TIME Smartphones

Sprint Has This Year’s Most Unique Phone, and It’s Cheap

Sprint

Forget curved displays and head-tracking cameras. The award for this year’s most interesting phone goes to the Sharp Aquos Crystal, which has practically no bezel around the sides or top of the display.

We’ve seen bezels get narrower over the years — the LG G3’s side bezels are particularly slim — but no one’s managed to remove them completely until now. With the exception of the extra-large chin on the bottom of handset, the Aquos Crystal is nearly all screen.

And oddly enough, Sprint and Sharp aren’t using this neat trick to justify jacked up prices. The Aquos Crystal is a mid-range device, and it’s priced like one at $240 off-contract.

That price gets you a 5-inch, 720 display, a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 1.5 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, a microSD card slot, an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. (Sharp also makes a high-end Aquos Crystal with a larger display and faster processor, but there’s no word on a U.S. launch.)

Removing the bezels does have a couple of inherent drawbacks. Because there’s no room above the screen for a front-facing camera, Sharp had to put it in an awkward spot on the bottom bezel. The lack of top bezel also precludes a proximity sensor to detect when you’re holding the phone up to your ear. As The Verge reports, the phone’s display simply locks up when you’re on a call.

In other words, going bezel-free might not be the course of action for most handset makers — at least not until they can solve the above issues (or until people stop taking selfies). But as a one-off way to stand out from dozens of similar-looking phones, the Aquos Crystal will be tough to beat.

TIME Gadgets

Wireless Price Wars Continue with Cheaper Verizon, Sprint Plans

Just note the fine print: Limited-time promotions may lead to higher prices around the corner.

We have truly entered the Bizarro World of wireless service, in which carriers keep inventing new ways to slash prices instead of further gouging their customers.

Verizon and Sprint are the latest to retool their plans, with promotional pricing for the former and permanent price changes for the latter.

If you’re a new subscriber to Verizon on an individual plan, you can now get 2 GB of data, unlimited talk and unlimited text for $60 per month. And if you sign up for Verizon Edge, which lets you trade up to a new phone for free once per year, the plan drops to $50 (plus the monthly installments on the phone itself). Either way, the new plan is $30 cheaper than before.

Some caveats apply: Verizon says this pricing is “promotional,” but doesn’t say when the promotion will end. And it’s only good for single-line, 2 GB plans. If you need more data or more lines, you get the same pricing as before. Also, existing subscribers can only get the reduced pricing when they upgrade to a new phone.

As for Sprint, the carrier is offering new shared data plans that are cheaper in many scenarios than plans from AT&T and Verizon. Like its larger rivals, Sprint is offering a single bucket of data shared across all phones and tablets, but the baseline data prices are less expensive.

For instance, Sprint charges $100 per month for 20 GB of shared data, while AT&T and Verizon charge $150 per month for the same data allotment.

On top of that data charge, you also have to pay per line. If you’re going with a standard two-year contract and subsidized phone, Sprint’s per-line prices are the same as its rivals, at $40 per month.

Alternatively, you can pay the full price of the phone in monthly installments. This provides a discount on the per-line fee, and lets you trade up to a new phone for free every 12 months. AT&T and Verizon have an edge here, as they both charge $25 per line for plans with less than 10 GB, and $15 per line for plans with 10 GB or more. Sprint makes the $15/$25 cutoff at 20 GB, so its plans tend to work out best for families who need a lot of data.

To kick off the new family plans, Sprint is offering a promotion that waives all per-line fees “through 2015,” and tacks on another 2 GB for each line. That means you could put a family of five on a 20 GB plan and pay only $100 per month, and you’d actually have 28 GB to play with through next year. But you have to sign up by September 30, and the plan would increase to $175 per month starting in 2016.

If you’re wondering about Sprint’s “Framily” plans, which offered higher discounts as you added more people, Re/code reports that they’ll still be available. It’s just that Sprint won’t market them as much.

Sprint hasn’t been much of a competitor lately, even as T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon all dropped prices to keep up with one another. But after abandoning its attempted T-Mobile takeover and bringing on a new CEO, it seems that Sprint is ready to rejoin the price wars. Things are only going to get weirder from here.

TIME Computers

Need a Cheap Chromebook? Here’s How to Pick One

Let's make sense of all these sub-$300, browser-based laptops.

If you’re shopping for a cheap laptop, there’s a good chance you’ve crossed paths with a few Chromebooks.

Instead of running Windows, these lightweight, inexpensive notebooks are based entirely on Google’s Chrome web browser. So while you can’t install traditional programs such as Office and Photoshop, you can use web-based substitutes like the free Office Online and Pixlr. In exchange, you’ll get a computer that boots up quickly, is safe from viruses, doesn’t have any obnoxious bloatware and is optimized for browsing the web.

