TIME apps

Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff

messy-closet
Getty Images

Garage sale goes online

Looking to get rid of some old junk? Your unused stuff could be someone else’s treasure.

Depending upon what you’re trying to sell, some services are better than others. We scoured online markets big and small, looking for the best ways to help you unload anything from your fridge to your Fendi bag.

Regardless of the service, selling your old stuff isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick scheme. Well-lit photos that show different angles of an item are key to drawing interest, as are setting fair prices and crafting descriptive titles with keywords buyers are likely to search for.

We considered the following factors while researching services:

  • Ease of use: Is the website or app interface newbie-friendly?
  • Amount of work: From settling on a good starting price, to responding to buyers, to shipping items, some apps make selling stuff online more work than the profit is worth.
  • Fees: Expect to pay at least 10% of an item’s selling price to the marketplace you use – and up to 40% if you use a concierge service that takes care of listing and shipping the items for you.

eBay

Since its launch in 1995, the online-auction kingpin has steadily added features to its marketplace, attracting professional e-sellers and real-world store owners to its original base of regular folks looking to clear out their junk.

A comprehensive selling interface lets you experiment with different selling models – the $1 auction is unbeatable for attracting interest, while setting a specific Buy It Now price can help shift items that the buyer may prefer to get immediately, such as clothing. You can also add in a Best Offer feature if you’re up for some haggling, or put a reserve on auctions so that items won’t sell unless they hit particular prices.

Best for: eBay works for just about everyone, although its listings policy officially rules out “intangible items,” specifically noting that souls can’t be sold. At any given time, there are around 110 million worldwide listings spanning clothing, furniture, antiques, collectibles and more.

Ease of use: While listing an item on the desktop site involves a lengthy form that asks for time-consuming (but not mandatory) details such as the length of a shirt sleeve, posting via the eBay app is much quicker.

How much work do I have to do? Just posting an item for sale is pretty quick when using the app. Snap a few good photos of the item, find a keyword-friendly title, and type up a couple descriptive sentences. If you’ve got a lot for sale, eBay offers features for more experienced sellers, including estimated prices and in-depth analytics for tracking your sales. The flip side is that you can end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to craft the perfect listing.

If you just want to get rid of your things, the eBay Valet service lets you mail in certain types of items — including like-new designer clothing — for eBay staff to sell. The service commands a fee up to 40% of an item’s selling price. However, eBay is waiving the fees through June 30, 2015. So if want to give the service a try, do it now.

Fees: Your first 20 listings are free to post whether you go for auction or fixed pricing (though upgrading with bigger photos or premium visibility in search results costs extra), after which each listing costs 30 cents. eBay also takes 10% of the final selling price of each item (before shipping costs). If you use PayPal – and eBay makes it a requirement for certain listings – it charges an additional 3% onto that.

eBay is waiving all fees on its eBay Valet service through June 30, 2015.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? There’s a good market for broken electronics, so if you have a smartphone with a busted screen, or a laptop older than your niece, chances are another eBayer will want to strip it for parts.

Overall: Selling on eBay takes the most effort, but can turn the most profit. However, the site has gotten some flack for its seller-unfriendly buyer protection policy, where sellers foot the refunds for items that don’t arrive or are claimed to be significantly different from the description.

Find it here: ebay.com, iTunes, Google Play

Gone

This iOS app sits between sellers and buyers to take care of the entire listing process, including determining the highest selling price based on similar products and sending you boxes with prepaid mailing labels for a UPS pickup. If you live in Austin or San Francisco, you can arrange for a real live person to come over, pack your item, and ship it.

Gone works with online marketplaces including Amazon and eBay, using algorithms that analyze transactions on these sites to determine the highest price for your item before posting it on the most profitable site. Users can track the progress of their items through the app.

Best for: If you prize convenience over profits, Gone works well for selling electronics in good condition.

Ease of use: Getting your stuff into the marketplace is all done via the app. You snap at least two — and up to four — photos or videos of the item to be sold, add a quick description, and upload it to Gone for price appraisal.

How much work do I have to do? Not much. Once you upload items to Gone, you’ll get an estimated earning (minus packing, posting, and other costs), at which point you can either reject or accept the listings. After that, you’ll receive boxes and mailing labels to ship items to the Gone warehouse, where they’ll be inspected then put up for sale within a day. If you allow it to access your email, the app can scrape your inbox for receipts of stuff you bought online in order to automatically populate the items’ description boxes with the pertinent details.

Fees: Convenience comes at a cost: a 32GB iPad Air received an estimate of $235, compared to $317-$370 for Buy It Now listings on eBay. Once your item sells, you receive your earnings as a PayPal transfer or check, minus 7%-15% in fees, depending on the final value sold.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? No. Gone only takes on consumer electronics – think computers, tablets, smartphones, or headphones.

Overall: If you don’t want to go through the laborious process of spit-shining your gadgets, photographing them, and stressing out over how much to sell them for, Gone does it all for you through in an easy to use interface – and charges less in fees than eBay’s similar Valet service.

Find it here: thegoneapp.com, iTunes

OfferUp

If Craigslist is an online version of the classifieds, OfferUp is a tech-savvy version of Craigslist. It sports a gorgeously intuitive, picture-heavy interface for buyers to find anything from appliances and antiques to clothing to electronics in their respective locations.

Like eBay, both buyers and sellers are rated after transactions, and like Airbnb, both can opt for additional validation through real-world ID scanning, as well as linking Facebook and email accounts. The service encourages sellers to stay local with face to face transactions, and avoid shipping items without the buyer seeing them first.

Best for: Just about anything in your home, from heavy appliances to small decorative items.

Ease of use: Modern, fresh-looking Android and iOS apps make it especially easy to stroll around taking pics of all the things you don’t want before uploading each with a keyword-friendly title and short description. Buyers can then browse by neighborhood – which can give you an edge when hawking an old electric kettle that could sell simply because it’s the nearest one to a prospective buyer. Buyers can message you from within the app – a good idea in case of disputes.

How much work do I have to do? It takes about half a minute to post a listing, and you don’t need to bother with shipping. As with Craigslist, for the sake of staying safe when meeting with virtual strangers for the transaction, it’s a good idea to meet buyers in a public location.

Fees: Selling can be more profitable for certain items than other sites, as there are no fees, and you can be paid cash in hand.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Yes. With thousands of new posts every day – compared to eBay’s hundreds of thousands – there’s less competition for your old stuff, and many neighborhood buyers may pick your everyday junk over someone else’s simply because it saves them gas or shipping fees.

Overall: OfferUp is like a cross between eBay and Craigslist, with no-fuss, in-person transactions, and trust features such as seller ratings and user validation.

Find it here: offerupnow.com, iTunes, Google Play

Vinted

There are dozens of fashion reselling sites out there, but Vinted offers an additional feature: the option to swap items without incurring any fees.

If you prefer to make some cold hard cash, it’s also an easy option for putting stuff up for sale. Where high-fashion-centric sites such as Vestiare Collective require sellers to send in their prospective items for checking before sending on to the buyer – thus lengthening the time before you get paid – Vinted lets sellers and buyers conduct their own exchanges, with seller ratings and the option to follow particular sellers and brands.

Best for: Clothes that are in good condition, from mass market fashion to designer brands, though the bulk of listings seem to be for mainstream fashion.

Ease of use: You can post items for sale via the web and iOS and Android apps by simply uploading a few pictures, inputting the brand, size, and condition of an item, and then writing a short description. If you’re up for a swap, you can add that as an option, allowing other swappers to get in touch for a fee-free exchange.

How much work do I have to do? You’ll have to figure out the best price for your item, buy postage materials, and ship items yourself.

Fees: Listing items is free, but if you sell instead of swap, you’ll incur a 19% fee (which is fairly standard for fashion reselling – similar secondhand clothing sites take 20-40%). However, Vinted hangs on to payments until the buyer confirms they’ve received the order and it’s as described, so you may end up waiting a week for money to be deposited into your account. A nice feature is that if you buy an item on Vinted but don’t like it (and can’t return it), you can relist that item for sale without incurring the fee.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? If you clean, iron, and shoot good pictures of your clothing, you could turn a tidy profit, though that 19% transaction fee can make sales of less expensive items more trouble than they’re worth.

Overall: A low-fuss way to sell mainstream fashion for a teen-to-twentysomething audience.

Find it here: vinted.com, iTunes, Google Play

Tradesy

This sophisticated clothes reselling marketplace focuses on branded fashion, with items displayed in a magazine-esque design that showcases editor’s picks and categories such as “unique and surprising shoes.”

Sellers can compile a personalized homepage or “closet” showing items for sale as well items they’ve liked from other sellers. Users can follow sellers and brands in order to keep track of new items.

Best for: Designer bags and accessories, with somewhat lesser demand for high-end clothing and shoes.

Ease of use: The site and iOS app are streamlined and stylishly designed, with a simple interface for uploading photos, noting brand, size, and color, and setting the price, including a calculator to show what you’ll earn after fees. Listings are active until they sell, without the time limit that some other sites impose.

How much work do I have to do? It’s minimal. You take a few photos of each item (which Tradesy edits and cuts out onto a white background for that pro storefront look), select the brand and category, and either choose Tradesy’s proposed price for the item or set your own. When a sale goes through, you’ll be sent a prepaid, pre-addressed mailing label and box to mail items directly to the buyer.

Fees: Items can sell for anywhere from under a hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. There are no listing fees, but the site charges an 11.9% commission (or 9% if you keep your earnings on Tradesy to spend on-site). Its refund policy is seller-friendly – if a buyer returns your item because it’s the wrong fit or style, you’ll keep all your earnings and Tradesy takes care of the refund.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Only if it’s branded and in good condition.

Overall: It’s great for selling your pricier items to fashion-savvy shoppers, however Tradesy has a smaller user base than eBay, so you may get fewer interested buyers.

Find it here: tradesy.com, iTunes

Chairish

This beautifully designed site and iOS app focus on the reselling of unique or designer homeware, as well as antiques and jewelry. The site’s homepage shows timely curations of the available products, such as barware in time for Father’s Day, or items from “New Miami Sellers.” A couple hundred new items are posted each day, with the site’s catalog filtered by designers, styles, and cities, so that buyers can hunt down anything art-deco in Chicago, for instance.

Best for: Vintage or antique furniture, house accessories, or jewelry in good condition.

Ease of use: The online form for posting items contains helpful fields for first-time sellers, with options for noting the condition of your item (anywhere from “excellent” to “needs work”), its dimensions, your description of it, and whether you’ll allow local pickup – handy for minimizing the odds of fickle buyers returning items for no good reason.

How much work do you have to do? You’re the one to set an asking price, as well as a minimum price, but if you can’t decide, Chairish can suggest a price that’s likely to help you sell your item quickly. You can’t just list any old item, either: Chairish must approve the listing based on your pictures and whether there’s demand for the item’s particular style. After that, the listing will be live within five working days. If an item doesn’t sell after 30 days, you’ll be encouraged to drop the price.

Fees: There’s a 20% commission fee, and buyers have 48 hours to return shipped goods. Payment isn’t credited to your account until the return period ends. (If a buyer picks up in person, then the return period ends at the time of pickup and you’ll presumably have been paid cash in hand.)

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Not unless it’s quite valuable: there’s a minimum listing price of $75 for each item.

Overall: Good for selling high-value homeware to people who are likely to appreciate it.

Find it here: chairish.com, iTunes

Craigslist

Over 60 million people use Craigslist every month, posting anything from jobs to event listings. The buying and selling of secondhand goods represents a brisk trade on an overflowing marketplace that still looks like a 90s-era message board (the iOS and Android apps are much more polished). It’s often the place to pick up a bargain from people who just want to get rid of their stuff.

Best for: Nearly anything in your house, particularly big things such as appliances and furniture. Smaller items like clothing or accessories are better suited to other sites.

Ease of use: Without the need to fuss around with lengthy posting interfaces or a middleman to give you the thumbs-up on a listing, Craiglist is an extremely easy way to get your stuff out to prospective buyers. As long you write a descriptive title with the keywords a buyer is likely to search for and choose a fair price, you’re likely to be able to move your stuff.

How much work do you have to do? If you’re keen to sell, you’ll have to be on the ball with responding to interested buyers, some of whom may test you with low-ball offers that seem designed to insult. Choosing a fair price may also be tough for some, though you can always note that you’re open to haggling in order to draw more interest.

Fees: There are no fees for listing items for sale. You may have to price your items a little lower than you think, though, as buyers are often expecting a good bargain when they head to Craigslist. But cash in hand coupled with a no-refund policy makes a convincing case for posting here.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Yes. And if you just want to get rid of stuff, you can list it for free.

Overall: Craigslist is still the juggernaut for getting rid of bulky items, with no listing fees and less businesslike transactions.

Find it here: craigslist.org, iTunes, Google Play

This article originally appeared on Techlicious

More from Techlicious:

TIME Security

These Apps Can Help You Unsend an Email

businessman-nervous-computer-mouse-hand
Getty Images

The right one could save you a lot of embarrassment

Have you ever regretted an email immediately after you’ve sent it? Do you wish you had the ability to unsend a message? It’s not just some tech fantasy: After nearly five years of beta testing in Google Labs, Gmail this week officially launched a new feature called Undo Send. Once enabled, it will allow you a brief time window where you can successfully retract your message before it reaches its end destination.

The new feature is making big waves across the Googleverse, but did you know that Gmail isn’t the only mail app that lets you unsend email? In fact, there are a number of different iOS and Android programs and web services that add an unsend button to your current email provider, even if it’s not Google. Take a look at some of the best unsending options we’ve found below – the right one could save you a lot of embarrassment!

Google Gmail Undo Send

While Gmail’s Undo Send has been kicking around in testing for a while (we briefly discussed it in our 2011 article titled 10 Tips to Get the Most out of Gmail), it’s only now become an official part of the service. It works by holding your emails in limbo for a few minutes after you click send, giving you a chance to change your mind before delivering it. You get to choose the time period emails are held for – 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.

Before you can use Undo Send, however, you need to tell Google to enable the feature on your Gmail account. This can be accomplished by entering your Gmail Settings (cogwheel icon). Choose the Settings option from the menu, then choose the General tab. Scroll down and click the check box next to “Enable Undo Send.” Set the expiration timer to whatever is most convenient for you, and that’s all there is to it.

Remember, Gmail Undo Send doesn’t go into other people’s inboxes for you to scrub them clean, it simply delays sending all your emails. As such, you’ll want to note that enabling the feature will add short delays to the delivery of all your communications. Few emails are high priority enough that every second matters, but still, it’s something to keep in the back of your mind, especially when comparing Gmail’s Undo Send against the other options available.

Criptext

Do you feel the need for an Gmail unsend window greater than a mere 30 seconds? If so, check out the new Safari and Chrome browser extension Criptext. It allows you to scrub the contents of any Gmail message any time after you’ve sent it. It doesn’t matter if your message has been sitting in the boss’s inbox all week – if it hasn’t been read yet, Criptext can ensure it never will be. Criptext also lets you create self-destructing emails that erase themselves if not read in a timely manner.

Criptext works by converting the text of your emails to a picture file, which is sent to recipients instead. You can’t pull the entire email – your recipient will always know you’ve sent one – but you can have Criptext delete the created picture file or any included file attachments. The free version of the service also adds a garish advertisement for Criptext to all your emails, so be aware of that as well.

You can get the Criptext extension for your browser by visiting criptext.com. The extension is currently available for Chrome and Safari, support for Outlook and Firefox is coming soon.

UnSend.it

UnSend.it is an email delivery service that, like Criptext, converts your text-based communications to images so they can later be withdrawn. But unlike Criptext, UnSend.it doesn’t just work with Gmail – it’s compatible with most providers. Emails can be sent through the UnSend.it dashboard, or you can set up your existing email client (AOL, Outlook, etc.) to use UnSend.it servers instead.

The biggest drawback here is that UnSend.it is an incredibly new service – so new that the web version is missing important basic features like BCC and attachments. And unsending email still results in its recipient getting a blank email, just like with Criptext. That’s not a huge issue for many people, but do be prepared to explain why you are sending blank emails to your contacts.

You can sign up for UnSend.it by visiting the service’s website at – naturally – http://unsend.it.

Virtru

Looking for a more professional way to embrace undo send? Take a look at Virtru. It’s an email add-on that allows you to lock files and messages with strong encryption, allowing them to only be accessed by their intended recipient. That’s because recipients need to verify their identity before they can read your email. It’s this added verification step that gives Virtru users the ability to delete email contents before they’re read.

Virtru is well-designed, but its unsend feature is not free to use. It can only be accessed through a $2.50 per month subscription to Virtru. Fortunately, though, the company offers a 14-day free trial, so you can test the service out before shelling out the cash for it.

You can sign up for Virtru by visiting the company’s website.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious

More from Techlicious:

TIME Web

The 5 Best Music Streaming Services

woman-listening-music-smartphone
Getty Images

Spotify isn't your only option

Correction appended, May 15

Owning a library of music on physical media is rapidly becoming an anachronism. Physical album sales have been plummeting since we first plugged our earbuds into iPods, and digital downloads are now on the decline, too.

Instead, Americans are streaming their music online via a growing crop of music services that offer infinite choices for listening to and discovering new music.

Pioneer streaming services Pandora and Spotify remain the heavyweights of the industry with 80 million and 60 million listeners respectively. But internet radio services such as Slacker have gained traction thanks to their music discovery features, while curated streaming sites such as Songza offer what may be the killer app of streaming 2.0: songs and channels hand-picked by humans and based on themes and moods.

On the flip side is YouTube, the top destination for music streaming with over 1 billion unique monthly users. YouTube is great for hunting down that super obscure B-side song with the banned video, but it pales in comparison to other services when it comes to playlists and music discovery.

So what should you look for in a streaming service? We dug into the Internet to find the best music streaming services based on these factors:

Song library Most of the major streaming services clock in with similarly sized song catalogs — 20 million or more, covering a good range of genres, hits and rarities.

How can you find new music? A radio feature that lets you build customized channels based on songs or genres you like is handy for discovering new music, as are playlists curated by real people, whose skills outstrip machine algorithms in building particular vibes or themes.

Offline access If you can’t get online, you may still want to be able to access your music library.

Sound quality A 320 kbps bitrate offers excellent sound quality for most listeners when played from a computer on speakers. Audiophiles may prefer higher bitrates.

Best Curated Music: Songza

The killer feature of this music recommendation site is its human-curated playlists based on mood, activity, genre, era and “situations” from breaking up to waking up and themes as specific as barbecues or pregame. In fact, Songza’s strictly about its playlists; you can’t search for particular songs or artists, although you can browse from a mind-boggling selection of soundtracks and musical vibes.

Songza Daily’s Tumblr-esque design showcases the editors’ playlists of the day, quirkily titled (“The ultimate songs from Piscean musicians”) or chosen for timeliness (“The best original songs from the Oscars 2015”). You’ll also find clips of interviews and single songs interspersed with retro photos.

You can star favorite playlists or click through to similar playlists. Rating particular songs with a thumbs up or thumbs down improves its Concierge feature, which recommends particular songs and styles based on time of day and your liked and disliked songs. Our personal favorite that just kept giving? “Your Personal Indie Rom-Com,” which ran through dozens of grungy, riff-laden, highly nostalgic hits.

Sound quality: 256 kbps — very good quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Pick your mood, activity, genre or era, and Songza suggests the rest.

Is it available offline? No

You’ll love: The curated playlists and soundtracks for times and moods as particular as “Kitchen Dance Party.”

But: There’s no search function to find particular tracks or artists, nor the ability to build your own playlists. You’ll have to trust that the humans behind this digital music service will post songs that will suit your day.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows 9

Price: Free with ads and max of six song skips per week; $0.99 per week ad-free, 12 song skips per week

Site: songza.com

Best Radio: Slacker

There’s no shortage of internet radio with stations personalized around your personal music tastes, but Slacker is our favorite for its minimal, discovery-centric home page. Hit the search box with an artist, song, genre or activity; entering “writing” (while writing this article, self-referentially enough) turned up an eponymous song by Woody Allen as well as an eclectic selection of stations including an ambient electronic station called Mensa Mix and Going Steady, a collection of love songs.

Like Songza, Slacker’s channels are curated by real people with a goal, as the site says, of forging those unexpected connections between songs that are the foundation of great radio. We love Slacker’s non-music channels, including live radio, news, sports and weather.

Sound quality: 320 kbps on web and Sonos, 128 kbps on mobile with 320 on the way

How can you find new music? Create radio stations from familiar artists, or browse 200+ stations of pop, rock, electronic and more.

Is it available offline? Yes, paying subscribers can download songs, stations or playlists.

You’ll love: Being able to stream particular artists and songs on demand and listen to curated stations, news and sports.

But: Finding songs by activity, such as working or cooking, didn’t always turn up soundtracks as pleasing as those Songza provided.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows

Price: Free version with ads and max of six song skips per hour; $3.99 for ad-free and unlimited skips; $9.99 for offline playlists, on-demand streaming and the ability to create radio stations based on artists

Site: slacker.com

Best All-Rounder: Spotify

The juggernaut of music streaming counts personalized radio, on-demand music, people-curated playlists and a social feed among its feature set. Of all the services, Spotify probably apes the sensation of using your own music collection the best. You can easily save artists or albums to your library from a one-click Save tab, while Spotify’s clean, comprehensive interface always shows your playlists for easy scrolling. Drag and drop songs to create playlists, or browse and save other user-created playlists.

If you’re stuck for listening inspiration, Spotify updates its home page daily with human-curated playlists for various moods such as “Weekend Hangout” or driving-friendly tunes.

With a song catalog clocking in at over 30 million and licensing deals in dozens of countries, Spotify covers an excellent range of independent artists and electronic music as well as major pop and rock stars. Its catalog includes an exclusive for Metallica, although a few other major artists have removed their music from the service in high-profile fallouts over royalties.

If you’re the proud owner of a large digital music collection, Spotify supports uploads of up to 10,000 of your tracks into your Spotify library.

Sound quality: 96 kbps — standard quality for mobile; 160 kbps — standard quality on desktop; 320 kbps for premium subscribers — high quality on desktop

How can you find new music? Create a radio station based on an artist or song, or browse the curated playlists.

Is it available offline? Only for premium subscribers

You’ll love: Saving artists by playlists, which means you can browse your collection much as you would a library you owned.

But: Notable omissions from its catalog include Taylor Swift, The xx and Radiohead’s post-2011 albums.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Only premium subscribers: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows

Price: Free for ad-supported version; $9.99 for premium version with offline playlists and smartphone listening

Site: spotify.com

Best Online Music Locker: Google Play Music

If you’re as attached to your digital music collection as you are to the infinite amount you could store in the cloud, a streaming service that offers online backup for the tunes on your hard drive could be your best bet.

Once you upload your tracks to Google Play Music, they’re accessible on any device from anywhere in the world — a neat way to bring your music collection wherever you are without having to fuss around with USB sticks.

Like Spotify, Google’s 30-million-track catalog covers a great range of rarities and hits, including artists who’ve snubbed Spotify such as Thom Yorke’s band Atoms for Peace. If you can’t decide what to listen to, the service offers a Concierge feature (like Songza, which Google purchased last year), where Google’s algorithms try to predict what tracks constitute, say, a “Chardonnay soiree.” As seems de rigeur for any self-respecting on-demand music service, there’s also a radio customizable by artist and your own taste.

Along with this lineup of Spotify-esque powers, Google Play Music currently offers one final arrow in its bow. Signing up now gives access to the invite-only beta of YouTube Music Key, a paid add-on that lets you stream music ad-free from YouTube’s gargantuan collection of classic tracks, rare mixes, hit singles, bootlegs and other unofficial takes. (Nonsubscribers can sign up for a YouTube Music Key invitation at YouTube).

Sound quality: 320 kbps — excellent sound quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Try the Concierge recommendation feature or the customizable radio.

Is it available offline? Yes

You’ll love: The ability to upload 20,000 tracks you can access anywhere, along with your streaming library.

But: There are no social features, so it’s not as easy to share music with friends or followers.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS

Price: $9.99 per month (no free option)

Site: play.google.com

Best Sound Quality: Tidal

If you’re a serious music listener with the speakers to match, this celebrity-owned service launched by Jay-Z could be the high-fidelity streaming service you’ve been searching for.

Along with streaming music at a CD-quality, loss-less 1,411 kbps—all the better to hear the shades of percussion and detail of the high notes—Tidal claims it will have first dibs on music videos from stars like Rihanna and Beyonce.

The service also offers on-demand access to 25 million tracks, playlists curated by music journos and 75,000 music videos. It’s all accessed via a Spotify-esque web-based player, allowing similar playlist creation and the ability to build your own music library by starring artists and albums you like.

