TIME Companies

Microsoft Skips Windows 9 and Goes Right to Windows 10

The skip is to emphasize the company's effort to move forward

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft is trying to soften an unpopular redesign of Windows by reviving features from older versions while still attempting to nudge desktop users into a world of touch screens and mobile devices.

The company on Tuesday gave an early preview of the new Windows 10 software, which it aims to begin selling by the middle of next year. Although the current version is called Windows 8, Microsoft says it’s skipping ahead to Windows 10 to emphasize its effort to move forward.

“Windows 10 represents the first step in a whole new generation of Windows,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s operating systems group.

Windows 8 was introduced two years ago as an answer to the growing demand for mobile devices. But many users hated it because its tablet-like design and controls weren’t a good fit for many devices using keyboards and mice. Sales of personal computers continued to fall.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is trying to regain the loyalty of longtime PC users, while reaching out to consumers and businesses that are increasingly adopting touch-screen smartphones and tablets.

Analysts consider the success of the new Windows crucial for Microsoft and new CEO Satya Nadella, who must show that Microsoft can embrace mobile devices without sacrificing the traditional computing experience.

The new system will be a blend of the old and the new. For instance, it will have various controls that are familiar to users of older Windows systems, such as a start menu to quickly access apps. But this start button will also open a series of tiles that resemble what’s found in Windows 8.

Analysts said that more gradual transition is important if Microsoft wants to persuade users to upgrade.

“This is what Windows 8 should have been,” said Carolina Milanesi, a veteran tech analyst at the research firm Kantar Worldpanel. “Here they are doing the right thing.”

Microsoft executives signaled they got that message on Tuesday. They stressed repeatedly that using the next version of Windows won’t be a challenge for businesses or consumers who have continued to use Windows 7 or even earlier versions.

The new software seeks to offer “the familiarity of Windows 7 with some of the benefits that exist in Windows 8,” said Joe Belfiore, a Microsoft executive who oversees Windows design and evolution.

He compared it to buying a new car with a more powerful engine and a better audio system, without having to “learn a new way to drive.”

Windows 10, for instance, will suggest new ways to use or navigate through files, without forcing users to abandon the old way, Belfiore said.

“We’re designing the experience so that as you use it, the things you already know are familiar and present, but new value is presented to you at a rate that’s easier for you to ingest,” he said.

The effort drew tentative praise from several industry experts.

“They desperately needed to find a way to bridge that experience. I just wish they’d done that with Windows 8,” said Rob Enderle, a tech analyst with the Enderle Group.

Milanesi said that while many businesses resisted upgrading to Windows 8, they can’t avoid touch screens as younger workers are accustomed to using phones or tablets as their primary computing device.

Windows 10 will also be designed to work on a wider range of computing devices.

Microsoft currently has three main systems — Windows 8 for traditional computers and tablets, Windows Phone 8 for cellphones and Xbox for its gaming console. By unifying the underlying systems in Windows 10, software developers will be able to create apps for the various devices more easily. Consumers will also be able to switch devices more easily and avoid having to buy the same apps multiple times.

That doesn’t mean the apps will always look the same. Developers will still be able to adapt apps for the various screen sizes, but won’t have to start from the beginning for each version.

User interfaces on the various devices may also differ, even as they share underlying technologies. For now, Microsoft plans to keep the current Xbox interface on the game console.

Enderle said Microsoft’s effort to create a single platform should help lure more developers to write apps — something the company needs to boost usage of Windows tablets and phones.

Windows is the most widely used PC operating system in the world, but it is steadily losing ground as more people turn to smartphones and tablets, which primarily run on operating systems from Microsoft rivals Apple and Google. That’s why Nadella wants to create one system that will run on all devices.

“It’s certainly an ambitious goal, but it’s also a little early to tell how it will work,” said Michael Silver, a tech analyst at Gartner.

Apple and Google have both rejected Microsoft’s approach of unifying the various systems, preferring to keep systems for PCs and mobile devices separate.

Microsoft also touted new security and management features for business customers, which represent a lucrative market for the company. Almost half of all PCs are used in the workplace, according to Gartner.

While a “technical preview” version of the software is being released this week, Microsoft said it won’t be ready to talk about new consumer features until next year.

Microsoft declined to say how much the new software would cost or how it will be distributed. Analysts have speculated that the company might be considering a subscription model — as it has with Office software — rather than selling each new version of Windows separately.