Although inexpensive Chromebooks have been around for a couple years, we’ve seen a lot more of them lately, and from a wider range of vendors. With so much competition among these sub-$300 laptops, here’s some help picking the best one for your needs.

The Cheapest Chromebook: Acer C720 (2 GB RAM)

Acer

This Acer Chromebook originally had a sticker price of $199, but for some reason the price has recently gone up at most stores. Fortunately you can still snag one at Best Buy for $179, which is the cheapest price I’ve seen for any Chromebook.

Compared to other low-cost Chromebooks, the Acer C720 is a bit heavier, and its fan will produce some noise as you work. Its build quality is also on the chintzy side, and the 2 GB of RAM isn’t great for keeping lots of browser tabs open at once. Still, for basic browsing, it gets the job done at a (currently) unbeatable price.

The Prettiest Chromebook: HP Chromebook 11

HP

I called this one a “vanity laptop” when I reviewed it last fall. It has, by far, the most gorgeous display you’ll find on any Chromebook. We’re talking MacBook quality in terms of viewing angles and contrast, while most other Chromebooks wash out when you tilt them just slightly away from you. The keyboard is also solid, the speakers are loud and you’ve got to love the blue accents on the shiny white chassis.

But the HP Chromebook falters on performance, as it can lag when switching between heavy web pages, and it only gets around five hours on a charge. (You can top it up with a MicroUSB cable, which is kind of neat.) If you can deal with those shortcomings and prefer something thin, light and easy to look at, this is your Chromebook. Best Buy has it for $229.

The Best All-Around Chromebooks: Asus C200 and C300

Asus

Asus’ C200 ($229 at Walmart) and C300 ($229 at Amazon) are part of a new wave of Chromebooks hitting the market this summer, with a fanless design made possible by Intel’s latest Bay Trail processors. That means they won’t make any noise as you use them, and they’re both quite light, at 2.5 pounds for the 11-inch C200 and 3.1 pounds for the 13-inch C300. Best of all, both laptops get about 10 hours of battery life on a charge.

As a trade-off, these laptops can’t quite keep up with the processor in the cheaper Acer Chromebook, but it’s probably not something you’d notice in most cases. Asus’ two Chromebooks are solid all-around performers, and your best options if you’re willing to pay more than bottom dollar.

The Sub-$300 Workhorse: Acer C720 (4 GB RAM)

This Chromebook used to be a solid choice at $250, but now I can’t find it anywhere at that price. Still, even at $271 from Newegg, it’s the cheapest Chromebook available with 4 GB of RAM. You’ll want the extra memory if you’re planning to juggle dozens of browser tabs at once. It seems that Acer has discontinued this laptop in favor of a Core i3 model that’s probably overkill for most users, so get it while you can.

Whatever you decide, don’t fret over it too much. I’ve used a lot of Chromebooks over the past few years, and they all offer the same basic benefits in terms of speedy startup times, security and ease of use. As long as you’re not expecting a full-blown operating system like Windows or Mac OSX, chances are you’ll be satisfied with your choice.

These prices and configurations are good as of August 18, 2014.

TIME Gadgets

Samsung Buys Into Home Automation with SmartThings Acquisition

SmartThings

The reported $200 million deal is a puzzler at first glance, but could make sense if Samsung loops in its appliance business.

Now that nearly every tech company, retail store and hardware chain has its own home automation platform, Samsung doesn’t want to be left out.

The electronics giant has acquired SmartThings, which makes smart home products and apps to control them. Samsung hasn’t disclosed the price, but Re/code claims the company paid roughly $200 million. SmartThings says it will remain an open platform and will operate independently within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center.

Here’s how SmartThings works: First, you buy a $99 hub that allows all your devices and appliances to connect. Then, you tack on whatever other home automation gear you want, such as power outlets, light switches, motion sensors and door locks. The hub then connects to your Internet router, allowing you to control everything via smartphone or tablet whether you’re home or away.

SmartThings got its start as a Kickstarter project in 2012, but over the last couple years, many larger companies have launched similar products with hubs that control an array of other devices. Lowe’s has a smart home system called Iris, while Home Depot has backed Wink, an offshoot of New York-based design shop Quirky. Staples has its own platform, called Connect, and Best Buy is reportedly backing a new effort called Peq.

But there isn’t a huge difference between each of these platforms, and right now the landscape is a bit messy. If you’re in the market for a home automation system, it’s tough to decide which one to pick. And there’s so much expensive, proprietary hardware on each platform that you could easily lock yourself into to one system that doesn’t end up being the best fit.

Perhaps that’s why other tech giants such as Google and Apple are moving more cautiously. Earlier this year, Google acquired Nest, whose only products are a smart thermostat and smoke detector. (Nest itself has since acquired Dropcam, a maker of video-monitoring cameras.) Apple hasn’t yet entered the hardware fray, but the next version of iOS will include HomeKit, a framework for controlling third-party devices. There’s been some speculation that Apple TV could serve as Apple’s hub for home automation in the future.

