Multiple subreddits and moderators are protesting Reddit’s API changes

Multiple subreddits and moderators are protesting Reddit’s API pricing changes that may shut down many third-party clients. Popular subreddits such as r/aww, r/video, r/Futurology, r/LifeHacks, and r/bestof will go dark on June 12 to protest the company’s move. Separately, a moderator coordination subreddit has written an open letter to Reddit saying these changes will have an adverse effect on how they manage their communities.

According to a post in a new subreddit called r/Save3rdPartyApps, many subreddits will go dark for 48 hours. That means there will be no activity in these communities. The post noted that some communities will “go away permanently unless the issue is adequately addressed.” It also mentions that the official Reddit app doesn’t have adequate moderation tools and if third-party apps providing them go away, moderators won’t be able to do their job.

The open letter on r/ModCoord subreddit echoes this sentiment.

“Many of us rely on third-party apps to manage our communities effectively. Let’s just rip the band-aid right off: in many cases, these apps offer superior mod tools, customization, streamlined interfaces, and other quality-of-life improvements that the official app does not offer. The potential loss of these services due to the pricing change would significantly impact our ability to moderate efficiently, thus negatively affecting the experience for users in our communities and for us as mods and users ourselves,” the letter says.

Additionally, the letter expresses concerns over Reddit’s new rules announced in April, which will shut off access to NSFW content through the API. Moderators wrote that this could mean that bots filtering some of this content might not be able to work properly.

Last week, iOS Reddit client Apollo’s developer Christian Selig posted about his call with Reddit and said that it would cost him nearly $20 million annually to run the app.

Over the weekend, a Reddit employee posted in the r/Redditdev community explaining that the number of calls per user depends on the app’s efficiency. And that in turn will determine how much developers have to pay for the API access. The Reddit employee accused Apollo of being an inefficient app as well.

“Apollo as an app is less efficient than its peers and at times has been excessive—probably because it has been free to be so, ” the post reads.

In reply, Selig asked them for an explanation and said: “What inefficiencies Apollo is experiencing versus other apps, and not that it is just being used more?”

Third-party developers are already considering the next step for their apps as the new changes will be effective from July 1. For instance, Infinity for Reddit developer has already released a paid version to sustain the app. Meanwhile, according to a post, Reddplanet developer plans to shut down the app by the month’s end.

According to data from SensorTower, Apollo has been downloaded 4 million times since 2021. In the same time frame, Android clients such as Boost for Reddit and Infity for Reddit have been downloaded more than 430,000 and 280,000 times respectively.

Multiple subreddits and moderators are protesting Reddit’s API changes by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

How to watch Apple unveil its AR/VR headset, iOS 17 and more at WWDC 2023

Today’s the big day, and we’re expecting big things – well, one really big thing for sure. Apple will kick of WWDC 2023 at 10AM PT Monday June 5 with its customary keynote. As ever, the event will focus on the latest versions of the company’s operating systems, namely: iOS/iPadOS 17, macOS 14 and watchOS 10.

We’re also expecting so new additions to the MacBook line, potentially including a 15-inch Air. You can read our full rundown of the rumors over here.

But let’s be real. All eyes will be focused on the company’s (ridiculously) long-rumored Reality Pro AR/VR (MR, if you will) headset. After a reported seven to eight years of development, the company is finally ready to unveil the system – or a developer version, at least. Sink or swim, it’s going to be one of the most fascinating WWDCs in recent memory.

You’ve got two options to stream. The above YouTube link and Apple’s own events page. Pro tip: I find that the latter tends to be a bit faster.

Read more about WWDC 2023 on TechCrunch

How to watch Apple unveil its AR/VR headset, iOS 17 and more at WWDC 2023 by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

Snapchat’s AI bot isn’t very smart, but at least it won’t send nudes

Snapchat now has an AI bot that you can send snaps to, and if you’re a premium subscriber, it can even send you pictures back. So, what happens if you send Snapchat’s My AI bot nudes?