TIME Software

Forget Windows 9, Microsoft Just Announced Windows 10

Microsoft says the next version of Windows won't be "one UI to rule them all," but a single product family with an interface specially tuned for each device.

How do you get everyone’s attention if you’re not the world’s most sought-after smartphone or tablet maker, but still the world’s largest operating system manufacturer by miles?

You do something a little weird, say formally skip a version of your operating system, chronologically speaking. If your company name happens to be Microsoft, that means you leap (instead of hop) from Windows 8 right over the wondering heads of pundits proclaiming the imminent arrival of “9” and on to something dubbed “Windows 10.”

What happened to 9? Who knows. Call it a very public sacrifice to the gods of predictability.

Microsoft made the announcement today during an offline press event, then on its Windows blog, where it said Windows was “at a threshold,” and that it was “time for a new Windows … built from the ground-up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

We know a little bit about Windows 10 already, but only a little bit. The Start Menu is coming back (not a surprise). Everything will now run in a window, including Windows Store apps. Snapping now supports up to four simultaneous apps (and you’ll be able to see other apps available for snapping). You can have multiple desktops, and there’s a new “task-view” button on the taskbar will let you switch between open files as well as alternative desktops. And File Explorer will now display your most recent files and frequently visited folders.

The number you slap behind your iconic IP, of course, means nothing when it comes to actually delivering on promises made at press events. It’s simply the marketing cap and sequential delimiter companies like Microsoft and Apple use to establish that this is what this thing does as opposed to that one.

But find your mainline product sporting a lower number than a competitor’s, and all marketing bets are off. Microsoft’s been in the single digits with Windows forever, whereas Apple’s been on the 10th iteration of its Mac-based OS X (technically pronounced “oh-ess-ten”) for well over a decade, simply adding a “dot” (and codename) to signify major releases.

It’s not clear whether Windows 8’s potentially behind-looking proximity to Apple’s ten-based naming scheme forced Microsoft’s hand (or galvanized its marketing team), but let’s just say the theory’s at least of passing interest.

TIME How-To

Mobile Payments: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We use our smartphones in place of maps, health trackers and cameras, so why not use them to replace our credit cards, too? It’s not like Americans don’t already choose their smartphones when it’s time to shop and bank online.

Yet a 2013 survey from financial services company TSYS (PDF) found that just 6% of Americans valued being able to use their card or cash via a smartphone virtual wallet.

Consumers seem comfortable with credit cards, whether they’re signing a receipt, entering a PIN or waving the card at a contactless payment terminal, and they see little perceived extra value in using smartphones to pay in stores, asserts Rajesh Kandaswamy, an analyst at information technology research and advisory firm Gartner. “Consumers need an incentive to move to mobile payments,” he says. And Softcard mobile payment app (formerly Isis) does that, offering a dollar off every purchase you make with an American Express Serve card (up to 50 transactions).

The upcoming launch of Apple Pay will also help. The app will download automatically in October as part of an update to iOS 8 for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and it works with American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards.

“Given that Apple already stores millions of customers’ financial info in iTunes, Apple Pay is likely to be a catalyst for higher adoption of the smartphone wallet because it reduces the efforts of millions to even try mobile payments,” Kandaswamy says.

Apple Pay is also supported by major banks, including Bank of America, Chase and Citi. These big banks are unlikely to spike the cost of processing Apple Pay transactions versus credit card transactions, giving more merchants more incentive to make the service available to their customers.

Why switch to a smartphone wallet

A mobile wallet app offers a better way to manage payment cards, from debit and credit cards to discount vouchers and loyalty vouchers, Kandaswamy says. “A mobile wallet app can also offer better control over finances, in the sense that you have a single place to examine and analyze your purchases,” he says.

Paying with your smartphone can speed up the checkout process. Instead of rifling through your wallet (and possibly realizing you forgot to bring a card at all), simply tap your smartphone on a payment terminal to authorize a transaction and simultaneously apply discounts or loyalty points.

How the money moves

Most current smartphone wallet apps with a tap-to-pay feature require a phone with a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip to work. For iPhones, that means the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Most Android phones that run Android 4.0 or newer are NFC-compatible, although some apps require a special, extra-secure SIM for storing financial information. Check with your carrier to see if your Android phone is e-wallet-friendly.