With that in mind, Samsung’s purchase is a head-scratcher at first glance. SmartThings isn’t much different from all the other systems on the market, and probably won’t get much love at retail, given that every chain now has its own preferred platform.

But Samsung may be able to stand out if it can tie in products from its home appliance business, such as ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers. Although Samsung has dabbled in connected appliances before, until now, it hasn’t had a complete platform that covers things like door locks and light sensors. With SmartThings, Samsung could be buying itself those basic elements. Use cases like “make sure the oven’s off when I leave the house” could be pretty compelling to homeowners, and it’s something other platforms won’t be able to do unless they start partnering with major appliance vendors.

TIME apps

Tom Hanks Has a Typewriter iPad App, and It’s Actually Decent

Hanx Writer mimics the look and feel of old typewriters -- except for the whole touchscreen thing.

Typing on an iPad is not as satisfying as typing on a physical keyboard, which itself is not as satisfying as typing on a typewriter.

Tom Hanks knows this, so he commissioned some app developers to create a typewriter app for iPad bearing his name. You can download Hanx Writer for free right now.

It’s actually not bad. Each key rings out a little thwock when you tap on it, and you can see the type bar quickly hammer each letter (sort of a faded Courier New) onto the page. You also have the option to strike through deleted characters with an “x” instead of erasing them completely.

The basic version includes one typewriter style, text color and ribbon color, but you can purchase two other keyboards for $3 each or unlock everything for $5. Although some other apps have tried to mimic old typewriters before, this is the most full-featured one I’ve seen, and it’s also the only one whose basic features are free.

In the app’s welcome letter, Hanks explains how he bought a typewriter in the 1970s and has since become a collector: “I write without caring about typeovers, XXXX’d out words, goofy syntax, & bad spelling because the feel & sound of a typewriter is satisfying in ways that couldn’t be matched. — Until now!” (Note: It’s probably harder to get away with bad syntax and crossed-out words if you’re not Tom Hanks.)

Incidentally, a company called QWERKY is working on a Bluetooth iPad keyboard in the style of old typewriters. You could probably use the app and the keyboard together and go full hipster.

TIME Innovation

Screaming at Your Phone Might Charge It Someday

This experimental smartphone converts background noise to battery power.

Researchers at Nokia and Queen Mary University in London believe they have a novel solution to smartphone battery limitations: Instead of trying to improve the battery itself, they’ve figured out how to keep it charged through sound waves.

The key, according to Gizmag, is the use of zinc oxide, whose piezoelectric properties can generate an electrical current from mechanical stress. The researchers started by spraying zinc oxide onto a plastic sheet and heating it in a chemical mixture, creating an array of zinc oxide “nanorods.”

The nanorod sheet bends in response to sound waves, creating enough mechanical stress to generate electricity. Researchers then sandwiched the sheet between layers of aluminum foil to harvest the voltage.

On a prototype device roughly the size of Nokia’s Lumia 925, the researchers were able to generate up to five volts from background noise such as traffic, music and voices. They claim that’s enough help charge a phone, though it’s not clear to what extent.

It’s easy to get excited about these kinds of developments, but keep mind that success in a university lab is a poor indicator of future products. For years, we’ve been hearing about amazing battery research, from the ability to charge electronics with a heartbeat to instant charging technology to entirely new battery chemistry, but none of these advancements have appeared in actual phones that you can buy today. Many of them must address significant hurdles around design, cost, manufacturing and safety before they become practical for the market.

In other words, you’ll have many more realistic reasons to scream at your phone for the foreseeable future.

TIME Smartphones

Where Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha Goes Wrong

Samsung

Samsung's latest phone has metal trim, but no soul.

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s bothering me about Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha, a new flagship phone that will launch at the beginning of September.

It might be that Samsung is making a big deal about its use of metal, when most of the handset–including the entire back panel–is covered in plastic.

Or it might be the press release, which pumps a pile of empty adjectives into describing what is basically a smaller Galaxy S5 with metal trim. (In order: “stunning … sophisticated … sophisticated … elegant … practical … optimal … stunning … elegant … fresh … unique … refined … sophisticated … tactile … perfect … calming … eye-catching.”)

Mostly, though, I think it’s the phone itself, and its flimsy justification for existing in the first place.

Samsung CEO JK Shin says the phone was “built and designed based on the specific desires of the consumer market,” which I think means people were getting tired of $600 Samsung phones covered in cheap plastic.

