TIME Tablets

These 2 Charts Show Why Apple Should Worry About the iPad

Apple's iPad Air tablet on October 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Apple's iPad Air tablet on October 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Glenn Chapman—AFP/Getty Images

Apple’s flagship product, the iPhone, is humming along nicely, according to the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, but its newest disruptive device has seen better days.

The iPad, which turned four years old in April, is suffering slowing sales on both a sequential and year-over-year basis. The product line sold 13.3 million units between April and June, down 9 percent from the same period last year. That’s bad news for a relatively new device that was supposed to be “better than a laptop” and eventually devour the PC market.

Here’s a breakdown of the product’s overall trajectory:

In the most recent quarter, the iPad saw its lowest sales since the first quarter of 2012, when it sold 11.8 million units. Many factors explain the slowdown: For one, new iPad rollouts don’t generate nearly the buzz of a new iPhone launch. Why not? The flagship device hasn’t changed dramatically since it launched in 2010—yes, it’s added a fancy retina display and gotten lighter, but those advances don’t compare to the new features that have accompanied launches of new iPhone models, like the App Store or the Siri personal assistant.

On top of that, people generally seem content to hold on to their iPads for longer than they keep their iPhones. According to mobile marketing firm Fiksu, which tracks the use of iOS on active Apple devices, the iPad 2 was still the most popular iPad in use as of April 2014, even though it had already been out for three years. For comparison, the iPhone 5, released in September 2012, is the most-used Apple smartphone.

That’s partially because iPhones are usually cheaper to purchase in the United States. Thanks to subsidies from wireless carriers, the expensive phones typically cost between $100 and $200 for U.S. customers eligible for an upgrade, while the sans-subsidy iPad starts at $399. Combine that price differential with the fact that Americans have been conditioned to seek out phone upgrades every two years when their contracts end, and it’s no wonder that the majority of iPads are now being sold to first-time tablet buyers, according to Apple.

“I don’t see the purchase cycle [for iPads] as fast as 20 to 24 months,” says Ben Arnold, an industry analyst at NPD.

Another problem for Apple is the iPad’s growing number of competitors. When the device launched in 2010, it became the first breakthrough success in the tablet category. Since then, both Amazon and Samsung have launched tablets with similar features and, in some cases, lower prices. Meanwhile, many laptops with functionality similar to an iPad are now cheaper than Apple’s tablet. Arnold attributes some of the iPad’s current woes not only to its direct competitors but also dirt-cheap netbooks like Google’s Chromebook, which is tailored for web browsing and video viewing.

On the other end of the spectrum, smartphones are slowly approaching the size of tablet — Apple itself is reportedly prepping a new iPhone with a 5.5-inch screen, just 2.4 inches off the iPad Mini. Those big phones, sometimes called “phablets,” are eating away at tablet sales across the board.

The convergent functionality of different device types means the tablet market as a whole may not have as much runway to grow as analysts previously thought. Global tablet shipments declined for the first time ever in the first quarter of 2014, according to NPD. The sales-tracking group cited the emergence of large-screen smartphones as one reason for faltering growth. NPD projects tablet shipments will rebound, but that the growth rate will be 14 percent in 2014, lower than in previous years. By 2017, the growth rate is expected to slip to single digits (NPD expects a growth rate of 13 percent for smartphones through 2017, by comparison).

smartphone sales

“The market is kind of settling into this mature phase,” Arnold says of tablets. “The second generation purchases are slower to come.”

So Apple has a product in sales decline in a rapidly maturing market that faces growing competition from every other type of mobile computing device. What’s the solution? Apple believes it’s enterprise. In his conference call with investors, Apple CEO Tim Cook stressed that the iPad would be a key element of the company’s just-announced partnership with IBM to sell Apple products and services to businesses. Currently just 20% of tablet owners use the devices for work-related activities, according to an April survey by JD Power. Apple believes it can change this by creating apps tailored to different industries like insurance, banking and retail.

