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Airbnb is getting all fancy

CEO Brian Chesky announced several new Airbnb features at an event at San Francisco’s Masonic theater.

James Martin/CNET

Airbnb wants to have more than 1 billion people staying in its rentals by 2028. That’s one-seventh of the world’s population — or the populations of the US and Europe combined. To get there, the lodgings company is doing a major overhaul, which it unveiled at an event in San Francisco’s Masonic theater on Thursday.

Along with making its website more user friendly, it’s adding four new types of rentals, high-end tiers for wealthier travelers, and more rental categories to choose from. “Over the last 10 years a lot has changed,” Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky told the crowd at the Masonic. “Airbnb is still an alternative, but it’s still not for everyone … Today we will show you our road map: Airbnb for everyone.”

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Airbnb has gone from a website for couch surfers to having a massive online presence in just under a decade.

It lists roughly 4.5 million homes for rent in more than 81,000 cities. But that growth has come with increasing scrutiny from city regulators. The company has battled local governments from San Francisco to New York to London.

Though it’s worked out deals with many of those regulators, it’s had to scale down its offerings and adjust to rules that require hosts to register with cities and that curb how many nights a year people can rent out a home. That means Airbnb has needed to rethink its business to stay competitive with hotels and similar sites like VRBO vacation rentals. Over the past couple of years, it’s expanded from offering homes for short-term rentals to letting travelers book day trips and restaurant reservations.

It’s also partnered with major landlords in California and Florida that allow for Airbnb rentals through their buildings. The company’s newest revamp includes several features. It’s specifying four new property types: vacation home, unique space, B&B and boutique hotel.

Unique spaces include things like tree houses, yurts and Airstream trailers, while boutique hotels would be nonchain hotels. Airbnb said it’s differentiating these listings so people will be able to more easily choose the best match for their preferences.

Airbnb Plus is one of the company’s new high-end types of rentals.

James Martin/CNET

The company is also adding two new high-end tiers: Airbnb Plus and “Beyond by Airbnb.” Chesky said Plus is for guests “looking for beautiful homes” that have “exceptional hosts.” All of these listings are verified by the company. “Beyond by Airbnb” goes one level higher, with full-on luxury stays that include “some of the world’s nicest homes,” Chesky said.

These include everything from villas in Tuscany to ski-in, ski-out lodges in Aspen. Jennifer King, who was in the audience at Thursday’s event, said she listed her two high-end homes in San Francisco and Maine on Airbnb Plus. She said that when Airbnb verified her homes, “they came and literally opened every drawer.” They made sure she had the right pots and pans and carbon monoxide detectors.

“It was to the nth degree,” she said. “For the creme de la creme.” Finally, Airbnb announced at its event that it’s redesigning its website to include more personalized collections for travelers to choose from. Currently people need to scroll through listings to find what’s right for them, but with more collections they’ll be able to choose from categories like weddings, travel for work, group getaways and dinner parties.

“We think we finally do have a home for everyone,” Chesky said. “I’m really excited to see what the next 10 years look like.” First published Feb.

22, 9:31 a.m. PT. Update, 2:31 p.m.

PT: Adds more details about the event and background information.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition. Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution.

But is it?

Why February 25 is the most important day of MWC (or maybe not)

Officially, 2018’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) starts on February 26, but for many attendees, the day of greatest anticipation is a day earlier, February 25. Why? Because that’s when we finally get to know the new Samsung Galaxy S9.

Not everyone believes that the presentation of the latest member of the Galaxy family is the most important thing at the show, however. “We don’t focus on device launches as something essential for our show,” explained Michael O’Hara, CMO of the GSMA — the trade group that organizes the MWC show — in an interview with Digital Trends Espanol. Although O’Hara noted that the organization is very happy with launches like the Galaxy S9, he pointed out that there was no event of this magnitude last year, and does not consider that the strength or success of the Mobile World Congress.