But as a response to those demands, the Galaxy Alpha seems like a mix of laziness and cynicism. The design takes no risks and breaks no new ground aesthetically. (For examples of phones that do, see the rounded metal HTC One and the customizable Moto X.) It doesn’t use any new materials, as Apple is reportedly looking to do with sapphire glass displays, but instead rehashes old ones. It’s as if Samsung just threw some aluminum on a phone to shut people up. You want metal? Here’s your stupid metal.

And although the Galaxy Alpha is extremely thin at 0.26 inches, it only gets there by lopping the battery down to 1,860 mAh. No Samsung flagship has used a battery that small since 2011’s Galaxy S II. Perhaps that’s why Samsung doesn’t even mention battery life on its spec sheet.

I understand why Samsung feels the need to launch the Galaxy Alpha. Smaller vendors are starting to produce phones that are similar to Samsung’s flagships, but for a fraction of the cost, and now they’re eating away at Samsung’s high-end profits. In theory, a premium design might help stop the bleeding.

But for users, I’m not sure what problem the Galaxy Alpha solves. It’s a soulless attempt at a slightly prettier phone, whose most unique asset will be likely obscured by people’s ugly protective cases anyway.

TIME Smartphones

Bring On the 5.5-inch iPhone

Left to right: OnePlus One, Apple iPhone (above), LG G3, Nokia Lumia 1520 Jared Newman for TIME

After three months with gigantic smartphones, it's hard to go back.

Though I’ve always understood the appeal of oversized smartphones, I’ve never spent as much time with them as I have over the last three months.

In the course of reviewing Windows Phone 8.1 (on a Nokia Lumia 1520), the OnePlus One and the LG G3, almost all of my smartphone use since mid-May has been on screens measuring 5.5 inches or larger.

The experience has been transformative enough that I’m not looking forward to reactivating my personal handsets, an original HTC One (4.7 inches) and an iPhone 5 (4 inches). Painful as it is to say — mostly because of the grating nomenclature — I’ve become addicted to phablets.

Basically, I’m living the trend in which my smartphone replaces much of what I used to do on a tablet. When I want to glance at my e-mail, scroll through Twitter or look at some funny GIFs on Reddit, it takes less time to pull out my phone than it does to look for my iPad or wake up my Surface Pro 3. And unlike those larger devices, I can use my phone with one hand and stash it back in my pocket to carry around the house.

This isn’t a new trend, or one that’s unique to extra large phones. Studies have shown that most teens and young adults rely largely on their phones for Internet use, and industry sales figures show that tablet sales are stalling while smartphones keep climbing. Meanwhile, as the speed and display technology of smartphones has improved, displacing the tablet has gotten easier. (In an especially prescient piece from 2010, Brian Lam had already ditched his less-than-year-old iPad for the iPhone 4 and its crisp Retina display.)

Oversized phones have amplified this phenomenon, or at least made it more sensible to me. The main reason is obvious: The bigger screen feels like less of a compromise for reading, watching videos and playing games. But just as importantly, nearly every phablet I’ve used has a humongous battery inside, allowing me breeze through a day of heavy use with plenty of juice in the tank. Always having an Internet connection at no extra charge — even if Wi-Fi is unavailable — helps as well.

The biggest drawback with larger phones is that they’re harder to use with one hand, but improvements in hardware and software make this less of a problem than it used to be. The LG G3’s narrow bezels make it easier to reach across the device with your thumb. It also uses on-screen buttons for Home, Back and Recent apps, so your fingers don’t have to travel off the screen. When you’re watching a video or playing a game, these buttons fade out of view until you swipe them onto the screen again. Windows Phone has its own clever trick: Because most apps have all their menu buttons on the bottom of the screen, you rarely have to reach all the way to the top, out of thumb range.

The other issue is that these phones tend to leave a larger impression in your pocket, but I think that’s more of a psychological problem than a practical one. A lot of people have asked me how I could possibly carry an oversized phone like the Lumia 1520, but I’ve yet to wear a pair of jeans in which my phone won’t fit. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it.

All of these factors have in turn primed me for the rumored 5.5-inch iPhone, even with a 4.7-inch iPhone widely expected to launch in September. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen — there’s still a lot of conflicting information on the timing and the specifics — but I’m willing to wait it out.

Now that my iPad is in neglect, an iPhone seems like my most practical point of entry into Apple’s ecosystem and all the interesting features in iOS 8. I want that experience to be as tablet-like as possible.

TIME

Acer’s New Chromebook Goes Where Windows PCs Won’t

acer chromebook 13
Acer

The Tegra-powered Chromebook 13 is another stab at the ideal mid-range Chromebook

If you try to buy a laptop for around $400 these days, something weird happens.

You’ll find lots of lightweight notebooks with 11-inch or smaller screens, and plenty of 15-inch clunkers with terrible battery life. What you won’t get is anything in between, combining decent screen size, power and portability at a reasonable price.