The iPad certainly isn’t going anywhere, and at more than 225 million units sold, it’s an incredibly successful device. But it’s not the next iPhone, and that’s what investors have been craving since they catapulted Apple to become the most valuable company in the U.S. Cook, who acknowledged that iPad sales were below analysts’ expectations, tried to put his aspirations for the device in perspective: “Our theory that has been there honestly since the first time that we shipped iPad, that the tablet market would eventually pass the PC market. That theory is still intact.”

TIME Big Picture

Tablet Growth Hasn’t Peaked

tablet growth
Getty Images

In its recent quarterly results, Apple surprised people when it reported a dip in iPad sales. This was followed by a lot of hand-wringing by some industry observers and analysts, who suggested that overall tablet growth has slowed or even plateaued.

I don’t dispute that tablet growth has slowed, but I’m not at all as concerned as other analysts about the industry going forward. In fact, I think tablet sales will accelerate again soon.

We are at an inflection point with tablets. In many developed markets, PC penetration is high and smartphone penetration is high. The role of the tablet in between these two screens is not yet clear in the minds of many consumers. For example, today in most U.S. homes, the tablet is a communal device that members of a family access and share.

According to recent data we (Creative Strategies) gathered, over 50% of tablet owners indicate that they share the device with at least one other person. This dynamic has added to the tablet sales slowdown, along with a refresh cycle that’s closer to that of a PC than that of a smartphone. People don’t buy new tablets as often as they buy new phones.

Another interesting observation is that the bulk of tablet purchases in 2013 were in the seven- to eight-inch screen size. When you look at the growing size of smartphone screens, ranging all the way from four to six-and-a-half inches, then it begs the question as to why a small-screen tablet is better than a big-screen phone. My gut tells me that the growing screen sizes of smartphones have also played a role in slowing tablet sales.

But I don’t believe this will be the case for long. In reality, it’s hard to look at a one- or two-quarter slowdown and claim it as the new norm or a long-term trend. There are many dynamics at play with regard to tablets that look to set them up for more prime growth.

Bigger Is Better

One is the trend of larger-screen phones I mentioned above. We believe that larger tablets, meaning those closer to 10 inches or larger, are primed to be a growth area. Since a great deal of smaller-screen tablets represent a large portion of the install base, it seems reasonable that larger screen tablets become more attractive, especially if someone already has a large-screen phone.

Look for this trend to play out on the business and enterprise side as well. From salespeople making both impromptu and formal one-on-one presentations, to managers working with documents and spreadsheets, bigger screens offer more value.

If this happens, we believe more consumers will see the value of the tablet as a legitimate PC replacement. Tablets have been largely supplemental to PCs up to this point, part of the reason being because smaller tablets are not viable PC replacements. However, data point after data point suggests to us that once consumers get their hands on larger tablets, they begin seeing their value as a primary computing devices.

Great Deals

The other dynamic that could bring tablet growth back is connectivity. To date, most tablets purchased are W-Fi-only models. However, we believe this may all be about to change. Carriers are looking to make tablets a growth area for themselves, and we hear that there’s interest to either heavily subsidize tablets or even move to an installment plan model.

What this means is that for very little to no upfront cost, consumers will be able to get a connected tablet from their carrier and just pay a small fee per month for the hardware and the data plan. Carriers looking to do aggressive bundles with hardware tied to their services is a major trend we see coming.

For IT managers, this could mean even more consumers wanting to bring their tablets to work. More importantly, these tablets that would be connected at all times, not just while on Wi-Fi.

If we are right and there is a trend moving toward larger, connected tablets, then a new opportunity for hardware and software companies may be shaping up, along with new use cases for enterprise users.

Tablet sales may be leveling off in the short term, but to say their growth has peaked is way off target.

Bajarin is a principal at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the Big Picture opinion column that appears here every week.