This is the obvious question that comes to mind, because on the internet, people will immediately try to test the limits of new technology, especially if it is even tangentially related to sex. When Snapchat’s initial GPT-powered chatbot came out this Spring, it lacked appropriate age-gating features, so a reporter who registered on Snapchat as a fifteen-year-old was able to get the bot to give advice on how to cover up the smell of weed or set the mood for sex.

When asked about those findings at the Snap Partner Summit in April, CEO Evan Spiegel said, “I think humans, whenever we come across new technology, the first thing we try to do is break it.”

So, naturally, I tried to break Snapchat’s new My AI Snaps.

Though Snapchat added more guardrails to prevent the bot from having inappropriate conversations with teens, there’s still a lot riding on My AI Snaps. With the amount of controversy that Snap’s text AI stirred up, the company needed My AI Snaps to be as unbreakable as possible. Unfortunately, it’s barely coherent enough to break.

As a very serious reporter, I made a very serious Google Images search: “boobs.” I found a generic picture of boobs, took a snap of my computer screen, and sent it to My AI.

“Sorry, I can’t respond to that Snap,” My AI said.

“Why can’t you respond to that Snap?” I asked.

“I didn’t receive a Snap from you. Could you send it again?”

So, the good news for Snapchat is that My AI Snaps isn’t sexting its users. But the bad news is that the product just isn’t good.

Part of the reason why it can’t really sext is because it doesn’t have memory of the Snaps you’ve sent it once it responds. The most salacious response I got was when I sent a generic photo of a man’s lower torso wearing Tom Ford boxer briefs (… It’s what came up on Google when I searched “penis,” okay). My AI replied with a somewhat misshapen AI woman wearing a black silk robe: “Ooh, loving the Tom Ford vibes! How about adding a sleek black robe to complete the look?”

Image Credits: Screenshots by TechCrunch

My AI will refuse to reply to photos of actual human penises. But it turns out that when you Google “penis,” even with Safe Search turned off, you get a lot of vaguely suggestive, yet technically safe for work images that men’s health blogs use to illustrate articles about erectile dysfunction, and whether or not women really care about penis size. So, I showed this poor robot a photo of a curved banana sticking out of a man’s pants zipper.

In response, I received a picture of some cupcakes.

“That banana in a pocket is so handy! Have you ever tried turning it into a pocket-sized dessert?”

As my editor said when I told her about this: Is that a banana in your pocket, or is this AI literally from outer space?

As I continued defiling my Yahoo-issued work computer with Google Images searches like “dildo” and “vibrator,” the AI’s responses were mixed. When presented with sex toys that are not inherently phallic, it will reply something like, “Your pink object steals the show, just like this fountain!” But the more overtly phallic a dildo appears, the less likely the AI will be to engage.

My AI is a computer, but the way it snaps is alien, even when you aren’t trying to break it.

The AI seems to identify an object in your snap, compliment it, and make a weird comparison to something else. I sent it a picture of a plant, and it sent back a picture of a running trail, with the caption, “Your plant is so cool, it’s giving this trail a run for its money!” When I sent it a puzzle, it responded with a picture of a bike, which said, “Puzzling inside while the bikes outside are gearing up for a ride!” It truly feels like a future life form has gone back in time and is trying desperately to talk like a normal human in the year 2023, but is simply saying gibberish.

Next, I tried sending My AI a tequila bottle. The AI responded, “Someone’s ready for a party!” I was testing this feature on my own Snapchat account, and I am indeed of drinking age, so I’m not sure the AI would respond the same way if I were underage. With other prompts, however, My AI simply chooses to play dumb. When I sent it a Snap of condoms, it commented on the color of my “packet stacks.”

Onto even more exciting things: a bottle of Advil liquid gels. In response, the AI responded with a photo of graffiti, which said, “Advil liquor: for when life’s a pain, but you still want to party like this graffiti wall!” It seems the AI read “liquid gels” as “liquor,” but all in all, it’s a strange response.

