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Nintendo’s Mario Kart mobile game won’t launch until the summer

Nintendo’s Mario Kart mobile game won’t launch until the summer

It’s been a long year for Nintendo fans waiting on Mario Kart to come to mobile and, unfortunately, more patience is required after the game’s launch was moved back to this summer.

Nintendo announced plans to bring the much-loved franchise to smartphones one year ago. It was originally slated to launch by the end of March 2019, but the Japanese games giant said today it is pushing that date back to summer 2019.

The key passage sits within Nintendo’s latest earnings report, released today, which explains that additional time is needed “to improve [the] quality of the application and expand the content offerings after launch.”

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It’s frustrating but, as The Verge points out, you can refer to a famous Nintendo phrase if you are seeking comfort.

Shigeru Miyamoto, who created the Mario and Zelda franchises, once remarked that “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

There’s plenty riding on the title — excuse the pun. Super Mario Run, the company’s first major game for the iPhone, showed its most popular IP has the potential to be a success on mobile, even though Mario required a $9.99 payment to go beyond the limited demo version. Mario Kart is the most successful Switch title to date, so it figures that it can be a huge smash on mobile if delivered in the right way.

Nintendo’s Mario Kart mobile game won’t launch until the summer
Source: TechCrunch

Wanna Kicks, a new AR app from Wannaby, lets you virtually “try on” your next pair of kicks

Wanna Kicks, a new AR app from Wannaby, lets you virtually “try on” your next pair of kicks

Wannaby, a startup out of Belarus that is building “AR commerce” experiences, has launched a beta of its latest app, which aims to make it easier to find the perfect sneakers.

Dubbed “Wanna Kicks,” the iOS app uses augmented reality to let you “try on” various pairs of sneakers. You simply choose a pair of kicks from the list of 3D models, point your camera at your feet and — bingo — you’re now virtually wearing your chosen footwear.

The effect is pretty instant and tracks reasonably well as you move and rotate your feet or change camera angle. You can even try walking and the AR app will follow your footsteps. It doesn’t work quite as well standing in front of a mirror, which would be more useful, but that is something Wanna Kicks’ makers say they are working on.

Ultimate, however, Wannaby believes its technology can help both customers and retailers. The premise is simple: the better idea you have of how a pair of sneakers will look when you’re actually wearing them, the more likely you are to make the right purchase and the less likely you are to return an item. Online retailers spend a lot of their margins trying to get customers to convert, and arguably even more servicing returns.

“Our mission is to break online shopping barriers,” Wannaby CEO and ex-Googler Sergey Arkhangelskiy tells me. “We believe that AR try-on can help customers to shop online and will wash away the difference between online and offline shopping. We see two major problems in the shoe market. Online conversions are quite low, and returns are quite high, in comparison to traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ shopping. The ability to try sneakers with your phone before buying online should shift conversions, engagement, and returns”.

Arkhangelskiy argues that AR is also a great marketing tool. Unsurprisingly, Wanna Kicks lets you save a photo of your feed clad in new virtual sneakers, which you can then share on social media. Video sharing is in the pipeline, too.

“Many shoe brands are presenting their new releases both online and offline,” he says. “Lots of customers are eager to know more about new sneaker releases, and AR is a great new way for people to experience sneakers that are new to the market or are about to get to the market. Essentially, this is the main idea behind Wanna Kicks: allowing users to choose and decide whether they like a shoe or not without visiting a physical store”.

Under the hood, Wannaby says it uses sophisticated “3D geometry algorithms” together with neural networks to identify the position of the shoe in space. It’s these algorithms that the startup says are its secret sauce and the company’s main innovation. To onboard sneakers into the app, Wannaby utilises its own studio to create bespoke 3D models.

“We’ve built Wanna Kicks for Gen Z and millennials who are interested in buying sneakers and eager to know whether they will fit their style or not,” adds Arkhangelskiy. “The AR and AI community will love our launch as well — we’ve accomplished a really difficult task in computer vision and rendering”.

Meanwhile, Wannaby is backed by Bulba Ventures, and Haxus. The startup has raised $2 million in seed funding to date.

