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iOS Gains New Emoji, Showtime Joins More Expensive Paramount+, Instagram Launches Channels TechCrunch

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Hey, best friends of TechCrunch. After a week in Korea and the Philippines, it’s great to be back in the States—and a little more tanned (i.e., burnt) than before. Many thanks to Henry, who has had to step in for the past two weeks thanks to my failure to realize that Korean Air no Wi-Fi is provided on board. Talk about a good sport.

If you’re wondering about Greg’s situation, don’t worry — he’s due back from well-deserved parental leave in a month and has changed. In the meantime, I’m here to tease you about TechCrunch’s upcoming major events.

TechCrunch’s early stage is fast approaching — it’s on April 20th in Boston this year, and it’ll host experts from across the venture and tech scene who will be talking solutions to kickstarting a startup. (Also in Boston: City Spotlight, which kicks off Feb. 27.) On the far horizon is TechCrunch Disrupt (September 19-21), which promises to be an absolute blast this year. After glancing at the initial guest list, let me just say this: You won’t be disappointed.

With those administrative parts out of the way, let’s get started with the Week in Review. (If you want it in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here.) Here are the top stories from the past several days!

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Intermittent aspirations: Takes Exclusive reports that allegedly dash CEO Prince Boakye Boampong has been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into financial irregularities at the company. Boampong, one of Africa’s most famous serial entrepreneurs, is said to be accused of involvement in misleading financial reports; Sources tell TechCrunch that executives have repeatedly hidden financial data within the company while laying off employees at will. Prior to Boampong’s alleged suspension, Dash had raised tens of millions in venture capital at a valuation of over $200 million.

New iOS, New Emoji: Apple has released the iOS 16.4 developer beta, which brings with it the next set of emojis coming to iPhones. The emojis were originally revealed during the draft phase last year, and they include categories such as food, drink, activity, objects, animals, and symbols. pleasant He writes that among the highlights are differences in the heart emoji, nudging hand gestures, and the “shaken face” emoji. Curious users can check out the new additions by enrolling in the Apple Developer Program.

Pony Reaches Paramount: Ahead of the launch of “Paramount+ with Showtime,” a new streaming TV service bundle that will see Showtime merge with Paramount+, Paramount announced that it will increase the price of its Paramount+ Premium tier from $9.99 per month to $11.99 per month. It’s not an unexpected move — Paramount CEO Bob Bakish telegraphed the plans in early December — but it nonetheless could put Paramount+ with Showtime at a disadvantage as it competes with Warner Bros.’s upcoming HBO Max/Discovery+ service. Discovery.

Feishu is the new Slack: Feishu, ByteDance’s Slack-like workplace collaboration app, topped $100 million in annual recurring revenue last year, Rita He writes. ByteDance’s huge investment in Feishu informs the state of enterprise software in China. While Silicon Valley investors herald product-led growth, software in China still relies largely on sales, marketing, and services to recruit users.

Instagram directive: This week, Instagram launched a new chat broadcasting feature called Channels. Aisha Reports indicate that it allows creators to share one-to-many public messages to interact directly with their followers. Channels support text, images, polls, reactions, and more. Instagram has started testing channels with select creators in the US and plans to expand the feature in the coming months.

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Salesforce under pressure: Salesforce is looking for new ways to cut costs as activist investors put pressure on the company. This week, Salesforce implemented tougher performance metrics for engineering, with some salespeople under pressure to quit or submit to their own harsh performance policies. like Ron Likely, he writes, it was related to the fact that activist investors were circling around the company, no doubt pushing management to increase productivity and cut expenses.

Tesla Dog Safety Concerns: Tesla this week issued a recall for a fully self-driving (FSD) pilot program, an advanced driver-assistance system that federal regulators say could allow vehicles to act unsafely around intersections. Affecting more than 362,000 vehicles, Telsa disclosed the recall was prompted in part by concerns that vehicles driven by the FSD might respond inadequately to changes in posted speed limits, among other concerns. FSD’s experimental software — from its name and Musk’s promises about its capabilities to its rollout and safety concerns — has been controversial, and has drawn scrutiny from regulatory agencies.

