it was gobbling up Afterpay in a deal worth $29 billion at the time of announcement. Alex followed up yesterday with more details on why the deal made sense for Square and Afterpay over here, but we wanted to ask some notable VCs what it means for the startup market.

For context, the Square deal follows a ton of money and interest flowing into the BNPL market. Just this year, VCs have invested in companies like Alma ($59.4 million, January 2021), Scalapay ($48 million, January 2021), Wisetack ($19 million, February 2021), Zilch ($80 million, April 2021) and Dividio ($30 million, June 2021).

Most of the investors we reached out to were generally bullish on the Square and Afterpay integration, but they were less excited about opportunities for other consumer BNPL businesses to emerge.

Then there’s Klarna, which raised $639 million at a post-money valuation of $45.6 billion in June, after raising $1 billion in March at a post-money valuation of $31 billion.

There’s also interest from some major public companies. After a slow start, PayPal is aggressively pushing BNPL services with merchants that offer it as a payment option. And there are reports that Apple is building its own BNPL offering through Apple Pay.

We reached out to Commerce Ventures founder and GP Dan RosenBetter Tomorrow Ventures founding partner Jake Gibson, Fika Ventures partner TX Zhuo, and Matthew Harris of Bain Capital Ventures to see what they thought of the deal, as well as what it might mean for the opportunity for other BNPL companies and startups.

The main takeaways? “Buy now, pay later” may be effective at driving retail conversion, but scale matters and long-term margins look slim for BNPL startups.

Now, let’s hear from the venture community.

The venture view

Why is the BNPL market so hot?

Gig companies take worker classification fight to Massachusetts through ballot initiative

A coalition of app-based ride-hailing and on-demand delivery companies including Lyft, Uber, Doordash and Instacart have filed a petition for a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that would keep gig economy workers classified as independent contractors as the industry takes a fight it won in California on the road.

The ballot measure proposed by the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work comes nearly a year after California voters approved a similar measure known as Proposition 22 that pitted labor rights advocates against gig economy companies in a costly multimillion battle.

Lyft, Uber and other members of the coalition, which also includes several local chambers of commerce in the state, said Tuesday they want the ballot question included in the November 2022 election. The question has to pass a legal review and receive enough signatures from voters for it to be included on the ballot.

“While our priority is to find a legislative solution in Massachusetts, this part of our continued efforts to advocate what the vast majority of drivers want — a flexible earning opportunity that our platform provides plus new benefits,” Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said during Lyft’s earnings call Tuesday. ” While we’re pursuing the ballot option, we’re also closely engaged with the Massachusetts State Legislature and are continuing to work with them on a potential legislative solution.”

The coalition said the proposed ballot question would grant app-based ride-hail and delivery workers new benefits such as healthcare stipends while keeping them classified as independent contractors.

Among the provisions that the coalition touted would be an earnings floor equal to 120% of the Massachusetts minimum wage ($18 per hour in 2023 from app-based platforms, before customer tips) and healthcare stipends for drivers who work at least 15 hours per week. Drivers would still keep all of their tips and be guaranteed at least $0.26 per mile to cover vehicle upkeep and gas, according to the coalition.

Labor activists are already pushing back. The Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, a group composed of a variety of organizations including the NAACP New England Area Conference, the Union of Minority Neighborhoods and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, said Tuesday the ballot measure contains problematic language that will hurt workers.

The group argued there are extensive loopholes that create a subminimum wage for app-based workers and that few qualify for healthcare. It also noted that the measure would remove anti-discrimination protections, eliminates workers’ compensation rules and allows companies to cheat the state unemployment system of hundreds of millions.

While Uber, Lyft and the broader coalition lobbies for either a ballot measure or legislation, it also faces a lawsuit filed last year by the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey who has asked the court to rule that Uber and Lyft drivers are employees under Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws.

The AG’s Office alleges in its complaint that Uber and Lyft are unable to meet a three-part test under state law that would allow them to classify drivers as independent contractors. To qualify as an independent contractor the worker must be free from a company’s direction and control, perform services outside the usual course of the business and does similar work on their own.

Uber has been signaling since last year that it planned to push for laws similar to the Proposition 22 measure. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in November 2020 during an earnings call with analysts that the company will “more loudly advocate for laws like Prop 22.” He later added that it will be a priority of the company “to work with governments across the U.S. and the world to make this a reality.”

WhatsApp photos and videos can now disappear after a single viewing

WhatsApp said that it would soon let users send disappearing photos and videos and this week the feature will be rolling out to everybody. Anyone using the Facebook-owned messaging app can share a photo or video in “view once” mode, allowing a single viewing before the media in question goes poof. Media shared with “view once” selected will show up as opened after the intended audience takes a peek.