That means Acer’s Chromebook 13 is more unique than it ought to be. At $380 for the most expensive model, it has a 13.3-inch 1080p display, weighs 3.3 pounds, measures 0.71 inches thick and lasts for 11.5 hours on a charge. It also has 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. (You can downgrade to 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB for $300, or get a 1366-by-768 variant with 13 hours of battery for $280.) It’s hard to find a Windows laptop or another Chromebook with the same mix of battery life, performance and screen quality.

The thing that makes Acer’s Chromebook 13 possible is its Nvidia Tegra K1 processor. It’s an ARM-based chip that’s mainly intended for high-end tablets, but in this case it allows for long battery life, high screen resolution and no cooling fans.

Typically, these ARM-based Chromebooks take a performance hit compared to their Intel-powered rivals, but SlashGear notes that Acer’s model outperformed Intel’s Bay Trail chips while juggling multiple browser tabs and playing video. Nvidia also claims that its chip offers three times the graphics performance of Bay Trail and other ARM-based Chromebooks.

The Chromebook 13’s closest competitor is Samsung’s 13-inch Chromebook 2, which also uses an ARM-based processor and has a 1080p display. Samsung’s model is a bit lighter at 3.1 pounds, but it only lasts about eight hours on a charge.

I mostly liked Samsung’s Chromebook, but its viewing angles were terrible and its performance was occasionally sluggish. While I haven’t seen Acer’s Chromebook up close, I’m hoping it can do a little better on those fronts.

In any case, I’m happy to see another shot at a mid-range Chromebook that focuses on portability, because that’s what Google’s browser-based operating system is made for. The $400 laptop market needs devices like the Chromebook 13 more than it needs another wave of 15-inch monstrosities.

The Chromebook 13 is available for pre-sale from Amazon and Best Buy, but there’s no word on an exact release date yet.

TIME Internet

50 Best Websites 2014

TIME's annual salute to great sites and services

  • 10 Minute Mail

    In case its name didn’t give it away, 10 Minute Mail sets you up with a self-destructing email address that expires in — you guessed it — 10 minutes. Your temporary inbox works just like regular email, allowing you to forward and respond to messages, and you can add extra time if 10 minutes isn’t quite long enough. Once you’re done, light a match and walk away.

    10 Minute Mail

  • Any.do

    Any.do is already one of the best task managers for smartphones, and the website is especially useful when you need a big-picture view of your plans. With its grid-based layout, you can easily see everything in Any.do’s four distinct categories (“Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Upcoming” and “Someday”) and drag and drop between them. It’s better than trying to manage your life from a claustrophobic smartphone screen.

    Any.do

  • Background Burner

    For those without serious Photoshop skills, Background Burner does a surprisingly good job of removing background images from photos. You just pick the image you want, and the site automatically figures out what’s in the foreground, presenting a few different levels of background removal to choose from. It’s great for joining the latest Photoshop battle even if you can’t wield a lasso tool.

    Background Burner

  • But Does It Float

    This endlessly scrolling art site’s been around for at least five years, but it’s still going strong as a way to let your mind melt for a while. But Does It Float is mindful enough to get out of the way, with short descriptions (“In one way or another, we’re all anchored to the book”) preceding works that often stretch beyond the length of the screen. Whether you like the art or not, you’ve got to appreciate the gallery.

    But Does It Float

  • Calm.com

    You’re already five slides into this list with 45 more to go. Time for a break! Calm.com lets you toggle through peaceful backgrounds and ambient music, with the ability to set a timer for up to 20 minutes. Chill out on your own, or choose a “guided calm” peppered with soothing spoken instructions.

    Calm.com

  • CamelCamelCamel

    Amazon’s a one-stop shop for many people, but its prices tend to fluctuate on a fairly regular basis. CamelCamelCamel can set you up with email- and Twitter-based price alerts that let you know when a particular item goes on sale. You can also see a particular item’s 18-month price history to decide whether you should buy it now or wait until it gets even cheaper.

    CamelCamelCamel

  • Can I Stream.It?

    In a perfect world, the answer to this question would always be “yes.” But we live in a world of timed release windows, exclusive streaming deals and overly cautious movie studios, so finding what you want to watch can be complicated. Can I Stream.It? makes sense of this confusion with a single search engine that works across Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and other providers, telling you whether you’ll need to subscribe, rent, buy or wait.

    Can I Stream.It?

  • ClickHole

    No, the irony of using a listicle to celebrate a site that satirizes clickbait isn’t lost on us. But ClickHole is more than just a one-off joke at the expense of obnoxious headlines. It’s an ongoing subversion of every site’s attempt to go viral, frequently veering into non-sequiturs and dark humor to make its point. That’s enough to keep us interested, even if major media organizations are in the crosshairs.

