TIME

See Where Uber Faces the Biggest Competition

Itching to ditch the ride-sharing app? Your alternatives are limited but growing

For those crying foul this week over Uber’s violation of user privacy and alleged sexism, there’s a growing list of alternatives – that is, if you live in a major U.S. city.

Since its founding in 2008, Uber, the dominant ride-sharing service, has spread to 132 cities of the at least 147 U.S. cities with taxi alternatives provided by ride-sharing companies. Uber faces no major competitor in 54 of those cities.

But Uber’s three major competitors – Lyft, Curb and Sidecar – are catching up. By coverage, Lyft appears to be Uber’s chief rival, with drivers in over half as many cities. In two cities, Lyft faces no major rival while Curb operates in four cities without a major competitor. Seven cities are now home to all four competitors: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Charlotte, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Click on the company labels to show cities with that company.

 

Methodology

Cities are taken from Sidecar, Uber, Lyft and Curb websites, and manually edited where different names were used for the same geographic area.

This post was updated on Nov 25 with new cities.

TIME Parenting

What Bill Gates’ Kids Do with their Allowance

How do you teach insanely wealthy kids how to manage money?

The rich are different from you and I, but they still want to give their kids an allowance. So what do the world’s richest man’s kids do with their money? Melinda Gates came to TIME’s offices to talk about her new focus on women and children and especially on contraceptives, but she spilled some secrets about how she tries to get her kids to be purposeful with their money.

First of all, she tries to be true to her values, to articulate them and live them out. Then, they do a lot of volunteering together, at “whatever tugs at their heartstrings” says Gates. And of course, they’ve traveled with her. “They have that connection I think to the developing world,” she says. “They see the difference a flock of chicks makes in a family’s life. It’s huge.”

Read the 10 Questions with Melinda Gates here

Gates has always made a point of getting into the streets and poorer neighborhoods when she travels for meetings and conferences. And sometimes she takes her kids. It’s there, she says, that she meets mothers who tell her that their biggest struggle is having so many children. Although Gates was raised Catholic, she is heading up an initiative to get family planning information, contraceptives and services to 120 million more women by the year 2020. That includes new technology, better delivery system and a lot of education, including for men.

She’s similarly rigorous about her home life. Her kids save a third of their allowance and designate a charity they’d like to give it to. (They can also list donations to charities on their Christmas wish list.) As further incentive, their parents double whatever money they’ve saved. Which means they may be the only children in the world to get a matching grant from the Gates Foundation.

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TIME
MONEY interest rates

China Cuts Interest Rates, Sending Stock, Commodity Markets Higher

A man rides his electric bicycle passing the People's Bank of China (PBoC).
A man rides his electric bicycle passing the People's Bank of China (PBoC). Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images

Beijing moves to support an economy growing at its slowest rate in five years

China’s central bank cut its official interest rates for the first time in two years Friday, in a surprise move that sent international stock and commodity markets sharply higher.

The action by the People’s Bank of China, which comes in response to a string of disappointing economic data and increasing signs of tension in local money markets, is the authorities’ strongest show of support in months.

The economy is currently growing at its slowest rate since 2009, and while Beijing has tried to appear relaxed about that, surveys are now showing output stagnating and jobs being shed across the key manufacturing sector.

The PBoC’s action also adds to the trend of central banks across the world easing monetary policy to fight off a growing threat of deflation–a trend that goes in the opposite direction to the U.S., where the Federal Reserve is preparing to tighten policy as the economic recovery gains traction after six years of emergency measures.

The PBoC cut its one-year deposit rate by 0.25 percentage points to 2.75% and the one-year lending rate by 0.40 percentage points to 5.6%.

It timed its announcement to come after the close of financial markets in China, but European stock markets surged on the news, as did prices for commodities such as crude oil. The benchmark contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose by $1.50 a barrel, or 2.5%, to its highest level in two weeks, while in Europe, the German DAX index soared 2% and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 1.0%.

