TIME technology

6 Unexpectedly Absorbing Games to Play on Your Phone While Ignoring Your Family This Holiday Season

Using phone
Getty Images

Kidding! Don’t ignore your family. Unless your family is awful. In which case, enjoy these distractions

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

The realities of distance have long dictated that my time spent among family is somewhat limited to a couple weeks in total each year. My people of origin all live in South Florida, while I am in Boston, and although my in-laws in upstate New York are closer, they’re still far enough away, and everyone involved is so busy, that visits are special occasions and not predictable occurrences.

I miss them, enormously, all the time. Because of this, it’s actually pretty rare that I ignore anyone when we’re visiting, given that I treasure and cherish every moment with my beloved family.

But, you know, even I have my limits.

Sometimes, surrounded by people who love you, or at least people to whom you are related, you just want to put your head down and do something, anything other than listen to your cousin talk about her wedding plans for an hour, or your aunt ranting on with her offensive politics from 1953, or have to answer intrusive questions about your professional/marital/reproductive prospects. Sometimes you want to put on some headphones and just ignore everyone just for a bit. I am here for you. It’s OK.

(My husband writes about video games for a living, and when I told him about my “ignoring your family” angle, he called me a cynical jerk. That’s probably a fair assessment. But I thought it was funny.)

Monument Valley (iOS, Android)

I first saw Monument Valley at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year, and I was mesmerized. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when it received a bunch of positive attention right away, and went on to win a 2014 Apple Design Award.

Monument Valley follows Princess Ida on a journey through meticulously designed environments, in which the architecture hides puzzle solutions in optical illusions that borrow liberally from the work of M.C. Escher. In each chapter, you help Ida on her travels by pressing switches and rotating pathways and staircases to create a path for her to follow, and the solutions are elegant and often surprising.

Beautifully surreal, slow-paced, simple to learn and with a soundtrack like aural Valium, it’s an easy game to get lost in. Happily, new chapters are now available.

Device 6 (iOS)

Device 6 is similarly lauded and similarly surreal, but in some very different ways. A sort of hybrid visual novella and game, Device 6 tells the story of a woman called Anna, who wakes up in a castle on a mysterious island with no recollection of how she got there.

Device 6 dispenses with typical running/jumping game mechanics in favor of a more intuitive approach in which the text itself is the playing field. You read it as much as you play it, and the puzzles give the distinct feeling that you’re a detective collecting and analyzing clues to a much bigger mystery, rather than simply looking for the right random solution. And it is stylish as fuck, with a swingy midcentury vibe that somehow underscores how freaking creepy it can occasionally get.

Also, the sound design on Device 6 is mind-rendingly brilliant.

Sometimes You Die (iOS)

Oh, what’s that? You’re a total freakbrain nerdo who’s captivated by the more meta-level questions of What Is A Game and What Is Fun and Why Does Anything Exist Anyway? ME TOO. This is a thing you will like!

Sometimes You Die has been a bit of a surprise hit this year, given that it is actually a minimalist question with no answer, given game form. Typically, “dying” in a game is a momentary setback, but in Sometimes You Die, death is a necessary part of success, as you must litter the screen with your corpses to carve a path to follow from level to level. (Your corpses are just little black blocks so this is less gory than it might sound.)

What you wind up with is an existential query into the nature of play that also manages to be fun and surprisingly difficult to put down.

Tengami (iOS)

First off, Tengami is beautiful. Taking its design from traditional Japanese arts and crafts, you guide a character through a pop-up book world in which you flip pages and slide tabs to discover hidden passages and other secrets.

This is a contemplative puzzle-solving experience that is more style than substance, so if you’re looking for a deeply compelling narrative, you’re better off with other games on this list. But as a chill, low-thinking break from holiday madness, it certainly does the job. And not only is Tengami pretty to look at, the soundtrack is gorgeous as well.