If you use a Windows Phone or BlackBerry device, you’re facing a wait. Microsoft recently announced Wallet for Windows Phone for storing credit cards, loyalty cards, vouchers and tickets, but the app’s tap-to-pay functionality isn’t yet supported by any Windows Phone devices. And although Visa approved the BlackBerry mobile payment framework last year, we have yet to see any official launch of a wallet app.

But the mobile payments game is heating up. Retail giant Wal-Mart has announced that it’s piloting its own mobile payments system, along with several other large brands. Current C, which will work on any smartphone, won’t launch until next year.

The apps to consider

For now, Android and iPhone owners can turn their smartphones into lean, mean paying machines with one of these apps:

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Apple

Apple Pay

Apple Pay will be available in October for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as well as for the Apple Watch when it launches next year. Apple Pay holds credit and debit cards, and iTunes users can automatically link the credit card they already have on file. Once you’ve activated Apple Pay, you can use it for secure one-tap purchases in shopping apps as well as services such as Uber and Panera Bread, without having to fill out billing and shipping information.

Tap to pay: Touch the front of your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to a contactless payment terminal while holding your finger over the TouchID fingerprint sensor. You get a gentle vibration when the transaction is complete.

Security: Instead of storing and sending credit card numbers, Apple Pay allocates a device-specific account number encrypted on a dedicated chip in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. This number is sent with a one-use transaction ID called a token. “The consumer’s credit card is never exposed during the transaction, and merchants are no longer storing giant databases of credit cards, waiting for some hacker to come along and compromise them,” says Marc Rogers, principal security researcher at mobile security company Lookout. “However, whether [this is more secure] depends on how the token itself is protected and if it is securely stored, neither of which are clear at this point.”

Why you want it: It’s fast. Using the iPhone’s fingerprint scanner to tap and pay beats signing a receipt or entering a PIN code. And with the support of every major U.S. bank, the number of shops that accept Apple Pay could skyrocket very quickly.

Where you can use it: Use it at about 220,000 shops over about a dozen retailer chains, including McDonald’s, Subway, Bloomingdales and Walgreens.

Which phones support it: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus only.

Google Wallet

Google Wallet holds credit and debit card information as well as loyalty cards and discount coupons. You can transfer money into a prepaid card called the Wallet Balance. If you’re using an NFC-enabled Android 4.4 phone, you can pay for purchases in-store. Tap-to-pay won’t work on iPhones or on Android phones running Android 2.3 or older; however, these can access the Wallet’s other features, such as sending or requesting money, one-click checkout at online retailers and tracking orders made with linked payment cards.

Tap to pay: Open the Google Wallet app on your phone, then enter a PIN before holding it against the terminal.

Security: Google encrypts and stores users’ financial details on its servers, and use of the app is protected by a PIN. If someone should manage to pilfer your phone and guess your PIN, Google claims its fraud protection covers 100% of “verified unauthorized transactions.”

Why you want it: Google Wallet supports dozens of loyalty programs and coupon sites. Adding points and receiving discounts when you purchase something is hassle free, even if you’ve forgotten which vouchers and cards you have.

Where you can use it: Use it at any store where contactless payments are accepted.

Which phones support it: Android 2.3; 4.4 and higher required for tap-to-pay; iOS 6 or newer, but does not support tap-to-pay.

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Softcard

Softcard

Softcard was created by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, so (you guessed it) you’ll need to be on one of these carriers to use it. You’ll also need an NFC-compatible Android phone. The app supports American Express, Chase and Wells Fargo credit cards plus a handful of loyalty and discount cards. You can set up an American Express Serve account and use it to make payments with any debit card, credit card or U.S. bank account.

Tap to pay: As with Google Wallet, open the app, enter your PIN, then hold your NFC smartphone against the payment terminal.

Security: To use Softcard, you need a secure SIM card that can store your financial information so that only the Softcard app can access it. (You can request one from your carrier, assuming your phone is Softcard-compatible.) For each transaction, a one-use token is created so that your card details are not sent to the merchant. Like Google Wallet, a PIN protects the use of the app.

Why you want it: Softcard also scans nearby merchants for offers or discounts available to Softcard users, which you can then use at checkout.

Where you can use it: Use it at dozens of chains including Urban Outfitters, Subway and Walgreens. Check the full list at paywiththis.com.

Which phones support it: Android 4.0 and higher.

