TIME apps

6 Must-Have Back to School Apps

Second-Graders Use Apple Inc. iPads In The Classroom
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Second graders work on Apple Inc. iPads as part of their classroom work at Park Lane Elementary school, in the Canyons School District, in Sandy, Utah, U.S. on Monday, May 20, 2013.

Smartphones are the new backpacks

When you pen a story about school children and technology, this is typically the spot where the writer goes on about how kids used to walk uphill in the snow, lugging a bag overflowing with heavy tomes, so on and so forth. But the reality is that older people need to get with the times just as much.

These six apps can help students of all ages make the best of the opportunities that today’s mobile devices provide. From homework trackers to ways to chat with classmates, you can do it all with your Android or iOS device. Well, everything except for taking tests — so be sure to study.


Flashcards are a staple of studying. This app takes the pain out of making them by serving them up on a touchscreen. But more than a mere paper replacement, Brainscape tailors its timing to users’ learning needs. Though the app is free, you can purchase pre-made sets of flashcards to help learn things like foreign language vocabulary or world geography.

Sharing capabilities help the app work for study groups or teams, and cross-device syncing means you can pick up on a tablet where you left off on your phone. Even if you’re not a student, Brainscape can be a smart way to continue your education while on a commute, or during dull moments of the day.

Brainscape is available for free on iOS.


Learning a second (or third, or…) language can be a challenge, especially if you take the summer off and forget all your new words. DuoLingo is an addictive way to keep learning because it turns lessons into games packed full of listening, speaking, and translating. With hot streaks being tallied up and hearts measuring how close you’re getting to “game over,” it can be as thrilling as a racer or as confounding as a role playing game. Either way, DuoLingo is as fun as any mobile game going, with bonus points for teaching people everything from Esperanto to Ukranian.

DuoLingo is available for free on Android and iOS.


As a former English major with a Master’s degree (and therefore, a thesis paper under my belt), I can say with some degree of authority that bibliographies are a massive waste of time. Don’t get me wrong — the proper sourcing of material is vital to research, but the rigamarole of punctuation and order is exasperating. In automating the tedious task of note-taking, EasyBib is a major innovation in paper writing. Just fire up the app, point the camera at the book’s bar code, and you’re on your way to marking it up in more than 7,000 citation styles like ASA, AMA and more.

EasyBib is available for free on Android and iOS.


Whether you’re a high schooler with eight periods of classes or a college student tackling dozens of credits, there’s one thing you’ve got for sure: a mess of assignments. iHomework can help you keep track of all your work, slicing and dicing it in a variety of ways. Sorting it by due date, week, month, or by course, the app is more organized than a Trapper Keeper. And in integrating data from Questia, you can link your reading material to your assignments so you don’t have to dig through a pile of papers to find the right information.

A scheduling feature can help you keep track of those random bi-weekly Thursday labs, and you can even mark the location of your courses on a map so you don’t end up on the wrong side of campus. And finally, with iCloud syncing, you can access all this information on whatever Apple-compatible device you’re using at the moment — no need to dig for your iPad.

iHomework is available for $1.99 on iOS.

Khan Academy

“Summer Reading” might be the season’s keywords for our educational system, but why not summer math or science while we’re at it? Khan Academy, a non-profit online portal committed to feeding people’s insatiable hunger for knowledge, offers courses in almost any subject you can imagine, helping people pass tests, improve their comprehension, or even just become better rounded.

Available on Apple devices (there are unofficial Khan Academy apps on Android), the app offers more than 150,000 interactive exercises with step-by-step hints and instant feedback. But it’s not all about quizzes — lectures and videos are part of the curriculum too, making this a solid competitor to distance learning programs, even if you don’t get any credits.

Khan Academy is available for free on iOS.

Here Comes the Bus

If you think “back to school” is all about children, you probably don’t know enough parents being run ragged by a household full of kids. As fun and full of memories as these months can be, stay-at-home parents are also anxiously awaiting the school bell to ring. Here Comes The Bus is a free app that many school districts are using to connect students, parents, and administrators with their GPS-equipped transport.

With arrival and departure information for various stops and schools, it’s great for checking if the bus is running late or if you’ve missed it. You can also get push notifications for schedule changes or when the ride is five minutes away from arriving. And if you have multiple children on different busses, you can track them all simultaneously — which is more than you might say about watching them in the summer.

Here Comes the Bus is available for free on Android and iOS.


TIME Microsoft

Microsoft CEO: Hololens Will Be Out ‘Within the Next Year’

The first version of the augmented reality headset will be geared toward developers and enterprise customers

Developers eager to get their hands on Microsoft’s long-awaited augmented reality headset received some good news on Friday, when CEO Satya Nadella told the BBC that the first version of the HoloLens will be available “within the next year.”

