TIME Smartphones

This Could Be Apple’s Plan to Make the Next iPhone Wildly Better

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

A new patent could mean vastly improved iPhone photos

Apple has been awarded a new patent for a digital camera component that could dramatically improve the quality of pictures taken with an iPhone.

The patent details a new design for a “digital camera with light splitter,” a component that’s typically found in high-definition camcorders. The “light splitter” parses red, green and blue light across three dedicated sensors. Current iPhones use a single sensor to detect all three colors, but splitting the light across three separate sensors has the potential to dramatically boost color accuracy, even in a dimly lit room.

Apple has not confirmed if the patented technology, first spotted by Apple Insider, will appear in the next generation of mobile devices. And, of course, just because Apple has patented something doesn’t mean it will appear in actual products at all.

Read more at Apple Insider.

TIME apps

Periscope vs. Meerkat: Which Is the Livestreaming App For You?

Meerkat; Periscope

Don't cross the livestreams

With Thursday’s public release of Periscope, Twitter is trying to torpedo its live-streaming competition by launching its own app that lets users send video to viewers around the world at the tap of a touchscreen. In development for more than a year but bought by Twitter earlier this year, Periscope offers a nearly identical service to Meerkat, the wildly popular ephemeral video app that launched on Feb. 27.

But in this battle for live-streaming dominance, Twitter and Periscope currently have a huge advantage: it owns both the seas and the ports.

Opening into similar screens displaying active video streams, both Meerkat and Periscope put a peek into someone else’s world just a tap away. The competing apps also let users quickly dive into broadcasting immediately, with buttons on their main screens that the launch the camera and begin sharing video with the world instantly. And while these basic capabilities are nearly identical, the two apps have nuances that make them markedly different.

For instance, Meerkat works in a couple of different ways. First, the service’s iPhone app (neither it nor Periscope have an Android app yet) sends a tweet through your Twitter account that tells people you’re currently broadcasting a live video. When other Twitter users click that link, they can watch the video as it’s being broadcast, either through their web browser (if they’re on a desktop or laptop) or through the Meerkat app on their iPhone. Viewers can also comment on the video, posts that stream onto the screen of the broadcaster, and also appear as replies to the original tweeted link on Twitter.

Meerkat

As easy to use as Meerkat is, it’s also almost completely reliant on Twitter integration to operate. And since Twitter decided to get into the water with its own livestreaming app, the social network has blocked Meerkat’s access to some of the features that other (non-competing) apps have. For instance, Twitter no longer lets Meerkat show new users which of their Twitter followers also use the video sharing service. (Early adopters, take note: You may see your Twitter followers on Meerkat, but that’s because you got in before the social network turned off this feature.)

Meerkat has done a good job of working around this roadblock through its Leaderboard, a ranking of the most-followed Meerkaters. This gives new users some ideas of whom to follow if they don’t happen to catch any of their Twitter favorites mid-stream.

Meanwhile, Periscope also streams videos to web browsers on computers and its iPhone app for mobile users, who can tap on their screen to send “love” hearts that tell the broadcaster they like what they see. Viewers can also comment on the stream using the mobile app, but these posts do not appear on Twitter, keeping the video sharing service walled-off from the social network, and cutting down on tweets. Even through Twitter is all about the tweets, this is a smart move because it cuts down on the social network’s noise — a problem the company is trying to address.

Periscope

With access to Twitter’s social network, Periscope gains a notable advantage over Meerkat because its users can intuitively find their followers on the video-sharing app. For example, if you and a follower both use Periscope, you’ll be able to find each other on the app’s “People” tab. And to compete with Meerkat’s Leaderboard, Periscope also lists its “most loved” users. This distinct difference turns Periscope from a popularity contest into a talent show, rewarding users for posting great video streams, rather than being big personalities.

Another key differentiator for Periscope is how it saves live streams so viewers can watch them later. (And it’s worth noting, this feature can be turned off.) Similar to Twitter’s Vine service (only with no six-second limit), this feature makes it a lot easier for people to enjoy videos on Periscope, because they aren’t up against the clock. But this difference also turns Meerkat into the catch-it-if-you-can exclusive service, indicative of its name. (Those little critters move fast!) Also, users can save Meerkat streams to their smartphones, an option Periscope does not yet allow.