The Last Door (iOS, Android)

Moving from really relaxing to really really really not, The Last Door is a retro-styled old school point-and-click horror game that is legitimately terrifying. I still hold a special place in my heart for 8-bit games, but even I was surprised by how frightening this game could be, given that the graphics are limited to a heap of loosely arranged pixel chunks. It really makes the point that, in the right hands, lifelike visuals aren’t necessary to sustain an atmosphere of terror.

Set in England of 1891, you play as Jeremiah Devitt, who is investigating the suicide of an old friend, and as he digs up his past, things take an otherworldly, almost Lovecraftian turn. The Last Door owes a significant debt to adventure games of the ’80s and ’90s, and it manages to feel both nostalgic and new at the same time. You explore locations looking for items and clues at your own pace, and solve puzzles to move the plot forward.

Also, The Last Door uses an episodic format, so new pieces of the story are still being made.

A Dark Room (iOS)

A Dark Room has no graphics at all. It is a game that uses only text to tell its story; even the pseudo-graphical “map” you use to explore beyond your campsite is drawn with letters and punctuation marks describing the landscape, ASCII-style. It has no sound design. In the way of traditional resource-management games, it consists of tapping things on your screen to get other things, but it evolves into a role-playing game as well before long in which you’re battling enemies and exploring spooky caves, crumbling houses and abandoned mines.

All this you get to imagine in your head, because like I said: no graphics. Add a dark, convoluted story that is somehow all the more compelling for the lack of concrete details it provides, and you’ve got a minimalist masterpiece.

It is also weirdly addictive. The first time I played A Dark Room months ago, I suddenly realized I’d been sitting on the couch for three hours amassing wood and meat for I don’t even remember what. It seemed very important at the time.

There is also a prequel, The Ensign, that has recently come to the App Store. Enjoy both, and forget your family is even in the room with you.

Lesley Kinzel is Deputy Editor at xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME apps

The 5 Best iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week

Google Maps Returns To Apple's iPhone
An icon for the Google Maps app is seen on an Apple iPhone 4S on December 13, 2012 in Fairfax, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

SurgeProtector keeps you clear of Uber's surge pricing

It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.

Weather or Not

Few weather apps address the solipsism of smartphone users. In short, we are left to wonder how the weather directly affects our plans. Weather or Not combines your calendar with a forecast, so all we have to do is ask ourselves the important questions: should I wear my suede shoes today, or will it rain? Can I take my date to that outdoor cafe? Was it a terrible mistake to leave my umbrella at home today?

Weather or Not is available for $2.99 in the App Store.

Cleen

If you’re anything like the millions of other iPhone users, you have an enormous stash of completely useless photos clogging up your phone’s memory. Cleen is like Tinder for your photos—swipe to keep the ones you want, and swipe in another direction to make peace with the idea that you’ll never look at a particular photo again. Unlike Tinder, however, you can choose to revisit certain images. Gone are the days when 80% of your phone’s memory is taken up by photos your children and grandchildren would delete without thinking twice about.

Cleen is available free in the App Store.

Goldbely

The highly-praised food-ordering website finally has its own app. Goldbely is like Seamless for the greatest hits of American dining. The app’s developers have researched and conglomerated the most impressive food in the country and have offered it for delivery, now on your phone. The genius of Goldbely is perhaps most evident in those moments of profound cravings when you’re far from home, which is to say that Goldbely will ship you a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli on Houston Street.

Goldbely is available free in the App Store.

SurgeProtector

For those accustomed to using Uber over street taxis, it’s obvious how vulnerable a user experience is to price surging. This happens during certain times of the year of during important events. However, SurgeProtector does an excellent job at highlighting to Uber users no-surge and low-surge areas nearby to help you get home without getting fleeced.

SurgeProtector is available free in the App Store.

Next Glass

An excellent app that allows you to discover new craft beers and wines, Next Glass uses an algorithm to predict which new beverages you might enjoy. Users take photos of bottles and enter their scores. Next Glass takes a look at the beers on a molecular level to perceive what you liked about it in order to effectively make recommendations.

