TIME Gadgets

Buying Guide: Apple’s Holiday Gadgets Lineup

For a company that’s made a lot of money by selling the concept of simplicity, Apple’s holiday lineup features an almost overwhelming number of gadgets. Here’s a look at the main product lines, along with some buying advice for each category.

Computers

MacBook Air Laptops ($899+)

MacBook Air
Apple

When it comes to Apple’s portable computer lineup, you’ve got the less expensive, more portable MacBook Air line or the more expensive, more powerful MacBook Pro line.

There are two base models to choose from in the MacBook Air line: an 11-incher starting at $899 and a 13-incher starting at $999. They were last updated in April of 2014.

The 11-inch model is — surprise — the more portable of the two, weighing in around 2.4 pounds. However, for $100 extra, the 13-inch model gives you a higher-resolution screen, three additional hours of battery life (9 for the 11-inch, 12 for the 13-inch), and an SD memory card slot.

Product Page [Apple.com]

MacBook Pro Laptops ($1299+)

MacBook Pro
Apple

The more potent of Apple’s portables, the MacBook Pro line consists of 13- and 15-inch models with super high-resolution “Retina” screens and a top-of-the-line model with a starting price (before custom configuration) of $2499. The line was last updated in late July of 2014.

They’re still plenty portable: Each model measures less than three quarters of an inch thick, with the 13-incher weighing just shy of 3.5 pounds and the 15-incher weighing just shy of 4.5 pounds.

Making the leap from the base 13-inch model to the base 15-inch model commands a $700 price premium, but nets you a better processor, double the RAM, double the storage, and higher-resolution screen with a better graphics chip. You lose an hour of battery life with the 15-inch model (eight hours versus nine hours for the 13-incher), and there are a couple upgraded 13-inch models to choose from ($1499 and $1799) before you get to the first 15-inch model.

Note that there’s also an aging non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro that’s still for sale with a $1099 starting price. It’s not touted on Apple’s main MacBook Pro page, however, and hasn’t been updated for quite a while. It’s been rumored that it’s being killed off entirely. You can do better with $1099.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iMac All-in-Ones ($1099+)

iMac
Apple

Apple’s all-in-one desktop line comes in 21.5-inch models starting at $1099 and 27-inch models starting at $1799. They were last updated in late September of 2013, with the entry-level model added in mid-June of 2014. The Retina 5K model was added in mid-October 2014 with a $2499 starting price.

The entry-level $1099 jobber tends to steer you into taking a good, hard look at the next step up; a $1299 21.5-inch model which, for $200, gets you a much better processor (2.7GHz quad-core versus a 1.4GHz dual-core), double the storage space, higher-end RAM, and a better graphics chip.

Stepping up to the baseline 27-inch model (starts at $1799), gets you a super high-resolution screen (2560 x 1440), a better processor and a better graphics chip. You’re paying mostly for the enormous 27-inch screen. It’s a really nice screen — I use one for work on occasion — but the rest of the system’s innards aren’t mind-blowing by any means. You can do some custom upgrades to increase the mind-blowingness, of course.

Find another $700 in your couch cushions, and you can step up to the all-new Retina iMac, which starts at $2499 and sports an insanely high-resolution screen (5120 x 2880). Apple blew right past “4K” and is calling this “5K” instead. Aside from the screen technology, this model starts out with a quad-core Intel processor, a faster graphics chip and a faster one-terabyte hybrid (solid-state + standard storage) hard drive.

Product Page (iMac) | Product Page (Retina 5K iMac) [Apple.com]

Mac Mini ($499+)

Mac Mini
Apple

The diminutive Mac Mini desktop is still kicking, with a $499 starting price (d0wn from $599) and the continued understanding that you’ll need to bring your own monitor, keyboard and mouse. There’s a $699 model that gets you almost double the processing speed, double the storage, double the RAM and a better graphics chip. Tough choice, to be honest.

Product Page [Apple.com]

Mac Pro ($2,999+)

Mac Pro
Apple

The Mac Pro comes in quad- and six-core configurations, starting at more than many people’s monthly mortgage payments. If you’re buying this as a gift for someone, you are incredibly generous, well-off or both. Either way: congratulations on all your success!

