TIME FindTheBest

How China Will Change the Smartphone Industry: Predicting Winners and Losers

Back in 2012, if you compared a budget phone to a premium phone, you’d likely see a spec/features breakdown like this:

The comparison was simple: Twice the money bought you a phone that was, statistically speaking, twice as good.

But with Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s ascendance, the following type of comparison is becoming increasingly common:

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is less than half the cost of a Galaxy S5, yet boasts nearly identical specifications, even edging out Samsung’s flagship phone in a few categories, including display sharpness and standby time. For the money (at least based on the raw data) the Mi 3 is the clear choice.

But what about the fluffy stuff, like build quality, interface and overall user experience? Surely that’s where the Galaxy S5 earns its higher price tag.

Not necessarily. CNET calls the Mi 3 “quite the looker,” complementing the phone’s “aluminum-magnesium chassis and…beautiful face.” Meanwhile, TechRadar praises the “polished and comprehensive MIUI interface,” awarding the phone four out of five stars in both design and usability. Compare those accolades to the same experts’ opinions on the S5’s hardware (CNET: “at the end of the day, the Galaxy flagship feels…like plastic;” TechRadar: “[the S5] doesn’t look like a cutting edge smartphone”).

So Samsung might actually be in trouble, and the first warning signs are already here. Just last quarter, Xiaomi leap-frogged Samsung to become China’s #1 smartphone seller, usurping a spot Samsung had owned for over two years. What’s more, Xiaomi is just getting going, with its new flagship, the Mi 4, all set for launch.

The catch for Americans, of course, is that the highly-affordable, surprisingly-capable Mi line won’t be available in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. Until Xiaomi decides to brave the fierce, patent-infested waters of the American electronics market, U.S. citizens will be stuck paying $650 for unlocked, top-shelf handsets.

Still, Xiaomi’s ascendance will likely shake up the mobile industry for years to come, as rival smartphone makers are forced to respond to top specs at low prices. So with that in mind, let’s speculate as to who will win and lose as a result of China’s maturing budget phone industry.

Winners

Chinese Manufacturers

The biggest winners here are Chinese handset makers—and not just Xiaomi. Originally the market followers, China’s gadget manufacturers are now positioned to be market leaders, with an opportunity to shape pricing, features and development trends around the world. If rival Chinese makers like Lenovo, Huawei and Yulong can match Xiaomi’s quality, they’ll be able to fight over Samsung’s old throne for the next several years.

Best of all, they’ve got a giant pie made up of 1.5 billion customers.

Consumers in Emerging Markets

Naturally, phone choice is only getting better in China, as manufacturers offer better and better phones at the same mid-to-low price points. It won’t be long before Americans are jealous of the latest Chinese-only hit—a 180 degree turn from five years ago.

Losers

LG, Samsung, Sony

Rival smartphone makers in Korea and Japan have the most to lose here—over time, they will have tremendous trouble competing with their Chinese counterparts on price. In order to survive, each company will need to find new ways to differentiate its offerings…and it has to be something other than specs and price.

Remains to Be Seen

Consumers in Developed Markets

On paper, consumers in developed markets should benefit from China’s new army of low-cost, high-quality handsets. Once Xiaomi and co. finally enter the U.S. market, the inexpensive products will theoretically drive down prices from the likes of Apple, Sony, and Samsung.

But how long will this take? Will Apple sue Xiaomi for infringing on patents to stall the threat? Will American manufacturers start making lower-quality phones to compete with China on price? And will any of this help solve America’s biggest smartphone problem: namely, the appalling, worst-in-the-world contracts forced upon us by big carriers? There may be a tech revolution going on in China, but the U.S. benefits could take years to unfold.

Apple

It’s tempting to call Apple a loser here. After all, the company has always rejected the low-cost phone, and here Xiaomi seems to be proving its success.

At the same time, however, Apple might just be positioned to sit above the fray as Samsung, LG and Sony fight for Xiaomi’s crumbs. Consider that Apple has never played the spec game, having ceded the spec-sheet war to Samsung years ago. Apple doesn’t sell handsets on the strength of megapixels or CPUs, but rather, great design and the Apple mystique. Perhaps the company was right to avoid the low-cost market all along, a territory that a Chinese company like Xiaomi was bound to win eventually.

Maybe people will finally abandon Apple once they can buy a phone with similar specs, for a third of the price. Or maybe the same group of geeks, Apple apologists and design nerds will just keep buying iPhones, Mi or no Mi. Time will tell.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

By the Numbers: The Streaming Music War (and Who’s Winning)

Brand awareness and listener penetration for 102 music services reveals the top 10 options.

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A dozen years ago, there were several different ways to get new music, each about as popular as the next. You could keep buying individual CDs, sign up for a CD delivery service, buy tracks one at a time through iTunes, or download huge chunks of music through user-friendly services like Napster — sites that were so easy to use it barely felt like you were doing anything wrong. They all seemed like perfectly acceptable methods; it was simply a matter of which style you preferred.

Fast-forward to 2014, however, and most people are listening the same way: through streaming music services. Yes, illegal music-downloading is still rampant, but as far as legal music-listening goes, streaming services are the new fad. Even Apple—whose pay-per-song iTunes once seemed like the future—has doubled-down on iTunes Radio, its music-streaming Pandora competitor. So just how widespread is the trend?

At FindTheBest, we counted a total of 102 separate services (counting basic and premium versions separately) that let you stream music (typically) from $0 – $10 per month. If you like, you can distinguish between on-demand services (like Spotify) that let you pick each song, and radio services (like Pandora) that choose songs for you, but the overall concept is similar: unlimited music for a low monthly fee.

So how do you stand out in a field with 101 similar-to-identical competitors? It comes down to brand. We looked at brand awareness and listener penetration from a 2014 Edison Research study to determine which services are on consumers’ minds…and which aren’t. We’ll count down the top 10 services based on consumer awareness, and comment on the strengths and weaknesses for each.

For a comparison of the specific features and pricing for 13 of the most popular services, see the earlier TIME story here. To research all 102 services we reviewed, visit the music streaming topic on FindTheBest.