Objetivos del #MWC2018 : mas #Negocios , mas #mujeres y mas #Seguridad , sin olvidarnos del nuevo #GalaxyS9 https://t.co/6PfLIV9coD pic.twitter.com/GGbacBTrEY

— DT en Espanol (@DigitalTrendsEs) February 21, 2018

In fact, what takes place in Barcelona is something else. It’s about doing business, business, and more business. “The MWC is successful because industry leaders, regulators, and governments come and do their business,” he stresses. And in that sense, the figures that accompany MWC show their importance.

In addition to some 2,300 exhibitors, 170 international delegations and 108,000 attendees, it also entails the creation of 13,000 temporary jobs and an economic impact of 471 million Euros. In fact, since 2006, the MWC has generated 4.4 million Euros and created of 115,000 part-time jobs. Not bad!

Possible change of venue? It’s obvious therefore that the mere possibility of a change of headquarters would be a great loss for Barcelona, Catalonia, and Spain in general. But at the present the GSMA has an agreement with these three parties (city, state, country), so Barcelona remains the headquarters of MWC — at least until 2023.

Whether that changes will depend above all on one thing: “that you can guarantee a safe environment for the event.” Despite the secession vote and subsequent protests that have taken place recently in the Catalan capital, and the strong independence movement that still live and breathe in all of Catalonia, the truth is that this requirement is illogical. Despite everything, for the GSMA, “the city of Barcelona works very well, and we want it to continue being headquarters,” O’Hara clarifies.

What is expected this year at MWC are fewer interventions of super-known industry leaders such as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg or Google CEO Sundar Pichai — events that were present at previous MWC events and drew great publicity and press. The motive? “This year we’ve decided to make things a little different.

We wanted to have leaders from more emerging industries. Focus on technologies that can make a difference and that can change the world, “O’Hara explains. More female presence and greater security

Likewise, in order to change things, the MWC of 2018 will have a greater female presence in terms of the participant speakers, as well as the attendees to this technology fair. “Twenty-five percent of our speakers are women this year,” said O’Hara, who wants the show to be a little more diverse. But that’s not the only thing that worries O’Hara. Therefore, to avoid a recurrent problem during the MWC, this year will increase the security during the event.

Thefts are a daily issue in Spain,especially in Barcelona. However, the organization is working and collaborating closely with local authorities to increase the police presence with special attention this year. All for the purpose of allowing entrance to the event only to authorized persons, and to try to have fewer reports on thefts. “It’s not possible to eliminate crime, but to try to reduce the number of reports,” concludes the GSMA’s marketing director.

Our predictions MWC expects to reap the same success as past shows in 2018 — and indeed, to exceed it in some ways. No doubt, that will be thanks to events such as Samsung and the presentation of its Galaxy S9, along with the announcements and novelties of other important industry players such as Huawei, LG and HTC, to name a few — even if it is not the priority for the GSMA.

There is a lot of excitement and many curious and experts are ready to see what is happening and what comes out of this Mobile World Congress.

Whether or not they will meet expectations, we’ll know soon enough.

But if you want to know in advance with a little more detail the ads on phones and other devices that we hope, do not miss our predictions.

Editors’ Recommendations

2019 Volvo V60 is your new lustworthy plug-in wagon

“Few car makers can match Volvo Cars’ history and credibility in making well-designed, practical and versatile estate cars.” That’s a bold statement, direct from Volvo’s press release. But let’s face it, it’s true. Look at the stunning V90, and then have a glance at this brand-new V60.

You want an all-weather wagon that’s drop-dead gorgeous? Nobody does it quite like Volvo. Yes, the 60- and 90-series cars are all starting to look like Russian dolls — the same basic formula in slightly different sizes — but that’s hardly reason for complaint.

New Volvos are some of the best-looking cars on the road today, and the V60’s design is yet another exercise in tasteful elegance. The “Thor’s Hammer” LED lights proudly flank the grille, with large wheels at all four corners and L-shaped tail lamps that follow the shape of the D-pillar and then slice inward toward the center of the hatch. The most obvious difference between the V60 and big-brother V90 is in length.

The V60 is almost 7 inches shorter than the V90, though the wheelbase length has only been reduced by 3.9 inches. Elsewhere, the V60 is only an inch or two smaller in both width and height.