Next Glass is available free in the App Store.

TIME apps

Crossy Road Is Your New iPhone Game Addiction

It's Frogger meets Flappy Bird

Why did the chicken cross the road? To avoid getting slammed by a car, plowed by a train or swept downstream by a raging torrent. At least, that’s the goal in Crossy Road, a new free iPhone game that’s destined to become the next Flappy Bird: A super-addictive, hard-as-heck game that you just won’t want to put down.

Crossy Road is what would happen if the evil geniuses who thought up Frogger built a new game for the mobile era. The idea is to take your character, whether it be a bird, duck, chicken or otherwise, and get it as far upfield as possible while dodging cars, trucks, trains, raging rivers and a pesky eagle that wants to make a meal of you — all while collecting coins as you go to unlock new characters. There’s no end goal to speak of, save making it further than you’ve ever made it before.

Crossy Road’s simplicity, along with its colorful visual palette and quirky soundboard, gives it the same appeal as Flappy Bird: You can play it for two minutes or two hours and love every second of it, either way. I downloaded it on a whim before the weekend, and ever since have found myself coming back to it every time I had a free second on the subway or couch. It’s the sort of game that, given a little love from its developers in the form of new features down the road, could remain a constant presence on my iPhone for a long time coming.

Still, Crossy Road isn’t totally free; it’s “freemium.” You can get more gold coins to unlock new characters by watching in-app video adds or straight-up paying for them with your hard-earned dollars. The prompts to watch those ads can be a little annoying, and I’d gladly pay a dollar or two for an ad-free version of the game. Still, while the various playable characters add some visual and audio variety, they don’t actually help you make it upfield any easier — so you can have just as much fun with Crossy Road if you don’t pump any money into it at all.

Crossy Road, from developer Hipster Whale, is now available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.

TIME apps

5 Awesome iPhone Apps On Sale This Weekend

Fackbook Acquires WhatsApp For $16 Billion
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Get Final Fantasy for cheap!

Looking to download a few great iPhone apps while saving some money this weekend? Check out these five, all on sale or free for the new few days.

Final Fantasy Series

The much-loved game series is going through a series of sales on the App Store store at the moment. I-VI of the series are currently on sale at prices between $3.99 and $10.99. Usually $16.00, the series is a long narrative adventure from the 1990s, taking players through a remarkable trans-galactic universe, from the earliest versions to the newer, 3D re-releases.

Final Fantasy is on sale in the App Store.

7 Minute Workout Pro

This app has become a best-seller for good reason. With a simple interface, it takes users through a short, no-frills workout based on 12 carefully chosen exercises. Some professional athletes believe that seven- or eight-minute bursts of intense workouts through the day can be a much more effective way of keeping in shape than hitting the gym during the 6 p.m. rush a few times a week. This app does all the planning for you.

7 Minutes Workout Pro is on sale $0.99 in the App Store.

Osmos

One of the iPhone’s most popular games, Osmos is a brilliantly designed evolution game in which players must absorb smaller organisms and avoid being absorbed by predators. The aim is to grow as large as possible, but in order to move your organism, you must expel some of your internal matter and shrink. It’s as much a game of strategy as it is of survival.

Osmos is on sale for $0.99 in the App Store.

Resume Mobile Pro

For those who decided not to visit career services at their universities and now are looking for jobs with unruly three-page resumes, this app creates a template and reminds you to fill out essential components of a professional resume. The most important feature may be that it allows you to send a PDF of your resume directly from the app to your potential employer.

Resume Mobile Pro is temporarily free in the App Store.

Things

Things is one of the most effective task manager developed for the iPhone. With separate spaces for your various commitments—from hobbies to work obligations—Things helps organize your life. Keep yourself on track with checklists and reminders and lists of goals for long-term projects. But above all, it displays what you will need to do today and allows you to manage an overwhelming schedule one day at a time.

Things is temporarily free in the App Store.

MONEY Tech

Why the iPhone 6 Plus Was a Missed Opportunity

Apple CEO Tim Cook wears the Apple Watch and shows the iPhone 6 Plus during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014.
Stephen Lam—Reuters

If the large iPhones included meaningfully faster processors than their smaller counterparts, this would be yet another selling point used to help drive a richer product mix for Apple.

Back in September, Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 1.1905% launched not one, but two new smartphones. The first was the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, which is the direct successor to the iPhone 5s. The second, and for this discussion the more important one, is the iPhone 6 Plus. This is a 5.5-inch “phablet” that includes a higher resolution display and optical image stabilization. The operating system, too, takes good advantage of the larger screen.

One thing that Apple didn’t do, though, is give the iPhone 6 Plus a beefed up set of internals. It still sports the same one gigabyte of memory that the iPhone 6 features, as well as the same A8 system-on-chip. I believe that, in the future, Apple would be wise to develop, much in the same vein as the “AX” chips for the iPads, a separate processor for the iPhone “Plus” family.

More processing power would be welcome

The iPhone 6 Plus features a 1920-by-1080 pixel display, which means that the on-board graphics processor needs to render a far larger number of pixels than the 1334-by-750 pixel display. For most tasks, the A8 seems to have no issues driving both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

However, for sophisticated 3D games, using the same graphics processor for both a lower-resolution display and a higher-resolution one doesn’t make sense. This need for more graphics horsepower for rendering complex 3D scenes on a high resolution display is likely why Apple provisioned the A8X chip found inside of the iPad Air 2 with a substantially faster graphics processor than it did the A8. It follows that future iPhone “Plus” phones would benefit from more powerful graphics processors.

Yet another selling point, and reason to buy up the stock

If the large iPhones included meaningfully faster processors than their smaller counterparts, this would be yet another selling point used to help drive a richer product mix for Apple.

Given the kinds of volumes that Apple ships of its iPhones — and given how unexpectedly popular the iPhone 6 Plus seems to be — the development costs of a specialized chip for future large iPhones would essentially be lost in the noise. On the other hand, the benefits of the higher performance, particularly in convincing users to go for the iPhone “Plus” rather than the standard iPhone, could be substantial.

It can go beyond chips

Given that Apple sells the “Plus” line of iPhones for a $100 premium to the standard iPhones, the company likely has quite a bit of room to pack more features in while still maintaining a good cost structure. In addition to an improved processor, Apple could also start including higher resolution cameras, as well as more memory, more sensors, and so on.

In other words, while Apple needs to be careful to preserve its margins on the mainstream iPhone, it likely has the freedom to tastefully pack in more device-level features into the “Plus” variant of the iPhone.

On top of that, Apple showed that it is willing to add iPhone 6 Plus-specific software features, such as the “dual pane” mode in apps like Mail. At some point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple introduced its own take on the multi-windowing support found on a number of Android tablets and smartphones as an exclusive to the “Plus” line of iPhones.

This is all good for Apple

I have a lot of faith in Apple’s engineering teams to make sound technical decisions. Given the higher price point that the company can command with its larger iPhones, there seems to be a lot of room for Apple to make the “Plus” line of phone even more premium than it is today. I think investors and consumers alike will begin to see Apple take full advantage of this opportunity in future phone iterations, which should help drive an even richer product mix and market share gains against the Android camp.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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TIME portfolio

Using Instagram to Open a Window on Everyday Life in North Korea

“My motive has always been to open a window on North Korea,” says David Guttenfelder. “There are so few images coming out of there, and yet there’s so much interest.”

A former chief photographer at Associated Press, Guttenfelder helped open the agency’s first bureau in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in January 2012. Now, after he resigned from AP to continue his career as a freelance photographer and one of National Geographic’s Photography Fellows, he’s not turning his back on the reclusive country. In September 2014, he quietly launched the Everyday DPRK Instagram account, which features pictures by North Korean residents and photographers.

“We launched Everyday DPRK because a number of photographers who have access to the country are using Instagram,” says Guttenfelder, “but most of them were not getting attention on their own.”

Six photographers, including Guttenfelder, are currently posting on the Everyday DPRK account — @drewkelly, @sunbimari, @andrea_uri, @simonkoryo, @soominee. “None of them are professional photographers,” Guttenfelder recently told Lightbox. “Some of them are avid Instagrammers. We have a university teacher, Drew Kelly. He was one of the first Instagram users in North Korea and had been quietly posting pictures of his life and the students he teaches. He offers an interesting view of the country and has a very thoughtful approach.”

Kelly first visited Pyongyang in June 2012, and he usually spends three to four months a year in the country. “I had come right out of graduate school and learned of an opportunity to teach at a university here in the capital,” he says. “I wanted to do something different, not sit around in the U.S. hoping the ‘right’ job would come along.”

When he’s not teaching English, Kelly is using Instagram to offer an “expat point-of-view” on North Korea and to show that “there are real people living, working and striving for a better life with the cards dealt to them,” he says.

Andrea Lee, another contributor to the Everyday DPRK feed, first visited North Korea in 2003. “I was part of a Korean-American delegation of women seeking peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula,” says Lee. “As an ethnic Korean having grown up in South and North America, returning to Korea generally is always a soul-searching experience for me. What I found in North Korea, looking beyond politics, was raw beauty, untouched landscapes and sincere, genuine people. The country has kept me intrigued ever since.”

Lee, now the founder of a travel company that organizes trips to North Korea, welcomed the government’s decision in January 2013 to introduce a mobile 3G Sim Card for foreign visitors. This allowed for the real-time upload of images, but also access to Facebook, Foursquare and, of course, Instagram. “Earlier this year, I was uploading photos when American wrestler Bob Sapp engaged a crowd of North Koreans on the street with arm wrestling, and when Dennis Rodman made his last visit to Pyongyang,” she says. “Through Instagram, even non-journalists can contribute to the public discussion surrounding North Korea in a more meaningful and personal way.”

Lee hopes the feed will help the world see the “humanity that exists in North Korea,” she says. It’s a sentiment Guttenfelder shares. “We want to provide a real and honest view of the country,” he says.

In curating the Everyday DPRK feed, Guttenfelder regularly asks his colleagues to send him images, which he then carefully selects before sharing on Instagram (for other Everyday feeds, all participants are able to upload their images directly to Instagram). “I wanted, at least at the beginning, to sequence the pictures,” the former AP Chief Photographer says. “North Korea is a complicated place to work from, and I wanted to help these photographers. Even though they are not professional photographers, their instinct is the same: they want to tell their stories, they want to show what’s happening there. They know there’s a strong interest, and they want to open the window on this place, just like I was always trying to do myself.”

“What better place” he asks, “to test the power of Instagram, or photography in general, than in North Korea, where there’s little independent photographic coverage?”


Follow Everyday DPRK on Instagram @EverydayDPRK.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


TIME Smartphones

U.S. Warns Apple Users About iOS ‘Masque Attack’

Security weakness allows a hacker to replace an iOS app with malware

The U.S. government warned Apple gadget owners Thursday to look out for hackers exploiting a newly revealed vulnerability in the mobile operating system iOS.

The so-called “Masque Attack” was disclosed earlier this week by the network security firm FireEye and allows a hacker to replace an iOS app with malware, according to an alert posted on the website of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security.

MORE: How to Avoid the ‘Biggest’ iPhone Malware App Attack Yet

“This technique takes advantage of a security weakness that allows an untrusted app—with the same “bundle identifier” as that of a legitimate app—to replace the legitimate app on an affected device, while keeping all of the user’s data,” the warning states. “This vulnerability exists because iOS does not enforce matching certificates for apps with the same bundle identifier.”

The agency warns iOS users not to install apps from sources other than Apple’s official app store or their own organizations, among other precautions.

TIME apps

The Best Smartphone Apps You Can’t Miss This Week

Try 'Today,' a to-do app that helps you keep track of your hectic life

It seems like hundreds of new smartphone apps pop up every day, but which ones should you bother trying? Here, TIME offers a look at five apps for iPhone, iPad and Android that stand out and are worth a shot.

  • iCukoo Charity Alarm Clock

    iCukoo Charity Alarm Clock iCukoo Charity Alarm Clock

    For the last few years, developers have been trying to come up with foolproof alarm clocks. Users have already found ways to beat the apps that only deactivate after a phone is carried for ten steps. Instead, iCuckoo takes a moral and financial approach to the black hole of snooze button-pressing: with every snooze, the app sends a set amount of money to a charity of your choice. In short, you can sleep in and tell your boss that you were actually “volunteering,” and you’ll also feel just awful about yourself if you manage to get around the app’s parameters.

    iCuckoo is available free in the App Store.

  • Neato

    Neato Neato

    Part of the reason Apple’s Notes app has been so underused is that it makes note-taking a tedious task — better to forget the idea than to fumble through your phone and wait for a yellow pad app to open. Neato takes this into consideration by inserting itself into iPhone’s notification center, allowing users to access it with one quick swipe. Even better, Neato can save notes to a Dropbox or Evernote account, and can be used to quickly send notes as an email or tweet.

    Neato is temporarily available free in the App Store.

  • Yummly

    Yummly Yummly

    Many of us find it difficult to fully commit to culinary endeavors because good recipes are hard to find, and even harder to keep track of. Yummly—once only for iPhone users—allows you to browse a series of beautifully photographed and easy-to-follow recipes on your phone or tablet, and save them to your own digital cookbook. But like any great online service, Yummly can also recommend recipes based on the ones you’ve used. The app also takes into consideration personal preferences and needs, like allergies and special diets.

    Yummly is now available free in the App Store and Google Play store.

  • Sleep Better

    Sleep Better Sleep Better

    By placing your phone on your pillow and activating Sleep Better, the app will be able to track how long you sleep, the time you spent awake in bed and track your sleep cycles. Users can enter variables like alcohol intake, exercise, or caffeine intake to see how they affect sleep patterns. Also equipped with an alarm clock, the app will track your sleep over time, showing you how miserably and self-destructively sleep-deprived you’ve been after picking up those bad habits in college.

    Sleep Better is available free in the App Store and Google Play store.

  • Today

    Today Today

    Today is a calendar app that takes a variety of commitments into consideration. Not only does it allow you to track work schedules, but it has spaces for habits, hobbies, and down time. Today will remind you that 2 p.m. is Twix time at the office, for example, or that you’re supposed to go for a run at 7 a.m. Today will also help you set goals and keep track of them through the day, such as remembering to drink enough water to avoid 4 p.m. dehydration headaches. The app shows up in iPhone’s notification center as a clock with bars for different activities.

    Today is available for $2.99 in the App Store.

TIME Interview

#LightBoxFF: Using Instagram to Help Homeless Veterans

Welcome to this week’s edition of TIME LightBox Follow Friday, a series where we feature the work of photographers using Instagram in new, interesting and engaging ways. Regularly, we introduce you to the person behind the feed through his or her pictures and an interview with the photographer.

This week, LightBox speaks to Pablo Unzueta (@unzueta_), a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles who has been using Instagram to draw attention to the persisting problem of veteran homelessness. TIME LightBox selected Unzueta’s work as part of #TIMEvets, an initiative launched ahead of this year’s Veterans Day to explore the profound effects of war on soldiers and their families. Visit the #TIMEvets page for more information and for details on how to contribute your own images and stories.


LightBox: Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in photography.