You should check with this person to see what he or she actually wants out of a Mac Pro. This isn’t a great “surprise” gift, in other words. At the most basic, however, an extra $1000 jumps you from four to six processing cores, and gets you more RAM and a better graphics chip.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPhones

You have four iPhone models to choose from, running the price gamut from free with a two-year contract to $499 with a two-year contract.

iPhones
From left to right: iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C Apple

iPhone 6 Plus ($299+)

Starting on the left-hand side of the above image, the iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s biggest phone to date. With a 5.5-inch screen, it straddles the tablet-phone chasm with a starting price of $299 with a two-year contract. Going this big (and expensive) gets you a higher-resolution screen than the iPhone 6, optical image stabilization, and longer battery life.

iPhone 6 ($199+)

Apple’s flagship phone until (probably) late 2015, the iPhone 6 attempts to summon Goldilocks with a not-too-big, not-too-small 4.7-inch screen. Apple promises up to 14 hours of 3G talk time or up to 10 hours of web surfing. Like all iPhones, an extra $100 for each trim level gets you more storage, though where previous lines doubled the storage for every $100 you spent, the 6 and 6 Plus jump you from 16 gigabytes to 64 gigabytes this time around. Another $100 pops things up to 128 gigabytes.

iPhone 5S ($99+)

Last year’s flagship model, the iPhone 5S sports a four-inch screen, fingerprint sensor, decent processor and 8-10 hours of continuous-use battery life. It’s still a fine phone, with a good camera and a 32-gigabyte storage option that costs an extra $50.

iPhone 5C (Free)

On the low end, the iPhone 5C is free with a two-year contract, comes in five colors and is available with eight gigabytes of storage. For all intents and purposes, this is a late-2012 iPhone 5 gussied up and re-released in late 2013. An extra $100 gets you more processing power and double the storage in an iPhone 5S, but if you don’t care about that and you don’t care about the fingerprint reader, this one’s a solid choice as a free phone.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPads

You have five iPad models to choose from. Starting prices range from $249 to $499.

iPads
From left to right: iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini Apple

iPad Air 2 ($499+)

The first version of the iPad Air was thinner than a pencil at 0.29 inches. Thanks to a new anti-reflective screen, the iPad Air 2 is thinner than that at 0.24 inches — an 18% reduction — and slightly lighter (like, 0.04 pounds lighter). There’s a souped-up iPhone 6/6 Plus processor onboard, too (the A8X), which Apple says is 40% faster than previous efforts.

Battery life remains 10 hours, as before, and the rear camera has been bumped from five to eight megapixels and can capture time-lapse and slow-motion videos. The front camera has been improved, as well, and wireless connections have been bolstered to provide faster data access.

The newest iPad Air rounds things out by adding the TouchID fingerprint sensor that debuted with the iPhone 5S, so you can unlock the tablet and log into apps and sites without typing passcodes. It’ll be available in gold, silver and gray, and there’s a new 128-gigabyte storage option available starting at $699.

iPad Air

Late November 2013’s iPad Air is sticking around, though this time with a $399 starting price (down from $499). This is still a more-than-fine full-size iPad. Spending the extra $100 on the iPad Air 2 gets you something marginally thinner and marginally lighter, with a better rear-facing camera, the fingerprint sensor and a beefed up processor. If none of these are super important to you, the iPad Air is now a comparatively good deal.

iPad Mini 3

The iPad Mini 3 is almost pound-for-pound a shrunken-down iPad Air, all the way down to the $399 starting price. You do get the fingerprint sensor, so there’s that. There’s also a 128-gigabyte option (the iPad Air tops out at 32 gigabytes). It’s smaller and lighter, too, of course (although not thinner) with a starting weight of 0.73 pounds.

iPad Mini 2

If you’re interested in a small iPad, the iPad Mini 2 looks like a really good bet, actually. It’s very similar to the iPad Mini 3, but doesn’t feature the gold color option, the 128-gigabyte storage option or the fingerprint reader. Just about everything else is there, minus $100 off the starting price.

