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Amazon’s Prime Video Channels may soon lose HBO option

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Amazon offers its subscribers access to ‘Prime Video Channels,’ which is a direct way for Amazon users to sign up for certain third-party video streaming services like HBO, Starz, and more. Though Prime Video Channels isn’t going anywhere, a new report suggests that WarnerMedia may remove HBO from the roster in order to bolster its competing HBO Max streaming service.

WarnerMedia and Amazon have not confirmed the leak, which comes from CNBC citing anonymous sources. According to those sources, Amazon has agreed to remove HBO from Prime Video Channels, at least from the Amazon Fire TV UI. The change will reportedly happen when the company’s deal ends next year.

When a user signs up for service through Amazon’s Channels offering, the content from that third-party service appears within the Prime Video UI. This was allegedly a big issue for WarnerMedia and may have been the reason negotiations to bring HBO Max to Amazon’s platforms took so long.

The sources claim that WarnerMedia wants HBO users to access the service through HBO Max, enabling the company to gather viewer data that could be used for targeted ads. That ad-supported HBO Max option is expected to launch sometime next year.

The report indicates that Amazon eventually caved on the Prime Video Channels issue, paving the way for HBO Max’s recent arrival on the Fire TV platform. Whether consumers will care about the loss is another matter — many have complained that Amazon Prime’s interface is difficult to browse and they may prefer to use the HBO Max app regardless of Prime Channels.

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Pluto TV adds a free Showtime channel, but there are limitations

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Free TV streaming service Pluto TV has expanded its offerings with a new Showtime channel — one that is free to access despite Showtime’s premium nature. The addition gives viewers access to Showtime content, but as you’d expect, there are some limitations on the new channel including the presence of commercials.

Pluto TV is one of the most popular free over-the-top streaming services that offer access to an experience akin to live TV. The platform’s content greatly expanded following the company’s acquisition by ViacomCBS, bringing content like older Nickelodeon episodes for kids. In addition to the live channels, Pluto TV also offers a selection of on-demand content.

According to Variety, the platform is adding an ad-supported Showtime channel called ‘Showtime Selects’ featuring uncensored originals. The channel will offer around 250 hours of content from the premium network, the idea being that you may see something you like and decide to pick up an actual Showtime subscription for the full content library.

Showtime Selects will feature originals from the network, including episodes from shows like Shameless, Your Honor, Ray Donovan, The Affair, Billions, Californication, and more. The only full series on Showtime Select, at least based on the report, will be The Loudest Voice.

The decision to launch a limited Showtime channel on the free streaming platform isn’t surprising. Pluto users who may otherwise never watch Showtime content will be exposed to the kind of content they can get from the network, which offers its own paid streaming service priced at $11/month. In addition to getting the full show content, Showtime’s subscribers are also given an ad-free experience.

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Galaxy S21+ leaks – the 2021 edge of reality

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Today we’re getting our first good look at solid leaks of the Samsung Galaxy S21+. This next-generation device will mark another big move by Samsung away from traditional industrial design into design that’s a bit more… daring. Before this, Samsung’s biggest industrial design transition points were the Infinity-O (punch hole) display, and the “Galaxy Edge” or “Infinity” display curve.

The Samsung Galaxy S21+ looks a whole lot like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra leaks we’ve seen in the last few weeks. This design isn’t a surprise, only because we’ve seen a few other views of the rest of the device family. Take a peek at the rest of the family in the Samsung Galaxy S21 leaks article published on November 16 – it is a good place to start.

Imagery from CoverPigtou and xLeaks7 show this device both front and back, side to side, using CAD drawings as their own source. These are renderings based on leaked specifications generally made to act as guide for accessory-makers and protective case-makers.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 family has a set of displays that are fairly similar to the Galaxy S20. The display bezels are thinner, the punch-hole is smaller. Otherwise we’re pretty much on-track with the year-by-year ever-more-sleek simplicity of a full frontside coverage display panel, courtesy of Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup.

ABOVE: The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge – the first Samsung phone with a display that cascaded off it’s side. BELOW: The Samsung Galaxy S10 “escapes the notch curse” with a punch hole.

The big change comes in the sides and the back of the device. If we look at the Samsung Galaxy S21+, we see the most obvious design move in the camera array. There, three cameras live in an array that sits above the rest of the device’s backside – like the Galaxy S20 – with one big change. Here, the camera array island becomes a bit more like a peninsula.

The camera array connects with the silver metal edge of the smartphone, an edge that also contains the power button and the volume rocker.

This is a solution that allows the raised array of cameras to sit above the majority of the back of the device without feeling like an element inflicted negatively upon the device. When we first started seeing backside cameras on smartphones that sat above the flatness of the back of the phone, it was an ugly situation. This might well be the most elegant integration of said design requirement yet.

We’ll likely see the Samsung Galaxy S21 family appear officially in the first several weeks of 2021. The Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra will likely be revealed in late January or early February, 2021, with release dates closer to the tail end of February, if history acts as guide for the near future – we shall see!

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Google names the best Android games and apps of 2020

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Today Google released a list of games and apps for Android that they named “best” of the year 2020. Included in the mix were categories like Best Competitive, Indies, Pick Up & Play, Game Changers, Everyday Essentials, Personal Growth, Hidden Gems, “Best for Fun”, and “Best Apps for Good”. As it is each year, this list of lists makes for a good first place to look for the apps and games that have the best chance at allowing users to make the most of their smart device experience.

Google’s best apps of 2020

Google’s choice for best app of the year, 2020, was “Loona: Bedtime Calm & Relax.” This app includes soothing sounds, simple stories, and calming game-like experiences to get users in the mood for sleep. The Loona app is free and offers in-app purchases for expanded experiences. The User’s Choice for Best App of 2020 was… Disney+, the streaming platform.

Google’s Best Everyday Essentials apps included Calmaria (for calming down, not entirely unlike Loona,) and Grid Diary (a top notch journal and planner app). Also in the mix were The Pattern (to explore your personality with astrology… only… not astrology.) Whisk was on the list, as was Zoom Cloud Meetings.

Personal Growth apps included “Centr, by Chris Hemsworth” and “Intellect: Create a Better You”, as well as “Jumprope: How-to Videos”, “Paired: Couples App” and the language app Speekoo. The best Hidden Gems included Cappuccino for mini-podcasts, Paperless Post, and Explorest – Photo Locations. And don’t forget Tayasui Sketches for a new approach to digital brush painting.

Best For Good apps included apps like ShareTheMeal and GreenChoice for Healthy Grocery Shopping.

If you’re looking for FUN apps, Google’s best-of collection included Bazaart: Photo Editor & Graphic Design, Disney+, Dolby On: Record Audio & Music, Reface, and the video editor Vita.

Google’s best games of 2020

The User’s Choice best game of the year was SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off, which is absolutely bonkers. This game contains both in-app purchases and advertisements and all sorts of “unlocks” and such. But who am I to argue? Google’s own best game of the year was Genshin Impact!

Google named Brawlhalla the best competitive game of the year, as well as Bullet Echo, GWENT (the Witcher card game), Legends of Runeterra, and The Seven Deadly Since: Grand Cross. Google’s Best “Indies” included Cookies Must Die, GRIS (by Devolver Digital), Inbento, Maze Machina, and Sky: Children of the Light.

The best Pick Up & Play games of the year included Disney Frozen Adventures: Customize the Kingdom, as well as another game with an impossibly long title: DreamWorks Trolls Pop: Bubble Shooter & Collection. Also on the list was EverMerge, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells, and the SpongeBob game mentioned above.

The Game Changers list this year included some truly odd pieces of work. You’ll find Fancade, Genshin Impact, Minimal Dungeon RPG, and the game Ord. The game The Gardens Between was also included on the list – easily one of the most expensive up-front costs on the list, with good reason – no ads, no in-app purchases, just one cost and you’ve got it!

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