Highlight issues first big update, adds group messaging and better battery life

highlight updates appLast year the tech startup scene was introduced to the phrase “SoLoMo” and we’ve been graced by its presence ever since. As idiotic as the word itself might be, this genre is trying to exploit the intersections of three very popular and profitable markets: social, local, and mobile.

And the startup that arguably received the most attention for leverage these three was Highlight. The app launched early this spring, and with a sleek UI and an early round of Bay area beta testing, its popularity shot through the roof. It was poised to be the startup darling of SXSW, but there wasn’t exactly a clear consensus on users’ reactions. Everybody at the conference was using the app – including yours truly – but not everybody was loving it.

I sat down at the show to talk to CEO and co-founder Paul Davison. In addition to his enthusiasm for Highlight, he was concerned that everyone who used the app at SXSW would go back to their homes and the flood of activity they got out of it in Austin would be gone, and that people would abandon it. To extent, this was sort of the case: I never uninstalled Highlight, but I can count on one hand the number of times it’s done anything for me in Portland. Sure, Portland’s no New York City or San Francisco, but it’s not exactly the middle of nowhere either.

Still, there are many of us with the utmost faith in the SoLoMo market, and Highlight’s ambition and below-the-surface expertise on refining this technology led me believe that this thing was far from over. And today, Highlight has released its first all-around update – better late than never.

Highlight will now include the ability to add notes to your friends’ profiles, like and reply to activity inline, and access a much fuller, more interesting activity feed. Interest Pages to better connect you with other Highlight users have also been added, as well as a better notification system and more control over what notifications you receive, more options for sharing content to Facebook, and an overall improved interface.

highlight updateBut the most important updates are the ability to launch group messaging with people around you, and (drumroll please) improved battery performance!

When I met with Davison, I told him there were a few specific things I wanted from Highlight, one of which was the ability to create group chats. This would relieve some of the awkwardness of hitting up a random-yet-nearby stranger and also allow you to ask useful questions – i.e., “does anyone have the Wi-Fi password for this room?” or “Does anyone want to share a cab to the airport?” or “Who needs a ride home?” His approval for the idea led me to believe it was already in the pipeline, and lo and behold… Now this sort of relevant conversation is possible, and it sure as hell beats, “So I see we both know Cathy…”

hilarious exampleThere is a certain magic that comes with relatively serendipitous moments where you can connect with strangers. We’ve heard stories about people who had gone to the second grade together being randomly reunited, or adoptees and birth parents discovering and connecting via social networks, but these are not the norm. The norm, however, is needing to find people to weather everyday storms with – storms like finding a ride home or getting directions to a meeting. It’s not exactly sexy, I know, but it’s really useful.

But the big coup of the Highlight update is less battery suck. The problem – rather, the main problem – with location-leveraging applications is that they kill your battery life. And what use is Highlight if you have to stay plugged to an outlet? Davison assured me at SXSW that this was something getting better so quickly that it isn’t going to be a pain point for long, and fortunately it seems like this latest Highlight iteration will help move things that direction. Apparently battery life while using Highlight will be three to four times better than it previously was — a pretty big step.

Of course the major hurdle Highlight and other apps of its kind face is accruing an audience. These types of apps simple won’t work unless there are people in your area also using them. That means getting consumers collectively over the creepy hurdle and convincing them they need more than Facebook to power virtual connections – and that’s something no update can fix. But making Highlight a more user-friendly application, combined with our decreasing sensitivity to personal bubble-invading tech, could give the startup much stronger legs to stand on. 

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019: Complete Coverage

There's no bigger show for mobile tech geeks than Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain: where flagship phones are born and intriguing new wearables shine. And this year, where foldable phones and 5G are likely to dominate the news. For…
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…

C you soon? Rumors swirl of a USB-C port on 2019 iPhones

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.

Biometric phone unlocks can’t be forced by feds, says U.S. judge

Fingerprint and face unlocks used to not be protected by the Fifth Amendment, but that may soon change. A judge in California has ruled biometric unlocking methods of all kinds are protected in the same way as passcodes.

The Note 8 and S8 range now have access to the Android Pie beta

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.

The Motorola Razr may return as a foldable phone — for $1,500

The Motorola Razr V3 is one of the world's most iconic phones, and it could be making a stylistic return in the form of a foldable Motorola smartphone -- but it may cost around $1,500. Is the nostalgia worth it?

The iPhone XS Battery Case's battery has a smaller capacity than previous cases

Apple has been rumored to be working on a new iPhone battery case for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now, those new cases are finally here, offering seven hours of extra use for each iPhone and are available for $129.

Join the Apple club with our complete guide to switching from Android to iOS

If Android simply isn’t cutting it for you anymore, then you might be considering Apple’s warm embrace. Here’s how to make the switch from Android to iOS without losing your contacts, sleep, or hair!

It’s back! Here’s how to switch to Twitter’s reverse chronological feed

Twitter has finally brought back the reverse chronological feed, allowing you to see your feed based on the newest tweets, rather than using Twitter's algorithm that shows what it thinks you want to see. It's easy to switch.