iPad Mini

The iPad Mini is sticking around, with a starting price of $249. If ever you were to try to scrounge up an extra $50, this is the time to do it. Stepping up to the iPad Mini 2 gets you a much better screen and a much better processor. If the price was $199, it’d be a much harder decision. This thing’s already two years old, though.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPods and Apple TV ($49+)

iPod Shuffle ($49)

iPod Shuffle
Apple

This is one of the cheapest Apple gadgets to own. A handful of sawbucks will get you a wearable music player good for 15 hours of playback that can hold hundreds of songs (up to around 500 if you really compress them, but bank on a couple hundred at least). Keep in mind that you’ll need a computer to transfer songs: This little guy has no wireless connection.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPod Nano ($149)

iPod Nano
Apple

The iPod Nano is a good option if you’re looking for a pocketable gadget that can be used for working out, watching video, looking at photos and listening to music. Like the iPod Shuffle, you’ll need to use a computer to load stuff onto it, but it does feature a Bluetooth connection you can use to sync it to your car’s audio system or wireless headphones. And there’s Nike+ integration if you want to track your workouts.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPod Touch ($199+)

iPod Touch
Apple

Buying an iPod Touch is basically like buying a phone-less iPhone 4S, specs-wise. It’s a great option for kids who aren’t ready for a full-fledged cell phone (and the monthly bill it entails), but who want access to apps and a decent camera and fun stuff like that. Best of all, you don’t need a computer to load content onto it; just a Wi-Fi network.

Product Page [Apple.com]

Apple TV ($99)

 TV
Apple

Hooking an Apple TV box up to your TV serves two main purposes. One: You can use it to stream music and video from popular services like Netflix and other providers. Second: You can use its AirPlay feature to sling content from your iPhone, iPad, MacBook and other Apple gadgets, expanding it for viewing on the biggest screen in your house. Your TV is the biggest screen in your house, right? Right?!

Product Page [Apple.com]

MONEY Tech

Why Apple is Not a Tech Company

hand pulling iPhone box off shelf
Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Peter Thiel argues that buying Apple means betting against innovation.

As the founder of PayPal, and the one of the first external investors in Facebook, it’s hard to argue that Peter Thiel doesn’t understand innovation or technology companies. But in his new book, Zero to One, Thiel takes somewhat of a radical approach to these concepts, drawing a line in the sand that may irk many traditional tech firms, as well as their investors.

Despite being both the largest and most well-known firm in The Valley, Thiel’s personal opinion is that Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 1.4648% isn’t much of an innovator these days: Just a few years ago, Apple’s stock was a bet on new technology — today, it’s a bet against it (at least according to Thiel).

In a recent phone interview, Thiel told me why he doesn’t consider firms like Apple, and most of the members of the Nasdaq 100, to be technology companies, and what that might mean for their investors.

An odd transformation

Thiel has somewhat of a problem with the concept of a “tech firm” — or at least, what people generally define one to be. In Thiel’s mind, true technology companies are firms leveraged to innovation — to new business models designed to shake up the status quo. Plenty of firms begin their life as a tech company, but those that find success often become something quite different.

“A whole bunch of the Nasdaq 100 stocks are bets against innovation … it’s a long list. [There's] a very short list of companies where you’re actually betting on innovation … Most of [the members of the Nasdaq 100] just throw off huge cash flows, and the risk is actually that there’s some innovation ….These companies are always described as ‘tech stocks’ because they were tech stocks … at some point in the past, but [today] they’re bets against technology.”

Although most still consider Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft to be technology firms, few hold the same opinion of General Motors. Yet according to Thiel, it’s all relative — simply a matter of timing and perspective.

“GM was a tech stock in the 1920s — it was still sort of a tech stock in the 1950s. [But] by the 1980s, you invested in GM as a bet against German and Japanese innovation. You said, ‘I’m long GM because Germany and Japan are never going to build cars that are that good.’ At some point, a lot of these tech stocks become weirdly changed to being bets against technology … [Of course] the companies can never say that, because their internal narrative and their external story is [based] so much around how they were historically innovative.”

Know what you’re buying

Admittedly, General Motor’s transformation from technology firm to incumbent took decades, but Thiel believes the shift is often far more straight-forward: Simply look for the founder to depart. With Apple, the change occurred just over three years ago, with the passing of Steve Jobs that thrust Tim Cook into the spotlight.

Thiel is a fan of Cook’s management skills (“I think Tim Cook has done a very good job in an impossible position to try to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes,” he told me) but believes the Apple story is fundamentally different with him at the helm: Once, people bought stock in Apple because it was creating revolutionary new products — today, it’s all about the cash flow.

“No one is investing in Apple because they think it will create new products. People are investing in Apple because it’s generating massive cash flows, and the bet is that the cash flows will go on [for] somewhat longer than people think … that the rest of the world will not innovate; will not succeed in closing the gap.”

