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Picker, an app to discover products recommended by people you follow, picks up €1.3M seed



Picker, an app that lets you discover and buy products recommended by people you follow, has raised €1.3 million in seed funding. Backing the Barcelona-based startup is Berlin’s Btov. The company has received €2 million in funding to date, mainly from various angel investors.

Founded in 2018 by Daniel Ramos, Conan Moriarty and Enric Gabarró, Picker offers a curated marketplace that enables you to discover and buy products based on the recommendations of influencers, friends or the wider Picker community. The iOS and Android app is currently live in Spain, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“We live in a world where buying online is an overcrowded experience, [and] good products are hidden under a mountain of junk,” says CEO Enric Gabarró, who previously worked at Zalando and has a background in influencer marketing. “Try searching for a camera on the biggest seller online, you will get more than 200,000 results. Which one is the best for you? It is impossible to know; reviews are anonymous and not related to you. As I always say, Picker is for finding the best products for you, because one trusted person beats 500 reviews”.

More broadly, Gabarró believes that “empowering good products” by sharing them with our friends, family and communities is the best way to save money and the planet, while also “supporting responsible and good manufacturers and helping our loved ones”. Or, as the company likes to say, “stop buying more, buy better”.

With that said, Picker users appear to be buying quite a lot of stuff, regardless, with the startup disclosing that it is on track to generate over €2 million in sales globally this year. Further country launches are also underway.

“We make money since the very first day,” says Gabarró, before explaining that the company has partnerships with various brands, e-commerce sites, marketplaces and resellers, and receives a cut on every sale. He tells me that brands are also interested in running campaigns together with its users, although this is something Picker is only just testing.

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“Our main customers are women above 25 years old, [who are] super interested in decoration, makeup and stuff for the kids,” he adds. “We also have super niche categories where people share their favourite startup books, gardening stuff, favourite whiskeys, the hammers and screwdrivers for the backyard or even sexual toys”.

(Gabarró reveals that Spain saw a big increase in orders of sex toys during quarantine, while in Germany there was a big increase in DIY equipment during the same time period. Just shows there’s more than one way to get busy.)

Meanwhile, competitors are cited as Pinduoduo in Asia, which is more focused on discounts, and a few smaller players emerging in Europe. And of course there’s Instagram and Pinterest.

“We believe their core as a social media platform focused on making money with advertising (average time spent) offers us the big possibility of creating something new with a completely different approach based on purchase rather than advertising,” says the Picker CEO. “We are 100% aligned with the users, we want them to enter the app, find the product they want to buy or share and then leave the platform. We want to help them find the best fit for them as fast as possible without being addicted to our platform. Our focus on discovering products with social leverage is the key differentiator”.


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Samsung moves to autoblock spam calls, but only on its top-end phones



Apple rolled out automatic spam call detection and blocking functionality on iPhones with iOS 13. Now, a ton of Samsung users are set to get the same feature on their devices starting with the Galaxy Note 20 series.

Samsung already provides spam and fraud call detection through its dialer that’s powered by Hiya, a spam and call detection company. Now it’s extending the service to automatically blocking those calls on devices that are running One UI 2.5 software.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

Currently, only the Note 20 series and the Z Fold 2 has the One UI 2.5 pre-installed. Other devices ranging from the Galaxy S20 to Galaxy S9 series and Galaxy Note 10 series will get this update later. Samsung is also supposed to roll out this update for a couple of A-series phones including the A71 and the A51 as well.

Smart call filtering on Samsung

As a consumer, you don’t really need to do anything to block these calls. Hiya leverages its database and cloud service to identify these calls and block them.

There are other popular apps such as Truecaller that help you to identify spam calls and block them. However, you’d need to install that app and tweak the settings of your phone (for both iOS and Android) to enable call blocking.

