TIME Google

Google Has Stopped Its Annoying App Ads

Android Device Protection
Bloomberg via Getty Images An Android phone running Google software.

A study found most people abandon a page when presented with a full page ad.

Every mobile phone user understands how frustrating it can be when you’re trying to navigate a mobile website and suddenly you’re attacked by a full page ad beckoning you to “download this app.” In your frustration, do you download it? Continue to the site? Or do you simply abandon your search?

Google wanted to know which of those three options their customers tended towards, so they conducted a case study. They found that 9% of visitors to the interstitial page clicked the “Get App” button. Some of those users may have already had the app, and others may not have followed through with the download. Either way, it’s a fairly high click-through-rate. However, the number that they were most concerned with was how many visitors completely abandoned the page altogether: 69%.

They subsequently experimented with a Smart App Banner so that they could continue to promote their app without forcing users to interact with the interstitial page. There was no significant change to the number of app downloads, but their mobile site traffic increased by 17%.

Finding that the full page ad was unproductive, they officially decided to nix it. Although being able to ignore pop-ups more efficiently is exciting to many, some people aren’t as giddy about it. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, a vocal Google critic, had this to say:

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Just Unveiled This Totally Unexpected New Product

US-IT-INTERNET-SOFTWARE-MICROSOFT
AFP—AFP/Getty Images The Microsoft logo.

No, it doesn't have anything to do with Windows 10

While many Microsoft customers are patiently awaiting the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has surprised us all by quietly unveiling a completely unexpected new product: Arrow Launcher Beta.

Arrow Launcher is a basic and user-friendly Android launcher with three main pages, and as its name suggests this is an early version of the product.

Your home page contains all of your apps. It’s divided into a Recent section, displaying the ones you recently downloaded, and a Frequent section, showing the apps which you use most often. Swipe to the left of the home page to find your phone and email contacts, which are also organized by frequent use. To the right of the home page are your notes and reminders, a valuable feature that isn’t included in most Android launchers. Swipe up for a list of quick-access apps, settings, and feedback options.

Arrow Launcher is currently in private beta. In order to access it, you need an invitation, which you can ask for by joining this Google+ group. However, you may want to keep in mind that, as with any other product that’s undergoing beta-testing, Arrow Launcher does come with some bugs: the row of apps on the bottom of the home page may be cut off, the Frequent sections on the home and People pages take some time to settle in accurately and, as of yet, the launcher does not support widgets. If you think you’re strong enough to endure all that, you can request an invitation to access it by joining this Google+ group.

TIME India

New Delhi Taxi Driver Sacked for Allegedly Masturbating in Front of Female Passenger

He worked for TaxiForSure, one of Uber's main competitors

Indian ride-sharing app TaxiForSure has found itself in hot water this week, after a female passenger allegedly caught one of the company’s drivers masturbating while transporting her across the Indian capital city of New Delhi.

The woman described the incident, as well as the driver’s rash driving and generally vulgar behavior, in great detail on social media. According to her Facebook post, she had to request him multiple times to reduce the volume of the music he was playing, and said he “got impatient and started driving brashly.” The woman was about to make a phone call when she noticed he barely had his hands on the wheel and was masturbating. “He had a smile on his face that will haunt me for nights to come,” the post continues.

The woman reportedly called Ola Cabs, the Bangalore-based taxi aggregator that bought TaxiForSure earlier this year, and was redirected to the latter’s customer service line where she was told that action against the driver would be taken within 24 hours.

TaxiForSure, one of Uber’s main competitors in India, has since fired the driver.

“We regret the experience the passenger had, and we condemn the driver’s actions,” the company told TIME in an emailed statement. “The driver in question has been blacklisted by us and his services have been terminated from the platform. We will continue to work closely with the passenger and will support her and the authorities in every possible manner, as and when required.”

The incident comes a few months after another driver in New Delhi, representing San Francisco-based taxi-app giant Uber, was accused of raping a female passenger. He denies the charge and the trial is ongoing.