Wanna Kicks, a new AR app from Wannaby, lets you virtually “try on” your next pair of kicks
Source: TechCrunch

TrueLayer’s Payments API lets companies accept payments through Open Banking

TrueLayer’s Payments API lets companies accept payments through Open Banking

Open Banking and PSD2 — groundbreaking regulation from the U.K. and European Union, respectively — set out to fix what politicians and civil servants perceived as a malfunctioning financial services market, evidenced most prominently by the banking crisis in 2008. It is also closely linked to the EU’s privacy directive GDPR, which aims to ensure citizens are given better access and use of their own personal data.

Central to Open Banking is a requirement that banks open up the data they hold and offer an API to let customers optionally share financial information with third-party providers. The idea, amongst other more innovate use-cases, is to make it easier to shop around for financial services or to switch banks accounts entirely.

In addition, a second aspect of Open Banking, which arguably targets the Visa-Mastercard duopoly, stipulates that banks offer an API to let customers authorise payments directly from their bank account as an alternative to other types of payments, such as card payments or manual bank transfers.

Enter TrueLayer, the London startup that’s built a developer platform to make it easy for fintech and other adjacent companies, such as retailers, to access bank APIs and in turn ride the Open Banking and PSD2 gravy train. Today, the young company is launching a beta of its own Open Banking-based Payments API to enable businesses to start accepting payments through Open Banking.

By using the payment initiation process created by PSD2, TrueLayer says its new API offers a number of benefits over other payments options:

First is immediate settlement whereby cleared funds are received in just few minutes, as with any bank to bank transfer that uses “Faster Payments”.

Second is security, since the API requires active bank authentication before any money can leave the account. “This means high security and extremely low fraud rates,” claims TrueLayer. That’s not pure hyperbole: the nature of the payment initiation process, as stipulated by Open Banking, means the customer is required to sanction any payment request within their own bank’s app or website. The user journey (shown in the video below) goes something like, “hey my bank, please make this one-off transfer on my behalf to X”. The person or business receiving the payment never sees your bank details (or card details, for that matter).

Third is that it is cheaper as payments do not have the high fees of card transactions.

Lastly, the user experience is arguably more streamlined than some other payments options, including traditional bank transfers. For example, customers do not need to manually type in a business’ bank account number to transfer money to a business.

“Both businesses and consumers will benefit substantially, but I think the biggest winner will be merchants, application providers, and SMBs,” TrueLayer co-founder Francesco Simoneschi tells me when I ask him who the biggest benefactors will be.

“Faster Payments cuts the time it takes for a payment to come through from days to few seconds. This is a crucial factor for a lot of businesses where instant settlement and transaction risk are big concerns. Add to that the minimal costs involved to process a payment and our API will make a big difference in a short period of time. We think that many businesses will end up sharing these savings with their customers”.

Simoneschi won’t be drawn into saying who the biggest loser will be under the new payments directive, arguing that it isn’t a “zero-sum game”. “However, we do believe that payment initiation is disrupting the four-party model of the existing card networks,” he adds.

That’s because payment initiation is serviced via a direct relationship between the merchant and the customer’s bank. And although Simoneschi doesn’t think it will happen overnight, he believes that as merchants start to incentivise Open Banking payments for their customers, it is likely to quickly gain traction. One way for credit card companies to remain competitive, he says, is to embrace and enhance Open Banking payment initiation by adding services such as dispute management.

“It’s also worth noting that banks generate a substantial amount of revenue from the fees involved in credit and debit card transactions,” says Simoneschi. “These fees are paid for by merchants, and indirectly, by consumers. Reducing these transactions could sting the bottom line of some of the major banks. Another factor is how a few banks make money as the ‘acquirer bank’ — a bank that merchants use to receive and clear funds. PSD2 and Open Banking removes both parts of this equation, essentially making that role obsolete”.

Meanwhile, asked what use cases are initially best-suited to this new payment method, Simoneschi says the most obvious is any scenario where payment is normally done via manual bank transfer. For example, services that require you to top up your account, such as international money transfer apps, cryptocurrency exchanges (or even a pre-paid mobile phone account) are ideal candidates. He also thinks managing or facilitating B2B payments, such as payments requested by suppliers, is another extremely good fit.