Note: YouTube, VEVO (music videos) and SoundCloud (a social sound creation and sharing platform) each boast over 200 million users, but none are strictly music streaming services, so you won’t see them in this countdown.

10. Last.fm

Awareness: 8% (poor)

Listening percentage*: Below 2% (very poor)

*”Listening percentage” is the percentage of people polled who have actually listened to the service.

Type: Hybrid on-demand and radio service

The gist: More of a community than a standalone service, Last.fm lets you build a profile based on your musical tastes, then helps you find new music tailored to your preferences.

What’s working: Integration with other services. Over the past six months, Last.fm has integrated with Spotify, YouTube, and VEVO, resulting in tons of new content and a giant catalog of tracks.

What’s not: Awareness and penetration. Last.fm started in 2002, back when social profile-based sites were still the hottest thing on the Internet. Today, people want plug-and-play solutions that suggest great tracks instantaneously, not (yet another) online community that takes weeks of ramp-up to really work. Fewer than 1 in 10 people know the site exists, and fewer than 1 in 20 have actually bothered to try it.

9. TuneIn Radio

Awareness: 10% (poor)

Listening percentage: 2% (poor)

Type: Radio

The gist: TuneIn Radio provides a massive, online database of radio stations and podcasts, going well beyond music into sports, news and talk. By our estimates, it’s also got one of the highest user bases on our list—with 50 million users, it ranks #5 out of the 102 services we reviewed.

What’s working: Number of users. Due to a massive selection (100,000+) of stations, TuneIn Radio has plenty of customers.

What’s not: Precise music selection. TuneIn Radio has more stations than you can ever listen to, but it lacks the smart, custom-style stations popularized by Pandora. With TuneIn, you’re less likely to find the perfect station, and more likely to bounce around.

8. Radio.com

Awareness: 14% (somewhat poor)

Listening percentage: Below 2% (very poor)

Type: Radio

The gist: Similar to TuneIn, Radio.com offers a variety of radio shows, spanning from talk to sports to music.

What’s working: A simple, memorable brand. Even though 14% awareness isn’t all that good, it’s amazing that Radio.com even scores that high, given its comparatively small penetration numbers. Competitor TuneIn Radio has more overall users, but people are actually slightly more likely to recall Radio.com when polled.

What’s not: A unique offering. Radio.com lacks a killer feature or particularly memorable interface, preventing the service from ascending in the ranks.

7. Slacker

Awareness: 14% (somewhat poor)

Listening percentage: 2% (poor)

Type: Radio

The gist: Slacker is a lesser-known, more fully-featured alternative to Pandora. By our estimates, it has 13x the songs of Pandora, but only a fifth the subscribers. There are three pricing tiers (free, $4/month, $10/month), with the priciest option being the most compelling, given the sheer number of features.

What’s working: Features. Slacker Premium Radio offers unlimited skips, offline listening, custom playlists, and crucially, the ability to replay songs — something Pandora’s music contracts simply won’t allow.

What’s not: Pricing. Slacker’s big edge over Pandora is features, but you have to pay $10/month to get the ones that really set Slacker apart. Most consumers won’t be willing to shell out the extra cash, even if they’d be getting their money’s worth.

6. Google Play Music

Awareness: 24% (decent)

Listening percentage: 3% (poor)

Type: On-demand

The gist: Google Play Music is Google’s alternative to Spotify (on-demand listening, $10/month), with 18 million available tracks.

What’s working: Android integration. Google Play Music fills a music void for Android the way iTunes supports music on iOS devices. For Android users, Google Play Music is a natural — and readily available — service.

What’s not: Awareness. The awareness numbers are actually somewhat low for a Google product, but typical for the company, it’s done little to promote a lower-priority Google service. And you can’t really blame it, given how razor-thin music streaming profit margins tend to be.

5. Spotify

Awareness: 28% (good)

Listening percentage: 6% (decent)

Type: On-demand

The gist: The industry darling, Spotify is probably the most referenced on-demand music service in the world of tech. The company offers a desktop-only, ad-supported free service and a $10/month, mobile-enabled premium service.

What’s working: Branding. In 2011, Spotify launched in the U.S. to much fanfare and positive press—Americans finally had the chance to try the popular European music service. Spotify has remained in the news off and on since then, and today, more than one in three people will recognize the brand.

What’s not: Non-premium mobile options. Without a premium subscription, Spotify’s mobile offering becomes a less-capable version of Pandora, cycling through songs radio-style instead of providing on-demand selection. For mobile-users, the (pricey) Spotify Premium is a must.

4. Rhapsody

Awareness: 40% (great)

Listening percentage: 2% (poor)

Type: Hybrid radio and on-demand service

The gist: An industry veteran, Rhapsody’s been in and out of the music press for years (most notably, as part of a 2011 merger with Napster). Its “unRadio” offering, however, is brand new, a nifty little service announced this past June in partnership with T-Mobile. At a cost of just $5/month, unRadio customers can listen to Pandora-style radio stations, but with no ads and unlimited skips.

What’s working: Awareness. Rhapsody’s been around long enough to garner an impressive 40% brand awareness, an advantage that’s particularly helpful when it comes to rolling out new services like unRadio.

What’s not: Actual use. Just 2% of people have actually listened to Rhapsody, a fairly dismal figure next to its strong awareness numbers. The T-Mobile partnership, however, has the potential to shake out a few more users.

3. iTunes Radio + iTunes Match

Awareness: 47% (great)

Listening percentage: 8% (decent)

Type: Hybrid radio and on-demand service

The gist: Apple’s music radio service is a carbon-copy of Pandora, with similar features (smart stations) and annoyances (limited skips, ads). Meanwhile, the iTunes Match service ($25/year) lets you turn all that music you stole into legitimate, cloud-based versions stored in Apple’s servers. Once you’ve matched your library, you can play those songs from anywhere on any Apple device.

What’s working: The iTunes brand. Say what you will about iTunes (ex: clunky, out-of-date), people know the name, and that’s a built-in advantage for Apple.

What’s not: Apple’s innovative spirit. Apple’s iTunes Radio is thoroughly reactive—a nervous response to the success of Spotify and Pandora. The Beats acquisition might keep the company out of real trouble, but for the time-being, it’s playing catch-up.