European markets were also buoyed by a strongly-worded speech by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi promising aggressive action to ensure the Eurozone doesn’t fall into deflation.

Official interest rates don’t have quite the same function in China’s economy as they do in western ones, due to their interplay with other tools, such as caps on deposit rates and statutory reserve requirements. And the market for money is in any case effectively sealed off from the rest of the world by China’s capital controls. As such, they may not have the same kind of stimulating effect that a similar move by, for example, the Federal Reserve (in the days before the 2008 crisis).

Interestingly, the PBoC also relaxed its control of the amount that banks can offer for deposits. They can now offer 1.2 times the benchmark rate, rather than 1.1 times. These range from 0.35% to 4% depending on maturity. The PBoC enforces a strict cap of 75% on loan-to-deposit ratios in the banking system.

Taken together, the measures look designed to support liquidity into a banking system that is facing challenges on a number of fronts. The sector is seeing a sharp rise in bad loans, especially to real estate developers and construction companies, which is hitting revenue. In addition, banks are also looking to raise capital themselves and amass cash to service clients’ demands for other stock offerings that are due next week in China.

Earlier Friday, the PBoC had felt the need to issue a statement via its account on the Chinese Twitter-equivalent Weibo reassuring market participants that liquidity was “ample”. Benchmark one-week interbank rates had risen by an alarming 0.2o percentage point to 3.48% earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY Leisure

4 New Ways Movie Theaters Are Filling Seats and Upselling Patrons

People relax in all powered recliner seats at AMC Movie Theater in Braintree.
People relax in all powered recliner seats at an AMC Movie Theater. Jonathan Wiggs—Boston Globe via Getty Images

The next time you go to a movie theater, you may be coaxed into spending a little extra money—perhaps for a beer, a toy your kid is begging for, or the right to watch the film you just saw over and over.

Even with the blizzard of ticket sales for Frozen starting the year, 2014 has been less than stellar at the box office, with a summer of few blockbusters and overall sales that are down 4% compared to last year. In previous years, theaters and movie studios have resorted to raising admission prices (often using IMAX or 3D screenings as a justification) as a way to offset declining ticket sales.

However, fewer 3D films are being released lately—at least partly because theatergoers have come to see the technology as a gimmick not worth paying extra for in an otherwise mediocre movie—so theaters and movie studios have had to become more creative in their efforts to fill seats and upsell patrons. Here are a few of the strategies that have popped up recently:

Unlimited Admission Ticket
AMC Theatres and Paramount Pictures are experimenting right now with a special unlimited admission for Christopher Nolan’s three-hour space epic Interstellar that’ll get customers to turn over an extra $15. Like it sounds, the unlimited admission ticket allows filmgoers to see the movie as many times as they like—which could be quite a few times, considering how confusing some have found it to be. Unlimited tickets are on sale for $19.99 to $34.99, depending on location, or customers can pay $14.99 to upgrade a one-time admission into an unlimited one.

Combo Concessions
To boost revenues, theater concessions stands have increasingly been offering combo packages that generally include popcorn, a drink in a collectible cup, and often some kind of toy or figurine related to the movie such as How to Train Your Dragon 2 or Transformers: Age of Extinction. The Hollywood Reporter noted these combos cost theaters about $1.50 apiece, and they’re sold to customers for as much as $7.95. As one executive involved in the creation and licensing of such products explained, the natural reaction children have when seeing such combos is to whine until a parent gives in and buys one: “The kid sees another kid with this toy and says, ‘Hey, I want that, too.'” And the popularity of these offers isn’t limited to children, as one theater food service manager said: “We didn’t think we would see 35-year-old guys with collectible cups with little toys on them, but they love them.”

