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iPhone hard hit as global smartphone shipments continue nosedive – TechCrunch

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The smartphone industry is in rough shape. Sundar Pichai used the word “headwinds” to discuss the company’s difficulties moving Pixel 3 units, but Canalys’ latest report is far more blunt, describing the situation as a “freefall.”

Things are pretty ugly in the Q1 report, as smartphone shipments declined for the sixth quarter in a row. The combined global units hit 313.9 million, marking their lowest point in almost half a decade, according to the firm.

Of the big players, Apple seems to be particularly hard hit, falling 23.2% year on year. Once again, China played a big role here, but as usual, the full story is much more complex.

“This is the largest single-quarter decline in the history of the iPhone,” said analyst Ben Stanton in a release tied to the news. “Apple’s second largest market, China, again proved tough. But this was far from its only problem. Shipments fell in the US as trade-in initiatives failed to offset longer consumer refresh cycles. In markets such as Europe, Apple is increasingly using discounts to prop up demand, but this is causing additional complexity for distributors, and blurring the value proposition of these ‘premium’ devices in the eyes of consumers.”

A lot to unpack there, but what we’re looking at are some larger issues within the industry, including global economic issues and slowed upgrade cycles for users. The XS was also notably much less dramatic of an upgrade than its predecessor. Stanton did add that the iPhone, “show[ed] signs of recovery towards the back-end of the quarter,” which is promising for Q2.

It also remains to be seen what this year will hold in terms of iPhone upgrades, though most signs point to 2020 as the year the company makes the jump to 5G. Tim Cook was noncommittal on the topic during the company’s earnings call last night, instead pointing to positive numbers on the iPad side and, of course, Apple’s continued push into services.

Analysts are somewhat bullish about the potential of innovations like 5G and even foldables in shaking up the stagnant market, but big players like Apple are clearly hedging their bets, should the free-falling headwinds continue.

Huawei, meanwhile, continues to be a bright spot, with a 50.2% year over year growth and an 18.8% global market share, according to the firm. That growth could be hampered, however, by increased competition from Samsung and fellow Chinese handset companies like Xiaomi and Oppo.

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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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