Today’s the day Samsung will announce its latest crop of flagship smartphones, widely expected to be the Galaxy S23 lineup. The Unpacked launch event kicks off at 1PM ET / 10AM PT, with the new Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S23 / S23 Plus, Galaxy Book3 Ultra, and Galaxy Book3.
In other news, we’ll be saying goodbye to an excellent VR game and a collection of classic Xbox 360 titles soon. Meta is shutting down Echo VR, one of the better multiplayer VR titles available for its VR headsets, and Microsoft is pulling a bunch of beloved games — including Jet Set Radio and The Orange Box — from the Xbox 360 Marketplace in a week’s time. When it comes to digitally downloaded and multiplayer games, nothing lasts forever.
But here’s some good news: AMD thinks the PC market should pick up in the second half of this year, even if the total market will shrink by 10 percent throughout the course of 2023.
For now, here’s a silly tweet to start your day:
Stay tuned, as we continue to update this list with the most important news of today: Wednesday, February 1st, 2023.
A California judge is allowing Meta to close its acquisition of virtual reality fitness startup Within despite an ongoing antitrust case by the Federal Trade Commission, according to an unsealed ruling. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the court denied the FTC’s request to block the deal but with a one-week delay that will give the FTC time to appeal. The orders were posted on Tuesday, and a status hearing on the case is set for February 7th.Read Article >
The FTC sued in July of 2022 to stop Meta’s acquisition of Within, which makes the popular VR app Supernatural. The agency argued that Meta’s purchase would expand its dominance in the consumer VR market, where Meta has staked many of its resources in recent years. The commission highlighted Meta’s previous merger with the company behind Beat Saber in 2019, claiming that the addition of Within would eliminate a “beneficial rivalry” between the two companies.
Feb 2Apple’s movie about Tetris is set to debut at SXSW in March.
Based on the true story of American video game salesman Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) and his discovery of Tetris in 1988. When he sets out to bring the game to the world, he enters a dangerous web of lies and corruption behind the Iron Curtain.
I’m hoping we get a trailer with an overly-dramatic version of the Tetris theme song.
During Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings call with investors today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained why he wants to make this the “year of efficiency.”Read Article >
“I just think we’ve entered somewhat of a phase change for the company,” he said, noting that headcount steadily climbed for nearly two decades, making it “very hard to really crank on efficiency while you’re growing that quickly.” Now, after laying off roughly 11,000 employees and putting a pause on most hiring, he is focused on “increasing the efficiency of how we make decisions.”
Feb 2Microsoft’s making the Stream Deck a Teams controller.
Elgato’s Stream Decks have long been useful for controlling videoconferencing software, and it seems like Microsoft has realized this — it’s releasing an official Teams plugin for the device that will let you mute yourself, leave the meeting, raise your hand, and more.
You can download it here, but you may need to wait for an update to Teams to use it.
Another day, another company announces it’s laying off 6 percent of employees. Today, that company is Rivian, the EV automaker that had one of the biggest IPOs of 2021 but has since struggled to hit its targets as manufacturing and supply chain problems mount.Read Article >
The layoffs also come amid a looming EV price war, in which Tesla and Ford have lowered prices on their flagships vehicles. Other automakers have said they are not ready to slash prices on their own EVs, but analysts predict that more companies will follow. Rivian currently sells three models: the R1T truck and the R1S SUV, as well as the EDV, which stands for electric delivery van.
Another year, another round of flagship Samsung phones. This time around, Samsung used its Unpacked event to announce a new line of Galaxy Books, in addition to the Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra. The latter probably feels familiar to last year’s S22 generation, as there are once again three models to choose from: a big-ish one, a bigger one, and the biggest one. That last one, the S23 Ultra, features souped-up specs, a stylus, and some big megapixel gains. However, each member of the S23 family is promising faster performance than last year’s model thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processors.Read Article >
The S23 flock starts at $799.99 and goes up to $1,199.99 (unless you opt for pricey storage upgrades), and all three models are set to arrive on February 17th. That gives you plenty of time to mull over your purchase decision, especially if you don’t feel obligated to be an early adopter. That said, Samsung is once again getting out of the gate early with some promos for those tempted to spring for a new smartphone right away.
Feb 1“It’s more of a declarative announcement.”
I’m as intrigued by a Google/Samsung AR/VR teamup as the next person, but these are some of the most impressively inane statements I’ve ever read. Meaningful plans! The spatial internet! A new generation of immersive computing experiences! It’s the XR hype equivalent of foam packing peanuts. Somebody’d better show up to the next Samsung Unpacked in Google Glass.