Booze, Food, Recliners… and Wind
To attract more customers and simultaneously squeeze more money out of them at the same time, theaters have been adding or expanding amenities and special features so that going to the movies is much more of an “experience” than sitting at home watching Netflix. Regal Cinemas has been adding luxury recliners to theaters, and plans to have them in as many as 350 locations by 2015. AMC’s Dine-in Theatres program allows patrons at select locations to grab beer and wine, as well as lunch, dinner, or some snacks while taking in a film, sometimes from the comfort of a recliner. In June, the country’s first 4D theater opened in Los Angeles, with artificial wind, fog, scents, and sensor-equipped seats adding another dimension to 3D films.

Gamer Competitions
In October, three Cinemark theaters boasted “multiple sold-out auditoriums” for special screenings that took place in the middle of the night and charged a premium over the usual movie admission. Most curiously, the screening that drew these crowds into the movie theaters wasn’t a movie at all, but a video game competition, the Riot Games League of Legends Championships, which were being held in South Korea and live-streamed at theaters in Texas, Illinois, and Washington.

TIME Technology & Media

A TV Network Should Buy Aereo. Here’s Why.

Supreme Court Hears Case Pinning Startup Internet TV Company Aereo Against Major Broadcast Networks
In this photo illustration, Aereo.com, a web service that provides television shows online, is shown on an iPhone 4S on April 22, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

It would help them compete against Netflix and HBO Go

Aereo, an ambitious startup that aimed to stream live broadcast television to subscribers for a small monthly fee, filed for bankruptcy Friday, months after a devastating loss at the Supreme Court. But it doesn’t have to end this way.

Aereo worked by giving each of its subscribers access to a tiny antenna that picked up broadcast television signals, which were then stored in a cloud server before being beamed over the Internet to users’ laptops or mobile devices, either almost live or well after-the-fact via DVR technology. Subscribers paid about $8 a month for the service, even though broadcasters like NBC and Fox give away their content for free to anyone with an antenna in range of their transmitters, making most of their profits from advertising.

But advertising isn’t the broadcasters’ only revenue stream. Cable companies like Time Warner Cable have for years been legally required to pay broadcasters for the right to retransmit their content to cable subscribers. What sparked the Aereo case is that Aereo didn’t pay those fees, which make up an increasingly large slice of the broadcasters’ revenues. So broadcast networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox, sued Aereo on copyright grounds. The case ultimately found its way to the Supreme Court, which in June sided against Aereo. Aereo then tried a few legal hail-marys to try saving its business, but as prime Aereo backer Barry Diller admitted over the summer, the game was over once the Court’s gavel was struck.

What I have trouble moving past is that Aereo wasn’t really charging for content, as everything you could watch on the service was free anyway. It was charging for convenience — You could watch Aereo on a laptop or iPhone, and it gave customers access to a cloud-based DVR to store their favorite shows. It also made up for the fact that, here in building-packed New York City at least, the free, over-the-air broadcasts are often difficult to watch with a regular TV aerial. Most of the people I know who used Aereo here did so because they couldn’t get reliable signals from the broadcasters. In this sense, Aereo addressed a technical failure, too. With those factors combined, Aereo was certainly worth eight bucks a month.

The broadcast networks used the courts to pummel Aereo into submission, suing a potential industry disruptor out of existence. But instead of walking away smiling, those broadcasters should realize Aereo only foreshadowed a massive industry shakeup that will change everything about television. As more people cut the cord and switch to on-demand services like Netflix and HBO Go (with the latter soon to be available without a cable subscription), cable television will slowly die out — and take those lucrative retransmission fees with them as it goes. CBS, at least, sees the writing on the door: It’s launching an innovative subscription-based online service, from which it’ll likely make money off ads, too. More broadcasters should realize that cable TV is the past, not the future. And what better, bolder move to make than buying Aereo?

TIME Companies

Google Just Took its First Step Back Into China

The Google logo is reflected in windows
The Google logo is reflected in windows of the company's China head office as the Chinese national flag flies in the wind in Beijing on March 23, 2010. AFP/Getty Images

Chinese developers can now sell their apps as exports in Google's app store

Google is trying to woo mobile developers in China.