    ClickHole

  • CrimeReports

    Keep an eagle-eyed view on your neighborhood with CrimeReports. The site blends Google Maps with local police data, pinpointing where crimes have recently occurred and which types of crimes they were. Each crime features a send-to-a-friend link so you can let your neighbors know what’s going on, and you can create email alerts to stay informed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

    CrimeReports

  • FileThis

    Connect FileThis to the various services you use each month — banking, credit cards, utilities and the like — and it’ll automatically pull in your statements and paperwork from each one, storing it all for you online, on your computer or in one of several popular cloud-based storage services. There’s a free plan that connects to six services, with 12- and 30-connection plans running between $2 and $5 per month.

    FileThis

  • Fitocracy

    Billing itself as a “health and fitness social network,” Fitocracy turns working out into a game, letting you unlock achievements, take on “quests,” duel other Fitocracy members and level up along the way. You can join a team of other Fitocracy users based on which goals you’re trying to accomplish, facilitating discussion and encouragement between your team and your online coach.

    Fitocracy

  • FlapMMO

    The Flappy Bird craze hit its peak around February of this year, but you’ll still find a fair amount of people playing FlapMMO — arguably the game’s cleverest spin-off. It’s just like the original game, requiring you to tap a button to flap between vertical pipes, except there are dozens of other people controlling their own birds, trying to survive for longer. It’s funny to see all these birds engaged in this hopeless struggle — and kind of sad when you get good enough to leave them behind.

    FlapMMO

  • Forgotify

    Streaming music service Spotify proudly boasts more than 20 million songs in its catalog, but truth is that no one’s listened to nearly a quarter of those tracks. Forgotify finds those unheard songs and gives them an ear. Even if you don’t end up with great stuff, just think how happy Mustafa Chaushev will be that some hipster in the United States finally listened to his masterwork.

    Forgotify

  • Genius

    Once known as RapGenius, the site is in the midst of reinventing itself as a place where news, historical documents and cultural artifacts can all be annotated by the crowds. (You might even see some creators swing by to mark up their own work.) But it’s still at its best as a place to dissect the meaning of your favorite song, down to every line.

    Genius

  • Glyde

    When it comes to selling your gadgets and video games, Glyde looks to split the difference between auction sites and trade-in sites. The result is that you’ll generally make more money than you would from a trade-in site, with less of a hassle than going through the listing process at auction sites. Once someone commits to buying your stuff, Glyde will ship you a pre-labeled box to fill up and send out.

    Glyde

  • Haiku Deck

    While Microsoft PowerPoint is still the standard for presentations, using its cluttered interface kind of feels like being trapped in a cubicle. Haiku Deck, by comparison, is actually kind of fun, and doesn’t demand much know-how in order to start creating sharp-looking slideshows. Keep in mind the next time you need to make a presentation outside your nine-to-five.

    Haiku Deck

  • Have I Been Pwned?

    Have I Been Pwned? collects the email addresses and usernames exposed by various high-profile hacks to let you know if your personal data has been compromised. Simply enter an email address or username you commonly use and the site will cross-check it against recent data breaches, telling you which companies leaked your data and which types of data have been leaked.

    Have I Been Pwned?

  • Hotel WiFi Test

    Torture is staying in a hotel with slow wireless access. Hotel WiFi Test relies on travelers to report speed tests back to the service, compiling the data to return average speeds based on each hotel. The site features speeds for hotels in many major cities, and if a hotel hasn’t undergone speed tests, Hotel WiFi Test provides an average expected speed instead.

    Hotel WiFi Test

  • Humble Bundle

    Humble Bundle got its start a few years ago as pay-what-you-want clearinghouse for indie games. It’s greatly expanded its scope over the last year, with weekly deals, flash sales, book deals and the occasional charity-driven sale from a major publisher. It’s basically a good place to go if you need some geeky entertainment on the cheap.

    Humble Bundle

  • Imgur

    Imgur should be easier to describe than it is. People go there to upload images and animated GIFs, which are then ranked by popularity. Many of the images are funny. Some give you “the feels,” as Imgurians like to say. There are lots of cats, dogs and other cute animals. At the end of the day, it’s a pure, simple form of storytelling: Without too much reading, you can get a highly entertaining grasp of what’s going on in the world.

    Imgur

  • Just Delete Me

    If you’re like most people, you’re probably signed up for a zillion online services — whether you use them or not. Just Delete Me features cancellation information for oodles of popular sites and services, letting you know which sites are easy, medium, hard or impossible to quit and how to go about removing yourself from each one.

    Just Delete Me

  • Medium

    On its face, Medium is just another blogging platform. But its minimalist layout and dead-simple writing tools have quickly turned it into the de facto standard for smart writers who want to say something and don’t have a home for it. And for those who are publishing elsewhere, Medium’s no-clutter interface is still a great place to draft your next story.