Image Credits: Screenshots by TechCrunch

I tried again with a prescription bottle. The AI responded with a photo of a skatepark: “Pill bottle: ‘I’m the life of the party!’ Skatepark: ‘Hold my ramps!’” Make of that what you will.

In Snap’s announcement blog post, the company suggests sharing your grocery haul with your AI to get a recipe recommendation. The results are relatively rudimentary. When presented with cheese and bread, My AI suggested adding tomato slices. When I showed My AI chili, it suggested I make some croutons to go with my soup. Most of its suggestions make sense, though it did tell me to put fruit in my coffee, which it misidentified as simply “liquid.”

Aside from some questionable comments about “Advil liquor,” pocket bananas and the like, My AI Snaps seems pretty docile. But while it likely won’t spark as much controversy as its text-based counterpart, it won’t even be useful, which is a disappointment for a paywalled feature.

Snapchat’s AI bot isn’t very smart, but at least it won’t send nudes by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

SigmaOS launches a contextual AI assistant for its browser

While OpenAI launched an official ChatGPT app for iOS, most of the AI-powered chatbots are still best accessible through the web. And that’s why browsers are stepping up to integrate AI-aided features within their apps. LocalGlobe- and Y-Combinator-backed web browser startup SigmaOS launched its own AI assistant on Thursday to a limited set of people.

The company says that the unique thing about Airis, its AI assistant, is that understands a page’s context and gives you answers based on that. Here’s a good example: if you are reading about Manchester United, ask Airis to explain “United” or ask questions about it, the bot understands that you are asking about the football team and not just the word.

A nice thing about Airis is that you can easily call it by right-clicking on a text selection rather than having to open a side column or another tab. But if you want to have a contextual conversation, you can always press A to open the assistant in split-screen mode.

Additionally, Airis can rewrite or reword sentences or paragraphs. There are pre-written prompts like “Make it simpler,” “Written by a child” and “Add humor”. You can also use your own prompts like “Write this in 200 words.” There are also some fun options like “Write it like a pirate” and “Write it like a cat.” SigmaOS’s new assistant can also effectively translate articles and webpages in multiple languages using the GPT-3.5-Turbo model.

Image Credits: SigmaOS

The unique thing about these functions is that you will see Airis “rewriting” or translating the words on the pages. SigmaOS says that with agents like ChatGPT, you can only run one thread at a time.

However, with Airis, you can assign multiple rewriting or translation tasks on different pages and you don’t have to wait for one to finish. The startup says this is possible due to the clever implementation of token usage within its algorithm. Airis is currently based on OpenAI tech but the team is open to integrating other models like Claude and Alpaca.

SigmaOS is not the only browser toying with the idea of integrating assistants. Microsoft Edge integrated the GPT-4 powered Bing AI bot in March. Opera is experimenting with integrating multiple chatbots in its sidebar. Mozilla is reportedly working on integrating a chatbot within Firefox as well. Mircosoft is also preparing to launch the Bing AI plugin for other browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

Mahyad Ghassemibouyaghchi, one of the co-founders of the startup, said that people currently have to sign up to a waitlist to get access to Airis — but the company is admitting new people every day. He also mentioned that, in the coming months, the startup aims to train Airis to understand whole websites. Customers will also be able to ask any question about the service and perform tasks like creating a SigmaOS workspace for an upcoming holiday, and help users with questions about the browser it self.

SigmaOS launches a contextual AI assistant for its browser by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Artifact news app now uses AI to rewrite headline of a clickbait article

Last month, the Artifact news app introduced an option for users to flag an article as clickbait. Now, the app founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger has launched a new feature to let AI rewrite a headline for you if you come across such an article.

The app makers said that if a user marks a title as clickbait, the app calls on a GPT-4 model to rewrite the headline.

At the time of launching the clickbait flagging feature Artifact said that it has a manual process to vet articles to mark them as clickbait after multiple users report them.