Capture users: Snapchat now has more than 750 million monthly active users (MAUs). The company announced the achievement during Investor Day on Thursday. pleasant reports. Snapchat said it sees a path to reach more than 1 billion people in the next two to three years, but it remains to be seen if it will actually make it there. Anyway, that 750 MAU puts Snapchat ahead of Pinterest (450 million) but behind Facebook (2.96 billion).

Tetris movie: This week, Apple TV+ released the first trailer for its movie “Tetris,” based on the original story of the popular puzzle video game. Starring Taron Egerton, who plays American video game salesman Henk Rogers, “Tetris” tells the story of Rogers and his mission to secure the rights to distribute the game. The film will premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, after which Apple will show it worldwide on Apple TV+ (on March 31).

My voice

TechCrunch has a great selection of audio programming, in case you weren’t aware. In other words, we’ve had podcasts for days. this week justiceAnd Mary Ann And pica I joined the mic to talk about Descope’s $53M seed round, the new Phenomenal Ventures fund and the latest Mexican New Bank raise. on is foundAnd Daryl And pica I spoke with Alex Rappaport, CEO and co-founder of ZwitterCo, making water recycling practical for industries and promoting product recovery with new filtration technology. And again in Techcrunch Livethe crew went live (not to repeat) with Christina Ross-turned-CFO-Chief Executive Officer and Mayfield fund partner Rajiv Batra, to talk about the story of Ross’ company, Cube, and how it meets its clients where they’re at.

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Techcrunch +

TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth comments, analysis, and polls – which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you aren’t, consider subscribing. Here are some highlights from this week:

egg but not: Pricing parity with conventional foods is one of the main challenges facing alternative protein start-ups. However, avian influenza, a shortage of cage-free eggs, and the subsequent price hike in late 2022 appear to provide an “entry” for egg replacement companies to show they can be competitive. Christine He takes a deep dive.

down but not out: Natasha M He writes how an emerging class of founders is reminding the tech ecosystem how invigorating a crash can be. The savvy talent for building startups is pouring in across all sectors, from climate to crypto to the creative economy. And they’re hoping to right where their university got it wrong – big tech companies and small start-ups alike.

Is the tech job market as bad as it seems?: Ron He investigates the state of the tech job market, and discovers that – while some numbers are low – it’s not a straightforward matter. Observable high level? Demand for technology workers, especially those with specialized skills such as engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity, continues to lag supply behind the number of open jobs.

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Smartphone scams are dead – Android Authority

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Robert Triggs/Android Authority

Ten years ago, the 2013 Samsung Galaxy S4 was a technological marvel. Android phones had only been around for a few years at that point, and it seemed like the Galaxy S4 could do a lot despite its small size. As consumers, we were delighted. So much so, that to this day the Galaxy S4 remains the best-selling Android phone of all time, with over 80 million units sold.

However, that was ten years ago – an eternity in the tech world. Things have changed dramatically since then. The smartphone tricks we saw in the Galaxy S4 — like the Smart Scroll, which let you scroll the contents of your screen by moving your head up or down — would be completely ridiculous to see in a 2023 phone.

Today, smartphones are ubiquitous gadgets, not technical marvels. Consumers are using their phones more than ever before, yes, but that has faded the shine. Modern smartphone buyers don’t want gimmicks. They want a phone that fixes the basics and hides in the background.

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In 2023, if a smartphone manufacturer thinks that some cool new trick will be the backbone that sells its phones, it will be in a world of disappointment. Not only will consumers care, but investing in research and development for this trick could do more harm than good.

What are the tricks of the smartphone?

Google Pixel 4 XL Long Range 2 review

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The term “gimmick” can be used broadly. In general, when it comes to smartphones, we think of gimmicks as features that are only applicable to very specific situations, appeal to a limited subset of users, or offer no real value (or some combination thereof).

One of history’s most egregious examples of smartphone scams was the Soli radar system in the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Soli was a set of front-facing radar sensors that could track your hand movements. They let you do things like pause the music simply by waving your hand near the screen. While Soli performed as advertised, consumers simply didn’t care, and the Pixel 4 series was the biggest failure in Pixel history.

If your star phone feature only appeals to a few people, it’s probably a gimmick.

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A more recent example came with the OnePlus 10 Pro last year. This phone was equipped with an ultra-high resolution camera with a field of view of 150 degrees. This was essentially a fish-eye lens, creating highly distorted images that looked unreal. Although software trickery helped fix images in post-processing, critics and consumers alike saw no need for such a bizarre lens. OnePlus eliminated the lens on this year’s OnePlus 10T and OnePlus 11.

