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Powerbeats Pro review: An upgrade over AirPods in almost every way Review



In many aspects, Beats’ $249 Powerbeats Pro are the antithesis of Apple’s $199 AirPods: The AirPods forgo buttons for touch controls, while the Powerbeats Pro has three buttons; the AirPods are one size fits all, while the Powerbeats Pro have interchangeable tips and are adjustable; the AirPods aren’t designed for fitness buffs, while the Powerbeats Pro are designed primarily with fitness buffs in mind; and the AirPods are minimalistic, while the Powerbeats Pro aren’t and unapologetically so.

At their core, however, the AirPods are Powerbeats Pro are very much the same product. Both use Apple’s underlying technology — specifically, the H1 chip — to integrate seamlessly with Apple’s ecosystem of products. Pairing the earbuds with every Apple product you own is a two-second process, battery life and range are incredible, and you talk to Siri thanks “Hey Siri” integration.


Left: Powerbeats Pro charging case. Right: AirPods (2019) wireless charging case. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The first thing I noticed when opening the packaging was the size of the charging case. It’s the first thing anyone who has used the AirPods will notice. The case, and therefore the earbuds, are much larger than the AirPods. The case isn’t what I could consider pocketable. Sure, it will most likely fit in your jean pockets, but it’s not going to be comfortable.

In addition to the charging case and the earbuds themselves, Beats includes a black Lightning cable and three additional sets of ear tips. The different sized ear tips are easy to swap out, and allow you to find the right fit for each of your ears.

I started with the pre-installed tips, but eventually changed to the smallest size. I found it the be the right size for my ears and their comfort, with the added benefit of a tighter seal with my ear improving the sound quality.

I’ve never really enjoyed wearing earbuds that have an ear hook, mainly because I wear glasses. I can’t seem to find a comfortable way to position the ear hook and the stem from my glasses, leading to soreness on the back of my ear. It’s a problem amplified by the fact that I often wear a baseball hat, which then fights with my glasses and the ear hook. The same was true about my experience with the Powerbeats Pro for the first couple of days. Eventually, either my ears adjusted or I found the right alignment, and I’m finding the earbuds more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.

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I don’t run, but I did test how well the Powerbeats Pro stay in place with a couple of short jogs, and at no point did I feel as if the earbuds moved around or felt as if they were going.

Powerbeats Pro-1.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

There are three total buttons on the main body of each earbud. The Beats logo doubles as a button that’s used to control playback. There’s also a volume up and down button that comes in handy when you don’t want to talk to Siri to adjust volume. A sensor on the inside of each earbud detects your ear and will auto connect or begin playing audio when you first put it in your ear. Taking it out will pause whatever you’re listening to — and, yes, that feature works for Android and iPhone users alike.

Charging the case is done via a Lightning port on the back of the case, with an indicator light on the front of the case letting you know if the case’s current level. The earbuds themselves go into the case, with magnets holding the buds in place and helping align the two charging pins with the contacts on their underside.


Pairing Powerbeats Pro with iPhone.gif

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Pairing the Powerbeats Pro with an iOS device takes just a couple of seconds. With your iOS device unlocked, open the Powerbeats Pro case and wait for an alert. Tap connect, and you’re done. As Apple does with the AirPods, the pairing is carried over to the rest of your iCloud-linked Apple devices automatically. Meaning, you don’t have to worry about pairing the earbuds with your Mac, iPad, or Apple Watch if you used an iPhone for initial setup.

Android and Windows users aren’t left out, though. You can pair the Powerbeats Pro as you would any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds. The button controls still work, and as previously mentioned, so does the automatic ear detection feature.

Beats touts nine hours of battery life, with the charging case capable of adding another 15 hours to that total. In theory, with the case and earbuds fully charged, you should have enough power for 24 hours of listening. I think the longest amount of continuous listening I achieved was just over four hours, and there was still over 50% charge left on both earbuds. If you do run out of battery, five minutes in the charging case adds 1.5 hours of power. Leave the earbuds in the case for 15 minutes, and Beats claims you’ll get four hours of use.