While Tidal hasn’t received the warmest reception, audiophiles with high-end speakers may find it compelling enough to offset the cost, double that of Spotify.

After all, when Neil Young launched high-fidelity streaming service Pono last year, uptake was low, and the service still only has 2 million tracks — peanuts in today’s crop of streaming services. But as ultra-fast internet begins to creep across the United States, funneling super-high-bandwidth music down the fibers just might become a more popular — and affordable — business model.

Sound quality: 1,141 kbps for $19.99 per month — extremely high quality; 320 kbps for $9.99 per month — very good quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Browse the playlists and recommendations curated by its panel of music experts.

Is it available offline? Yes

You’ll love: The high-fidelity, CD-quality sound or exclusive content such as music videos from pop stars (even if thus far, they’ve been promptly pirated and posted on YouTube).

But: For the average customer, Tidal’s uber-high sound quality may not be worth its price, especially compared with similar competitors.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS

Price: $9.99 per month for 320 kbps; $19.99 per month for CD quality

Site: tidal.com

Streaming Music Services Compared

Songza Slacker Spotify Google Play Music Tidal
Song catalog 20 million 13 million 30 million 30 million 25 million
Radio? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Playlist creation? No Yes, for Premium users Yes Yes Yes
Offline listening? No Yes, unlimited tracks Yes, for Premium subscribers: 10,000 tracks Yes Yes, unlimited tracks
Sound Quality 256 kpbs 320 kpbs 320 kpbs 320 kpbs 1411 kpbs
Platforms Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows, desktop Android, iOS, Windows, desktop Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, desktop Android, iOS, desktop Android, iOS, desktop
Price Free with ads; $0.99/week ad-free Free with ads; $3.99/month ad-free; $9.99/month for Premium with offline listening options Free with ads; $9.99/month ad-free $9.99/month $9.99/month for 320kpbs; $19.99/month for CD-quality

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated Slacker users’ ability to create playlists. Premium users can create them.

TIME Web

The Best Websites to Help You Fall Asleep

woman-sleeping-bed
Getty Images

These mobile and desktop options will help create your perfect atmosphere for sleep

The science of sound can help you in many aspects of your life, from increasing concentration to creating the right atmosphere for a better night’s rest. The trick is to know which kind of sound will do the trick and the easiest way to access it. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and apps that do just that.

Pink noise generators for better sleep

Do you notice that you sleep better when the rain falls steadily outside or the wind blows gently through the trees? That’s what researchers call pink noise, a combination of sounds that contain all of the frequencies that people can hear, with volume decreasing in high frequencies. This kind of pink noise “has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals,” according to the Journal of Theoretical Biology study. In comparison, white noise keeps the volume consistent across all frequencies and most people don’t find it as restful.

There are many apps that offer noise generation for better sleep, but be sure to only use the features that provide a steady, consistent sound, not intermittent noise.

Lightning Bug

Lightning Bug provides relaxing nature sounds that will help you sleep better at night. Make sure to enable plug-ins and download the free White Noise pack. In the pack, you can choose from white noise and pink noise. Bonus: it also comes with an alarm, snooze button and sleep timer.

Price: Free with premium plug-ins available at Google Play

Sleep Fan

Similar to falling rain, the noise of an electric fan also helps many get a better night’s sleep. This app, a favorite here at Techlicious, generates that exact sound for you. You can play a fan sound at low, medium or high speed and also set a time for how long you want the noise to play. It even plays as a background app, allowing your phone to go into sleep mode but still play fan sound through the night.

Price: $1.99 on iTunes

WhiteNoise

If you don’t like fan noises, try WhiteNoise. It has pink noise, brown noise (low frequency sound masking) and many more soothing sound. Plus, it gives you great flexibility for painting your own soundscape, mixing up to five sounds at once. Pay a little extra to get a recorder and generator to create your own sounds.

Price: $1.99 on iTunes and free on Google Play

Chroma Doze

This highly-rated, Android-only app generates white noise based an algorithm that you can control. Tweak the sound wave curve to get just the right kind of noise to help you sleep. The app is free, has no ads and will run in the background on your phone.

Price: Free on Google Play

Finally, if you are looking for an all-around effective noise generator, not just an app or sound file that mimics sounds, we highly recommend the Marpac DOHM-DS Natural White Noise Sound Machine ($47.95 on Amazon). It creates a soothing sound that helps block other sounds in your environment that may be distracting you.

Sound for better focus and concentration

No matter how many times experts remind us to turn off the distractions when we’re trying to get things done, most of us enjoy listening to music on the job. A little bit of whistle-while-you-work can boost flagging energy and bolster creativity — but too much of a good thing is a definite no-no.

What you need is the right noise for the job: ambient sound for creative focus, white noise for tight concentration or more relaxed soundscapes for calm efficiency or relaxation. If you’ve always suspected you do better and more rewarding work when you cart your laptop down to the local shop, research is on your side. When you’re trying to coax creativity out of hiding, moderate levels of ambient noise can provide just enough of a distraction to free the rest of your brain for broader thought.

A study in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that background noise as mundane as the hum of a coffee shop in full swing or the muffled chatter of a television in the other room can enhance performance. Apply that knowledge with discretion: Higher noise levels are too distracting, and tasks that require concentration and focus on detail are better performed in a quiet environment.

If your surroundings are already littered with distracting sounds and conversations, you might need white noise to mask the chaos. Be careful about playing these sounds too loudly, too close to you or for too long. A recent study shows that white noise used to keep babies drifting in a peaceful slumber could in fact damage their hearing.

Laptop, desktop and mobile browsers options

Ready to download some sound apps to help tune up your life? Not so fast. Our favorite sources for ambient sound, white noise, meditation gongs and calming music aren’t apps at all — they’re free websites you pull up right in your browser.

Coffitivity

Here’s the hottest spot to find that coffee shop ambience — what Coffitivity calls a “combination of calm and commotion” that inspires and supports creativity. Choose from several different vibes: “Morning Murmur” gives you the traditional hustle and bustle of the corner café; “Lunchtime Lounge” carries a little more energy; and “University Undertones” soothes you with the calmer sounds of a campus café.

Price: Free at coffitivity.com or for Mac desktop at iTunes; Coffivitity app free at Google Play and iTunes

Noisli

This ambient sound generator plays to maximum advantage on a second monitor because it includes a color generator that helps set the mood. Research also backs the role of color in influencing productivity. Using a blue desktop background, for example, can enhance creative performance, while red helps you attack and focus on nitty-gritty details. Noisli lets you toggle and layer as many sounds as you like to create your own tapestry of sound. Choose among coffee shop chatter, three types of white noise and nature sounds including rain, thunderstorms, waves, crackling fire and more. Still distracted? There’s also a text editor for distraction-free writing.

Price: Free at noisli.com or $1.99 on iTunes

myNoise.net

Here’s some serious noise. “Welcome to the convergence of serious audio engineering, creative sound design and the scientific understanding of human hearing,” reads myNoise’s introductory text. “The site you are about to enter is not just another of those soundscape websites but a serious tool oriented toward the needs of hearing professionals, sound therapists and people interested in noise machines in general.”

At myNoise, choose from sounds designed specifically for noise blocking, healthcare, sound therapy, meditation and tonal sound. The site allows you to calibrate much of the sounds to your own computer and hearing. Because the website is so robust, playing the noise generators from Mobile Safari (iOS) requires the larger RAM sizes of the newer iPads and iPhones; on Android tablets, Firefox 22 has been confirmed to play well.

Price: Free at myNoise.net and free with $0.99 for upgrade sounds on iTunes

App options for mobile productivity

If you’d prefer an app for your mobile device, you have plenty to choose from. Just remember to use earbuds or headphones if you’re going to use an ambient sound or white noise app on a mobile device; you’re seeking immersion in sound that surrounds you, after all.

Ambiance

For your iPhone or iPad, we like the capacious sound library of Ambiance. With this polished app, you get more than 2,500 free sounds, from ambient and urban environment (the traditional coffee shop mix plus many alternatives), binaural beats and more. You can mix multiple sounds to blend just the right custom sound.

Price: $2.99 plus $0.99 for premium sounds on iTunes

Naturespace

While the whole idea of these apps and tools is immersion, if you’re really committed to going deep, go Naturespace. Naturespace attempts to reproduce soundscapes in a 3-D environment; you hear the birds in the trees above you as well as what’s before and behind you. This is some of the best sound quality out there.