LoopPay

LoopPay, a Kickstarter success, works via a smartphone app combined with a Loop device — either a fob ($39, pairable with iPhone or Android phones) or a ChargeCase for iPhone 5/5S ($99). Credit and debit cards, loyalty and rewards cards and your driver’s license can be scanned into the Loop app. Most Android phones running Android 4.2 or newer work with Loop, but some have compatibility issues; check to see if yours works at LoopPay’s compatibility page.

Tap to pay: Hold your fob (or ChargeCase-sheathed iPhone) by the credit card terminal, then swipe your phone screen or press the fob button to pay. If you need to show ID (say, for an alcohol purchase), hit the ID icon on the phone screen and display a scan of any identification you’ve loaded.

Security: All payment information is encrypted and stored in a secure chip inside the Loop fob or ChargeCase, and a PIN protects the use of the app.

Why you want it: LoopPay works at 90% of retailers around the world — far more shops than any of the other apps.

Where you can use it: Use it anywhere there’s a credit card reader.

Which phones support it: iPhone, Android 4.2 and up.

More than an app, not quite a wallet

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Starbucks

Starbucks

This iPhone app combines your loyalty card and prepaid card balance into one handy app for tap-and-pay, keeping track of rewards you’re due and seeing how much more coffee you need to buy before you hit the next reward. Starbucks got this right — the app is used for $6 million in transactions every week.

PayPal

If you’re in a shop that accepts PayPal, log in to the app (iPhone and Android) and check in to your location. You can then take your purchases to the register, tell the cashier you’re paying by PayPal and simply approve the payment on the phone screen. It’s not quite a wallet replacement, but it is handy if you forget your real-world wallet. The app can scan your vicinity for PayPal-friendly merchants.

Keep your information secure

Using a mobile wallet app can be more secure than using a credit card because wallet apps don’t send as much sensitive information (such as your credit card number and expiration date) in the course of a transaction. To maintain security with a mobile payment app on your phone, follow these suggestions from Lookout’s Rogers:

  • Set a password on your phone.
  • Download an app for finding your phone if it’s lost. When your phone becomes your wallet, loss or theft becomes even more inconvenient.
  • Only download mobile payment apps (or, indeed, any apps) from sites you trust. Check the app’s ratings and permissions and read reviews to make sure they’re widely used and respected before you download.
  • Turn off your device’s NFC connection when you’re not using it.
  • Use NFC payment stations with caution; you might end up paying for someone else’s purchases.

Will you be replacing your wallet with an app? If so, which one? Let us know in the comments.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Software

How to Fix iOS 8’s Most Annoying Features

Whether you’ve got a new iPhone 6 or you’re happy holding on to your iPhone 5 or 5S, Apple’s mobile operating system update iOS 8 is great. There are a ton of useful new features like family sharing, swipe-to-respond notifications and the data-aggregating health app. But not everything about the update is sunshine and gumdrops – there are some annoying new features, too.

Thankfully, many of these annoyances are just new default settings. You can switch a lot of these defaults back to the way they were in iOS 7, and without much effort. Here are five of the most common complaints people have with Apple’s mobile operating system update, and the five best ways to fix or work around them.

Turn Off Handoffs

If you have an Apple iPad, iPod Touch or MacBook that uses your Apple ID, you may start to automatically get phone calls on all these devices. You can easily turn this off on some or all of them if you choose. Just enter into each individual gadget’s Settings menu, tap FaceTime and then turn off iPhone Cellular Calls.

Hide Recent Contacts

Personally, I like the upper row of friends and family pictures that come up when I double tap my home button. It provides easy access to your Favorites and those you’ve contacted recently. But if you don’t want people snooping on whom you’ve been calling and texting recently or you prefer the old iOS 7 version without those circular pictures, you can shut it off from the Settings menu. Just tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars, then tap Show in App Switcher (under Contacts). Turn off both toggles.

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Apple

Deleting Your Photos No Longer Actually Deletes Them

The Photos app in iOS 8 now comes with a Recently Deleted folder, which houses the snapshots you’ve chosen to delete for 30 days before they’re completely deleted from your device. This is nice to save you from accidentally deleting important photos, but terrible if there’s a photo you want deleted completely and immediately. Once you delete a snapshot from your main folder, be sure you also go into the Recently Deleted folder to select it and then delete it for good.