With the new update, if an article is marked as clickbait by the Arificat team, AI will rewrite the headline for all users. People will see a star icon next to the headline to indicate that AI has rewritten it.

Image Credits: Artifact

Additionally, the startup is already working on tech to detect clickbait articles without relying on manual reporting. It said that once that system is in place, the app will automatically detect and rewrite headlines.

With these features, the app is taking a lot of editorial responsibility on itself that ranging from correctly identifying clickbait articles and utilizing AI to rewrite headlines that are not misleading themselves. But the company is not shy of taking those steps.

In an interview with TechCrunch in March, Systrom admitted that running of a news app involves taking editorial decisions in some way.

“Actually, building the algorithm is enormously editorial. “Because what you choose to train your algorithm on — the objective function, the data you put in, the data you include, the data you don’t include — is all in editorial judgment. The way you weigh different objectives,” he said.

Artifact news app now uses AI to rewrite headline of a clickbait article by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Dropbox-like cloud storage service Shadow Drive lowers its price

Shadow has decided to cut the price of its cloud storage service Shadow Drive. Users can now get 2TB of storage for €4.99 per month instead of €8.99 per month. As for the free tier, things aren’t changing. Users who sign up get 20GB of online storage for free.

Shadow is also the company behind Shadow PC, a cloud computing service that lets you rent a virtual instance of a Windows PC in a data center near you. It works particularly well to play demanding PC games on any device, such as a cheap laptop, a connected TV or a smartphone.

Coming back to Shadow Drive, as the name suggests, Shadow Drive works a lot like Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud Drive or Dropbox. Users can upload and download files from a web browser. They are stored in a data center based in France so that you can access them later.

The company also offers desktop and mobile apps — your files are automatically synchronized with your local devices. When you drag and drop files and folders in your Shadow Drive, they are automatically synchronized with the server and will show up on your other devices that are synchronized with the same account.

Behind the scenes, Shadow Drive is based on Nextcloud, a popular open source online storage application that you can run on your own server. With Shadow Drive, the company manages the Nextcloud instance for you.

Thanks to this solid foundation, Shadow Drive offers many advanced features, such as the ability to share files and folders with a link, or WebDAV support. On mobile, Shadow can automatically upload your most recent photos in your photo library so that they are automatically backed up.

In addition to this new, lower subscription price, Shadow Drive is now also available on iOS, which was a weird omission. The app was already available on Android, Windows, macOS and Ubuntu.

Shadow Drive is currently available in 12 Western European countries. It is also available in the U.K., where the premium subscription tier costs £4.99 per month. The company says that it plans to roll out its service in North America at some point in the future.

Dropbox-like cloud storage service Shadow Drive lowers its price by Romain Dillet originally published on TechCrunch

Shopify’s Shop app introduces a new ‘Shop Cash’ rewards program

Shopify’s Shop app is introducing a new rewards program called Shop Cash, the e-commerce platform announced on Friday. The new program is funded by Shopify and earns shoppers 1% back on purchases made using its Shop Pay online checkout service.

Once a purchase is made, shoppers will see their rewards appear in their Shop Pay wallets in the Shop app. These rewards can be redeemed on future purchases within the Shop app. When shoppers are completing a purchase, they will be able to use their Shop Cash balance alongside their preferred payment method.

Shopify notes that the Shop Cash rewards program will be available immediately on all eligible Shop Pay purchases from merchants and shoppers based in the U.S.

In celebration of the launch, Shopify is hosting an inaugural Shop Day event today and giving away more than $1,000,000 in Shop Cash. The company is partnering with a handful of merchants, including MrBeast and Monday Swimwear, to share custom links across their social channels to their fans. Shoppers can redeem Shop Cash by clicking on those links and spending directly in the Shop app. Their Shop Cash can be redeemed for up to 30 days once it’s been claimed, the company says.