In addition to this announcement, Samsung has also extended its partnership with Hiya for spam detection solutions until 2025. The call identification company said that there more than 40 countries primarily in North and South America and Europe where this feature will be enabled on the eligible phone. It added that it’s working to get more countries on the list.

There’s a massive spam call issue in India, and that’s why probably TrueCaller has more than 185 million active users in the country. It’s a bummer that this feature is not available in the market where Samsung has a massive presence.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published October 22, 2020 — 11:00 UTC


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Google tests smart displays that activate without a wake word



A new feature being internally tested at Google could remove the need to say “Hey Google” before voicing commands to Nest Hub smart displays, Android Central reports. Instead, the feature codenamed “Blue Steel” could allow the device to simply sense your presence, and proactively listen for commands without first needing to hear the wake word.

The functionality has been shown off in a video posted to YouTube by Jan Boromeusz, who Android Central notes previously leaked features like the Nest Hub’s new dark mode prior to its official announcement. In the video, Boromeusz can be seen asking for a variety of information, all without once uttering the words “Hey Google.” His Nest Hub Max smart display is reportedly running leaked internal firmware meant for testing within Google, and it’s unclear if the company has any plans to release the functionality publicly.

The speculation is that the Nest Hub Max is using its existing ultrasound sensing to sense a person’s presence and start listening. At the moment, the smart display uses this to simply adjust the information it shows. However, in the future, this same technology could allow it to listen out for voice commands when it knows you’re nearby. Ars Technica speculates that it could also use its camera’s Face Match feature to get a better idea of who’s speaking. Boromeusz shows an option to turned Blue Steel on and off in the smart display’s settings menu.

If released to the public, Blue Steel could raise privacy concerns. A key element of current smart speakers and displays is that they only pay attention to what you’re saying after they hear the wake word. Relying upon proximity detection alone increases the risk of the devices hearing something they’re not supposed to, at the expense of your privacy.

That said, “Blue Steel” could make for a useful optional feature for some. Having to repeatedly say “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” before every voice command can be a pain, and this potentially makes accessing information you need far quicker.


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Here integrates what3words’ super simple address system into its in-car API



Geocoding startup what3words — which chunks the world into 3mx3m squares, giving each a unique three-word label to simplify location sharing — has nabbed another in-vehicle integration, via a partnership with Here Technologies.

The pair said today that OEMs using Here’s navigation platform can include what3words as an in-car nav feature directly through the Here Search API, instead of needing to integrate itself. Existing users of the platform will be able to be given access to what3word’s addressing tech via an update.

Here says its map data services can be found in 150 million vehicles worldwide at this point.

It’s by no means the first such integration for what3words which has found cars to be a natural fit for its simplified, ‘rolls-off-the-tongue’ addressing system. The 2013-founded startup inked a partnership with Ford last year, for example. It also counts Daimler as an investor.

Letting drivers speak or type three words to input a location into their car’s GPS system has clear benefits vs requiring they correctly specify a full address. what3words also pinpoints a more specific location than a typical postcode — and works for destinations that don’t have a street address (the start of a hiking trial or specific lay-by; a particular entrance for a campus etc).

what3words further notes that its tech has been adopted by global car companies, logistics providers and mobility apps, including Mercedes-Benz, Tata Motors, DB Schenker, Hermes and Cabify.

In recent years the novel addressing system has also found favor with Airbnb as a way of simplifying location sharing for less traditional types of stays.

Commenting on its latest partnership in a statement, what3words CEO and co-founder, Chris Sheldrick, said: “We are seeing increasing demand from automakers and mobility services. Now that we are embedded in Here, we can enable our address system simply and easily in both new and legacy vehicles.”

“Automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers can now provide the what3words service to their customers through the Here Search API instead of having to integrate it themselves,” added Jørgen Behrens, SVP and chief product officer at Here Technologies in another supporting statement. “This will allow drivers to navigate easily in dense, urban environments with non-standard addressing schemes or seamlessly get to any location, be it a local pub or a trailhead.”


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