TIME apps

6 Apps for People Who Hate Apps

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Get your nose out of your phone with these simple tools

While smartphone apps are certainly as popular as ever, there’s also a revolt brewing against these attention-grabbing, notification-slinging programs. People are tired of being tied to their handsets and falling down the rabbit hole of their touchscreen every time an alert dings.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the Apple Watch, an entirely new product put out by the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer, that’s main goal is to keep us from using (yet also keep us tethered to) our iPhones. But you don’t need a 21st century calculator watch to escape the tractor beam pulling your eyes to your phone. These six apps will help you cut back on your screen time, while making you more productive than ever.

Hooks: What do you look for when you fall into the Internet? Do you drift over to Twitter to see what someone’s most recent tweet was? Do you check your team’s score, or even look to see when your favorite band is coming to town? Instead of chasing all those things down, just set up Hooks to do it once, and the app will reward you with timely alerts when the moment has arrived.

The free, iPhone-only app makes sure you’re on top of your game — whatever game that may be — by notifying you whenever the prompt of your choice gets triggered. That means never having to look up lottery numbers or forgetting Game of Thrones is about to start. Oh, and if you’re a weather-watcher, Hooks can probably tell you when winter is coming, too.

Do Button: Even with smartphones, sometimes it’s unnecessarily hard to do easy things. For instance, if you’ve got a connected lightbulb, you have to swipe, tap to open the app, tap to access the bulb, then tap to turn it on or off. Do Button, a free Android and iOS app made by IFTTT, cuts those steps down to just one. Tap the app, and you’ve got a simple, programmable button staring you in the face, ready to do your bidding, whether it’s turning on your WeMo plugged in device, setting your Nest thermostat to a predetermined temperature, or tracking your work hours on a Google spreadsheet. A little tap goes a long way.

Launcher: Swipe down on your iPhone’s home screen, and be prepared to never look at your smartphone the same way again. The drawer that comes down from the top of the display is your notification panel, and if you optimize it, you can cut down your app usage considerably. Launcher helps you do this by placing tappable shortcuts right on the notification panel.

Just place the functions that you perform most frequently here (call your husband, email your boss, get directions home), and tapping on the tiles Launcher creates will springboard you into action. The app is free, but a paid version provides a lot more functionality, from changing icon sizes to letting you put more of them on the panel.

Overboard: Whether it’s tapping on weather, then the news, then your Twitter — or a another routine entirely — there’s no reason, in this age of customization, to go from app-to-app to gather all your vitals. Overboard, a personable dashboard of pertinent information, lets you pull all your most current information together in one easy to read place.

A great app for media mavens, you can check everything from the top trending stories on BuzzFeed and The New York Times without tempting yourself with one of the publications’ other articles. Social media fans will appreciate being able to monitor their follower count on Twitter and Instagram without loading those apps. And with a clean interface, the $.99 app keeps it simple and distraction free, which is worth the price of admission.

Magic: Anything you desire, delivered on demand — that’s not an app, that’s practically magic. But there’s no genie in the bottle with this free (to use) service that’s so incredible you already have it on your phone without knowing it. Just text what you want to the number 83489, and as long as it’s not illegal, the operators manning the line will work on getting it for you, 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Available anywhere in the U.S., the service will source whatever you ask for — a pizza, a hotel reservation, a new car — and set up payment via a secure web link (powered by payment processor Stripe), quoting a price to complete the purchase, with tip included, before sealing the deal. The service uses the likes of DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates to fulfill your orders, but in figuring out all the logistics for you, you’ll never even have to open those apps (or even sign up for them, necessarily). Now that’s quite a trick.