Stop Voice and Video Messages from Self Destructing

Sending and receiving short audio messages via iMessage is a lot of fun, but due to file size restraints, those items are quickly auto-deleted from your phone. You can change this to save those messages indefinitely by default if you’d like. Enter your phone’s Settings, tap Messages and then tap Settings. Tap Keep Messages, then change the Audio Messages and Video Expiration time to never.

But before you do, I’d urge you to strongly consider signing up for free cloud storage from a secondary provider to iCloud. I like the 30 GB free allotment currently offered by Microsoft OneDrive. It’s the best way to keep all that media, plus your own personal photos and videos, saved indefinitely without needing to pay for more iCloud storage or pay more for a phone with a larger drive.

Turn Off Predictive Text

I found the new Predictive Text feature to be a lot of fun in the first few hours of iOS 8, but its novelty wore off quickly when it proved more distracting than useful. Thankfully, it’s easily turned off. Enter your settings app, tap General, then tap Keyboard. Toggle Predictive off, and the deed is done.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

iOS 8 Guide: 10 Cool Tips and Tricks

Whether you just picked up an iPhone 6 or you're looking to squeeze a little life out of an older iPhone, here's a handful of tricks to try once you're using iOS 8.

Say “Hey Siri” for No-Touch Assistance

If your phone is plugged in, you can get Siri to do your bidding just by saying, “Hey Siri.”

You’ll need to enable the feature first by going to Settings > General > Siri and then toggling the Allow “Hey Siri” switch.

Again, your phone has to be plugged in for this to work, but it could be useful when paired with a car charger or while you’re at your desk.

Find Battery-Sucking Apps

Battery being run down too fast? It’s most likely an app or two that are sapping an inordinate amount of juice. You can check which ones are causing the most trouble by going to Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage.

You’ll see a list of the apps that have used the most battery over the past 24 hours, with the option to check which ones have been the top drainers over a longer period of time as well.

Adjust Brightness in Photos

When you’re taking a photo and you tap the screen to adjust the camera’s focus, you can now also adjust the brightness. Just tap the screen as you’re taking a photo, then swipe up to make the image brighter or down to make the image darker.

Use the Camera Timer

The camera also has a timer function. Tap the little clock icon in the top menu when you’re taking a photo and it’ll let you choose between a three- or ten-second delay before firing off some snaps.

Get Notified of Email Thread Replies

If you want to keep an eye on an important email thread, you can enable notifications to pop up every time someone adds a new email message to the thread. Click on the little flag icon in the lower left corner of an email message, choose Notify Me… and then Notify Me again. Step through the same process to remove yourself from future notifications once you’ve had enough.

Minimize an Email You’re Writing

If you’re in the middle of typing an email message to someone and you realize you need to reference some information from a previous email elsewhere in your inbox, you can swipe down on the message you’re writing to minimize it to the bottom of the screen. Once you’re ready to write some more, tap the message to expand it again.

Track Your Phone’s Final Location Before the Battery Dies

You’ve misplaced your phone — or worse, it’s been stolen — and the battery is surely dead. You can find out its last known location by heading into Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone and then toggling Send Last Location on.

Minimize the QuickType Feature

If you find the keyboard’s new QuickType word-guessing feature more annoying than useful, you can minimize it by swiping down from the top of the QuickType bar. If you find that you miss the feature, swipe back up and it’ll re-assume its perch atop your keyboard.

Quickly Send an Audio Recording, Photo or Video in a Text Message

When chatting back and forth in the Messages app, hold down the microphone icon in the lower-right corner to begin recording an audio message. When it’s ready, tap the arrow above it to send it or tap the X to delete it. To send a photo or video instead, hold down the camera icon in the lower-left corner and tap the top icon to snap a photo or the right-hand icon to record a video. Note that these features require that your recipient has an iPhone as well, although you’ll be able to send photos and videos (but not audio) to non-iPhone owners by tapping the camera icon in the lower-left corner and then following a couple additional steps.

Reply to a Text Message Without Leaving Your Current App

When you receive a text message up at the top of your screen, pull down on it to access a quick-reply box. Type your reply, hit Send and go back to what you were doing — all without leaving your current app.

TIME Software

iOS 8 Release Guide

Apple

It’s Wednesday, September 17. Happy iOS 8 Day, everyone. Here’s what to expect.

When will iOS 8 be available?

Apple never sets a hard-and-fast time on when it’ll start rolling out the update, but it’s historically started rolling new iOS versions out around 1pm Eastern time. Some years, I’ve gotten the update right away; some years, it’s taken until around 3pm or so. I can’t ever remember getting it before 1pm, though.

How do I get it?

If you do nothing, you’ll eventually get a pop-up message on your phone saying that the new software is available. You can check manually in a couple ways, though.

First, from your phone, open the Settings app, select General and then Software Update. Your phone will check with Apple’s servers to see if the update is ready for you. Again, just because it’s 1pm doesn’t mean you’ll get the update right away. Be patient.

Second, connect your phone to your computer, open iTunes on your computer, and the first heading under your phone’s page in iTunes contains information about which version of iOS it’s running. Click the “Check for Update” button every once in a while to see if the new software is available for you. I actually find this method to work better than trying to get the update directly from my phone. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try if you’re near a computer when the update starts rolling out.

Will it work on my phone?

iOS 8 is compatible with the iPhone 4S and up. It’ll also be available for the iPad 2 and up, all iPad Mini models, and the fifth-generation iPod Touch.

What should I do while I’m waiting?

If you’re going the iTunes route, make sure you have the latest version (click Help, then Check for Updates). And make sure your phone has enough storage space to accommodate the new software. You’ll want to clear out five gigabytes or more if you’re updating straight from your phone, just to be on the safe side. Here’s a guide with information about how you can do that. If you’re updating from iTunes, you won’t need to have nearly as much space free.

You’ll also want the latest version of iOS 7 — version 7.1.2 — in order to quickly upgrade to iOS 8. Use the steps in the “How do I get it?” section above to make sure you’re running the latest version.

What’s new in iOS 8?

There’s a new photo album and quicker, easier photo editing; there are enhanced voice and video messages; there’s a revamped keyboard that predicts which word you’re going to type next; there’s a new health and fitness app; there’s a cloud-based hard drive; there’s app- and book-sharing between family members; there are enhanced notifications and a few other bells and whistles thrown in.

Apple’s iOS 8 site is here; we have an iOS feature guide here.

Do I need to download iOS 8 right away?

No. In fact, it could be argued that it’s a good idea to wait until the first update to iOS 8 hits — usually a couple weeks later — for all the kinks to get worked out. If you don’t install iOS 8 right away, your phone will still work just fine. Sometimes it’s best to wait at least a day or two to see what people are saying about the update online. Are they complaining about shorter battery life? Are apps crashing more often? Does the interface seem sluggish? If so, it might be a good idea to hold off for a while until everything gets smoothed out.

TIME Gadgets

Best Weather Apps for iPhone and Android

With our high-tech tendency to watch TV using DVRs, TV on demand and streaming media, there are some things we miss: like the local news. And though we get most of that news from our favorite online news sources, the local weather report is something we sorely miss—we just don’t miss it quite enough to remember to catch the local news for the forecast every night.

Fortunately, there are quite a few apps to keep us on top of the local forecast and help us remember to pack our umbrellas—or carry our sunglasses—when we need them.

Top Pick: AccuWeather

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AccuWeather

Our overall favorite weather app is the simple-to-use AccuWeather, from the company of the same name. Specifically, we love its MinuteCast feature. It predicts when precipitation will start in your exact GPS location all the way down to the minute. And if it’s severe weather you’re worried about, Accuweather has you covered with GPS location-based push notifications. You can get forecasts for other cities too, of course, but that’s not where this app shines. It’s for when you’re most concerned about a hyper-local weather forecast for your exact location.

You can download the free, ad-supported Accuweather app for iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Play. An ad-free version is available for $2.99.

Top Rural Pick: Weather Underground

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Weather Underground

Whenever I’m visiting my parents’ house out in farm country, I like using Weather Underground. The well-designed app delivers data from over 40,000 professional and hobbyist weather stations to provide highly localized data for out-of-the-way places. Besides a wealth of temperature and condition data, you get air quality data and access to local webcams so you can see the weather for yourself. Another great feature is the WunderMap, a simple TV-style map with a temperature overlay pulled from the stations nearest you.

For International weather info, check out Weather Underground’s separate iPad-only WunderStation app. It collects real-time data directly from 37,000 personal weather stations across the world. You can take a look at plenty of historic data, too. And if you have family around the globe, you can set severe weather alerts for any station to stay in touch.

