TIME Drones

Obama Calls for Drone Regulation After White House Crash

The FAA is currently drafting drone rules

President Barack Obama has used the crash-landing of a drone at the White House Monday as an opportunity to reemphasize the importance of regulating unmanned aircraft.

In an interview with CNN, Obama said the remote-controlled quadcopter that caused a brief security scare on Monday was the kind “you buy in Radio Shack,” calling for a regulatory framework for drones that will “get the good and minimize the bad.”

“There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” Obama said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

Drones are currently restricted from most airspace, except at low heights and at designated testing sites. The capital has stricter regulations than most on flying unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently drafting regulations that will allow for wider use of the devices. However, the process has been fraught with delays.

[CNN]

TIME movies

Here’s Your First Trailer for Fantastic Four

We'll get a new origin story for the superhero gang

The not-so-long-awaited reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise is almost here, and Fox has released a first trailer to whet moviegoers’ appetites.

In the new preview, we see each of the titular Four–Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as The Invisible Woman, Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch and Jamie Bell as The Thing–as young twentysomethings before they become “Fantastic.”

The new film will be an origin story for the crew and will also feature Toby Kebbell as Victor Domashev, a new take on the classic Fantastic Four villain Dr. Doom.

Fantastic Four debuts on August 7.

TIME Wireless

Can Wi-Fi Replace Your Cell Phone Plan?

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone Facebook
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Cablevision is building a cell phone service that relies entirely on Wi-Fi

The wireless industry has seen its fair share of changes over the last two years, many sparked by T-Mobile’s disruptive “uncarrier” policies that have been since co-opted by its rivals. But there could be even bigger shakeups coming in the year ahead.

New York-based cable and Internet operator Cablevision is preparing to launch a new cell phone service that relies exclusively on Wi-Fi, the New York Times reports. That would differentiate it from traditional mobile carriers, which use networks of cell towers to let users make calls, send text messages and surf the web. Google is also reportedly prepping a wireless service that may make extensive use of Wi-Fi.

A switch from cellular to Wi-Fi networks could have a huge impact on both the cost and quality of wireless service in the future. Here’s a quick look at what Wi-Fi-based carriers could mean for your cell phone plan:

How is a Wi-Fi plan different from a regular cellular plan?

Historically, cell phones have delivered phone calls, text messages and Internet data using cell towers owned and operated by wireless carriers like Verizon or AT&T. This system has created extremely widespread networks that let people make calls and access the web from almost anywhere in the U.S. But it also means the networks are extremely expensive to operate, so carriers charge customers high monthly fees to maintain them.

An increasing amount of activity on mobile phones is now being done using Wi-Fi networks instead of cellular networks. People can easily set up Wi-Fi in their own homes, while many businesses and municipalities are starting to offer Wi-Fi access for free. Cablevision has also been building its own network of Wi-Fi hotspots for use by its home Internet subscribers when they’re on the go.

Cablevision is now betting that its Wi-Fi hotspots are so widespread that it can build an entire mobile network around them. That means you’d use Wi-Fi not only to surf the Web at home, but also to send texts and make phone calls while out and about.

What are the advantages of a Wi-Fi cell phone plan?

The biggest differentiator would be price. Cablevision’s new Wi-Fi service, dubbed Freewheel, will cost $29.95 per month for new individual customers or $9.95 per month for customers who already subscribe to the company’s Optimum Online Internet service. A recent survey by research firm Cowen and Company found the average monthly cell phone bill on Sprint, Verizon or AT&T is about $140, though that factors in both individual and family plans.

Cablevision’s service also won’t require an annual contract, and it will provide unlimited data. Traditional cell phone carriers often require two-year contracts and punish customers with expensive overage fees if they exceed their data caps.

What are the disadvantages?

At launch, the only phone compatible with Cablevision’s new network is Motorola’s Moto G, which will cost $99.99. The service also won’t be able to match the wide coverage of mobile networks like Verizon’s or AT&T’s — Cablevision’s 1.1 million Wi-Fi hotspots are found only in the New York metro area.

For now, Optimum’s service doesn’t seem to be geared toward typical mainstream consumers. Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Kristin Dolan told the Wall Street Journal that Freewheel could be appropriate for college students, children or people with a fixed income.

What does this mean for the future of wireless?

People aren’t going to abandon reliable wireless carriers and their cellular networks anytime soon. But there will be growing pressure on carriers to make more effective use of Wi-Fi connectivity in urban areas. Google’s rumored wireless service may end up mixing Wi-Fi and traditional cellular networks, helping users automatically find and connect to the fastest or cheapest network while on the go, according to the Journal.

In the future, cellular networks could be viewed as a back-up connectivity option when Wi-Fi isn’t available. Such a model would lower cell phone bills as customers opted for cheaper data plans.

Should I subscribe to Cablevision’s Wi-Fi Network?

If you already subscribe to Optimum Internet (so you qualify for the cheaper subscription rate) and you live near New York and you don’t travel much, then maybe. Otherwise, it’s best to wait and see how the arrival of Freewheel impacts the offerings of the major carriers — and keep an eye out for Google’s upcoming service, which the Journal speculates could arrive in the first half of the year.

TIME Gadgets

You Can Control This Heated Scarf With Your Smartphone

Scarf
Woman texting on smartphone outside Martin Dimitrov—Getty Images

New device can also vibrate

A scarf is probably not the first kind of “wearable device” you think of, but Microsoft may change that. A research group at the company has developed a smart scarf that can heat up or vibrate via a smartphone app, MIT Technology Review reports.

The scarf is comprised of hexagonal modules made of felt and overlaid with copper taffeta. One of the modules has Bluetooth functionality in order to communicate with your smartphone. Some of the modules heat up and others vibrate, but they can be rearranged in any order to alter the heat distribution of the scarf.

Researchers told the MIT Technology Review that they’d like to add cooling functionality to the scarf, as well as a music player. The device could even worth with other biometric devices to adjust the scarf temperature based on a person’s mood, perhaps boosting the heat when the wearer appears to be sad.

For now, the scarf is just a research project. A paper on the device was presented at a conference on human-computer interaction at Stanford University on Sunday.

TIME Companies

Apple Paid its New Retail Chief More Than $70 Million Last Year

Apple Inc.'s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Go On Sale
Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail and online stores at Apple Inc., right, and employees look on before opening the doors to the company's George Street store for the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Sydney on Sept. 19, 2014. Lisa Maree Williams—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Making Angela Ahrendts the company's highest-paid exec

How much does Apple care about its retail stores? Enough to pay more than $70 million to the woman heading them up, making her the highest-paid exec at the company.

Apple revealed in an SEC filing Thursday that new hire Angela Ahrendts earned $73.4 million in 2014, almost all of it in stock awards. Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, joined Apple in May as the senior vice president for retail and online stores.

In the filing, Apple explained Ahrendts’ sky-high paycheck. “The recruitment of Ms. Ahrendts provided an extraordinary addition to the Company’s executive team with the experience and ability to lead both the retail and online businesses,” Apple wrote. “In determining her transition package, the Compensation Committee considered Ms. Ahrendts’ compensation arrangement at Burberry and the amounts that she was expected to receive in future years. At the time, Ms. Ahrendts was among the highest paid executives in the U.K. and held unvested Burberry equity awards with a value of approximately $37 million.”

Part of the reason Apple’s been so generous to Ahrendts is because her job extends to much more than just managing the Apple Stores: The former Burberry head was brought on specifically for her fashion taste to help design an Apple Watch that would be visually appealing to customers. We’ll find out whether she succeeded when the new device launches in the spring of this year.

TIME Labor

Why This New McDonald’s Lawsuit Could Be Big Trouble for Fast Food

McDonald's
A sign for a McDonald's restaurant is seen in Times Square on June 9, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

A new civil rights suit is holding McDonald's responsible for a franchise owner's actions

Former McDonalds workers filed a lawsuit Thursday that could put more responsibility on national restaurant chains for franchise owners’ actions.

The suit, filed in Virginia, alleges that a McDonald’s franchisee was acting in a racially motivated way when he fired several employees. But the workers are taking their grievances a step further by also suing McDonald’s national corporation, arguing the larger company is liable for the franchisee’s alleged actions.

The suit also comes just one month after the National Labor Relations Board took the unprecedented step of holding McDonald’s Corporation responsible as a “joint employer” for labor violations the agency says occurred at McDonald’s franchise locations. McDonalds is fighting the distinction.

Historically, national restaurant chains have been insulated from legal culpability for activities at franchised restaurants because the franchises are seen as independent businesses. This structure has been particularly useful in the last two years as fast food workers nationwide have gone on multiple one-day strikes demanding a $15 per hour living wage in coordinated, union-backed campaigns. By invoking its franchisees’ independence, McDonald’s doesn’t have to bargain with workers collectively or issue a wage increase that would affect all workers at once.

But Thursday’s lawsuit argues that McDonald’s franchises are “predominately controlled” by their corporate parent, as McDonald’s sets national policies for restaurant operations, corporate representatives oversee franchises and the national company coordinates training for all managerial employees. An operational manual issued to franchise owners specifically outlines a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, as well as a mandate against workplace remarks that demean individuals because of their race, sex or religion, according to the suit.

The ten workers involved in Thursday’s suit, all either black or Hispanic, claim their managers consistently addressed them in derogatory ways, calling them “ghetto,” “ratchet,” or “dirty Mexican.” Several female employees also say they were victims of sexual harassment that included being touched inappropriately and being sent unwanted explicit photos. The workers ultimately argue they were terminated from their jobs because the store owner wanted to increase the ratio of white employees to minority ones — supervisors said they needed “to get the ghetto out of the store,” according to the lawsuit.

The McDonald’s restaurants involved in the lawsuit are run by Soweva Corporation, a company owned by franchisee Michael Simon. However, Paul Smith, the plaintiffs’ legal counsel, says McDonald’s Corporation “could have put policies in place to stop what the plaintiffs endured.”

“We believe that McDonald’s Corporation controlled nearly every aspect of the store’s operations,” Smith said on a press call with reporters Thursday.

Soweva Corporation did not return a call seeking comment. In an emailed statement, a McDonald’s spokeswoman said the company had not seen the lawsuit, but planned to review it carefully.

“McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values,” the statement read. “McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

Dave Sherwyn, a law professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, says more cases are likely to emerge that try to hold corporate chains responsible for the actions of franchisees. This is the tip of the iceberg,” Sherwyn says. “The next step is going to be in discrimination litigation and wage and hour litigation.”

 

TIME Mobile

Google Is Reportedly Prepping a Wireless Service

The Google Inc. company logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone 4 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

New initiative would expand Google's quest to provide the world's Internet access

Google has been providing ultra high-speed home Internet to select cities for several years — but now it wants to be your mobile carrier, too.

The company is reportedly planning to launch its own cell phone service, according to The Information and the Wall Street Journal. Google has made deals with T-Mobile and Sprint to resell portions of their networks under a Google-branded name, a common practice by small wireless carriers known as mobile virtual network operators. Though T-Mobile and Sprint would still own the networks, Google would set its own prices and deal directly with customers.

Neither a launch window nor a price range for the service were disclosed.

Launching a wireless service would be another big step in Google’s quest to deliver Internet service directly to customers. Google Fiber is already providing broadband access in several U.S. cities, Project Loon aims to use balloons to bring remote areas online, and the company’s big investment in SpaceX could be a sign that it wants to use satellites to expand Internet connectivity as well.

But well-established ISPs and telecommunication companies won’t simply stand idle as Google takes their business. Sprint is reserving the right to renegotiate its terms with Google if the new service proves popular, according to the Journal.

Google and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sprint declined to comment.

TIME policy

Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014

Google Reports Quarterly Earnings
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Outspent the cable giant currently seeking approval for a merger

Google’s influence is increasingly being felt in Washington, according to a corporate spending watchdog.

The search giant spent $16.83 million on federal lobbying in 2014, according to public records analyzed by public interest nonprofit Consumer Watchdog — just a little bit more than the $16.8 million spend racked up by noted big spender Comcast last year, as it sought to win approval for a planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Google is also spending considerably more than its direct competitors, such as Microsoft, which spent $8.33 million on lobbying efforts, and Facebook, which spent $9.34 million. In fact Google’s spend was the largest of 15 tech and communications companies that Consumer Watchdog tracks, including Verizon, Time Warner Cable and IBM.

As Google continues to expand to new business ventures, such as its just-announced contribution to a $1 billion investment into SpaceX, the company must wrangle with an ever-growing list of laws and policies. The Washington Post pulled back the curtain a bit on how Google spends its lobbying dollars earlier this year, revealing that the tech giant regularly funds research at think tanks and invests in advocacy groups on both sides of the political aisle.

Current political issues that would likely be of high interest to Google include the revamping of net neutrality laws and President Obama’s new initiative to ensure that cities are able to build their own municipal broadband networks, which could lead to faster Internet for customers.

TIME Media

Apple Just Bought This Startup to Help Take On Spotify

Apple Software Bugs
An Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the company's iPhone 6 Plus inside SoftBank Corp.'s Omotesando store during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Tokyo on Sept. 19, 2014. Bloomberg/Getty Images

New acquisition tracks music analytics

Apple has reportedly snapped up a music analytics service as it plots out a future for Beats Music and iTunes.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple recently purchased Semetric, an analytics firm that tracks the way fans consume various forms of entertainment across the Web. The company could give Apple insight to create a music service that gives artists greater opportunities to interact with fans.

Apple would not comment on the acquisition news directly. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” company spokesman Colin Johnson told TIME.

Apple is planning to integrate Beats Music directly into the next version of its iOS mobile operating system, according to the New York Times. It may drop the price of the subscription music service from the industry-wide standard of $10 per month. It’s not clear what Apple’s plans are for iTunes, which has seen steep declines in music sales as users flock to streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube.

TIME Media

Amazon Outbid Netflix For Its Most Successful Show

Golden Globes 2015 - Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor stars in Transparent Amazon Studios

Transparent could've been on Netflix

Amazon has been raking in accolades for its new show Transparent, which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender parent that comes out to her children. But the show could have belonged to Netflix.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told the Huffington Post that Amazon outbid his company for streaming rights to Transparent, which first aired its pilot on Amazon in February. The show has since been hailed by critics, recently picking up a Golden Globe for best TV series.

Amazon’s success with Transparent demonstrates just how competitive the market for premium television is becoming. In the same interview, Hastings told the Huffington Post that Netflix managed to outbid HBO for House of Cards, while HBO ended up snagging the rights to True Detective.

[The Huffington Post]

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