Facebook Launches ‘Shops’; Hulu’s Big Makeover; Apple-Maybe No EarPods With iPhones; Huge Bump in e-Bike Sales

Facebook is jumping into e-commerce with both feet, with the announcement of Shops. Theverge.com reports that it’s a new way for businesses to set up free storefronts on both Facebook and Instagram. The shops will be powered by third party services like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo. They are designed to turn the social net into a ’top-tier shopping destination.’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a live stream of the announcement “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.” Shops are free to create, but expect ads…Facebook plans to rake in cash from advertising, fees when you make payments, and other services. Facebook touts that people can store their payment credentials in a single place for more frictionless sales. How much people will trust them with that info after the Cambridge Analytica mess remains to be seen.

Hulu is rolling out their biggest refresh in years. According to techcrunch.com, the goal is a more standardized (some say Netflix-like) user interface. Collections are laid out vertically on the Home screen, with tiles of shows within the collections horizontal, in scrollable rows. Hulu continues to differ from Netflix in its continuing of editorial imagery to highlight select titles, and now adds a variety of tile sizes to relay info about the content the platform recommends. Top level navigation is simplified, too…with categories like ‘Movies’ and ‘Sports’ at the top of the screen. The rollout is in progress this week, and will hit tvOS and Roku first. Other platforms won’t see the new look until July.

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says it looks like Apple will be dropping sending wired earbuds with the iPhone 12 models. Of course, this will bring howls from some sectors, but I, for one, am glad not to have another set of crappy earbuds to toss in a drawer. Apple’s included phones have always been terrible and ill-fitting anyway. 9to5mac.com says dropping the included earbuds should goose sales of 2nd gen AirPods and the AirPods Pro, and analysts expect Apple to heavily promote or discount those. They will be coming out with newer models in 2021 anyway, and it could help clear inventory. Since you have needed to buy an adapter for the wired ones if you wanted to use plug in charging and the ear buds at the same time…or else go Bluetooth, this seems like a natural progression. Since iPhones have wireless charging and Apple sells mostly Bluetooth earbuds and headphones (as most makers now), they may be looking at dropping the charging/headphone port entirely by 2021, as has been rumored in the past.

With the shift in traffic patterns…or in a lot of cases, virtual elimination of much traffic due to the coronavirus, e-bikes have picked up. According to geekwire.com, Rad Power Bikes has seen a 297% uptick in demand. According to a consulting firm that watches the bike industry, Human Powered Solutions, the trend is for strong gains for all bikes. Right now, the biggest issue facing e-bikes like Rad Power Bikes is getting parts due to virus-caused supply chain issues in China. The entry level RadRunner is $1199 and gets up to 45 miles per charge, with their priciest model RadRunner+ (same range, just more options) is priced right now at $1699….they are taking pre-orders for that one.


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