Here are some other smartphone tricks we’ve seen:

  • foreign matter: OnePlus recently announced the Jupiter Rock Edition of the OnePlus 11. It has a back that is basically made of rock. Who asked for this?
  • Macro lenses: While a great telephoto lens can be an interesting addition to a solid lens collection, most of the time that’s not the case. Often, OEMs will throw in cheap 2MP macro lenses to make a phone look more premium than it is. In other words, the thought process is that more lenses = better cameras, which consumers are no longer fooled by.
  • Super fast charging: While it’s crazy to see 240W charging speeds on a smartphone (that’s fast enough to charge from empty to full in about ten minutes), who really needs that? These speeds are also said to be detrimental to the health of the battery, thus shortening the life of your phone.
  • Cooling systems: Lenovo Legion Duel 2 – a gaming phone – had a cooling fan built into it. While this is practical for a phone designed for gamers, it also made the phone unwieldy, prevented an IP rating, and made wireless charging impossible. It solved one problem at the expense of basic smartphone features. Likewise, OnePlus’ latest concept phone has a liquid cooling system that didn’t even work.

These gimmicks don’t help sell phones because they don’t give us what we really want: a great overall experience.

But what about phones in specific niches, like rugged phones? Is the rugged phone a gimmick? I’d argue it isn’t, but they also don’t sell in the numbers we’d see with something like the Galaxy S series. These phones exist for specific purposes for a specific consumer, so they get a special pass.

The current smartphone successes are all the evidence you need

Google Pixel 7 Pro camera housing

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

We know why smartphone manufacturers invest in these kinds of tricks. They obviously think they’ll help sell the phones or, at the very least, help their products stand out from the crowd. This is an odd strategy because the most successful phones tend to be relatively gimmick-free.

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Here in the US, the iPhone is by far the most popular smartphone. For the first time ever, Apple has more than 50% of the market in the US, leaving the other half to Android OEMs (mostly Samsung). The iPhone doesn’t have a lot of tricks. One could argue that Dynamic Island is a gimmick, but it’s one that consumers seem to enjoy, so it doesn’t really count.

Unsurprisingly, the most successful phones are also some of the most gimmick-free.

In second place, Samsung’s Galaxy S series also stands out as being gimmick-free. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s S Pen may be a bit gimmicky for some. However, it’s also incredibly popular and a calling card for a premium Galaxy experience, so we’ll be happy to let this feature slip. Despite this, the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus are pretty boring with how functional and no-nonsense they are. And guess what? The Galaxy S23 line is selling better than the Galaxy S22 line.

Of course, we can’t forget about Google’s pixel font. The Google Pixel 7 Pro doesn’t have any weird tricks up its sleeve, and was voted the best Android phone of 2022 by both Android Authority And our readers. It’s interesting that when Google gave up the tricks, it ended up selling more phones than ever before.

Obviously, phones can reach consumers without gimmicks. However, Dynamic Island and the S Pen show that there is still room for fun and doing things differently.

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However, phones can still be fun

None Phone Number 1 graphic on the back

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

We’ve already discussed plenty of examples of stupid smartphone tricks that get in the way of a good experience. However, some tricks work.

Take Nothing Phone 1, for example. The lights on the back of the device — officially known as The Glyph — appear to be a ridiculous gimmick. Once you use the phone, you will realize that it is actually an Android smartphone with a strange light show added. In other words, The Glyph can be ignored, and you’ll still get a great Android experience with a very fair cost-to-value ratio.

I’m not against the trick. There is plenty of room for fun features.

This is a great example of how doing tricks properly can be beneficial. Nothing crammed into The Glyph comes at the expense of wireless charging, a premium feel, or a decent camera system. Use the trick as a light garnish on top of a satisfying meal. It’s a beautiful detail that highlights an already well-done dish.

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Google’s Magic Eraser is another example of a gimmick that works. With the Pixel’s camera experience already being one of the best (if not the best) phone camera experiences available, the Magic Eraser feature exists as a useful tool for people looking to fix otherwise great photos. It was not Need Magic Eraser, but it’s practical and fun when you want it to be.

