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Indian smartphone market grew by 4% in Q1, but projected to decline by 10% this year – TechCrunch

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India has emerged as one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the last decade, reporting growth each quarter even as handset shipments slowed or declined elsewhere globally. But the world’s second largest smartphone is beginning to feel the coronavirus heat, too.

The Indian smartphone market grew by a modest 4% year-over-year in the quarter that ended on March 31, research firm Counterpoint said Friday evening. The shipment grew annually in January and February, when several firms launched their smartphones and unveiled aggressive promotional plans.

But in March, the shipment saw a 19% year-over-year dip, the firm said. Counterpoint estimated that the smartphone shipments in India will decline by 10% this year, compared to a 8.9% growth in 2019 and 10% growth in 2018.

The research firm also cautioned that India’s lockdown, ordered last month, has severely slowed down the local smartphone industry and it may take seven to eight months to get back on track. Currently, only select items such as grocery products are permitted to be sold in India.

Prachir Singh, Senior Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, said the Covid-19 impact on India was relatively mild until mid-March. “However, economic activities declined as people save money in expectation of an extended period of uncertainty and an almost complete lockdown. Almost all smartphone manufacturing has been suspended. Further, with the social distancing norms, factories will be running at lower capacities even after the lockdown is lifted,” he said.

Overall, 31 million smartphone units shipped in India in Q1 2020. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which has held the tentpole position in what has become its biggest market globally for more than two years, widened its lead to command 30% of the market.

Vivo’s share grew to 17%, up from 12% during the same period last year. Samsung, which once led the Indian market, now sits at the third spot with 16% market share, down from 24% in Q1 2019. Apple maintained its recent momentum and grew by a strong 78% year-over-year in Q1 this year. It now commands 55% of the premium smartphone segment (handsets priced at $600 or above.).

More than 100 smartphone plants in India assemble or produce about 700,000 to 800,000 handsets a day, some of which are exported outside of the country. But the lockdown has halted the production and could cost the industry more than $3 billion to $4 billion in direct loss this year.

“We often draw parallels between India and China. But in China, their factories have adopted automation at various levels, something that is not the case in India,” said Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Counterpoint, earlier this week.

China, where smartphone sales declined by 38% annually in February this year, has already started to see recovery. Xiaomi said last month that its phone factories were already operating at more than 80% of their capacity. Globally, smartphone shipment declined by 14% in February, according to Counterpoint.

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Mozilla acquires Active Replica to build on its metaverse vision • TechCrunch

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An automated status updater for Slack isn’t the only thing Mozilla acquired this week. On Wednesday, the company announced that it snatched up Active Replica, a Vancouver-based startup developing a “web-based metaverse.”

According to Mozilla SVP Imo Udom, Active Replica will support Mozilla’s ongoing work with Hubs, the latter’s VR chatroom service and open source project. Specifically, he sees the Active Replica team working on personalized subscription tiers, improving the onboarding experience and introducing new interaction capabilities in Hubs.

“Together, we see this as a key opportunity  to bring even more innovation and creativity to Hubs than we could alone,” Udom said in a blog post. “We will benefit from their unique experience and ability to create amazing experiences that help organizations use virtual spaces to drive impact. They will benefit from our scale, our talent, and our ability to help bring their innovations to the market faster.”

Active Replica was founded in 2020 by Jacob Ervin and Valerian Denis. Ervin is a software engineer by trade, having held roles at AR/VR startups Metaio, Liminal AR and Occipital. Denis has a history in project management — he worked for VR firms including BackLight, which specializes in location-based and immersive VR experiences for brands.

With Active Replica, Ervin and Denis sought to built a platform for virtual events and meetings built on top of Mozilla’s Hubs project. Active Replica sold virtual event packages that included venue design, event planning, live entertainment and tech support.

Prior to the acquisition, Active Replica hadn’t publicly announced outside funding. Ervin and Denis have assumed new jobs at Mozilla within the past several weeks, now working as senior engineering manager and product lead, respectively.

“Mozilla has long advocated for a healthier internet and has been an inspiration to us in its dedication and contributions to the open web. By joining forces with the Mozilla Hubs team, we’re able to further expand on our mission and inspire a new generation of creators, connectors, and builders,” Ervin and Denis said in a statement. “Active Replica will continue to work with our existing customers, partners and community.”

Mozilla launched Hubs in 2018, which it pitched at the time as an “experiment” in “immersive social experiences.” Hubs provides the dev tools and infrastructure necessary to allow users to visit a portal through any browser and collaborate with others in a VR environment. Adhering to web standards, Hubs supports all the usual headsets and goggles (e.g. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) while remaining open to those without specialized VR hardware on desktops and smartphones.

Hubs recently expanded with the launch of a $20-per-month service that did away with the previously-free service but introduced account management tools, privacy and security features. According to Mozilla, the plan is to roll out additional tiers and reintroduce a free version in the future, along with kits to create custom spaces, avatar and identity options and integrations with existing collaboration tools.

Mozilla’s forays into the metaverse have had been met with mixed results. While Hubs is alive and kicking as evidenced by the Active Replica acquisition, Meta shuttered Firefox Reality, its attempt to create a full-featured browser for AR and VR headsets, in February 2022. In explaining why it decided to close up Firefox Reality, Mozilla said that while it does help develop new technologies, like WebVR and WebAR, it doesn’t always continue to host and incubate those technologies long-term.

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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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