The range of the Powerbeats Pro was impressive, regardless of the device I was currently using. At one point during my testing, I was using the Powerbeats Pro with a Pixel 3 XL, and accidentally left my phone in the basement of my house. I went upstairs, out through my garage, and to the front curb of my house before the audio stopped. It was only when I reached for my phone that I realized it was still sitting on the counter in my basement, over 100 feet away, with several walls and layers of concrete in between. The same range and lack of interference when using the Powerbeats Pro with an iPad Pro and iPhone XS Max.

Most days, I work from home in a quiet office. Testing earbuds or headphones and their ability to block out background noise isn’t really possible in that environment, so during my testing of the Powerbeats Pro, I ventured out to a coffee shop.

The Powerbeats Pro do a better job at blocking out background noise than the AirPods, but don’t block everything out. I could still hear the the constant chatter, a random whir of a blender, and the occasional banging of a cup against the counter. The decreased background noise is a benefit of having changeable ear tips (presumably, a benefit that would increase if you’re able to find foam tips to replace the soft ear tips that come in the box).

When it comes to sound quality, the Powerbeats Pro sound slightly crisper, with better bass when compared to the AirPods. Prior to switching to the smaller ear tips, I wasn’t convinced there was a real difference in sound quality between the two. But after finding the right fit and using them for a few more days, I’m firmly of the belief that the Powerbeats Pro are the better-sounding earbuds, which goes to show that finding the right fit for your ears is key to improving the overall experience, especially when it comes to sound.


I’m still torn on whether or not I like using the Powerbeats Pro more than the AirPods. I like the idea of better battery life, but then again, I rarely find myself completely draining the AirPods in one listening session. I do enjoy the improved sound quality of the Powerbeats Pro, though I never really found the AirPods lacking. And I do appreciate the smaller footprint of the AirPod’s charging case and earbuds themselves, but the Powerbeats Pro case easily fits in my backpack.

I think the bottom line is this: If you hate the look of the AirPods but don’t want to miss out on the ease of pairing and switching device, battery life, and impressive range — the Powerbeats Pro are made for you.

Disclosure: ZDNet earns commissions from some of the products featured on this page.

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Snap had its best quarter in four years – TechCrunch



If you’ve started using Snapchat more regularly this year, you’re not alone. At yesterday’s Q2 earnings call, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel announced that the platform grew both revenue and daily active users at the highest rates it has achieved in the last four years. Snapchat now has 293 million daily active users, growing 23% since last year.

Snap went public in 2017 with a $24 billion valuation, but not long before then, the ephemeral photo sharing app experienced a massive hiccup: Instagram cloned their then-unique Stories feature. After Instagram Stories launched, Snapchat’s growth slowed by 82%. Then, when Snapchat redesigned its app’s interface, Kylie Jenner tweeted that she didn’t use the app anymore, causing the company’s valuation to drop by $1.2 billion.

But Snapchat held on and made a comeback. Its revenue reached an all-time high of $911 million in Q4 of 2020, then went down to $770 million the following quarter. Now, Snapchat’s revenue in Q2 of 2021 surpasses its previous high to reach $982 million.

The app’s Q2 growth could be attributed to the return of advertisers who scaled back their spending during the height of the pandemic, as well as the retention of users that flocked to the app while in lockdown. Like many social media platforms, Snapchat grew its revenue and user base during the pandemic, but this isn’t just a matter of re-engaging users with an app that they grew out of. As TikTok exploded on the scene and the creator economy boomed, Snapchat kept up by creating Spotlight, a TikTok clone, and investing in the applications of augmented reality.

“We made significant progress with our augmented reality platform this quarter,” Spiegel said. “More than 200 million Snapchatters engage with AR every day on average, and over 200,000 creators use Lens Studio to build AR Lenses for our community.”