While plenty of investors may disagree with Thiel (the new Apple Watch, for one, gives investors something to look forward to) it’s indisputable that Apple is generating billions of dollars of cash, largely on the back of one product: the iPhone. Apple generated $10.3 billion in cash flow alone last quarter — enough to acquire many members of the S&P 500 outright. The iPhone brings in more than half of Apple’s revenue, and likely the bulk of its profits.

Not a bad investment

But even if Apple’s best work is behind it, it doesn’t make it a bad investment. In fact, Thiel believes Apple could be an excellent stock — so long as the iPhone cash-cow continues to deliver.

“Apple [will keep] generating massive cash flows so long as nothing much changes — as long as it maintains a certain brand lead, a certain premium on the iPhone. [If so,] it will generate huge cash flows [for many years] … the risk is that other people will catch up.”

That risk could come from rival handsets. Competitors like Xiaomi and OnePlus have attracted a fair amount of attention recently for their quality handsets, which they sell at a fraction of what Apple charges for the iPhone. Or it could come from advanced wearables — watches and other gadgets designed to replace the traditional smartphone. It may come from a radical reinvention of the handset — something like Project Ara, that shakes the current smartphone business model to its core.

Of course, it may not come at all — or if it does come, not for many, many years. In which case, the cash flows should continue, and Apple should reward its shareholders.

“Maybe there’s not much innovation happening. Maybe people overestimate innovation … but I think it is very helpful to try to get the framing right and understand, ‘OK, I’m betting against technology here.'”

TIME Apple

Here’s Why People in China Are Going Crazy Over the iPhone 6

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus retail sales begin in Spain
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Twice as many as Apple sold the first weekend in 10 countries last month

fortunelogo-blue
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

A reporter who has been tracking iPhone 6 and 6 Plus reservations in China for the past week estimated on Tencent QQ Monday that more than 20 million units were pre-ordered last weekend. His report is being picked up by DigiTimes and other Asian tech sites.

If the 20-million figure is accurate — a big if — it would mean that five times as many iPhone 6s were pre-ordered in three days in one country as were the first weekend in 10 countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Hong Kong.

Apple reported last month that took more than 4 million pre-orders in one day and sold more than 10 million units the the first weekend.

It’s not easy to get comparable numbers in China, where customers register their orders not just with Apple and the three major Chinese carriers, but also with thousands of authorized Apple resellers.

The Tencent estimate seems to be based largely on the same JingDong reservation counter we’ve been tracking. As of 8:00 p.m. Monday, Beijing time, JingDong‘s total stood at more than 9.5 million, split nearly evenly between the two models:

  • iPhone 6: 4,672,082
  • iPhone 6 Plus: 4,831,091

The long lines of ethnic Chinese buyers camped out in front of Apple retail outlets last month suggested that the large-screen iPhones would be a big hit in China. What we don’t know is exactly how big.

Sales on the mainland are scheduled to begin Friday, Oct. 17. On Apple’s Chinese online store, most models are already sold out.

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

TIME Rumors

3 Things to Know About Apple Pay Ahead of Rumored Launch Date

Apple Pay iPhone 6
Apple

It might be coming Saturday

Apple Pay, the smartphone service that aims to replace those fussy old wallets with a one-tap payment system, may launch on Saturday, according to a leaked memo that appears to prep Walgreens store managers for the launch date.

A screenshot of the internal memo was posted to the website MacRumors on Saturday, raising a few questions:

Is this just a rumor?

For now, definitely. But there are a number of reasons to take this bit of information seriously. First, the memo is reportedly addressed to Walgreens “store managers,” which makes sense given that Walgreens is one of several major retail chains set to participate in the system’s launch.

Apple has already acknowledged the system will launch in October. While it has not specified the exact release date, the company does have an event scheduled for Thursday, an opportune time to make an announcement. If Thursday passes with no mention of Apple Pay, better to take this report with a few grains of salt.

Can I trash my wallet on Oct. 18?

Hang onto it, because the revolution will take time to catch on. Some 220,000 participating stores will be equipped to accept Apple Pay’s smartphone payments on the launch date, including Walgreens, McDonald’s, Duane Reade, Macy’s and Whole Foods. On the other hand there are upwards of nine million merchants in the U.S. that accept credit cards, or roughly 97% of stores that are still only able to accept payments in paper or plastic.

How will it work again?

Anyone who has an iPhone 6 or Apple Watch will be able to make a purchase by swiping the phone past any checkout counter equipped with Near Field Communication, or an NFC chip. A fingerprint will confirm the user’s identity and clear the purchase on a credit card that was preloaded into the system. The Verge created a demo video to show just how frictionless shopping could get.