The only catch is that the first version of Microsoft’s HoloLens will be geared more toward “developers and enterprises,” Nadella said in the interview, which means average consumer will likely have to wait a little bit longer to buy a personal HoloLens. Nadella said a “commercial usage” version of the headset would be next in the pipeline. Still, as The Verge points out, Nadella’s latest comments on the HoloLens at least offer some insight into how soon it will be before the holographic computer product ends up in the hands of someone other than a Microsoft employee.

Of course, Microsoft still has big plans when it comes to HoloLens being available for gaming and other commercial uses. Earlier this summer, at E3 2015, the company hosted HoloLens demos featuring gameplay from such popular video games as Minecraft and Halo 5: Guardians. Microsoft has invested heavily in both augmented reality and virtual reality technology, which are two businesses that are expected to generate $150 billion in combined annual revenue by 2020, according to Digi-Capital, a research and advising firm.

TIME Apple

Apple Could Kill Voicemail For Good

Company reportedly testing a new way for you to avoid listening to your voice messages

Of all of Siri’s capabilities, the potential to listen to your voicemails and transcribe them to text could be the best yet.

Business Insider reports that Apple is testing a way for its phones’ virtual assistant, Siri, to transcribe voicemails left on Apple iPhones to text that Apple’s iCloud service sends to the voice mails’ recipient. The process could do away with voicemails for altogether.

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment on the report.

The new capability will no doubt resonate with customers, especially younger ones who, according to a 2012 report from the Pew Research Center, eschew voice conversations in favor of text messages. At the time of the survey, teenagers were sending and receiving a median of 60 text messages a day, up from 50 two years earlier, while avoiding landline voice calls almost entirely.

BI reports that the service is expected to launch in 2016, presumably with the iOS 10 mobile operating system.

TIME Careers & Workplace

This is Why Most Etsy Sellers are Women

Woman Laptop
Getty Images

Women are opening Etsy shops at a much higher rate than they are starting other types of small business

At Etsy, women rule. According to the company’s second annual seller report, 86% of Etsy sellers are female. That’s a dramatic departure from overall trend: Only about a third of U.S. small businesses are women-owned, according a report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.

But does an Etsy shop really count as a business? According to 76% of sellers, the answer is yes. And while many do supplement their income in other ways, around 30% of sellers say their store is their sole occupation. The report doesn’t specify how much Etsy sellers are taking in from their shops, but does list their average household income: $56,180. It also notes than more than half would consider scaling their shop by, say, buying new equipment or renting additional space.

So, assuming it’s fair to consider these sellers business owners, what is it about running an Etsy shop that makes it more accessible to women their other types of small businesses? To find out, Fortune reached out to some Etsy experts.

Staying home: 26% of sellers had no paid employment before starting their business

Julie Persons was a stay-at-home mother of two when she joined Etsy in 2006. She began by selling the needle felting pieces she made for fun. When that shop started getting traction she expanded, opening a series of shops selling vintage finds and her original photography.

One of Persons’ stores, “Chicks in Hats,” which sells photographs of, well, chicks wearing hats, began as a project with her then-7-year-old daughter. Persons’ daughter makes the hats; Persons takes the photos. Aside from being a great excuse to spend time with her daughter, Persons says she wanted “show [her daughter] that there’s a way to take any creative idea and take it further.”

About a third of American mothers do not work outside the home, according to the Pew Research Center. This number has been increasing steadily for the past fifteen years, a trend that’s attributed to a range of factors, including high unemployment rates and increasingly unaffordable childcare. According to Etsy, 26% of sellers on the site had no paid employment before starting their stores and 38% were homemakers.

Based in rural Maine, Persons says she makes $40,000 to $45,000 per year on Etsy. And while she says she works full-time hours, she is able to stay home with her kids. “Women are still mainly the ones who stay home,” she says. “Having an online store is a way to do that, while still pursuing other passions and supporting my family.”

No financing required: Less than 1% of sellers took out a loan to start their businesses

Before launching their Etsy shop, friends Ericka Wright and Jessica Herning both had flourishing boutique sewing lines. However, the women found that success to be a mixed bag: While the businesses did well, Wright and Herning said they ended up spending all their time sewing. Both wanted to shift their focus to design rather than production, so they joined forces, opening an Etsy shop selling paper and PDF patterns.

Today, Wright and Herning’s Nashville-based shop Violette Field Threads employs four people and three freelance designers. The pair say Etsy business brings in about $70,000 a year. Still, they have not sought out additional financing to grow their business, choosing to finance it themselves. “We’ve thought about finding an investor and trying to start selling clothes ourselves, but that’s just such a big risk,” says Wright.