The company notes that the new feature could be helpful for an array of needs that definitely aren’t sending nudes, like sharing a photo of some clothes you tried on or giving someone your wifi password. In the fine print, the company would like to remind you that just because the photos or video will vanish, that doesn’t prevent someone from taking a screenshot (and you won’t know if they do).

Facebook says the new feature is a step to give users “even more control over their privacy,” a song it’s been singing since Mark Zuckerberg first declared a new “privacy-focused vision” for the company back in 2019. Facebook has made a few gestures toward letting people wrest control of their online privacy since then, streamlining audience controls on its core app and enabling disappearing messages in WhatsApp.

The company has also been talking a big game about bringing end-to-end encryption to its full stable of messaging services, which it plans to make interoperable in the future. WhatsApp enabled end-to-end encryption by default back in 2016, but for Messenger and Instagram, the hallmark privacy measure could still be years out.

Extra Crunch roundup: Square buys Afterpay, paid search basics, career advice for devs

Square paid around a quarter of its present-day value for Afterpay, Alex Wilhelm notes in The Exchange. That seems like a lot. But was it too much?

“Afterpay brings global revenues, global users and a more diverse merchant network to Square,” Alex notes. “It would have had to spend to derive those assets over time. Square is willing to pay up to snag them now.”

Dana Stalder, a partner at Matrix Partners and Afterpay’s only institutional investor, describes the deal as part of a recurring “critical innovation cycle” in fintech that “determines the winners and losers” for decades to come.

“I’ve never seen a combination that has such potential to deliver extraordinary value to consumers and merchants,” says Stalder. “Even more so than eBay + PayPal.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

The best way to grow your career? Treat it like an app

Decision making: Wooden figurine thinking about the path to take to reach the target

Image Credits: jayk7 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Developers may delight in solving complex technical problems, but the problem of a career path is one many don’t think much about, Juniper Networks CTO Raj Yavatkar writes in a guest column.

He offers a solution that should appeal to developers and engineers: “​​Treat career advancement as you would a software project.”

Design expert Scott Tong outlines 4 concepts founders should consider when designing products

Scott Tong

Image Credits: Scott Tong

At Early Stage 2021, design expert Scott Tong shared some ways founders should think about design and branding.

If you can link your brand with your company’s reputation, I think it’s a really great place to start when you’re having conversations about brands. What is the first impression? What are the consistent behaviors that your brand hopes to repeat over and over? What are the memorable moments that stand out and make your brand, your reputation memorable?

You can’t afford to make poor decisions about incentive stock options

Image of a piggy bank, clock, and calculator on blue and yellow background to represent financial advice.

Image Credits: Nora Carol Photography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

If you’re fortunate enough to be considering cashing in on vested stock options, this guest column is worth a read.

“Most companies admit they need to be better at explaining how ISOs work in general, but they can’t legally work one-on-one with employees to help them exercise and sell shares the right way,” Wealthramp’s Pam Krueger and John Chapman write.

“That’s why, when the time is right, many employees actively look for help from a qualified fiduciary financial adviser who can walk these could-be ‘options millionaires’ through various cash-in scenarios.”

Demand Curve: Questions you need to answer in your paid search ads

Retail and technology. Retail as a Service.

Image Credits: metamorworks (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

At some point, almost every early-stage startup will use paid search ads to connect with customers and throw down the gauntlet with their competitors.

Most of these initial attempts at paid search are unsuccessful. There’s a steep learning curve when it comes to transforming passive searchers into paying customers, and almost no one gets it right the first time.

In a comprehensive guest post, growth marketing expert Stewart Hillhouse identified “14 questions your paid search should answer to ensure you’re only paying for the highest-intent shoppers.”

Question 1? “What’s in it for me?”

5 lessons from Duolingo’s bellwether edtech IPO of the year

Image Credits: Duolingo

Duolingo’s debut last week was a bright spot, Alex Wilhelm and Natasha Mascarenhas write, with the language learning app’s stock price landing above a raised IPO range.

Alex and Natasha detail five lessons to take from Duolingo’s flotation:

  1. The IPO event will bring “more sophistication” to Duolingo’s core service.
  2. Roadshow investors didn’t view Duolingo as an edtech company.
  3. China’s edtech crackdown will have a “neutral” impact on Duolingo.
  4. In certain cases, post-COVID growth declines aren’t lethal.
  5. Growth can still absolve rising losses.

Can your startup support a research-based workflow?