The search giant has announced that Chinese app developers will now be able to sell apps to Google Play users in more than 130 other countries. It’s one of Google’s first attempts to engage with the Chinese marketplace since leaving the country in 2010 in following conflicts with the government over national censorship policies.

The Google Play Store is severely restricted in China, so app makers in the country will be selling their wares as exports. It’s no surprise that Google is having second thoughts on leaving the country behind: China has more than 600 million Internet users, and that figure is expected to reach 800 million next year.

This olive branch to developers may be the first step in a more ambitious strategy. Google is reportedly looking to partner with a Chinese phone manufacturer or wireless carrier to launch a full-featured version of the Play store in the country, according to the The Information.

TIME

TV-Streaming Startup Aereo Files for Bankruptcy

Supreme Court Rules Aereo Violates Copyrights
Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia holds one of the company's small antenna, May 22, 2014. Lane Turner—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Move comes nearly five months after the Supreme Court ruled against the company in a copyright spat with TV networks

Aereo, a startup that allowed users to live-stream television shows, on Friday announced that it had filed for bankruptcy, nearly five months after the Supreme Court ruled against the company in a copyright spat with TV networks.

“Chapter 11 will permit Aereo to maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts,” wrote Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia in a blog post on the company’s website. That statement indicated the startup doesn’t intend to fight to keep its service in the market.

Aereo lost a key Supreme Court case in late June, in a 6-3 ruling that found the company’s retransmission of network programming amounted to a “public performance” and therefore must include payments to the broadcast networks, or Aereo would run afoul of copyright laws. After that ruling, Fortune reported that the ruling could have killed off the startup, which had raised nearly $100 million from venture capital firms and Barry Diller’s IAC/Interactive.

Kanojia at times struck a hopeful tone in his blog post, saying he felt the current television experience provided few options and that costs were “unreasonably high and rising.” He said Aereo had intended to provide an alternative to “how they watch local live TV. That’s how Aereo came to live.” Founded in 2012, the company allowed users to stream and even digitally record live broadcast television provided they pay for the service for between $8 to $12 a month, depending on the plan.

The startup faced a legal challenge by the major TV networks, which sued Aereo in federal court in New York, citing copyright infringement and asking the court to close the startup down.

After winning a few lower court decisions, Aereo faced a loss at the Supreme Court in June, a defeat Kanojia said “has proven difficult to overcome.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Toys

Nintendo Wants to Cash In on the Toy Industry’s New Billion-Dollar Craze

"Toys to life" genre combines virtual play with classic action figures

In Nintendo’s wildly popular fighting game series Super Smash Bros., action figures spring to life so they can pummel each other in multiplayer bouts. When the next installment in the series debuts Friday on the Wii U, that fantasy will actually come close to reality. Along with the new game, Nintendo is launching a line of toy figurines that can actually be transferred into the digital world of Smash Bros. to fight against the game’s rowdy characters.

The new toys, called amiibo, are the latest entrants in the rapidly growing “toys to life” sector, a melding of the physical toys of yesteryear and the software kids now enjoy on their tablets and video game consoles. The idea is to expand the play kids are already enjoying in virtual games into the physical world—and let video game companies generate a tidy profit selling figurines and peripherals in the process.

The concept was first proven a hit by Activision, which launched its Skylanders video game franchise in 2011. In that series, gamers can purchase dozens of different figurines embedded with an electronic chip. When players place the figures on a special peripheral that can scan the chip, the characters are transported into Skylanders‘ virtual world. As the character levels up in the virtual world, so does the figurine. If a kid takes his figure over to a friend’s house to play, it’ll retain the same data from his own game.

“By combining the immersive world of video games with the physical connection that kids have with action figures, it was incredibly powerful,” says John Coyne, Activision’s senior vice president of consumer marketing.

While Activision made toys-to-life games viable, Disney has been able to leverage its massive trove of iconic intellectual property to popularize the genre even more. The company’s Disney Infinity series uses technology like that used by Skylanders to let gamers place their figurine characters into virtual worlds based on hit Disney properties like Brave and Lilo & Stitch. A separate, open-ended mode lets players create their own worlds, populate them with Disney characters and share them online.

“It’s very much about building things in there and kind of telling your own stories,” says John Blackburn, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Infinity.

Experts say these titles have been a hit because they spark kids’ imaginations more than a traditional video game can. “It’s really an extension of what kids want naturally, which is to not really have parameters in how they play,” says Liam Callahan, an analyst at research firm NPD. “It’s about breaking down that barrier.”

Skylanders and Disney Infinity have generated $600 million in software sales and nearly $1 billion in hardware sales in the U.S. between them since the genre was first introduced in 2011, according to NPD. Sales in the sector have risen 22% in the last year. Exactly who’s leading the market is a point of contention—Disney Infinity sold more than any version of Skylanders in 2013, but the latest version of Skylanders outsold Disney’s new Marvel-focused Infinity game in October.

It’s not yet clear how Nintendo will fit into this increasingly competitive space. Skylanders and Disney Infinity perform best on Nintendo consoles, according to NPD, which means Nintendo already has a user base actively interested in toys-to-life games. The strength of Nintendo’s intellectual property is also a selling point, as is the ability to use amiibo in games across different genres on the company’s Wii U system, like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8. “These characters have tremendous fan bases already,” says Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Whether these titles will become a permanent fixture in gaming remains to be seen. A few years ago, millions of gamers were buying plastic musical instruments to play games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero—now those titles are forgotten in bargain bins. But toys-to-life titles may evolve in more dynamic ways than past gaming fads. A new entrant called Anki Drive, for instance, has melded a mobile game with actual stock cars that players can race on a physical track, directing them with a smartphone and the cars’ built-in AI. The cars saw limited retail exposure in 2013 but will be available at Toys R Us and Target this holiday season.

The Anki Drive game uses AI-enabled stock cars that players can control with their smartphones.

The success of these physical toys in an age when apps dominate our lives shows that the next generation doesn’t want play with only their thumbs — there’s hope yet for the real world. “At the end of the day, it’s still very classic play,” says Chris Byrne, a toy industry analyst at Time to Play Magazine. “The technology has just made the toy box bigger.”

TIME Video Games

Call of Duty Exceeds $10 Billion in Sales

US-LIFESTYLE-GAMES-CALL OF DUTY
Boxes advertising the newest installment to blockbuster video game Call of Duty is displayed in a gamestop store in New York City on Nov. 3, 2014 Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

More than the Transformers, The Hunger Games, Iron Man and The Avengers movie franchises combined

Battle-themed video game Call of Duty has crossed $10 billion in lifetime sales, significantly bolstered by demand for its latest installment Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare earlier this month.

Parent company Activision Publishing confirmed that the latest installment had the biggest launch of any entertainment product this year.

“Advanced Warfare is the biggest entertainment launch of 2014 in terms of revenue, surpassing all movie, music and book launches this year.” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard.

Since it was first launched in 2003, the game’s total proceeds have far exceeded combined box office receipts for the hit movie franchises The Hunger Games, Transformers, Iron Man and The Avengers.

Activision has been widely praised for the feat. “It’s hard to find a more successful video game publisher than Activision,” Forbes wrote. IGN UK called the latest release “the most successful departure from what’s expected from a Call of Duty.

Stories in the franchise are typically inspired by historical events. The latest installment is set in 2054 and pits players as soldiers against a new villain played by Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey. This time around, Activision utilized advanced capabilities in new-generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.