Longterm, however, that’s barely scratching the surface. It’s not hard to see large merchants, such as Amazon, embracing Open Banking in a big way so that they bypass Visa and Mastercard as much as possible. For those merchants with less deep pockets, services like TrueLayer over time will likely help them do the same. In other words, the payments space is about to get interesting — again.

TrueLayer’s Payments API lets companies accept payments through Open Banking
Source: TechCrunch

How to turn off Find My iPhone

How to turn off Find My iPhone

Selling an iPhone? Make sure you turn off Find My iPhone or the new owner will have issues with the tracking service. If that’s what happened to you, you may be wondering: “How can I remove Find My iPhone without the previous owner”? Alternatively, you might want to turn off the tracking service because you don’t want someone to track you. Whatever your reasons, here’s how to disable Find My iPhone:
How to turn off Find My iPhone
Source: Mac World How To

Naspers takes full control of Russian classifieds site Avito in $1.16B deal

Naspers takes full control of Russian classifieds site Avito in .16B deal

South African internet conglomerate Naspers is best known for backing Chinese tech giant Tencent, but it also operates a vast network on of online classifieds businesses. That network just got a little larger after Naspers took full control of Russia-based Avito through a new $1.16 billion all-cash investment to top up its ownership to over 99 percent.

Avito is Russia’s top classifieds site, claiming 10.3 million unique daily visitors. It currently has close to 47 million listings covering categories that include goods, auto, real estate, jobs and services.

The deal, which was made via Naspers’ OLX Group, takes its ownership to 99.6 percent on a fully diluted basis and values the full company at $3.85 billion.

While classifieds may sound like a very retro corner of e-commerce, it remains a growing business (just ask Facebook, which has been growing its own marketplace and giving it increasing exposure across its own network).

Particularly in emerging and developing markets, leading local players continue to find traction. In the last six months ending September 30, Avito generated sales of 10.3 million rubles ($157.50 million), up 30 percent on the year before; and it operates with a 65.4 percent ebitda margin, with listings growing 7.4 percent to 17.46 million — according to Vostok New Ventures, one of the backers who sold up in this deal.

“Avito’s talented management team, led by CEO Vladimir Pravdivy, has demonstrated the capacity to achieve remarkable growth consistently over time,” said Martin Scheepbouwer, CEO of the OLX Group, in a statement. “Business performance is excellent and we look forward to continuing this trend by further leveraging the technology, knowledge and experience from Avito within OLX Group and vice versa.”

In Russia specifically, the market has a lot of potential in e-commerce — the country has very high internet and smartphone penetration, with a large population — but it lags behind the UK, France and Germany when it comes to total market size. Morgan Stanley estimates that the market will be worth around €31 billion by 2020, but as a point of comparison, in 2017, the UK was already pushing 200 billion, and France and Germany respectively both were clearing over €90 billion annually in e-commerce sales.

Analysts have highlighted how on challenge in Russia is that the market lacks one specific strong leader in e-commerce marketplaces, with Yandex (in partnership with Sberbank), Mail.ru (in partnership with Alibaba), Ozon (backed in part by Rakuten), and Wildberries together only taking 27 percent of the market. That leaves the door open for someone to come in and to consolidate that more, and that presents a double opportunity for Naspers: it can either find itself getting a good deal for Avito from another buyer, or take the plunge to do it buying itself using Avito as its foothold.

Naspers-OLX originally took a majority stake in 2015 through a $1.2 billion investment. Before that, it had been involved in Avito as early as 2013, when the company was formed by a merger between Slando.ru and OLX.ru, two rivals that were both backed by Naspers.

Consolidating its position in companies where it’s already strong helps Naspers also use the cash from those operations to invest in newer areas of business like tapping into more on-demand services and innovations in financial services to complement the legacy areas.

“Avito is the leading online classifieds player in Russia and our decision to increase our stake reflects our belief in the long-term prospects of this great business and the Russian internet market,” said Bob van Dijk, Naspers CEO, in a statement. “This investment further strengthens our global position in online classifieds, a core focus for Naspers alongside online food delivery and fintech.”

Naspers takes full control of Russian classifieds site Avito in .16B deal
Source: TechCrunch