TIME Gadgets

10 Free Android Apps Everyone Should Download

Great everyday apps that span multiple genres

Every time I get a new Android smartphone or tablet, I install certain apps right away, before I even really start to play with the device — apps I use every week, if not every day, on the Android gadgets I test as well as the ones I own. For your benefit, I’ve narrowed down the list to 10 free Android apps I can’t live without.

SwiftKey Keyboard

SwiftKey

Because most stock keyboards aren’t that great, SwiftKey is often the first app I download on a new phone or tablet. SwiftKey’s prediction engine, which offers suggestions for words as you type as well as the next word you need, is based on the words you use most. It learns from your everyday input as well as from your email, social media accounts, your blog’s RSS feeds and other sources (if you connect them). If you have more than one Android device or decide to upgrade, you don’t have to start over with the learning. SwiftKey can store this data in the cloud and sync it across multiple devices.

SwiftKey saves typing time in multiple ways: Swype-like trace-to-type, shortcuts, long-press for alt characters and a dedicated number row on top if you want it. This is one of the most customizable keyboards I’ve used, with multiple color themes, the ability to change the size of keys and even the ability to split or push the keyboard to one edge or the other — great for phablet use.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

AccuWeather

Of the seemingly million weather apps for Android (including the one that probably came with your phone, complete with animated widget), AccuWeather offers you one solid reason to ditch them and download it instead: MinuteCast.

MinuteCast tells you the weather at this moment exactly where you’re standing or in whatever zip code you enter — not the forecast for the whole city, the forecast for right where you are right now. MinuteCast is especially useful during storms. Want to know when it will start raining, when it will stop or when it will let up enough for you to dash home? This app will tell you.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

TrustGo

Android boasts some decent built-in security measures for keeping your data safe and finding a lost phone, but they don’t address the other major mobile security threat: malware. TrustGo adds that protection plus advanced security features such as capturing images of a person trying to crack your security code, sounding an alarm to help you find a misplaced device and wiping the device remotely. Of all the free security apps available, TrustGo provides the most features for free.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Firefox Mobile

Mozilla

Firefox is our top web browser pick for your personal computer as well as your mobile devices. Google Chrome is great and comes preloaded on Android devices, but thanks to its large library of add-ons, Firefox is worth an extra step to download and install. Chrome doesn’t support extensions on Android, but Firefox users can add Adblock, a cookie cleaner, Flash video downloaders and hundreds more tools.

Beyond that, Firefox Mobile is fast, clean and attractive, with an interface that syncs bookmarks, passwords and other data between all your browsers for seamless desktop-to-mobile use.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Yelp

Google Maps is turning into a decent restaurant and business suggestion app, but Yelp still has Google beat in terms of sheer data. Yelp’s millions of user reviews are only one reason I use this app almost every day. New businesses show up on Yelp faster, and drilling down searches to a specific area brings up more results with a ton of reviews. Plus, I love Yelp Monocle, an augmented reality feature that shows ratings and business names on top of a real-time view from your camera.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

TuneIn Radio

As soon as I got a smartphone, I ditched my alarm clock. The feature I missed most after making the switch was waking up to my favorite radio station. That’s one of the reasons I like TuneIn Radio.

TuneIn Radio can access any station with an online stream, and you can choose to wake up to that station via the app’s alarm. While you listen, TuneIn brings up information about the song and artist or the program, which you can save. You can also use TuneIn to search beyond traditional radio for podcasts.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Evernote

Evernote

Most note-taking apps work fine for jotting down quick ideas and shopping lists, but Evernote offers so much more. Even if you think you need something simple, you’d be surprised how a more comprehensive app can change your daily habits. I’m a fan of receiving reminders about my notes, so I know to follow up. When I can’t write or type fast enough, audio notes save the day.

The best feature is the page camera. Take a snapshot of printed or handwritten pages, and Evernote scans them for words that it then indexes to show up in searches.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Pocket

Flipping through news using Flipboard, Blinkfeed, an RSS reader or Pulse is fine when most of the articles and posts are short enough to read in a minute or less. But for long reads, you want an app that strips away distractions (like ads) to offer an ebook-like reading experience that lets you immerse yourself in the words.