Clara: Technically speaking, Clara isn’t an app. She’s an assistant, powered by artificial intelligence, but since she exists solely in your email, she’s fair game for this roundup. Just enter your customizable Clara email address into the CC: field of one of your email exchanges, and she can coordinate between the parties in the message to set up a meeting on your calendar. Automatically responding to emails within an hour, the platform-agnostic service will correspond with your contacts, determining the best time for everyone, and then put the event on your calendar. Between $119 and $399 per month, her services don’t exactly come cheap, but hey, that’s the cost of convenience. On the bright side, she works 24 hours a day, seven days a week — which breaks down to a very low hourly rate.

TIME apps

Actual Humans Will Now Approve or Reject Android Apps

Google Inc.'s Senior Vice President Of Android, Chrome And Apps Sundar Pichai Launches The Android One Platform
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The Spice Android One Dream Uno smartphone manufactured by Spice Mobility Ltd. sits on display during the Google Inc. Android One smartphone launch event in New Delhi, India, on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014.

Google Play has always been more lax about apps than Apple's App Store

Google is taking a page out of Apple’s playbook by starting to have people review apps before they go live on the Google Play store.

The company said in a Tuesday blog post that it started the review policy several months ago to improve its app catalog. Previously, Android apps were only initially screened using software.

The change may help lower the number of apps on the Google Play store that infringe on copyrights or tamper with the Android operating system. In the past Google, has been considerably more lax than Apple in what it allows to populate its app store. For example, emulators, which enable users to pirate video games, are banned from Apple’s App Store but prevalent on the Google Play store.

In addition to the review change, Google also announced a new ratings system to rate apps as appropriate for kids, teens or adults. In the U.S., the ratings will be set by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which already sets ratings for video games sold on traditional consoles.

TIME apps

Apple’s App Store Just Had Its Biggest Day Ever

Customers spent half a billion dollars on apps in a single week

Apple already won Christmas. Now it looks like it probably won New Year’s too. The company just revealed that New Year’s Day was the largest sales day ever for the App Store, which sells apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. During the first week of January, customers spent nearly $500 million on iOS apps, a new record for Apple.

2014 wasn’t a shabby year for the App Store either. Apple said app sales rose 50 percent year-over-year and the company paid out $10 billion to developers in 2014. Since Apple keeps 30% of the revenue from each App Store transaction, that means the company pocketed about $4.3 billion from app transactions last year. Overall, developers have earned about $25 billion from app sales since the App Store launched in 2008, putting Apple’s total take above $10 billion.

Cultivating a user base that spends lots of money on apps remains one of Apple’s key advantages over Google and its Android operating system. Though the vast majority of smartphones today run on Android, the App Store’s global revenue was 60% higher than revenue from the Google Play Store in the third quarter of 2014, according to mobile analytics firm App Annie.

TIME movies

Rogen and Franco Will Live-Tweet The Interview as It Hits iTunes

The platform joins Google Play, YouTube and XBox in offering the previously canceled movie

Correction appended Dec. 28, 2014

The Interview will be available for download on iTunes, Apple announced Sunday. The platform joins Google Play, YouTube and XBox in offering the previously canceled movie.

“We’re pleased to offer ‘The Interview’ for rental or purchase on the iTunes Store,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told Reuters in a statement.

Though the film has largely been panned by critics, the movie’s stars remain upbeat about it on Twitter and elsewhere. The lead actors, James Franco and Seth Rogen, prepared to live-tweet a viewing of the movie at 5 p.m. E.T.

Read more: The Interview, the Movie You Almost Never Got to See

The Interview, which had its release canceled amid threats to attack theaters that showed it, ultimately opened in more than 300 primarily independent theaters Christmas Day and earned more than $1 million in box-office revenue. While the sum is significant, it is far less than it was expected to earn had it been released widely, and it remains to be seen whether Sony Pictures will be able to earn back the $44 million cost of making it.

The original version of this story misstated the start time for Rogen and Franco’s live tweets. It is 5 p.m. E.T.

TIME apps

Google Says These Are 2014’s Best Android Apps

Check out Google's list of the best of the best

With more than 1 million apps available, parsing through the Google Play Store can be a challenge. Google has provided some help by offering a list of the best Android apps of 2014. Whether you’re looking to stream a movie, learn a new language or manage your business calendar, chances are there’s an app that will fit the bill.

