In the first instalment of Bloomberg’s Power On newsletter, Mark Gurman says that Apple is currently considering future iPad designs with larger displays. The current iPad Pro maxes out at 12.9-inches diagonally.
Gurman says that any new iPad screen size change is at least a ‘couple of years down the road’ and has not yet left the exploratory stages. Apple is still said to be developing a redesigned iPad chassis with a glass back for 2022, which will ship in the existing 11-inch and 12.9-inch screen sizes.
When Apple announced the M1 iPad Pro in April with a new mini-LED display, the M1 chip, and up to 2TB of storage with 16GB of RAM, there was only one thing missing: the software that would take advantage of this high-end machine.
The video game console industry has a long and rich history, from the early years of Magnavox and Atari to the Nintendo/Sega era to the current Sony/Nintendo/Sega three-way fight.
In other words, there’s no real shortage of machines to choose from when it comes to picking our favorite gaming consoles of all time. And that’s exactly what we asked the Android Authority team to do. We had 11 consoles make the cut based on responses from 16 of our most ardent console gaming fans. Here’s what our team picked!
The results speak for themselves when you check out the graphs below, charting results by individual console and by manufacturer, respectively. Scroll past these graphs for more in-depth results and memories from our team!
Results by console
Results by manufacturer
Sony PlayStation 2 (3 votes)
Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
Is it any surprise that the PlayStation 2 was the only console to garner more than two total votes in this poll? Sony’s sophomore PlayStation outing remains the most successful home console of all time, so it stands to reason that some Android Authority team members have a special place in their hearts for it.
Luke Little, Jonathan Feist, and Nick Fernandez all chose the PS2 as their favorite console ever made. Luke has positive (if cheeky) memories of growing up with the console:
“This was my childhood console. Combined with the HD Loader that allowed us to back up games to an internal hard drive, in the era of renting games from Blockbuster and Hollywood Video (RIP), it was a powerhouse of absolute bangers that I still come back to frequently today.”
Meanwhile, Nick says the vote wasn’t actually an easy one, as he was torn between either the PS2 or original Xbox. “But no matter how much time I spent playing Halo/Halo 2 (I even organized tournaments), I have to go with the PlayStation 2,” he elaborates. “Everything from the controller to the console itself (I bought the internal HDD to play FFXI online) were top-notch, and it also served as my main DVD player for over a decade.”
He also points to the “absolutely incredible” games library in every genre, saying there are loads of PS2 titles he’d still gladly play. And that’s always a sign that a console was an all-time great.
Jonathan chose the PS2 partly because it’s the newest console he owns, but he also has great memories playing Need for Speed using a projector. “Since then, does PC gaming count as a console?” he asks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, Mr. Feist.
SNES (2 votes)
Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
Andrew Grush and C. Scott Brown both picked the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) as their favorite gaming console ever made.
Andrew outlines why he chose the SNES, and it ultimately boils down to horsepower and games:
“Because it had cutting edge graphics and edged out the older Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive outside North America). Not to mention the games: Super Mario RPG, Mario World, Yoshi’s island, Chrono Trigger, several Final Fantasy games, Mario Kart, Harvest Moon. The list goes on and on.”
“This was the console I grew up on, so it holds a special place in my heart,” Scott says when giving his reason for choosing the SNES. He also lists some killer titles for the console, namely Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and Super Mario RPG.
Scott also has another reason for picking the SNES, praising the controller design and saying it’s still being emulated by manufacturers today. He’s not wrong, with firms like 8bitdo releasing SNES-style gamepads.
Nintendo 64 (2 votes)
Jimmy Westenberg and Oliver Cragg chose the Nintendo 64 as their favorite gaming console, and both say it was the first home console they ever owned (ah, bless).
Jimmy recalls his experience with the cart-toting console:
“We opened it on Christmas morning. I don’t think there’s literally any present that could top that one! It came with Mario Kart 64 — a classic. I later became obsessed with Super Mario 64, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Star Fox 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Stadium, Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and, of course, Super Smash Bros.”
Oddly enough, Jimmy says he still loves the rather unorthodox N64 gamepad. Oliver, meanwhile, acknowledges that the controller is weird and that many games haven’t aged well. Nevertheless, he still has fond memories of the 64-bit machine.
“I’d played console games at friends’ houses beforehand, but the N64 was my first true home console (I had an Amiga 500 before). Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Goldeneye, WWF No Mercy, Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron; just so many classics.”
Nintendo Switch (2 votes)
Nintendo’s latest console also accrued two votes, as both Luke Pollack and Chris Thomas cast their ballots for the portable machine.
Luke points to Nintendo’s library of first-party games, such as Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Link’s Awakening. “For most other power-hungry titles, I can experience those on my PC,” he adds.
Chris points to the game library as well, and it’s high praise indeed:
“I’ve used this console more than my SNES, NES, Xbox, and N64 because of the game collections it offers, but also the much more mature control options vs those of the Wii.”
Both of them also point to the Switch’s portability factor as a major reason for choosing it. Chris says it’s versatile in this regard, and that having multiple docks makes life much easier. Luke also praises the Switch’s portability, giving the example of taking it with him on a flight and being able to seamlessly connect to a big screen when he gets home.
The best of the rest
There were a few other consoles that were chosen by Android Authority team members as their favorites, and we’ve got Microsoft representation courtesy of Ankit Banerjee and Palash Volvoikar.
Ankit chose the Xbox brand in general but noted that he has the Xbox Series X right now. Interestingly enough, he chose the Xbox brand because of one franchise.
“I’ve been an ‘Xbox guy’ from the start, because of Halo. It’s been one of my favorite games from the start, and the only way to play it (on console) is on an Xbox,” Ankit answered.