Last month, Snapchat went viral for its Cartoon 3D Style Lens, which makes you look like a character in a Pixar movie. Spiegel specifically mentioned this lens as a feature that “highlighted the power of Lenses to go viral both inside and outside of Snapchat.” But beyond fun face filters, Snapchat has been using AR to woo e-commerce partners. The app has developed AR experiences for Walt Disney World, Smile Direct Club, Zenni Optical, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Ralph Lauren and more. This includes try-on capabilities for watches, jewelry, eyewear, handbags, makeup and even clothing. At its Partner Summit in May, Snapchat revealed an update that lets users scan friends’ outfits to find shopping recommendations for similar styles.

“We have a lot more work ahead to build out our technology and increase AR adoption, but we are thrilled with the results that our partners are seeing as we invest in our long-term camera opportunity,” said Jeremi Gorman, Snap’s chief business officer. “We are confident in our long-term opportunity, and are excited to double down on shopping and commerce via augmented reality.”

In March, Snap acquired Fit Analytics, a Berlin-based startup that helps shoppers find the right-sized apparel and footwear when shopping online. Combined with Snap’s investment in AR, could we eventually use AR to see which size of clothing to order? The application of that sort of technology would need to be handled sensitively, especially as the rates of eating disorders in teens are on the rise.

Beyond e-commerce, Snapchat has sought out strategic partnerships with entertainment companies like HBO Max and Universal Music Group and doubled down on its Spectacles, glasses that create AR experiences. Of course, Facebook is working on AR glasses too. But for both companies, Snap’s recent successes show the rising adoption and value of AR experiences.


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Jack Dorsey says bitcoin will be a big part of Twitter’s future – TechCrunch



Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to investors that bitcoin will be a “big part” of the company’s future, as he sees opportunities to integrate the cryptocurrency into existing Twitter products and services, including commerce, subscriptions and other new additions like the Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows.

Dorsey has been a staunch bitcoin advocate for years, but how it would be put into action on Twitter’s platform had not yet been spelled out in detail. However, Dorsey has often publicly touted the cryptocurrency, saying it reminds him of the “early days of the internet” and that there wasn’t “anything more important” in his lifetime for him to work on.

More recently, Dorsey launched a $23.6 million bitcoin fund with Jay Z and announced plans to lead his other company Square into the decentralized financial services market by way of bitcoin. Square also this year acquired a majority stake in Jay-Z’s TIDAL music service with an eye toward how blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies could change the music business.

Today, Dorsey also dubbed bitcoin one of three key trends for Twitter’s future, along with AI and decentralization — the latter which Twitter is pursuing through its “Bluesky” initiative.

He touted bitcoin to investors on Twitter’s second quarter earnings call, saying it could help the company move faster in terms of its product expansions, while explaining that it was the “best candidate” to become the “native currency” of the internet. (Incidentally, Square’s $50 million in bitcoin purchased in 2020 was worth $253 million by February 2021, and it purchased $170 million more earlier this year.)

“If the internet has a native currency, a global currency, we are able to able to move so much faster with products such as Super Follows, Commerce, Subscriptions, Tip Jar, and we can reach every single person on the planet because of that instead of going down a market-by-market-by-market approach,” Dorsey explained. “I think this is a big part of our future. I think there is a lot of innovation above just currency to be had, especially as we think about decentralizing social media more and providing more economic incentive. So I think it’s hugely important to Twitter and to Twitter shareholders that we continue to look at the space and invest aggressively in it,” he added.

A Twitter rep confirmed this is the first time that Dorsey has spoken publicly about how Twitter could integrate bitcoin into its product lineup.

Dorsey also pointed out Twitter would not be alone in pursuing a crypto strategy, noting that Facebook was backing the digital currency Diem.

