Smartphones

Here’s Proof You’re More Addicted to Your Phone (and Tablet) Than Ever

Mobile addicts are growing.
Mobile addicts are growing. Flurry Analytics

The number of people who launch apps more than 60 times per day on phones or tablets doubled in the past year

If you’re constantly checking your phone despite the pleas of your mom, boss or significant other, you might just be a “mobile addict” — and you’re not alone.

The average mobile user only launches an app 10 times per day, but a mobile addict, as defined by analytics firm Flurry, launches them more than 60 times each day. By tabulating how often some 500,000 apps were launched on 1.3 billion mobile devices over the past year, Flurry has deduced that the number of mobile addicts grew from 79 million people to 176 million people between March 2013 and March 2014 — an increase of 123%.

Mobile addicts skew female — there are approximately 15 million more women than men who fit the description — and they’re also young. Teens and college students make up a significant portion of the mobile addicts segment (cue anxieties about selfie-taking millennials).

Flurry’s data also suggested that middle-aged parents were becoming major mobile addicts, but researchers say it’s likely that older consumers are buying devices that are shared among their families. Don’t worry, your dad’s not on Snapchat — at least not yet.

Technologizer

Apple Will Let Mac Users Try Out OS X Betas (Finally!)

OS X Mavericks
Apple

Good news for early adopters. Will iOS be next?

If you’ve got a Mac and like trying out new software, Apple has a proposition for you. Join its new OS X Beta Seed program, and you’ll be able to download free test versions of future editions of OS X from the Mac App Store, before they’re released to the general public.

As with all beta programs, what’s in it for the software developer in question is real-world testing. Apple will be able to get feedback from program participants while it’s still possible to fix any glitches which turn up.

With any other product and any other company, this wouldn’t be news: It’s the way things work, generally speaking. For instance, Microsoft released a free consumer preview of Windows 8 in February 2012, months before the final operating system shipped in October.

Apple, however, has usually held its betas close to the vest. It’s distributed them to people who pay $99 a year to register as an OS X or iOS developer, but doing so has required those folks to sign an agreement saying they won’t discuss the pre-release software in public.

Actually, that mandate is still in place: As the Verge’s Chris Welch points out, signing up for the Beta Seed requires you to agree that you won’t blog, tweet, share screen shots or otherwise spill the beans.

The Beta Seed site never says that signing up for the program entitles you to get every new version of OS X early. In fact, the only version of OS X it mentions by name is Mavericks, the current major release. So I don’t think it’s a given that Beta Seed testers will get immediate access to the next version after Mavericks when it comes along, possibly at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June. But it would be nice if they did: It will have major new features, and any further Mavericks updates probably will not.

It’s traditional in stories such as this one to include a stern disclaimer that installing beta software can cause major problems and therefore isn’t for the faint of heart. I guess that’s true. Full disclosure, though: For years, I’ve installed most betas the moment I can get my hands on them. So far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. It may be risky, but it can also be a rewarding experience.

How about iOS? Apple isn’t making any mention at all of its mobile operating system, and it would be a much bigger decision for it to let consumers install such betas. Early versions of smartphone operating systems are far more likely to have crippling problems than desktop ones, and it’s tougher to reverse the process if you regret installing them.

I can’t imagine that Apple wants to provide tech support for people who install an iOS beta and then discover that their phone no longer functions as a phone. Maybe the company will cautiously provide seeds of very late, almost-done betas–also known by names such as “release candidates,” and typically just about as polished as final software. Here’s hoping.

Silicon Valley

Ed Norton’s Charity Company Doesn’t Sound So Charitable

Mat Hayward—Getty Images

How do you become a $23 million darling in Silicon Valley? By building a for-profit business that serves nonprofits, apparently

What’s one of the rare blessings of living in an era characterized by tremendous asset inequality and a chastened, hamstrung welfare state? Charitable giving has by some accounts reached an all-time high, both among the general public and among the American wealthy. What a time to be alive.