AMD has announced the pricing for its flagship 7000X3D chips as well as when you’ll be able to get them. The Ryzen 9 7950X3D will cost $699, with the 7900X3D coming in at $599. Both chips will be available on February 28th. The Ryzen 7 7800X3D, meanwhile, has seemingly been delayed a bit and will be released on April 6th for $449.Read Article >
When AMD announced the chips last month, it was exciting to see that the company was bringing 3D V-Cache technology to even more chips in its lineup. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D was the previous standard-bearer for the tech, and that chip received a lot of praise — what would chips with up to double the number of cores be capable of?
OpenAI has announced ChatGPT Plus, a $20 monthly plan that gives you priority access to the AI chatbot, even during peak time where free users would have to wait. The company also says the plan will give you “faster response times” and “priority access to new features and improvements.”Read Article >
OpenAI says it’ll be sending out invitations for the service to people who are in the US and on its waitlist “over the coming weeks” and that it’ll be expanding the rollout to other countries and regions in the future.
Samsung’s S-series phones actually look like they belong together this year. The S23 and S23 Plus have adopted the floating camera design of the Ultra, making for a much more cohesive trio this time around. They’re even all available in the same colors.Read Article >
Under the hood, they have all of the incremental updates we expected, including slightly bigger batteries and updated selfie cameras. Both models use a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, but there’s a twist here: it’s the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, with an upgraded GPU and overclocked 3.36GHz processor. Pricing for the phones hasn’t budged: the Galaxy S23 starts at $799 and the S23 Plus starts at $999. Both are available for preorder today and will ship on February 17th.
Samsung has announced the Galaxy Book3 Ultra, a 16-inch workstation laptop with a 120Hz OLED screen, an H-Series Core i7 or Core i9, and an RTX 4050 or 4070 GPU.Read Article >
Samsung makes a number of Galaxy Book models, but this is the first one of the past few years that has really targeted the deep-pocketed professional user — that is, the core audience for Apple’s high-powered and wildly expensive MacBook Pro 16. It’ll start at $2,399.99 ($100 cheaper than the base MacBook Pro 16), with a release date still to be announced.
Samsung has announced its new Galaxy Book3 laptop line. As their name implies, these laptops are sequels to the Galaxy Book2 devices that Samsung released last year. The Book3 devices are visibly similar to their Book2 predecessors in many ways; the biggest major changes are to the processors and the displays.Read Article >
The Book3 line includes Intel’s 13th Gen Core processors as well as a new screen that Samsung calls the Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display. The panel is already used in the Galaxy phone line, and the “2X” just indicates a 120Hz refresh rate. The panels will also have 2880 x 1800 resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio across models. That’s going to be taller and roomier than the 16:9 displays that the Galaxy Book2 line had. And, naturally, they are OLED, with all of the punchy colors, wide viewing angles, fast response times, and deep blacks that come with that technology.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is an S22 Ultra with an extra layer of polish — figuratively speaking. Compared to the outgoing model, it comes with an updated processor, a new 200-megapixel main camera sensor, and a tweak to the form factor. The built-in S Pen is still here, naturally. And thankfully the price hasn’t inflated. In fact, the starting MSRP of $1,199.99 now comes with 256GB of storage — double last year’s base model. It’s a little extra shine on what was already Samsung’s star smartphone.Read Article >
The high-res camera is the big story on the S23 Ultra, making the jump from 108 megapixels to 200 megapixels this year. That doesn’t mean you’ll be taking 200 megapixel photos with it; most of the time, it bins 16 pixels together to improve light gathering and spits out a much more manageable 12-megapixel image. You can take a 200- or 50-megapixel image, but most of us aren’t making wall-size prints of our photos and don’t need that kind of resolution. Samsung also claims that the main camera’s optical image stabilization is more robust this year, correcting for 3 degrees of shake versus 1.5.
Lara Croft is back in a new roguelike Tomb Raider mobile game for iOS and Android. The game, Tomb Raider Reloaded, launches in just a couple weeks on February 14th, and Netflix subscribers will be able to play version of Reloaded with no ads or in-app purchases.Read Article >
A roguelike Tomb Raider does seem like a promising idea — potentially infinite tombs to raid! If you want a better idea of what to expect, here’s the official synopsis for the game from Reloaded’s Google Play page:
Sony will stop offering the PlayStation Plus Collection, which gave PS5 players who subscribed to PlayStation Plus access to more than a dozen classic PS4 titles, on May 9th, the company announced on Wednesday. The PlayStation Plus Collection was a great perk for PS5 owners who were Plus subscribers early in the console’s life, but now that perk will be going away.Read Article >
If you haven’t claimed the games yet, you’ll have until May 9th to do so. Once you’ve claimed the games, you can still access them after May 9th as long as you are subscribed to PlayStation Plus.
“If you’ve been wondering whether or not Peloton can make an epic comeback, this quarter’s results show the changes we’re making are working,” Peloton CEO Barry McCarthy wrote Wednesday in an investor letter accompanying the company’s Q2 2023 earnings report.Read Article >
McCarthy is no stranger to bold claims, but a year after taking the helm of the troubled company, it seems like the numbers are starting to back him up. In its Q2 2023 earnings report, Peloton reported a loss of $335.4 million compared to $439.4 million this time last year. On the surface, a loss doesn’t seem like a win — especially since it’s Peloton’s eighth consecutive quarter without turning a profit. However, it’s the narrowest loss Peloton’s reported ever since it started pedaling its business off a cliff at the end of 2021.
It’s February, folks. For many of us, that means a month of dreary weather and seasonal depression, but today, we can cheer ourselves up with coverage of Samsung’s impending Unpacked event and some sick tech deals.Read Article >
Starting us off, Apple’s latest iPad Air is on sale in its base 64GB configuration for $499.99 ($100 off) at Best Buy and Amazon — or $649.99 ($100 off) for 256GB at Best Buy and Amazon if you prefer more storage. This return to its lowest prices makes this iPad one of the best values across the whole range of Apple’s tablets, in part because it’s the cheapest way to get the speedy M1 processor. At this price, it’s just $50 more than the 10th-gen “entry-level” iPad, but it’s faster, has a laminated 10.9-inch screen that is much nicer to look at, and supports the second-gen Apple Pencil without a weird wired charging mess. If you want an iPad for a mix of entertainment consumption and some light creativity / productivity work, the fifth-gen iPad Air is a hard value to beat without shopping used. Read our review.
Feb 1Samsung’s event live stream is right here.
We expect to see some new phones and laptops from Samsung today, which it will announce during its first in-person event in three years. But you don’t have to be there in person to see it all, there’s still a live stream that anyone can tune into for the news. The show starts at 1PM ET / 10AM PT.
The latest Kindle Paperwhite has finally caught up with the new Kindle, which sounds weird, so let me explain: Amazon is making the 16GB Kindle Paperwhite and 32GB Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition available in new soft “denim” blue and “Agave Green” shades in addition to the standard black colorway.Read Article >
That means now you can buy both the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite and the new base Kindle — which Amazon released in October — in multiple colors.
Feb 1“The problem in trucking is that drivers are incentivized to work themselves well beyond healthy limits—sometimes to death.”
This heart-breaking story on the digital surveillance of long-haul truckers is worth your time — because trucking is a place where worker surveillance is being tested.
And not just worker surveillance! Artificial intelligence is used, for instance, for “an array of prototypes that will likely define the future of automated oversight: biometric cameras that can monitor truckers’ eyelids for fatigue, or biometric vests that can detect a heart attack.”
Truckers deserve better.Surveillance and the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Trucker
[The New Yorker]
Feb 1Is Netflix’s ad-supported tier starting to catch on?
After getting off to a slow start, The Information reports that signups to Netflix’s $6.99 per month Basic with Ads plan doubled from December to January.
We still don’t know how many people are signed up for the ad-supported plan, but maybe that increase means Netflix won’t have to refund advertisers for missing viewership targets.Netflix Tells Advertisers Sign-Ups to Ad Tier Doubled in January
Feb 1Today’s Vergecast: HomePod review, the Steam Deck one year later, and faking your death online
Big show! Alex Cranz, Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, Chris Welch, and Nilay Patel discuss The Verge’s review of Apple’s new second-gen HomePod. How much actually changed?
Later, Katharine Trendacosta and Alex Cranz discuss why and how faking your death has been a common practice on the internet (don’t do it).
- Do you happen to own a 20-year-old forum for sex workers?
The community over at Stripperweb has questions for the forum's anonymous owner after a banner appeared last week announcing that, for reasons unknown, it would be shutting down on February 1st.
Described as the “Holy Grail of strippers’ knowledge,” some sex workers are offering to buy the site, while others have swiftly learned Python in order to preserve the forum's vast resources and history.
NBCUniversal will no longer be offering a free membership tier for new customers subscribing to its Peacock streaming service. As of January 30th, new Peacock customers will now need to subscribe to the Premium plan ($4.99 / month) with ads or Premium Plus ($9.99 / month) without ads to access content on the platform, as first reported by The Streamable.Read Article >
A great deal of marketing for Peacock’s streaming debut in 2020 focused on the free membership tier, even introducing the service alongside the tagline “free as a bird.” The free membership was supported by ads and gave users access to a limited selection of Peacock content. Existing users will continue to have access to the free tier of Peacock, as will Premium Peacock subscribers who want to step down from their current paid membership.
Feb 1Green light.
This one’s pretty simple — it’s Galaxy S23 Day. Samsung will show off some new hardware (including stuff that’s already leaked) during its event that will start at 1PM ET.
Then later this afternoon, we’ll hear an earnings report from Meta.