Price: Free with limited previews or purchases from $0.99 and up on iTunes and Google Play

White Noise Box

Looking for something free? White Noise Box is the ticket. You get all the basic sounds and features you need and expect.

Price: Free or $0.99 for premium (removes ads and pointer to the store) on iTunes and Google Play

If what you really need is pure, sweet silence, try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones; our guide shows you the best.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Gadgets

4 Cheaper Alternatives to the Apple Watch

apple-watch
Apple

Just after midnight on Friday, April 10, Apple officially started taking pre-orders for the Apple Watch (to be released April 24). The device has garnered a lot of interest from shoppers and the media alike. But let’s be honest – the new Apple Watch isn’t for everyone. You need an Apple iPhone to use it, so Android smartphone owners are out of luck. The device is brand new and hasn’t been battle tested. And with a price range that starts at $349 and runs all the way up to $17,000, it’s certainly not a bargain, either.

Good news, however: There are plenty of worthy Android and iPhone-compatible smart watches that don’t share these very specific Apple Watch weaknesses. To prove the point, we’ve compiled this list of great Apple Watch alternatives below that are definitely worth a look.

Pebble Time Steel

If you haven’t taken a look at the Pebble smart watch since its black-and-white e-paper formative days, you owe the company a second look. It’s latest watch, the Pebble Time Steel, has an upgraded 1.25” color e-paper display, a 3D accelerometer, compass and a mic for voice commands. The Steel connects to your iOS or Android smartphone via Bluetooth to control music and receive emails, messages and texts. Plenty of third-party apps are available for the watch, as well (RunKeeper, Weather Channel). The best feature of the Pebble Time Steel may be its battery life, however – it can go a full 10 days without a full charge.

The main downside to the Pebble Time Steel is that it’s running neither an Apple-based nor an Android-based operating system. That’s not a huge problem – there are plenty of solid third-party apps available for the Steel, from RunKeeper, Misfit, The Weather Channel and more big names. But it simply won’t have the same kind of intense third-party support that giants like Apple and Google can command.

The Pebble Time Steel is coming this July with a price of $299 in brushed stainless, matte black and gold finishes.


Samsung Gear Fit

At first glance, you might not immediately recognize the Samsung Gear Fit as a fully featured smart watch – its long, 1.84” AMOLED digital screen looks like it belongs on an activity monitor. But really, that’s what the waterproof Gear Fit is – it’s an activity monitor for fitness fanatics that doubles as a smart watch. It features an accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate sensor to accurately track all your exercise. But it also has the smart watch features most buyers are looking for, like receiving emails and SMS messages, displaying call notifications and more. And it does it all at a killer price point.

The lightweight Samsung Gear Fit works with most Samsung Galaxy branded Android smartphones and tablets. You can find the Gear Fit at Amazon.com for just $133.37.

LG G Watch R

Looking for a smart watch with a more classic analog watch look? Check out the LG G Watch R. Like the Apple Watch, the water-resistant G Watch R tracks calories burned, sleep quality and other important health and fitness metrics. It runs Android Wear wearable operating system, so it runs a multitude of apps, including Google Maps, Edmondo Running and Facebook Messenger.

The sporty LG G Watch R is compatible with the Android phones running Android 4.3 and higher. It is available on Amazon.com for $299.


Moto 360

The Motorola Moto 360 is a beautiful smart watch that pairs with Android 4.3 smartphones and higher. It features a scratch-resistant, 1.5” circular touch screen, plenty of fitness tracking functions and face customization options, 512MB of RAM and the Android Wear wearable operating system. It can receive call alerts, text messages, social media updates, GPS directions and more. You can even send short messages via voice command.

The Moto 360 charges at night, though be forewarned – its battery life is less than stellar, especially if you use it often. Many owners complain that their Moto 360 dies before the end of the day (10 to 12 hours). Still, if you can handle this notable shortcoming, you can get this great smartwatch for just $179.00 on Amazon.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME apps

21 Best Apps for Business Travelers

woman-using-smartphone
Getty Images

Equipping you for flight check-ins to electronic signatures to ATM search

The days of paperless travel are upon us, with digital boarding passes, e-confirmations and online travel booking on the upswing. Business travelers need little more than a smartphone or tablet to manage anything from signing contracts to logging expenses and work hours.

These apps do it all, from checking you in to your flight, getting a legally binding John Hancock on those forms, and finding the nearest Wi-Fi, ATM and food stops.

Breeze through travel

Organize your bookings

One of the original must-have travel apps, super-itinerary-maker TripIt pulls together confirmations for hotels, flights and other bookings, combing your email for anything resembling a reservation or sending confirmation emails to your personal email address so that reference numbers are close at hand wen you need to check in. The paid Pro version offers real-time alerts for flight changes, help finding alternative flights and a fare-tracking service that lets you know when you may be eligible for fare refunds.

Price: Free on iTunes and Google Play; $0.99 for the premium version (no ads) on iTunes and Google Play; $4.09 per month subscription for Pro (premium features)

Board by smartphone

PassBook, a surprisingly underused built-in feature of iPhones running iOS 6 and up, automatically saves boarding passes and hotel confirmations from apps including United Airlines, British Airways, Starbucks, Hotels.com and Starwood Hotels. Hit “Find apps for Passbook” to load the ones you use; after that, any bookings you make will automatically land here, to be easily retrieved and scanned for check-in or boarding.

The Android equivalent is PassWallet. Samsung users can download Samsung Wallet from Google Play or the Samsung App Store.

Breeze through the airport Along with showing you the latest status on your flight and gate number, GateGuru displays info about the airport you’re in, giving you the low-down on where to eat, drink and score free Wi-Fi. The Travel Stats tab shows how many miles you’ve flown, which airports you’ve visited and how you rank compared to other GateGuru users. Indispensable for frequent travelers to make the most of a layover.

Price: Free at GateGuru

Get more work accomplished

Scan with your smartphone

Instead of painstakingly angling your phone’s camera just so, load up Scannable and point it in the general direction of the document to be scanned. It uses contrast levels to figure out what you want scanned, then automatically scans the image, straightening and whitening for a professional-looking document. Multiple pages can be scanned one by one and collated into a single PDF, then sent via email or saved to your Evernote account.

Price: Free at Evernote

If you’re a OneDrive user, Microsoft Office Lens lets you scan business cards, contracts, photos, diagrams and other workday minutiae to be deposited into your OneDrive account for later organizing. Choose from one of three image types (photo, document or whiteboard), point your phone at the item to be scanned, hit the shutter and save the scan. Unfortunately, you can’t yet scan multi-page documents, but the app is a handy way to save hard-copy information to your cloud storage.

Price: Free at OneNote

Digitally sign documents

Not all digital signatures are created equal. Though you may have used an image of your scanned signature to “sign” some documents, most legal experts don’t recommend this less-than-legally-binding method for important documents. For high-level contracts requiring a digital signature, use an app like CudaSign, which allows you to trace your signature with a finger using legally recognized eSign technology. Upload documents from email attachments, Dropbox or the camera roll, and add fields for customers to input extra info. CudaSign is encrypted with bank-level security and works with forms from Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Office 365 and more.

Price: $1 per user per month or free trial at CudaSign

Another app for legally binding, secure e-signatures, HelloSign offers the added benefit of integration with Google Apps; documents sent via Gmail for signing have an additional “Sign” icon for one-click access. Documents can also be pulled from Dropbox, Box, Evernote and OneDrive and edited with your company’s logo. Like Cudasign, HelloSign is encrypted with bank-level security.

Price: Free for three signatures a month or from $13/month at HelloSign

Edit and collaborate

If you’re a Google Drive user, you know that Google Docs is an indispensable way to create and edit documents on the go. You can access any file in your Drive and make changes that can be picked up across all your devices. Like the desktop version of Google Drive, you can invite people to work on the same document, with or without an Internet connection.

Price: Free at Google

Make notes and oversee projects

For individual users, Evernote is a brilliant free digital notebook for memos, research and thoughts plus ways to categorize it all. From a business slant, features include the ability to share notebooks with multiple collaborators and oversee a workspace consisting of dozens of notebooks and collaborators.

Price: Free for individuals or $8 per user per month for business users at Evernote

Create graphic reports

If you’re working on a report or presentation, the beautifully minimal Pages is the go-to for iPad. The app supports multi-touch gestures to zoom and move around the page, with 60 templates for text, images and graphs and support for Microsoft Word. There’s a tracking option to record changes with comments and highlight features when working on a collaborative document. If your colleagues use iDevices, you can AirDrop them the document; otherwise, send a link, which always links to the most recent version.