As has been the case with many a popular activity in our time, techies have now come along to philanthropy to offer the piggy-back ride they like to call disruption, claiming to fix something that may not have needed fixing while skimming a fee for doing business. The crowded crowdfunding field offers any number of sites that handle charitable donations, from Indiegogo to GoFundMe to Causes to JustGiving. All tend to follow the same basic formula, allowing users to register their own charitable causes and to donate to established ones. It’s hard for any one site to make a name for itself.

But on Monday one of the pack stepped forward from the others with big news: CrowdRise, a charity-specific crowdfunding venture, had landed $23 million in venture capital funding from a group including Twitter/Tumblr investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, and Jeff Bezos’s personal investment fund, Bezos Expeditions. (This funding round followed an earlier seed round that included investment from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.)

Those big names join the biggest one that had previously been attached to the site: Edward Norton, the actor and director. Norton and a band of cofounders launched the site in November 2009 after they raised a surprising $1.2 million for a wildlife preservation concern in eastern Africa. They figured, If we can raise good money like this, why shouldn’t we let everyone else do the same? That was a giving notion, and it’s of a piece with CrowdRise’s passionate and playful message. The site’s motto says its users will “have the most fun in the world” while fundraising, and little jokes pepper its official literature. To wit: “CrowdRise is way more fun than anything else aside from being all nervous about trying to kiss a girl for the first time and her not saying something like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’” Fun!

But what does altruistic fun have to do with a $23 million round of funding? That cash would do some good in the pockets of the charities CrowdRise users support. The site’s literature explains its business plan this way: “When a donation is made through Crowdrise, we deduct a transaction fee so we don’t go out of business (GOB).” No, ExxonMobil’s corporate communications team would never write such a plain thing. But perhaps what they would write would not fudge things, either. Those transaction fees not only kept CrowdRise from going under but made the business promising enough to land all that venture money. As TechCrunch put it: “[CrowdRise is] profitable and … viewed the Kickstarter goal of $1 billion raised on CrowdRise as very doable.” (CrowdRise had not responded to questions from TIME as of late Tuesday afternoon.)

Capitalist techniques have gained an increasingly stable foothold in the world of nonprofits. Universities, hospitals and big foundations are lousy with MBAs and executives who command (citing market logic) salaries close to what their for-profit counterparts make. CrowdRise’s big-bucks waltz into this moral vacuum might be a little brazen—but at least it’s clever. The opposite of clever is the spirit that accompanies any event like this. A perusal of the comments on TechCrunch’s post, and the Twitter response to the same, indicates an unflinchingly positive reaction to the news. “Great to see.” “Psyched.” “Congratulations.” That’s a whole lot of accolades for a common middleman who just got a whole lot richer.

Gadgets

Apple’s Patent to Auto-Disable Texting While Driving Is Old News

Anti-texting tools capable of disabling mobile devices on the fly have been around for years.

The idea that a master control device placed in your car or truck or rental vehicle might automatically deactivate your smartphone’s ability to text has been around for awhile: There’s an app that’ll disable phone texting if it detects motion above 10 m.p.h., for instance, or another from AT&T that’ll do so the same once you reach 25 m.p.h. We’ve written about a few ourselves in recent years, like Scosche CellControl, or TextBuster. They’re not really news.

Bear that in mind as you’re reading reports that Apple might (gasp!) have lockout designs on your handheld computing device while operating a motor vehicle. First, the news stems from a patent, and patents slot somewhere between hypotheticals and parking spaces. And second, Apple filed this particular patent back in 2008 — this is just the patent coming to light.

Here’s the gist, scraped from U.S. patent 8,706,143, published today for what Apple describes as a “Driver handheld computing device lock-out.”

…The lock-out mechanisms disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving. In one embodiment, a handheld computing device can provide a lock-out mechanism without requiring any modifications or additions to a vehicle by using a motion analyzer, a scenery analyzer and a lock-out mechanism. In other embodiments, the handheld computing device can provide a lock-out mechanism with modifications or additions to the vehicle, including the use of signals transmitted by the vehicle or by the vehicle key when engaged with the vehicle.