“This is a coming of age moment for Shop. It’s become an incredible app that allows shoppers to discover great brands, check out with one tap, and track orders in real time,” said Harley Finkelstein, President of Shopify, in a statement. “Shop Cash represents the next evolution of Shop, connecting independent brands to more shoppers, and rewarding those shoppers for being loyal fans.”

Shopify launched the Shop app back in 2020. The app is actually an update and rebrand of Arrive, an app for tracking packages from Shopify merchants and other retailers. Shop includes those same package tracking capabilities, but it also allows consumers to browse a feed of recommended products, learn more about each brand and make purchases using Shop Pay.

The company says 44% of the orders on the Shop app are repeat purchases, and that Shop Pay can lift conversion by as much as 50% compared to guest checkout.

The launch of the new rewards program comes a few weeks after Shopify partnered with Israeli B2B payments startup Melio to launch a new bill pay tool designed to allow U.S.-based merchant customers to manage their expenses and vendors via its platform.

Shopify’s Shop app introduces a new ‘Shop Cash’ rewards program by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Gig workers in California to receive millions for unpaid vehicle expenses

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based ride-hail and delivery companies will have to reimburse California gig workers potentially millions of dollars for unpaid vehicle expenses between 2022 and 2023.

The back payments come from a provision in Proposition 22, the controversial law that classifies gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees and promises them halfhearted protections and benefits. For example, gig workers get a minimum earnings guarantee, rather than a guaranteed minimum wage, for the time they spend “engaged” in a gig, and not the time spent between rides.

Part of Prop 22 stipulates that drivers making the bare minimum get a reimbursement for vehicle expenses. Starting in 2021, when Prop 22 went into effect in California, drivers began receiving $0.30 per mile driven while “actively engaged.” The law also states that the rate should be raised to keep up with the pace of inflation. So, 2022’s 6.8% inflation raise should have bumped those payments to $0.32 per mile; and in 2023 it should have gone up another $0.02 to $0.34 per mile.

A couple of cents may not seem like a big deal, but drivers clock thousands of miles every year, so it can really add up. Especially when you consider that there are roughly 1.3 million gig drivers in California, according to industry reports.

(By the way, in line with the lackluster benefits afforded to gig workers under Prop 22, their vehicle mileage deduction rate is half the standard rate for business owners and employees, which in 2023 is $0.655 per mile.)

Pablo Gomez, a full-time Uber driver since 2019, noticed that his payments never went up past $0.30, according to The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the discrepancy. Now we know that no drivers received the increased payments, because none of the app-based companies implemented the adjustment.

Uber, DoorDash, Lyft and Grubhub all told TechCrunch that they didn’t adjust driver reimbursement fees because they were waiting for the California treasurer’s office to publish adjusted rates. According to Prop 22, the treasury is indeed tasked with calculating and publishing the adjusted rate each year and failed to do so in a timely manner.

After studying the language of Prop 22, Gomez tried reaching out to the state treasurer’s office on April 13 and was brushed off. He then tweeted directly at Fiona Ma, the California treasurer, asking why the rate hadn’t been changed yet. Sergio Avedian, a gig worker and senior contributor at The Rideshare Guy, boosted the tweet. On May 10, Ma replied saying the rate adjustment had finally been published. Uber and DoorDash immediately started sending backpay to drivers, lest they face a class-action lawsuit.

For his part, Avedian said he was ready to file suit if the companies didn’t agree to retroactively pay. “I had the law firm ready, and I was gonna be the lead plaintiff,” he told TechCrunch.

Lyft told TechCrunch it has now begun issuing backpay. Grubhub said it will start retroactively paying drivers, and Instacart didn’t reply in time to comment.

The state’s treasury did not respond in time to explain why it took so long — 18 months for 2022’s rates — to provide adjusted vehicle reimbursement rates. According to Avedian, the treasury had been holding off due to the uncertain status of Prop 22. The ballot measure had been ruled unconstitutional in August 2021, but in March, a California appeals court overturned that decision. Industry experts say that despite the lower court ruling saying Prop 22 unconstitutional, it was still the law of the land, and the treasury should have treated it as such.

