MONEY Wireless

Sprint Is Giving Away a Year of Free Wireless Phone Service

Sprint Store
Betty LaRue—Alamy

Sprint's latest deal is either brilliant or desperate.

DirecTV customers, soak it in: Wireless operators are bidding on you.

AT&T purchased DirectTV earlier this summer for $48.5 billion, and it is offering a combined $10 discount to customers who bundle DirecTV and AT&T wireless service together.

This week, though, Sprint launched a deal exclusively for DirecTV customers that trumps AT&T. All DirecTV customers who open a line with Sprint can get a full year of free wireless phone service. For a single line, the Associated Press reports, that’s a value of about $50 per month—or $600 over the course of a year.

Sprint’s move has drawn mixed reviews as a business strategy. Craig Moffett, a senior analyst at MoffettNathanson, expressed doubts to the AP about its strategic value. “Sprint is already losing money and is burning through its remaining cash at an incredible rate,” he said. “Offering free service for a year will only make a bad situation worse.”

AT&T described the price undercut as, in the words of the AP, “an act of desperation.”

But Roger Entner, who works as an analyst for Recon Analytics, said that the costs Sprint will incur—$600 per year per line, plus extra payments towards terminating customers contracts elsewhere—can be seen as a reasonable investment in growing the company’s market share. “When you’re No. 4, you can’t afford to play it safe,” he said of Sprint.

So what about for DirecTV consumers—is this something you should consider?

If your priority is saving money and you’re willing to tolerate Sprint’s reputedly terrible network service, then yes. No company offers deals like this.

Still, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If you already have an account with Sprint, you have to open another line to qualify. There’s a $36 activation fee, plus taxes and surcharges (similar to those you would pay at AT&T). And the offer only lasts a year, which means that come year two, you’ll be paying anywhere from $50/month per line to $180/month for five lines (also similar to what you would pay elsewhere).

Finally, there’s a 2GB data cap on each line, and no such thing as shared plans. So before buying, check out your current data usage. If it’s over 2GB, calculate how much the monthly overage would cost you at a rate of $15/GB, and consider whether that’s still such a bargain.

Read Next: The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

TIME facebook

Facebook Reached An Unbelievable Milestone This Week

Inside The F8 Facebook Developers Conference
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Zuckerberg plans to unveil tools that let application makers reach the social network's audience while helping the company boost revenue. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A million users isn't cool, you know what's cool?

1 billion people used Facebook on Monday. With 7.125 billion people on earth, that means almost 1 in 7 people logged into the social media site.

This is the total number of people who used the site on that one day, different from the Daily Active User figure the company posts with its financial earnings that reflects a 30-day average.

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook on Thursday to announce the company’s achievement:

We just passed an important milestone. For the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day.

On Monday, 1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family.

When we talk about our financials, we use average numbers, but this is different. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world.

I’m so proud of our community for the progress we’ve made. Our community stands for giving every person a voice, for promoting understanding and for including everyone in the opportunities of our modern world.

A more open and connected world is a better world. It brings stronger relationships with those you love, a stronger economy with more opportunities, and a stronger society that reflects all of our values.

Thank you for being part of our community and for everything you’ve done to help us reach this milestone. I’m looking forward to seeing what we accomplish together.

TIME SmartHalo

This Gadget Brings GPS Navigation to Your Bike

Courtesy of SmartHalo

No need to check your smartphone for directions

SmartHalo is a new bicycle GPS system that eliminates the need to check your smartphone for directions and makes biking a much safer mode of transportation.

The accessory is compatible with any regular bicycle’s set of handlebars. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and acts as a visually simplistic navigation guide. Insert your destination into the SmartHalo’s corresponding app and it will provide you with turn-by-turn directions using light signals.

The signals adapt to different levels of natural light to ensure that the directions are always visible, no matter the conditions. This weather-resistant device also detects when it’s nighttime, prompting it to activate a front-mounted bike light, which automatically turns off once you dismount.