Palash, on the other hand, says the Xbox One S is his favorite gaming console. And his reason essentially comes down to pricing, for the most part. Here’s what he has to say:
“Console gaming has historically not been very accessible in India. Either the consoles have been too pricey, or the games have, or both. The Xbox One S was a landmark in that area. A price you could justify, coupled with Xbox Game Pass — which meant that I could get away with paying very little for what was quite a compelling package. I had some great days on mine, and it still delivers a surprisingly sweet gaming experience.”
We also have two Nintendo handhelds make the list, as Dhruv Bhutani chose the Game Boy Advance and Matt Horne points to the original Game Boy.
The deciding factor for Dhruv is the library of games for the GBA, and it’s hard to disagree. Nintendo’s 2001 handheld would accumulate a ton of excellent titles, ranging from various Pokémon games and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap to the Advance Wars series and the cult classic Golden Sun. It even saw a ton of SNES ports and a decent variety of first-person shooters.
Matt chose the original Game Boy for nostalgic reasons. Take it away, Matt:
“It was the first gaming device I got and I played the likes of Tetris, Mario Bros, and Bubble Bobble for hours!”
We already had three people choose the PlayStation 2 as their favorite gaming console ever, but John Dye points to the PlayStation 3 instead. It was a toss-up between the N64 and PS3 for John, and he recalls renting the N64 and being amazed by titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
“Those are intense, positive memories, but in terms of the quality and variety of games that have kept me and my friends together as we drifted apart into varied careers, the PS3 has no competitors,” he answers, while bemoaning the button symbols on PlayStation controllers. “Just give them letters! I don’t want to expend three syllables telling a friend they need to hit ‘triangle’ to jump.”
What’s your favorite gaming console of all time?
Only one Sega console makes the list, and that’s thanks to John Callaham choosing the Dreamcast. John points to the great library of games as well as the trailblazing online connectivity. “Soul Calibur is still my favorite fighting game of all time,” he adds.
Me? I was torn between the Nintendo GameCube and the Xbox 360, and I just had to go with the ‘Cube. Yes, it didn’t have a ton of games compared to the PS2 or even the original Xbox. Sure, finding GameCube games locally was a major challenge as only one retail chain stocked them in my part of the world (and then ditched the system a couple of years later).
But the sheer quality of GameCube titles was astounding, and I found myself playing the likes of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Resident Evil 4, the WWE: Day of Reckoning games, Animal Crossing, and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes.
My group of friends even wound up sharing a memory card and passing Animal Crossing around to each other. That is, when we weren’t playing four-player Mario Kart, Mario Party, or WWE: Day of Reckoning 2.
What’s your favorite gaming console of all time? Let us know via the comments section below!
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a growing trend of creators adopting digital and social media, not just as a supplement to their media presence but also as a cornerstone of their personal brand.
The pandemic has surely accelerated creator economy trends. Many popular artists and figures have had to postpone concerts and live events, subsequently using social media to carry out these activities and engage their fans. Proliferating through Western and far East markets, the creator economy bug, which has made platforms like Cameo and Patreon unicorns, is beginning to take centre stage in MENA.
Today, Minly, an Egypt-based creator economy platform, is announcing that it has closed a $3.6 million seed round to allow stars across the MENA region to create authentic, personalized connections with their fans.
The round, which Minly says was oversubscribed, was co-led by 4DX Ventures, B&Y Venture Partners, and Global Ventures. It also included participation from unnamed regional funds and angel investors like Scooter Braun, founder of SB Projects and Jason Finger, co-founder of Seamless and Grubhub.
Experts say time spent viewing social media surpassed time spent viewing TV within the MENA region. But one shortcoming with social media is that its content often feels mass-produced. When creators make posts, it’s most times void of personalization to the different categories of fans they possess. In a way, this dilutes the fan experience and limits the extent and number of ways the creator can monetize.
This is where Minly comes in. The company was founded last year by Mohamed El-Shinnawy, Tarek Hosny, Tarek ElGanainy, Ahmed Abbas, and Bassel El-Toukhy. It provides tools for creators to craft what it calls ‘authentic connections’ with their superfans and audience at scale. “In short, our goal is to eventually deliver tens of millions of unique, unforgettable experiences to fans each year,” El-Shinnawy said to TechCrunch.
Shinnawy, who brings more than 15 years of media and technology experience to the table, is the chief technology officer at Minly. He sold his first company Emerge Technology to a U.S.-based media company. He has also delivered work for Hollywood’s top studios, such as Sony Pictures, Universal, Disney, Fox, and Warner Brothers, while playing a role in the global expansion of Apple TV+, Disney+, and Netflix to the MENA region.
Mohamed El-Shinnawy (co-founder and CTO, Minly)
Minly has experienced rapid growth since launching late last year. It has more than 50,000 users and an impressive list of popular regional celebrities ranging from actors and athletes like Fifi Abdou and Mahmoud Trezeguet to musicians and internet influencers like Assala Nasri and Tamer Hosny.
On the platform, users can buy personalized video messages and shoutouts from these celebrities, and they, in turn, connect with their fans on a more personal level. “We think that we have already differentiated ourselves from other creator economy platforms in the region. We do this by offering the best catalogue of stars and user experience. And our entire team is working hard to grow this gap even further,” said El-Shinnawy on the crop of celebrities Minly has onboarded to the platform.
Minly takes a small commission on transactions made through its platform. However, the majority of the transaction price, a figure Minly didn’t disclose, goes directly to creators. And at the same time, Minly urges celebrities to automatically donate a portion of their earnings to partner charities on the platform.
Minly’s knack for creating a personalized experience is why Pan-African VC firm 4DX Ventures invested. The firm’s co-founder and general partner Peter Orth, who will be joining Minly’s board, said the company is fundamentally changing the relationship between celebrities and fans in the MENA region. “The team has both the ambition and the expertise to build a full-stack digital interaction platform that could change the way digital content is created and consumed in the region,” he added.