You can download the free ad-supported Weather Underground app for iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Play. You can download WunderStation for the iPad on the Apple App Store.

Top Allergy Forecaster: Zyrtec AllergyCast

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Zyrtec

If you’re an allergy sufferer, you don’t need all the details of the weather: You just want to know what the pollen forecast looks like. Zyrtec AllergyCast—by the makers of allergy medicine Zyrtec, so it’s happy to recommend Zyrtec products to help your symptoms—gives you an allergy-specific forecast, including the current temperature and predominant pollens. Swiping to the right gives you an hourly forecast and swiping again gives you a weekly forecast.

If you’re looking for an easy way to track your symptoms, AllergyCast also includes a simple symptoms log where you tell it how you’re feeling (“great,” “okay,” “not well,” or “ugh”) and select any allergy symptoms you’re suffering. We especially like this log because it doesn’t require you to type anything in. Just move your thumb to set the dial on the screen and tap the checkmark to save. Easy!

You can download the free Zyrtec app for iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Play.

Top Hurricane App: Hurricane Tracker

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Hurricane Tracker

When it comes to hurricanes, one of the most important details is the storm’s path. Keep up to date on brewing and imminent storms with the Hurricane Tracker app. It delivers official bulletins and maps from the National Hurricane Center in real time, along with animated satellite maps. And if you want even more analysis, the Hurricane Tracker team creates its own maps to explain each storm’s impact. It may not be a perfectly polished app, but it’s certainly a useful one.

You can download the $2.99 Hurricane Tracker app for iOS on the Apple App Store. There’s no Android version of the app, but you can still access the info by logging in to hurrtracker.com on your favorite browser (fee required).

Top Tornado App: iMap Weather Radio

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iMap Weather

The fall may not be peak tornado season, but they can and do happen in any month. Stay protected no matter where you are with the iMap Weather app. We love that it’s customizable – you can draw an area for the app to keep watch over, and you’ll get push alerts for that area only. You can also set it to track your location and give you tornado warnings for your exact GPS coordinates.

You can download the $4.99 iMap Weather app for Android devices via Google Play and for iOS on the Apple App Store (it’s called Weather Radio, but it’s the same thing).

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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Apple iCloud Gets Major Price Drop Ahead of iPhone 6 Launch

Apple CEO Tim Cook Announces the Apple iPhone 4s
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The price of cloud storage has fallen once again. This week, Apple announced price reductions across its full range of popular iCloud data storage plans.

Nothing is changing with the most basic Apple iCloud offering – your first 5GB of storage is still free. You can upgrade to 20GB for $0.99 per month (formerly, 10GB cost $20 per year), and if you really need space, you can get 200GB for $3.99 per month. Ginormous 500GB ($9.99/mo) and 1TB ($19.99/mo) plans are also available for more serious business customers.

If you’re considering buying the new Apple iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus when the devices are released on September 19, it’s worth taking a moment now to re-evaluate your cloud backup needs. Apple’s iCloud is the easiest way to map your next phone to your current one and transfer all your favorite photos, but many will find the 5GB free data allotment insufficient to keep a full backup. A larger 20GB account size will cover everything on a new 16GB iPhone 6 and leave a little extra room for storing documents and other items you’d like to be able to access anywhere.

Of course, you don’t need to use iCloud as your backup service provider – in fact, there are good reasons not to. Celebrity photo leaks aside, Apple’s iCloud is still one of the most expensive cloud storage providers available. Competitor Google Drive, for example, offers 15GB of free storage and charges $1.99 per month for 100GB of space. Drive may not be a perfect white glove solution for iPhone backup, but it’s great for larger photos and video files if you want to avoid a monthly charge. Remember, once you start paying for cloud storage, it’s hard to switch back to a free option and still keep all your files.

If you’re interested in learning more about the new iCloud storage plans or upping your own personal allotment, visit apple.com/icloud.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

How to Free Up Space on Your iPhone or iPad

You can’t take any more photos. You can’t install the latest version of iOS. You can’t download the TV show you want to watch.

We’ve all been there, and many of us just stay there because it’s too much of a hassle to try to figure out what’s going on.

It’s not that hard, actually. Here are some of the most common storage-bloat culprits, with a few steps you can follow to find out what’s hiding where and how you can delete it.

