TIME How-To

How To Get Your In-Ear Headphones to Fit Better

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Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear

If your earphones are too loose or aren’t seated well in your ear, even the best in-ear headphones, or earphones, can sound awful. And if they’re too tight, they can quickly become uncomfortable. To get the most out of your earphones, follow these tips to getting the proper fit.

Size and material matter

The key to a proper earphone fit is using the right size ear tip. So try the various sizes of foam and silicon tips that come with your earphones. Foam tips are more forgiving for size differences, so they’re a good option for hard-to-fit ears.

For comfort and better fit, you can also buy specialized tips. Comply also makes a 3-pair foam variety pack that includes a pair of sound isolation tips, sport tips (without SweatGuard) and comfort tips in your choice of S, M or L for $14.95 on Comply.com. And Monster makes a 6-pair variety packs with extra-soft gel tips and foam tips in S, M and L for $17.71 on Amazon.com.

Also, one of your ears may be slightly larger than the other, so you may need to use a different size tip for each ear.

Seat the eartip firmly

To get the best sound, you need to seal your ear canal with the eartip. So simply pushing an eartip into your ear often isn’t enough to create a proper seal. Try gently pulling on the outer rim of your ear to ease the tip into a comfortable position. You should notice a drop in ambient noise when the tip is seated correctly. And when you’re listening to music, you’ll notice more range, especially bass.

Secure the tip for sports

Getting headphones for working out to fit well is particularly tricky. The constant pulling on the eartip as you move can loosen even well-inserted eartips.

Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear. For eartips that are angled to fit in the ear canal, place the side marked “L” in your right ear and the side marked “R” in your left ear. Some headphones, like those made by Shure, are designed to be worn this way, so check before swapping sides.

Make sure to use any stabilizers that may have come packed with the earphones. These plastic pieces basically wedge the eartip into place to keep it from wiggling as you move. You can also try a generic stabilizer, like the BudLocks Earphone Sport Grips ($14.95 on Amazon). And for Apple Earpods, there are Earbudi Clips ear hooks ($9.99 on Amazon) you can attach to help them stay in place.

If your earphones come with eartips that have double or triple flanges, you may find they stay put better than the regular tips. And check to see if your earphones are compatible with Comply’s new Sport Plus tips ($12.95 on Comply.com) with SweatGuard that prevent slipping when you exercise and moisture from getting in your earphones.

You can also try anchoring the headphone cable to your shirt with a clothing clip so it doesn’t flop around as much. I like Bud Button, a magnetic cord holder ($11.99 on Amazon) that anchors your earphone cord to your shirt, or Sport Guppy ($12.99 at Amazon.com), a magnetic clip that also attaches to your shirt and holds excess cord.

Need a new pair of headphones? Check out our picks for great sports headphones under $50 and the best Bluetooth headphones.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

How To Boost Your Wi-Fi With a Range Extender

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Here's how to get your Wi-Fi network to finally cover your whole house

I love the Wi-Fi service available in my home. I have my laptop, my smartphone and my tablet hooked up to it so I can surf the web from anywhere in the house. Well, almost anywhere.

The Wi-Fi gear is installed towards the back of my place. The further I go towards the front of the house, the worse the signal. If I try to do much more than check email in my front room, it takes forever. Streaming YouTube or Netflix is out of the question.

Fortunately, this is why they make wireless Wi-Fi range extenders. These are small boxes that can extend the range of your Wi-Fi signal by boosting it and retransmitting it.

What to buy

When looking for a wireless Wi-Fi range extender of your own, you don’t need to buy from the same manufacturer as your Wi-Fi box (though it doesn’t hurt, either.) The features you are looking for are easy set up, matching frequency band (2.4 and/or 5Ghz) and a signal-strength indicator.

Two-button set up

If you aren’t especially tech-savvy, you’ll want to stay away from extenders that require you to fiddle around with their internal settings through a web browser. Watch out for any product that comes with a CD or software.

The easiest set up is if both your Wi-Fi box and the expander have WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). Pushing the WPS buttons on both your Wi-Fi box and your extender at the same time allows the systems to talk to each other and take care of the setup without you having to muck around with the settings.

Match the frequency

Is your Wi-Fi box running on a 2.4 or 5Ghz band? Make sure the extender matches. If you have a choice, boosting a 2.4Gz signal will go further, but boosting the short-range 5Ghz signal will be stronger. Dual-band extenders cover both.

Signal strength indicator

How do you know where to put your extender for the best signal boost? Too close to your Wi-Fi box and you won’t get the best coverage. Go too far and the weakened signal won’t do you any good. Look for extenders that give an indication of signal strength so you can find just the right spot.

Our recommendation

Netgear’s WN2500RP Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender ($54 on Amazon) has all the bells and whistles we covered here. We particularly like the LED lights that give you a great indicator of the signal strength.

That’s all there is to it. With a repeater in place, you can be streaming music in your garage or checking Facebook on the porch in no time. But what if an extender can’t get the Wi-Fi to the room you want? Then it’s time to consider a wired alternative.

Wired extender alternatives

1. If your home has been wired for cable, you may have a coax (cat 5) jack in your home’s Wi-Fi dead zone that you can use to extend your coverage. A coax adapter creates a wired connection from your router box to the are where you need coverage without having to run a cable.