That’s all to say that smartphones don’t need to be boring. There’s plenty of room for fun gimmicks, cool aesthetics, and thought-provoking twists. But gimmicks can’t be the phone’s selling point. They must be side players.

OEMs will need to shift focus — or dump

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 1

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

Remember Lenovo Legion Duel 2, the phone with an integrated cooling system? Unfortunately, this trick didn’t work out very well for Lenovo. Recently, the company confirmed this Android Authority He shut down the Legion’s smartphone arm.

We’ve also mentioned OnePlus several times in this article. This company is not doing well either. There is a rumor that it could pull out along with sister brand OPPO from the European market either this year or in 2024. OnePlus has lost all carrier partnerships in the US, and its latest flagship — the OnePlus 11 — hasn’t gotten strong reviews. Again, tricks don’t seem to have helped here.

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What do you think of smartphone scams?

146 votes

This all supports my central argument: scams don’t sell phones. We’ve settled on wanting phones that excel at the essentials: battery life, camera, screen, usability, performance, and so on. I could also argue that design is just as important here, though it’s more subjective than something like battery life. What doesn’t matter are the extra lenses, radar systems, cooling fans, rock-solid backboards, and all the other tricks we’ve seen.

Companies that are stuck in 2013 and think cool gimmicks will sell a lot of phones will need to wake up from that dream sooner rather than later. Apple and Samsung eat your lunch and do so without relying on gimmicks. Make your phones awesome at a competitive price and we’ll buy it. Simply.

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All of my favorite games this year are old

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I also installed the original version Final Fantasy, the game that debuted when I was three years old, on Sony’s most advanced console yet, I came to a realization: everything I played this year was outdated. Between remakes, new releases, and vintage collections, there’s been a flood of nostalgia. I personally welcomed it.

These kinds of releases aren’t new, of course. What was different during the early months was the huge amount of classic releases. Two of the biggest movies so far this year – dead space And Resident Evil 4 – is a remake of titles from more than a decade ago. Both are slick, slick updates that don’t look out of place among recent big-budget releases, but part of what makes them so attractive is how straightforward they are. There are no open worlds filled with endless quests or live service items to keep you coming back. And most of these design decisions date back to their ages, as these games were made at a completely different time with very different expectations. In my review of Resident Evil 4 A remake, I called it “a video game like this,” and I meant that as a compliment.

Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp.
Image: Nintendo

But they can also be a lot of work, frequently setting in to be all-consuming experiences that keep you hooked and never let go. Oh I love Fortnite Like everyone else, but that’s not all I want from my video games. Whether it is as complicated as RE4 Or simply put a scene from the opera Final Fantasy VI On my PS5, these games have returned a simplicity and focus I often find missing from their modern contemporaries. vampire And Final Fantasy They are very different experiences, but they give me the same feeling of a whole solo journey that I’m supposed to play through from start to finish. Same goes for the other old games I’ve been playing.

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Playing—and in many cases, replaying—these games was an exercise in reminding myself of what could be so great about a medium. The largest modern versions tend to imitate each other to the point where they are almost indistinguishable from one another. That’s what makes a lot of indie releases so exciting, and likewise, what keeps me coming back for all these new releases of old games — so it’s good to me that this trend shows no sign of stopping.

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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell leaves Comcast due to ‘improper conduct’

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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell will leave Comcast, effective immediately. The telecom giant made the surprising announcement in a brief press release Released on Sunday. After an investigation prompted by a complaint of improper conduct, Comcast says it has reached a “joint” decision with Shell that he should resign from his position.

“Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal. I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell said in a joint statement. “I am really sorry that I left my colleagues at Comcast and NBCUniversal, they are the most talented people in this field and the opportunity to work with them over the past 19 years has been a privilege.”

Comcast has not named a successor to Shell. in a note obtained diverseComcast CEO Brian Roberts and President Mike Kavanagh told employees they were “disappointed” to share the news. “We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other. You must count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace,” they wrote. “When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here.”

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Shell joined Comcast in 2004. He became CEO of NBCUniversal in 2020. That same year, he oversaw the launch of Peacock. Shell leaves NBCUniversal without making the streaming service profitable. At the beginning of the year, Comcast told investors that it had done so Added five million paid subscribers During the last three months of 2022. However, over the same period, the company lost nearly $1 billion while operating the service.

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