Price: $11.99 at iTunes

Locate conveniences on the go

Find the ultimate meal

If you have a food craving, FoodSpotting will fulfill it. Instead of finding food by restaurant, search by dish. Want dim sum in Hong Kong or fish and chips in London? This app will point you in the direction of the restaurants that serve the best versions, as decided by reviews from other diners.

Price: Free at FoodSpotting

Get your bearings

Need an ATM, a parking garage, a gas station? AroundMe finds the nearest services based on your GPS location, giving you map directions, contact details, website details and Foursquare tips.

Price: Free at AroundMe

Translate the local lingo

Word Lens, which was recently purchased by Google, scans foreign text and translates it into your home language. At the moment, the app supports English, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Italian and Portuguese. Download the app for free with an English/Spanish conversion; for a limited time, the other language packs are free to download too.

Price: Free at Quest Visual

Navigate a new city

Figuring out the bus system in a new city is right up there with navigating a maze blindfolded. HopStop is particularly useful when you arrive in one of the 68 major metropolises it supports, offering bus, subway and walking routes for getting from here to there, along with schedules and transit maps. Cities supported cover North America, Europe and Australia.

Price: Free at HopStop

Hail a cab

Sometimes cabs are the only alternative—and that’s when Uber, now active in 66 countries, comes into its own. In cities where public transport may not be all that, an Uber ride usually arrives in good time. Thanks to the cash-free payment system, you won’t even need any local currency.

Price: Free at Uber

Stay organized

Make your data go further

The Facebook-owned Onavo Extend can save you money on data bills by compressing the sites and emails you access. Adjust the image quality you want to view (a lower image quality saves you more data), and view reports on how much data you’ve saved. Yes, information about your data use does get shared with Facebook, but its uses are strictly practical—for example, telling who is using what mobile services and how to optimize data such as ads for viewing on mobile devices.

Price: Free at Onavo

Score free Wi-Fi

When you’re outside the United States, you probably don’t want to use your data plan at all. WiFi Finder scans for nearby Wi-Fi hotspots using your phone’s GPS, so you don’t need be online to find Wi-Fi. Its database covers 144 countries with over 145,000 logged hotspots in the iOS app and 550,000 in the Android version and the ability to filter results by what type of facility the hotspot is located in—say, a restaurant, hotel or coffee shop—and whether it’s free or paid.

Price: Free on iTunes and Google Play

Convert between currencies

If you’re country-hopping, you’ll need a handy guide for converting shekels, rupees or euros back to the greenback. XE Currency is a no-nonsense way to sort it out, with a table for adding currencies you want to convert to your home currency. You can also add a currency widget to your iOS notification center or Android home screen with live-updating rates.

Price: Free at XE

Record travel expenses

Even if you’re not a convert to IFTTT, the app that links your various web accounts to automate actions, Do Button is unbeatable for saving your business trip expenses. Download the Do Button app, load the recipe for “Save receipts to Dropbox,” and fire it up to snap pictures of your receipts, which get saved to a specific Dropbox folder. Send the link to Accounts to recoup your costs.

Price: Free at IFTTT

Track work versus play

Most of us mix business with pleasure, and that’s just fine. But if you’re getting paid by time spent on work, it’s worth downloading Hours to note how much time you’re spending per project (or networking cocktail event). Set timers by activity or project, including leisure time, and then tap a particular task each time you switch. Reports on the time spent on each project can be exported and shared via email.

Price: Free for iOS at Hours Time Tracking

Android users can go for aTimeLogger, which has a less modern interface than Hours but similar features. The app offers tons of preset categories such as internet, transport and entertainment. Simply tap to start timing. Reports can be generated for date ranges to view the proportions of time spent on different activities.

Price: Free at aTimeLogger

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME How-To

9 Tips for Faster Wi-Fi Streaming

wi-fi-logo-smartphone
Getty Images

Start by restarting the router

The cable plan you signed up for promised up to 300Mbps of blistering Internet speed, but reality has proven to be somewhat different. You’re barely topping 25Mbps, Netflix doesn’t work upstairs and by 7 p.m., no one seems to be able to stream anything at all.

It’s quite possible to boost your Wi-Fi speed yourself, although the solution could be as simple as moving your router or as persnickety as switching Wi-Fi frequencies.

“The distance between the router and connecting devices, as well as the number of walls and floors in between, make a big difference,” says Spencer Behroozi, vice president of product management at modem manufacturer Actiontec. While a Wi-Fi signal can travel hundreds of feet in an unobstructed space, walls and floors can cut that distance by half or more.

Your connection speed can also be influenced by your router—how old it is, how good its processor and antenna are, how good it is at picking up wireless signals and how many devices are using it.

In some cases, your connection speed may even come down to your service provider’s preference for certain kinds of traffic. Behroozi says service providers prioritize voice traffic first, then their own video services. For example, Comcast and AT&T prioritize the streaming of their video-on-demand services over Netflix; in fact, Comcast is under fire from its customers for blocking HBO Go streaming on the PS4 console, something it has put down to “business decisions.”

What actions can you take to increase your Wi-Fi performance and get your streaming speed back up to par?

1. Restart the router

The Old Faithful of personal technology issues is often your best bet. According to Behroozi, the IP connection between your device and the router or between the router and Internet can get hung up. “A restart of the router reboots all its systems, including the network processor and wireless radios,” he says.

If your router has a reset button, hold it down for a few seconds. If not, restart it by removing the cable from the power socket, waiting half a minute and then plugging it in again.

2. Move the router

“Most good routers have antennas that try to provide a symmetrical ‘donut‘ of Wi-Fi coverage, so when possible, place the router in an open space centrally located in your house, equidistant from its farthest locations,” Behroozi says.

The materials surrounding the router matter as well. Metal interferes with Wi-Fi signals, while wood does not. According to HowToGeek , positioning the router’s antenna vertically rather than horizontally also increases signal strength.

3. Check to see if other family members are streaming or torrenting

Intensive activities like streaming HD video or filesharing can take its toll on Internet speed. “Routers can support hundreds of devices connecting, but it’s more about what each device is doing online,” Behroozi says. “For example, if someone is using BitTorrent or if everyone is watching Netflix at the same time, this can cause an overall lag in speed.”

Distance from the router is important as well. If four people are streaming video but they’re all close to the router, you may not experience any slowdowns, Behroozi says. So if everyone simply must watch Netflix or play Halo separately and simultaneously, try to move the devices closer to the router with as little wall or floor obstructing the path as possible.

4. Check if your ISP is having a hard time keeping up

One bottleneck is how good the service from your service provider is. “A lot of ISPs oversubscribe, so you can feel the lag in the afternoon when everyone gets home,” Behroozi says.

Test your connection by running a speed test from a site such as SpeedTest.net at different times during the day. “You don’t want it fluctuate too much over the course of a day. The speed should always be at least 80 to 90 percent of what your service provider promises,” Behroozi says. If that’s the case but you’re still not satisfied …

5. Run a ping test

While a speed test gauges the speed possible based on available bandwidth from the service provider, a ping test gauges latency, which is the delay in communication between your computer and a particular website on the Internet. It can tell you how good the quality of your Internet connection is.

Head to PingTest.net, where you’ll receive a ping figure measured in milliseconds. In general, lower numbers are better, but the site also gives you a grade from A to F to show how suitable your connection is for streaming and online gaming.

6. Check to see if you’re on an overcrowded channel

Slow Wi-Fi speeds may be the result of interference from your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks as all the devices compete to use the same channel.

All routers support the 2.4Ghz frequency, which distributes traffic among a handful of channels. Dual-band routers also support the newer 5GHz frequency, which contains even more channels. That frequency tends to be less congested and therefore usually allows faster connections.

You may be able to increase your speed by switching to a less busy channel, not matter which frequency you’re on. Download a wireless channel analyzer app such as Wifi Analyzer for Android (no equivalent for non-jailbroken iPhones) or a desktop program such as NirSoft’s Wi-FiInfoView for Windows. Macs have the tool built in; hit Option and tap the wireless icon in your top toolbar, then click Open Network Diagnostics.These programs show each channel on each Wi-Fi frequency and which ones nearby networks are using.

7. Switch to a different channel

If you discover you’re on an especially crowded channel, you can manually change it. Type your router’s IP address into your web browser. (The IP address is usually on the back of the router, or you can google your router’s model.) You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password, after which you can click through to Wi-Fi settings and select the channel recommended by your Wi-Fi analyzer program.

8. Check for interference from a nearby cordless device

Baby monitors, older cordless phones, microwave ovens and wireless speakers are just some of the common household gadgets that also use the 2.4Ghz frequency. These can interfere with the wireless signal from your router.

Deal with the conflict by moving the router away from these devices and ensuring that no devices that could potentially interfere lie in a straight line between your router and the gadget you’re trying to get online with.

9. Get a wireless signal extender

“When you start looking at homes larger than 3,000 square feet, getting good Wi-Fi signal from one corner to another can be a challenge,” Behroozi says. Multistory houses pose an obstacle as well, if the router isn’t plugged into the broadband line somewhere in the middle.

In these cases, you could benefit from using a wireless extender. A signal extender plugs into any mains socket to rebroadcast and boost your Wi-Fi signal to those hard-to-reach places.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Read next: Livestreaming Apps Will Totally Crush Your Data Plan

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Smartphones

How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone

smartphone-front-view
Getty Images

Applicable for Androids and iPhones

No one enjoys cell phone spam, especially aggressive telemarketing calls and texts while you’re on the go. Though you can list your cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry, that doesn’t stop telemarketing text messages or even all phone calls in our experience.

If you’re tired of these nuisances, you have options. You can use the following apps and features built into your phone to help cut down on spam.

For Android smartphones

If your phone is updated to Android 4.4 KitKat or later (check Settings > About Phone to check which Android version your device is running) there are some built-in features that identify incoming calls. Caller ID by Google will match incoming calls with Google Places listing and display that name on the call screen for you. Unfortunately, this is highly dependent on the company being listed in Google’s business directory.

If you’re getting nuisance calls from the same number, you can block it from the call log. Select the number you want to block and when you see the details for the caller, hit the menu button. There you’ll find the option to “Add to reject list.” You can manage your call reject list, including adding contacts or numbers, under settings >> call >> call reject >> auto reject list.

For earlier versions of Android, your options vary somewhat by manufacturer. When you get a spam call, open the call log and press and hold the number you want to block. While you’re holding, a menu will pop up letting you add that number to your contacts or block it. Samsung calls it “add to reject list,” HTC calls it “block contact”—you get the idea. On LG models, you can go into system >> call >> call reject >> and then use the + to add numbers from your recent calls.

If you have Android 4.2.2 you can also opt to send all calls from a specific contact directly to voicemail. Once you get a call, make a contact out of that incoming number. Then view that contact (the People widget) and tap on the menu to see the option “All calls to voicemail.”

If your version of Android doesn’t have what you need, check out one of these apps that specialize in dealing with annoying calls in different ways.

Best for blocking spam: Mr. Number

Mr. Number lets you block calls and texts from specific numbers or specific area codes, and it can automatically block private or unknown numbers. It also lets users report spam, so when you get a call from an unknown number, you can see what others have reported about it.

When a blocked number tries to call, your phone may ring once, though usually not at all, and then the call is either disconnected or sent to voicemail, based on how you want the call handled.

Price: Free at Google Play (reverse lookups for a fee)

Best for Identifying Calls: Truecaller

While Mr. Number focuses on blocking calls and texts, Truecaller focuses on identifying who’s trying to get in touch.

Truecaller provides caller ID information and reverse lookup data for incoming calls and texts — and all this info means that Truecaller knows who spammers are and lets you block them before they start bothering you.

The app makers maintain a database of spam callers and telemarketers and will automatically flag incoming calls as such. This database comes from both white and yellow pages services as well as crowdsourced from the Truecaller community. And, it’s proven effective in screening out the One Ring Phone Scam calls.

Truecaller will ask to add your list of contacts to its database, but this is purely optional. You will have to verify your number with Truecaller before being able to use the service.

Price: Free at Google Play

For iPhones

iOS 8 has built-in options for blocking numbers.

Go to the Contacts app and tap on the contact you want to block or find the number on the Recent Calls tab (clock icon) on your Phone app and tap the circled “i” icon to the right of the number. Both these methods will take you to the contact page for that caller. Scroll to the bottom and click on the Block This Caller.

But what about identifying incoming calls or texts as spam?

For that you can rely on Truecaller listed above in the Android section. It also has an iPhone version that will identify incoming calls against their extensive list of telemarketers and spammers.

Price: Free on iTunes

Other blocking options

If you don’t find any built-in features or apps to your liking, your carrier might offer blocking options (although they could come at a cost).

  • AT&T users should look for Smart Limits, a parental control feature that lets you block calls and texts for $4.99 per month.
  • Sprint users can set up call blocking from My Sprint.
  • Verizon users can block five numbers for free or pay $4.99 a month for more blocking options.
  • T-Mobile offers the fewest features here, though you can block all text messages or contact support about potentially blocking specific numbers.

Finally, try filtering by using a Google Voice number as your primary means of contact. Google Voice offers great spam filtering options with a database of known spam numbers, and it can automatically block potential spam. You can port an existing number to Google Voice for a $20 fee to enjoy first-class call filtering options no matter what kind of phone you’re using. This method works for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Smartphones

These Are the 15 Most Useful iPhone and Android Voice Commands

man-using-cellphone
Getty Images

You can get the answer to virtually any question

I’ll be honest: Even though I’m supposed to be a technology expert, I’ve long resisted using Siri and my smartphone’s voice commands. For the longest time, voice recognition on phones just wasn’t that good. All the errors were frustrating and often seemed to eat up more time than just typing in commands and opening up apps manually.

These days, though, I’ve found myself using Siri more often. Speech recognition has gotten a lot better, and Siri has gotten a lot smarter and more powerful. You can do virtually anything via your phone’s voice commands, from posting to Twitter to finding the best pizza pie to figuring out just how deep 20,000 leagues really is.

Not sure how to get the most out of your phone just by speaking to it? No worries – those of us here at Techlicious have put together this guide of the 15 most useful phone voice commands for iOS and Android. Take a look and give some of these a try – I really can’t rave enough about how useful and easy these commands are.

How Voice Commands Work

In general, Apple iPhone owners will want to issue voice commands through Siri (hold the home button); Google Android users should use Google Now (via the Google app) and tap the microphone icon. You can place a Google app widget on your home screen or, if your Android phone has a home key button, download the Home2 Shortcut app (free on Google Play) and configure your home button to launch Google Now with a double tap (Samsung owners may have to go to S Voice > Menu > Settings, and uncheck the second option to launch with the Home button.). iPhone owners can also download and use Google Now via the Google app for voice commands too, but Siri is more convenient.

Most commands can be issued in plain English, as if you were asking your friend to do something for you. Want to make a phone call? Then access Siri or Google Now and tell your phone you want to make a phone call. If your phone needs more information, it’ll ask for it.

Make a call

Okay, so we’ve already covered the basics – to make a hands free call, tell your phone you want to make a call. You can tell your phone to call a specific contact (“call Dr. Leo Spaceman,” “call mom”) or dial a specific number (“call 800-555-1234”). If you have multiple numbers for a contact in your phone, you can specify which you’d like to call: “call mom mobile” or “call mom home.” Easy!

Sending a text via voice command on iOS

Send a text

If you tell your phone to text a contact, it will follow up step-by-step by asking who and what you’d like to text. Or, you can just get it all out at once by saying, “text Dan, Did the contractor arrive yet?” Don’t worry if you flub a word or two – you’ll be able to correct your message if you mess something up (or if your phone mishears). You can add punctuation to your text by dictating it – just say “comma,” “period,” “exclamation mark” and the like when you want one entered into your message.

Send an email

Sending an email is simple, too – just tell your phone you’d like to send an email. It will follow up by prompting you for the recipient, subject and body in a step-by-step manner. Or, to save some time, give all the information to your phone at once: “email Anne, subject: Meeting, message: Can we reschedule our meeting for 3PM?” Note that for this to work smoothly, you’ll need to save people’s email addresses in your phone’s contacts.

Set a timer/alarm

Once you learn to set timers on your phone, you’ll never burn the roast again. Just tell your phone to “set a timer for 20 minutes,” and the countdown will start immediately. Or, you can request to set an alarm for a specific time in the next 24 hours instead – say “set alarm for 1PM.” If you’d like to set an alert further in the future than that, you’ll need to set it up as a reminder instead.