That’s why I love Pocket. Saving articles from your browser is easy, and Pocket automatically syncs all your stored articles for offline reading. Read them when you’re ready, even if you’re on a plane or a subway car. The reading experience is great, giving you control over the text’s font, size and background.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Kingsoft Office

Downloading a document from email for reading or editing can be a pain if the office suite you’re using messes with the formatting, isn’t designed as well for small screens as it is for large ones or can’t save in the most popular file formats. Most preloaded office suites are a pain, so I always replace them with Kingsoft.

On top of Kingsoft’s qualities as a good document editor, it connects to cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive to allow you to edit and sync without opening another app. It can save to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats as well as in PDF format.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

DuoLingo

Learning a new language doesn’t come easily for everyone, especially adult beginners. But there comes a time when knowing basic phrases and greetings is useful: when you’re traveling abroad, moving into a mixed-culture neighborhood, trying to meet that cute guy or girl who only speaks Italian …

DuoLingo can help prepare you for basic conversation in just a few months via fun exercises you do occasionally. You don’t have to deal with the commitment of a class or spend hundreds of dollars right from the start.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME How-To

The Best Way to Take Digital Notes

Taking notes is one of the most important activities for a high school or college student, be it in class during lectures or at the library or home doing research.

Using a laptop to take notes has become common, but recent research shows that laptop note-taking is far less effective than taking notes by hand. And even when students don’t use their laptops to multitask during class (surfing the web and chatting on social networks), they don’t process and retain information as well as students who take their class notes by hand.

This effect doesn’t mean you have to give up the convenience of digital notes. With new digital pen tools and note apps, it’s possible to transform handwritten notes into text or make scribbled notes indexable and searchable.

Write directly on a tablet

Samsung

A tablet with an active stylus allows you to write directly on the screen as if you were writing on paper. The tactile sensation isn’t quite the same, but the best pen-enabled tablets come very close and make writing comfortable with pen strokes that flow.

I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition because it comes with an active stylus and great palm rejection. You can rest your hand on the screen while taking notes and the Note will ignore it, only paying attention to your pen strokes. The S Pen glides across the screen at the speed of gel ink pens, feeling as close to pen and paper as you can get in this format.

The Note comes with one of the best note-taking apps for Android: S Note. It records pen strokes, translates handwriting to text, offers shape and formula matching to make notes cleaner and easier to read and syncs to Evernote.

I don’t recommend the iPad Air or iPad Mini for on-tablet note-taking. Since Apple’s tablets don’t have active styluses (meaning pen-detecting tech is not built in), palm rejection doesn’t work as well and only works in certain programs. If you want a Windows tablet, I suggest the Asus VivoTab Note 8, which runs full Windows 8.1, comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student and has an active stylus.

Take notes with a smartpen

Livescribe

Even the best pen-enabled tablets can’t exactly replicate the feel of pen on paper. If you prefer analog note-taking but want the benefits of digital notes, I recommend a smartpen. Smartpens utilize special paper to record pen strokes and, in some cases, audio that is linked to the pen strokes.

The best smartpen for iPad and iPhone owners is the Livescribe 3. It’s about the size and weight of an executive pen and connects to the tablet or phone via Bluetooth. As you take notes on Livescribe paper (available in notebooks, as sticky notes or self-printable paper), they automatically and instantly sync to the Livescribe+ app.

In Livescribe+, you can organize notes by class, project or any other way you like, transforming handwriting into written text with impressive accuracy. Livescribe+ notes sync with Evernote and OneNote, updating automatically when you add new information. Evernote also recognizes handwriting and indexes it as text, making it even easier to search for keywords later.