The creator economy market surpassed $100 billion in value this year and is still growing at an impressive rate. The pace of content creation will only speed up since surveys suggest that being a YouTuber or TikTokker or the most common term, a Vlogger is one the most desirable careers among Gen Zs. VC heavyweights like Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Partners, and Tiger Global have also heralded this growth considerably, contributing to the more than $2 billion invested in creator economy platforms this year.
In MENA, there’s a huge opportunity for Minly. The region has over 450 million people, of which 30% are between the ages of 18 to 30. This demography is known to have a deep connection with social media, and El-Shinnawy believes MENA will soon contribute to a large part of the total creator economy.
For Minly, the goal is to capture a huge portion of that spend and become a multi-billion dollar category-leading company. The creator platform has a case to do so. As it stands, the opportunity to build a creator economy one-stop-shop in MENA is huge compared to other regions that already have multiple entrenched incumbents. Also, Minly is one of the few platforms in the region with meaningful venture funding.
“The creator economy is in its infancy and growing at lightning speed. We have the opportunity to build this category’s first unicorn in MENA,” the CTO remarked.
With this investment, Minly is doubling down on building local celebrity acquisition teams in Egypt and other parts across MENA and the GCC, where it has seen significant traction. The company will also scale its engineering team to churn out more products to build a horizontal creator platform.
Welcome back to another edition of The Weekly Authority, the Android Authority newsletter that keeps an eye out for the top Android and tech news from the week.
We’re peering through the looking glass again after a memorable week: it’s not often we get a new version of Windows!
Popular news this week
Windows 11: Thursday’s Windows 11 announcement was a big moment for Microsoft’s next-generation operating system. First, the useful facts: it’s a free update if you have Windows 10, and coming sometime in late October. As to what’s coming, there’s an overdue cosmetic set of changes, new features for gamers, better ways to snap applications and windows into place, easily configurable desktops for work, home, or gaming, new widgets, and much more. It’s a little more iterative than a revolution, making it feel like a Windows 10 Plus, but Microsoft is offering some major new features, like Android apps running natively — more on that next.
Windows 11 runs native Android apps! A genuine surprise was delivered during the presentation: Microsoft is bringing Android apps to Windows 11, natively, via Intel Bridge technology, and via the Amazon Appstore, of all places. There’s so much to discuss here and so much to play out in the months ahead. Still, Microsoft teaming up with Amazon’s Appstore for Android apps means no Google Mobile Services, meaning Google apps won’t work. So, it’s Android without Google, which may open up the ecosystem more? Confirmation of sideloading via APKs came later in the week, too.
Samsung’s next-gen foldables emerge: This was a rich week for uncovering Samsung’s next-gen foldables. First, FCC filings proved Samsung’s devices are very much coming. The documentation also detailed some of the key specs including Qualcomm chipsets, MST, and wireless and reverse wireless charging, plus S Pen support for the Fold 3. Later, we also had a first look at the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 via renders from a reliable source.
MWC 2021: MWC is happening next week, but with some companies dropping out, we’re expecting a more tepid showing. However, Samsung announced a virtual event set for Monday, June 28, which looks like it will be talking smartwatches, though the latest rumors are Samsung might only talk about its software. The Galaxy Watch 4 series is instead expected to launch alongside Samsung’s foldable later this year. Here’s everything we know about the Galaxy Watch 4 series in the meantime.
Sony Xperia 1 III: Sony finally put up a pre-order date of July 1 for its Xperia 1 III, a powerhouse flagship with a classically Sony price tag: $1,299, or $100 more than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Mi 11 Ultra. But maybe, just maybe, the list of features can convince you of its worth. We await reviews to determine how one of the best spec sheets of 2021 so far comes together in real life.
It has been 14 years since the first iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs, and a lot has changed since then. Each generation of the iPhone has brought unique advances that are sometimes hard to notice, but that have made a difference when we look back at the past. And that’s what I did with GRID frames.
The smartphone gimbal war is now a battle of increasingly lighter and lower-cost products. At the higher end, DJI leads the space with the Osmo Mobile series and the $149 OM4. But you don’t need to spend that much to get a smartphone gimbal that does much — if not all — of the same stuff. Enter the $89 Zhiyun Smooth Q3 gimbal, which is only 60% of the price of the DJI OM4 and looks to be every bit as good — but is it? This is Android Authority‘s Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review.
The Smooth Q3 is Zhiyun’s latest three-axis smartphone gimbal. It’s the successor to the Smooth Q2 and a direct competitor to the DJI OM4. At $89 the Smooth Q3 is cheaper than both its predecessor the Smooth Q2 at $119 and the DJI OM4 at $149.
You can buy the Smooth Q3 gimbal on its own or as part of a combo pack. The combo pack includes a rigid carrying case, a wrist strap, and a year’s subscription to Zhiyun Prime. The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 only comes in gray.
What’s new since the Smooth Q2?
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The main new addition here is a built-in fill light, which can rotate 180 degrees. This means you can light yourself when vlogging in low-light or nighttime conditions. It also lets you illuminate subjects and objects on the other side of the camera. The handle is now more ergonomic than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, the other main changes are downgrades, depending on your perspective. The build material is now plastic and the battery is 1,300mAh, down from the 4,500mAh cell in the Q2. This unfortunately means you can no longer reverse-charge your phone from the gimbal.
The Smooth Q3 also has a shorter battery life — about half that of the Smooth Q2 in my experience. Zhiyun claims a similar max runtime for both gimbals, although I didn’t even get close to that in the summer heat. On a positive note, the Smooth Q3 is now much lighter.