It’s possible that these nuances will be enough to show there’s plenty of room in the water for two video sharing apps. In fact, some investors are betting on that — Meerkat just confirmed a $14 million funding round. And with its one month head start, Meerkat has grabbed high-wattage users like Jimmy Fallon, Shaquile O’Neal, and Madonna. But Twitter never lacks in celebrity firepower, with fan-favorites like comedian John Hodgman, magician David Blaine, and actress Felicia Day already grabbing hearts and eyeballs on Periscope. The competition for users, both high- and low-profile, is not likely to stop there, just as live video streaming is likely to be a fixture in tech’s future. The question is, can Meerkat swim?

Read next: You Asked: What Is the Meerkat App?

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TIME Smartphones

Review: The S6 Edge Is One Of Samsung’s Best-Looking Phones Ever

S6-Edge-Main
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But the two curved edges may not be worth the extra money

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

When I picked the S6 Edge up a few weeks ago at Samsung’s launch event in Barcelona I was divided by the smartphone with the two curved screen edges. This is one of the best looking phones Samsung has built and it’s something the Korean company should be truly proud of.

From a practicality point of view and knowing how expensive the S6 Edge is going to be, I remain unconvinced two curved edges is really worth the extra money you’ll have to pay over the Galaxy S6.

My initial reaction on the design hasn’t really changed. The Gorilla Glass 4 back marries well with the screen and doesn’t have any of the slippery issues I’ve encountered with Sony’s flagship. It’s slim at 7mm thick and weighs just 132g so it’s lighter than the S6 and just ever so slightly thicker than Samsung’s other flagship, but not enough for you to notice. The buttons are well positioned and easy to reach while the improved Touch-ID style fingerprint technology packed into the home button are all welcome changes.

Samsung-Edge-S5
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Did Samsung have to make such a radical change with the design? I’m not so sure. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy A5 has since proved that small changes can make the world of difference and I would have been happy with something in the mould of Samsung’s most recent phones.

It’s holding the handset where I take issue with the S6 Edge. Everyone will inevitably experience the initial awkwardness gripping the Edge, especially when we are so used to feeling the smooth metal trim of an iPhone or One M8. Unlike the Note Edge, the curved screen is now on both sides and is less prominent curving inwards into the body. It feels strange to hold and not as comfortable as the curved body on the LG G Flex 2, which sits more naturally in my hand. Some will inevitably grow accustomed to it, but I’m not the biggest fan.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge: What’s different?

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I have less of an issue with the decision to abandon a removable back and removable 2,800mAh battery to accommodate a sleeker, slimmer design but it’s the missing microSD card support that’s surprising. Samsung has decided to take the Apple approach by offering three storage options. However, there’s only a 64GB and 12GB models for the S6 Edge where the S6 has a cheaper 32GB option.

Something Samsung is really nailing is its smartphone screens. The Note 4 is one of the best phone screens I’ve seen and the S6 Edge builds on that with its 5.1-inch ‘2K’ QHD AMOLED screen. That sees a move from 1080p Full HD resolution to a 1,440 x 2,560 resolution with an impressive 577 PPI pixel density. It’s a gorgeous screen with great vibrancy, sharpness and delivers those deep blacks for movie watching. Compared to the HTC One M9’s screen, it’s certainly brighter and colors are more vivid. Both phone have great displays but the S6 Edge edges it for opting to include something more innovative. As a bonus, Samsung is also introducing a Gear VR headset that’s compatible with the S6 Edge and the S6, which should be launching some time this year.

Read more: Samsung Gear VR headset for S6 and S6 Edge hands-on

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Away from the main screen are those curved edges. This builds on the design featured on the Galaxy Note Edge only this time you can assign features to either edge. Samsung has pared back some of the modes featured on the Note Edge for a simpler integration with the operating system, but has kept elements like the Information Stream. I’ve gone into detail about the uses of the curved screen on the S6 Edge and while some of the uses are clearly very gimmicking and likely to be untouched by most, there’s some that do add nice touches. Like the Lighting and the People Edge modes which can be combined to uses different colors to indicate when assigned contacts are trying to get in touch. The night clock mode is handy as well but the swiping gesture required to view notifications and information streams is temperamental.

Samsung has made some positive changes to its software. The S6 Edge runs on the latest version of Android 5.0 Lollipop with TouchWiz on top and the bloatware has finally been stripped back. Kid Mode, S Health, S Voice, and S Planner are there as well as, oddly, a Microsoft Apps folder. You can still swipe all the way to the left for the Magazine UX, but that’s about it. Samsung is also adding its Samsung Pay platform powered by the acquisition of LoopPay. Most importantly, Samsung has listened and kept bloatware to a bare minimum. Finally.

S6-Edge-ports
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One of the big talking points with Samsung’s flagship phone launch is the decision to move from the Snapdragon-based processing power used on the S5 for the Korean company’s own custom built 64-bit Exynos octo-core chipset to sit alongside 3GB of RAM and a Mali-T760 GPU. The cores are not all utilized at the same time, but dedicated to different tasks to offer a more power-efficient performance. The big difference here with the Snapdragon 810 is the 14nm manufacturing process, compared to 20nm for the 810. In theory this makes the chip more efficient, though it bears closer inspection in real world use.

Read more: Octa core vs Quad core: What’s the difference?

General navigation is very positive. There’s no signs of lag, which is helped by the more streamlined TouchWiz UI and gaming holds up as well. Running the Geekbench 3 scores against the S5 and the One M9, you can get an idea of the kind of upgrade this is on last year’s flagship and how it compares to HTC’s flagship running on the new Snapdragon 810 chipset.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge benchmark scores
Geekbench 3 multi-core score: 4,152
Ice Storm Unlimited score: 21,829

Samsung Galaxy S5 benchmark scores
Geekbench 3 multi-core score: 3,029
Ice Storm Unlimited score: 19, 523

HTC One M9 benchmark scores
Geekbench 3 multi-core score: 3,800
Ice Storm Unlimited score: 21,625

Evolution of the  Galaxy S
SamsungEvolution of the Samsung Galaxy S

What the numbers suggest is that the S6 Edge is great deal more powerful than its predecessor and also comfortably outscores the One M9 at least in the multi-core benchmark tests. In the Ice Storm tests, which analyses graphical rendering and how well the phone copes when the CPU is overloaded, there’s not as much between them. Ultimately, the S6 Edge is a powerful phone and should be one and the decision to abandon Qualcomm might not be a bad decision after all.

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Moving to the camera and the S5 has arguably one of the best all-round cameras out of the 2014 flagships and the same can similarly be said of the Note 4, which inherited the same optical image stabilization. The S6 Edge matches the S6 for camera features with a 16-megapixel main camera and five-megapixel front-facing camera both with f/1.9 lenses to improve low light shooting. That’s aided by the inclusion of optical image stabilization and a new real-time HDR mode. For video, you can shoot at a maximum 4K resolution, but like the HTC One M9 and the LG G Flex 2, you can only shoot for five minutes at a time.

I’ve had some time to take a few sample shots up close and from a distance against the S5 in good lighting conditions to give you an idea of how it compares. As the images show below, there doesn’t appear to be a significant upgrade in image quality. You still get good levels of sharpness, vibrant, accurate colours and not too much noise. The real improvements should be more apparent in low-light shooting, which will be covered more extensively in the full review.

S5 vs S6 Edge: Close-up image samples

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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S5 sample
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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S6 Edge sample

S5 vs S6 Edge: Landscape image samples

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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S5 landscape sample
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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S6 Edge landscape sample

Read more: Where can I buy the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge?

Early Verdict

The S6 Edge is undeniably going to be the more memorable of Samsung’s two flagships. While one looks like an iPhone imitator, the other is trying to offer something radically different. The curved edged screen from a design and practicality perspective is still very unconvincing and I don’t think everyone will like how it feels to hold and use. Dropping micro SD card support is disappointing as well while I’m intrigued to see what the battery life is made of and hope it performs better than the One M9 in general day-to-day use.

What’s more concerning is the price of the S6 Edge. It’s going to be one of the most expensive phones on the market whether you buy it SIM-free or on a monthly contract. It’s going to be a hard sell justifying paying significantly more than it costs to buy an S6 or pretty much any other flagship phone currently available for a nicer-looking curved screen. Where the 32GB S6 cost $679.92 from T-Mobile, the 64GB S6 Edge costs a massive $779.76. If Samsung decides to introduce a 32GB model then it this could be the more desirable of the Samsung flagships, but right now, it’s going to be an expensive investment.

 

For the original article, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

Read next: You’ll Be Freaked Out to Learn How Often Your Apps Share Your Location

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MONEY

You’ll Be Freaked Out to Learn How Often Your Apps Share Your Location

using smartphone at night
Alamy

Most of us are unaware of just how much location sharing is going on with our smartphones.

Even for researchers experienced at examining technology that might be invasive, this warning was alarming: “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon, GO Launcher EX and seven other apps in the last 14 days.”

The warning was sent to a subject as scientists at Carnegie Mellon University were studying the impact of telling consumers how often their mobile phones shared their location and other personal data. Software was installed on users’ phones to better inform them of the data being sent out from their gadgets, and to offer a “privacy nudge” to see how consumers reacted. Here’s how one anonymous subject responded when informed a phone shared data 4,182 times:

“Are you kidding me?… It felt like I’m being followed by my own phone. It was scary. That number is too high.”

Mobile phone users are told about the kinds of things that might be shared when they install apps on their phones, but they have a tendency to “set and forget” the options. That means a single privacy choices, usually made in haste when clicking “install,” governs thousands of subsequent privacy transactions.

“The vast majority of people have no clue about what’s going on,” said Norman Sadeh, a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research, who helped conduct the study.

But when consumers are reminded about the consequences of choices they make, “they rapidly act to limit further sharing,” the researchers found.

The study covered three weeks. During week one, app behavior data was merely collected. In week two, users were given access to permissions manager software called AppOps. In week three, they got the daily “privacy nudges” detailing the frequency at which their sensitive information was accessed by their apps.

Researchers found that the privacy managing software helped. When the participants were given access to AppOps, they collectively reviewed their app permissions 51 times and restricted 272 permissions on 76 distinct apps. Only one participant failed to review permissions. The “set and forget” mentality continued, however. Once the participants had set their preferences over the first few days, they stopped making changes.

But privacy reminders helped even more. During the third week, users went back and reviewed permissions 69 times, blocking 122 additional permissions on 47 apps.

Nudges Lead to Action

“The fact that users respond to privacy nudges indicate that they really care about privacy, but were just unaware of how much information was being collected about them,” Sadeh said. “App permission managers are better than nothing, but by themselves they aren’t sufficient … Privacy nudges can play an important role in increasing awareness and in motivating people to review and adjust their privacy settings.”

Of course, it’s hard to say if the research participants would have kept futzing with their privacy settings, even inspired by nudges, as time wore on. Sadeh suspected they would not: Privacy choices tend to wear people down. Given the new types and growing numbers of apps now in circulation, “even the most diligent smartphone user is likely to be overwhelmed by the choices for privacy controls,” the study’s authors said.

The findings will be presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Seoul, South Korea, next month. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation, Google, Samsung and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

For now, what can smartphone users do to better protect themselves? It’s not easy. For example: A study by IBM earlier this year found that roughly two-thirds of dating apps were vulnerable to exploitation, and in many cases, would give attackers location information. The AppOps software used in the Carnegie Mellon study used to be available to Android users, but was pulled by Google in 2013. The firm said the experimental add-on to the Android operating system had a tendency to break apps. So Android users are left to manually review app permissions one at a time — not a bad way to spend time the next time you are waiting for a bus. It’s always a good idea to turn off location sharing unless you know the software really needs it, such as map applications. IPhone users have the benefit of privacy manager software, but it doesn’t offer great detail on how data is used, and it doesn’t offer privacy nudges or any other kinds of reminders. A manual review is best for iPhone users, too.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME apps

These Are the Most Expensive iPhone Apps

Most Expensive iPhone Apps
Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images A man displays an Apple's iPhone 5 smartphone on Feb. 25, 2014 in the French northern city of Lille.

Apple's price limit for apps is $999.99

Think a $10,000 Apple Watch is expensive? Try buying a $999.99 iPhone app.

That’s the price limit that Apple sets on apps available on the App Store, and quite a few apps are actually marked up that high, as Business Insider reports. (App Store doesn’t allow you to sort apps by price.)

Here’s a look at some of the most expensive iPhone apps on the market:

  • VIP Black, the self-described “millionaire’s app” (proof of assets required upon download), giving users luxury benefits from the company’s partners
  • Alpha Trader, a trading suite for investment professionals
  • QSFFStats, a curiously expensive app that allows you to input flag football stats
  • MobiGage NDI, an app that automates measurement and inspections of manufactured parts and assemblies

While those apps don’t have any reviews — meaning it’s likely no one bought them — there is one $999.99 app that people are actually buying. That’s Cyber Tuner, a “pro piano technician’s gold standard tuning software tool,” which has 61 ratings and a five-star average.