2. iHeart Radio

Awareness: 48% (great)

Listening percentage: 9% (decent)

Type: Radio

The gist: Combines Pandora-style genre-based radio stations with actual, live radio stations.

What’s working: Users and awareness. With 48 million users and 48% awareness, iHeart Radio is the fifth most-used and second best-known music streaming service in the industry.

What’s not: Focus. iHeart Radio attracts a wide variety of users through its giant selection of custom and live radio stations, but it doesn’t have the immediate, tangible selling points of an app like Spotify (ex: find any song) or the attractive simplicity of a service like Pandora (ex: type in a genre and sit back).

1. Pandora

Awareness: 70% (excellent)

Listening percentage: 31% (great)

Type: Radio

The gist: The classic online radio service, Pandora lets you type in a genre, album, song or artist, then plays a selection of songs it predicts you will like. Pandora is proud enough of its music-matching system that the technology has its own fancy name: the Music Genome Project.

What’s working: Despite the recent influx of competition, Pandora remains by the far the most recognized and used service, with over 75 million users and brand awareness at a remarkable seven out of ten. The radio concept itself couldn’t be simpler, but Pandora has had 14 years to build its brand and hone its matching-system, which gives the company a huge advantage over competitors.

What’s not: Number of songs. Pandora has far fewer songs (~1 million) than most of its rivals, a discrepancy that could sneak up on it as the other services get better. For the time being, Pandora can ride its strong brand, but eventually, the best products have a tendency to win out.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Congress

Two Charts That Show How Women Leaders Trail Men At Ballot Box

Tulsi Gabbard
Hawaii House candidate Tulsi Gabbard is applauded by women House members at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Lynne Sladky—AP

Women make up a majority of voters in national elections, but far from a majority of those elected to serve

Many people believe that we live in a new era in which glass ceilings are being broken and in which women are gaining more say and power. But are women getting a large enough say in our country’s political decisions?

Research engine FindTheBest compiled data on all 538 current members of Congress and calculated the percentage of women serving in Congress by state.

The only state with complete female representation is New Hampshire, with all four delegates (two in the House and two in the Senate). Hawaii comes in second with 75% women (out of four) and then Maine, where the congressional representatives are half women and half men. The following 47 states all have less than 50% women representing their citizens in Congress.

Of the 16 states that have no women serving in Congress, Georgia has the most Congressional seats at 16, followed by Virginia and New Jersey, which both have 13.

Among the bigger states with most Congressional seats, Texas has three female delegates (7%) and 35 male (92%)—a much wider gap than California’s 20 women (36%) and 35 men (63%).

FindTheBest also collected data on all current members of state legislatures.

Although both genders are at least represented in all 50 states, not a single state has a legislature that is at least half female. Colorado has the highest percentage of women serving the state, comprising 41 percent. Vermont takes the second highest spot, with a legislative body is that 40% female and 59% male, and Arizona, which is 35% female and 64% male.

Among the states with the lowest percentage of women serving the state legislature is Louisiana (11% female and 88% male) and South Carolina (12% female and 87% male).

TIME FindTheBest

We Crunched the Numbers to See Which Country Makes the Best Cars

Poll a random sampling of drivers on car preference, and you’ll likely get a mix of responses like the following:

“I’ll never drive an American car again.”
“I don’t trust any automobile made outside of Japan.”
“Once I drove German, I never went back.”

If there’s one thing we humans do well, it’s swearing off entire product categories on the basis of one or two experiences. And why not? That’s every consumer’s privilege.

At FindTheBest, however, we were curious to see what the data would say. Which car stereotypes are backed up by the facts, and which aren’t? We started with 2014 models, compiling information on over 1,500 cars across 36 different manufacturers. We then calculated the average spec, rating or score for each of 10 key data points, with an overall focus on performance, safety, fuel efficiency and size.

Here’s what we found:

Performance

Horsepower

avg_hp_country

Thanks to a host of high-powered McLarens, Bentleys and Aston Martins, the Brits win round one rather handsomely. Even the mid-powered Land Rover can’t get Britain down. The most surprising loser here is probably Italy, whose Ferrari-Lamborghini-Maserati trifecta can do little to counterbalance the sputtering Fiat line, which drags down the Italian average significantly.

Acceleration (0-60)

accel_country

Italy earns the acceleration crown with its 3.9-second 0-60 average, though its win here comes with a Barry Bonds-sized asterisk: slowpoke Fiat does not report 0-60 figures, while Britain’s slowest brand—Land Rover—does. So what if we took out Land Rover as well? Italy still wins, but only by eight-tenths of a second.

Top Speed

topspeed_country

Once again, we see a strong Italian victory, inflated by the fact that Fiat didn’t bother to report top speeds (and in fairness, why should they?). Meanwhile, all those lumbering American trucks keep the U.S. far out of contention.

Towing Capacity

tow_country

Here, America’s trucks rumble back, towing the USA into second overall. But Britain’s pesky Land Rovers roll in yet again, strong enough to stave off a slew of Fords, Rams and Chevys in a battle of the tow-friendly automobiles.

Note that we only considered towing-equipped vehicles for this category (sorry, Aston Martin), which helps explain Britain’s surprising win. It’s also worth mentioning that American cars easily dominate in sheer volume. In fact, 188 of the top 200 autos in this category were made in the U.S.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Safety Rating

safety_country

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) runs automobiles through a variety of rigorous tests, including frontal crash, side crash and rollover, assigning a score from 1 (high chance of passenger injury) to 5 (low chance of passenger injury). They then provide an overall score out of 5.

Sweden wins here on the strength of Volvo’s safe, sturdy line-up. Meanwhile, the Italians place last—the plight of the small and speedy.

Fuel Efficiency

Gas Mileage (combined)

fuel_country

With gas mileage, the efficient Japanese score their first win, narrowly edging out their Korean neighbors. Our calculation was based on the EPA’s combined MPG figure, which assumes 55% city driving and 45% highway driving. Korea actually does a bit better than Japan if you focus exclusively on highway MPG.

(We left out Italy because we didn’t have a big enough sample size of reliable gas mileage figures.)

