Peacock stops offering its free tier to new subscribers

Peacock has stopped offerings its free tier to new customers. As first reported by The Streamable, potential subscribers who visit Peacock’s website will now only see two ways to access the platform: Peacock Premium and Premium Plus. Either way, if you’re new to Peacock, you’ll need to pay to access the service’s library of content. According to The Streamable, the free tier still exists but is only available to current users who cancel their Premium subscription or those who had access to a paid tier for free (for example, Cox internet customers). NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request.

The Streamable reports the removal is the result of a strategy shift within the company. NBCUniversal plans to release approximately 100,000 hours of new content to Peacock Premium through the end of 2023, including live sports content from the Premier League and Women’s World Cup. The platform’s subscriber total grew to 20 million in 2022, up from 9 million the year before. However, Peacock has yet to generate a profit for NBCUniversal owner Comcast. The company expects the service to start inching toward profitability in 2024. Presumably, it hopes to accelerate that timeline by doubling down on Peacock's Premium tiers. 

To make up for the removal, Peacock is offering a promotion to new subscribers. You can get an annual subscription to the ad-supported Premium tier for $30, down from $50 normally. We'll update this article with more information when we hear back from NBCUniversal.

Artifact is an AI-driven news aggregation app from the creators of Instagram

After a few years of staying mostly under the radar, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are back with a new project. It’s an app called Artifact, a name Systrom told Platformer’s Casey Newton is designed to evoke the project’s three tenants: “articles, facts and artificial intelligence.” In short, it’s a news aggregation app driven by a TikTok-like recommendation algorithm.

When you first launch Artifact, you’ll see a central feed populated by stories from publications like The New York Times. As you read more articles, the app will begin personalizing your feed. According to Systrom, the recommendation system Artifact’s team of seven built prioritizes how long you spend reading about certain subjects over clicks and comments. He added Artifact will feature news stories from both left and right-leaning outlets, though the company won’t allow posts that “promote falsehoods."

In the future, the app will also feature a social component. Systrom and Krieger plan to roll out a feed that will highlight articles from users you follow, alongside their commentary on that content. Additionally, you’ll be able to privately discuss posts through a direct-message inbox. At the moment, Systrom and Krieger are funding the project with their own money. They say Artifact represents a first attempt to imagine what the next generation of social apps could look like. If you want to give what they created a try, you can join a waiting list for the app’s iOS and Android beta. Systrom said the team plans to invite new users quickly.

The Internet Archive’s Calculator Drawer lets you relive high school math class

If you’ve been reading Engadget for a while, there’s a good chance your high school education involved using a scientific or graphing calculator during math class. Your old calculator might even be sitting in a desk drawer somewhere collecting dust. If you can't find it, the Internet Archive’s latest project is here to help (via Ars Technica).

With the help of the team behind the Multi-purpose Emulation Framework (MAME), a project that has spent the past 25 years creating software that can emulate all sorts of gadgets, the archive now offers emulated versions of some of the most popular calculators of the past few decades. In all, The Calculator Drawer features 14 different models for Internet Archive visitors to noodle around, including the venerable Texas Instruments TI-81 from 1990.

Not every calculator of note from the past 25 years is part of the collection. For instance, you won’t find the Casio fx-7000g, the world’s first graphing calculator, on the list, but if you used a Texas Instruments or HP model back in school, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that should feel familiar. And if you feel a bit overwhelmed by all the buttons, worry not; the Internet Archive has also uploaded manuals for most of the included calculators.

Cash-strapped EV startup Arrival is laying off half its staff

For the second time in less than a year, electric transport startup Arrival is cutting staff. The company announced Monday plans to lay off approximately 50 percent of its workforce. The move will reduce Arrival’s headcount to about 800 employees. In the middle of last year, Arrival warned it was strapped for cash, and the company’s financial position appears to have become more dire since.

As of the end of 2022, Arrival had $205 million cash on hand. Following its latest round of layoffs and a handful of other cost-cutting measures, Arrival says it expects to reduce the cost of day-to-day operations to about $30 million per quarter. Critically, Arrival’s plan to focus on the US market – and take advantage of Inflation Reduction Act incentives – is contingent on it raising more money from investors. Provided it can secure additional funding, Arrival expects to start Van production in Charlotte in 2024.

On Monday, Arrival also announced a leadership change. Less than three months after taking over as CEO, former Marvel Entertainment chief Peter Cuneo is handing over day-to-day operations to Igor Torgov, Arrival’s former executive vice president of Digital. Before joining the startup in 2020, Torgov held leadership positions at Atol, Bitfury, Yota, Columbus IT and Microsoft. It’s now on him to turn the once-promising startup around. Arrival said it would share more information about its financial position on March 9th.

The latest ‘Super Mario Bros. Movie’ trailer pits Cat Mario against Donkey Kong

Over the weekend, Nintendo shared a surprise trailer for TheSuper Mario Bros. Movie. The 30-second clip shows additional footage from a scene that was first featured in the trailer Nintendo released last November. More importantly, it marks our first chance to hear Seth Rogen’s take on Donkey Kong. After Mario dons his cat suit, first introduced in 2013’s Super Mario 3D World, Rogen’s Donkey Kong starts laughing. “You got the cat box! I’m sorry,” the ape tells his one-time nemesis before turning serious. “Now you die.”

With Sunday’s trailer, Nintendo has now offered fans a chance to hear the entire ensemble cast of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, including Chris Pratt as Mario, Jack Black as Bowser and Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach. Following the release of the film’s second trailer, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto said Nintendo redesigned Donkey Kong's model for the first time since the ape made the jump to 3D in 1994’s Donkey Kong Country. The company went for a more comical design reminiscent of Donkey Kong's original character. The Super Mario Bros. Movie will arrive in theaters on April 7th.

Samsung’s entry model Galaxy S23 could feature slower storage

How much storage you decide to configure the Galaxy S23 with could be a more meaningful decision than with some of Samsung's past phones. According to frequent Samsung leaker Ice Universe (via Android Police), the 128GB variant of the base model S23 will make use of a UFS 3.1 chip instead of Samsung’s newer UFS 4.0 standard. Consumers will need to pay extra for the 256GB version if they want the company’s latest storage technology. Ice suggests the reason for this is that Samsung doesn’t produce a 128GB UFS 4.0 chip.

Samsung has made big claims about UFS 4.0 since announcing the standard last year. The company says the new chips are twice as fast as its older UFS 3.1 memory. UFS 4.0 offers sequential read and write speeds of up to 4,200MB/s and 2,800MB/s, respectively. The new silicon is also 46 percent more power efficient, an upgrade that could lead to longer battery life on phones that make use of the technology.

I’ll note here Ice Universe’s information isn’t definitive. A handful of leaks have suggested all S23 models will start with 256GB of storage. Yet other reports have said that Samsung will offer a storage upgrade to people who preorder the Galaxy S23. Either way, UFS 4.0 should be a meaningful upgrade, but if you decide to save a bit of money by going for a potential 128GB model, don’t overthink things. It’s not like Samsung is reportedly planning to outfit the base Galaxy S23 with eMMC or UFS 2.1 storage.

Phil Spencer says Microsoft will continue to ‘support and grow’ Halo amid 343 layoffs

Xbox head Phil Spencer says Microsoft remains committed to the Halo franchise and developer 343 Industries. In an interview following this week’s Xbox and Bethesda Developer Direct showcase, Spencer told IGN “the heart and soul of Halo is with 343 and the team’s that there, and I have the utmost confidence in the team that's there and leading and the plan that they have going forward.”

Spencer’s comments come after 343 was reportedly “hit hard” by Microsoft’s recently announced company-wide layoffs. The number of employees Microsoft let go at the studio is unknown, but according to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, Halo Infinite’s campaign team saw significant cuts. The news prompted 343 to publish a brief statement on the layoffs last weekend. “Halo and Master Chief are here to stay,” studio head Pierre Hintze said. “343 Industries will continue to developer Halo now and in the future, including epic stories, multiplayer, and more of what makes Halo great.”

According to Spencer, the layoffs were an effort by Microsoft to position 343 for the future. “What we're doing now is we want to make sure that leadership team is set up with the flexibility to build the plan that they need to go build,” he said. “Halo will remain critically important to what Xbox is doing, and 343 is critically important to the success of Halo.”

Frustratingly, Spencer wouldn’t discuss the franchise's future beyond the broad strokes he offered. He declined to comment on whether Microsoft still has a 10-year support plan in place for Halo Infinite. “I'm going to let 343 talk about the plans that they have right now,” Spencer said when asked about the subject. However, he did offer reassurances for Halo fans left worrying about what comes next for Master Chief. “I expect that we'll be continuing to support and grow Halo for as long as the Xbox is a platform for people to play.” The rest of the interview is well worth reading if you're an Xbox fan. The piece covers a lot of ground, including the console’s lackluster 2022.

The Meta Quest Pro is $400 off right now

Less than three months after arriving on store shelves, Meta’s pricy Quest Pro headset is on sale for the first time ever. After a hefty 27 percent discount, the headset is currently $1,100 or $400 off through Amazon and other retailers. That’s an all-time low for a device that typically costs $1,500.

Even with its price tag cut by nearly a third, the Quest Pro isn’t for everyone. Thanks to its Snapdragon XR2+ chipset and 12GB of RAM, the Quest Pro is 50 percent more powerful than the Quest 2. It also features solid built-in speakers with support for spatial audio, meaning you don’t necessarily need to reach for a pair of headphones when using the Quest Pro.

Additionally, it adds a variety of advanced sensors designed to facilitate more lifelike virtual meetings in Horizon Workrooms. However, all of those features come in a package that weighs over a pound and a half, making it less comfortable to wear for extended periods of time than the Quest 2. Battery life also suffers due to those more advanced components, and if you’re looking for a VR headset for gaming, the Quest Pro doesn’t offer a significantly better experience than its more affordable predecessor. Engadget’s Sam Rutherford gave the Quest Pro a score of 83 when he reviewed the headset last October but said the device’s $1,500 price tag made it too pricey for all but the most enthusiastic VR users. At $1,100, that’s still true.

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The Meta Quest Pro is $400 off right now

Less than three months after arriving on store shelves, Meta’s pricy Quest Pro headset is on sale for the first time ever. After a hefty 27 percent discount, the headset is currently $1,100 or $400 off through Amazon and other retailers. That’s an all-time low for a device that typically costs $1,500.

Even with its price tag cut by nearly a third, the Quest Pro isn’t for everyone. Thanks to its Snapdragon XR2+ chipset and 12GB of RAM, the Quest Pro is 50 percent more powerful than the Quest 2. It also features solid built-in speakers with support for spatial audio, meaning you don’t necessarily need to reach for a pair of headphones when using the Quest Pro.

Additionally, it adds a variety of advanced sensors designed to facilitate more lifelike virtual meetings in Horizon Workrooms. However, all of those features come in a package that weighs over a pound and a half, making it less comfortable to wear for extended periods of time than the Quest 2. Battery life also suffers due to those more advanced components, and if you’re looking for a VR headset for gaming, the Quest Pro doesn’t offer a significantly better experience than its more affordable predecessor. Engadget’s Sam Rutherford gave the Quest Pro a score of 83 when he reviewed the headset last October but said the device’s $1,500 price tag made it too pricey for all but the most enthusiastic VR users. At $1,100, that’s still true.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Federal prosecutors ask court to bar Sam Bankman-Fried from using Signal

US prosecutors have asked a federal court to tighten Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail conditions to prevent the disgraced entrepreneur from contacting his former colleagues. According to court documents seen by The New York Times, lawyers from the Department of Justice allege Bankman-Fried tried messaging the general counsel of FTX's US arm over Signal and email earlier this month. The communication was “suggestive of an effort to influence Witness-1's potential testimony,” the filing states. 

“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” says one message Bankman-Fried sent, according to the Justice Department. The DOJ has asked the judge overseeing Bankman-Fried’s criminal case to bar him from contacting current and former FTX employees, as well as using Signal or any other encrypted or ephemeral messaging app. Following the request, SBF’s legal team accused federal prosecutors of trying to paint their client in the “worst possible light.” They claim Bankman-Fried tried contacting the general counsel of FTX US and CEO John Ray to offer “assistance,” not to interfere with his criminal case. His lawyers also claim a Signal ban isn’t necessary since Bankman-Fried is not using the app’s auto-delete feature.

Prosecutors allege SBF’s use of Signal is consistent with “a history” of using the app to hide his dealings at FTX. Prior to FTX’s implosion in November, Bankman-Fried and former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison were reportedly part of a secret “Wirefraud” group chat on Signal. During his tenure at the exchange, SBF also allegedly directed employees to enable Signal’s disappearing messages feature.