What’s the build quality like?
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The Q3 may not feel as robust as its predecessor but it’s also 20% lighter than either the Q2 or OM4. When it comes to portability, especially for mobile creators, weight and compactness are king. With that said, the Smooth Q3 collapses via a sliding mechanism for compact storage. It also comes with an included tripod.
The built-in diffused LED light on the gimbal clamp is actually pretty good.
The built-in diffused LED light on the gimbal clamp is actually pretty good. It has three brightness settings that provide good control over the lighting effect. Simply long-press the light to power on and tap to cycle through the options. From a soft ambiance for portrait shooting to brighter illumination in dark environments, it’s a great built-in addition.
There’s not much else to say about the Smooth Q3’s light other than it works as advertised — it is just a light after all. My only gripe is that while the light can be used facing forwards or backwards in landscape orientation, it’s not so for portrait.
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The Smooth Q3 defaults to portrait orientation when you power it on. Unfortunately, the light gets obscured by the gimbal arm when facing forwards unless you tilt it on a funny angle. This seems like a weird oversight for a gimbal targeted at vloggers and mobile creators who increasingly shoot vertical video.
The Smooth Q3 has a familiar button setup on the handle. It offers a joystick, record/shutter button, mode button with LED indicators, a zoom slider, a power button, and a multi-function trigger button.
The build quality feels a lot flimsier than any other Zhiyun gimbal I’ve used. Plastic doesn’t have to feel flimsy but here it does, especially at the first joint on top of the handle.
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
A 1/4-inch-20 screw thread on the base of the handle allows you to mount the Smooth Q3 on a tripod for smooth panoramas or long exposures. The included tripod also functions as a handle extender. There’s a USB-C port for charging but you can no longer reverse-charge your phone with the gimbal.
The plastic build is certainly lighter than its metal predecessor but it feels far flimsier too.
I can’t say I’m thrilled by the shift back to a plastic build for the Smooth Q3. I get why — it’s much lighter — but I prefer the sturdier construction of the Smooth Q2, which is more in line with Zhiyun’s larger camera gimbals. For that added durability I’m willing to pay the price of extra weight, although many wouldn’t.
How to set up the Zhiyun Smooth Q3
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
Setup is a breeze as there’s no complex balancing required. Extend the gimbal arm and tighten the lock screw. Then “unlock” the other motors from their travel position and insert your phone in the spring-loaded clamp. Your phone should, more or less, sit in the orientation you want it to before you power the gimbal on. This reduces wear on the gimbal motors.
It’s always a good idea to make those adjustments if you have time but they aren’t absolutely necessary. This is one of the great benefits of mobile gimbals. Pairing to the ZY Cami app is pretty straightforward too. Once the gimbal powers on with your phone inserted, launch the app and hit the camera button at the top left. Your Smooth Q3 should appear in the available devices list.
Setup is a breeze as there’s no complex balancing required.
Throughout my Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review period I constantly had to reconnect the app with the gimbal via Bluetooth. I’m not sure if this is a bug or expected behavior, but it’s very annoying. The worst part is the impact it has on being able to start shooting quickly.
What shooting modes does it support?
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 gimbal offers the same suite of shooting modes as most other smartphone gimbals:
Pan follow mode locks the tilt and pan axes so your phone only pans left and right.
Lock mode locks all axes: Use the thumb-stick to control tilt and pan axes.
Follow mode only locks the roll axis so tilt and pan follow the movement of the gimbal handle or are controlled by using the thumb-stick.
Go Mode is activated by holding the trigger button down on the gimbal handle. It’s like Follow mode but faster.
POV Mode makes all three motors follow the movement of the gimbal handle. Twist the handle to pan left or right, tilt forwards and back to tilt up and down, and rotate left and right to roll.
Vortex mode is similar to POV Mode where all motors follow the gimbal handle movement but you can control the roll and pan motors with the thumb-stick.
The Smooth Q3 supports up to 4K 60fps shooting (depending on your smartphone’s capabilities) with Full-HD and HD options and 24fps and 30fps as well. You can also tweak white balance, add grid lines, and much more.
What’s the stabilization like?
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The main things to consider with any gimbal are how stable is it and how easy is it to use? The first question has a very simple answer here: very. Like other Zhiyun gimbals I’ve used — both for smartphones or traditional cameras — the Smooth Q3 provides excellent stabilization.
The motors are responsive and powerful enough to handle larger smartphones but they seem much more sensitive than the Q2, frequently “flopping” under load (for example, when using attachable lenses). This is odd considering the Smooth Q3 has a higher max payload than its predecessor (which didn’t suffer the same issues). It’s possible that the Smooth Q3’s motors are tuned this way to avoid burnout. I also had more haywire motor freakouts than I have with any other gimbal.
The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 provides excellent stabilization.
I can’t guarantee you won’t see the gimbal arm on the wide-angle lens of every smartphone on the market either. I recommend you try out a Smooth Q3 first if you plan on shooting ultra-wide or with attachable lenses. This will avoid any surprises when you set it up with your particular kit.
You can judge the stabilization for yourself via the sample footage below.
All of the basic modes listed above functioned as expected and were generally quite reliable. I did get the occasional video stutter in the resulting footage, which I later realized was down to the ZY Cami app. When I switched to my phone’s default camera app the problem disappeared.
The only other issue I noticed was the occasional “lurch” from the tilt motor movement. The movement would be smooth for the first 45 degrees or so, then the gimbal would suddenly tilt forward or back once I went past a particular angle. This can be worked around but it does put a slight blemish on an otherwise very capable mobile gimbal.
A case in point: while trying to shoot some jib-like shots, I wanted to start as close to the ground as possible, but no matter what I did the Smooth Q3 would tilt the phone down as I set up my starting position, or tilt it up once I reached the shot’s highest point. The only solution was to start my shots higher and finish them lower to keep the phone in its original position.
How easy is it to use?
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The second big question — how easy is it to use — is where things get a little murkier. When reviewing the Smooth Q2 I had come to terms with the quirks of the ZY Play app (rated 2.7 on Google Play). The Smooth Q3 uses the new ZY Cami app instead which is rated an even more dismal 2.5 stars.
The ZY Cami app is easily the weakest part of the Smooth Q3 experience.
The ZY Cami app is easily the weakest part of the Smooth Q3 experience. Fortunately, you can use most of the main features of the Smooth Q3 without the app. You will lose some functionality, notably the record and zoom buttons on the gimbal handle and some advanced features in the app. For most people, I’d recommend using the ZY Cami app only when you need one of the Smooth Q3’s app-specific modes like hyperlapse.
If you are willing to adjust to the ZY Cami app, you’ll get a host of additional features which are worth figuring out, even if only to see how they might mesh with your creative workflow. The most notable offerings include:
Dolly mode: Zoom in or out on a subject as you get physically closer or further away, keeping the subject the same size in the frame as the background expands or contracts.
SmartFollow 3.0: Activated with the trigger button, the Smooth-Q will start auto-tracking a moving subject.
Gesture Control: Start recording with a hand gesture if you’re shooting on your own with the gimbal on a tripod (or if your gimbal operator has a light or boom mic in their other hand).
MagicClone Pano: Put yourself in the frame multiple times.
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The ZY Cami app also provides plenty of additional stuff like video editing, tutorials, timelapse and hyperlapse, panorama modes, and much more. Some of these, like cloud-based editing and live-streaming, require a Zhiyun Prime membership.
If you buy the combo pack (see Verdict section below) you get a year’s free Prime membership — or you can sign up separately. The most useful aspect of the Prime membership for me was 4K uploads and support for uploading 30-minute videos.
Even if you do get into ZY Cami, another issue constantly raises its ugly head: lag. The delay between pressing buttons and a response is oftentimes so long you think you must have missed the tap target and end up pressing the button again. This is a real shame as the app itself is relatively well laid-out and feature-rich. Hopefully, Zhiyun pushes some updates, but I’m not holding my breath.
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
Zoom slider: The zoom slider on the side of the gimbal handle is a bit janky. I wouldn’t recommend using it if you want the highest quality stabilized footage.
EIS issues: You might need to turn off your smartphone’s electronic image stabilization (EIS) if you notice it “fighting” with the gimbal’s physical stabilization. This is especially noticeable when doing barrel-roll moves.
Cable concerns: The orientation of the gimbal arms has been changed to allow easier access to the ports on your phone. This is a good thing, but if you actually plug a dongle, headphones, or a mic in they’ll likely still get in the way.
Inverted position: It is possible to invert the gimbal but you have to do it carefully to avoid the motors freaking out. Hold the gimbal normally, then slowly rotate the handle from six o’clock position to 12 o’clock position as you lower it towards the ground. This process seemed much more sensitive than on other gimbals I’ve used.
FilmicPro incompatibility: FilmicPro is not currently compatible with the Zhiyun Smooth Q3. If that’s your camera app of choice you can still use the Smooth Q3 as a “dumb” gimbal but you’ll lose the record button and zoom functionality on the gimbal’s handle, as well as the additional features in the ZY Cami app.
No quick-release: There’s no quick-release mechanism here so you’ll have to unclamp your phone every time you take it out. This is much less convenient than the quick-release lever on the Smooth Q2 or the magnetic clamp on the DJI OM4.
Battery life: Zhiyun says the Q3’s max runtime is 15 hours, but I’m not sure how likely that is outside perfect lab conditions. Zhiyun’s standard battery expectation is seven hours, down from 13 hours in the Smooth Q2. My average was around 7-10 hours.
Value and competition
Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 gimbal 3-axis smartphone gimbal
The Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 offers lightweight materials, compact construction, and a built-in fill light for mobile content creators.
So what’s the competition like? Stiff. While the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 handles the basics of smartphone gimbals well, the app really lets it down, as does the flimsy build quality and motor sensitivity. If you want a mobile gimbal that can do the basics and won’t break the bank, the Smooth Q3 is still a good option.
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
If, however, you plan on doing more technical gimbal shooting, need a more responsive and reliable app, or plan to shoot wide-angle a lot, especially with attachable lenses, I’d suggest checking out either the Smooth Q2, the Smooth 4, the DJI OM4, or the Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus.
The Smooth Q3 does the basics and won’t break the bank.
The Smooth Q2 ($119) has better motor stability and build quality but an equally bad app experience. The Smooth 4 ($99) is a larger and less portable but more well-rounded gimbal to my mind than the Smooth Q3. The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus ($89) is another contender, but it too suffers from a cheap plastic feel and disappointing companion app. The DJI OM4 ($149) is still plastic but feels sturdier and offers a marginally better app experience.
Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review: The verdict
Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority
The Smooth Q3 is a bit of a let-down for me. I really wanted to like what Zhiyun’s attempting here — going toe-to-toe with DJI — but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. I was really into the Smooth Q2 and the Q3 feels like a downgrade to me in many ways. The Smooth Q3 can’t compete with the OM4 either in my opinion, except on price. Other gimbals, including from Zhiyun itself, offer a better price-performance ratio.
I really wanted to like what Zhiyun’s attempting here but the execution leaves a bit to be desired.
The price is the real selling point here, along with the built-in light. If you want in on the smartphone gimbal game at the lowest possible price while still getting plenty of advanced features and good stabilization, the Smooth Q3 is worth checking out, especially if you’re into TikTok or any other vertical video-based platform. Just be sure to check out the Smooth Q3’s competition as well and decide what you’d be willing to go without in order to get that fill light.
Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.
The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.
This week, there’s big news with the expansion of Android apps to Windows. Apple also came out swinging against sideloading and expanded its profitable Search Ads business to China…with more than a few caveats. Meanwhile, TikTok launched its own take on mini-apps after tests, making its videos more interactive.
Microsoft surprised industry observers this week at its Windows 11 event with news that it will make Android apps available on the next version of its operating system. The apps will run natively on Windows 11 and can be downloaded from Amazon’s Appstore through the new Windows Store included in the updated OS. They’ll also be able to be integrated into the Start menu and pinned to the taskbar, and can tile or “window” as part of the OS’s new application placement user interface.
The Amazon partnership will bring increased attention to the Amazon Appstore, whose importance has somewhat fizzled over the years given the general lack of investment and its close ties to Amazon Fire devices, which are outsold by iPad. App developers today tend to focus initially on the App Store and Google Play, not Amazon’s Appstore. However, bringing some 3 million Android apps to Windows users opens up a huge new potential market for Android. But could it actually make coding for “iOS first” less of a given for certain types of applications — like those that complement the productivity environment enabled by a Windows PC, perhaps?
In the near-term, more consumers may begin to sideload the Amazon Appstore app on their Android devices for their paid app installs in order to gain access to the cross-platform support a Google Play version would not necessarily provide.
Microsoft noted during the event that it’s partnering with Intel to use its Intel Bridge technology to make this Appstore integration possible on x86 systems. However, the Intel-powered apps will also run on AMD and Arm processors, The Verge noted, though the technical details of how that will work were not immediately available.
Microsoft during the event demonstrated how the app integration would work by showing off TikTok running in a vertical format on the new Windows OS. This may not have been the best example, as TikTok has a fairly usable website for watching videos. Meanwhile, the image of the Amazon Appstore in the Windows Store showed other apps including those from Ring, Uber, Yahoo, Khan Academy, Kindle, Game of War: Fire Age, My Talking Tom Friends, and more, which indicates this is a comprehensive rollout.
Ahead of this news, Amazon announced it would soon lower its cut on app developer revenues from 30% to 20%, as part of a new program for small businesses. The program, which also includes promotional credits for AWS, could help boost developer support for the Appstore. Plus, on the larger Windows Store, non-game developers can keep 100% of their revenue if they use their own payment platforms for in-app purchases. Apps and games using Microsoft’s payment platform split revenue with the company at 85%/15% and 88%/12%, respectively. This sort of commission structure combined with the introduction of Android apps makes the Windows Store seem more developer-friendly than Apple’s App Store, which Microsoft likely hopes will keep it out of antitrust crosshairs.
Apple launches Search Ads in China
Apple this week brought its search advertising business to China five years after its U.S. debut. The system allows developers to bid on an advertising slot based on keywords users search for in the App Store. Though the move opens up a major new market for app developers, the system in China is fairly complex and comes with several caveats. Developers will need to upload documents, including business licenses and other files, that confirm their account has been approved before being able to run ads. Apple may then submit these documents to third-party databases and government entities for validation.
According to Apple’s guidelines, the industry-specific licenses required exclude most foreign businesses from directly advertising in mainland China. Instead, they’ll need to work with local partners who will run ads on their behalf.
The expansion for now only includes the Search Ads in the App Store and not the newly added Search Tab ads, where developers can bid on a slot directly on the Search tab in the App Store itself.
Apple released iOS 15 beta 2 and iPadOS 15 beta 2 for app developers. New features include support for SharePlay, updated Memoji outfits, a new Maps icon, a welcome screen in the updated Weather app, access to launch Quick Note with a swipe from bottom-right on iPad, Shortcuts improvements, bug fixes for iCloud Private Relay, and more. WatchOS 8 beta 2 was also released.
The iOS 15 beta code also revealed Apple is working on a feature that will allow users to update to a beta release when restoring a device from backup instead of being told that you can’t use backups of newer iOS versions.
iOS and iPad apps will now be able to request privileged access to more RAM in iOS 15, exceeding normal system memory limits, 9to5Mac also discovered.
Apple this week published a white paper (PDF) where it presents its argument against any legislation that would force the company to allow sideloading of apps on iOS or iPadOS devices outside its App Store. While there are consumer benefits to allowing for choice — like getting your hands on apps that don’t fit Apple’s rules, for example — Apple makes the case that sideloading could compromise user privacy and security in a number of ways, including potentially opening up users to being scammed and making it more difficult for parents to lock down kids’ iPhones, among other things. Pirated apps could also eat into legitimate developer revenue, not to mention Apple’s own. Apple’s Director of User Privacy Erik Neuenschwander went into further detail with Fast Company about Apple’s position, noting attackers could even trick users into thinking they were downloading from the App Store when they were not.
Google’s Android Essentials is now generally availablethrough additional partners in the U.S., the U.K, Japan, France and Germany, with more countries coming soon after a more limited testing period. Essentials makes it easier for companies to manage and secure Android devices in the workplace by enabling features like remote wiping of lost or stolen devices, enforcing a screen lock, and preventing sideloading of applications.
Google opened its Play Media Experience Program globally. The program allows developers to invest in scaling their services beyond mobile to reach other devices including experiences across Video (Android TV, Google TV, Google Cast); Audio (Wear OS, Android Auto, Android TV, Google Cast); and Books (tablets, foldables, integration with the new Entertainment Space.)
Facebook announced a trio of new commerce features this week, including the expansion of its Shops service to WhatsApp as well as Marketplace in the U.S.; Shop Ads, including AR try-on ads in the U.S., and an A.I.-based Visual Search feature on Instagram, where users can upload photos to find similar items.
Apple launches an AR-enabled Snapchat Lens to promote Apple Pay Express Transit in New York. The Lens lets users ride the subway through Kings Theater in Flatbush, the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park, and the Great Hall at the New York City Hall of Science.
TikTok and Spotify teamed up with makeup brand MAC on a digital campaign that offers an AR lens with lip colors users can virtually try on. The campaign involves MAC’s Love Me Liquid Lipcolor and is running in the U.K. across both apps.
TikTok launched its own mini-app integrations. With its new Jump feature, creators can add interactive third-party integrations to their videos from services like Whisk, Quizlet, Breathwrk, StatMuse, Tabelog, BuzzFeed, Jumprope, IRL and WATCHA.
Instagram said it’s testing a new feature in English-speaking markets that will mix Suggested Posts into your Feed. The company will use its algorithmic suggestions to help point people to accounts they may want to follow, with an apparent goal of increasing time spent in the app.
Twitter announced a new feature will make it possible to share tweets directly to Instagram Stories. To use the feature, which is only on iOS for now, you’ll tap the share icon on a tweet and select “Instagram Stories.” When the Instagram app opens, you can resize or reposition the tweet sticker before posting.
Snap made a deal with Universal Music Group. The deal allows Snapchat users to add song clips from the UMG catalog to their Snaps and on Spotlight, Snap’s TikTok rival.
Twitter has opened up applications for U.S. users who want to test its Ticketed Spaces and Super Follows features. The company said only a “small group” will be able to test the features for the time being. Super Follows lets creators charge $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99 per month for exclusive content. Ticketed Spaces lets creators charge between $1-$999 for access to live audio rooms.
After a handful of competitors took on Tinder with video-based dating, Tinder this week introduced a feature that allows daters to upload up to nine videos to their profiles. It also added a speed-dating feature called “Hot Takes” that lets unmatched users chat for a short period before swiping left or right, from 6 pm to midnight on weekdays.
Streaming & Entertainment
YouTube for iOS is officially gaining support for picture-in-picture in the U.S. The feature will allow all users, both free and paid, to watch YouTube while using other apps on their iPhone.
Kuaishou, the operator of China’s second-largest short-form video app behind TikTok (Douyin in China), reaches 1 billion monthly active users. The company says the MAU figure includes all of its existing platforms in China, plus its Kwai and Snack Video apps in international markets.
Wattpad and WEBTOON merged their studio divisions to create Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. The deal follows South Korea-based Naver’s recent acquisition of Wattpad in a transaction estimated to be more than USD$600 million, which aligns the two storytelling and entertainment divisions. Both will benefit from the company’s data-driven approach to sourcing content from storytelling apps to turn into TV shows, movies and books.
New titles came to Google Stadia, including Madden NFL 2022 — the first sports title to launch on a cloud gaming platform. Google Stadia’s Android TV app also launched on the Play Store with a “Coming Soon” message.
Player spending in U.S. mobile sports games rose 16% year-over-year to $648.8 million, according to Sensor Tower data. The top app by player spending in the U.S. between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 was Golf Clash from Playdemic, which generated $132.8 million. The No. 2 and No. 3 grossing Sports titles were 8 Ball Pool from Miniclip and Fishing Clash from Ten Square Games.
More than half of the $175 billion earned by the games industry this year will come from mobile games, per Newzoo and Arm’s annual report. Mobile games will be increasingly high-fidelity and cross-platform, the report said.
Classic mobile game Jetpack Joyride is also being added to Apple Arcade, following a recent announcement that more classic games would be soon added to the subscription gaming service.
Health & Fitness
Google and the state of Massachusetts got busted by silently installing the state’s COVID-tracking service, MassNotify, on users’ devices without consent. The auto-installed version isn’t an app and instead is only available as a setting users could enable or disable.
Government & Policy
Indian microblogging app Koo is selling itself as a partisan Twitter alternative in Nigeria by supporting government restrictions on social media platforms.
A French court has set a date in the case over allegedly abusive App Store developer contracts brought by the finance ministry against Apple. The hearing will take place Sept 17, 2021, and could influence Apple’s decision to change developer terms and agreements.
Google may soon face antitrust claims over its Play Store from several U.S. states,Reuters reported. A group of state attorneys general may file a lawsuit against Google as early as next week, the report claims, citing sources. The investigation is being led by Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina and New York.
MAJORITY raised $19 million in seed fundingfor its mobile banking service for migrants. The app offers a $5 per month subscription that offers an FDIC-insured bank account, debit card, mobile credit, and at-cost international calls. The round was led by Valar Ventures, with participation from Avid Ventures, Heartcore Capital and several Nordic fintech founders.
Mobile commerce startup Via raised $15 million in Series A funding for its suite of mobile marketing tools for e-commerce apps. The round was led by led by Footwork, the new venture firm co-founded by former Stitch Fix COO Mike Smith and former Shasta Ventures investor Nikhil Basu Trivedi. The startup has generated $51 million in sales since May 2020.
Viva Republica, the maker of Korean financial super app Toss, raised $410 million at a $7.4 billion valuation. The app offers standard neobanking features, as well as P2P payments, money transfers, loans and more.
Sporttrade raised $36 million for its sports betting and stock trading combo service, which is set to release its app in New Jersey later this year. Investors included former heads of Nasdaq and MGM Resorts.
EA is acquiring Warner Bros. Games’ Playdemic mobile games studio for $1.4 billion in cash. Playdemic is best known for “Golf Clash,” a top mobile game in the U.S. and U.K. with over 80 million installs to date.
Charlotte, N.C.-based mobile payments platform Payzer raised $19.5 million according to an SEC filing. The company offers an end-to-end management platform for contractors on a subscription basis.