This guide is written from the perspective of an iPhone user but applies to iPad users all the same.

First Stop: Settings

usage
Apple

Let’s dive in and see what’s actually taking up space on your phone.

Go to…

Settings > General > Usage

…and wait for the top-most item to load up (it might churn for a bit).

Once it’s ready, you’ll see which apps are taking the most space. You’ll likely notice the Photos & Camera, Music, and Video apps toward the top of the list. You might also notice the Messages app if you text a bunch of photos and videos around with your friends.

Before we move on to cleaning out these common culprits, now is a good time to delete apps you don’t use. Don’t worry: They’ll be available in the App Store if you want to re-install them in the future.

So from this screen, tap on any apps you don’t use and hit the “Delete App” button on the next screen (note that system-installed Apple apps aren’t able to be deleted).

Once you’ve deleted a bunch of old apps, you may notice your total storage — at the top of the Usage page — has increased. If it’s increased enough to get you the extra space you wanted, great. You’re done. If not, here are some other tricks to try.

Best Bet: Deleting Videos, Photos and Music

By far, videos take up the most space on your iPhone — followed distantly by music and photos. Delete a handful of videos and you’ll regain a ton of space right away. They’re lurking in various apps; here’s where to find them as well as how to delete unneeded photos and music.

camera
Apple

In the Camera Roll

Open up the Camera app and click the little square in the lower-left corner to bring up your previously-shot photos and videos. Swipe through to find videos you’ve shot but don’t need anymore and hit the garbage can in the lower-right corner. While you’re at it, do the same for photos you don’t need anymore.

If you want to delete a bunch at once, tap the Camera Roll button in the upper-left corner, then Select. Start tapping away on the ones you know you don’t need, amassing a big collection of them before tapping the garbage can. They’ll then all be deleted at once.

messages
Apple

In the Messages App

Here’s where you might find a treasure trove of forgotten photos and videos. If your friends texted you photos and videos of their new baby three years ago, for instance, you might still have a bunch of those big files trapped on your phone.

If you find an old message thread that you know you don’t need anymore, you can delete the entire thing by swiping left on it and tapping the Delete button.

If you only want to delete specific photos and videos from a messaging thread, open the thread, hold down on the first photo or video you want to delete, tap More…, select all the others you want to delete from the thread (click the little circles to the left of the files) and then tap the Delete All button.

videos
Apple

In the Videos App

If you’ve downloaded movies or TV shows, they’re taking up precious space on your phone. Open up the Videos app, find any old movies or TV shows you’ve already watched, swipe left on each one and tap Delete. Don’t worry: You can stream or re-download them later. They’re not gone forever.

In the Music App

Same drill as the Videos app: Open up the Music app, find any old songs you no longer need, swipe left on each one and tap Delete. Don’t worry: You can stream or re-download them later if you bought them from Apple. They’re not gone forever. If you got them from somewhere else and loaded them from your own computer, make sure you still have the original files.

Other Tricks

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers some of the most common culprits. Spotify isn’t covered here, but my Spotify library, for instance, takes up a fair amount of space on my phone. I don’t want to delete the app, but I could set some of the playlists to be online-only in order to free up some space. If you notice an abnormally large app in the Usage menu but you don’t want to completely delete the app, open it up and poke around to see if there are some files inside it that you can delete instead.

Also, instead of simply deleting things forever, you might want to back some of them up to your computer first and then remove them from your phone. Over at WonderHowTo, Justin Meyers has an incredibly thorough guide to clearing up space on your phone, complete with backup instructions and other sources of file-bloat you might be able to uncover. Be sure to check it out if the above tricks don’t work for you.

TIME apps

Good Idea: Dock a Tiny Netflix Window in Your Browser While You Work

Behold Netflix Mini in all its glory.

The idea was spawned from one of Netflix’s hack days. That’s the bad news: Netflix Mini is still just an idea at this point.

It would ostensibly be an extension for Google’s Chrome web browser that would dock a tiny window in the lower-right corner, allowing you to work on whatever you’re working on while catching up on whatever show you’re binge-watching. A similar extension called PIP Video already exists, but I couldn’t get it working with Netflix videos. YouTube videos worked fine, however.

While Netflix Mini may or may not become real someday, can we all agree that it probably should? Yes? Handshake?

Check out Netflix’s writeup of its summer hack day for other ideas that were presented.

[Geek.com]

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