[Business Insider]

TIME Smartphones

Your Next Phone Could Stay Unlocked As You Carry It

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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.

Google might bring the feature to more Android phones

Google wants to make unlocking your phone less of a hassle.

The company is introducing a new Android feature called “on-body protection” that will allow a phone to remain unlocked as long as a person is carrying it in their hands, purse or pocket. The feature makes use of smartphones’ accelerometers to detect when the phone is in motion. When the phone comes to a standstill for a while, like when it’s placed on a desk, the lock screen will reappear.

There’s a tradeoff for the added convenience, of course. On-body protection could make it easier for a pickpocket or phone-snatcher to gain access to your device after they swipe it.

The new option was first spotted on Nexus phones but is expected to roll out to other Android devices soon, according to The Verge.

TIME Video Games

8 More Fascinating Things Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata Told TIME

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata And DeNA President Isao Moriyasu Joint News Conference As The Companies Form Capital Alliance
Akio Kon—Bloomberg/Getty Images Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata, left, speaks while DeNA Co. President and CEO Isao Moriyasu listens during a joint news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on March 17, 2015.

Why he hates the term "free-to-play" and why the New 3DS almost didn't make it to market on time

Last week, Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata spoke exclusively to TIME about the company’s plans to develop games for smart devices, sluggish Wii U sales, rumors of a live action Netflix Zelda series and why a last-minute feature for the company’s New 3DS games handheld nearly sabotaged its debut.

Here’s the rest of that interview’s takeaways in Iwata’s own words.

Nintendo’s plans to develop games for smart devices is still about bringing different generations of players together

“One thing that we have found over the years is that video games themselves have a tendency to be difficult to break out of a particular segment,” says Iwata. “But what we have found with some of our most successful products, is that they tend to be ones where people are playing them together and the communication is spreading much more broadly and easily than standard word of mouth communication. And what you start to see is people of different generations playing together and talking with each other, and sometimes you even see grandchildren talking with their grandparents about a video game.”

“So with the plans for our smart device efforts, that will also take on this theme of giving people opportunities to learn from one another about games, and giving games an opportunity to spread across different generations of people, and give people more opportunity to communicate with one another about games,” explains Iwata. “And I want to say that we’re going to be putting forth some effort to be able to provide some factual data that supports these viewpoints.”

Iwata thinks Nintendo can overcome free-to-play’s stigmas

“I do not like to use the term ‘Free-to-play,'” says Iwata. “I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called ‘Free-to-play’ should be referred to more accurately as ‘Free-to-start.'”

“The thing that concerns me most is that, in the digital age, if we fail to make efforts to maintain the value of our content, there is the high possibility for the value to be greatly reduced as the history of the music industry has shown,” he continues. “On the other hand, I have no intention to deny the Free-to-start model. In fact, depending on how we approach this model, we may be able to overcome these problems.”

But Iwata doesn’t view free-to-play as a progressive development

“I do not believe it is an either-or situation between Free-to-start and packaged game retail business models,” argues Iwata. “There are games which are more suited for the Free-to-start model. We can flexibly choose between both revenue systems depending on the software content.”

“However, because there are games or types of games which are suited for the existing package model, and because there are consumers who appreciate and support them, I have to say that it is a one-sided claim to suggest that a complete transition to a Free-to-start model should be made because the existing retail model is outdated.”

Nintendo was “forced” to sell the Wii U at a higher cost than it might have otherwise

“I think, to be honest, we were in a difficult situation,” says Iwata. “Because for the home console our biggest market opportunity was in the overseas markets in the U.S. and Europe, but because of the valuation of the yen and the exchange rates into dollars and euro, it made it a difficult proposition for us to capitalize on that, because of the cost that we were forced to sell the system at.”

The New 3DS’ “Super-Stable 3D” feature nearly torpedoed Nintendo’s latest games handheld

Nintendo’s New 3DS (reviewed here) employs a special eye-tracking sensor that improves the way the handheld conveys its eponymous 3D trick. But according to Iwata, the feature emerged as the device was about to head into production, prompting an eleventh hour scramble.

