TIME Companies

Do This 1 Thing For a Better Google Ranking

Google Mobile Search
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a Nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Mobile-friendly sites will do better in search results next month

Google is once again tweaking its search algorithm with a new change that should have some benefits for users.

The company announced in a Thursday blog post that it will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results starting April 21. Sites that work well on a smartphone will get a “significant” boost over other sites, the company says.

The change should ensure that people conducting Google searches on their phone typically arrive on easily-readable sites rather than messy desktop-based layouts that are hard to navigate on a small screen. Google offers a form where developers can input a URL to see whether it is mobile-friendly or not.

In addition to the algorithm change, Google said starting Thursday it will begin surfacing content hidden within apps more prominently in search results. If a developer has enabled App Indexing, Google’s search bots can crawl the contents of an app just like a Web page. Information from the app can show up along with regular search results on Google.

It makes sense that Google would want to incentivize App Indexing. The search giant doesn’t have the stranglehold on information queries on phones as it does on the desktop because people often boot up more narrowly-focused apps (Amazon for shopping, Yelp for food) instead of using Google to trawl the entire World Wide Web. More indexing means more valuable information that Google can present to users and serve ads against.

TIME Mobile

Beware Apps That Promise a Cancer Diagnosis

Apple Productivity Apps
Sean Gallup—Getty Images A shopper tries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone on Sept. 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

The government is cracking down on so-called "educational" apps

Given the questionable sales pitches that seem to drive Internet marketing for some apps, this statement uttered by an FTC official on Monday might seemed understated: “Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace.”

But some messages are beyond the pale. The official, Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, was referring to a couple of mobile-phone apps whose providers have claimed, without offering any proof, are able to detect the presence and severity of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The regulator on Monday announced actions against the makers of two such apps: Mole Detective and MelApp. The apps have been marketed with claims that, by analyzing user-taken photos, they can determine whether the risk of melanoma his high, medium, or low.

Although the apps, which were sold for $4.99 in 2011 and 2012, advised users to see a doctor if they had any serious concerns about their health, the FTC says they were sold as “diagnostic” tools. (The caveat about seeing a doctor apparently didn’t contain a caveat of its own, stating that if you should see a doctor if you’re worried about cancer, there is obviously no reason to buy and download an app.)

According to the FCC, thousands of people downloaded the pieces of software.

The company that marketed MelApp, Health Discovery Corp., will pay $17,063 as part of its settlements. New Consumer Solutions, which developed and marketed Mole Detective, will pay $3,930. That app was later purchased by the British firm L. Health Ltd., which has elected not to settle the FTC’s case against it because, it says, the original developer had guaranteed the app didn’t violate U.S. law.

Mole Detective shot up in popularity after it was featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” according to a report in the Washington Post. L. Health Ltd.’s Avi Lasarow said that the app “always stated that it should be used for educational purposes…”

None of this activity means that smartphone apps aren’t already becoming powerful aids for diagnosis and health management. In the case of something like skin cancer, a doctor could surely review photos to determine whether or not a patient should come in for an examination. The key word there is “doctor.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. More than a decade ago, the international community tackled AIDS in Africa. Now we should do the same with cancer in the developing world.

By Lawrence N. Shulman in Policy Innovations

2. Finally, an app for kids to anonymously report cyber-bullying.

By Issie Lapowsky in Wired

3. Indians in the U.S. sent $13 billion home last year. A new plan aims to push some of that money into social good investments in India.

By Simone Schenkel in CSIS Prosper

4. Websites are just marketing. The next Internet is TV.

By John Herrman in The Awl

5. The U.K. may set up a digital court to settle small claims online.

By Chris Baraniuk in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Airlines

JetBlue Will Let You Buy Food and Booze With Apple Pay

JetBlue Plane At John F. Kennedy International Airport
Allison Joyce—Getty Images A JetBlue plane is seen at John F. Kennedy International Airport April 27, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York City.

Everything is amazing

Apple and JetBlue want to give you one less reason to complain about the miracle of human flight.

The airline will begin accepting Apple’s new mobile payments service Apple Pay for mid-flight purchases of food, drinks and amenities next week. JetBlue will become the first airline to accept Apple Pay.

To make the new service work, JetBlue is issuing iPad Minis to 3,500 flight crewmembers. Attendants will able to use the devices to interact with customers who have an Apple Pay-equipped iPhone 6. Customers will also be able to pay with the Apple Watch when that device launches in the spring.

For now, Apple Pay is only usable on transcontinental flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles. All JetBlue flights will accept Apple Pay by June.

[USA Today]

TIME Mobile

Apple Pay Is Coming to Thousands of Laundry and Vending Machines

No more mooching off your coworkers for change for a Coke

Next time you’re standing in front of a vending machine and cursing yourself for not bringing along cash or coins, your smartphone may be all you need.

Apple Pay is coming to approximately 200,000 self-serve appliances like vending machines, laundry machines and parking pay stations around the country, USA Technologies announced Tuesday. The company builds cashless payment systems into retail devices; its ePort payment system boasts a Near Field Communication sensor that is now compatible with Apple Pay.

The number of vendors accepting Apple Pay has been steadily increasing since the service launched on the iPhone 6 in October. The mobile payment and digital wallet service faces competition from Google’s Wallet app and CurrentC, an upcoming mobile payment system backed by large retailers like Walmart.

TIME Mobile

Google Is Reportedly Prepping a Wireless Service

The Google Inc. company logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone 4 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

New initiative would expand Google's quest to provide the world's Internet access

Google has been providing ultra high-speed home Internet to select cities for several years — but now it wants to be your mobile carrier, too.

The company is reportedly planning to launch its own cell phone service, according to The Information and the Wall Street Journal. Google has made deals with T-Mobile and Sprint to resell portions of their networks under a Google-branded name, a common practice by small wireless carriers known as mobile virtual network operators. Though T-Mobile and Sprint would still own the networks, Google would set its own prices and deal directly with customers.

Neither a launch window nor a price range for the service were disclosed.

Launching a wireless service would be another big step in Google’s quest to deliver Internet service directly to customers. Google Fiber is already providing broadband access in several U.S. cities, Project Loon aims to use balloons to bring remote areas online, and the company’s big investment in SpaceX could be a sign that it wants to use satellites to expand Internet connectivity as well.

But well-established ISPs and telecommunication companies won’t simply stand idle as Google takes their business. Sprint is reserving the right to renegotiate its terms with Google if the new service proves popular, according to the Journal.

Google and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sprint declined to comment.

TIME Android

This Easy Android Trick Will Keep Your Home Screen Clutter-Free

Motorola Mobility Portfolio Launch Event
Daniel Boczarski—2014 Getty Images Today, Motorola announced the new Moto X and G, Moto Hint and Moto 360 by opening its headquarters for media to meet the engineers and designers committed to offering people more choice, control and accessibility in their personal technology.

So you won't need five different home screens anymore

No one wants a cluttered home screen on their smartphone, but that can seem like an inevitable outcome for anyone who downloads lots of different apps. However, Android users can change one simple setting to help keep their phones clean and tidy.

Here’s how to do it: In the Google Play store, navigate to the Settings menu by clicking the three-layer icon in the top left corner or just swiping right. Within settings, you’ll see a checked box for the item “Add icons to Home Screen.”

This is Android’s default setting, and means that every new app you download winds up taking up some real estate on your home screen. Uncheck the box, and new apps will be shuttled to the “app drawer,” which is the Android equivalent of the Programs folder on a PC.

You can use the app drawer, usually accessible via a permanent button on Android’s home screen, to see a full listing of all your apps. Then you can pick and choose which apps to feature on your home screen by simply dragging them from the app drawer to the home screen.

Google originally shared this handy tip on the Android team’s Google+ page.

TIME Smartphones

You Can Now Rollover Your Unused AT&T Data Into the Next Month

The AT&T logo is seen on June 2, 2010 in
AFP—Getty Images The AT&T logo is seen on June 2, 2010 in Washington DC.

But you'll only have that month in which to use it

AT&T users tired of watching all their extra megabytes melt away at the end of the month have reason to rejoice — the mobile carrier just announced Rollover Data, an upgrade that allows customers to transfer their unused plan data into the following month.

The data that rolls over will only last for one month, which means, for instance, that if you have 5 GB that carried over from last month but only use 3 GB of it, you’ll lose the rest.

The announcement on Wednesday is AT&Ts latest salvo in the tussle with rival provider T-Mobile, which announced a similar rollover feature a few weeks ago.

But AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega told USA Today that his company, which had pioneered the rollover concept for voice minutes years ago, has been planning to launch Rollover Data for a long time.

TIME Mobile

This Is How Apple Totally Won Christmas

Verizon Store Stocks Shelves With New Apple iPhone 6
George Frey—Getty Images An Apple iPhone 6 Plus gold, is shown here at a Verizon store on September 18, 2014 in Orem, Utah.

Data trickling in after the holiday tells the tale

It looks like Santa put quite a few iPhones under people’s Christmas trees this year. According to mobile analytics firm Flurry, Apple’s iOS devices accounted for more than 50% of all new device activations globally among smartphones and tablets in the week from Dec. 19 to Dec. 25. Samsung saw the second-most device activations with a marketshare of about 18%. Nokia followed in third place with 6% of activations, and Sony and LG rounded out the top 5 with 1.6% and 1.4% of activations, respectively.

Flurry tracks data from more than 600,000 apps to determine when devices are turned on for the first time. Christmas Day also saw a significant spike in app installs as people unwrapped their new devices. On Dec. 25th, the number of app installs was 2.5 times higher than the average number of daily installs from Dec. 1 to Dec. 21, according to Flurry. Games and messaging apps got the biggest boost in installs on Christmas.

Flurry’s data also shows the ever-growing importance of phablets in the mobile market. In the week leading up to Christmas, 13% of the new devices activated were phablets, up from just 4% last year. The jump is likely thanks in great part to the new iPhone 6 Plus. Meanwhile, tablets, which have lagged in sales in 2014, saw their share of device activations slip from 29% in 2013 to 22% this year.

TIME Mobile

T-Mobile to Pay $90 Million to Settle Cramming Case

T-Mobile
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images An employee sets up a new Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy 3 smartphone for a customer at a T-Mobile US Inc. retail store in Torrance, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013.

Wireless carrier had originally called FTC lawsuit "unfounded"

T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $67.5 million in customer refunds to settle claims that its customers were the victims of cramming, the Federal Trade Commission said Friday. Cramming is a once-common tactic in the telecom industry through which third parties hide unwanted charges for things like horoscopes and love tips in customers’ wireless bills.

In addition to the refunds, T-Mobile will pay $18 million in fines and penalties to attorneys general in every state and Washington D.C., as well as a $4.5 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission.

“Mobile cramming is an issue that has affected millions of American consumers,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “Consumers should be able to trust that their mobile phone bills reflect the charges they authorized and nothing more.”

The FTC originally filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile over cramming claims in July. At the time, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who has staked the company’s reputation on being more fair to customers than rival wireless carriers, called the allegations “unfounded and without merit.” T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

T-Mobile will be required to contact all current and former customers who had unwanted charges crammed into their bills and offer them refunds. The company will also have to get customers’ consent before putting third-party charges on their bills in the future.

The T-Mobile case is the latest in a series of cramming settlements that the FTC has brokered. AT&T agreed to pay $105 million in refunds and fines for cramming charges in October.

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