Happs raised $4.7 million in post-seed funding for its multicast livestream platform aimed at the creator economy. Users can broadcast live to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch simultaneously via the app, and view live comments from all supported social media sites.
Amazon’s AWS is acquiring the secure messaging app Wickr, which has been providing services to government and military groups and enterprises. Wickr had raised just under $60 million in funding, per Pitchbook data.
Image Credits: Brave
Alternative browser Brave this week introduced its own search service, Brave Search, now available in beta across all platforms — including web, Android and iOS. The service is different from other search engines because it does not track or profile users, and it leverages its own search index for answering queries instead of relying on other providers. Its ranking algorithms will be community-curated and open. Soon, it will also offer options for both an ad-free paid search and an ad-supported search option, allowing users to decide how they want to proceed.
Brave Search was announced in March when Brave acquired Tailcat. The company says the new service will later this year become the default in the Brave browser.
Image Credits: Moonbeam
Kayak’s co-founder Paul English this week officially launched Moonbeam, a podcast discovery app that leverages a combination of machine learning and human curation to create a newsfeed-style stream of audio content, similar to Podz. Podcasters can also select clips of their shows to feature on the app. Plus, the app allows fans to tip creators directly — and Moonbeam doesn’t take a cut. The app learns what sort of podcasts you may like based on how you interact with those it features, so your recommendations improve over time. Moonbeam can also serve as your podcast player, offering the ability to play back full episodes.
(Quick, painful aside: On the podcast I explained that Apple completely broke the method @LaunchCenterPro has been using for Home Screen customization. We now have to remove the feature from the app and somehow explain it to our users who paid for that feature. It’s crushing.) pic.twitter.com/k5nOVZHDXz
Rumor has it, if you whisper mafia to a venture capitalist or tech reporter, a seed investment and headline appears within minutes. That process quickly turns into seconds if the mafia reference includes the letters S, T, R, I, P and E before it.
Tech mafias, otherwise known as a group of early employees within a company who spin out to start their own, independently successful companies, became a popularized term thanks to PayPal in the early 2000s. As my lede alludes, the term has since become a cliche of sorts. Everything is a mafia, including you, dear Startups Weekly newsletter subscribers. Jokes aside, I’d argue the term is still a helpful way to track the way talent moves in the ever-growing world of startups.
Many venture capitalists have been making subtle, and not-so-subtle efforts, to back the next cohort of star employees turned star entrepreneurs. Wave Capital originally began as an institutional venture capital fund explicitly for Airbnb alumni starting new companies. Ross Fubini of XYZ Ventures introduced Palantir’s first business hire to its first engineer and now invests in the community out of his fund. Eric Tarczynski of Contrary Capital launched Contrary Talent, a program that helps early career professionals navigate the world of entrepreneurship.
This newsletter was going to be about the undercovered mafias that are brewing in tech, but a recent exchange with some of you on Twitter took me in an entirely new direction. Check out the thread if you want to know the next mafioso, but today, I want to explore a more modern way to think about these entities.
Glamorization of mafias
Image Credits: Britt Erlanson / Getty Images
Rebekah Bastian, the chief executive and founder of OwnTrail, isn’t the biggest fan of mafias — even though she’s technically a part of one herself. The first-time founder was the former Zillow VP of Product and VP of Community & Culture who thinks that the growing world of mafias comes with some problematic truths.
“While it’s true that these ‘mafias’ are good for the people within them and often touted with pride, there are reasons that they are problematic from an equity perspective,” she said. First, she pointed to how hiring from and funding employees from a given company, if that company doesn’t have diverse representation (particularly at the leadership level), propagates the inequitable cycles of who is getting hired and funded. Second, she thinks that the press focuses on startups coming out of these companies that serve a privileged subset of the population, instead of mission-focused ones.
What do you think? Her argument is essentially to not glamorize the concept of hiring within existing networks, because if white, male entrepreneurs only hire from within their existing networks, the resulting company will look and act white and male. On the flip side, and this is what gets me excited, underrepresented founders who raise millions of dollars, suddenly have the power to usher in an entirely different group of techies into this world. The Glossier mafia would look quite different than the PayPal mafia.
As I said before, I think “mafias” are certainly a compelling way to track how talent moves. I don’t think we should stop paying attention to the phenomenon or shame people for being opportunistic about alumni groups. It’s how the world works. Instead, I think that there’s hope that problems inherent to them are changing as founding groups themselves become more diverse. To Bastian’s point, I think there’s a way to be more intentional about what is idolized and what is not.
A new descriptor
A few people also mentioned that we should start using a different word to describe this dynamic instead of “mafia” due to its more nefarious connotations. Here’s a list of your best suggestions:
Let me know what you think about all of the above by responding to @nmasc_. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll chat about BuzzFeed’s SPAC, the early-stage venture market and GM’s startup incubator strategy.
The public market gets buzzed
Image Credits: Malte Mueller / Getty Images
We kicked off Equity Live this week with a hot news item: BuzzFeed is going public via a SPAC and will merge with 890 Fifth Avenue Partners Inc., a publicly traded company. BuzzFeed also disclosed that it will purchase Complex, another media company, for $300 million in cash and shares in BuzzFeed itself; the SPAC deal will help finance its purchase of Complex.
Here’s what else to know: Kirsten took Extra Crunch readers inside GM’s startup incubator strategy, including how they take early concepts and turn them into startups and the company’s favorite messy-stage ideas.
Next week, we’re taking you to Pittsburgh to hear from Karin Tsai, the head of engineering there, as well as Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian, Mayor Bill Peduto and a smattering of local startups.
Our TC City Spotlight: Pittsburgh event will be held on June 29, so make sure to register here (for free) to listen to these conversations, enjoy the pitch-off and network with local talent.