Google Now reminder

Set a reminder based on place or time

Want your phone to remind you to call your mother when you get home from work? You can tell your phone to “add reminder to call mom when I get home” and it’ll add the item to your list. The reminder will trigger for any address you have set up in your address book, including your home address. You can also add a specific date and time to the reminder – “add reminder to buy milk tomorrow at 5PM.”

Schedule a calendar entry

You can add an event to your calendar simply by giving your phone information about it. Say, “schedule meeting with Anne for 3PM” or “add trip to Canada to calendar for June 18 at 8AM” and your phone will know what to do. If you don’t provide enough information, as always, your phone will prompt you for more.

Launch an app

Don’t know where you misplaced your favorite app, or simply want to launch Google Maps without searching for it? Just tell your phone to “launch [app name here],” and your phone will quickly obey.

Siri Voice Activated sports score (NJ Devils)

Get sports scores and stats

Are you out and about, missing the game? Just ask your phone how it’s going – for example, “what’s the New Jersey Devils’ score” – and it’ll tell you the results of the current or most recent game. (Good news! They won 3 to 1 on Saturday!) You can also ask for statistics like “what’s the New Jersey Devils’ record?” or “how many passing yards did Tom Brady have last season?”

Play music

To play a song that you’ve downloaded to your phone, just ask your device to play it, e.g., “play Edge of Seventeen.” You can also request your phone play a specific artist, album or playlist by name.

ID a song that’s playing

Have you ever wanted to know the name of a great new song playing over the radio or the speakers at the gym? Simply ask your phone “What’s this song?” and point the receiver end toward the source. If the song is loud and clear enough for your phone to hear, it’ll be able to identify its name, artist and more.

Get movie show times

You can ask your phone, “what movies are playing near me tomorrow at 2PM?” to get a list of films, parental guidance ratings, reviews and times that meet your query at nearby theaters. You can also search for specific movies, specific actors or simply for “best rated movies playing near me.”

Post to social media

If you’ve chosen to integrate your phone with your Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus accounts, it’s an absolute breeze to post to social media via voice commands. Just tell your phone to “post to Facebook” and then the message you’d like to share as a status update. You can even ask your phone to tell you what’s trending on Twitter.

Voice activated weather forecast on iOS

Check the weather conditions anywhere

If you request the weather forecast, your phone will tell you current and future conditions based on your current GPS location. Or, you can ask how the weather is in Las Vegas, Paris, or Istanbul. And if you’re as worried about the next cold snap and snowfall as those of us in the Northeast are, you can ask your phone “Is snow in the forecast for this week?” or “Is it windy right now?”

Search the web

Sure, you already know to get all your technology news and reviews here on Techlicious. But if you need to access content elsewhere on the web, just ask Siri or Google to perform a web search for you. “Search the web for delicious candy,” Siri! Hurry! I’m hungry.

Get the answer to virtually any question

Who’s the governor of Utah? How tall is the Statue of Liberty? How many inches are in 20 centimeters? Your phone can answer all these fact-based queries and more – all you need to do is ask your question in plain English. If your phone can’t determine the exact answer, it will search the web for you to help find an answer. You can even ask, “What does the Fox say?” This is a really powerful feature, so give it a try!

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Gadgets

How to Get Bluetooth to Actually Work

sound-system
Getty Images

What to do when you just can't get your tech to connect

Back in the mid-90s when Bluetooth launched, few us would have considered someday using our portable phones to play music through a miniature speaker on the other side of a room. Nowadays, laptops, smartphones and tablets use this wireless technology to connect to a vast range of devices — from speakers, keyboards and headsets to in-car entertainment systems, smart-home devices and personal fitness gadgets.

Or at least they’re meant to connect. The last time I tried to pair my iPhone 5S to a Beacon portable speaker, my phone simply did not “discover” the speaker. On the other hand, a friend’s Samsung Galaxy S4 instantly paired, pushing out sweet, sweet music in short order.

While the most recent updates to Bluetooth technology have added better pairing, increased range and lowest-ever power usage, you may still encounter the odd obstacle when getting set up.

Troubleshoot your Bluetooth connection with these tips and let us know how they work for you in the comments.

Make sure you’re in pairing mode

Many simpler devices such as headsets or portable speakers have one button for multiple functions. For example, my portable speaker has one button that you short-press to turn on it on or off, and long-press to activate its Bluetooth discovery mode.

Make sure you’ve correctly put your device in its pairing mode by reading its manual, suggests Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which oversees the development of the Bluetooth standard.

Charge up both the devices you’re trying to pair

“Some devices have smart power management that may turn off Bluetooth if the battery level is too low,” Powell says. If your phone isn’t pairing with that Bluetooth light bulb, make sure it’s got enough juice.

Power down likely interferers

Say that faithful Bluetooth speaker usually connects to your partner’s smartphone instead of yours. If you’re having trouble pairing your phone with the speaker, it could be because the speaker is trying to activate its usual connection. “Some older devices are very simple. They just try to connect with the last thing they paired with,” Powell says. If a Bluetooth device was previously paired with something else, turn off that other gadget.

Restart the connection

The old standby for problematic Macs and PCs works with reluctant Bluetooth connections, too. Sometimes the quickest solution is simply to turn Bluetooth off for both devices, then turn it on again for the devices to re-discover each other.

Place the devices right next to each other

“Pairing works best when the devices are next to each other,” Powell says. Once you’ve got the connection, Bluetooth is robust enough to transmit between devices that may be more than 30 feet apart, but the initial pairing can sometimes use a nudge.

Get away from the Wi-Fi router

Another potential obstacle to successful pairing is interference from devices that use the same spectrum, such as your Wi-Fi router. “Wi-Fi has been designed to cope with this, but it might not be a good idea to have your devices directly on top of the router,” Powell says.

And move away from a USB 3.0 port

“Interference from USB 3.0 is also possible,” Powell says. Newer laptops, for example, often have the higher-speed USB 3.0 port, so if the connection isn’t happening, try pairing your Bluetooth gadgets away from the computer.

Download a driver

In the computer world, a driver is a piece of software that lets two pieces of hardware communicate. If your PC or Mac refuses to pair with your new wireless keyboard (or other device), you may be missing the necessary driver. Head to the manufacturer’s website and find its Support section. There’s usually an area called “Downloads” or “Drivers” that should list the latest software updates, including drivers. Alternately, do a Google search for “driver” after your device’s model name.

Use the latest version of Bluetooth

Wireless speakers and headphones that support the latest Bluetooth 4.1 standard, which launched last December, are better at pairing, Powell says. Many currently available devices support Bluetooth 3.0, which launched in 2010, and you can still buy speakers that use 2007’s Bluetooth 2.1 standard. Though Bluetooth’s backward compatibility means that these devices should still be able to connect to smartphones, for example, newer versions of Bluetooth have steadily increased abilities such as longer-range connections and quicker pairing.

If you’re in the market for a new Bluetooth gadget, look for a sticker that says it supports Bluetooth 4.0 or newer. And if you can wait a bit, Bluetooth 4.2 was announced this December, so devices that support the update – with features including more secure connections and better pairing — should be available soon.

If pairing a fitness gadget, check that your phone is Bluetooth Smart Ready

In general, Bluetooth is backwards compatible: Bluetooth devices supporting the just-announced Bluetooth 4.2 standard should still be able to pair with devices using, say, the ancient Bluetooth 2.1, launched back in 2007.

The exceptions are gadgets that use a low-energy version called Bluetooth Smart, which works on a different protocol than older, or “Classic” Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth Smart devices are not backward compatible and won’t recognize (or pair with) older devices that support Classic Bluetooth. (For example, an old Sony Ericsson phone sporting Bluetooth 3.0 won’t be able to connect to a Bluetooth Smart device.)

However, if a device supports Bluetooth 4.0, it can potentially recognize both Bluetooth Smart and Classic. If it does, it’s officially labelled Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Gadgets that commonly use Bluetooth Smart include personal health gadgets such as fitness bands or heart-rate monitors. These gadgets will only pair with a smartphone or tablet that also uses Bluetooth Smart – or are Bluetooth Smart Ready.

iPhones running iOS 7 and newer should be Bluetooth Smart Ready as should Android phones running 4.3 or newer, Windows Phone 8.1 devices, and all BlackBerry 10 devices. Ensure your phone is running the latest version of its operating system – but if your device isn’t new enough to run relatively current software, you may not be able to pair it with that fitness band.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com