It’s as simple as plugging one adapter into a coax jack next to your existing router and using an Ethernet cable to connect them. Then plug the second adapter into a coax jack in the area where you need Wi-Fi coverage and use an Ethernet cable to connect the adapter to the included, second Wi-Fi router. You should get the same speeds as your current W-Fi network and higher speeds than a Wi-Fi repeater will provide.

If this sounds like the option for you, we recommend the Actiontec Dual-Band Wireless Network Extender and Ethernet Over Coax Adapter Kit ($149.99 on Amazon).

2. A powerline adapter creates a wired connection from your router box to the room you need it without having to run a cable between the two areas. It does this by using the existing electrical system already built into your house.

It’s as simple as plugging one adapter into a power outlet next to your router and using an Ethernet cable to connect them. Then plug the second adapter into an electrical socket in the room where you need it and plug another Ethernet cable from that one into whatever computer, game console or smart TV requires an internet connection. Pair the two adapters by pressing the buttons on the front of them and you’re good to go.

A powerline adapter will likely provide a faster internet connection than a Wi-Fi repeater, though it will depend on how your house is wired. It’s ideal if you’re only trying to connect one device that has an ethernet port.

If this sounds like the option for you, we recommend the TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter Kit ($40 on Amazon). It is small, powerful, secure and has an energy-saving mode. You can buy extra adapters if you want a signal in more than one room.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Smartphones

How to Make Your Android Battery Last Longer

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Take advantage of the Android's ability to fine tune battery usage

Cell phone batteries have come a long way since the first smartphones, but we’re demanding more of the devices that double as our navigators, cameras and media centers. Along with the usual battery-drainers — Wi-Fi, GPS and video streaming — Android phones come with some unique energy gluttons, such as live-updating home screen widgets.

However, Android phones let you fine tune how your battery is used to a level not possible with iPhones. Here the key ways you can extend your Android phone’s battery life without having to change the way you use the phone (too much).

Save power with these settings

Check which apps are draining your battery

In all versions of Android, hit Settings > Device > Battery or Settings > Power > Battery Use to see a list of all apps and how much battery power they’re using. If an app you don’t use often seems to take up a disproportionate amount of power, consider uninstalling it.

Uninstall apps

Delete apps you don’t use from a single menu by heading to Settings > Apps > All. Tap on each app and hit Uninstall to remove it as well as any data it has created.

Remove unnecessary widgets from the home screen

Many Android apps, including social networks, weather apps and news apps, come with widgets that sit handily on the home screen for real-time updates. However, widgets are battery drainers due to their constant syncing with the mother ship or power-sucking animations. If you don’t need a permanent window into the Facebook news feed or regular updates on the weather, remove the superfluous widget by pressing and holding it, then dragging it to the trash can icon.

Turn off notifications

Getting real-time updates of what’s going on in your apps is handy for things like email or social networks, but many apps automatically demand permission to send notifications as well for reasons that are much less useful. Turn off notifications by heading to Settings > Apps, then visiting less necessary apps and unchecking “Show notifications.”

Minimize app syncing

Another alternative is to keep app notifications on but decrease how frequently the app syncs and checks for changes such as new messages, extra game coins or updated weather stats. Head to Settings > Accounts & Sync to do this manually for each app, or toggle off auto-sync in the same menu.

Shut down location tracking

Most apps track your location and therefore use more battery power than strictly necessary by accessing your GPS. Head to Settings > Location to see which apps are tracking you, then tap each to turn it off. (The downside to turning this off is seeing less accurately targeted ads.) HTC also recommends shutting down maps apps after you’re done.

Kill unused connections

Keeping Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and cellular data turned on means your phone is constantly scanning for these connections whether or not it’s connected. Turn off the connections until you need them by swiping down from the top of your phone, tapping your device’s equivalent of Quick Settings, then toggling the relevant icons.

Turn on Airplane Mode in low-signal areas

Smartphones use more power when trying to connect in low-signal areas. If you can’t get a signal, turn on Airplane Mode by swiping down. Then restart your cellular connection when you’re in an area with better coverage.

Cut down on phone calls in a moving car

According to Google Support, phone calls made in a moving car take up more power because the phone needs to transfer its signal between cellular towers.

Use the Power Control widget

Keep an eye on and tweak display brightness, Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular connections and auto-sync from the Power Control widget. This widget comes preloaded on most Android devices, but if you don’t see yours in your Widgets section, head to the Play Store to download it. (need the link)

Keep weather updates local

Who doesn’t love the weather widget that tells the time and the temperature in one handy, live-updating home screen box? If you’ve loaded yours up with cities where you’ve been vacationing, that widget could be contributing to heavy battery drain. Remove superfluous cities from your weather app by heading to Settings.

Use a dark background

For Android phones with AMOLED screens —high-end smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and Moto X —hyper-bright displays use a lot of power. Snatch back some of that battery juice by choosing a dark background so that fewer pixels need to be lit up. Head to Settings > Display > Wallpaper — and make sure you don’t select a live wallpaper (one that has motion), which require extra power.

Decrease screen brightness

If you’re running low on battery power, dimming the screen makes a good temporary fix until you can get to a charger, no matter what sort of display technology your phone uses. Pull down the notifications menu, find the brightness slider and drag it to the very dimmest display level you’re comfortable with.

