TIME Video Games

Some PlayStation Vita Owners Will Get Refunds After FTC Settlement

Either a $50 voucher for select merchandise or a $25 cash or credit refund

Sony Computer Entertainment America will issue refunds to customers who bought its PlayStation Vita handheld video game system before June 2012 to settle false advertising claims brought by the Federal Trade Commission, the agency said Tuesday.

The FTC claims that Sony misled consumers about “game changing” features of the Vita, including the ability to seamlessly begin playing any PlayStation 3 game immediately on the handheld Vita. That feature only worked as advertised for certain games, the FTC acknowledged.

Customers who bought the Vita before June 1, 2012, are entitled to either a $50 voucher for select video game merchandise or $25 cash or credit refund. Given sales of the PS Vita in the U.S. at the time, total refunds paid out could reach $14 million. Sony will notify customers who qualify for the refunds via email.

The FTC also claimed that Sony’s advertising agency, Deutsch LA, deceived consumers by having its employees try to generate hype for the gaming system on Twitter without disclosing their association with the product. The agency is banned from such practices in the future.

Sony is the latest in a growing list of tech companies that have been accused of misleading customers by the FTC. Apple, Amazon, Google, AT&T and T-Mobile have all had to contend with FTC settlements or lawsuits this year. A Sony spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TIME China

China Proposes Ban on Smoking in Public Places

Beer Enthusiasts Gather For China's Largest Beer Festival
Chinese men take a smoke break during the 24th Annual Qingdao International Beer Festival on August 20, 2014 in Qingdao, China. Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

Ban would affect the country's 300 million smokers

Soon it could be illegal to smoke in public places in China, as the government considers tightening restrictions on the addictive habit.

The new rules, which are being presented to the public for the first time this week, would also ban smoking at certain outdoor areas like sports venues, restrict selling of tobacco to minors and force tobacco companies to include warnings about the dangers of smoking prominently on their package labels, the New York Times reports.

Smoking is incredibly popular in China: 300 million people partake regularly. It’s also cheap because, unlike in the U.S., the Chinese government doesn’t levy heavy taxes on tobacco products. Pro-smoking advertisements are even a common sight at schools. The World Health Organization had been pushing China to do more to curb smoking in the country for several years.

The reaction to the proposed rules has been largely positive so far, according to the Times. A local Beijing publication claims that 90% of the city’s residents support banning smoking at indoor public places.

[New York Times]

TIME Media

HBO Deal to Bring ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘True Detective’ to China

Game of Thrones
HBO

New partnership involves a Chinese online video service run by the tech giant Tencent

Westeros is about to bring another kingdom under its reign. HBO has inked a deal to bring hits like Game of Thrones and True Detective to a Chinese online video service run by the tech giant Tencent, giving Chinese viewers the ability to stream HBO shows legally for the first time.

HBO content is already popular in the country thanks to rampant piracy. Introducing a legal option could help the Netflix-like Tencent Video as it competes with other Chinese web giants like Alibaba, which owns a large stake in the online video site Youku Toudu.

However, like much foreign content, HBO’s shows will be subject to approval by the government before they air or stream. When Game of Thrones was broadcast on Chinese television earlier this year, it was so heavily edited that fans griped that it had been neutered into a “European castle documentary.”

[WSJ]

TIME Ferguson

Watch How People Reacted to the Ferguson Decision on Twitter

3.5 million tweets about Ferguson decision were sent Monday night

Conversation about Ferguson, Missouri dominated social media Monday night. Above, you can see how Twitter erupted right after 8 p.m. Central, when St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch made his lengthy announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Social media users continued to tweet about events in Ferguson well into the night, as protests, clashes with police and chaos raged on.

Twitter said there were more than 3.5 million tweets total about the Ferguson decision Monday night. “#FergusonDecision” remained the top trending topic in the United States Tuesday morning.

TIME Web

Internet Users Surge to Almost 3 Billion Worldwide

Man using computer
Getty Images

40% of the world is now online

The number of Internet users in the world is approaching 3 billion, according to a United Nations agency.

The International Telecommunications Union revealed in its annual report that the number of Internet users grew 6.6% in 2014, from 2.7 billion to almost 3 billion. Five years ago, just 2 billion people were online. Today, 40% of the world is plugged in.

The quickest growth has occurred in developing countries, where the number of Internet users has doubled in the last five years. But there are still more than 4 billion people on Earth without Internet access. Africa is the region with the lowest penetration rate, with only 19% of people on the continent currently using the Internet.

ITU has committed to bringing 1.5 billion more people online by the end of the decade through an initiative called Code 2020, which is focused on expanding access to mobile broadband around the world. A bevy of big tech companies, including Google and Facebook, have also launched projects to deliver Internet access to remote areas.

TIME movies

Steve Jobs Movie Scooped Up by Universal

Apple Unveils iPad 2
Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple Special event to unveil the new iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Michael Fassbender will play Apple's founder and Danny Boyle will direct

The long-brewing Steve Jobs biopic has been picked up by Universal Pictures, less than a week after Sony Pictures reportedly dropped the project. The upcoming film will star Michael Fassbender and be directed by Danny Boyle. Aaron Sorkin is penning the script.

The Jobs movie has already gone through a revolving door of stars and directors. Original director David Fincher was replaced by Boyle earlier in the year and Christian Bale backed out of playing the Apple founder this month.

[THR]

TIME Media

Beyoncé’s Latest Album Is Finally on Spotify

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Singer Beyoncé attends the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2014 Jason Merritt—Getty Images

Spotify gets a big release following Taylor Swift's exodus

It took nearly a year, but Beyoncé’s self-titled album is finally available on Spotify.

A platinum edition of Beyoncé, with six new remixes and bonus tracks, is now available on the music-streaming service. The album, released as a surprise last December, was originally only available as an iTunes exclusive but was later released on CD as well. Spotify previously only had a couple of big singles from the album available to stream.

Landing Beyoncé could help Spotify improve what’s been a very rough November. Taylor Swift removed her entire catalogue from the service while very vocally questioning whether Spotify’s model compensates artists appropriately for their work. Later, a Sony Music executive expressed doubts about Spotify’s ability to convert free users into paying customers, saying Swift’s exodus had sparked “a lot of conversation.” Spotify believes its free version is critical to eventually convincing users to purchase premium subscriptions and says its royalty payouts will continue to grow as it gains more customers.

For Beyoncé, releasing her album on Spotify could help it land higher on the album charts. Billboard just announced that it would begin including songs played on music-streaming services in its weekly album rankings. That could help Beyoncé unseat 1989, Swift’s blockbuster release that has topped the charts for three straight weeks.

TIME Media

Google Takes Over North America’s Biggest Digital Billboard

Billed as Times Square's largest and most expensive digital billboard, a new megascreen is debuted in front of the Marriott Marquis hotel on Nov.18, 2014 in New York City.
Billed as Times Square's largest and most expensive digital billboard, a new megascreen is debuted in front of the Marriott Marquis hotel on Nov.18, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

And it's even higher-res than 4K displays

The lights of Times Square just got a little bit brighter, as Google is taking over a massive new digital billboard that spans an entire city block in the heart of New York.

The new screen is more than 25,000 square feet in size and has a pixel density even greater than high-definition 4K displays. Clear Channel, the company that built the ad space, says it’s the largest digital screen in North America.

Google is taking over the space just in time for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. The search giant will use the screen to present an interactive mobile game this week in which people can “Androidify” themselves, becoming cartoon characters similar to the ones in Google’s new Android marketing campaign. Google hopes to present 25,000 personalized Android characters on the screen each day. In addition to pushing products like Android, Chrome and Nexus, Google will offer some billboard screen-time to nonprofits such as Charity Water and Khan Academy.

The new screen is located on Broadway between 45th Street and 46th Street. The price of the ad wasn’t disclosed.

 

TIME How-To

8 Netflix Tricks You Just Can’t Live Without

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France. Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Find out how to hide the embarrassing stuff you've been streaming

One of the main reasons Netflix is so popular is because of its simplicity. It’s painfully easy to queue up a movie on your laptop, video game console or mobile device and start watching in mere seconds. But that simplicity means there are a lot of features to Netflix that the average customer may not be using.

Here, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to help you get the most out of Netflix:

See What Movies Are Coming and Going

Netflix’s lineup of movies and TV shows is constantly changing as the company gains and loses licensing rights for different content. It’s difficult to get a full picture of the Netflix library from within the app itself, but a variety of third-party websites can help. Sites like Instant Watcher and What’s New On Netflix offer a daily rundown of new releases on the streaming service. Finding out when movies are going to be removed is a little trickier, because Netflix has purposefully obscured that information. However, the site Now Streaming updates regularly with lists of movies that will soon be going offline.

Get Better Search Options

Search options on Netflix are fairly limited, which can make it hard to ferret out quality movies from the service’s vast amount of content. Sites like Instant Watcher let you filter options by parameters such as year released as well as rating on Netflix and Rotten Tomatoes. And if your favorite movie isn’t on Netflix right now, you can use Can I Stream It or WhereToWatch to find out where else a film might be available to stream legally online.

Use Your Phone As a Remote

On the PlayStation 3, customers can use their phone or tablet to control Netflix instead of a video game controller. First, make sure your mobile device and your PS3 are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Then boot up the Netflix app on both devices, and your phone or tablet can be used to control the movie playing on the big screen — this also works if you’re watching Netflix via a Google Chromecast.

Get Smarter Recommendations

Netflix prides itself on its algorithms that are supposed to serve up content you’ll love that you didn’t even know you wanted. But the process only works if you feed the company a lot of info about what you enjoy. Rate movies regularly to get more precise recommendations, and don’t forget to fill out your taste preferences in your account settings. You can access the taste preferences list by selecting the “Your Account” option on the Web-based version of Netflix.

Change Subtitles

Tired of Netflix’s signature yellow subtitles? You can choose among eight different text colors as well as a background color to place behind the text. The font and text size can also be adjusted. The options are available in the “Your Account” settings on the Web version of Netflix.

Eliminate Buffering

There’s no bigger buzzkill during a riveting movie than being hit with a buffering screen. Netflix has a hidden menu to help you banish buffering. Press Shift + Alt + Left Click (or Shift + Option + Click on a Mac) while streaming a show to bring up a diagnostic screen. Click “Screen Manager,” then select the “Manual” checkbox to alter the stream’s bit rate. A lower number will lower the image quality of the program but will also allow you to watch on a slower connection without constant hiccups. When the buffering screen hits video game consoles and other living room streaming devices, try inputing the code Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Up, Up, Up on the controller or remote to deactivate Netflix, then reboot it.

Make Profiles for Multiple Users

When you’re sharing your Netflix account with multiple friends and family members, the service’s recommendation algorithm can get pretty muddled. Separate the Law and Order fans from the documentary junkies by setting up separate profiles. You can have five in total and each will get its own viewing history and tailored recommendations. Create new profiles using the “Manage Profiles” option in the settings menu on Netflix.com.

Erase Your Viewing History

You gave into your base desires and binged on Bridezillas for five hours one rainy Sunday afternoon. It’s OK—no one ever has to know. Netflix will let you see a log of your vieiwng history and wipe specific items from the record books across all devices. Simply go to the “Your Account” option in the settings menu, click “Viewing Activity” and click the X on any shows you want to erase. Then you can go on watching trashy reality TV with impunity.

Read next: How to Stop Accidentally Closing Your Browser All the Time

TIME Gadgets

Google Sweetens the Chromebook Deal Ahead of the Holidays

Google Chromebook To Be Available Online On June 15
Google Inc. Chrome and Samsung Electronics Co.'s logos are seen on a Chromebook in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, June 9, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Free storage promotion runs until the new year

Google is offering a terabyte of free storage with its Chromebook computers for the holiday season, the company announced Friday.

Customers who buy qualifying Chromebooks priced at $199 or more will receive a two-year subscription to Google Drive with a terabyte of free storage space. That amount of space typically costs $9.99 per month, so the deal is worth about $240.

Chromebooks are stripped of many of the programs typically found on PCs, and instead offer apps that are accessed online, like Google Docs. They’ve slowly gained in marketshare since Google first unveiled the barebones laptops in 2011 — Chromebook sales are expected to triple by 2017.

The Google Drive promotion runs through January 1.

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