I asked the app-based companies if they had reached out to the department in the past year and a half to push for an updated rate. Uber said it reached out once in January 2022, and DoorDash said it had made repeated requests for updated mileage rates “dating back to January 2022.” Lyft also said it reached out to the treasury for information, but didn’t specify when or how many times. I also asked the companies if they had alerted gig workers to the treasury’s delay to reassure them that they’d be reimbursed eventually. None of them had.

And that’s not surprising. App-based gig companies have yet to achieve true measures of profitability, even as they find new and exciting ways to extract as much work for as little pay as possible from workers. (See: algorithmic wage discrimination, tip hiding and tip stealing.) When I asked an Uber spokesperson why the company didn’t just make its own calculations for workers, he responded that “it’s up to the treasurer’s office to mandate that rate.”

It’s not quite a “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” argument, but it’s along the same lines. Better to hope that no one notices you’re not paying workers properly, than to proactively pay them properly.

Not every driver will end up receiving backpay. Many ride-hail drivers exceed the minimum rate, so they aren’t eligible for vehicle reimbursement fees. However, those who mainly drive for Uber Eats, DoorDash and other food delivery platforms tend to rely more on tips for income, so they should begin to see payments show up in their accounts.

Avedian, who drives part-time and cherry picks his gigs, said he got around $85 from Uber. His wife, who also works part-time, got more than $200 from DoorDash.

But what about the workers who drive full-time?

“If you’re a full-time DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub driver, you’re driving a solid 5,000 miles a month. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “They’re gonna end up owing a few hundred million. It’s gonna be a lot of money.”

None of the companies I spoke to shared how much money they expect to doll out to drivers, but some back of the envelope math suggests that, collectively, companies could end up paying in the millions.

Aside from Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Grubhub and Instacart, other relevant companies that employ gig workers include Amazon Flex, Target’s Shipt and Walmart’s Spark.

Lack of transparency

Avedian has gathered screenshots of his own, his wife’s, and his podcast listeners’ backpay reimbursements. One of his major gripes is the complete lack of transparency from the companies regarding the calculation of these amounts. None of the companies provide drivers with a mileage breakdown.

Uber is the only company to even stipulate that the payment is a result of California Prop 22 benefits. DoorDash drivers just see a random payment appear.

“Everybody’s getting money, and these drivers are like, ‘Oh, I got 400 bucks. I got 800 bucks,’ but they don’t all know what it’s for.”

Avedian actually keeps a spreadsheet where he logs all his net earnings, miles driven, number of trips and Prop 22 adjustments. Per his calculations, Uber’s back payment to him was actually off by $3.

“I call this nickel and diming of the gig economy,” said Avedian. “$3 times a million people is 3 million more dollars. I mean, I’m not bitching and moaning that people are getting money, but all I’m saying is, why not be transparent?”

In May, a bill in Colorado that aimed to make gig worker platforms more transparent for workers was shut down.

“Millions of people are driving for these companies, and while they’re doing it, they’re getting ripped off because of a lack of transparency,” said Avedian. “You must have something to hide, otherwise you wouldn’t be afraid of transparency.”

Gig workers in California to receive millions for unpaid vehicle expenses by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

‘Stranger Things’ game developer BonusXP is shutting down

BonusXP, the game studio that worked with Netflix to kick off its gaming initiative and introduced “Stranger Things” titles on mobile devices, as well as on desktop and consoles, is shutting down.

The Texas-based studio announced the closure through its social media channels on Wednesday evening.

“We have begun the difficult process of ceasing operations at BonusXP. We have enjoyed making games for you over the last 11 years,” the studio said in a message posted on Twitter.

Founded in 2012, BonusXP began its journey as an indie studio. It, however, started adding licensed games to its portfolio based on Netflix shows in 2017.

The first game created by BonusXP based on the Netflix horror show “Stranger Things” was called Stranger Things: The Game. In 2021, Netflix introduced the game title on mobile devices as Stranger Things: 1984. The game studio also developed Stranger Things 3: The Game, which the streaming giant bought as part of its initial mobile games.