Wright and Herning are not unique: Less than 1% of sellers took out a loan to start their businesses, according to Etsy. That’s not terribly surprising given that sellers are mostly women, and women are less likely to tap outside financing over their lifetime, according to a study by the US Department of Commerce. On average, women-owned firms launch with just 64% of the capital of male-owned firms.

While experts can’t quite settle on a reason for the financing gap, most researchers agree that several factors are in play. Studies have found that women are less likely to be approved for loans or to get less favorable terms than men do. They’re also less likely to apply for those loans in the first place and, according to Experian, are likely to have slightly lower credit scores.

Prioritizing happiness: 64%of sellers think that doing something they enjoy is more important than making money

When Rebecca Plotnick was laid off from her job in apparel merchandising in 2008, she took the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate her career goals. A self-taught photographer based in Chicago, she started experimenting with selling her work on Etsy. Now, she says she’s making as much as she did in her old job and has no intention of going back.

“Etsy has allowed me to live my dream,” she says of her frequent photography trips to Paris. “Right now, I’m single, so I use the flexibility to travel. But I see myself having a family and I can do that too.”

Like Rebecca, 74% of sellers were motivated to start their creative business because they want to do something they enjoy, according to the Etsy survey. Nearly two-thirds of sellers agreed that doing something they like is more important than making money.

Etsy sellers aren’t alone. According to a joint study by Fleishman Hillard and Hearst Magazines, when asked to define success, women most frequently cited financial security, family and happiness and deprioritized wealth, luxury and being a senior executive. Women are also slightly more likely to say that enjoying their jobs is extremely important than men are, according to Pew.

“I just came back from 6 weeks of traveling,” Plotnick says. “What other job would let me do that?”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Innovation

Hitchhiking Robot That Crossed Nations Fails to Last 2 Weeks in U.S.

anthropomorphic robot hitchBOT
Paul Darrow—Reuters The anthropomorphic robot named hitchBOT, seen here during its cross-Canada trek in 2014, was destroyed on Aug. 1, 2015 two weeks into its attempted trip across the U.S., according to its creators

Vandals in Philadelphia bring Hitchbot's adventure to an untimely end

A hitchhiking robot eager to explore America has met its demise just two weeks into its cross-country journey.

HitchBOT was vandalized in Philadelphia overnight on Saturday after exploring parts of Massachusetts and New York, Canadian researchers David Smith and Frauke Zeller shared on the project’s website. The friendly robot, who sports yellow polka dot boots and a smiley-face LED screen, had hoped American humans would shuttle it around the country to see Times Square, pose with the Lincoln Statue and tour Walt Disney World, among other destinations on its bucket list.

“Sometimes bad things happen to good robots,” HitchBot’s creators wrote. “We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question ‘what can be learned from this?’ and explore future adventures for robots and humans.”

The hitchhiking robot is an experiment to see how humans interact with robots. HitchBOT previously journeyed across Canada and Germany without incident, in addition to enjoying a three-week vacation in the Netherlands.


TIME Bizarre

Man’s iPhone Miraculously Still Works After Falling From a Plane Over Texas

He found it under a mesquite tree

A Texas man used an app to find his iPhone in a rural pasture after it fell 9,300 ft. (2,834 m) from a Beechcraft Bonanza airplane on a flight from Houston.

The phone fell out of the aircraft during a Monday flight, when a pressure change caused the door to open slightly. The owner of the phone, Ben Wilson, a Texas businessman, used the Find My iPhone app to locate the phone. They found it with a map and a satellite image.

“It was by the side of the road south of Jacksboro, under a mesquite tree,” Wilson told the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas. “It was in one piece, scratched a bit on the corners but it still worked,” he said.

TIME enivronment

This App Shows How Climate Change Is Affecting the World Around You

You may live closer to a earthquake zone than you think

You’ve heard about what climate change is doing the arctic and to the sea levels around the world. But sometimes it can be hard to understand what’s happening in your own backyard. A new app called Field Notes shows you just that.

The free app, manufactured by tech mapping company Esri, is part of a broader effort by the company to put data about people, climate and geography at your fingertips.

Take data on the location of TIME’s office in New York City. The app tells me that our office is located in a warm zone and, by 2050, it’s expected to get much warmer. The nearest earthquake zone is 240 miles (386 km) away and the nearest volcano more than 1,100 miles (1,770 km) away. Unsurprisingly, the app tell me, the soil isn’t great for growing crops. You can get the same data, and more, for any location on the globe.

“If you’re interested in engaging and understanding, this gives you a very quick basis to do that,” said Charlie Frye, chief cartographer.

The app, available for both iPhones and Androids, builds on the desktop version of the mapping technology, called the Eco Tapestry Map, which offers an even more in-depth view of world ecosystems. And while it’s fun to get a sense of what’s going on in your backyard, the map also sheds light on the impact of climate change where its effects have been most damaging.

Read More: Why Some California Cities Are Bracing for a Bear Invasion

Take the drought in California, for instance. Esri’s map shows how diverse climates co-exist in the state—from desert areas like Death Valley to temperate rainforests. And, while California is a large state, each climate exists side by side with other drastically different climates, making it difficult for endemic species to move in search of water without leaving their natural habitat.

The project originated from a partnership between Esri and a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who hoped to show how different layers like bioclimate, landforms and land cover combine to form the world’s “ecological tapestry.” Esri, which provides mapping technology for a variety of uses, helped utilize the technology to describe the whole world in quantitative terms.

“One of the things that’s been lacking before this map came out is this sort of common language way of talking about the eco-system at a higher level,” said Sean Breyer, content program manager at Esri.

Esri scientists have directed their work with Field Notes to help consumers understand the world around them, but the company’s environmental work also has implications for governments, academics and policymakers. The White House, for instance, has partnered with the company to provide tools that will allow local communities to prepare for the worst of climate change.


Uber Just Beat Facebook’s $50 Billion Record

Victor J. Blue—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Uber Technologies Inc. car service app is demonstrated on an iPhone in New York City on Aug. 6, 2014.

It's now worth more than Facebook was pre-IPO

Uber recently closed a new funding round that values the car-hailing startup close to $51 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

That’s the highest valuation ever for a venture-backed company, topping the $50 billion Facebook was valued at in 2011 when it completed its last round of fundraising before going public. Uber also crossed the $50 billion mark in five years, a feat Facebook took seven years to accomplish. Uber’s new valuation is also $5 billion more than Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which at $46 billion is believed to be the second highest-valued venture-backed private company.

Uber raised close to $1 billion in the new deal, which was reported to be in the works earlier this year. At the time, Fortune said Uber might have trouble living up to the hype. Since then, the company has hit some bumps, including a face-off with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A leaked financial report suggested Uber’s fast growth was coming along with big losses. A prospectus for a convertible bond offering reported by Bloomberg said that Uber had lost $470 million on $415 million in revenue. An Uber spokesperson said that number was out of date.

Despite the enormous valuation for the five-year-old Uber, the fresh fundraising round might suggest investors are growing nervous about the company and its high expectations. Earlier this year, it was reported that Uber was looking to raise between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. Instead, Uber pulled in just half of the high end of that range. And given how much money the company may be losing, hailing more investors at a valuation that might make the company worth significantly more than Facebook could become increasingly difficult.


Why BMW Is Paying Some Car Owners $1,000

BMW Launch Their First All- Electric Car
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

It's trying to get people to change their behavior

Last year, Los Angeles carved out a plan to become a national electric vehicle leader by 2017. The city has since hit a roadblock. The environment would benefit radically if everyone had an electric car, but as the electric cars become more popular, utility companies have to figure out ways to support them.

BMW and PG&E, a California utility company, have joined forces in a trial that they’re calling the “BMW iCharge Forward” program, which they hope will solve the issue. They announced the 18-month trial in January and are finally starting it this month.

PG&E will alert BMW during peak hours when it wants to limit energy consumption. The car company will then alert drivers not to charge their cars for the next hour. The drivers can select their preferred driving hours, which BMW will keep in mind when choosing which customers they’ll request to refrain from charging. The drivers can also opt out if they can’t commit to a delay.

100 BMW i3 drivers have agreed to participate. Each participant receives a $1,000 gift card at the beginning of the program, and at the end of the 18 months they’ll get a second one worth up to $540, depending on how many times they’ve complied with the delay.

TIME facebook

Facebook Could Make Billions From Something It’s Not Doing Yet

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on February 24, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.
David Ramos—2014 Getty Images Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on February 24, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.

It's not monetizing something that happens 1.5 billion times a day

Facebook is slowly but surely taking over the Internet. In a post after its Q2 earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that “1.49 billion people are now part of our community. In 1876, the year the first telephone call was made, around 1.49 billion people were alive.”

Those 1.49 billion people use Facebook to plan events, talk to each other, share pictures, and keep up with the latest news. But there’s something else we’re using it for that we barely even notice: search. People now make 1.5 billion search queries on Facebook per day, according to opening remarks during Facebook’s earnings call.

At the moment, most of those searches are for people or posts. But analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch have suggested in a note that Facebook could move to include the kind of commercial searches that made Google $15.5 billion in ad revenue in Q1 2015. Those analysts pin the value of Facebook’s opportunity in commercial search at $5 billion, greater than the bank’s estimate for Instagram’s future value.

Still, Facebook views search differently than Google. Instead of focusing on commercially relevant content, Facebook plans to use search as a way to keep people on the social network for longer stretches of time. More time spent on the site means more ad revenue, after all.

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