TIME Autos

Everything You Need to Know About Takata’s Air-Bag Recall

So far, 7.8 million cars have been recalled from 10 manufacturers over explosive airbags

Even the normal deployment of an airbag is a violent event. It is initiated by a controlled explosion inside an inflator setting off a chemical reaction that forms nitrogen gas that rapidly expands the airbag, propelling it toward your head at speeds up to 200 mph, all within 20 to 30 milliseconds. That’s the kind of violence needed to dissipate the energy being created by a car involved in a crash. But this explosion shouldn’t hurl shards of metal toward the driver’s face and neck, which has happened in some cars with airbags designed by Takata, a major safety system supplier to the auto industry. Here’s everything you need to know about the widespread recall:

How severe is this problem?
There have been five fatalities linked to Takata’s airbags and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has already issued a recall of 7.8 million cars from 10 manufacturers that have the suspect airbags installed. All are relatively old cars, from model years 2000 to 2008.

How can I find out if my car is affected?
You can call the NHTSA’s hotline : 1-888-327-4236. Or you can go to its website. You will need your vehicle’s identification number (VIN), which can usually be found on the front left of the dashboard near the window.

Why are the cars being recalled?
The propellant Takata used to set off the airbag’s inflator—ammonium nitrate—apparently becomes unstable in humid climates and degrades. The explosion triggering the airbag becomes less controllable, even fatally so. That’s why the original recall focused on cars operating in humid areas of the country including Florida, Puerto Rico, and parts of Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana near the Gulf of Mexico. But now the Department of Transportation and NHTSA have called on Takata to issue a national recall for all cars that have the suspect airbag inflators. NHTSA has also demanded more information from Takata about whether and when it knew about the design and manufacturing flaws, with a due date of Dec. 5. The company said it will comply.

Are these the only dangerous airbags?
Three companies supply most of the world’s airbags; Takata, TRW and Autoliv. Only Takata’s airbags are in question, though, because only Takata used ammonium nitrate as a propellant (and it no longer does).

Why did they use ammonium nitrate in their airbags?
Ammonium nitrate provides more bang in a smaller volume than other propellants, which allows the company to offer a more compact device to manufacturers. That’s a potential competitive advantage. In a story in the New York Times outlining Takata’s switch to ammonium nitrate in 2000, the company denied using ammonium nitrate to save costs.

What is Congress doing about the recalls?
At a hearing in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Takata officials were eviscerated by members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee over the faulty airbags and the company’s failure to notify NHTSA about them. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida demanded that automakers provide loaner cars or rentals to consumers who were waiting to get replacement airbags in their own cars “by virtue of the fear that has already gripped the public,” he said. Honda is already doing that.

Nelson also displayed a large photo of the damage done to the face of one woman, former Air Force Lt. Stephanie Erdman. She was severely injured in one eye by the flying shrapnel produced by an exploding Takata airbag after the 2002 Honda Civic she was driving was involved in a fender bender. “What happened to me was gruesome,” she testified, and called out Honda for allowing her to drive a defective car. “They did nothing to warn me,” she said.

Does Takata acknowledge its responsibility for injuries and deaths?
That’s exactly what Nevada Sen. Dean Heller asked during the Senate hearing. But Takata executives were both evasive and tongue-tied by language issues. Takata’s Hiroshi Shimizu, senior vice president for global quality assurance said via an interpreter that the company recognized three victims’ cases were linked to the Takata airbags but said two others were being investigated. So let’s take the three, said Heller. Does Takata take full responsibility for those three deaths? “My understanding is our products in these accidents worked abnormally,” said Shimizu, before stipulating, “From that sense, yes.”

Do regulators also deserve some blame?
The Senate committee member faulted the NHTSA for not being able to stay ahead of defects. Heller, a car enthusiast, chafed about the length of time the agency waits from when a defect is found and until a recall is ordered. “NHTSA is not recognizing the defects fast enough, he said. To help the agency speed up a bit, Heller and several other members of the committee are proposing a Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act that would encourage auto industry employees to identify defects to NHTSA with the prospect of collecting a share of any fines of more than $1 million.

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