The app allows you to track the bike’s location if you forget where you parked it, or if someone manages to steal it. The latter scenario is unlikely since the SmartHalo has an internal motion sensor that sounds an alarm if it senses “persistent meddling.” The device itself is attached to the handlebars with “tamper-proof” screws that only the owner can detach with a custom key fob.

The motion sensor is deactivated when you approach your bike because the SmartHalo is able to detect your phone. If you lost it or it ran out of battery, you can insert your own unique “tapcode” to deactivate the alarm.

It also functions as a fitness tool, measuring distance traveled, average speed, and calories burned. You can set specific goals regarding those measurements, and the SmartHalo will display your progress.

The SmartHalo Kickstarter page has surpassed its goal of $50,000. You can sign up for the “Kickstarter Special,” which is priced at $99 for one SmartHalo. The developers expect the device to be ready to ship to early adopters by May 2016. Its retail price is expected to be $149.

TIME robots

Soon Robots Could Make You Pancakes, Among Other Things

Japanese giant Yaskawa Electric's indust
AFP—AFP/Getty Images Japanese giant Yaskawa Electric’s industrial robot Motoman turns over a pancake on a hot plate.

They’re reading WikiHow to learn how to cook

RoboHow, a European research project that began back in February 2012, is attempting to teach humanoid robots how to perform mundane everyday tasks.

This includes activities performed in living environments, such as cooking, as well as in office environments, such as adding paper to a printer.

The learning process these robots endure is very similar to what we experience. The PR2, RoboHow’s robot, acquires information from the web, using sources such as WikiHow, and adds to that information by observing human action.

Although humans seem to instinctively understand certain processes, these robots need to be taught everything from how to hold a spatula to how to flip a pancake, Quartz writes. However, once one robot perfects a specific task, that knowledge is collected in a database for all other RoboHow robots to access.

Watch researchers teach this robot how to make pancakes:

MONEY Tech

Should You Get a Loan to Pay for Your Cellphone?

536989139
Cultura/Chad Springer—Getty Images

As 2-year contracts fade away, new loan and leasing options are popping up.

The next time you buy a cellphone, things will probably be very different. And better, for the most part. Cellphone contracts look to be going the way of the flip phone, replaced by what are essentially no-interest phone loans. Here’s why that matters.

Comparison shopping is the consumer’s best tactic, and most big companies’ biggest headache. So for years, consumers have had to contend with complicated phone subsidies, early termination fees, family plans and data overage charges.

Now, half those headaches are on the verge of extinction. When Verizon announced earlier this month that it was doing away with phone subsidies and two-year contracts, it marked the fatal blow to what has been the most confusing part of cellphone shopping. Until now, the best phone deals often required iron-clad two-year contracts with a carrier that came with hefty separation penalties — $350 early termination fees, for example. The business model was confusing: carriers subsidized the price of phones to draw in customers who would pay high monthly bills. It wasn’t all bad — some people got nice new phones on the cheap – but it had the unhealthy market effect of blurring the real price of handsets.

Now, carriers are offering a different set of choices — buy your own phone, finance the phone or lease the phone. The good news is that the price of phones should be clearer — a Galaxy S6 Edge might cost $768 or 24 payments of $32, for example. Even better: This new model should also make consumers take a new look at bring-your-own discount plans offered by off-brands like Total Wireless (which is operated by TracPhone, but runs on the Verizon network).

But don’t think you are getting away that easy. While annual contracts are gone, and with them early termination fees, other terms and conditions have taken their place. Many consumers will end up with a new “monthly device payment” instead. Leaving a carrier before two years have passed will be a little less painful, but not painless. Consumers will have to pay off the phone loan somehow, by either paying the remaining balance, or paying part of it and returning the gadget, or both. Thanks to Sprint, there’s an option to “lease” phones, which is a little cheaper, but as you might expect from the name, requires consumers to return the gadget after two years.