Artificial Intelligence Brain

Image Credits: Andriy Onufriyenko (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In the U.S. alone, yearly spending on AI R&D is expected to reach $100 billion by 2025.

But can your humble startup attract and retain users while it conducts research and product development?

“For obvious reasons, companies want to make things that matter to their customers, investors and stakeholders. Ideally, there’s a way to do both,” says João Graça, CTO and co-founder of Unbabel, an AI-powered language operations platform.

Kodiak Robotics’ founder says tight focus on autonomous trucks is working

don-burnette-founder-kodiak

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

As part of an ongoing series with transportation startup founders, Rebecca Bellan interviews Kodiak Robotics CEO and co-founder Don Burnette about why the autonomous trucking company remains private when so many of its rivals have gone public.

“I think there’s also lots of opportunity within the VCs and the private markets,” said Burnette.

“Kodiak is one of the only remaining serious AV trucking companies still in the private sector, and so I think that gives us some advantages in a lot of ways.”

How public markets can help address venture capital’s limitations

After interviewing Draper Esprit co-founder Stuart Chapman, Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim took a look at the trend of European VCs floating themselves.

Traditional VC models “can foist artificial time constraints on investors and force them to focus their deal flow into particular stages for fund-construction reasons,” Alex and Anna write for The Exchange.

“As we found out researching this piece, the public venture model highlights some of these limitations — and may be able to alleviate them in part.”

Robinhood’s CFO says it was ready to go public

After Robinhood failed to burn up the stock charts, Alex Wilhelm wondered why, exactly, the investing and trading app’s IPO didn’t live up to expectations.

He spoke to Robinhood CFO Jason Warnick, who shared a few reasons why it was time for the company to float:

… Warnick indicated that there were a few factors at play, including that Robinhood had built out its leadership team and its internal processes, and that it had worked on user-safety-related tasks and expanded the site’s use cases. All of that is true.

Linux Kernel Security Done Right (Google Security Blog)

[Kernel] Posted Aug 3, 2021 22:22 UTC (Tue) by jake

Over on the Google Security Blog, Kees Cook describes his vision for approaches to assuring kernel security in a more collaborative way. He sees a number of areas where companies could work together to make it easier for everyone to use recent kernels rather than redundantly backporting fixes to older kernel versions. It will take more engineers working on things like testing and its infrastructure, security tool development, toolchain improvements for security, and boosting the number of kernel maintainers:

Long-term Linux robustness depends on developers, but especially on effective kernel maintainers. Although there is effort in the industry to train new developers, this has been traditionally justified only by the “feature driven” jobs they can get. But focusing only on product timelines ultimately leads Linux into the Tragedy of the Commons. Expanding the number of maintainers can avoid it. Luckily the “pipeline” for new maintainers is straightforward.

Maintainers are built not only from their depth of knowledge of a subsystem’s technology, but also from their experience with mentorship of other developers and code review. Training new reviewers must become the norm, motivated by making upstream review part of the job. Today’s reviewers become tomorrow’s maintainers. If each major kernel subsystem gained four more dedicated maintainers, we could double productivity.

Comments (none posted)

Daily Crunch: For $20/month, crime alert app Citizen will connect users with live ‘safety agents’

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for August 3, 2021. Today we have a delightful mix of news for you, from Twitter product changes to VCs in trouble to megadeals and even some super-early-stage rounds. Let’s have some fun! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Even VCs get hit by ransomware: Sure, less technically savvy folks get hit by malware and ransomware all the time. You don’t really expect better from legacy telcos or underfunded utilities. But when the victim is Advanced Technology Ventures, which has around $1.8 billion in assets under management, the scourge of aggressive cybercrime starts to take on a more sinister flavor. Who is safe? No one?
  • Unfavored Fleets Flee: Twitter’s plan to kill off its Fleets product hit the ground today. It’s gone from our iOS apps. Fleets were fleeting, as everyone has noted, with the lifecycle of the product coming and going in rapid succession. Bad news for Twitter? Not really. Its Stories-like feature wasn’t too popular, and the company has a million other things in the wings, like its subscription service, its live audio product and its newsletter effort.
  • Substack buys Letter: TechCrunch covered this deal today, causing your humble scribe to sit back and think. Why would Substack buy Letter, a platform for written debate? Well, the newsletter-focused startup is big on the written word, and the value thereof. And many well-known Substack authors are controversial in one way or another. You know, the sort of folks you might want to see have a, say, debate? The two products should line up well.

Startups/VC

We’re breaking our startup and venture capital news today into three sections. The first deals with VCs themselves. Then we’ll talk through some mega-rounds and close with some small venture deals worth our time.

  • Moderne Ventures raises $200M: Every first-time venture capital fund wants to get to its second fund. And if they do, to raise a larger fund. From that perspective, things seem to be going well at Moderne, a firm whose second fund is a multiple of the size of its first. And it was oversubscribed. What does the group invest in? Per our own reporting, startups working in the “real estate, finance, insurance and home services industries.”
  • VCs going public is a thing? Yes, it turns out, it is a thing. Several European venture capital funds have gone public in recent quarters, including Draper Esprit moving from the smaller AIM to the main board in London. It turns out that being a public VC can remove certain time constraints that more traditional venture capital firms have to deal with. And regular folks can invest.

Now, some huge rounds:

  • India’s BharatPe raises $370M: Confirming TechCrunch’s previous scoop, fintech unicorn BharatPe is now worth $2.85 billion after Tiger led its most recent round. The company, TechCrunch reports, “operates an eponymous service to help offline merchants accept digital payments and secure working capital.” Given the number of SMBs in India, BharatPe’s TAM is huge. And now it has nigh-infinite capital to use to power its own growth.
  • Rapyd raises $300M for fintech APIs: The fintech world saw not just one huge round today, but two. Rapyd’s $300 million infusion led by Target Global values the firm at around $8.75 billion, per TechCrunch sources. What does Rapyd do? It offers APIs that power wallets, money transfers and card issuing, among other services, helping other companies offer fintech services around the world.
  • Sure, why not, here’s another huge Tiger round from India: More evidence that Tiger is building an index fund of growth-focused private companies the world ’round, and that the Indian startup market is red-hot, Infra.Market announced its third round in nine months today. The $125 million Series D values the Mumbai-based company at $2.5 billion, post-money. Infra.Market builds software to help construction companies get the raw materials they need and handle project logistics.

And then there’s startup news from the earlier side of the market:

  • bina raises $1.4M for kid-focused edtech: bina — the small b is part of its branding — wants to build an online school with small class sizes aimed at 4- through 12-year-olds. Given the huge changes to the global education market in light of COVID-19, it’s a big task.
  • $1.3M for African-focused agtech startup Khula: Providing farmers large and small with software and a marketplace, Khula wants to meet chronic issues in the African farming market with technology.
  • Finally, Aira’s wireless charging tech just raised $12 million: Sure, Apple gave up on AirPower, but Aira is still hard at work on the wireless charging problem set. Which gives us hope, because our phones are always out of batteries, along with our headphones, keyboards and pretty much everything else. It’s not just us, right?
  • Citizen launches its $20/month Protect service: Controversial consumer security startup Citizen’s Protect service is now something that you can buy. Reach that line of communication and the company’s staff will help you handle your emergency. That doesn’t sound too spicy, but as TechCrunch reports “the app made news earlier this year for launching a private ‘personal rapid response service’ fleet of vehicles and a reward for a person wrongly accused of starting a Los Angeles wildfire.”

Embodied AI, superintelligence and the master algorithm

Over the next 18 months, one technologist says the increased adoption of embodied artificial intelligence will open a path to superintelligence — incredibly powerful software that dwarfs anything the human mind could produce.

“All the crazy Boston Dynamics videos of robots jumping, dancing, balancing and running are examples of embodied AI,” says Chris Nicholson, founder and CEO of Pathmind, which uses deep reinforcement learning to optimize industrial operations and supply chains.

“The field is moving fast and, in this revolution, you can dance.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • YouTube’s big short push goes live: Alphabet’s Google division has a video product called YouTube that you may have heard of. And the subsidiary’s subsidiary has a $100 million fund that it hopes will drive interest in creating short-form videos for its viewers. TikTok changed the video game, and YouTube’s huge financial response is now live.
  • Google updates its Maps product on iOS: If you use Maps on iOS, which we reckon is around half of you reading this note, good news. Now you can share location more easily in iMessages, use dark mode and get traffic data on your home screen. You are welcome.
  • Nikola warns on EV deliveries: The chip shortage has a new victim. This time it’s Nikola, the troubled EV company that saw its CEO under fire for fraud in recent days. The company was an early SPAC success and now stands as a cautionary tale for the financial mechanism.
  • Marvell buys Innovium for $1.1B: Here’s a neat acquisition story that is also something of a letdown. Innovium, a maker of “networking ethernet switches optimized for the cloud,” per our own reporting, was worth a bit more in its final private round. Still, it’s a big deal and a billion-dollar-plus exit, making it worth our time.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Our editorial coverage about growth marketing includes articles from the TechCrunch team, guest columns and posts like “Demand Curve: Questions you need to answer in your paid search ads” by Stewart Hillhouse on Extra Crunch.