Here’s a look at what Google has highlighted as the best of the best:

Productivity

  • Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks
  • SwiftKey Keyboard
  • IFTTT (If This, Then That)
  • Sunrise Calendar
  • Todoist: To-Do List, Task List
  • Mailbox
  • Offtime – Life Unplugged
  • Rundavoo
  • Money Tracker by BillGuard
  • SlideShare Presentations
  • Strive

Education

  • TED
  • Lumosity
  • Duolingo
  • Craftsy Classes
  • Monki Chinese Class
  • Child Mode & Time Education
  • Amazing World Atlas

Entertainment

  • Hulu
  • Comedy Central
  • Disney Movies Anywhere
  • DramaFever
  • 5by
  • Dailymotion

News

  • Yahoo News Digest
  • BuzzFeed
  • The Economist
  • CNN
  • New York Times
  • Watchup: Your Daily Newscast

Music & Audio

  • Shazam
  • Pandora
  • iHeartRadio
  • Afterlight
  • Musixmatch Music Player Lyrics
  • djay 2
  • TuneIn Radio
  • Soundhound
  • edjing – DJ Music
  • Equalizer + MP3 player volume
  • Ultimate Guitar

Sports & Fitness

  • Onefootball – Pure Soccer!
  • Golfshot: Golf GPS
  • Univision Deportes
  • 7 Minute Workout
  • Google Fit

Shopping

  • Wish
  • Groupon

Photography

  • Over
  • EyeEm: CAmera & Photo Filter
  • Facetune
  • Carousel – Dropbox Photos
  • Video Collage Maker
  • Camera Zoom

Personalization

  • Locket Lock Screen
  • Link Bubble Browser

Social

  • Timehop
  • OKCupid
  • Secret
  • LINK – with people nearby
  • Frontback
  • Obscure
  • Lettrs
  • Telegram
  • Samba: Videos + Reactions
  • Bitmoji
  • Skype Qik: Group Video Chat
  • Viadeo

Travel

  • Expedia
  • Maps.ME
  • Anywayanyday
  • Minube
  • Windfinder
  • Uber

Read next: 50 Best Android Apps for 2014

TIME Companies

Google Just Took its First Step Back Into China

The Google logo is reflected in windows
AFP/Getty Images 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.

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 Music

4 Places to Listen to Taylor Swift Besides Spotify

Taylor Swift Performs On ABC's "Good Morning America"
Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images Taylor Swift Performs On ABC's "Good Morning America" at Times Square on October 30, 2014 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy--Getty Images)

But if you want 1989, you'll probably have to buy it

Taylor Swift just removed her music from Spotify, and it doesn’t look like they’re ever getting back together. But what now? Where will you be able to listen to Shake It Off? How will you get through your day without Out of the Woods?

Don’t rip your ears off in despair just yet– here are four places where you can still find Taylor Swift’s music online:

Rdio: You can listen to all of Taylor’s old albums here, but nothing from 1989, unfortunately.

Google Play: You can buy the entire album of 1989 on GooglePlay for $12.49, or individual songs for $1.29.

iTunes: 1989 is featured on iTunes and is on sale for $12.99.

Amazon: If you buy 1989 on CD on Amazon, it will automatically download all 13 tracks in MP3 format (and at $9.99, it costs less than iTunes.) You can also just buy the MP3 version for $12.49.

Other music sites like Pandora and Songza also still have Taylor’s music, but it’s not immediately clear whether they have 1989. And besides, you can’t request to hear specific songs through those sites.

Just don’t steal the album illegally, because if you did that, you’d really be letting Taylor down—she wrote a whole op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about how piracy is changing the music industry.

Update: The original version of this story has been updated to remove links from a site that hosts music files without the permission of copyright holders.