Pablo Unzueta: I come from a family of photographers. The person who has influenced me the most was my grandmother who did documentary photography covering the landfills in Central America. She also was a wedding photography in Los Angeles. More often than not, I would find myself in the darkroom watching her develop rolls of film. At the time, I was not aware that I would become an aspiring photojournalist. I was only five or seven years old. Early on at 17, I began to document street life in Los Angeles. There, I began to develop my aesthetics; but also, I became aware that it wasn’t always a happy life for everyone. I felt that no one cared about poverty, war, corruption, etc. I found photography [could be] a source to generate some advocacy.

LightBox: What does Instagram provide you and this project specifically that other platforms don’t?

Pablo Unzueta: Instagram allows me to share with my followers these stories on a personal level. There are no guidelines, no AP style as to how you want to tell the story. It’s just me putting the context with the picture and allowing my followers to decide how they want to react. A lot of people have an account, so it makes it a great source to share stories and opinions, without getting [rejected] by news outlets.

LightBox: What is the purpose of your project?

Pablo Unzueta: The purpose for this project is to make people think critically and question why there are so many war veterans living on the street. More things should be done to prevent poverty rates from growing each year. The stories of these war veterans reflect the loss of hope. Overtime these people accept their lives the way they are. Many believe that shelter programs are “unreliable” and “unsafe”. Eventually, the street life molds into a long-lasting lifestyle. This issue is fairly complex to understand, personally speaking.

Gregory Thomas. November 30, 2013 Alameda St. Los Angeles, Calif.

LightBox: Tell us about your process creating the work. How do you approach these homeless veterans?

Pablo Unzueta: I carry two black trash bags with clothes in the back of my trunk and I drive around looking for homeless residents. If I don’t have clothes to give, I carry food and coins. This gives me a reason to approach them with a camera in hand. I [often] spark conversation with a simple handshake. If they open up to me, I’m usually allowed to take their portrait. Sometimes it takes a few visits for a picture, but that’s what makes the process all worth it. Most of my conversations are recorded on my iPhone, sometimes on a black notebook.

LightBox: Many photographers who started with analog or digital photography find themselves adapting to smartphones and Instagram. You started photographing at 17, and you are now 20. Can you call yourself an Instagram native? Do you find it liberating to be able to produce and distribute work instantaneously?

Pablo Unzueta: I think I can call myself that. I always loved Instagram. When I first started using it, I uploaded photographs from my DSLR. Every once in a while, I do a series with just iPhone photographs. I think it’s easy for someone to call themselves a photographer because of smartphones. But there is much more to it than just taking a picture with a phone. Going beyond your comfort zone and photographing something meaningful that contributes to a good cause automatically separates you from the category of “photographer”. It is important that we have a variety of documentarians in this world who present us with information, so why not use smartphones to illustrate the world with something informative and influential. Instagram is a perfect example of that. I am starting to see more and more Instagramers publish photographs with stories, which inspires others to do the same as well. It’s like a domino effect. Storytelling is imperative.


Pablo Unzueta is a freelance photojournalist in Los Angeles. He has been documenting protests, poverty and homelessness.

Ye Ming is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


TIME apps

Microsoft Office Is Now Free for iPhones, iPads and Android

Office for iPhone Microsoft

You can now use Word, Excel and Powerpoint for free

Correction appended Nov. 7

Microsoft Office, long the standard-bearer of premium software, is now free on mobile devices, the company announced Thursday. Office users will now be able to create and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on iPhone, iPad and Android devices at no cost. Making full use of the apps previously required a subscription to Office 365, which starts at $70 per year.

The move is a big shift for the software giant, which has continually charged for Office even as free productivity apps have proliferated in recent years. Office accounts for about a third of Microsoft’s annual revenue, according to the New York Times, so letting people access it for free is a big risk. However, the company will continue to charge for access to Office on laptops and desktops and will make some features on the mobile apps only accessible to premium users. Enterprise customers will still have to pay as well.

The free versions of Office for iPhone and iPad are available today. The Android version is available as a preview and will get a full release in 2015.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the cost of Office 365. It starts at $70 per year.

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