In other words, pretty much like the apps mentioned above. Apple’s imprimatur could carry significantly more water, of course, if it’s working with automotive manufacturers to make the technology work automatically (or optionally) with its iOS device lineup. And while anti-texting app-makers like Cinqpoint have talked about offering iOS versions down the line, your alternatives in iOS at this point are limited to workarounds that don’t actually disable texting, because Apple doesn’t allow it. Whether that’s because Apple’s been waiting to roll out its own solution, or for security reasons, say to prevent rogue apps hijacking your phone’s messaging capabilities, is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, the real debate governing hard and fast anti-texting solutions is over here; that’s where the conversation has to start, anyway.

Opinion

Fan TV Highlights Everything Wrong with Cable Right Now

Fan TV

A new $99 set-top box aims to fix cable TV, because TV providers won't.

Fan TV has a simple proposition for Time Warner Cable customers: For $99, it will make your cable TV-watching experience better.

You buy the box and stick it in your living room, in place of a regular cable box. Instead of the the regular guide–cluttered with row upon row of channels you never watch–you get personalized recommendations, not just for stuff that’s on cable, but for shows and movies from other streaming video sources like Crackle and Redbox Instant. And instead of a huge, clunky remote, you use a touchscreen pad that responds to swipes and taps.

But as CNet points out, Fan TV also makes the experience worse in a few significant ways: You can only watch what’s available through Time Warner Cable’s mobile app, which means some channels may not be available. You also can’t record live shows for later viewing or watch recordings from another DVR. A full cable box stand-in this is not.

No disrespect to Fan TV, which has created what appears to be a pleasant interface and concept. But the whole setup is preposterous.

Here we have a cable company that is unwilling to reinvent its stodgy old system for watching television, but continues to increase prices year after year. To justify these higher prices, Time Warner Cable and other providers point out how they’re offering more channels than ever, regardless of whether subscribers asked for these channels. Meanwhile, the licensing costs to carry all these channels keep going up, and all subscribers get is more clutter in an increasingly mind-numbing TV guide interface.

So now, instead of addressing those problems, Time Warner Cable turns to another company that promises to fix the clutter–not for the same exorbitant prices you’ve been paying, mind you, but for an extra $99. Oh, but no DVR allowed. Sorry.

No wonder more people are ditching or skipping cable in favor of cheaper, smarter, more convenient online video services. And no wonder companies like Google and Apple have delayed or given up on plans to make cable TV better. It’s a lost cause.

On a section of Fan TV’s website, the company wonders aloud whether it’s crazy to compete with the tech giants and instead cozy up to pay TV providers like Time Warner Cable. At last, we know the answer.

social

The Words Most Likely to Find You Online Dating Success

Is your online dating profile failing to attract “the one?” It may be because of the words you’re using, a new analysis from dating site PlentyOfFish reveals.

In the study, a team of PhD scientists analyzed the words used by the 1.2 million profiles on PlentyOfFish. According to the company, very clear trends arose amongst those who were successful in finding love and those who were still looking.

Those who have found love, unsurprisingly, use the word “love” the most in their profiles. Successful daters of both sexes frequently used the words “time,” “life,” “friend” and “music,” as well.

Men are more likely to find love using words in their online dating profile that suggest an interest in a long-term relationship. The words “heart,” “children,” “romantic” and “relationship” are all markers of a man most likely to see success in love. The advice holds true for women, as well: Women who found relationships used the word “relationship” 16% more often than those who are still single.

Those still looking for love tend to use words that describe shorter term activities, like “travel,” “dinner” and “shop” for women and “hang” and “humor” for men.

Want to learn more about saucing up your online dating profile? Check out this more detailed word analysis of successful OKCupid and Match.com profiles. Then be sure to read up on these online dating red flags so you know what – and who – to avoid online.

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

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Apple

Watch: Video Goes Inside Apple’s Stunning New Headquarters

A new video shows an up-close view of Apple's new home

+ READ ARTICLE

A video released Monday and posted on Gizmodo shows the most detailed view yet of Apple’s new corporate campus.

It’s pretty astonishing. Shaped like a perfectly rolled bagel slathered in shiny solar panels, the verdant campus will run on 100% renewable energy, according to Apple vice president Lisa Jackson. The goal is to build a campus that has no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And it certainly looks like it descended from a distant future: 80% of the campus will be green space, and with large glass walls, open workspaces, and leafy swaths of forest outside.

The project’s legendary architect, Lord Norman Foster, claims in the video that the campus will ultimately redefine how people socialize and work. The 176-acre campus will house as many as 14,200 employees, Bloomberg reported in 2012, and the main circular building will total 2.8 million square feet.

The video is the first extensive look at the building since Steve Jobs presented the plan to the city of Cupertino in 2011. (That presentation, no surprise, is also pretty incredible.)

[Gizmodo]

Media

AT&T’s $500 Million Plan to Crush Netflix and Hulu

New AT&T Store Aims to Outshine Apple on Chicago's Magnificent Mile
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

AT&T is forming a new online video business with the entertainment company The Chernin Group that will use both subscription-based and ad-supported monetization models, placing it in competition with YouTube and Amazon Prime as well

AT&T announced Tuesday that it is forming a new online video business with the entertainment company The Chernin Group. The new initiative will place AT&T in direct competition with premium online video services such as Netflix and Hulu.

The venture will include multiple video services that use both subscription-based and ad-supported monetization models, according to a company release. The Chernin Group, started by longtime News Corp. executive Peter Chernin, will contribute its majority stake in anime streaming website Crunchyroll to the new venture. (News Corp. is one of Hulu’s owners.)

AT&T will enter a crowded market that includes not only Hulu and Netflix, but also Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service and Google’s YouTube platform. Yahoo is also reportedly prepping a Netflix rival, and Microsoft is developing several original shows for its Xbox console. The new AT&T venture will be more similar to Netflix and other online video services than the Internet-based cable competitors being developed by Verizon and Sony, an AT&T representative told Variety.

Further financial details and release timing for specific video services were not disclosed; The release pegged the companies’ investment in the venture at $500 million.

[Variety]

Courts

Supreme Court Cloudy on Aereo Streaming TV Case

Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., stands next to a server array of antennas in New York, Dec. 20, 2012.
Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., stands next to a server array of antennas in New York, Dec. 20, 2012. Bebeto Matthews—AP

The justices considered arguments around a tech startup that is capturing free over-the-air broadcast signals and selling them to consumers on the cheap, without paying networks the hefty retransmission fees they get from cable companies

There was a lot of talk Tuesday at the Supreme Court about the future of television—how we will watch it, how we will pay for it, and whether, crucially, the old broadcast model will be blown up for good. While such rhetoric is usually overwrought, in this particular case—American Broadcasting Companies vs. Aereo—it’s actually justified. If the court decides in favor of Aereo, a small, Brooklyn-based TV-streaming tech startup, it could have the effect of destroying traditional broadcasters’ business model, and fundamentally reshaping the way the TV industry operates.

Aereo captures free, over-the-air TV signals with thousands of small antennas that are rented to individual users, and it transmits that content to customers online for a small monthly fee—without paying broadcasters the so-called retransmission fees cable companies pay them to provide their channels to cable customers. While Aereo founder Chet Kanojia has publicly tussled with the big broadcasters over whether such a disruption is good for consumers—Kanojia says it will free viewers from pricey cable bills but the big broadcasters disagree—the Supreme Court on Tuesday homed in on another question entirely. Namely, this one: If it’s legal for someone to put bunny ear antennae on his roof and watch TV for free, and it’s legal for him to record that free TV onto a DVR (or an old school Sony Betamax VCR, for that matter) so he can watch it again later with friends, then does it matter, from a legal perspective, whether he actually owns that antennae, or that he is in possession of a physical DVR?

The antennae farm across town and a “DVR” based in the cloud, Aereo argues, are legally no different from the old antenna and VCR.

ABC, backed by CBS, NBC, FOX, and the U.S. Justice Department, says: not so fast. They argue that by capturing copyrighted television programming and then transmitting it back to thousands, or tens of thousands, of users, Aereo is acting exactly like a cable company and should pay retransmission fees.

The justices didn’t offer much in the way of clues as to how they might rule during hour-long oral arguments Tuesday. A ruling is expected in the summer.

Aereo’s lawyer David C. Frederick insisted repeatedly Tuesday that the company does not “perform” anything; it is nothing more than an “equipment provider.” ABC’s lawyer, Paul D. Clement, scoffed at the idea. Of course Aereo is “performing,” he said; to suggest otherwise “is just crazy.” Clement argued that Aereo—by essentially plucking copyrighted material out of the sky, selling access to that copyrighted material back to subscribers, and refusing to pay copyright royalties—is attempting to “get something for nothing. … It’s like magic.”

The justices’ questioning returned repeatedly to the implications that any decision on this case will have for cloud computing as a whole. If an individual downloads a video onto the cloud using a popular application, like Dropbox or iCloud, and then accesses it later and watches it on his computer, then does that also amount to, as Justice Elena Kagan asked, “public performance?” Both Aereo and ABC appeared to agree that an individual user of the cloud should not be required to pay royalties when he watches, say, an episode of The Sopranos that he has already purchased.

Clement urged the justices not to try not to “solve the problem of the cloud once and for all” in this one case. He instead attempted to steer the discussion toward what he characterized as a common sense interpretation of copyright law.

Frederick, by contrast, relished the cloud debate, warning the justices that if they decide in favor of the big broadcasters, they run the risk of fundamentally undermining the business model of the cloud. “If you turn every playback into a ‘public performance,’” he said, that will have “huge implications” for cloud-based businesses.

“The court’s decision today will have significant consequences for cloud computing,” Frederick said in a statement following oral arguments. “We’re confident, cautiously optimistic, based on the way the hearing went today that the Court understood that a person watching over-the-air broadcast television in his or her home is engaging in a private performance and not a public performance that would implicate the Copyright Act.”

Technologizer

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum on the Company’s Latest Milestone: 500 Million Active Users

Jan Koum
WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum shows off his personal phone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 24, 2014 Angel Navarette / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Not yet part of Facebook, which is still in the process of buying it, or a household name in the U.S., the messaging app is continuing to grow, and grow and grow, adding around 25 million new active users every month

When Facebook announced its stunning agreement to acquire messaging app WhatApp last February for $19 billion in stock, cash and restricted stock units, Mark Zuckerberg said that the startup was on track to reach a billion users. That pretty much explained his interest: It’s a figure that doesn’t come up often when discussing networked services other than…well, Facebook.

As of today, it’s official: WhatsApp is halfway there.

In a blog post today, it’s announcing that the app has 500 million users–not just people who registered, but ones who are active participants. I recently sat down with CEO and cofounder Jan Koum at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. to talk about the news.

Judging from its periodic statements over the past year, WhatsApp has been adding around 25 million new active users every month, a pace that isn’t slowing. The 500 million people now on board send tens of billions of text messages a day, along with 700 million photos and 100 million videos.

“On one hand, we were kind of expecting it,” Koum says of reaching the half-billion mark. “We got to 200 million users, 300 million users, 400 million users. It was going to happen sooner or later. But we think it’s an exciting number to share with the world and a good milestone to acknowledge what’s all been organic growth.”

In the U.S., WhatsApp is still probably best known as that company Facebook is in the process of buying. (The FTC signed off on the sale earlier this month–while emphasizing that WhatsApp must continue to abide by privacy promises it made to users–but other regulatory approvals are still pending internationally.) In much of the world, though, it’s already the app all your friends and relatives are using instead of carrier-provided text messaging.

Koum says that the app’s torrid growth tracks with the boom of smartphones–especially Android models. As people in a country join the smartphone era, some of them get WhatsApp. And then their friends and family members do, too, and the service explodes.