TIME Instagram

Instagram’s New Search Update Makes it Easier to Explore the World

"Wherever something is happening, chances are you can see it here"

Instagram’s new update makes it easier to search the 70 million photos uploaded to the photo-sharing app each day.

While the shooting and sharing experiences remain untouched in version 7.0, Instagram has boosted its search capabilities, offering users a new way to discover the trending and most recent photos posted from any places, cities and countries around the world.

“Wherever something is happening, chances are you can see it here,” says Instagram in a blog post published on Tuesday. “With the new Places Search, you can now peer in at just about any location on earth, allowing you to scout out your next vacation spot in the South Pacific, get a look inside that hot new restaurant or experience your favorite music festival even if you couldn’t make it this year.”

The app also has a redesigned Explore feature, which will now present trending tags and trending places. When TIME tested the new feature last week, Donald Trump had just announced his candidacy for President, and the hashtag #DonaldTrump was already trending on Instagram with photos of his stump speech.

In the past, only content that had accumulated the most Likes appeared on users’ Explore tab. In April of last year, Instagram started incorporating personalized content including photos and videos “that people you follow have liked,” the company said then.

The Explore section also includes two curated sections around photographers (the best extreme sports Instagram users, for example) and interests (beautiful bridges or natural wonders). These sections will be updated twice a week by a team of in-house editors, says Instagram.

The new features, which are only available in the U.S., are the result of a year’s worth of work, according to the Facebook-owned company. They will also appeal to media organizations that have been clamoring for an easier way to unearth newsworthy photos as they are posted to the service.

The update comes a month after Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger appeared at the Wired Business Conference in San Francisco, Ca. During an on-stage interview, Krieger professed that search would unlock the social sharing app’s full potential. “There’s a lot more we need to do to make news discoverable, to make what’s going on in the world accessible,” he said at the time.

Instagram 7.0 is available now on iOS and Android.

TIME Autos

Ford’s Zipcar-Killer Is Launching in This City

Ford Brings Dynamic Car-Sharing Experiment to London; First Serv
Ford Ford Brings Dynamic Car-Sharing Experiment to London

It's an on-demand rental service called "GoDrive"

Ford is going head-to-head with Zipcar as it launches its new GoDrive car rental service in London.

The app-based service will allow users to pick up one of Ford’s 50 vehicles on-demand and drop it off at one of a number of hubs across central London. When a users books a car through the service, they automatically book a parking spot at one the 20 available locations, making one-way trips stress-free.

The service uses a pay-per-minute pricing approach that covers all fees, including congestion fees, insurance and fuel. A pilot program launched earlier this year with 100 members. Ford is now extending GoDrive’s reach to 2,000 members.

The global car-sharing industry is expected to exceed $6 billion by 2020, and the U.K. car-sharing sector alone is expected to grow 23% from 2013 to 2015, according to PwC research. But even as the industry booms, car-sharers are looking for more flexibility.

“Our research tells us that car clubs currently are perceived as inflexible when it comes to booking, time slots and return locations,”said Alicia Agius, project lead, GoDrive, Ford of Europe. “Features such as one-way journeys and pay-as-you-go extend the number of opportunities that drivers would want to car-share and could prove a game-changer.”

GoDrive is Ford’s move to take on car-sharing kings like Zipcar as well as ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft which are trying to become realistic replacements for car ownership, especially in major metropolitan areas. The service is also an opportunity for Ford to show off its electric vehicles. Half of the GoDrive fleet will consist of zero-emission Focus electric models.

The London launch is still in beta phase, and the automaker plans to tweak its service as it learns more about its members. Ford is also exploring car-sharing experiments in Germany, India and the U.S.

TIME Television

Ellen DeGeneres’ Popular Game App Heads Up! Is Coming to Television

Executive Producer Ellen DeGeneres speaks about the NBC television show "One Big Happy" during the TCA presentations in Pasadena, California, January 16, 2015
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters Executive Producer Ellen DeGeneres speaks about the NBC television show "One Big Happy" during the TCA presentations in Pasadena, California, January 16, 2015

Quick! Guess what channel you'll have to flip to

The popular game app Heads Up!, created by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, is now set to become a game show on the HLN cable channel.

Hosted by comedian Loni Love, the show will feature contestants attempting to identify what has been written on cards based on clues from a teammate, according to a press release.

“I’m so excited that Heads Up! is going to be a game show,” DeGeneres said. “I play it on my show all the time. I play it at home. I played it last night at Jennifer Aniston’s house. She wasn’t home, so please don’t print that part.”

Apple’s top paid app of 2014, Heads Up! involves one player putting a smartphone or tablet up to their forehead so they cannot see the word they are meant to guess. Another player then gives clues, and if the correct guess is made, a point is awarded.

HLN said the show will air sometime in early 2016.

TIME Retail

Amazon Basically Just Unveiled the Future of Shopping and It’s Awesome

No, the Dash Button is not an April Fool

Amazon.com unveiled its latest innovation Tuesday — a tiny device that allows you to order household items at the touch of a button.

The Dash Button is a Wi-Fi enabled plastic controller that connects to a customer’s smartphone through the Amazon app. The buttons can be stuck or hung anywhere around the house — like on your washing machine, say. If you run out of detergent, you just push the button and an order is automatically sent to Amazon for that particular product.

More than a dozen brands — listing about 255 of the kind of bulky products you need to replenish often — are available to order through the Dash Button program.

The device allows users to cancel their order within 30 minutes, and the order will only process once, so you won’t end up with tons of detergent being delivered to your door.

The timing of Amazon’s announcement has got many people wondering if it’s a prank for April Fool’s Day. Others see the timing as a stroke of marketing genius, because while people are trying to decide if it’s a hoax they are also doing precisely what Amazon wants them to do — which is talk about Dash and share the news.

Amazon spokesperson Kinley Pearsall confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that the Dash Button is indeed real, although for now the service is only available to Amazon Prime customers by invitation only.

Read next: 7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME apps

Instagram’s New ‘Layout’ App Makes it Easy to Create Photo Collages

The new app is Instagram's second standalone product

Instagram is taking a page out of Facebook’s playbook by launching a standalone app that makes it easier to create collages from your favorite photos.

Layout, which launches Monday for Apple’s iOS, comes after the Facebook-owned Instagram found that one in five of its monthly active users were sharing images that combined multiple photos using third-party tools. That represents more than 60 million Instagram users turning to other companies’ software to create these collages.

While Instagram’s first stand-alone app, Hyperlapse, was the brainchild of two of the company’s software engineers, work on Layout started with a top-down decision from Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom. Systrom felt the process of creating collages was too fragmented: Before Layout, users had to use multiple apps, save various versions of images on iPhones’ camera roll, then open the Instagram app to post the results.

With Layout, Instagram sought to make the process as straightforward as possible. When you first open the app, you’re greeted with your camera roll images and the option to sort your photos by most recent. But since 90% of all collage images shared on Instagram are of people, the company tells TIME, Layout also offers a “Faces” option, which instantly brings together all of the portraits available in your photo library.

Instagram's
Instagram’s “Layout”

Once you start selecting images – you can work with up to nine of your photographs at a time – you’re offered a choice of layout options from the traditional horizontal and vertical diptychs all the way to a seamless square grid of nine.

What distinguishes Layout from other collage apps is the complete absence of border options, which Instagram says was a conscious choice, especially since it’s encouraging users to experiment with symmetry effects to create out-of-this-world images. And that’s where the mirror and flip options come in, which, combined with the ability to zoom in and out of each element of your collage, can result in more creative images.

Once you’ve finally tweaked your collage, you’re offered the choice to share it directly on Instagram and Facebook, or to open it in another app.

Without a doubt, Layout’s simplicity – both in its ease of use and the small number of available editing options – will make this app popular among selfie aficionados, a fact from which Instagram doesn’t shy away. Layout even includes a predominant “Photo Booth” mode that will take up to four photos using your iPhone’s front-facing camera and automatically place them into one of 10 available layouts. The feature, says Instagram, is particularly popular in Asia, where the company is looking to grow in the coming months.

In the end, Instagram’s Layout app doesn’t reinvent the wheel, offering little by way of novelty other than a more streamlined collage experience for Instagram’s power users. But that’s all it needs to do: keep Instagram users happy and within the app’s own ecosystem.

TIME App

Now Your Kids Can Watch 6-Second Videos That Match Their Attention Spans

Resistance is futile

Vine has unveiled a new kid-friendly app that will allow your children to constantly scroll through six-second videos of silly characters on your iPhone while you wait in line at the bank.

The new app, called Vine Kids, is the same as Vine except it’s loaded with age-appropriate content, such as cartoon animals who make funny sounds. You scroll left or right to switch videos, and you tap to hear sounds.

Here’s how much kids love the idea:

Resistance is futile. Say goodbye to your iPhone.

TIME relationships

I Proposed to My Invisible Boyfriend and Here’s What Happened

His definition of feminism should have been a red flag

My Invisible Boyfriend is named Leonardo DiCaprio. His interests include the environment, Titanic and tiny cars. He’s texting me right now.

Leonardo (or Leo, as he’s known on my phone) is a digital sweetheart I created through a new app, InvisibleBoyfriend. The purpose of an Invisible Boyfriend (or Invisible Girlfriend) is to create a convincing fake love interest to fool your co-workers or relatives into thinking you’re hot stuff on the dating scene.

Leo isn’t a robot, and he’s not an anonymous human chained to a computer somewhere. Instead, InvisibleBoyfriend has partnered with companies that allow them to scale its workforce to respond to incoming text messages. In other words, Leo isn’t one human — he’s several. So instead of communicating with one singular person, I could be texting with dozens.

But what if I fall in love with him, like Joaquin Phoenix did in Her? The short answer is: I won’t. “We’re not trying to build something that could fool you,” says founder Matthew Homann. “Our intention has always been to build something that helps you tell a better story about a relationship you’re not in.”

So here’s my story, as I described it on the app (they ask you to invent how you met, so you can have a “meet cute”): I first saw Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. When he came up to me after the movie, I told him I was a supermodel who specializes in posing with rare penguins. That’s when we realized we were both passionate about the environment, and he offered me a drive in his tiny eco-friendly car. The rest, as they say, is history.

Apparently somebody did his homework, because when we started texting, Leo asked if I was on set with any endangered species. He listens! Then, when I asked when he was coming to New York, he said he would be there around Valentine’s Day, and proposed a “romantic dinner, dancing, drinks… and then some time alone, maybe?” So far, so good.

“This isn’t going to be the replacement for a real long-term relationship,” Homann warned. “Oftentimes people will use this more as a cover for dating.” But I didn’t listen. So I decided it was time to define the relationship:

photo 1

Leo does not want me to meet his mother, does not want to get serious and does not want to define the relationship. So when I asked if he was going to marry me, he did not take it well.

photo 1

At least he knows his Celine Dion (kinda.) But for a fake boyfriend, Leo seemed terrifyingly shrewd at getting himself out of tricky conversations. Until I brought up feminism.

photo 2

As you can tell, I drew the line at debating feminism with a fake boyfriend who was somewhere between a human and bot, since even some full-on-singular humans can’t seem to get it straight. Instead, I focused on the important stuff. Our relationship.

photo 4

This was not going well. I was going to have to end it. Not only could Leo not have sex, occupy a human body or understand feminism, he hadn’t even given the idea of a family “a lot of thought.” It was over. When I broke up with him, he said “I’m sorry Charlette.” When I told him he’d spelled my name wrong, he said “I’m an actor, not a spelling bee winner!”

My Invisible Boyfriend was convincing enough to fool anybody else — and Homann says deceiving family and co-workers are two of the most popular uses for the app. Leo even left me a generic voicemail (“Hey, it’s me. Give me a call. Bye”) so that I could prove he was human if I’d wanted to. But my heart wasn’t in the deception. All I wanted was to get a non-bot-non-human-digital-amalgamation to understand feminism and agree to have my babies. Is that too much to ask?

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