MONEY Apple

A Billionaire Explains Why You’ll Be Giving Apple Your Money Forever

141009_INV_iCahniPhone
Bobby Yip—Reuters

Billionaire Investor Carl Icahn bets you'll never stop upgrading your iPhone

Investor Carl Icahn’s open letter to Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 1.4648% CEO Tim Cook is mostly getting attention for Icahn’s request for share buybacks. But he also writes a long analysis of the company’s business.

Here’s a line you might want to think about if you are about to buy an iPhone 6.

Given historically high retention rates, we assume existing iPhone users will continue to act like an annuity, choosing to stay with the iPhone each time they upgrade.

Ever since the introduction of the iPod, it’s been well-known that a part of Apple’s competitive advantage is its “eco-system.” Once you have a Mac, its easiest to buy your music through iTunes, which syncs up to your iPhone, which by the way can control Apple TV and can send all your photos to the iCloud… and so on. Buying one Apple product has a way of hooking you in.

But that word “annuity” is interesting too. An annuity is an investment that locks in a regular stream of income over a lifetime. What the iPhone does so well, that laptops and even iPods can’t, is put you on a fairly reliable treadmill of regular upgrades — and thus regular payments to Apple.

At the end of every two-year wireless contract, or one of the increasingly popular buy-on-installment plans, the easiest thing you think you can do is rollover to the next new iPhone. After all, your monthly costs won’t change if you do. Icahn calculates that the average iPhone owner pays $20 a month for the phone.

What could change this scenario? Basically, Google, which Tim Cook has called Apple’s only competitor. The more that your pictures, music and contacts live on Google’s cloud instead of Apple’s ecosystem, the more likely it is that you’ll consider a different phone at some point.

Still, the bet Apple investors are making is that you’ll be shelling out that regular $20 for a long, long time.

MONEY Apple

Here’s Why Carl Icahn Wants Apple to Buy Back Shares

Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn.
Brendan McDermid—Reuters

... and why CEO Tim Cook has to pay attention. It's all about the cash.

Investor Carl Icahn has sent an open letter to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, with lots of nice things to say about the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. But also this: He’d like shareholders to get paid, please, and faster.

Icahn controls 53 million shares of Apple, worth $5.3 billion, which gives him about a 0.9% ownership in the company. In his letter, Icahn lays out his reasons that Apple should repurchase its own shares.

The basic logic of a share repurchase is that it returns some of a company’s cash back to its owners. Unlike a dividend, in which a company just writes a check to shareholders, the return of cash is indirect. (Icahn is careful to say that he won’t sell his shares to Apple if the company makes what’s called a tender offer to buy shares.)

But by reducing the number of shares outstanding among which a company’s earnings and assets have to divided, a buybacks can make each share of a stock worth more. That’s assuming, of course, that investors think giving money back to shareholders is the wisest use of the company’s cash. A buyback can backfire if it leaves a company unable to invest in future growth.

Apple has a lot of cash. Or, technically, cash plus other short-and long-term investments. The point is that this is money not currently tied up in Apple’s business, but sitting in a portfolio. The Icahn argument, essentially, is that no one needs Apple’s expertise as a de facto fund manager. As MONEY wrote back in June, add up Apple’s $164 billion portfolio and it’s bigger than any U.S. bond mutual fund beside the giant PIMCO Total Return.

image(33)
Source: Apple, Morningstar

Icahn argues that all this comparatively low-returning cash is a drag on Apple’s shareholder return, and that some investors are less willing to hold the stock as result. He points out that if you subtract Apple’s net cash, it trades at a price/earnings ratio of just 8, a significant bargain at a time when the average S&P stocks is priced at 15 times earnings.

Icahn is what’s known on Wall Street as an “activist” — a big investor who comes into a company and starts demanding changes aimed at increasing the share price.

As we explained recently, such investors (who used to go by less friendly names like “raiders”) have become a powerful force in corporate America, and not always with happy results.

Few companies have a giant cash cushion like Apple. Activists often push companies to increase value to shareholders by splitting up, selling off assets, merging or loading up on debt. This may increase the share price — though not always — but it can also mean lost jobs and the disappearance of once-great companies.