And the saddest news of all: the bottom line from the big four carriers is that, no matter how they stack their fees on top of each other, all four end up charging consumers about the same for a newish smartphone with a good-enough data plan. Your individual needs might vary, and you might get a little better family plan here or a little newer phone there, but in the end, the prices are strikingly similar.

A Look at the Big Four Plans

When I priced them this week, here’s what I found. (These calculations exclude activation fees and taxes).

  • At Verizon, a Galaxy S6 Edge costs $32 a month for 24 months. Then, 3 GBs of data costs $45 a month. Then, users must pay a $20 monthly access charge for each phone. Total cost/month = $97
  • At Sprint, that phone costs $30 a month to lease or $33 a month to own for 24 months, plus $60 for “unlimited” monthly data, with strings attached. Total cost/month = $93
  • At T-Mobile, the Galaxy costs $32.50 a month for 24 months, plus $60 for 3 GBs. Total cost/month = $92.
  • At AT&T Wireless, a Galaxy 6 Edge costs $24 for 30 months – (see how that works there? Cheaper — but not, because of the longer term). Then 2 GBs a month cost $55. Total cost/month = $79, but with longer payment terms.

One very positive thing to note about these changes: All these firms are essentially lending you money for free to finance your new cellphone. Nothing wrong with free financing, as long as you understand the commitment you are making. Paying off a phone loan balance can be a fair way to deal with a cellphone divorce than an arbitrary early termination fee.

What Does it Mean for You?

Here’s how to compare phones: calculate the true two-year cost of your gadget, all add-on fees considered. That means total phone cost plus 24 monthly bills (if that’s your commitment) plus the value of what you’ll have at the end (a working smartphone? A phone you can’t wait to ditch? You’ll have to decide).

If you are the type to want the latest gadget at all times, (there are many of you — Recon Analytics says that 49% of Americans replace their device every year now), this new structure adds more flexibility. For example, Sprint is offering a “new iPhone for life” plan, which lets customers trade up to the newest iPhone once every year if they are on a leasing plan and turn in their old, working iPhone.

The phone loan programs should make Americans more aware of their gadget costs, and the fact that they usually own them after two years. Hopefully, that will make off-brand providers like Straight Talk ($45 a month for 5 GBs) worth a second look. And don’t forget, the traditional carriers all have their own sub-brands that offer cheaper, bring-your-own phone plans.

But note that all these changes come with a very important caveat. Now that cellphone companies are acting like lenders, they will….act like lenders. Many of these deals will only be available to consumers with good or excellent credit. So add “before I shop for a cellphone” to the list of times when it’s important to get a copy of your credit report and credit score. You can get your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

More from Credit.com:

TIME Ashley Madison

‘John Doe’ Files a Potential Class Action Lawsuit Against Ashley Madison

Homepage of Ashley Madison website displayed on iPad, in photo illustration taken in Ottawa
Chris Wattie—Reuters The homepage of the Ashley Madison website.

The anonymous user is accusing the website of inflicting emotional distress

Another potential class action lawsuit has been filed against Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media.

This time the plaintiff is an anonymous California resident and Ashley Madison user who goes by the name “John Doe.”

Doe is filing on behalf of all U.S. residents who signed up for the website, alleging that Ashley Madison did not take “necessary and reasonable precautions” regarding security. Among the plaintiff’s accusations, the class action complaint lists negligence and inflicting emotional distress.

The document refers to “the recent rise of massive security breaches on the Internet,” arguing that Avid Life Media should have been aware of the risk and taken precautions to prevent a security breach, especially considering the “particularly sensitive” information users trusted the site to protect.

Ashley Madison supposedly offered a $19 “scrub” option that promised to delete users profiles so they would be untraceable. The suit alleges that Avid Life Media simply collected the money and neglected to scrub the profiles. Doe also accuses the company of not informing users of the breach in a timely manner and neglecting to inform them of its extent.

The lawsuit follows a recent hack of the Ashley Madison website by a group called the Impact Team, which downloaded “highly sensitive personal, financial, and identifying information of the website’s some 37 million users,” the lawsuit said.