Decrease screen timeout

You can save a little bit of battery power many times over by decreasing the length of time your phone remains idle before its display automatically goes dark. Head to Settings > Display to adjust Screen timeout to, say, 10 seconds rather than an interval like 30 minutes (which you may have chosen if you were doing something like using the phone for a recipe).

Stop vibrating

If your phone is ringing, you don’t need it to vibrate as well. Head to Settings > Sound and uncheck “Vibrate while ringing.” To really get into battery miser mode, turn off haptic feedback, the handy little vibe when you press virtual keys, by going to Settings > Language and unchecking “Vibrate on keypress.”

Turn on Power Saving Mode

Top-end Android phones, including the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Moto X, have a Power Saving Mode that restricts some features in order to extend battery life. Head to Settings > Saver (or Power Saver), where you can also fine tune specifics such as whether or not to conserve CPU power, screen brightness or vibration feedback and choose whether or not to turn off data connection when the phone is asleep.

Newer phones such as the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3 also have an ultra and extreme power-saving modes in which data connections turn off when the screen is off, notifications, GPS, Auto Sync and Bluetooth are off, and only essential apps such as text messaging, email and the clock are allowed to run.

When Android Lollipop 5.0 becomes available, its battery saver feature will extend the battery life of your device up to 90 minutes, says a Google rep. New power controls will also include an estimate of the time remaining before you need to charge.

More helpful battery life tips

Keep your phone cool

According to the Battery University blog by Cadex Electronics, phone batteries degrade much faster when they’re hot, whether you’re using the phone or it’s idle. Avoid leaving your phone on the dashboard of your car on a sunny day.

Charge your phone before it drops too far below half power

The best way to maintain smartphone batteries is to keep your phone battery more than 40% charged. Constantly allowing the battery to go from completely full to completely empty can damage it and decrease its capacity over time. On the flip side, leaving your phone plugged in when it’s completely full can also degrade the battery. Best practice? Keep your battery between 40% and 80% charged.

Always get updates

Whether updates are intended for downloaded apps or the Android OS itself, they generally include bug fixes and tweaks that improve performance, including how efficiently battery is used.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious

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TIME Gadgets

8 Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers Under $30

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How about a pair of texting gloves to go along with that new phone?

Now that the holidays are here, stockings around the world are being hung by chimneys with care. Fortunately, neither you nor St. Nick need to bust your budget stuffing them full of cool tech gifts.

Here are some of our favorite, small gift items that can be had for under $30.

Speck CandyShell Case

A quality smartphone case always makes a great stocking stuffer, especially if there’s a new phone hiding somewhere under the tree. We like the Speck CandyShell Grip Case – it’s attractive, available in a wide range of colors and protects like a champ. It even has rubberized covers for your phone buttons, and a raised bezel to help protect your screen. Versions are available for the iPhone 5 and 5S, iPhone 6, Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.
Price: Varies by phone. Starts at $15 at Amazon.com.

Headphone Wrap

If that special someone on your list loves to hit the gym, chances are they spend a few minutes every day struggling to untangle a pair of headphones. Make messy wires a thing of the past with a cord wrap. We like the inexpensive Gwee Sport Guppy magnetic cord wrap at Amazon – it comes in a wide range of colors, and the interior is made of antibacterial microfiber to keep it from getting too funky.
Price: $12.99 at Amazon.com

Kitchen Tablet Mount

The Aduro U-Grip Fridge Mount is an unusual but useful accessory for tablet owners. It contains powerful built-in magnets to mount your tab to your kitchen refrigerator – a great way to stay entertained or read recipes while working on dinner. Or, you can use a set of screws (not included) to permanently affix the tablet mount anywhere you want it. Best of all, the stand itself is expandable, so it’ll work with iPad and Android tablets of various sizes, including the new iPad Air 2.
Price: $22.99 at Amazon.com

Texting Gloves

Don’t let a cold winter’s day stand between your family’s new touchscreen tech gifts. If there’s a smartphone under the tree, consider putting a pair of Echo Design Women’s Texting gloves. The soft 50% lycra, 50% acrylic blend keeps hands warm without getting in the way of using a touchscreen. You can take your pick of five different colors; if none of them work, be sure to check the other similarly priced touchscreen-enabled gloves that are available.
Price: $27.98 at Amazon.com

Smartphone Lens Kit

Have an amateur smartphone photographer in your life? Check out the aluminum CamKix 3-in-1 Lens Kit. The inexpensive wide angle, fisheye and macro lens set clips on to any smartphone or tablet to give its pictures an artistic kick. The set includes a microfiber pouch for storage and lens caps to keep everything safe when not in use.
Price: $19.99 at Amazon.com

Mini Portable Battery Charger

Many of this year’s top tech gifts come with a battery. Keep them all fully powered by also gifting a simple battery charger like the lipstick-sized Anker Astro Mini Portable External Battery Charger. The compact device stores up to 3200mAh of juice (after 4 hours of charging), enough to fully recharge most smartphones when connected by USB.
Price: $19.99 at Amazon.com

iBeacon Key Tag

LassoTag’s iBeacon key tag seeks to make lost keychains a thing of the past. First, you attach a water resistant LassoTag to your keys. Then, when your keychain disappears, use the free iOS LassoTag app to get hot and cold search clues and track it down. You can also configure notifications if your phone and keys get separated by more than 50 feet.
Price: $19.99 at Amazon.com

Pivotal Activity Tracker

Activity trackers are very popular as gifts this holiday season, but they also tend to be quite expensive. Not so with the Pivotal Tracker 1 Activity and Sleep Monitor. The $15 wrist-worn device tracks the fitness and sleep basics – steps taken, distance, calories burned and more. Your $15 gets you both the tracker and a year’s subscription to the tracking service; to use the device into 2016, the recipient will need to re-subscribe.

