Dankly, Anker announces two USB-C to Lightning Cables

Oh yeah, wrap a bandana round your head, hop on your hog, and roar off into the desert: Anker‘s planning on releasing two USB-C to Lightning cables. One (mainly) for charging, and the other for audio.

Anker will release the first cable-to-end-all-cables in March, and the second one in April. All I can say is I’M SO PUMPED.

First, let’s take a look at the first USB-C to Lightning cable – the one meant for charging:

This makes me want to tear my shirt off and run screaming through the streets.

Basically, this release follows Apple’s 2018 announcement that it would let Made For iPhone (MFi) accessory manufacturers create USB-C to Lightning cables.

Of course, Apple already sells these cables at a totally, utterly, one hundred percent reasonable price of $20 for one meter. Honestly, if it was up to me? I’d pay much more than that.

But wait, you want more dirt on these cables? What are they gonna be like? Well, 9to5mac got the scoop. Anker‘s going to release two types: a Powerline+, which features “a cable encased in an aluminum shell and reinforced with Anker’s famous braided nylon.” And a standard Powerline version, that’ll be “covered with aramid fiber for extra strength and a bend lifespan of over 5X higher than any other cable in the market.”

This brought up one pressing question: how do you measure a cable’s “bend lifespan?” So I asked Anker.

“We test every single cable we make in our labs against the competitition,” an Anker spokesperson told me. “We have a machine that bends the cable’s tips up to 30,000 times. The PowerLine resists up to 5x the bends of other brands.”

I think we can all agree that we need to meet this machine.

What about the other cable?

Alongside the aforementioned wire, Anker is releasing another one that’s meant for audio. Specifically, it has a male USB-C connection and a female Lightning port.

Feast your eyes on this:

It’s like a sunset and a sunrise combined.

Here’s the rationale. If for some godforsaken reason you decided to buy a pair of headphones with a Lightning cable, you’re pretty much stuck only listening to your iPhone. With this little cable you’ll be able to plug your Lightning headphones (why???) into a USB-C slot.

You know, like the ones on every single new MacBook. So, if you happen to have a pair of Lightning headphones (my god, what were you thinking when you bought them?), you should thank Anker.

Uh-oh, but what’s this I’ve heard about Apple moving to USB-C?

Another intriguing aspect of this story is a report we covered yesterday. Basically, Apple is (supposedly) planning on scrapping the Lightning port from its phones all together.

Of course, this will be a good thing for almost every iPhone user, but there’s something vaguely delicious about this news coming out at the same time as Anker‘s announcement. We asked the company about it.

“Anker already provides some of the best USB-C to USB-C cables on the market,” a spokesperson told me.

Okay then.

Stay tuned to Plugged for more updates about Anker gear and to find out precisely when in March and April the USB-C to Lightning cables are released. Dank stuff, indeed.

If you can’t wait that long for some sweet Anker gear, here are some products from the company we’re huge fans of:


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Published January 15, 2019 — 14:10 UTC

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Microsoft signs a huge deal with Walgreens, as Amazon's growing interest in health care looms large

As Amazon keeps growing, Microsoft is getting involved with ever more retailers. On Tuesday Microsoft said it has signed a multiyear deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance.

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Amazon’s core business still lies in e-commerce — it has expanded in brick-and-mortar retailing through Amazon Go Stores, its Whole Foods acquisition and other efforts — and at times that’s proving to be an advantage to Amazon’s competitors in the cloud business. In the case of Walgreens, Amazon’s recent push into health care looms large. Although the company has kept its intentions closely guarded, it’s making moves like acquiring online pharmacy PillPack and teaming up with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway on a long-term plan to improve care and reduce costs for employees.

Under the deal, Walgreens Boots Alliance is signing up more than 380,000 employees for its Microsoft 365 cloud apps offering, including Office 365, Windows 10, and mobility and security tools. The company will move most of its information technology workloads to Microsoft’s Azure public cloud.

Beyond operating Walgreens and Duane Reade stores, Walgreens Boots Alliance has almost 400 distribution centers that deliver to hundreds of thousands of doctors, hospitals, health centers and pharmacies annually, according to its latest annual report. The company acknowledged Amazon’s PillPack deal in the report’s risk factors section.

The deal will also include tests of “digital health corners” within some Walgreens stores, plus cooperation on research and development and software for managing patient engagement and chronic disease.

Microsoft has recently signed cloud partnerships other big retailers including the Gap, Kroger and Walmart. But AWS retains many retail customers, including Brooks Brothers and Under Armour, as well as health-care companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgene.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

WATCH: Satya Nadella has been tactically more impressive than Apple CEO Tim Cook, says portfolio manager

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China sprouts plants on the moon for the first time ever

Seeds carried by China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander have sprouted, marking the first instance of biological matter growing on the moon.

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China’s Chang’e 4 lunar probe hit headlines earlier this month after it was reported that it had successfully landed on the far side of the moon in a world first.

Now a photograph has been released by the China National Space Administration, according to the South China Morning Post, which shows cotton seeds sprouting in a sealed container.

The image was shared on Twitter on Tuesday by the People’s Daily newspaper, a mouthpiece for China’s ruling Communist Party.

The newspaper said in a tweet that the development marks “the completion of humankind’s first biological experiment on the moon.”

Professor Liu Hanlong of Chongqing University, who led the research, said that rapeseed and potato seeds had also germinated, but that the cotton seeds were the first to sprout, the South China Morning Post reported.

While plants like zinnias and leaf vegetables have been grown in space on the International Space Station, none had ever been grown on the moon.

The breakthrough could pave the way for more biological life to be grown on the moon within a contained environment. Liu said that the potatoes could be used as the main source of food for space explorers, while the cotton could be used to make clothing and the rapeseed could be used to produce oil.

The news also highlights China’s space exploration ambitions. The country is hoping to send a spacecraft to Mars next year and to eventually send manned missions to the red planet.

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Netflix to raise prices by 13% to 18%, its biggest increase ever

Netflix is raising its U.S. prices by 13 percent to 18 percent, its biggest increase since the company launched its streaming service 12 years ago.

Shares of Netflix soared 6 percent ahead of the market open Tuesday.

Its most popular plan will see the largest hike, to $13 per month from $11. That option offers high-definition streaming on up to two different internet-connected devices simultaneously. Even at the higher price, that plan is still a few dollars cheaper than HBO, whose streaming service charges $15 per month.

The extra cash will help to pay for Netflix’s huge investment in original shows and films and finance the heavy debt it has assumed to ward off rivals such as Amazon, Disney and AT&T.

This marks the fourth time that Netflix has raised its U.S. prices; the last hike came in late 2017. But this is the first time that higher prices will hit all 58 million U.S. subscribers, the number Netflix reported at the end of September.

Previously, Netflix had continued to offer a basic, $8-a-month streaming plan while raising rates on more comprehensive plans with better video quality and options to watch simultaneously on different devices.

This time, the price for the cheapest plan is going up to $9 per month. A premium plan offering ultra-high definition will jump to $16 per month from $14.

The new prices will immediately affect all new subscribers and then roll out to existing customers during the next three months. Customers in about 40 Latin America countries where Netflix bills in U.S. currency will also be affected, excepting key international markets such as Mexico and Brazil.

Netflix had nearly 79 million subscribers outside the U.S. as of September.

Higher prices could alienate subscribers and possibly even trigger a wave of cancellations. For instance, Netflix faced a huge backlash in 2011 when it unbundled video streaming from its older DVD-by-mail service, resulting in a 60 per cent price increase for subscribers who wanted to keep both plans. Netflix lost 600,000 subscribers after that switch.

The company is now betting it can gradually raise its prices, bolstered by a string of acclaimed hits during that past five years that have included “House of Cards,” ”Orange Is The New Black,” ”Stranger Things,” ”The Crown” and, most recently, the film “Bird Box.”

“We change pricing from time to time as we continue investing in great entertainment and improving the overall Netflix experience,” the company said in a statement.

Consumers also have an increasing array of other streaming options .

Amazon offers a streaming service as part of its Prime shipping program for $13 per month, or $120 for an annual membership. Hulu sells an ad-free service for $12 per month. AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit plans a broader streaming service this year centred on HBO. Walt Disney is gearing up to launch a streaming channel this year.

With Apple also widely expected to join the video-streaming fray, the competition for programming is enabling top directors, writers and actors to charge more for their talents. That has intensified financial pressure on Netflix, which hasn’t been bringing in enough money to pay for all its programming and other business expenses.

The company burned through about $3 billion last year and is expecting to do so again this year. To offset the negative cash flow, Netflix has been borrowing heavily to pay for programming. The Los Gatos, California, company had accumulated nearly $12 billion in debt before borrowing another $2 billion in an October bond offering.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Maverick Ventures announces $382M evergreen fund

In an era when validation-seeking venture capitalists are lauded as much as high-flying founders, Maverick Ventures’ small team of investors have opted to stay quiet.

Now, the years-old firm is ready to publicize its successes and shed some light on its global strategy. Today, Maverick is disclosing for the first time the size of its evergreen venture fund: a $382 million early-stage vehicle.

Launched in 2015 as the venture arm of 25-year-old hedge fund Maverick Capital, San Francisco-based Maverick has funneled cash into direct-to-consumer wellness brand Hims, new-age insurer Devoted Health and primary care services provider One Medical. Led by David Singer (pictured above, center), the former chief executive officer of genetics company Affymetrix and drug developer Genesoft Pharmaceuticals, Maverick has oft supported healthtech startups.

We are thematic, but this business is all about opportunism,” Singer told TechCrunch. “The whole challenge of venture is to figure out what’s next and that, by nature, doesn’t fit into one bucket.”

With that in mind, Maverick has deviated from healthcare, a decision that led it to some of its biggest successes. The firm became the first institutional investor in Coupang, Korea’s largest e-commerce business, which recently brought in $2 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund at a reported $9 billion valuation and is poised for a multi-billion exit. It also supported the Tencent-acquired video streaming platform Youku and the now-public Korean texting service Kakao.

Grocery delivery service FreshDirect, facial recognition startup D-ID and cloud-based software firm Aptible are also among its non-healthtech portfolio companies.

In total, Maverick has helped build 13 unicorns across a portfolio of 100 companies. The firm, Singer explained, almost always provides its companies follow-on capital, beyond the seed, Series A or Series B investment they initially provide. Why? Because they believe in their companies, as any good VC should, but also because Singer admittedly has a hard time saying no to Maverick’s startups.

“I’ve lost money from being too emotionally invested,” he said. “We are old-school. We feel this is a business to help build strong companies. It’s not a quick flip. For better or for worse, that’s what we like doing.”

In addition to Singer, Maverick’s investment team includes former Bessemer Venture Partners vice president Ambar Bhattacharyya and Oscar’s former director of finance Prateesh Maheshwari.

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