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As more high-end smartphone makers explore budget devices, Motorola takes a shot at premium – TechCrunch

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As smartphone sales began to plateau and slow over the past couple of years, many device makers arrived at the same conclusion: people want cheaper phones. It’s clear why companies like Apple and Samsung took the message to heart, as the smartphone market downturn appeared to coincide with the standardization of $1,000 premium devices.

While Motorola is undoubtedly best known for its budget devices these days, the company is using the opportunity to take things in an entirely different direction. The Edge+ finds the company entering true premium territory with the arrival of its first $1,000 device. It’s an even more dramatic move than OnePlus’s recent release of the $899 8 Pro.

A mainstay in the budget and mid-tier, the Motorola name doesn’t exactly conjure images of premium products. The Lenovo-owned smartphone maker’s ventures in pricier models have tended more toward the gimmicky — or, at very least niche — with the warmly received modular Moto Z and the largely panned foldable Razr reboot.

The Edge+ is a more earnest approach to premium. The selling points are the camera, display and 5G — pretty standard fare these days in the world of premium handsets. For the first time in recent memory, Motorola is positioning itself to go head-to-head with the Samsungs and Apples of the world. 

Okay, so specs. There’s a 6.7-inch display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 90Hz refresh rate. It’s curved on the sides — similar to what Samsung has been offering for a while now. And like Samsung, the company is using that extra narrow real estate to offer up things like notifications, call alerts, alarms and battery status. Basically stuff to offer a quick view without having to pick up the phones.

There’s a flagship-level Snapdragon 865 inside, coupled with a healthy 12GB of memory. Oh, and there’s 5G here, too, with access to both mmWave and sub-6GHz  bands. The company is also touting the quality of its speakers — one of the most overlooked aspects of smartphone hardware. I haven’t actually tried them out — or seen the phone in person yet. Social distancing and all that.

There are three rear-facing cameras, including a massive 108-megapixel main, which lets in a lot of light, an eight-megapixel telephoto and 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle. There’s no devoted macro camera, unlike other recent Motorola models, but the 16-megapixel should be able to do some close-up shots.

The Edge+ arrives May 14 as a Verizon exclusive (something Motorola has, unfortunately, done many times before) in the States and on a bunch more carriers in Canada. It will arrive in Europe in May, and other markets, including India and Latin America, at a latter date.

A lower-tiered Edge will be available with a downgraded processor and camera array, but the same display. That’s coming to Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region, with U.S. availability arriving later. 

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‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 will premiere on March 1 • TechCrunch

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Disney announced today The Mandalorian’s long-awaited third season will debut on March 1st on Disney+. The company had previously said that the third season would debut in February, so fans will have to wait a little longer than expected to see the upcoming season.

The third season will take place following the events of “The Book of Boba Fett,” in which Din Djarin reunited with Grogu. A teaser for the upcoming season shows Mando fighting armed warriors on Mandalore.

The second season “The Mandalorian” premiered back in October 2020, so fans have had to wait quite some time to see their favorites together again. Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito and Katee Sackhoff will all be returning in the third season of the show.

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YouTube launches its first-ever official trends podcast, ‘Like & Describe,’ with content creator MatPat • TechCrunch

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YouTube launched its first-ever official trends podcast today, the company announced. Hosted by popular content creator MatPat and produced by YouTube’s Culture & Trends team, the “Like & Describe” podcast will tackle lesser-known stories behind the biggest YouTube trends.

Episodes will release monthly on YouTube’s main channel for viewers to watch as well as all on major podcast platforms for listeners, including Spotify, Apple, Amazon and Google. Episode one debuted on December 1 with a second episode set to premiere on January 1.

The announcement comes a few months after YouTube introduced a dedicated podcast homepage. It’s likely the company launched “Like & Describe” to further cash in on the ever-growing podcast industry. Plus, MatPat could draw in millions of listeners since the creator has over 34 million subscribers in total across his four channels–The Game Theorists, The Film Theorists, The Food Theorists and his gaming channel, GTLive.

In the first episode, titled “The Rise of the VTubers,” MatPat explores Virtual YouTubers (aka VTubers), animated characters voiced by humans that garner a collective total of 1.5 billion views every month, according to YouTube.

MatPat meets with VTubers like Gawr Gura, a 9,000-year-old half shark/half girl, and Mori Calliope, a Grim reaper that raps in motion-capture music videos, among others. He also speaks with Earnest Pettie, Trends & Insights Lead of YouTube’s Culture & Trends team, content creator Dave Cherry and other experts.

Unlike most video podcasts where hosts sit in front of a camera and speak into a mic, “Like & Describe” has viewers follow along with graphics as MatPat narrates—similar to his video style for his YouTube channels.

The second episode will have MatPat meet with more special guests from the Culture & Trends team as they provide commentary on the biggest videos and creators of 2022.

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Netflix is letting more subscribers preview its films and TV shows, report says • TechCrunch

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Content is king for streaming services, and Netflix may be going the extra mile to ensure its content is up to par with subscribers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix’s prerelease screening program will soon enlist tens of thousands of subscribers to preview new movies and shows and provide their feedback.

Netflix declined to comment to TechCrunch on the Wall Street Journal’s report.

Similar to how major Hollywood studios have test screenings for new films, the “Netflix Preview Club” has over 2,000 previewers that review Netflix titles before they release to the streaming platform, the Wall Street Journal wrote. The program will reportedly increase by 400% in early 2023, should the report prove accurate.

The program has existed since May 2021, Variety previously reported. Netflix confirmed to Variety that it runs subscriber-feedback panels in the U.S. only.

According to Reddit users who claim to be in the program, the Netflix Preview Club is invite-only. Subscribers are required to sign an NDA before watching the film and then answer a series of survey questions one person wrote. “You get a special Netflix account, and they email when they have a movie in there for you to watch. Usually, you have to watch and review within a week,” the Reddit user added.

Amazon and Hulu have similar programs, the “Amazon Preview” program and the “Hulu Brain Trust,” where subscribers offer feedback on content.

WSJ points out that “Don’t Look Up” was apparently too serious for the Netflix Preview Club, and creators took this feedback and added more humor before it was released. Although “Don’t Look Up” was poorly reviewed by critics and has a 56% Tomatometer score and 78% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it had four Oscars nominations and broke a Netflix record with 152.29 million weekly viewing hours.

Netflix intends to spend $17 billion on content next year, so it’s imperative that it’s smart about what it invests in. And in order to avoid repeating the disaster of Netflix’s first and second quarters of 2022, the company needs to keep subscribers engaged to limit churn.

Netflix rebounded in Q3 2022, jumping to 223 million global subscribers, so if expanding its preview program proves to be successful, its content could grow its subscriber base even more.

The streamer has seen success with its drama shows like “Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton,” “Squid Game,” and Tim Burton’s newest series “Wednesday,” which just topped 340 million hours viewed. However, Netflix needs more than that if it wants to fill in the gaps. Hopefully, the program will help give the streamer a better idea of what viewers want.

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