Price: $15 (pre-order) at Amazon.com

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.com.

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TIME Smartphones

9 Steps to Make Your Smartphone Totally Hacker-Proof

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Don't use public Wi-Fi networks that aren't password protected, for instance

If you use an iPhone, your days of lording its security features over Android users are numbered.

When it comes to the seemingly endless head-to-head showdowns between the two operating systems used by 94% of Americans, Android’s major selling point is also its Achilles heel. Its customizability means Android users can download apps from anywhere, increasing the risk of infection via malware that can skim sensitive info, send spam messages, or freeze the phone until the owner coughs up a ransom.

Spyware is still far more prevalent for Android devices than iPhones due to Apple’s tight vetting of apps before they make it onto the App Store. Android’s greater market share has a lot to do with it, too, as cyber-criminals can attack more Android phones with a single infusion of malicious code.

But a recently discovered piece of malware called WireLurker attacked iOS devices through a compromised computer, indicating that not only are malware creators increasingly focusing on mobile, but that Apple may soon represent as good a piece of game as Android.

What about Windows Phone and BlackBerry, which make up just 5.9% of US smartphone users combined? “These haven’t attracted the same kind of attention from malware authors that Android has,” says Jeremy Linden, Senior Security Product Manager at Lookout security firm.

However, as our smartphones become our go-to devices for everything from shopping to business, it’s likely that the tiny computer in your hand – no matter which operating system it runs – will increasingly become a target for cybercriminals.

Here are nine things you can do to ensure the security of your device now:

1. Log out after banking and shopping

Using online banking on your smartphone browser should be as safe as using it with a desktop browser, assuming the bank implements the appropriate security measures, says Linden.

Just make sure you log out when you’re done. Signing out from your account prevents cyber-offenders from viewing your personal financial data if your smartphone is hacked. The same goes for shopping sites, where your credit card info may be visible to anyone snooping on the transaction.

Or use your bank’s official app. “Banking apps are set up to be encrypted and protect your information even if the network you’re using has been compromised,” Linden says. Ensure you’ve downloaded the real app and not a malicious copy. Earlier this year, Lookout found a clone of the app for Israel-based Mizrahi Bank, designed to steal customers’ login credentials.

2. Only use public Wi-Fi hotspots that require passwords

Use public Wi-Fi only on secure networks requiring a password to access, ideally only from providers you trust such as the coffee shop you’re at, a city’s official Wi-Fi or a telecommunications operator. Unsecured networks allow hackers to view all web traffic over the network, including passwords and even the contents of unencrypted email (that is, most people’s email).

If you’re planning to connect to public Wi-Fi a lot — for example, while traveling abroad — use an encryption app such as Freedome (Android or iOS) that can secure your connection to any Wi-Fi network so that your data is unreadable. The app also blocks tracking while you’re surfing the web.

3. Set a password on your lock screen

The humble password can prevent an even more insidious crime: allowing someone you know to install spyware onto your device.

Last year, Lookout found that 0.24% of the Android phones it scanned in the United States included spyware designed to target a specific person. That’s tens of thousands of people whose calls, messages and photos were being monitored by someone close enough to access their phones.

No matter what type of smartphone you use, a good password is also your first line of defense against the most basic security issue: losing your phone. As long as you don’t pick an easily guessed combo like 1111, a password can hold off a would-be thief long enough for you to locate and remote-erase your device via the Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone sites. (BlackBerry users need to have previously downloaded the BlackBerry Protect app, unless the device uses the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.)

4. Check permissions requested by new apps

According to Lookout, adware is the most common security risk with apps. While ads help app makers turn revenue, some contain adware that may collect personal details or usage habits without your consent, send messages with links to buy fake products or force your device to send premium-rate SMS text messages.

Before downloading an app, read through what permissions it requests from you. If a Flappy Bird clone wants access to your contacts and call history, for example, it’s probably best to cancel that download.

If you suspect you’ve already downloaded adware (based on symptoms such as a deluge of pop-up ads or in-app messages asking you to click on a link), uninstall the app that is delivering the aggressive advertising.

5. Get a security app

If you don’t know which app is the culprit or if you simply want to check your phone’s bill of health, a free security app such as Lookout (Android or iOS) or Avast Free Mobile Security (Android or iOS) can scan the apps on your phone for malware including adware, spyware and viruses. If malware is detected, the security app will remove it.

These apps can also locate your device if you lose it, sound an alarm or message it in case someone has found it, back up your contacts online and remote-erase everything if all hope of getting your phone back is lost.

Check out our comparison of free and paid security apps for more information.

6. Review your download habits

“Non-jailbroken iOS devices are less likely to download malware,” says Linden. (The same goes for Windows and BlackBerry phones.) But if you’ve performed tech surgery to rid your iPhone of its limitations or if you use an Android phone, Linden recommends avoiding downloads from third-party app stores, where malware is much more prevalent. Install a security app that can alert you to suspected malware.

Even if apps are on the official app market, only download from trusted developers, and check the reviews for complaints.

7. Disable app downloads from unknown sources (Android only)

Lookout recently identified a piece of malware called NotCompatible.C that allows your phone to be used without your permission. For example, ticket scalpers could use the malware to route bulk ticket purchases through a group of infected phones, thus hiding their identity and location.

NotCompatible is downloaded secretly onto Android phones from sites harboring it; links to such sites have been found in phishing emails. To avoid similar sneaky malware downloads, disable app downloads from unknown sources, found in the Settings/Security menu.

In general, it’s best to avoid clicking on links in emails from unknown senders or, according to Lookout, clicking on shortened URLs like bit.ly, since you can’t see the domain it leads to.

8. Don’t grant apps administrator access (Android only)

Back in July, an intimidating type of Android malware made the rounds. The so-called FBI ransomware froze infected phones, popping up a message that the FBI had locked the phone because the owner had violated federal law by visiting illegal sites including child pornography websites. To access the phone (and its data), victims were asked to pay several hundred dollars.

Ransomware may also request administrator rights at installation, giving the wayward app the ability to lock the phone, read notifications and remote-wipe your data. Once given, you may never be able to retract the access, as in the case of the trojan Obad.a, which hid itself and set to work scraping users’ info, spamming contacts and downloading more malware.

“When ransomware is downloaded to a phone from a malicious website, it takes the form of an APK (Android application package), often disguised as an anti-virus app,” Linden says. “Or it may in some way trick you into launching the app. To avoid this, do not grant applications administrator access unless the app is reputable.”

If you must travel off the beaten path for apps, only download non-app store apps from trusted third parties.

9. Install OS and app updates

Finally, the obvious but biggest way to protect your smartphone security: Download software updates for your phone and its apps whenever they’re available. Updates are designed to patch bugs and vulnerabilities.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME apps

4 Apps For Managing the Absolute Chaos That Is Your Email Inbox

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The best new apps for sorting and managing your email

Email is no longer just about communicating with friends or colleagues. These days, our inboxes are also the repository for office tasks, travel plans, social network notifications, shopping offers, and login info for dozens of other services. But unless you’re militant about deleting or sorting emails as they arrive, it’s likely you’re still hundreds to thousands of emails away from the promised land known as Inbox Zero.

The best new apps for sorting and managing your email have one thing in common: They help you quickly clear messages, whether it’s into a folder or straight into the digital trash.

From Google’s brand new Inbox app, which retools the email interface, to an app that deals with newsletter subscriptions in one fell swoop, these email apps sort out the inboxes that have become the hub of nearly all our online activity:

Inbox by Google

Gmail users have seen a fair number of redesigns since Google’s email service launched a decade ago. Google’s spam filters are already the best at clearing the chaff from the wheat. Priority Inbox separates the inbox into important and less important mail. Last year’s introduction of the tabbed inbox further sorts less important email into categories such as promotions and updates.

Now Google has launched Inbox, a standalone app for Gmail accounts that drills deeper into organizing your email. Email is still bundled by conversation thread, but the new interface displays messages in auto-sorted bundles: travel, finance, promotions, social and updates, plus individual email that’s addressed to you personally. Tap on a category to see every new email by its subject line.

The travel and finance categories are particularly useful additions to the original tabbed inbox. These categories make it easy to find itineraries and transaction confirmations.

Even more useful is the ability to check off whole bundles of email without having to open them, such as updates (which include social network notifications and order confirmations) or promotions (offers that aren’t particularly relevant). At the top of each bundle is an option to check it as done, which sends it to an archive you can peruse later, or move the email to another folder.

If you open a message, more one-click options await. You can pin important email so that it stays at the top of the inbox, snooze messages so they reappear at the top of the inbox at a specified time or checkmark them done (an action that delivers a particular thrill of achievement).

If a conversation thread contains images, calendar appointments or PDF attachments, a preview appears beneath the subject line, handy when you’re scanning for particular files.

In this new, minimal interface, a + icon in the bottom right serves as the compose function for new email, reminders or contacting your last three messaged contacts. Google’s instant messenger has been moved up to the toolbar, where you can access other Google services such as Calender or YouTube as well as toggle a switch to see only pinned messages. All other features, including sent mail, drafts and custom folders, are hidden away in a drop-down settings menu at the top left.

An app for iPhones and Android phones offers added features including swipe actions to deal with email. Like the desktop app, the apps let you checkmark a bundle of email as done or tap on the bundle to view all email; then swipe right to check off or left to snooze until a particular time. On the phone, you can also set the snooze alarm to occur at a specific place by GPS location — handy if you want an email pop-up at the office or a shopping offer to reappear when you’re back home.

Supports: Gmail

Great for: Sorting email without having to create complex rules; scanning a busy inbox for important information and attachments

But: It’s only for Gmail accounts

Overall: Accurately sorts emails into an intuitive interface that makes it very easy to take action on the important emails and clear the less important ones

Get it: Sign up for a beta invite at inbox.google.com; download the smartphone app from Google Play or App Store.