Read next: Find the Perfect Taylor Swift Lyric for Your Mood

TIME apps

New Tricks for Google Play Music: Easier Uploads and a Mini Player

Google

Finally, a way to add new music without the extra software.

A couple of new experimental features have popped up in Google Play Music, making it easier to manage and listen to music through the browser.

If you’re using Chrome, you can now upload songs by dragging files or folders into the browser. You can also keep your computer’s entire music collection in sync by adding folders through the Settings menu.

To enable drag-and-drop uploads, head to the labs section and enable “Google Play Music for Chrome.” You’ll then see an “Add music” button in the top-right corner.

Without this feature, Google requires you to use its Music Manager software for Windows, Mac or Linux. The software works well enough for syncing your main music library, but it doesn’t provide an easy way to upload individual songs from another folder or computer.

Enabling the labs feature also adds a mini music player, which you can open by clicking the arrow button in the bottom right corner. Unfortunately, this player only works while the main Google Play Music window is open, and there’s no way to make it stay visible over other windows.

Google Play Music lets you store up to 20,000 songs online. You can then stream those songs to any web browser and to Google’s official apps for Android and iOS. (Unofficial apps are also available for other platforms.) It’s a great service for accessing your music collection on phones and tablets without using up storage space, and these new features make it just a little easier to get started.

TIME Google Play

Android v. iOS Gaming: Google Play to Get Cross-Platform Support

Google

Imagine playing a game on your Android phone or tablet with a friend who’s playing the same game on an iOS device — cross-platform support, in other words. That’s the promise behind what may be the most significant new feature in a medley of enhancements coming to the gaming side of Google Play, unveiled by Google at the Game Developer’s Conference this morning (the developer-focused video games show kicks off today in San Francisco and runs all this week) .

Google says the feature will bring “turn-based and real-time multiplayer capabilities to both Android and iOS,” and that it’s updating its Unity-related plugin to support cross-platform multiplayer. It’s also rolling out a C++ SDK that’ll fold in all-important achievements and leaderboards.

Other features include a new analytics tool in the Google Play Developer Console (a dashboard that helps track daily player engagement, active users, achievements and leaderboard activity), something called “game gifts” that’ll let players wing in-game objects at their peers, and direct multiplayer invite support. There are new game categories as well, bringing the total to 18 and making the genre-hunt more granular (Google’s FAQ has the new category list). Google says it’s also tweaking its ad-focused AdMob platform to help developers devise better targeted (and therefore theoretically more alluring) in-app purchases.

For anyone not attending the relevant GDC sessions, Google says it’ll live-stream them on YouTube, starting tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. ET.

TIME Video Games

Apps with "Flappy" in Their Names Reportedly Being Rejected by Apple and Google

Sad boy is sad.
Getty Images Sad boy is sad.

Might I suggest Bappy Flird?

Bet you thought you’d wake up this morning to find that the ’round-the-clock coverage of Flappy Bird that saturated tech blogs last week had finally ground to a halt.

Sorry. And I recognize the irony that I’m part of the problem. Again: sorry.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez reports that several developers have found their Flappy Bird clones being rejected by Apple’s and Google’s app stores. One developer spotlighted in Perez’s story was apparently told by Apple that his app – Flappy Dragon – was rejected because it “attempts to leverage a popular app.”

As of roughly 9am on Monday, a search of “Flappy” turned up oodles and oodles of Flappy-themed results in the Google Play store: Flappy Pig, Flappy Doge, Flappy Fish, Flappy Flying, another Flappy Doge, two Flappy Bees, another Flappy Fish, another Flappy Pig – you get the idea. Apple’s iTunes app store is still returning plenty of results for a “Flappy” search, too.

These apps may be grandfathered in, but it appears Apple and Google are all set when it comes to new games in the Flappy Bird vein. At least, apps with “Flappy” somewhere in the title. Might I suggest Bappy Flird?

Apple & Google Begin Rejecting Games With “Flappy” In The Title [TechCrunch]

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