“There’s an obvious need for this, and appreciation for it. And I think that an open standard that’s native to the internet is the right way to go, which is why my focus and our focus eventually will be on bitcoin,” he noted.

Overall, Twitter delivered strong earnings in a pandemic rebound, which saw the company posting its fastest revenue growth since 2014, according to CNBC, which drove Twitter shares 9% higher in extended trading. The company pulled in Q2 revenue of $1.19 billion versus the $1.07 billion Wall Street expected, a majority ($1.05 billion) from its advertising business. It also saw earnings per share of 20 cents versus the 7 cents expected.

However, monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) — Twitter’s own invented metric meant to fluff up often flat monthly user growth — were only at 206 million, an 11% year-over-year increase, while analysts were counting on 206.2 million. The company blamed the decline on a slower news cycle and end of shelter-in-place in many U.S. communities, which may have impacted Twitter usage during the quarter.


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Tumblr users lash out against its beta subscription feature – TechCrunch



The Tumblr community often refers to itself as the Wild West of the internet, and they’re not wrong. A text post with over 70,000 notes puts it best: “Tumblr is my favorite social media site because this place is literally uninhabitable for celebrities. No verification system, no algorithm that boosts their posts, it’s a completely lawless wasteland for them.”

But like any social media company, Tumblr needs to keep itself afloat in order for its users to continue sharing esoteric fan art, incomprehensible shitposts, and overly personal diary entries hidden beneath a “Read More” button. Yesterday, Tumblr announced the limited beta test of its Post+ subscription feature, which — if all goes as planned — will eventually let Tumblr users post paywalled content to subscribers that pay them $3.99, $5.99 or $9.99 per month.

Image Credits: Tumblr

Tumblr is far from the first social media platform to seek revenue this way — Twitter is rolling out Super Follows and a Tip Jar feature, and this week, YouTube announced a tipping feature too. Even Instagram is working on its own version of Twitter’s Super Follows that would let users create “exclusive stories.” But on a website with a community that prides itself as being a “completely lawless wasteland” for anyone with a platform (save for Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman, who are simply just vibing), the move toward paywalled content was not welcomed with open arms.

Monetization is a double-edged sword. It’s not considered uncool for a Tumblr artist to link to a third-party Patreon or Ko-fi site on their blog, where their most enthusiastic followers can access paywalled content or send them tips. So Post+ seems like an obvious way for Tumblr to generate revenue — instead of directing followers to other websites, they could build a way for fans to support creators on their own platform while taking a 5% cut. This isn’t unreasonable, considering that Twitter will take 3% revenue from its new monetization tools, while video-centric platforms like YouTube and Twitch take 30% and 50%, respectively. But Tumblr isn’t Twitter, or YouTube, or Twitch. Unlike other platforms, Tumblr doesn’t allow you to see other people’s follower counts, and no accounts are verified. It’s not as easy to tell whether the person behind a popular post has 100 followers or 100,000 followers, and the users prefer it that way. But Post+ changes that, giving bloggers an icon next to their username that resembles a Twitter blue check.

A Tumblr Post+ creator profile

Tumblr rolled out Post+ this week to a select group of hand-picked creators, including Kaijuno, a writer and astrophysicist. The platform announced Post+ on a new blog specific to this product, rather than its established staff blog, which users know to check for big announcements. So, as the most public user who was granted access, the 24-year-old blogger was the target of violent backlash from angry Tumblrites who didn’t want to see their favorite social media site turn into a hypercapitalist hellscape. When Kaijuno received death threats for beta testing Post+, Tumblr’s staff intervened and condemned harassment against Post+ users.

“We want to hear about what you like, what you love, and what concerns you. Even if it’s not very nice. Tell us. We can take it,” Tumblr wrote on its staff blog. “What we won’t ever accept is the targeted harassment and threats these creators have endured since this afternoon. […] all they’re doing is testing out a feature.”