Mailbox

If you deal with email mostly on your phone, Mailbox offers a sleek, compact interface with an impressive number of ways to deal with an email based on lengths of a swipe. From the inbox — that is, without opening an email — you can swipe to the very right of your screen to mark the email as done or swipe to a slightly nearer right to trash it. Swiping to the very left lets you add the email to a list to buy, read, watch or any number of custom lists (such as Work or Logins, in my case), while swiping to the mid-left snoozes the email for a variety of time periods, including Someday (set by default to three months later).

Granted, learning the right length of swipe to do what you want takes some doing, but once you get the hang of it, checking off dozens of emails without having to click away from the inbox becomes incredibly simple.

Auto-Swipe alerts the app to start learning what you normally swipe on. In time, it’ll prompt you to ask whether it should “always snooze till later,” for example, for your Twitter updates.

Supports: Gmail and iCloud

Great for: Gmail and iCloud mail users who deal with email mostly on their phones, although there’s also a beta desktop client for Mac OS X Yosemite users

But: Emails are not sorted; they appear in a single list, where updates mingle with newsletters and conversations with friends. If you use Gmail with the tabbed inbox, Mailbox can seem chaotic.

Overall: It offers excellent functionality packed into the swiping gesture that’s so natural on mobile, but you’ll find fewer organizational features than in Inbox or even regular old Gmail.

Get it: iTunes and Google Play

Unroll.me

If you’re suffering from subscription email overload, Unroll.me offers an incredibly swift means of dealing with all those messages. Once you’ve linked Unroll.me to your email, it presents all the services that are sending you regular emails (221 for me) plus the option to unsubscribe to them individually from a single page.

After that, any remaining subscription emails get condensed into a single email that Unroll.me sends you once a day. After all, who knows when that Groupon email might contain the mythical deal of a lifetime?

Supports: All email services

Great for: Managing subscription email cleverly; you can still get wind of offers without having them mixed among email that requires action

But: Unroll.me alone probably won’t be enough to completely streamline your email

Overall: It’s an easy, intuitive way to bundle subscription email you want and get rid of the ones you don’t.

Get it: Unroll.me

Mailstrom

While the other services on this list clean up your email for you by sorting bulk mail into folders you can check later, Mailstrom goes deeper. Once synced to your email account, it scans and analyzes your inbox so that you can view it by different parameters — sender, recipient, subject, when it was received and more — and do the bulk sorting yourself.

It’s an enlightening way to view your emails. You can dig up forgotten emails from particular senders or recipients or see what month of the year you’ve received the most email.

Mailstrom also provides a much quicker way to bulk delete. For example, you can delete everything from, say, your telecoms provider, especially if it was sent last year, or you can delete every email pertaining to a particular subject line, no matter who the senders and recipients are.

Mailstrom offers a wide variety of actions. In addition to delete and archive, you can also choose chill, which hides selected messages until a later date, or expire, which auto-forwards future emails from the sender to a set folder. You can also check off selected mails to mark as spam or block in future. It’s worth noting that some of these features are also possible in email services such as Gmail or Outlook by creating custom rules. (Check out our latest tips for using Gmail here.)

Mailstrom has a subscription fee of $49.99 a year with a free trial that lets you delete up to 1,234 messages. (When I reached around 500 deleted messages, I was offered a discount on the annual fee to $39.99.)

Supports: IMAP email, including Gmail, Outlook.com, iCloud

Great for: Reaching inbox zero

But: The annual subscription fee of $49.99 may be a touch high if you don’t need its unique inbox analysis features.

Overall: This is one of the most comprehensive inbox control apps out there; however, it may offer more features than many users need.

Get it: Mailstrom.co

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME apps

4 Apps for Healthy Eating This Holiday Season

Cooking with digital tablet
Getty Images

Apps to help give you a reality check of what you’re putting in your body

The holidays usher in the most challenging time of year for people trying to make healthy food choices. Calorie-laden food and drinks are the star attraction at every holiday gathering. With the advent of sweater season, it’s easy to eat what we’d like and still hide it well until next spring. If you want to avoid the stress of showing skin next summer, though, it’s wise to watch what you eat now.

It’s just plain smart to be mindful of what you’re eating, and there are plenty of apps to help give you a reality check of what you’re putting in your body during all of the merriment. From social networking to scanning barcodes, here are some fun tools to support your quest to eat healthy over the holidays and beyond.

Fooducate

Put the smartphone you’re carrying around to good use the next time you’re at the grocery store. Fooducate leverages your phone’s camera to quickly scan the barcode on food items you’re looking to purchase or eat, and quickly grades the food from A through D, based on the health content of the item.

Additional notes about that food are provided, including alternative healthier choices that you could be buying instead. For instance, my Ghiradelli Dark Dream chocolate bar received a D+; however Fooducate noted that it was also a good source of iron (bonus!) and then recommended alternatives including a banana.

Overall, the clean design of the app makes finding the info you need easy to read, and provides some alternative healthy choices. The app is free and available for both the iPhone and Android platforms with in-app purchases that give you special information for those with allergies and gluten intolerance.

Price: free with additional in-app purchases on iTunes and Google Play

Meal Snap

The premise is simple, use your mobile device to take a picture of the food you’re eating with Meal Snap, and the app will determine the rough amount of calories for it. Each meal can be tagged when you eat it (lunch, evening snack, etc), along with any notes that you want to post. You can then share out your meal on Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare if you so choose.

We recommend scanning pictures of individual items/plates as it can take up to a minute for Meal Snap to determine what it’s looking at and calculate a range of calories. While testing the app, we took a picture of a plate of cupcakes and MealSnap had trouble identifying it (perhaps others don’t eat entire plates of cupcakes?), but then snapped a pic of a single cupcake and it returned an appropriate amount of calories. This is an easy to use and clever app that can make you more aware of the calories you consume on a daily basis. Meal Snap is available on Apple devices for $0.99.

Price: $2.99 on iTunes

Pic Healthy

MedHelp in conjunction with GE Healthyimagination brings you the crowdsourcing equivalent of healthy eating with this purely social app. Take a photo of what you’re eating, rate its healthiness, and then share it out for your friends and family to see. They can either support your healthy eating choice, or boo your poor decision by voting on what you ate.

You get points when your friends or family rate your meal as healthy. Or, you can earn honesty points for owning up to eating something “bad” and rating the food appropriately. Similar to Instagram, you can follow and rate other member’s food choices or make note of a particular picture of a meal that you like.

Price: free on iTunes and Google Play

Weight Watchers

While often thought of as a dieting site, this app makes understanding your food choices easier by tracking your daily food consumption and assessing how much of the good and the bad that you’re eating on a daily basis. There’s a community aspect to the app so you can see how others are doing and feel a sense that you’re not tracking your food alone.

For those of you with iPhones updated to iOS 8, the app can draw from the integrated Health app for activity and movement tracking. This replaces you having to manually enter your daily physical activity. For all users, you must be subscribed to Weight Watchers Online to use the app’s weight loss tools.

Price: free on iTunes and Google Play

This article was written by Heidi Leder and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME

The 5 Best Boutique Shopping Sites for Finding Holiday Gifts

Retailers Hope For A Good Christmas Despite The Current Economic Gloom
In this photo illustration sales assistant Sandra Stewardson wraps gift boxes of chocolates in her shop giftsandchocolates.com in the rural town of Ludlow in Shropshire on December 8, 2011 in Ludlow, England. Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

There's much more than just Etsy

Looking for unique holidays gifts but don’t have time to tromp all over in search of the perfect whatsit? Online boutiques bring you locally made, handcrafted goods from shops across the world with all the convenience of the Internet. Your purchases support local businesses, yet you never need to step away from your computer.

The best known is Etsy, which offers a huge selection. But there are other wonderful lesser-known options. Check out our favorite niche e-boutiques. All offer something distinctive to satisfy and amuse even the pickiest people on your holiday shopping list.

1. Delicacies from around the nation

Goldbely.com specializes in “all things delicious” from across the United States. Whether you’re curious about the Texas Trash Pie from Round Top, Texas, a handmade latke (potato pancake) from Los Angeles or a St.-Louis-style thin-crust pizza, you can try them all without setting foot on the road. Filter goodies by taste profiles, such as BBQ, chocolate or gluten-free, or by season or even region.

Many of Goldbely’s offerings are free to ship, but the site may charge additional fees for particular items, express delivery or based on the number of merchants you’re ordering from. Currently, Goldbely ships only to U.S. addresses.

2. Recycling never looked so fashionable

Hipcycle.com specializes in upcycled products from dishware to jewelry to apparel to shelving. You can shop by traditional materials, like glass turned into drink pitchers, or the unusual, like tires turned into handbags or fire hoses turned into iPhone sleeves.

Hipcycle’s products come from all over the world, made by small business that make products from reclaimed materials. Since all items are recycled, no piece is identical to another. Most orders ship for $7.95, and most orders over $49 ship for free; the site doesn’t offer international shipping or expedited shipping and only ships to the United States.

3. Support global artisans

TenThousandVillages.com sells handcrafted items from artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. It’s a project of the World Fair Trade Organization, which works to improve the livelihood of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries, encouraging artisans to craft responsibly with recycled materials or environmentally friendly processes.

Ten Thousand Villages sells items like handmade scarves from Bolivia, gazelle masks from Burkina Faso and shea butter from Ghana. Shop for gifts by interest, such as gifts for foodies, earth lovers or art lovers.

Shipping options range from traditional ground shipping to UPS next-day air. Ten Thousand Villages ships only to U.S. addresses, but shoppers in Canada can shop at TenThousandVillages.ca.

4. Who doesn’t have a geek in the family?

ThinkGeek.com is the perfect e-boutique store for every sci-fi devotee, comic book lover and fantasy fanatic, offering collectibles, home and office items, electronics and even survival gear. Get a Game of Thrones Iron Throne ornament for your George R. R. Martin-lovin’ cousin or an exact replica of the Doctor Who Gallifreyan multipurpose tool (sonic screwdriver) for your Matt Smith-diehard sister.

ThinkGeek’s standard shipping starts at $6.95, and it’s free for orders more than $75. The site also offers expedited and express shipping for $12.95 and $24.95, respectively.

5. Retro/kitschy/unique goodness

ShopPlasticland.com sells the kitschy, retro and unusual goods you never knew you wanted — everything from a unicorn bust to a skull-shaped box painted gold. Add a retro-inspired pencil dress to your shopping cart for your friend who watches a little too much Mad Men, or get the Poe-inspired Nevermore raven bookends for the literature fan in the family.

Plasticland offers standard flat-rate shipping for $7.95 and free standard shipping for qualifying orders more than $75. Items may be shipped to to the United States or more than 250 destinations worldwide.

This article was written by Kaitlyn Wells and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

These Are the Best TVs You Can Buy Under $500

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Man standing in shop surrounded by televisions Peter Cade—Getty Images

New, low-cost models offer the best deals of the year

Looking for a new TV but on a strict under-$500 budget? Want a large screen model that you don’t need to squint at from across the room?

There’s good news. Two recent models from Vizio — the 42-inch M422i-B1 and the 48-inch E480i-B2 — deliver an excellent picture and a robust set of Smart TV features for less than $500. Each is an LED LCD set with full array LED backlighting and local dimming, features usually found only in much more expensive models, providing darker blacks and great contrast, and less of the light bleed around the edges of standard edge-lit displays.

You’ll also get built-in Wi-Fi and an array of Smart TV apps, such as Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon and more. The M-Series remote even has a full QWERTY keyboard on the back, making it far easier to search for movies or shows by name. And Vizio doesn’t short you on HDMI ports, either (an annoying problem on so many low-priced sets), with 3 HDMI ports on the E480i-B2 and 4 on the M422i-B1.

Across the board, professional reviewers have been admirers of both model lines. CNET’s David Katzmaeir gave each 4 out of 5 stars in his detailed evaluations. And Reviewed.com said the E-Series “might be the TV deal of the year.” Actual owners have also been happy, awarding both the M- and E-Series 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 4.2 out of 5 stars (E-Series) and 4.6 out of 5 stars (M-Series) on Best Buy.

Other TVs at this price point (of which there are few real options) fail to measure up. The 47-inch LG Electronics 47LB5900 gets a strong 4.4 out of 5 star review from owners on Amazon, but is dinged on rtings.com for its poor contrast ratio and motion blur issues. The 46-inch Samsung UN46H6203 comes close to the Vizio on picture quality, but you get two fewer inches versus the Vizio, sluggish app performance, only 2 HDMI ports and slightly lower Amazon ratings. (3.8 out of 5 stars.)

The choice between the M-Series or E-Series comes down to whether you value the larger screen for your buck with the E-Series versus a marginally better image along with the convenience of a full QWERTY keyboard on the remote on the M-Series. Whichever way you go, you’ll be getting far more TV than would have been available a year ago for under $500.

This post was written by Josh Kirschner and originally appeared on Techlicious. More from Techlicious:

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TIME Security

Watch Out For These 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams

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Shopping online John Lamb—Getty Images

How to keep your personal info safe while you shop

The holiday deals are already rolling out with early Black Friday specials on Amazon, holiday circulars leaking online and big name retailers offering incentives to buy directly from their sites to get a jump on your gift list. But along with the amazing Internet deals come the scammers with new and inventive ways to trick you into handing over your credit card number and personal information.

Here are three of the biggest scams to watch out for this holiday shopping season:

1. Incredible discounts from unknown site

Not every site offering a great deal is up to no good, but the more amazing the offer, the more wary you should be. Entering your credit card info won’t get you that great gift on a bogus site, but it will get the scammers your credit card info and address which, will allow them to start racking up charges.

These sites can also lure you in by offering not products, but coupons for popular gifts. If you find yourself having to enter a lot of personal information to get the coupon, reconsider if it’s worth it.

What to look for: Watch out for sites with strangely spelled names (i.e. Taarget.com). Be wary of ridiculously discounted deals on high price items like iPads or hard to get items like the hot toy of the season. And when using a lesser known site, use a unique password if you have to sign up for an account to purchase.

2. Malicious links in text, email or Facebook feeds

Your digital life will be targeted in a number of ways to get you to click on a link that will download spyware or a malicious program designed to capture your passwords and other personal information. These will come in the form of offers for great deals in your inbox, on your mobile phone via text messages and on Facebook from shady accounts. Also beware the emails telling you a package you didn’t order is being delivered.

What to look for: Carefully check the source of the link. Even if it’s from someone you know, if you didn’t know it was coming, contact them first to make sure they sent it. If it’s from an unknown source and offers an amazing deal, you can bet that it’s a scam.

3. Bogus gift card offers

This popular stocking stuffer is a vehicle for a common Internet scam. It involves an email or text saying you’ve qualified for a deep discount on a gift card ($10 for a $25 card!) But the site it takes you to asks for extensive personal information. Enough for scammers to get into your bank account, for example.

What to look for: This one is straightforward, don’t click on any links for amazing deals. Also, be wary if you come across any sites that offer gift cards at unheard of prices.

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed
If you think you’ve clicked on a link that downloaded something malicious to your device, immediately run a virus scanning program. This is especially true if you are on your mobile phone or tablet. Those devices aren’t immune to scamware, even iPhones and iPads.

If you given your credit card information to a site you think may be shady, call your credit card company immediately and alert them. They will put a watch on your card for suspicious activity.

In general, stick to the well-known sites, don’t click on an links from unfamiliar sources and don’t be duped into giving up extensive personal information to get a good deal.

This article was written by Dan O’Halloran and originally appeared on Techlicious. More from Techlicious:

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