WhatsApp is now free and promises to stay ad-free

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WhatsApp is dropping its subscription fees to access the popular messaging service. WhatsApp introduced the fees a few years ago, forcing new users to pay an annual 99 cents subscription after the first year. “As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well,” admits WhatsApp in a company blog post today.

“Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.”

If you’ve been using WhatsApp for the six years it has been available then you’ve probably never experienced the subscription fees. Most original users were granted a free lifetime service, but in recent years the company introduced its subscription to new users. Recode reports that if you’ve already paid the 99 cents for the year then there won’t be a refund, but subscription fees will cease immediately.

WhatsApp now has nearly 1 billion users, so the free timing removes the barrier for millions more to join the messaging service. The Facebook-owned service plans appears to be planning to generate revenue through services to businesses. “We will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.” That means you might be able to send WhatsApp messages to your bank or airlines in the future. WhatsApp isn’t planning to enable third-party ads within the service, and it’s sticking to its original principles. The founders of WhatsApp were strongly opposed to ads, noting back in 2012 that “when advertising is involved you the user are the product.”

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‘Ride Along 2’ #1, ‘Revenant’ Holds Strong and ‘Star Wars’ Crosses $1 Billion Internationally

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Ride Along 2 was unable to top its predecessor but an estimated $34 million is enough to top the weekend box office, followed closely by Fox’s The Revenant, which dropped only 26% in its second weekend in wide release. Both films finished ahead of domestic box office king Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which fell to third in its fifth weekend in release while becoming only the fifth film to ever cross a major international milestone.

Meanwhile Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi performed just slightly under expectations while Lionsgate’s animated pick-up Norm of the North exceeded our most pessimistic of expectations. A selection of this past Thursday’s Oscar nominees also added a few theaters, delivering results worth taking a look at.

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Starting at the top, 2014’s Ride Along debuted with a whopping $41.5 million over the three-day weekend and $48.6 million for what was a four-day, Martin Luther King weekend record. The action/comedy sequel, which sees stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube return, fell a bit short of the original with an estimated $34 million and what will likely end up being a $39 million four-day weekend. While this falls short of the first film, it’s still enough to challenge for a spot as one of the the top five all-time Martin Luther King weekend openings. It will need to put in a little work over the coming weekends, however, if it’s to top $100 million domestically as word of mouth might not be as strong for this one considering its “B+” CinemaScore compared to the first film’s “A”.

As was pointed out in the weekend preview, there are examples on both sides of the comedy sequel trend to support a big drop as well as big gains when compared to their predecessors. As it turns out, Ride Along 2 joins the likes of Think Like a Man Too, Horrible Bosses 2, Anchorman 2 and Ted 2 by falling short of the first film as well as our weekend predictions.

Coming in second is The Revenant, which lead the 2015 Oscar nominations with twelve and follows up its excellent wide release last weekend with an estimated $29.5 million this weekend. That’s a mere 25.9% drop, which is actually better than American Sniper’s impressive, 27.6% second weekend drop last year. Fox is predicting $35 million for the four-day holiday weekend, enough to become one of the all-time top ten Martin Luther King weekends. Add to that, the film brought in another $31.5 million internationally, bringing its worldwide cume to over $151 million.

Falling from the weekend top spot for the first time since its December 18 release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought in an estimated $25.1 million for the three-day weekend and is looking at $31 million for thefour-day as its domestic cume has now grown to $856.9 million. Meanwhile, it has become the fifth highest grossing release internationally and only the fifth film to bring in over $1 billion from overseas territories. It’s international cume has now grown to $1.012 billion, resulting in over $1.8 billion worldwide. It currently sits only $4.1 million shy of Jurassic World’s overseas gross and will soon top Furious 7’s $1.16 billion for third place on the list.

Landing in fourth position is another one of the weekend’s new wide releases, Michael Bay’s 13 Hours, which tallied an estimated $16 million for the three-day weekend with Paramount estimating $19 million for the four-day. This is Bay’s first film to gross less than $20 million in its first three days since The Island back in 2005. Budgeted at $50 million, it should push to end up grossing somewhere right around $45-50 million for its domestic run, perhaps lower than the $49.8 million Pain and Gain brought in back in 2013.

Lionsgate’s Norm of the North managed to perform a little better than expectations, which has to be a welcome result for the studio, which is on the hook only for the cost of distribution rights and it’s limited marketing spend. The film ended up grossing an estimated $6.6 million over the three-day and is estimated to finish around $8.8 million for the four-day weekend.

Looking over the list of Oscar nominees, The Big Short had the best hold in the top ten, dropping 15.8% this weekend, despite shedding 764 theaters. Playing in 1,765 theaters the five-time Oscar nominated film finished in eighth position with an estimated $5.2 million over the three-day weekend.

Brooklyn added 393 theaters and brought in $1.66 million for a 57.3% bump compared to last weekend. Right behind it was fellow Best Picture nominee, Spotlight, which expanded its reach by 617 theaters, playing in just shy of one thousand overall cinemas and bringing in an estimated $1.5 million. Additionally, A24’s Room brought in an estimated $700,000 from 293 theaters for a 504% bump, the weekend’s largest increase.

Paramount’s animated Oscar nominee, Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated feature Anomalisa added 20 theaters and is now playing in 37 theaters across the country where it grossed an estimated $290,000.

The weekend’s per theater winner was Sony Classics’ The Lady in the Van, which had a two theater Academy run in December, but is now considered officially released, pulling in an estimated $72,264 from four theaters for a $18,066 per theater average.

Next weekend sees the release of Sony’s sci-fi thriller The 5th Wave, which actually opened in some international territories this weekend and pulled in $8.2 million from over 1,900 screens. Additionally, the PG-13 horror The Boy from STX will hit theaters next weekend along with the Robert De Niro and Zac Efron comedy Dirty Grandpa, all of which will be playing in around 2,600-2,800 theaters.

You can check out the three-day estimated results from this weekend right here and we’ll be back tomorrow with a full list of estimated results for the four-day weekend.

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Dual-core iPhone 6s named top performer of 2015, crushing octa-core Android rivals

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Raw hardware specs aren’t everything. What’s far more important is how well a phone’s software works with its hardware, as AnTuTu’s new hardware performance rankings demonstrate. The popular benchmarking site has posted its list of the ten best performing smartphones of 2015 and the iPhone 6s absolutely crushes everything in its path despite “only” having a dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM.

Just look at this chart:

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As you can see, the iPhone 6s destroys devices that have octacore processors and 4GB of RAM in AnTuTu’s performance benchmarks. All told, the iPhone 6s’s score is 59% higher than the Galaxy Note 5 and 69% higher than the Nexus 6P. The Huawei Mate 8 comes the closest to matching the iPhone 6s’s performance but even that device is a long way off from Apple’s 2015 flagship phone. In fact, the rankings show that even 2014’s iPhone 6 still performs better than some 2015 Android devices including the OnePlus 2 and the Nexus 6P.

What’s particularly intriguing here is the comparatively poor performance of the Nexus 6P. Unlike other Android devices on the market, the Nexus 6P uses the stock version of Android and features hardware that was designed with Google’s input. It seems strange that it would perform worse than devices that are encumbered by carrier and OEM bloatware like the Galaxy Note 5.

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Messi wins Ballon D’or 2015 and Ronaldo Reveals The One Quality He Would Take From Messi!

Messi is the 2015 Ballon D’or Winner!

The Argentina and Barcelona has done it for the FIFTH time. What a machine!

The iconic player says: “Good evening again. It’s a very special moment for me to be back, here on this stage, winning another Ballon d’Or, after being there in the audience winning Ronaldo win it two years in a row. It’s incredible. My fifth. It’s more than anything I dreamed of as a kid. I want to thank my team-mates, without them none of this would have been possible. I want to thank football in general – for the bad and the good.

Luis Enrique is the best Coach.

Women’s World Player of the Year award goes to Carli Lloyd!

Cristiano Ronaldo has been asked to pick one quality he’d like from Lionel Messi – and he’s given an honest answer.
The Real Madrid star, along with his Barcelona rivals Messi and Neymar, was speaking at the Ballon d’Or pre-award show press conference on Monday where the Argentine is heavily expected to win the trophy for the fifth time in his career.

Both Messi and Ronaldo were asked which quality they would take from each other, and the Portugal international admitted: “Yes, his left foot his really good, I would like to have that!”

Messi, meanwhile, was a bit more vague.

“What Cristiano has is lots of quality, lots of good things that every player would like as well,” said the Barcelona forward.

“But I am the way I am, and he is the way he is. We each have individual personalities and we have both very good things that everybody should have as footballers.”

Neymar was a bit more humble and admitted he would like to have feet from both Messi and Ronaldo.

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