Look familiar? The V60 uses the same interior design as the XC60… and V90… and S90… and XC90.

Volvo

Good luck spotting any big differences inside the cabin.

The V60’s interior is visually identical to that of the XC60 crossover and 90-series cars, with a vertically oriented touchscreen in the center console, only a few buttons and knobs below it, a digital gauge cluster and the same lovely wood and aluminum inlays on the dash and doors. The Sensus infotainment system carries over unchanged, is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and has a built-in 4G wifi hotspot. Six powertrains will be offered worldwide: two T5 and T6 petrol engines, two D3 and D4 diesels (not for the US, of course — especially with their six-speed manual transmissions), and two gasoline-electric plug-in hybrids.

That’s right, Volvo is expanding its plug-in offerings, and the V60 is the first model to use the smaller T6 Twin Engine setup, in addition to the larger T8. The 2.0-liter turbo inline-four engine in the T6 produces 310 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, and only comes with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Volvo says this combination allows the V60 to sprint to 62 miles per hour in a respectable 5.8 seconds.

Base T5 engine specs aren’t available just yet.

The V60 will come with two PHEV powertrains. Plug it in, plug it in.

Volvo

Both Twin Engine plug-in hybrids essentially use the same powertrain: A 2.0-liter gasoline inline-four paired with a 65-kilowatt electric motor, an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The only difference is the specific output of the gas engine.

In the T6 Twin Engine, the 2.0-liter makes 253 horsepower and 258 pound-feet, while in the T8, those ratings are upped to 303 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. The overall system output for the T6 Twin Engine is 340 horsepower and 435 pound-feet, while the T8 makes 390 horsepower and 472 pound-feet. Both models have the same electric-only range of up to 28 miles, and despite their different power outputs, both will do the 0-62 mph run in 4.8 seconds.

Being a Volvo, the V60 comes with a number of safety and driver assistance systems, including City Safety with Autobrake. The V60 also gets Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system, which aids with steering, acceleration and braking at speeds up to 80 mph. You’ll also find lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and other active safety features.

The V60 goes on sale later this year, and it’ll also be available via the Care by Volvo vehicle subscription service. Official MSRP and subscription pricing will be announced at a later date. Following its official reveal in Stockholm, Sweden today, the V60 will greet the public at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Expect the S60 sedan to debut in the not-too-distant future, too.

You’ll never guess what it looks like.

Here are the first cities to get AT&T's mobile 5G network

AT&T’s making big promises with 5G.

Roberto Machado Noa/Getty

If you’re a resident of Atlanta, Dallas and Waco, Texas, get ready to strap in for 5G. AT&T on Tuesday said that it would connect the three cities to its mobile 5G network by the end of the year.

The three cities are part of a dozen markets that are supposed to get 5G from AT&T this year. The announcement marks a small step toward the reality of 5G — the next generation of wireless technology that promises heightened speeds, superior responsiveness and better coverage.

5G is seen as the foundational technology for other areas like self-driving cars and streaming virtual reality, and it starts with these early deployments. AT&T has said that the first 5G devices this year will be “pucks,” or mobile hot spots.

The first 5G-capable phones are slated to come early next year. The company added that it expects to announce additional cities to get 5G in the coming months.

AT&T is just the latest carrier to make big promises when it comes to 5G. T-Mobile has vowed to create a nationwide mobile 5G network by 2020, and Sprint says it plans to have its nationwide 5G network up by early 2019. Verizon, meanwhile, is testing 5G as a broadband replacement service this year. As for the AT&T launch cities, Dallas is an obvious choice since it’s the headquarters of AT&T.

Atlanta is another logical pick because it still houses most of the company’s wireless operations.

Waco, about 100 miles south of Dallas, is a surprising choice given it’s not part of the AT&T’s list of “5G Evolution” markets, its confusing name for cities that the infrastructure for higher wireless speeds — even if they don’t qualify as actual 5G.

Here’s a list of the “5G Evolution” markets: Atlanta; Austin; Boston; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; Chicago; Fresno, California; Greenville, South Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Louisville; Memphis; Nashville; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Pittsburgh; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Tulsa; and Sacramento, California.

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