The hacker group said it would make the information public if the website was not shut down in August.

TIME Samsung

People Are Complaining About a Nasty Problem With Samsung’s Newest Phone

Samsung Celebrates The Unveiling Of The Galaxy S6 edge+ And Galaxy Note5
Donald Bowers—Getty Images for Samsung Samsung unveils the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5.

It's way too easy to break

Samsung users have discovered a design flaw in the new Galaxy Note 5 that makes it all too easy to reinsert the S Pen the wrong way, disabling certain features on the phone, The Verge reports.

With previous versions of the Note, it was difficult to insert the pen incorrectly. It required a certain amount of force, making users aware that the pen was facing the wrong direction. With the new Galaxy Note 5, inserting the pen incorrectly requires virtually no force, providing users with no warning that they are mistakenly reinserting the pen backwards.

Removing the pen from its slot is supposed to launch either a quick note taking app or the S Pen’s radial menu, but a video from Android Police shows that this flaw with the S Pen slot could permanently disable these features. However, a similar article from Ars Technica reported that it was able to get the features working again.

TIME Apple

Tim Cook Says Apple Is Fine Despite China’s Tanking Markets

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook.

China is a particularly important market for Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC Monday that the gadget maker’s performance in beleaguered China remains strong, comments that come as the company’s stock has tumbled into a bear market.

Part of why Cook perhaps felt compelled to weigh in: worries of a China-led global economic slowdown have kicked into high gear, with U.S. stocks also bruised. These fears have hit firms with great exposure to the China market especially hard. Apple’s shares have slid some 23% over the past month.

“As you know we don’t give mid-quarter updates and we rarely comment on moves in Apple stock,” Cook wrote in an e-mail Monday morning to CNBC host Jim Cramer.

But Cook went on to sound practically bullish about the market’s recent performance. He said Apple’s growth remained “strong” through July and August, with growth of iPhone activations accelerating in recent weeks. The App Store has also posted record growth the past two weeks, he said. Cook went on to tout the potential of the market, especially with the expanding middle class in China.

China is a particularly important market for Apple, with sales growth in that region outperforming the overall company’s performance. For the latest fiscal year, Greater China sales totaled $29.85 billion, up 135% from just three years earlier. The Greater China segment includes China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Apple has successfully outmaneuvered competitors in the market. Unit growth for iPhones surged 87% in the most recent fiscal quarter, while research firms have estimated the smartphone market expanded by only 5%. That means Apple has been easily stealing market share. Revenue has also been boosted by strong Mac sales and revenue from the company’s App Store.

TIME Apple

Apple’s Latest -gate: Logogate

Apple Watch Available at Apple Retail Locations
Eric Thayer—Getty Images A customer with a newly purchased Apple Watch.

Apple Watch owners are complaining on the Apple forum and Reddit.

There was bendgate, antennagate and updategate and now a similarly strange controversy may be bubbling up with the Apple Watch Sport edition of the company’s latest product.

Let’s call it logogate. What happens? Consumerist reported that some unhappy Apple Watch Sport edition users are complaining that the lettering and logo on the part that touches the wrist may be wearing away.

Per the article, the annoyance doesn’t affect how the product works in the slightest, but it is bothersome given the cost of the watch at $349 and its marketing as a high-end product.

A product owner posted photos of the issue on Apple’s forums and others chimed in that they were having a similar problem with their own watches.

“I have had this unit since June 5th and the band started to peel part so bad that I replaced it with an after-market metal band that I purchaced [sic] on Amazon. I have an appointment at the new haven location 8/19/15 today,” posted the consumer. “I hope I can be assisted with this matter and I also have apple care . But hope there isnt [sic] a claim today because I see a number of Apple watches with the same peeling problem.”

Someone (maybe the same user?) also posted the issue on Reddit as well.

Fortune has reached out to Apple’s PR team for comment. Apple Insider also wrote about this development.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com