Icahn’s less than 1% stake might not seem like much, but Icahn is deft at using his position to rally other investors to his side. He’s public about what he wants for a very good reason — when he comes into a stock and starts talking about ways the company could enrich shareholders, other investors follow. That alone can help boost the share price, as well as building a constituency for the changes he’s demanding.

Indeed, in the time since Icahn disclosed his position in Apple, Cook has pledged to return $130 billion in capital, in the form of dividends and repurchases by the end of next year. Icahn’s mostly won this argument. His letter is a nudge to Cook to keep it moving.

TIME Tablets

iPhone 6 Demand May Force Apple to Delay Bigger iPad

Suppliers reportedly pushing back on plans to mass-produce a larger-screen device early next year

Strong sales of Apple’s latest iPhones are reportedly leading some suppliers to push back on the tech giant’s plans to mass-produce a larger-screen tablet early next year.

Apple’s suppliers had originally planned to produce the larger iPad beginning in December, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. But the newspaper said it would be challenging for display makers to both meet the demand for the new 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and also spend a few months ramping up production for a new larger screen iPad, which would also be a new display size that Apple hasn’t produced before.

The speculation about the timing of the new iPad comes just a day after Apple issued media invitations for a “special event” it intends to host on Oct. 16 in Cupertino, Calif. At that event, which will be a little over a month after the company’s last product launch, Apple is expected to unveil new iPads and updates to its iMacs. Some are reporting that Apple could also reveal a gold iPad.

The potential delay in the timeline of new iPad production comes as Apple has reported record-breaking early sales of its newest iPhones. The company sold over 10 million of the devices just three days after the launch in September, and is still rolling out launches to many foreign markets throughout the rest of 2014. Both of the new iPhone 6 models use larger screens than prior versions of the popular smartphone.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY Tech

Why Siri Is the Worst Backseat Driver

iPhone with Siri on screen
Iain Masterton—Alamy

Two new studies find that Apple's voice-activated virtual assistant is the most distracting hands-free technology to use while driving.

Hoping to arrive at your destination in one piece? Up your odds: Leave Siri out of it. According to two new studies out Tuesday from AAA and the University of Utah, the iPhone’s little helper is more distracting for drivers than any other voice-activated technology.

One study looked at brand-specific automotive infotainment systems, like Chevrolet’s MyLink and Toyota’s Entune, while a second examined hands-free use of Siri. The researchers asked 162 University of Utah students to use the voice-based systems to perform a variety of tasks while in a lab, operating a driving simulator, and actually driving a test route. Each technology was scored from 1 to 5, with 1 being the mental capacity required to drive with no distractions and 5 representing the degree of distraction when drivers are asked to solve a complex math problem. Siri received the worst rating: 4.14. To add insult to (virtual only!) injury, two testers actually crashed their simulators while using Siri.

Among the in-car infotainment systems, Chevrolet’s MyLink earned the worst marks (3.7), followed by Mercedes’ COMMAND (3.1) and Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch (3.0). Toyota’s Entune was rated least distracting, at 1.7.

The testers used the infotainment systems for tasks like changing radio stations and making phone calls. They used Siri (version iOS 7) for a different set of activities: navigating, sending and receiving texts, posting to Facebook and Twitter, and using the calendar. All tasks were done without looking at or touching the phone itself.

According to the AP, Apple noted via statement that the studies did not use the company’s CarPlay or Siri Eyes Free, which are integrated into certain new cars and designed specifically for use while driving. (We reached out to Apple for comment but have not heard back as of the time of this posting.)

The researchers concluded that the less complicated technologies proved less distracting in part because they’re simpler to use and more accurate. Some systems proved so challenging to use that study participants “were cursing the systems out,” said University of Utah psychology professor and study leader David Strayer. That’s likely to strike a chord with many Siri users—just check the hashtag #SiriFail on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram—as is the study’s note that “some participants also reported frustration with Siri’s occasional sarcasm and wit.”

As the technologies improve, the study authors say, there’s an opportunity for hands-free systems to get less distracting. In the meantime, Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA, says drivers who want to use hands-free technologies should try to avoid tasks that involve composing messages. While checking messages proved no more distracting than listening to an audiobook, the study found that responding is significantly more complicated. “Our message is, just because technology enables to you to different things while you’re driving doesn’t mean you should,” Nelson says.

TIME Innovation

See Steve Jobs’ Legacy in 16 Photos

Three years after the tech luminary's death, here is a look back at the most influential products he played an instrumental role in creating

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