Size

Seating Capacity

seating_country

The average Swedish car has nearly six seats, big enough to beat out the rest of the world in size. That said, if you want a giant car, you might as well still shop American, as 33 of 2014’s 50 largest cars were made in the U.S.

Overall Weight

weight_country

Forget about seating capacity. What about raw weight? The standard measurement in the industry is “curb weight”—it includes any necessary components for operating the car (i.e. fuel), though it does not include any passengers or cargo.

America finally snags an outright win, barreling past Germany and Sweden on its way to heaviest in the world.* The Italians might be nimble, but fittingly, the U.S. remains the champion of girth.

* Though, naturally, this depends on whether you believe a bigger car is better.

Price

MSRP

msrp_country

Thanks largely to a couple of insanely priced autos (we’re looking at you, Lamborghini Veneno and Ferrari LaFerrari), Italy’s average cost per car is over three times that of its closest competitor (Britain). (For numbers geeks, Italy wins easily on median MSRP as well, with a $192,000 price tag next to Britain’s $93,000.)

Ratings

Smart Rating

rating_country

Finally, we calculated a Smart Rating, which combines expert awards (73%), safety (18%), and value over time (9%) for every car on the list. Experts included North American Car of the Year, Popular Mechanics, The Car Connection, Motor Trend, Cars.com, Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, and About.com Best New Cars.

The big winner? Sweden. The Swedes ride Volvo’s solid, consistent line-up past a multi-tiered assault of luxury cars from Britain and classic favorites from Germany. Meanwhile, America fares poorly, though it avoids a last-place fate. In the end, it’s Italy that ends up with the lowest score of all, confirming that raw performance can’t always beat a well-rounded package.

Not convinced? No problem. You already knew you liked Japanese cars, and who are we to say otherwise? Besides, we hear they “drive better than anything else on the road.”

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME

The Best Cities for Young Tech Professionals

It’s a familiar story. You’ve just accepted a flashy tech job across the country. The benefits are superb. The pay is incredible. They’ve promised three coolers full of Diet Coke and an employee incentive plan chalk full of stock options.

The only problem? The surrounding city is terrible. Somewhere between “flexible hours” and “free snacks,” you forgot that the closest decent bar is 15 miles out of town.

At FindTheBest, we gathered data for thousands of cities so you can scope the landscape before you sign the contract. And since we’re talking tech, we’re keeping things data-driven. We counted up the number of venues per 10,000 people for a handful of key businesses. Which cities have the most restaurants, cafés and bars? What about gyms and yoga studios? Where can you have a bit of fun on Saturday night (vice), and atone for your sins on Sunday morning (religious centers)? For today’s purposes, we’ll focus on just eight of the biggest tech-friendly cities in the nation.

The Candidates

San Francisco – the reigning champ

New York – Silicon Alley

Los Angeles – Silicon Beach

Denver – the rising star

Boston – blue collar meets Bitcoin

Austin – down south but not out

Seattle – because they’re more than just coffee

Restaurants

Winner: San Francisco (53.4 per 10k)

Runner-up: Seattle (50.6 per 10k)

What better place to blow your engineer’s salary than one of San Francisco’s 4,000+ restaurants? With 97% more eateries per capita than the United States as a whole, you’re bound to find something you like, even if lunch tends to cost nearly as much as a refurbished iPad.

Last place: Los Angeles (30.2 per 10k)

Bars

Winner: San Francisco (10.3 per 10k)

Runner-up: Seattle (9.47 per 10k)

After spending all day pitching your crowd-sourced, mobile-first, local deals coupon app to investors, you’ll want a decent bar to forget all those blank looks and awkward silences. Once again, San Francisco and Seattle emerge on top, with plenty of clubs, lounges, and dives to serve you over and over (and over) again. Three beers in, maybe you’ll even come up with an idea for a better app.

Last place: Los Angeles (2.95 per 10k)

Fitness Centers

Winner: Seattle (5.91 per 10k)

Runner-up: Denver (4.51 per 10k)

Who says the tech industry is out of shape? Thousands of beer-bellied, Cheeto-consuming web developers, that’s who.

Still, the rise of the fitness tracker means more geeks at the gym, and for the trim tech professional, Seattle beats its rivals handily, offering over twice as many fitness centers per capita than the country as a whole.

Last place: New York (2.04 per 10k)

Cafés

Winner: San Francisco (18 per 10k)

Runner-up: Seattle (17.9 per 10k)

We can talk all day about “office synergy” and “inter-departmental collaboration,” but sometimes the best tech breakthroughs happen outside the office—with the smell of Ethiopian coffee, the sound of temperature-controlled roasters, and the company of impatient baristas with names like Sebastian, Bianca and Antonio.

San Francisco roasts its rivals here, while sporting three times the cafés per capita compared to the rest of the nation.

Last place: Austin (7.94 per 10k)

Yoga

Winner: Seattle (2.39 per 10k)

Runner-up: Denver (1.58 per 10k)

Nothing says “tech” like ballooning valuations, insane CEOs and midday trips to a yoga studio. With nearly seven times as many yogis as the the average city, Seattle is your best choice for incense-fueled exercise.

New York comes in last, although you could argue that a daily subway commute in Manhattan provides many of the same sweaty, meditative, semi-spiritual benefits.

Last place: New York (0.4 per 10k)

Alternative Medicine

Winner: Seattle (3.79 per 10k)

Runner-up: San Francisco (3.25 per 10k)

The best tech CEOs think for themselves, disrupting years of tradition and shattering decades of traditional business wisdom. So why limit yourself to the tired old practices of modern hospitals and scientific health research?

Both Seattle and San Francisco offer over three times as many alternative medicine businesses than the average American city, including acupuncture, herbal wellness and restorative massage. But for Boston? Sorry: you’re stuck with proven medical procedures and the world-renowned surgeons at Massachusetts General. So much for thinking differently.

Last place: Boston (0.62 per 10k)

Vice

Winner: San Francisco (6.15 per 10k)

Runner-up: Denver (5.85 per 10k)

Starting a new tech venture is always a gamble, but nothing beats the thrill of throwing two paychecks on a single spin of the roulette wheel. Per capita, San Francisco offers more casinos, liquor stores and adult entertainment establishments than any other city on this list—and over double the average across the nation. Meanwhile, Denver sneaks in as the runner-up.

Last place: New York (2.97 per 10k)

Religious Organizations

Winner: Denver (17.4 per 10k)

Runner-up: New York (14.5 per 10k)

Tech employees taking advantage of Denver’s dirty nightlife will be happy to hear they have (literally) over 1,000 options for cleansing themselves of the previous evening’s adventures. And then there’s New York’s squeaky clean performance—last in vice but the silver medalist in religion. Who would have guessed?

But neither city should be too proud of its godly edge over rivals. Denver might beat all seven others on this list, but it still fall shorts of the national average.

Last place: Los Angeles (13.5 per 10k)

- – – -

Overall

With four victories out of eight tries, San Francisco—already the big favorite going in—wins easily. Sneaky Seattle grabs 2nd place, dominating the fitness and yoga categories while earning a string of second-place finishes. And last place? LA narrowly loses to its East Coast rival, NYC. Each had three dead last finishes, but in the end, the synagogues, churches, and mosques of New York were—appropriately enough—able to save the city from LA’s ignominious fate.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

The Most Common Misconceptions About 8 Big Tech Companies

The Internet has an established narrative for every big tech company. There are the innovators and the copycats, the rising stars and the dying veterans, the money-makers and the time-wasters.

While there’s probably a little truth in all of these labels, each company’s story is built around a common misconception. So here’s my take on what we tend to get wrong about eight of the biggest tech titans.

1. Apple

Misconception: Apple is all about innovation, but they’ve lost their edge since Steve Jobs died.

 

Reality: Everyone loves to argue about the second half of this statement, but the big misconception lies in the first part. In reality, Apple has always been more about execution and refinement than wild innovation. Even their big hits—the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad—were just better executions of existing technology. With each product, the company has simply refined the design and user interface over many years, with minimal changes to size, shape, and concept. You can debate whether Apple’s execution has dropped off, but the “innovation” angle is a distraction. And even if you do insist on measuring success only by “number of new product categories,” consider that Steve Jobs waited six years after the iPod to launch the iPhone (from 2001 to 2007).

2. Google

Misconception: Google is churning out successful, innovative products faster than anyone.

Reality: Google certainly announces more ideas than anyone, but only a select few become profitable, ongoing businesses. To this day, Google has one extremely successful business (search), and three or four fairly successful ones (Chrome, Android, YouTube). Just about everything else—from Glass to Google Plus to those self-driving cars—are conceptual frameworks, prototypes, or half-baked businesses that have failed to catch on. (See this list of hundreds of Google products, in various stages of development, along with over 50 that have been discontinued.) Google should be applauded for its innovative spirit, but ultimately credited only for the ideas that actually become hit products.

3. Microsoft

Misconception: Microsoft is just a big copycat, with zero original ideas.

Reality: Microsoft has developed all sorts of creative products, from a tablet OS way before tablets were popular (10 years before the iPad) to a smart motion sensor (the Kinect) to the Microsoft Surface (by all accounts, an intriguing product with an original design). The problem? Execution. Microsoft routinely botches first attempts and product launches, losing out on early adopters and winning leftover customers only once markets have matured. Windows 8 is the latest example: a fresh, original operating system plagued with bizarre gestures, persistent bugs and a confusing tablet-desktop interface. With big new ideas but mediocre implementation, Microsoft truly is the anti-Apple, just not for the reasons most people believe.

4. Amazon

Misconception: Amazon makes billions in profit.

 

Reality: CEO Jeff Bezos reinvests almost every cent Amazon makes, whether the company is entering a new market, developing the next generation of Kindles or cutting prices to win even more customers. Traditionally, reinvesting all profits is a temporary strategy for a growth company, but for Amazon it’s business as usual. For now, Wall Street seems happy to play along.

5. Facebook

Misconception: Facebook is super creepy, and that News Feed manipulation scandal is just the latest example.

Reality: Facebook is a lot like every other big tech company, tweaking algorithms daily to increase engagement, boost user satisfaction and ultimately, grow revenue. In early 2012, they altered the News Feeds of one small group of users (~350k) to feature stories with more negatively-connoted words, and altered a second group of feeds (another 350k) to feature stories with more positively-connoted words. The study lasted one week, and Facebook was able to gather useful information from less than a million people that could ultimately help improve the News Feed experience for over a billion people.

Of course, the Internet howled with offense the second they heard about the study. How dare Facebook control what we see?

The problem with this reaction? The News Feed is already more manipulated than a World Cup match. It’s never been a pure, chronological account of your friends’ posts, like Twitter or Instagram, but rather a whole mess of status updates, photos, relationship changes and miscellaneous commentary that Facebook must interpret and prioritize for its users. Every day when you log into Facebook, you should assume that the company has pulled seven levers and flipped nine switches in an attempt to increase your engagement (and of course, make more money).

So that January 2012 experiment wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary. Okay: It was a little creepy to test people’s emotions without telling them. But for the most part? We shouldn’t be surprised.

6. Yahoo

Misconception: Yahoo has been a dying brand since Google ate its lunch in the early 2000s.

Reality: Yahoo remains the fourth most popular site on the web, and no one—not even Buzzfeed—does the same combination of click-friendly stories, content breadth and sheer volume of editorial traffic. Recently, Marissa Mayer has rejuvenated the business, attracting new talent and winning over new users. Sure, the company doesn’t control the Internet like Google does, but fourth place online is nothing to sneeze (or tweet sarcastically) at.

7. Wikipedia

Misconception: Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, though that makes vandalism rampant throughout the site.

Reality: Today, Wikipedia isn’t an unruly mob of vandals, but rather a tight-knit group of insiders, whose careful control has turned away well-meaning editors and benign contributors. In 2013, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota published an extensive study on Wikipedia, ultimately suggesting that the site should change its motto from “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit” to “the encyclopedia that anyone who understands the norms, socializes him or herself, dodges the impersonal wall of semi-automated rejection and still wants to voluntarily contribute his or her time and energy can edit.”

It’s hard to blame Wikipedia for overcorrecting in an effort to stamp out vandalism and shameless promotion. It is still, after all, one of the web’s most reliable resources for quick facts and general-topic summaries. But as online information and social networks continue to explode across the web, Wikipedia’s conservative, insiders-only mindset may end up leading to its demise.

8. Twitter

Misconception: A lot of celebrities tweet some pretty dumb things, especially given how many followers they have.

Reality: Okay, that one’s true.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

4 Reasons Nobody Cares About Smartwatches

If you watched Google present Android Wear last week, you’d think the smartwatch was the hottest product on the market. What could be better than an intelligent timepiece that can take calls and understand voice commands?

It turns out nobody cares. At FindTheBest, we compared traffic and user engagement for dozens of product categories, from smartphones and laptops to printers and processors. The results? FindTheBest users are three times more likely to research fitness trackers than smartwatches, and over 40 times more likely to research smartphones. Even the godawful Bluetooth headset is more popular.

So we asked ourselves: why isn’t the smartwatch as popular as its wrist-based cousin, the fitness tracker? Why hasn’t the mainstream market bought in? Here are four reasons:

1. Smartwatches are too thick

According to WatchStation, the average case thickness for a standard wristwatch is between 8-12 mm, while anything in the 6-8 mm range is considered “thin.” Unfortunately, most smartwatches clock in north of 10 mm, making them seem more like clunky gadgets than sleek, sophisticated timepieces of the future. For a tech geek, this might seem like a petty complaint, but for the mass market, design and comfort beat specs and features any day (see Jobs, Steve).

 

Yes, the recent Sony SmartWatch 2 (9 mm), Samsung Gear Live (8.9 mm), and LG G Watch (9.9 mm) are thinner than most of their rivals—a promising trend for the industry. But you can’t disrupt a market when your product is about the same as existing options—you need something noticeably and undeniably better. Shave off another 3-5 mm and then we’ll talk.

2. Smartwatches are too expensive

For classic wristwatches, prices are either dirt cheap (ex: a $10 grocery store Casio) or criminally expensive (ex: a $20k Rolex). The problem? People tend to think about watches as one of these two things, and rarely anything in between. Smartwatch manufacturers have attempted to create a new price category altogether, where most models range from $100 to $250. It seems reasonable enough on paper, but regrettably, wealthy consumers don’t want Twitter updates and digital displays (smartwatches) as much as they want Swiss craftsmanship and family heirlooms (Rolexes). Meanwhile, average Joes won’t want to spend much more than they did on last year’s Casio.

 

Obviously, $10 is unreasonable for a smartwatch, but what about $50 to $99? If manufacturers can price these things more like Apple TVs and less like iPods, we might see a bump in mainstream adoption.

3. Smartwatches haven’t solved the battery life conundrum

Like prices for standard wristwatches, battery life on smartwatches is polarized. A few select models—like the Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity and ConnecteDevice Cookoo—can run for months without a single charge. Pretty much everything else will be lucky to survive a week. It gets even worse for the prettiest displays (like the LG G’s LCD screen or the Galaxy Gear’s AMOLED display), where you’ll need to plug in every night—in other words, a charging ritual no better than a smartphone’s.

The problem is that the more “smart” a watch is, the worse battery life it tends to have. Even with their months of battery life, the Citizen Eco-Drive and Cookoo are hardly smartwatches—they’re mostly analog timepieces with a couple of neat notification features. The 7-day-battery Pebble Steel is a little better, but it can’t compete feature-for-feature with the 1.5-day-battery Galaxy Gear.

 

 

In the end, smartwatch manufacturers need to rethink battery life entirely. They need to ask themselves how they can bake in all the same features without requiring customers to plug in night-after-night. If you’re not convinced this is a problem, consider that the best idea the industry has had yet is to “flick your wrist to turn on the backlight.” I mean seriously.

4. Smartwatches don’t have a compelling reason to exist

Quick: what is a smartwatch’s primary benefit, in just a few words? Voice-based texting? Safer driving? Taking calls without getting your phone out of your pocket or purse? Seeing a Facebook notification three seconds faster?

The smartwatch’s biggest issue is that it doesn’t solve any tangible problem. The first personal computers revolutionized productivity. The first MP3 players allowed people to store thousands of songs in one place. Smartphones let consumers take the Internet with them in their pocket. Even fitness trackers let people seamlessly track their exercise goals. Until the smartwatch proves it can do one thing really well—that it can solve one simple, common, necessary problem—the device will be nothing more than a hobby for geeks and an excuse for Samsung to make creepy ads. Time is ticking.

TIME FindTheBest

12 World Cup Teams and Their Tech Company Equivalents

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In national soccer, as in the world of tech, everybody has a distinct reputation. There are the powerhouses (Brazil, Argentina; Apple, Amazon), the up-and-comers (Colombia; Uber), and of course, the eternally doomed (England; Blockbuster).

At FindTheBest, we looked at company balance sheets, World Cup histories, team rosters, and chief executives to find the tech company equivalents for 12 national soccer teams. Here’s what we found:

1. Brazil = Apple

They’ve each had more tangible success than just about anyone, with Brazil’s five World Cup titles and Apple’s series of blockbuster products (the original Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad). Unfortunately, expectations are now so high that a single slip-up (ex: Croatia’s first goal, Apple Maps) causes the entire world to lose its mind. Year after year, analysts predict the two will shatter records for goals and iPhone sales, respectively, then pile on mercilessly when they fail to meet such lofty expectations.

2. Argentina = Amazon

They’ve been serious contenders ever since 2006, consistently among the top five or six teams/tech companies in the world. While their rivals tend to have up and down years, these two ooze reliability, bringing talent, refined strategy, and strong execution year after year. Most of all, however, each depends upon the brilliance of one man (Lionel Messi, Jeff Bezos) to keep things from falling apart.

3. U.S.A. = Beats by Dre

Flashy and just a little cocky, each has had a recent bout of success, drawing unexpected attention from older, wiser rivals. Experts insist the good fortune is more sizzle than steak, but fans of the respective teams are just pleased to be doing this well. Meanwhile, better, more technically-sound rivals (Spain, England; Shure, Grado) curse their luck, producing a product 10 times better but with quarterly results 10 times worse.