Before making their post, a representative from Tumblr’s staff reached out to Kaijuno directly to check in on them regarding the backlash, but there’s only so much that Tumblr can do after a user has already been threatened for using their product.

“I felt like the sacrificial lamb, because they didn’t announce Post+ beforehand and only gave it to a few people, which landed me in the crosshairs of a very pissed-off user base when I’m just trying to pay off medical bills by giving people the option to pay for content,” Kaijuno told TechCrunch. “I knew there’d be some backlash because users hate any sort of change to Tumblr, but I thought that the brunt of the backlash would be at the staff, and that the beta testers would be spared from most of it.”

Why do Tumblr users perceive monetization as such a threat? It’s not a question of whether or not it’s valuable to support creators, but rather, whether Tumblr is capable of hosting such a service. Multiple long-time, avid Tumblr users that spoke to TechCrunch referenced an incident in late 2020 when people’s blogs were being hacked by spam bots that posted incessant advertisements for a Ray-Ban Summer Sale.

“Tumblr is not the most well-coded website. It’s easy to break features,” Kaijuno added. “I think anything involving trusting Tumblr with your financial information would have gotten backlash.”

Tumblr users also worried about the implications Post+ could have on privacy — in the limited beta, Post+ users only have the ability to block people who are subscribed to their blog if they contact Tumblr support. In cases of harassment by a subscriber, this could leave a blogger vulnerable in a potentially dangerous situation.

“Ahead of our launch to all U.S.-based creators this fall, Post+ will allow creators to block subscribers directly,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Still, the Extremely Online Gen Z-ers who now make up 48% of Tumblr know that they can’t expect the platform to continue existing if it doesn’t pull in enough money to pay for its staff and server fees. In 2018, Tumblr lost almost one-third of its monthly page views after all NSFW content was banned — since then, the platform’s monthly traffic has remained relatively stagnant.

Image Credits: SimilarWeb

A former Tumblr employee told TechCrunch that the feature that became Post+ started out as a Tip Jar. But higher-ups at Tumblr — who do not work directly with the community — redirected the project to create a paywalled subscription product.

“I think a Tip Jar would be a massive improvement,” said the creator behind the Tumblr blog normal-horoscopes. Through the core audience they developed on Tumblr, they make a living via Patreon, but they don’t find Post+ compelling for their business. “External services [like Patreon] have more options, more benefits, better price points, and as a creator I get to choose how I present them to my audience.”

But a paywalled subscription service is different in the collective eyes of Tumblr. For a site that thrives on fandom, creators that make fan art and fanfiction worry that placing this derivative work behind a paywall — which Post+ encourages them to do — will land them in legal trouble. Even Archive of Our Own, a major fanfiction site, prohibits its users from linking to sites like Patreon or Ko-Fi.

“Built-in monetization attracts businesses, corporate accounts, people who are generally there to make money first and provide content second,” said normal-horoscopes. “It changes the culture of a platform.”

Across Tumblr, upset users are rallying for their followers to take Post+’s feedback survey to express their frustrations. The staff welcomes this.

“As with any new product launch, we expect our users to have a healthy discussion about how the feature will change the dynamics of how people use Tumblr,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Not all of this feedback will be positive, and that’s OK. Constructive criticism fuels how we create products and ultimately makes Tumblr a better place.”

Tumblr’s vocal community has been empowered over the years to question whether it’s possible for a platform to establish new revenue streams in a way that feels organic. The protectiveness that Tumblr’s user base feels for the site — despite their lack of faith in staff — sets it apart from social media juggernauts like Facebook, which can put e-commerce front and center without much scrutiny. But even three years after the catastrophic porn ban, it seems hard for Tumblr to grow without alienating the people that make the social network unique.

Platforms like Reddit and Discord have remained afloat by selling digital goods, like coins to reward top posters, or special emojis. Each company’s financial needs are different, but Tumblr’s choice to monetize with Post+ highlights the company’s lack of insight into its own community’s wishes.

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