    Medium

  • Milo

    Want to know where to find the nearest iPad? Milo scours local stores for a plethora of products, mapping out which stores have what you’re looking for in stock and how much it’ll set you back. You can filter your searches by minimum and maximum price, along with minimum star-ratings for the stores in your neck of the woods.

    Milo

  • My 80’s TV

    Who needs elaborate channel guides and on-demand video when you have big hair and cheesy commercials? My 80’s TV puts you in front of an old-fashioned tube television — complete with knobs for changing channels — and provides a steady stream of ’80s programming. You can even pick the exact year and filter out the kind of shows you want to see.

    My 80’s TV

  • mySupermarket

    Imagine creating a mammoth online superstore stocked with products from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Costco, Walgreens, Diapers.com, SOAP and Drugstore.com. That’s the promise of mySupermarket. Cruise through the site and add the items you need to your cart — you’ll see the lowest-priced items available — and when you’re ready to check out, you pay mySupermarket directly, which then facilitates delivery from the aforementioned stores.

    mySupermarket

  • Nick Reboot

    We have no idea what Nickelodeon is like now, but Nick Reboot is an exact copy of how the children’s TV channel existed in the late ’80s and early ’90s, right down to the commercials and the station ID messages. The only thing that’s changed is the chat bar on the right side, which lets ’80s babies enjoy the nostalgia trip together. (Nick isn’t involved, but the creator claims it’s legal under fair use.)

    Nick Reboot

  • Noisli

    Noisli helps you tackle busywork by letting you layer background noises on top of one another. Choose from rain, thunder, wind, lapping waves and several other options while the site’s background color slowly fades from one hue to the next. There’s even a distraction-free text editor that lets you peck out your thoughts without a bunch of buttons and menus getting in the way.

    Noisli

  • Peek

    If you can’t seem to sit still while you’re on vacation, Peek serves up a nearly endless list of activities for more than 20 cities around the world. Activities are sorted into groups like “What to do when it rains” or “Under $50,” and there’s a “Perfect Day” section that features hand-picked activities by high-profile experts from each locale.

    Peek

  • Persona

    Persona scours your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts for content you might not want other people — prospective employers, parents, law enforcement — seeing. It’ll reach all the way back to your earliest posts, digging up profanity, drug and alcohol references, adult content and more that you might want to delete. It’ll also monitor your accounts in real time, alerting you to new questionable content as it shows up.

    Persona

  • Pleated Jeans

    There’s just too much funny viral content to keep track of every day. It’s like a job! Over at Pleated Jeans, Jeff Wysaski rounds up the best of the best, presenting it all with very little commentary. Don’t miss the daily “Funny Pic Dump,” a hodge-podge of amusing images that have popped up across various sites.

    Pleated Jeans

  • Pocket

    Just like Pocket’s phone and tablet apps, the website lets you save online articles and read them later in a clutter-free format. The only thing that’s missing is offline support, but you can get that as well by installing the Pocket web app in Google Chrome.

    Pocket

  • Quip

    Though it doesn’t have all the trimmings of Microsoft Word, Quip specializes in helping you get words to paper with minimal effort. It provides just enough editing tools to make your documents look sharp, and an easy way to add comments if you’re looking to collaborate. Your documents also sync automatically to Quip’s phone and tablet apps, and you can export them as PDF or Word files when you’re ready to share your work.

    Quip

  • Quirky

    Quirky gleans ideas from designers around the world and turns them into actual products for the home. The result is something like a Sharper Image catalog for the Internet age, with products like a curved surge protector that keeps large AC adapters from blocking their neighboring outlets, and a wine stopper with a stand for laying bottles flat in the fridge. You probably won’t find anything you need, but you might discover something you want.

    Quirky

  • Quotacle

    It’s early days for this site, which lets you search for classic movie quotes along with the relevant video clip. But we’re hoping it quickly expands beyond its current catalog of 143 movies — and that Hollywood doesn’t get antsy and try to shut it down.

    Quotacle

  • Rdio

    If you haven’t tried Rdio before, you have no excuse not to check it out now that it’s completely free on laptops and desktops. Like Spotify, it’s an on-demand service with millions of songs, but its design is top-notch and it’s much better in the browser, as it doesn’t constantly try to force you into a desktop app. Once you get going, be sure to turn on the “You FM” station, which plays a mix based on your past listening behavior.

    Rdio

  • ReadyForZero

    Feed all of your financial accounts into ReadyForZero and the site will spit back out a customized plan that’ll let you decide which debts to pay down first and see how long it’ll take you to dig out of that soul-crushing hole you’ve gotten yourself into. You can get notifications when bills are due; premium access lets you pay bills directly from the site and features credit-score monitoring as well.