In addition to its Stranger Things titles, BonusXP developed The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics based on Netflix’s fantasy-adventure series. It was launched in 2020 across platforms, including Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and macOS.

It’s currently unclear what caused BonusXP to suddenly close up shop, but TechCrunch understands the studio laid off its entire team. The studio’s website was also not working at the time of filing this story.

“Our focus is on helping our team find their next opportunities,” the studio said in its public message.

BonusXP co-founder and CEO Dave Pottinger was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

Alongside BonusXP, Netflix has worked with a number of game developers, including Ubisoft, to offer its users a total of 55 games. The company acquired three game studios and established its own studios to rapidly expand its gaming business. Moreover, it is set to introduce 40 new games this year and has 70 in development with its partners as well as 16 by its native studios.

TechCrunch reached out to Netflix on the shutting down of BonusXP and will update this story if the company responds.

‘Stranger Things’ game developer BonusXP is shutting down by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Drive times app ETA brings its handy location dashboard to CarPlay

Nearly a decade after its launch, ETA’s simple drive times app is finally making its way to Apple’s CarPlay. The newly updated app, which offers an alternative first step to planning a trip, isn’t meant to directly compete with mobile maps or other navigation apps. Instead, it serves as more of a “location dashboard” that can also sync with your calendar, showing you the travel times and traffic warnings to various destinations, like home, work, school, your next meeting, or anything else, across multiple forms of transport. When you’re actually ready to go, ETA can kick off the navigation in the navigation app of your choice and share your arrival time with friends.

Yes, it’s a bit wild that such a tool would not have been available in the place where so much trip planning and navigation actually occurs: your vehicle. But ETA co-founder Anthony Harrison explains the team wasn’t allowed to publish to CarPlay for most of ETA’s existence because of Apple’s rules.

It wasn’t until last year that Apple opened up CarPlay entitlements (a special set of permissions) to a broader set of apps that ETA was able to build for the CarPlay platform, Harrison says. At issue, previously, was the fact that ETA wasn’t technically a navigation app, so it hadn’t been able to qualify.

With Apple’s loosened rules, ETA is finally able to offer its feature set to drivers, not just iPhone and Apple Watch users as before. (And while we generally hesitate to use the word “finally” in reference to long-awaited launches, in this case — 9 years later! — we think it’s appropriate.)

Image Credits: ETA

ETA hasn’t radically evolved over the past several years in terms of its user interface and feature set — beyond taking advantage of platform improvements and updated design guidelines, that is. At its core, ETA is still very much the simple location dashboard it always was, an at-a-glance style utility, built to serve a single purpose, which often made the app preferable to a maps app for starting to plan your journey.

The developers have also been quick to adopt various iOS and watchOS updates, like the support for widgets and complications that let you more easily track travel times without even having to open the app.

Despite this, ETA remains something of an under-the-radar App Store find. Because of its various bugs (and sometimes user errors) over the years, the app’s 3.8-star rating may cause some to overlook it. But developers are responsive to complaints and the app’s staying power is a testament to its adoption among a loyal set of customers. The company notes it’s had over 100,000 paying customers since its 2014 debut, which for their purposes, is a success.

We have to add that the app is also the now-rare paid download that doesn’t bug you for a subscription after you’ve paid the initial $4.99 fee. It’s refreshing.

Image Credits: ETA

The new CarPlay-enabled version of ETA offers a similar set of functionality to its iPhone counterpart.

In this case, you can put your favorite locations to drive to on your dash with the travel time and traffic conditions clearly displayed, Harrison tells us. With calendar integrations, your upcoming appointments and meetings are also shown with a recommended time to leave. And when you’re ready to navigate, you can tap a location to start directions in your preferred navigation app.

The updated version is live on the App Store now.

Drive times app ETA brings its handy location dashboard to CarPlay by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch