TIME apps

Streaming Music Showdown: Beats vs. Spotify

Beats By Dre and Spotify logos
Emmanuel Dunand, Ethan Miller—Getty Images Beats and Spotify logos

How does Apple’s effort stack up against the most popular music service around?

It’s been almost nine months since Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats catapulted the Dr. Dre-backed streaming music service into the limelight for casual music listeners. And while Apple is reportedly working on an overhaul of the service, I spent the last nine months as a paid Beats Music subscriber, after having used Spotify exclusively for more than a year.

Beyond the music, the differences between the two services are stark. Here is what you need to know in comparing the two most prominent (with apologies to all the other players) streaming music services on the market:

Musical Selection

This is a largely subjective category, because it really depends on what you’re looking for. For instance, some tracks, such as “Jungle” by Jay-Z, appear exclusively on Beats before rolling into other services, while other artists, like Led Zeppelin, appeared on Spotify first, then elsewhere next.

Whether these exclusives will affect you is a matter of what kind of music you prefer, but it’s hard to know in advance of subscribing which artists will strike what deals with which service. And the end, most albums end up being available everywhere. Except for Taylor Swift — she pulled her tracks from every streaming service.

Winner: Tie

User Interface

One of the biggest differences between these two services (specifically their apps) is the way users interact with them. Spotify has a menu-driven interface that requires a lot of taps to dive into an artist’s catalog from the main screen. Meanwhile, Beats has a visual-driven interface with large tiles that spring users right into the content they want to listen to.

Once a track is playing, Beats transforms into a full-screen player, with large buttons and progress meters, making it ideal for skipping songs on the fly, like when you’re driving (tsk, tsk). Spotify, meanwhile, shrinks the track down to a mini-player that takes up the smallest ribbon at the bottom of the screen. Tapping on the song’s tiny album art will expand it to a full-sized player, but that’s hardly intuitive — and pretty inconvenient, considering the image’s size.

Winner: Beats

Free Accounts

Spotify will let you listen via its mobile app without paying for an account, but that only provides you with a shuffle mode. If you want to listen to an exact song, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium service. Spotify also says “on tablet and computer, you can play any song, any time,” but I found this to be untrue. In fact, this frustration led me to resubscribe to the service. (Tricky move, Spotify.)

Meanwhile, technically, Beats Music does not have a free version. But Apple does offer iTunes Radio gratis, though it doesn’t come close to the free version of Spotify.

Winner: Spotify

Social Integration

Both Beats Music and Spotify offer social integration, letting you post your favorite songs on Twitter and Facebook for your friends to enjoy. But Spotify, which has historically used Facebook Connect to power login information for its service, gives music fans a much richer social experience by allowing you to see your friends’ listening activity.

At first, when Facebook was allowing Spotify to publish activity to the sites News Feed, Spotify seemed hyperactive, alerting every friend to every song that was played. But through some toning down and refinement, Spotify’s social feed is much calmer — you really only see it on a sidebar on the Spotify desktop app unless you dive into the “activity” menu on the service’s mobile app.

Beats, meanwhile, doesn’t show friends’ activity, which could be a selling point if you’re embarrassed by your musical taste, or don’t care to know what your friends are listening to. But it’s hard not to look at Beats’ lack of social integration and see Apple’s failures in this space. The company’s Ping social networking feature in iTunes was one of the company’s most high-visibility failures, and even Game Center, which many iPhone users have logged into (but relatively few use) isn’t very popular.

Winner: Spotify

Desktop App

Don’t spend too long looking for a desktop version of the Beats app — it doesn’t exist, not even on the Mac App Store. Instead, the service is meant to run through your web browser, though good luck with that. Personally, as hard as I push my browser (I have 14 tabs open right now, and that’s below average for me), I’d rather have a separate application chewing on the RAM-intensive music streams. And comically, early on, I couldn’t get Safari to play audio from the Beats service at all — I had to switch to Google Chrome. But that brings up an interesting point: If you really do want a Beats Music app, you can find one on the Chrome Web Store.

Spotify, meanwhile, might be the best desktop music app I’ve ever used. More than just a music player, it’s actually a platform for the service, which allows other programmers to make software that interacts with Spotify. For example, you can link your Spotify account to Last.fm to generate personalized music choices, or you can view lyrics to the song you’re listening to through MusiXmatch.

Spotify’s willingness to open itself up to these outside developers is a key difference between it and Beats Music, and (other than its great library) might be its best feature.

Winner: Spotify

Killer Feature

While most people like Spotify mostly for its music and social features, its platform-like interactivity with other services (described above) is truly its killer feature, letting the service expand and morph in new ways. For instance, if used with certain apps, Spotify’s desktop app can become a karaoke screen, or with other apps it can compete with music-suggesting services like Pandora.

Meanwhile, what made Beats unique was a pair of features. Firstly, expertly-crafted playlists created by humans, not computers, instantly gave users a trove of mixes to choose from. But this feature was quickly aped by Spotify through its ability to let people share their playlists and via expert-driven apps like Rolling Stone Recommends.

Beats’ other killer feature was a fun way to make your own mix called “The Sentence,” where users could tell the app what they are doing (“working out,” “cooking,” hanging out,” etc.) with whom (“my friends,” “my bff,” etc.) and to what kind of music they wanted to hear (“hip-hop,” “bluegrass,” “metal,” etc.). At first, it seems like a great idea, but once you realize you want to chill, party, nap, and barbecue to 90’s rock, it becomes clear that you really don’t need a suggestion engine that caters to every musical genre. The gimmick gets old, quick.

Winner: Spotify

Overall Winner

While Beats user interface is far and away more friendly, over the past nine months with the service I found myself discovering fewer new artists and listing to less music than when I used Spotify. I wanted Beats to be better than it really is, so much so that I probably kept my subscription longer than I otherwise would have. But one week back with Spotify, and I’m back in the fold with all my old playlists — which, ironically, I exported from iTunes.

Maybe Apple’s next iteration of Beats, whether it’s under that name or folded back into iTunes, will be better. But it would take a massive shift in attitude from Apple, because they’d need to embrace social networks that they don’t own and third party developers in a way they currently don’t.

Winner: Spotify

TIME apps

The Over-30s Must Pay Double for Tinder’s New Premium Service

Now you can rewind that left swipe, but it will cost you

Tinder launched its much anticipated premium service on Monday but the hugely popular dating app will cost twice as much for users over 30.

Tinder Plus offers users the chance to undo accidental left swipes, reports ABC. (Tinder allows users to search for others who are located close to them on their smartphones, swiping right if you’re interested in a profile and left to reject that person.)

The feature also allows you to connect with people in different cities using the “Passport” function, and the app will be ad-free.

Users in the U.S. can purchase the new upgrade for $9.99 a month, unless you’re over 30, in which case you’ll have to pay $19.99 for the privilege.

And if you live in the U.K., Tinder Plus will cost you £14.99 ($23) if you’re 28 or over, compared with just £3.99 ($6) for users ages 18 to 27.

But Tinder says its prices are based on “extensive” testing.

“Younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price to pull the trigger,” said Rosette Pambakian, vice president of corporate communications at Tinder.

[ABC]

TIME Social Networking

Twitter Investigating ISIS-Related Threats Against Employees

Twitter
Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images File photo dated September 11, 2013 shows the logo of the social networking website 'Twitter' displayed on a computer screen in London.

After Twitter blocked several ISIS-related accounts

Twitter is investigating threats made against its employees by people claiming ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

A message appeared online Sunday calling on ISIS supporters to kill Twitter employees, apparently in response to the company’s efforts to block ISIS-related accounts.

“You started this failed war,” reads one post in Arabic. “We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we will soon come back.”

One message singled out Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in particular, showing an image of crosshairs overlaid on Dorsey’s face. Dorsey is now CEO of mobile payments company Square.

“Our security team is investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials,” said Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser.

ISIS has often used Twitter and other social media to broadcast its message, publish video of violent acts and recruit new followers. The group has shown a penchant for “gaming” Twitter by using automated accounts to make its online supporter base seem larger than it likely actually is.

Meanwhile, Twitter regularly deletes posts and suspends accounts showing executions or violent actions. The company’s terms of service ban posting “direct, specific threats of violence against others.”

TIME Companies

Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Want All the Credit for Bringing the Internet to More People

Mark Zuckerberg attendes Mobile World Congress 2015
David Ramos—Getty Images Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote conference during the first day of the Mobile World Congress 2015 at the Fira Gran Via complex on March 2, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.

"It's really important not to lose sight of the fact that people driving this are the operators"

Mark Zuckerberg kept a low profile Monday during his Mobile World Congress keynote about Internet.org, Facebook’s project to spread Internet connectivity to underserved areas with wireless carriers’ help.

The Facebook founder downplayed his company’s role in Internet.org, instead urging the audience to recognize the work and investments of mobile carriers. Zuckerberg delivered his keynote alongside executives from three global telecommunications companies.

“While it’s sexy to talk about [Internet.org’s Internet-beaming] satellites, the real work happens here, by the companies. It’s really important not to lose sight of the fact that people driving this are the operators,” Zuckerberg said. “Too often Internet.org is conflated with Facebook.”

People in the parts of the developing world where Internet.org’s app is available get access to Facebook, Google search and some other services for free. But the end goal is to convince these users to eventually purchase data plans from wireless carriers — and so far, Internet.org has been successfully driving new smartphone use.

“It Colombia, it’s very encouraging to see about 50% more people in three weeks in our network as new data users,” said Mario Zanetti, senior EVP of Latin America at telecom company Millicom. “In Tanzania, we have seen a ten-fold increase in the number of smartphone sales since we launched the [Internet.org] campaign. So it’s pretty impressive numbers.”

Despite Zuckerberg’s efforts to highlight the work of Internet.org’s carrier partners, it’s hard to see the project being successful without Facebook’s involvement. Zuckerberg’s company has largely spearheaded the organization’s efforts, while its offerings in the Internet.org app, like Facebook Messenger, are a big draw to attract users.

However, some mobile carries could be worried that Facebook might cannibalize their voice and texting plans with its own services. Last year, Facebook acquired chat app WhatsApp, which became popular as means of avoiding wireless carriers’ texting fees.

“This is a point of tension between operators and Facebook in particular. It’s a consideration for any company to be careful to deliver the ‘key’ to the competitor,” said Jon Fredrik Baksaas, CEO of telecom company Telenor. “You really want to watch that ‘key’, and you want to control how that ‘key’ develops. That’s where the disruption comes.”

TIME Smartphones

See Why Samsung Needs the Galaxy S6 To Be a Massive Hit

Samsung Galaxy S6 Apple Shipments
Lluis Gene—AFP/Getty Images The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (L) and Samsung Galaxy S6 are presented during the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on March 1, 2015.

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will go toe-to-toe with Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

After months of teases, Samsung unveiled its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, and its curved-screen cousin, the Galaxy S6 Edge, at Mobile World Congress on Sunday.

The new phones couldn’t arrive quickly enough for Samsung. Just a few weeks ago, a Strategy Analytics report estimated that Apple tied Samsung in global smartphone shipments last quarter, thanks to massive iPhone 6 sales.

If accurate — Samsung doesn’t report smartphone sales on its own — that would mark the first time Apple has matched Samsung’s quarterly global shipments since the end of 2011, when Apple’s figures slightly surpassed those of Samsung. (Note that Apple’s global shipments tend to spike each Q4 due to its annual fall iPhone releases and the holiday season, while Samsung releases smartphones year-round.)

 

Samsung, whose last flagship Galaxy S5 posted disappointing sales, isn’t shy about comparing the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, whose sales bested Apple’s previous records. During Samsung’s unveiling, it subtly mocked the iPhone 6 Plus’ Bendgate controversy while comparing the S6 phones favorably to their iPhone rivals.

The good news for Samsung is that it’s still number one when it comes to annual global smartphone shipments. But that’s hardly comforting when Samsung’s sales fell slightly from 2013 to 2014, while Apple’s sales show no signs of slowing down—putting even more pressure on the Galaxy S6.

 

Still, early reviews of the Galaxy S6, which goes on sale April 10, suggest the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge might be exactly what Samsung needs to remain competitive with Apple.

 

TIME Gadgets

Microsoft Reinvented the Keyboard — Yes, the Keyboard

It folds down the middle and uses Bluetooth

For heavy-duty writing on the go, regular keyboards are too big, while touchscreen keyboards are too small. But Microsoft is betting that is new, foldable keyboard will be just right.

Microsoft unveiled the Universal Foldable Keyboard on Monday, a thin, lightweight keypad that folds down the middle. Unfold the keyboard and it automatically powers on and connects wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled phones or tablets. The battery lasts upwards of three months on a single charge, according to Microsoft.

The keyboard will go on sale at the Microsoft Store and various retailers this July for $99.95.

Read next: See Why Samsung Needs the Galaxy S6 To Be a Massive Hit

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Gadgets

This Magic Button Delivers Pizza to You and That’s It

Click N' Pizza
La Comanda Click N' Pizza

Dial "P" for pizza

Ever wish you could order a pizza in a click of a button? Your ship has finally come in, thanks to an enterprising Italian startup gambling on an explosion of buttons for popular takeaway items.

The Click’N’Pizza button, which is made by the Milan-based La Comanda, clasps to any refrigerator door and requires a little programming up front. Users can select up to four favorite topping orders on a circular screen. A tap of the button will wirelessly transmit the number one ranked order to a local pizza joint. Users with a bit more patience can use a scroll wheel to select lower ranked orders.

In either case, the button excitedly confirms orders with the message, “Pizza is coming!”

La Comanda founder Carlo Brianza says the company already has a distribution partnership to sell the button at Pizza Hut locations in North America, Yahoo News reports.

“We are starting out in the Pizza delivery market,”says Carlo Brianza, CEO of La Comanda, “but the Click’N’ . . . family can provide a new e-commerce experience for customers in a variety of services, such as coffee pods (Click’N’Coffee), meal options (Click’N’Food), and beverages (Click’N’Drink),”

But they better move fast, because even in this niche market, they already have a competitor: the Pie Pal, a single click button that communicates with Domino’s ordering system.

TIME Gadgets

Here’s the New Camera That Could Kill GoPro

Xiaomi launched a cheap action cam in China

Xiaomi unveiled its first action camera on Monday, and it beats the entry-level GoPro Hero on both price and specs.

The Yi Camera, which will be available in only China, is on sale for 399RMB ($64), about half the price of the $130 GoPro Hero, The Verge reports. The Yi Camera has a 16-megapixel camera that can record 60 frames per second. That trumps the GoPro Hero’s five-megapixel camera, which can record only 30 frames per second.

While the word’s still out on how the Yi Camera feels during real-life use, its launch is Xiaomi’s latest step beyond the smartphone market, which previously included smart TVs and fitness bands. Xiaomi doesn’t sell its products in the U.S. yet, but it’s planning to open an online shop focused on non-mobile phone products for the American market.

[The Verge]

TIME technology

Ikea Furniture Will Soon Charge Your Phone

Ikea
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A sign is posted on the exterior of an IKEA store on June 26, 2014 in Emeryville, Calif.

No need to waste time looking for your phone charger: some new Ikea furniture will be able to charge your phone wirelessly beginning in April, the company announced Sunday.

The wireless charging stations, designed by the Wireless Power Consortium, will be integrated into pieces like desks, tables and lamps using a technology standard called Qi Wireless. The company will also sell an add-on kit that allows people to add wireless charging to existing furniture. Buying a wireless-charging-integrated product will cost €30 ($33) extra, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Through research and home visits, we know that people hate cable mess,” said Jeanette Skjelmose, a corporate manager at Ikea. “They worry about not finding the charger and running out of power. Our new innovative solutions, which integrate wireless charging into home furnishings, will make life at home simpler.”

But will it work with your phone? Yes, if you have a Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus 6 or one a few other phones. But Apple fans beware: it doesn’t work with the iPhone.

Read next: The Galaxy S6 Is Samsung’s Best-Looking Smartphone Yet

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME apps

Play the Best New iPhone Puzzle Games

Looking for a new iPhone game a little more mentally stimulating than Angry Birds? Try one of these five puzzle games, sure to confound and delight you.

  • Ones

    Ones
    Ones

    Ones is essentially a maddening version of 2048. Combine three or more identical blocks in order to create the next block. The goal is the mash enough blocks together and align them well enough so that you can reach the highest numbered block possible. You will spend hours trying to top your high score, and then, once you do, will spend hours more trying to do the same again.

    Ones is $0.99 in the App Store

     

  • Deeply Absurd Chain

    Deeply Absurd Chain
    Deeply Absurd Chain

    I am immediately fond of any game that embraces its own absurdity on the most superficial level. At first, this plays like most match games—the basic principle of which is to line up as many similar items in a row. But in Deeply Absurd Chain, matching items only reveals the next link in the chain, allowing for far more complicated moves. It’s a game that sends you down a rabbit hole of cartoonish puzzling with an archeological theme.

    Deeply Absurd Chain is free in the App Store

  • Atomas

    Atomas
    Atomas Atomas

    One of the best-designed games this month, Atomas is a puzzle game based in chemistry. Start with very basic elements and then try to get them to bond to one another to form precious metals like gold from your collection of bonded atoms. But don’t let your screen get too crowded with elements. You’ll learn about the periodic table, but you won’t become the next Walter White.

    Atomas is free in the App Store

     

  • Under the Sun

    Under the Sun
    Under the Sun

    In Under the Sun, the goal is to lead your character through a series of puzzle-based desert island maps. In this 3D puzzle game, try to navigate natural obstacles such as trees and rocks in order to get to reach your fire before it gets dark. But every move you make alters the map just a bit. Thankfully, you can tinker with time and go backwards if you make a mistake.

    Under the Sun is free in the App Store

     

  • TWIST3D

    TWIST3D
    TWIST3D

    Somewhere between a game of Tetris and a frustrating few hours spent with a Rubik’s Cube, TWIST3D is a puzzle game in which you must twist a 3D cube-like map in order to reveal patterns and match gems that only reveal themselves once a pattern is detected. You can use boosters to help you sort out the cube, but this game is only for those who are exceptionally skilled puzzle-solvers — those quick to anger should steer clear.

    TWIST3D is free in the App Store

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