Livescribe+ can record audio (using the iPad or iPhone mics) synced with pen strokes to create what’s called a pencast. In a pencast, you can click on a note, drawing or any other pen stroke to play the audio the app recorded at that moment. Don’t worry about writing down every single thing your professor says during class, just the gist; the pencast feature lets you access the exact words.

Livescribe+ is not available for Android or Windows right now. If you use either of those platforms, the Livescribe Sky Smartpen is a good choice. This pen sends the digital version of your notes directly to Evernote wirelessly. It also has the ability to create pencasts, recording your writing and the audio all on its own.

Capture notes with your smartphone camera

Another digital note-taking option is to use whatever pen and notebook you prefer (some of us are sticklers for certain kinds, I know), then make them digital with Evernote’s Page Camera feature. Page Camera is designed for capturing notebook pages and handwriting. Though there are special Moleskine notebooks made for Evernote, you can use any notebook or loose paper you like.

Evernote saves the captures as images you can access in any of the apps — Android, iOS, Windows or web. The service uses OCR (optical character recognition) and handwriting recognition to index the words in captured notes and index them for search. Accuracy isn’t as good as with digital pens or writing on a tablet screen, but I have found it surprisingly effective even without neat handwriting. To get best results, buy the StandScan Pro scanning box or build a smartphone scanner stand.

You can add Page Captures to any note in Evernote, including existing ones, keeping your notes and the audio of a lecture together in one note. It’s not as convenient as a pencast, but at least everything is in one place.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Reviews

Surface Pro 3 Review: In Defense of the 2-in-1 PC

Jared Newman for TIME

As soon as Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3, I kicked myself for being impatient.

Last fall, I bought a Surface Pro 2. The screen was smaller than I’d like, and the tiny, felt-covered trackpad was a detriment to traditional laptop use, but I wanted a light and powerful touchscreen device, and was tired of waiting for the perfect laptop-tablet hybrid.

The Surface Pro 3 tries to fix everything wrong with its predecessor, making fewer overall trade-offs as both a laptop and a tablet.

The screen is larger, and not as cramped for vertical space. The trackpad is roomier and covered in smooth glass. The kickstand adjusts to practically any angle. Yet the tablet is 0.2 inches thinner and a quarter-pound lighter than the Pro 2 — or 0.1 pounds lighter without the Type Cover keyboard — without any drop in battery life. It also has a heftier stylus and a dual-magnet keyboard that snaps to the tablet’s bezel for a raised typing surface. (Here’s a spec comparison with the MacBook Air.)

So while it pained me to do so, I dumped my Surface Pro 2 on eBay and bought a 256 GB Surface Pro 3 with an Intel Core i5 processor ($1,429 with the Type Cover keyboard) to replace it. I’ve now been using it for a month — some of that time with a Microsoft review unit before the release date — and it could be my ideal computer, if only the software didn’t have so many little annoyances.

The Surface Pro 3 appeals to me for several reasons. I already use Windows for work, mostly on the desktop in my home office, and I use OneDrive to sync my notes and documents between devices. I also play a decent amount of PC games for leisure, and I’m not allergic to using Windows Store apps for some tasks. I like the idea of a hybrid device for when I’m away from the desktop, since I don’t always a want a full-blown laptop if I’m just playing games or reading. (The stylus is nice to have, but I haven’t found much use for it as someone who doesn’t draw or write things by hand.)

In fact, there’s one scenario that sums up my Surface experience perfectly, pictured below:

Jared Newman for TIME

Most of the screen is running the classic Windows desktop (and the absurdly addictive card game Hearthstone). I also have Tweetium snapped to the side, which is great for killing time between rounds. If I’m on the couch or in bed, I prop up the tablet with a kickstand, fold the Type Cover keyboard underneath and control everything with my fingers. But if I want to do some writing, I can pull out the keyboard and open WritePlus in the main window. Windows automatically saves the app’s .TXT files to OneDrive, so they’re waiting for me when I get back to my desktop.