WhatsApp’s Android version WhatsApp

Right now, “the four big countries are Brazil, Mexico, India and Russia,” he says. “People who never used computers, never used laptops, never used the Internet are signing up.”

Rather than going after any particular country, Koum says, WhatsApp has always obsessed about the overall usage number. “We’re pretty confident that eventually we will a reach tipping point in the U.S. as well. Russia only tipped in the last six months. A switch flipped, and we took off.”

Though WhatsApp’s customer base may skew towards young people who like to share lots of quick messages and lots of photos, Koum says that it’s a mistake to assume that it’s just kids who are keeping the app growing. “We hear lots of stories where grandparents go to a store and buy a smartphone so they can keep in touch with kids and grandkids,” he says. That dynamic is helped by the app’s ridiculously easy setup–you don’t even have to create a user name or password–and features such as the ability to adjust the font size for easy readability.

The growth in smartphones isn’t enough to keep WhatsApp growing, however. There may be roughly two billion smartphones in the world, Koum notes, but between 500 million and one billion of them may be used without a data plan. In most cases, that’s because of cost, but the availability of Internet access isn’t a given everywhere.

“We take [connectivity] for granted in Silicon Valley, where you turn on your phone and see twenty different Wi-Fi networks,” he says. He told me how moved he’d been by a National Geographic photo showing people in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa standing on a beach with their phones in outstretched arms, trying to catch a stray wireless signal from neighboring Somalia, and says that he’s passionate about efforts such as Internet.org, a partnership between Facebook and mobile technology companies to bring Internet access to everybody, everywhere.

“We have no plans to change anything about how we execute.”Even in developed countries, “not everybody is on a data plan, which is unfortunate,” he says. So for the past two and a half years, WhatsApp has been busy partnering with wireless carriers around the world to offer affordable access to its service.

“We’ve done some really cool deals, and they’re not all cookie-cutter,” Koum explains. In India, you can sign up to get unlimited WhatsApp for 30 cents a month. In Hong Kong, you can buy a WhatsApp roaming pass. In Germany, there are WhatsApp-branded SIM cards, with unlimited WhatsApp service and starter credits for voice and data.

Rather than carriers looking at WhatsApp solely as a scary, disruptive force killing their ability to make money off text messaging, such offerings turn the service into a “win-win-win,” Koum says. “Users get unlimited WhatsApp. We get happy users who don’t have to worry about data. Carriers get people willing to sign up for data plans.”

The Future–and Oh Yeah, Facebook

For all of its growth, WhatsApp remains a famously lean operation: It got those 500 million active users with a team that only recently reached 60 staffers, for a ratio of over eight million users per employee. Koum says that the company doesn’t need to grow huge to serve even more folks. But “we do need more people–we’re actively hiring,” he says.

In particular, it’s beefing up its ability to provide customer support in more languages, including Portuguese, German, Ukranian, Polish and Romanian. “If anyone reading this article speaks multiple languages, they should apply,” he jokes.

When news of the Facebook acquisition broke, it inspired many people to worry about what it meant for the future of WhatsApp, whose business model has had a decidedly un-Facebookian slant in the past. The company makes money from customers–who pay 99 cents a year for service after the first year–and has been staunchly anti-advertising.

Both companies said at the time that WhatsApp would continue to be run independently and according to its existing principles, a point Koum stressed when I asked him about it.

“What makes our product work is the way we’re tightly focused on messaging and being an SMS replacement,” he says. The company plans to stick with that approach as it looks to “continuing to get to a billion users, and then two billion users. I think Facebook understands that, and Mark [Zuckerberg] understands that quite well. We have no plans to change anything about how we execute.”

As for competition from other messaging apps–and boy, is there a lot of it–Koum told me that some of WhatsApp’s rivals, such as Japan’s Line and China’s WeChat, are getting distracted from their core missions. People use WhatsApp, he says, to “keep in touch with each other, not movie stars or sports stars or random people you meet on the Internet. That’s why we’re succeeding internationally.”

“We want to do one thing and do it really well. For us, that’s communications between people who are friends and relatives.”

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