4. England = Microsoft

They’ve each had one enduring success (England’s 1966 World Cup, Microsoft Windows), and a series of promising, but ultimately disappointing years. You wouldn’t say they’re finished, but then again, you certainly wouldn’t bet on either of them. They recently appointed new leaders (Satya Nadella, Roy Hodgson), ushering in a flood of new enthusiasm, and inevitably, a following tide of despondency. At times, it’s gotten so bad that even fans of their most bitter rivals (France, Apple) have quietly wished to see a little more fight.

5. Spain = Groupon

In 2010, they were the most promising enterprises in the world, each reeling off headlines and wins faster than you can say “tiki-taka.” A series of copycat rivals then replicated their success (Japan’s national women’s team, LivingSocial), further convincing the world that soccer strategy/online deals had changed forever. It wasn’t until a few years later when Spain’s and Groupon’s unstable high-wire acts came crashing down, proving that slow, steady, and consistent (ex: Germany, Amazon) still tends to beat quick and frenetic over time.

6. Colombia = Uber

Young, hip, and just plain smart, each has surprised the world with clever strategy and impressive results, week after week. They’re the darlings of their respective industries, and a favorite value bet for sports gamblers and tech investors. As with any success story, there’s been a little backlash—or at least tempering of expectations—but regardless of what happens, each seems poised for a decade of success.

7. Germany = Intel

Next to all the handsome stars, exciting play styles, and Cinderella performances, Germany and Intel are easy to forget, consistent but boring, efficient but not much to look at. They’ve been astonishingly successful over the years, with teams consistently in the quarters, semis, and finals/chips in MacBooks, ThinkPads, and Inspirons. They’re one big tournament win/acquisition away from grabbing back headlines, but for now, they’ll have to accept brief mentions on newspapers’ back pages and product boxes’ fine print.

8. The Netherlands = IBM

Solid, successful, and respected by their industries, the Netherdlands and IBM are nonetheless tainted by shady dealings, whether it’s fouls (as of June 25th, the Netherlands has committed the most fouls per game in the 2014 World Cup) or patent lawsuits (IBM helped cripple new legislation that would have made it easier to dismiss low-quality software patents).

9. Mexico = T-Mobile

They’ve got the most charismatic leaders in the business (Miguel Herrera, John Legere). Each man is likely insane, but that’s also part of their charm. Both organizations are lovable and easy to root for, but if you’re honest, you’re not convinced either has enough money or resources to truly break through. At one point, you even thought about jumping ship to root for them over their richer, more popular rival (USA, Verizon), but you ultimately stuck to your guns, worried about what sort of reception your public change of allegiance would produce.

10. France = Yahoo

They were both world class in 1998, dominating all rivals and seemingly set for decades of dominance. Regrettably, each encountered turbulence over the next decade, losing to craftier, more agile opponents, and eventually becoming the brunt of many industry/league jokes. Fed up with mediocrity, they hired new leaders in 2012 (Didier Deschamps, Marissa Mayer), each with a résumé of accomplishments as long as a soccer pitch. Some argue that the glory days are officially past, but a string of recent successes seems to say otherwise.

11. Portugal = Snapchat

After being irrelevant (or nonexistent) for years, each grabbed international attention under the leadership of a tall, attractive, frat boy (Cristiano Ronaldo, Evan Spiegel). Fan loyalty and company fortune alike seem to hang on the ups and downs of these men, whether it’s a leaked series of offensive emails or an absurd haircut that may or may not have been a tribute to a child who underwent brain surgery. At times, commentators have proposed that the respective groups would be better off under a more stable, low-drama leader, but most agree that the benefit of occasional brilliance outweighs the constant stream of TMZ stories.

12. Greece = Zynga

Over the last several years, both watched their once-promising operations fall apart overnight, calamities only made worse by toxic economic environments back home. They’ve each been on the brink of elimination, only to be rescued by a bit of suspicious maneuvering (the stoppage time penalty against Ivory Coast, the Zynga equity “giveback”). Supporters and investors remain on edge, waiting for stronger, more permanent signs of improvement.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

5 Ways to Cut Cable but Keep All Your Shows

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Trying to cut cable is like trying to quit smoking. You’ve been meaning to do it for years. You know exactly how much money you could save. You’re even getting disapproving looks from that 23-year-old neighbor…you know, the one who thinks it’s a disgusting habit that belongs in a previous century. But you still can’t deny how relaxing it is after a long, stressful day at work.

It’s time to get your cable nicotine patch. At FindTheBest, we’ve assembled five Quitting Cable Packages designed to wean you off the tube and into a happier, more affordable lifestyle.

Note: We’ll assume, conservatively, that basic cable costs about $60 per month (including fees), or $720 per year.

The Ultimate Couch Potato

Cost for all three: $291 per year

You save: $429 per year

So you still want to watch all the latest content, but you can’t stand the thought of staring at one more cable bill. Consider The Ultimate Couch Potato package, a pricey-but-comprehensive lineup that will fill nearly all of your movie, TV, and B-quality documentary needs.

The package starts with Netflix and Hulu Plus, an affordable tandem with the complementary strengths of selection (Netflix) and new releases (Hulu). Add in Amazon’s growing Instant Video content library, and you’ll be able to watch almost any popular show, as long as it’s not a brand new series on HBO. (Amazon Prime does give you access to older HBO shows, like The Wire and The Sopranos.)

Common objection: Amazon and Netflix seem to offer a lot of the same content: Is it really worth paying for both?

Answer: As a cable subscriber, you’re paying for 85 separate channels, 70 of which are garbage. If you’re paying for garbage 70 times over, you might as well pay for great content twice over.

The Cheapskate

Cost for all six: $0 per year

You Save: $720 per year

Let’s flip this around. Suppose you don’t care what you watch, as long as the TV stays on and the bills go away. Consider this Cheapskate collection of free (and legal!) services.

The headliner here is Hulu. A basic Hulu account gets you temporary access to a hodgepodge of popular TV series—like The Daily Show and The Bachelorette—as well as a whole mess of shows no one’s ever heard of. Grab a beer, flip open your laptop, and enjoy free access to the latest episode of Paranormal Home Inspectors.

Meanwhile, you might try clicking your way over to SnagFilms, Crackle, or PopcornFlix. They might sound like viruses waiting to happen, but in fact, they’re all legitimate online streaming sites with a handful of bizarre, low-budget films filled with bad acting and unintentional comedy.