Being able to do all this on a single device involves some compromises. Juggling the desktop and snapping Windows Store apps is sort of complex, and using touch with desktop apps isn’t always ideal. For writing, the Type Cover keyboard doesn’t have the same spacing and travel as a laptop keyboard, and the trackpad — while much improved over the previous Surface — still has less depth than those of dedicated laptops.

But the Surface Pro 3 also eliminates some complexity by not making me juggle multiple devices. If I’m taking a device up to my bedroom to play Hearthstone, I don’t have to think about whether I’m also going to do some writing or e-mailing before bed.

Granted, I could just use an iPad with a third-party keyboard, but this introduces its own trade-offs. The keyboard would not be full-size like the one on the Surface Type Cover, and all the fully adjustable keyboard cases I’ve seen add a lot of bulk, unlike the Surface tablet’s built-in kickstand. Likewise, I could just use a dedicated laptop, but that’s not as comfy when I’m just trying to relax with some games or watch the Yankees on MLB.tv. I could bring both a laptop and a tablet upstairs with me, but it’s a pain to switch machines for each task.

The Surface Pro 3 becomes the catch-all, and even if it’s not perfect as a laptop or tablet, the improvements in this version make the trade-offs more tolerable. The 12-inch screen with 3:2 aspect ratio runs about as wide as an 11-inch MacBook Air and about as tall as a 13-inch Air, so it actually feels like you’re working on a proper laptop. Being able to fully adjust the kickstand also helps in a lot of situations. For instance, I often use the Pro 3 while reclining knees-up on the couch, and now I can bend the kickstand all the way around so it’s tilting slightly outward from my legs.

Jared Newman for TIME

As for in-lap use, someone with shorter legs might have trouble balancing the kickstand, but it’s never been an issue for me, even with the Pro 2. And while a kickstand isn’t as comfortable on the knees as the flat surface of a laptop, it brings to mind another trade-off: With the Surface, you don’t have any heat dissipating into your lap, because it all comes out the top of the tablet.

The only area where the Surface Pro 3 is a clear step down from its predecessor is gaming. That’s because Microsoft removed a “high performance” power option that unshackles the processor at the expense of battery life. Without this option — apparently removed to make room for Connected Standby — I don’t get the same uninterrupted smoothness in games like Fallout: New Vegas. The 3:2 aspect ratio also seems to create problems for some games. (At least there’s Steam in-streaming from my desktop, which performed flawlessly and had no formatting issues.)

Overall though, the Surface Pro 3 is a fine piece of hardware. At this point, it’s only the software — and the wide variety of bugs and annoyances within it — that holds Microsoft’s hybrid back.

After two years, Microsoft still hasn’t figured out how to ship a device that isn’t riddled with problems, from obnoxious glitches to system-crippling bugs. At launch, the Surface Pro 3 needed a day-one patch to keep it from not turning on properly. But this patch in turn introduced Wi-Fi problems that persist on some machines, despite a recent firmware update.

Those are only the headline-grabbing bugs, but there are more. Sometimes the Type Cover stops working properly and I have to re-connect it. One time the system stopped fully responding to touch, and I had to restart it. Even an old problem I had on the Pro 2, where programs stopped responding to key presses until I hit “Alt,” reemerged on the Pro 3. I’ve noticed little design flaws as well, like the way Tweetium opens links in a second tab in Internet Explorer, leaving an open blank tab right next to it. There’s also the fact that some desktop programs, such as Google Chrome, still aren’t optimized for the Pro 3′s high pixel density display.

While you may not notice these things at first, over time, they build into a level of frustration unbecoming of a high-end device. And after using a Surface Pro 2 for six months, I’m not totally confident that Microsoft can get its tablet running smoothly through future updates.

Sad as that is, I choose to stick with the Surface Pro 3 because it’s the only two-in-one device that doesn’t feel sorely lacking on the hardware side. The bugs and glitches are a side effect that I can live with.