“I think you’re probably familiar with the tales of how, in the late stages of development, Mr. Miyamoto always upends the tea table,” said Iwata. “So a similar thing happened this time. The hardware developers had designed a piece of hardware that they felt was at the final stage of prototyping, and they were bringing it to us for approval to begin moving forward with plans for manufacturing. But Mr. Miyamoto had seen that super-stable 3D just one week before, and he asked “Why aren’t we putting that in this system? If we don’t put this in it, there’s no point in making the system.”

Iwata says he was personally asked many times by his internal engineers, “Are we really going to do this?”

“But Nintendo is a company of Kyoto craftsman, and what we don’t want to do, is if we know we can make something better, we don’t want to leave that behind,” he explains. “So we were able to bring the super-stable 3D to reality by looking technically at what we can do to solve those challenges and finding those steps along the way to make it happen. This is where my background in technology is quite helpful, because it means that the engineers can’t trick me.”

Iwata doesn’t see Amiibo as a Skylanders or Disney Infinity clone

“At first glance it may look like we’re a trend follower with amiibo,” says Iwata. “But really what we’re doing is, we have introduced amiibo in a way that is new and where amiibo do things in our games that they can’t do anywhere else. From that perspective, we feel that we are a trendsetter.”

“It’s true that if you go into a retail store, and you see the retail shelves, that from a retail perspective, we’re leveraging the structure that’s in place for how the toys to life category is being sold. That’s a hurdle that’s hard to overcome in terms of differentiation. But in terms of how the amiibo are used in games, we do feel that we are taking the lead in terms of broadening what toys to life can be.”

And the Smash Bros. characters have been toys all along

“What’s interesting about the Smash Bros. games, is that the Smash Bros. games do not represent the Nintendo characters fighting against one another, they actually represent toys of Nintendo characters getting into an imaginary battle amongst themselves,” explains Iwata. “And frankly that has to do with a very serious debate that we had within the company back then, which was, ‘Is it really okay for Nintendo characters to be hitting other Nintendo characters? Is it okay for Mario to be hitting Pikachu?'”

That story about a new live action series Zelda series coming to Netflix in Japan may not be accurate

In early February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix was developing a live-action series based on Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise. But Mr. Iwata says those rumors are inaccurate.

“As of now, I have nothing new to share with you in regard to the use of our IPs for any TV shows or films, but I can at least confirm that the article in question is not based on correct information,” says Iwata.

Read next: Exclusive: Nintendo CEO Reveals Plans for Smartphones

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TIME Smartphones

Review: HTC One M9 Chooses Evolution Over Revolution

Front and rear views of the HTC One M9 smartphone.
HTC—AP Front and rear views of the HTC One M9 smartphone.

The HTC One M9 shows how far HTC has come in the last few years

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

What is the HTC One M9?

The HTC One M9 is a crucial phone for the Taiwanese manufacturer. The One M8 and original One were fantastic handsets, arguably better than their Samsung and Apple counterparts. The competition has caught up, though. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have sold by the bucket-load and Samsung appears to have put its flimsy-design woes to rest with the glass and metal Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

How does the One M9 compare? HTC has opted for evolution rather than revolution this time. The design closely resembles its last phone and the screen is almost the same. A new camera, processor and larger battery provide the bulk of the hardware changes, while HTC’s version of Android has had a facelift with Sense 7.

This all leads to a great phone that still has some areas of improvement. The rear camera doesn’t live up to its promise, and neither does the One M9’s battery life. And that really is surprising.

However, this is still one of the best phones you can get and it just goes to show how far HTC has come in the last few years that we hold its products to such lofty standards.

Watch the HTC One M9 hands on video:

Related: HTC On M9 Tips, Tricks and Secrets

HTC One M9: Design

Think about the HTC One M9 like an S version of an iPhone. It shares the same basic design and screen as the One M8, but some minor tweaks differentiate it from last year’s model.

The first, and most evident, is the new two-tone design. Where the back of the previous One curved round to the screen, the M9 has a ridge that connects the front to the back. It looks as if the front of the phone has been shoehorned into the rear, the benefit being that HTC has managed to remove the thin plastic edge between the screen and frame.

It’s a fussier design and one that’s highlighted by the fact that the front metal is a goldish-silver (in this case), while the edge is gold. Turn the phone around and it changes again to – this time to a more traditional silver finish. Not all colors are as glitzy. The gunmetal grey version is dark and broody instead.

Related: HTC One M9 vs HTC One M8

Do any of these changes make it better? Not in our opinion. The HTC One M8 has a classier air about it – it’s like comparing an understated Breitling to a gold Rolex. Both are well-made, but which one you’d grace on your wrist depends entirely on your taste.

This is a little harsh on the M9. It’s a good-looking phone, full of slick design touches and craftsmanship – a word HTC keeps using, and with good reason – but we like the M8 more.

The one upside to the ridge is it makes the M9 easier to grip – it’s less slippery than the M8 and other curved phones like the iPhone 6. It’s easier to hold one-handed, too, though it’s a smidgen less comfortable to hold.

Related: 17 Best Smartphones and Mobile Phones

In every other respect the design of the HTC One M9 is a triumph. This isn’t a thin phone, but neither does it feel porky – it’s 0.2mm thicker than the M8, but almost 1mm narrower. The back curves into your hand and the metal feels solid – more so than the previous model even though it’s a few grams lighter at 157g. That weight gives it a good heft – the One M9 is well balanced, if a little bottom heavy. It feels like you’re holding a quality phone, not a toddler’s toy. We like that.

One major new design improvement is the feel and location of the volume and power buttons. Previously plastic and along the top, the power button was a struggle to reach. It’s now in a far more sensible position, on the right hand edge, just below the volume buttons. It’s also been upgraded to metal and comes with a light etch so you can tell the difference between it and the volume buttons. These have had a tweak too. The buttons are a mite firmer and feel that bit better to press.

Related: 10 Best Android Phones and Smartphones

This is a tall and narrow phone so the new button position means it’s easy to reach with your thumb, if you’re using it right handed, or with your left hand’s index or middle finger. What’s still an issue is reaching the top of the screen.

It’s a real stretch to get your thumb to the browser back button or search box. Apple has gone some way to solving the issues that come with handling a large phone by dropping the screen with a double-tap on Touch ID. Samsung has as well, to a lesser extent, with one-handed mode. HTC hasn’t addressed the problem at all. If you’ve got average or small hands, you will need to juggle the phone to reach certain areas of the screen when you’re using it one-handed.

In most other respects the HTC One M9 is what you’d expect from a flagship phone. The microUSB and 3.5mm headphone jack are at the bottom, while there’s a pair of fine grilles at the front which house the new BoomSound speakers – we’ll cover those in more detail later.

Almost the whole top edge is covered with translucent black plastic. This is there to accommodate the infrared blaster that lets you use the M9 as a TV or home cinema remote.

Related: The Best Android Apps

The only other difference between the One M9 and last year’s phone is on the back. Rather than a round camera that sits flush to the body the M9 has a square one that’s slightly raised. Rounded edges ensure the phone doesn’t snag when you’re sliding it into a tight pocket.

All in all the design changes HTC has made to the M9 are positive. The ergonomics have improved thanks to the new power button and narrower body, but some of the aesthetic alterations are less of a success. HTC could have left well enough alone, but there’s no denying that the HTC One M9 is dashingly handsome.

The M9 is available in three colors at launch: Gunmetal Grey, Gold on Silver, and Gold on Gold. Read on to find out about the HTC One M9’s screen.

For the rest, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

TIME apps

The Best App Apple Ever Banned Is Coming Back to iPhones

iTunes

Launcher was exiled for six months

Launcher, a widely praised iPhone app that was banished from the App Store store last fall, is making a triumphant comeback Thursday.

Launcher essentially makes clever use of Widgets, a feature Apple included in iOS 8 enabling users to quickly access the day’s weather forecast, calendar events and reminders. With Launcher, users could add shortcuts to their favorite apps, contacts or websites.

Apple banned the app last fall, ruling that an app used to launch other apps from its notifications widget ran afoul of the company’s stringent design guidelines. Launcher’s founder, Greg Gardner, complained in a blog post that the ruling in his case was both unclear and inconsistent, opening a wider debate about Apple’s vetting process.

Fortunately for Gardner, Apple lifted the ban after a lengthy appeals process. The app reappeared in the iTunes store on Thursday along with the message, “We’re back baby!”

Read next: Actual Humans Will Now Approve or Reject Android Apps

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