    ReadyForZero

  • RetailMeNot

    Before you buy anything from an online retailer, RetailMeNot should be your first stop. The site rounds up coupon codes from more than 50,000 stores, so even if you’re shopping at an obscure site, it’s always a good idea to double-check to see if RetailMeNot can keep a few extra bucks in your pocket.

    RetailMeNot

  • Roadtrippers

    While there’s no shortage of ways to plan a long trip by car, Roadtrippers makes it easy. You plug in your route, and the site will point out what you should do and see along the way. Roadtrippers caters to lots of interests, from sightseeing to eating, and includes curated descriptions of your path’s hidden gems. When you’re done planning, you can load the app on your phone for quick access from the road.

    Roadtrippers

  • Scribd

    In the ebook world, there’s a small battle brewing to see who can be the Netflix of ebooks. We have three major contenders so far: Scribd, Oyster and Amazon, which promise 400,000+, 500,000+ and 600,000+ titles, respectively. They’re all fine options, but Scribd gets the nod for its $9-per-month subscription fee; Oyster and Amazon each charge a buck more.

    Scribd

  • Sunrise Calendar

    For basic scheduling and reminders, Sunrise isn’t much different from other online calendars. But what makes it stand out is its ability to plug into other web-based services. Use TripIt? Sunrise gives you an easy to way schedule around your next flight. Using Google to sync your calendars? Now you can have the Facebook birthday and event reminders that Google Calendar doesn’t include on its own. If you already use Sunrise on your phone, bookmarking the website is a no-brainer.

    Sunrise Calendar

  • Supercook

    Your cupboards and fridge are full of various items, yet you have no idea how to combine them into something that tastes halfway decent. Luckily, Supercook can do the hard work for you. Tell it what you have on hand, and it’ll show you a bunch of recipes culled from popular cooking sites such as Food.com and Epicurious.

    Supercook

  • TaskRabbit

    Time is money. If you have one but not the other, TaskRabbit could be your answer. For the monied among you, the site can set you up with people to help you get organized, clean your house or courier packages around the city. For those of you with time who need money, you can sign up to become one of the TaskRabbits, picking up odd jobs for extra cash.

    TaskRabbit

  • The Nostalgia Machine

    Nothing fancy here; just plug in the year you want to get nostalgic about, and the Machine spits back a grid of music videos — songs plucked from the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles list for that year — that you’ll probably realize time forgot for a reason.

    The Nostalgia Machine

  • This Is Why I’m Broke

    If it’s wonderfully weird, over-the-top and available for purchase, it’s probably on This Is Why I’m Broke. At last check, there’s a hamburger bed, an iPhone-controlled paper airplane, pencils engraved with Anchorman quotes and a glider that pulls you along underwater behind a boat like a manta ray. Prices range from cheap to not-in-your-lifetime.

    This Is Why I’m Broke

  • Treat

    Treat drags greeting cards into the 21 century, allowing you to personalize messages across a broad range of how-do-you-dos. You can add your own writing and photos, and the service will mail the card directly to your recipient. You can even schedule cards to be mailed on specific days. Might as well take care of every anniversary and birthday for the next five years at once, huh?

    Treat

  • TrueCar

    As much as everyone loves being pressure-sold for hours on end at car dealerships, TrueCar cuts through the nonsense by showing you the average price other people in your area paid for the vehicle you’re thinking of buying. Dealerships that partner with TrueCar — there are close to 8,000 — can then lop a few extra bucks off and let you pick up the car without a bunch of unnecessary haggling.

    TrueCar

  • Twitch

    Whether it’s worth a billion dollars to Google or not, you’ve got to appreciate Twitch’s ascent over the last couple of years, and its impact on gaming culture. To call it a site for watching other people play video games would be dismissive, as it’s really a way for people to hang out around a common interest — a virtual version of the way we’d hang out around a single television as kids.

    Twitch

  • Vine

    Even if you have no followers and don’t care to share your own six-second videos, Vine’s website is still a fun way to soak up some short bursts of creativity. The curated home pages offers a taste of everything from cute animals to comedy, and you can turn on TV mode for a stream of big-screen videos if you’re feeling lucky.

    Vine

  • Vox

    As part of a new wave of “explainer” websites, Vox is at its best when it’s providing deep background on the biggest news stories. It’s a great starting point if you’re lost on topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict or the battle over net neutrality, giving you just enough know-how to confidently dive into editorials and breaking news pieces elsewhere.

    Vox

  • XKCD

    Randall Munroe’s nine-year-old web comic has been on a roll lately, branching beyond geek humor with ambitious projects like a massive drawing to explore, a 3,099-panel comic that panned out over several months and a deep dive into common Google searches. He’s even helped make sense of the news, with a clear, illustrated explanation of the Heartbleed bug that compromised so many websites earlier this year. You may not need to stop in every day, but XKCD should be on your radar.

    XKCD

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