I do understand why Surface Pro 3 reviews have been mixed so far. If you perform two clinical evaluations of the Pro 3 — first as a laptop, then as a tablet — you’ll find some deficiencies on both ends and conclude that getting two separate devices is better. But there’s also a middle ground where having one device makes life easier, and the Surface Pro 3, in spite of its software woes, covers that ground better than anything else I’ve tried.

MONEY Kids and Money

How to Keep Your Kids From Racking Up Big In-App Charges

Kids have run up big bills on their parents' tablets. Paul Bradbury—Getty Images

The FTC says Amazon let children run up hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges for in-app purchases. Here’s how to make sure your kid’s screen time doesn’t cost you a small fortune.

If you’ve been using your Kindle Fire as an electronic babysitter, beware that it might cost you more than a real babysitter. In a new lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission says that Amazon has wrongfully billed some parents for unauthorized app purchases made by children.

How? Many free apps marketed towards kids let users make additional “in-app” purchases as they play the games. For example, download the free app “Tap Zoo,” and your kid can fill a virtual zoo with imaginary animals and habitats. Sometimes those items cost imaginary money – but other times, they cost real money, the FTC says.

The federal agency cites one customer hit with $358 on game bills (it doesn’t say which game.)

We’ve heard this story before: In January, Apple agreed to settle charges that it too had billed parents for unauthorized charges on kids’ games. But Amazon has pledged to fight the FTC’s lawsuit, arguing that the company has responded promptly to customer complaints, refunded purchases by kids and improved parental controls since launch.

As technology evolves to make it easier and easier to spend money, kids’ apps will likely remain a battleground. But in the meantime, here’s how to keep your kid’s virtual zoo running under budget.

The simplest solution: Turn off in-app purchases entirely.

On Kindle Fire, go to settings for the Amazon Appstore and turn off “in-app purchasing.” Apple products will let you disable the ability to install apps, delete apps or make in-app purchases. Just go to settings and tap “enable restrictions.”

At the very least, set up a password for in-app purchases.

Require that all users type a password before making any purchases – and make sure it’s a different password than the one you use to unlock your device. On Apple products, go to settings and tap “enable restrictions.” On Kindle Fire, go to settings and adjust “Parental Controls.” But here’s the problem: On Kindle Fires, each time you enter your password to buy something—say your kid badgers you into letting him buy that one new animal—the FTC says there’s a window of time when (15 minutes to an hour) when anyone using the device can continue making in-app purchases.

The FTC also argues that the password prompt is vague and doesn’t explain how much you’ll be billed. So enter that password with caution.

Do a little research before you let your kid buy an app.

Maintain a healthy suspicion of “free” apps. Oftentimes, free apps make money by collecting data about users, showing users advertising, or encouraging in-app purchases. But it’s not always easy to tell which apps will let your kid run up a huge bill. As of 2012, about 84% of the apps that let kids make in-app purchases were advertised as “free,” according to an FTC survey. Before you buy an app, read the full description to see if it allows in-app purchases. Also read reviews for the app, and try it out yourself before you let your kid play with it.

Switch to airplane mode or turn off Wi-Fi.

“Airplane mode” is a setting that turns off Wi-Fi – making it impossible to buy or download apps, or do anything else online. Quickly turn it on before handing over your device, and your kid should be able to play without making any new purchases. On Apple products, you can turn on airplane mode or turn off Wi-Fi under settings, or by swiping from the bottom of the screen and tapping the airplane icon. On Kindle Fire, you can turn on airplane mode by going to “Quick Settings” and then “Wireless & Networks.”

Did your kid run up a huge bill on a mobile device? How did they do it? Did you get a refund? Do you have any advice for other parents?

MONEY wants to hear your story. Fill out the confidential form below. We won’t use your information unless we speak with you first.

TIME Gadgets

Waterproof Tech for a Day at the Beach or Pool

Tech and water usually don’t mix. But if you’re heading to the beach or pool this summer, there’s no need to unplug completely. From the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone to the Panasonic Lumix camera (below), there have never been so many great waterproof tech options to help you capture great photos, blast tunes, and even help protect your skin from sun damage.

