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Touchscreen protests and mindful money apps | Intent, 0006

The death of the car touchscreen, strange tech marriages, & under the radar travel apps

Intent is all about helping talent in tech become more intentional with their career by becoming more informed, more fluent, and more aware about the goings-on within tech and adjacent industries. We welcome your feedback!

On today’s agenda:

  • The death of the car touchscreen

  • Strange tech marriages

  • Under the radar travel apps for your next trip

The imminent death of the touchscreen + the desire for touch & feel

midjourney: a computer on wheels --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

On the other side of every rapidly growing trend is its tipping point. Recently, we’ve started to see a mounting frustration with “smart” and “touchless” products. Whether it’s Gen Z reverting to flip phones, luxury hardware brands opting for physical buttons, or everyone’s frustration with the Apple Touch Bar, tech fatigue is starting to play out in product design.

The most profound of our senses is touch – when sight and hearing fail, touch allows us to keep navigating the world. With touch also comes tactile function – when a power button is a button, you know when you’ve pressed it.

With unreliable touchscreens, bad on-device software, or sensitive touch detection, we’re finally starting to reject what was previously viewed as progress. JD Powers laid it out in a recent study:

  • People are getting increasingly frustrated with “infotainment” centers on their car’s dashboard, and there’s been a steady YoY decline in overall satisfaction among car owners (for the first time in the survey’s history).

  • They aren’t too fond of car manufacturers' native tech – they prefer to use those supported by their phones, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – a sign that the auto industry might be behind the times when it comes to digital UX (there was a 14% drop in those saying they prefer to use built-in systems to play audio from 2020)

  • They’re big fans of Google Automotive Services (GAS), though – Google’s integrated offering for cars (which can be licensed by manufacturers) seems to be the most favored.

We’ve even started to see people beg for dumber cars. Manufacturers are starting to listen. In April, Porsche revealed its 2024 Cayenne, and with it came the return of buttons to the steering wheel – which had temporarily pivoted to touchscreen modalities. The new Ford Bronco, released last year, embraced their nostalgia factor and went full-button.

What was the motivation for touchscreens?

  • While they look sleek and high-tech, they’re actually relatively cheap – cheaper than buttons (~$50 for manufacturers per car).

  • With the unveiling of Tesla Model S's intense, futuristic design interior in 2009, other automakers scrambled to keep up and outdo each other.

Touchscreens just don’t feel that cutting-edge anymore. I think we all miss the Apple home button, and users are theorizing about its return. Gen Z has been credited with bringing back the “dumb” phone (in q422, smartphone shipments apparently fell by 17%, and flip phone orders are still pretty flatlined, but many see that changing in the near future). Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s better for mental health, but maybe we’re just tired of all the screens – most modern cars run more code than a Boeing 747.

In other (maybe excessive) auto news, Alef, an automotive meets aeronautics startup, recently announced their FAA-cleared (for testing only) flying car. We’ll see if it gets the same treatment.

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This week’s quick hits:

  • BMW tests next-gen LiDAR, positioning the brand to beat Tesla to “Level 3” self-driving cars – ZDNet

  • IRS vows to digitize all taxpayer documents by 2025, here’s what that means – Ars Technica

  • Generative AI platform Inworld raises $30M round at $500M valuation to build AI-powered NPCs in video games – Crunchbase

  • Moon mining gains momentum as private companies plan for a lunar economy – Space.com

  • How Silicon Valley is helping the Pentagon in the AI arms race – The FT

Finance plus mindfulness in latest fintech startup (& other strange tech marriages)

midjourney: smartphone app, money, therapy, dollars, mind, brain --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

Allo, a new financial app claiming to promote a “Mindful Money Practice,” has injected itself into the intersection of fintech and the mental health movement to bring users peace of monetary mind. It’s an interesting concept, and got us thinking about other tech that exists at seemingly-unrelated crossroads of industries.

First, on Allo: the app combines weekly and monthly budgets with customized daily mindfulness exercises guided by user preferences around values, priorities, awareness, gratitude, and more. Founded by the previous heads of Aviate (an intelligent homescreen company that was acquired by Yahoo for $80M back in 2014), Allo just hit the market with a $6.99 monthly plan on iOS after a successful year-long beta test period.

On the surface, it’s a novel idea that takes out the weird gamification and anxiety that often comes with these finance apps. But what are some other examples of strange concept marriages within tech? Here are some we find the most interesting:

  • HealthyWage combines gambling and physical wellness, allowing users to place wagers on whether or not they’ll hit their weight loss goal. You succeed, you get paid; you don’t, the app keeps your wager. Is it moral? That’s a gray area. Dystopian? Absolutely.

  • Niantic recently released Pokémon Sleep, and it’s already a top 5 game in the App Store. It’s basically the opposite of Pokémon GO — players keep the app open while they sleep, determining sleeping habits through breathing patterns and rewarding them with new Pokémon to keep them hooked.

  • There’s obviously the China-based everything app WeChat (which we recently talked about in-depth), providing users with e-commerce, social media, payments, and even official digital government IDs.

  • Younger-to-mid millennials will probably be familiar (from their computer lab days) with the charity trivia game Freerice, which donates rice to those in need for every question you answer correctly.

  • Female-founded Dipsea is a story studio that exists at the intersection of sexual wellness and sleep, providing users with audio that’s designed to either put them to sleep or… “wake them up.”

  • Alltrails is an outdoors mapping/social media dream, combining its catalog of more than 400K trails across the world while connecting more than 50M users to share stories, learn the trails, or organize group treks.

  • And while it’s not a software product like the rest of the products on this list, we’d be remiss not to mention the infamous air-purifying Dyson Zone headphones (which one of our Talent Agents proudly wears to this day).

Have a favorite combo-Pizza-Hut-and-Taco-Bell app? Reply or email us at [email protected] and let us know.

Time to get going? Get these apps ⬇️

Speaking of traveling crossed with cool tech, here are some startups building apps to help you get the most out of a late summer vacation:

  • BabyQuip ($8M raised): This baby gear rental platform loans all the gear your young one could need, whether it’s a crib, stroller, car seat, or anything else — and they’ll even drop it off at your hotel or airport.

  • BlaBlaCar ($578M funded): Europeans will already be familiar with the community-based travel app — BlaBlaCar lets you carpool with other people going the same route. It hasn’t taken off in the US yet, but if you’re going across the pond, it might be worth downloading to use in a pinch.

  • Lamdus ($1.1M funded): Lamdus is a wildly useful app that makes it hard to forget anything by storing everything from documents, to planning, to photo sharing, to expense sharing. Ditch the manila folder and get Lamdus instead.

  • Questo ($1.8M funded): If you’re visiting a new city, you might as well make it an adventure. Questo gamifies city exploration – each game is unique, and centered around a specific local theme, which can be inspired by a movie, a book, a historical fact, or a local legend.

  • Airalo ($7.3M funded): Hate using multiple SIM cards or paying crazy roaming fees? That’s where Airalo’s eSims come in handy. There are over 190 affordable eSims that are easily interchangeable, just make sure your phone supports them.

  • Tripsider ($1M funded): For a true local experience, you’ll want to download Tripsider (formerly Youtravel.me). The platform lets you book small group tours or activities with local experts, with over 12,000 bookings currently available around the world for hiking, road trips, secret beaches, and more.

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