Common objection: After watching 20 minutes of Hulu, I’ve seen the same Xbox commercial 17 times in a row. This is obnoxious.

Answer: You’re right. We’ve got nothing.

The Sports Fan

Cost: Ranges from about $35 to $175 per year, per sport

You Save: Anywhere from $680 (one sport) to about $205 (if you buy all of the above)

It’s the trump card in any cable company’s argument: sports. You’ll wait 24 hours to watch the latest episode of Mad Men. With sports, even a five-minute delay is unacceptable.

Fortunately, services like MLB.TV Premium, NHL Game Center LIVE, and NBA League Pass have begun to solve this problem. Provided you have a strong Internet signal and a streaming device (like a Roku or Apple TV), you can watch live games on your TV at about a third the cost of cable.

Unfortunately, restrictions and limitations abound. Most services will “black out” local teams so that customers won’t cancel their cable subscription, while the playoffs often require an additional fee. And then there’s the NFL. Sure, you can pay to stream preseason games or rewatch yesterday’s match, but to get live, regular-season action, you’re stuck with DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket or the local cable offerings.

Common objection: I’d watch more basketball/baseball, but they only ever show [terrible local team X] on cable.

Answer: Great! You’re the perfect sort of person (and perhaps the only sort of person) that will benefit from an online NBA/MLB service. You’ll get access to all those good teams you never get to see, and who cares if [terrible local team X] is blacked out. Cut the cord today!

The Modern Moviephile

Cost: About $50 for 12 movies per year, $150 for 36 movies per year

You Save: $570 – $670 per year

You’ve tried Netflix, but you’re tired of waiting a full year just to see Brad Pitt’s gorgeous hair mop from World War Z. The answer: online rentals. Each of the above services offer cheap rates (usually, $3-$5) for popular films mere months after their release. It’s just like those $19 in-room movies at the hotel, only not exorbitantly expensive. Meanwhile, SundanceNow offers a similar service for a whole catalog of indie films.

Common objection: Isn’t this a lot more expensive than Netflix or Hulu?

Answer: It depends on how much you watch. If you’re selective enough to pick a dozen movies per year, there’s no better option for watching recent releases in seconds.

The Time Traveler

Cost: $96 per year for Redbox, varies for Blockbuster (per rental)

You Save: $624 per year if you just get Redbox Instant

Maybe you’re nostalgic for the early 2000s—the days of video rentals and iPods, boxy TVs and DVD players, Blockbuster Videos and grocery store Redbox machines.

As it turns out, these brands are soldiering on (yes, even Blockbuster) in the form of online streaming services. If you’re the sort that likes to go down with the ship, or the type that dreams of reliving the Alamo, consider signing on for one of these last-gasp services. Who knows? Subscription rates might drop through the floor as these old vets cling to life.

Common objection: Blockbuster? Wasn’t this the company that put my favorite video shop out of the business, then promptly raised prices?

Answer: You’re right: Stick with Netflix.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

5 Totally Excessive Father’s Day Gifts

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Let’s face it. You haven’t even thought about Father’s Day, and your old man knows it. Sure, you might grab a bad card, a couple of razors, and a travel-sized bottle of Jack Daniel’s for the guy this Saturday evening, but you won’t be fooling anyone, least of all him. And this for the man that raised you, disciplined you, and put up with all your garbage for 18 years. For shame.

At FindTheBest, we’re fed up with bad Father’s Day gifts. Instead of the same old junk, we’ve picked five extreme items—based on the raw data—that will blow Dad away (sometimes literally) this Sunday.

Gift #1: Nokia Lumia 1020

Key Feature: 41-megapixel camera

5.9x as many megapixels as the average phone

 

You could argue that the iPhone 5s, Galaxy S5, and HTC One M8 are better phones. You could make the case that more apps trump more pixels. You might even point to independent camera review sites, like DxOMark, that say the Nokia Lumia 1020 does not, in fact, boast the best phone camera on the market—a title that currently belongs to the Sony Xperia Z2.

But you can’t argue with 41 megapixels.

Tell Dad that he’s worth every pixel with the Nokia Lumia 1020. (Just make sure to take the family photo with your Z2.)

Gift #2: Panasonic DMC-FZ70

Key Feature: 60x optical zoom

7.2x more than the average digital camera

 

Perhaps Dad’s a birdwatcher, national park visitor, or elementary school play attender. Grab him the Panasonic DMC-FZ70, a digital camera that can zoom literally 60x closer to the subject without digital enhancement. Even your DSLR-owning friends might (pretend to) be jealous.

Better yet, it’s less than $300 at most online retailers: less than $5 per level of zoom.*

*not a real photography stat

Gift #3: Intel i7-4960X processor

Key Feature: 23,352 Geekbench 64-bit score

2.8x better than the average processor

 

So Dad’s a gamer, but he’s still plowing away on that Dell desktop from 2007. Grab him a new rig with an Intel i7-4960X, a processor that nabbed a sterling 23,352 on its last Geekbench 64-bit test, nearly 3x better than the average processor. Then cry silently as he wastes all the new power on a week-long Minesweeper marathon.

Gift #4: DeWalt DCD775B 1/2” Hammer Drill

Key Feature: 8,500 RPM max speed

5.1x the max speed of the average drill

 

Some dads don’t just want to drill a hole through a wall: they want to drill through walls with authority, slamming their way through paint, plaster, and electrical wiring. Get your pop the DCD775B 1/2” Hammer Drill, built to spin up to 8,500 times per minute, 5x faster than average and probably 10x faster than necessary. But your dad doesn’t do necessary, so why should you?

Gift #5: ResMed S9 Escape CPAP machine

Key Feature: 24 dB noise level

3 decibels quieter than the average CPAP machine

 

So what if Dad is a little less extreme and a little more…sensitive? And older? And a really, really loud snorer?

Get him the super-quiet ResMed S9 Escape CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, designed to help clear his nasal passageways as he lumbers his way through naps. While he does his best impression of former NBA star Rip Hamilton, you’ll be getting Mom the quiet home she always dreamed of. You might even save the marriage.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

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