Here are Techlicious’s favorite summertime tech picks for an active day of fun.

Waterproof Tablet

Sony

If your idea of a fun day at the beach involves taking it easy, reading an e-book or two and playing a couple rounds of Angry Birds, then the Sony Xperia Z2 tablet makes a great companion. The ultraslim 10.1” tab is high-powered – it’s got a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM and an 8MP rear camera for photos. It’s waterproof and dustproof too (IP55/58), so it can take a few minor splashes without becoming an expensive, glossy brick.

Sony.com is currently offering the 16GB Xperia Z2 for $499.99 with a free charging dock for a limited time. A 32GB version of the tablet is available for $599.99.

JUNE UV Ray Monitor

Netatmo

We all love the summer sun, but too much of it can lead to burns, premature aging and – worst of all – skin cancer. The wrist-worn Netatmo JUNE helps mitigate these risks by tracking your daily sun exposure, measuring the intensity of the sun’s UV rays and providing smartphone reminders when it’s time to re-apply sunscreen or put on sunglasses. You can bring it poolside, too: The chic, French-inspired design is both splash- and water-resistant.

The Bluetooth-powered Netatmo JUNE is available in three colors (platinum, gold and gunmetal) and includes a leather and premium silicon wristband, a USB charging cable and a storage pouch. You can get yours for $99 at Netatmo.com. And if you want a more waterproof (albeit less elegant) option for swimming in the pool, take a look at the $49 SunFriend UV Monitor.

Waterproof Camera Case and Float

Dicapac

The beach is a great place for fun family photos, but a splash of salt water can ruin the sensitive electronics inside your expensive new camera. Consider protecting your device with a Dicapac waterproof case. Each keeps your camera safe from damage while still allowing you to take great pictures up to 16 feet underwater. The Dicapac WP-ONE protects point and shoot cameras for just $16.47, the WP-S3 ($69.95) keeps hybrid cameras safe and the WP-S10 ($61.50) protects compact digital cameras with larger lens attachments.

Want even more camera protection? Check out the Chums Waterproof Camera Float. It’s a simple foam-filled wrist lanyard that attaches directly to your camera (up to 7 ounces), allowing it to float on top of the water rather than sink to the bottom of a pool or the ocean. The bright yellow color makes it easy to see in murky water. Best of all, a float won’t break the bank – you can pick one up on Amazon for just $7.60.

Waterproof Digital Camera

Panasonic

While a camera case is a great option for protecting your current camera, for the best and sharpest pictures, you’ll want a camera designed for underwater use, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5. This tough 16.1MP camera is waterproof to 43 feet (IPX8), shockproof from 6.5 feet and pressure resistant to 220 pounds. Built-in GPS allows for the automatic tagging of photos with location names, and when it’s time to share your photos with friends, this Lumix has Wi-Fi and NFC built right in.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5D is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $299.

Waterproof Speaker

Fugoo

Want to listen to killer tunes out by pool? Check out the Fugoo Sport Speaker. It’s a portable Bluetooth speaker that’s waterproof (to 3 feet for 30 minutes), shockproof and impact-resistant enough to survive summer after summer of tough play. A powerful battery keeps the tunes going long after sundown – the Fugoo can go 40 hours (at 50% loudness) on a single charge, making it perfect for overnight camping and canoeing trips.

The Fugoo Sport Speaker is available on Amazon.com for $199.99. If you’re thinking the speaker might take a lot of abuse, check out the even sturdier Fugoo Tough Speaker – it’ll costs you $30 more, but the fiber-reinforced resin and solid aluminum housing will offer added protection.

Have your own waterproof favorite? Share it in the comments section below!

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

More from Techlicious:

TIME How-To

Video: How to Properly Delete Your Android Phone or Tablet Data

Here's an extra step to ensure it's safe to get rid of your old Android device.

+ READ ARTICLE

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser