TIME Companies

Best Buy’s Website Goes Down on Black Friday

NY: Black Friday Holiday Shoppers
Two shoppers carry a large LCD TV as they exit a Best Buy electronics store in Queens on "Black Friday" Nov. 28, 2014. Behar Anthony—Sipa/AP

Electronics retailer blames technology glitch on a concentrated spike in mobile traffic

Best Buy’s website suffered a prolonged outage on Black Friday, as a concentrated spike in mobile traffic led the electronics retailer to it shut down temporarily.

The website is now working after being offline for about a hour on Black Friday morning. For a short period, a visit to the Best Buy website said: “We’re sorry. BestBuy.com is currently unavailable. Check back soon.”

Best Buy spokeswoman Amy von Walter said a spike in mobile traffic triggered issues led Best Buy to shut down the website “in order to take proactive measures to restore full performance.”

The short-term glitch comes at a critical time for the company as it aims to compete for more than $50 billion in sales that are generated for the Thanksgiving weekend. The holiday shopping season is highly competitive, especially for the Black Friday weekend when retailers like Best Buy aim to lure consumers with door buster deals. Such promotions are often popular in the consumer electronics space, where deals focus on televisions, tablets and other tech gadgets.

Online sales are important for Best Buy, with that business reporting nearly 20% growth in the U.S. for the fiscal year ended February 1. The online business is also a component of Best Buy’s fairly new ship-from-store feature–a capability that allows the retailer to fill online merchandise sales by using inventory at the company’s brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Best Buy generated nearly $11.5 billion for the nine-week holiday period last year, though domestic same-store sales slid 0.9% from the prior year as a result of aggressive promotions, supply constraints for key products and some weakness in the mobile phone market at the time.
TIME apps

5 Can’t-Miss iPhone Apps On Sale This Weekend

Launch Of The iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus
A general view of the iPhone 6 at Apples Covent Garden store launch on September 19, 2014 in London, England. Ben A. Pruchnie—Getty Images

Do some networking with Business Card Reader

Looking to download a few great iPhone apps while saving some money this weekend? Check out these five, all on sale or free for the new few days.

SKRWT

A camera app for the geometrically (or photographically) challenged, SKRWT helps mobile photographers learn composition more effectively. Or, if that’s still difficult, users are taught to fake it with SKRWT’s grid alignment. It also automatically crops your photos for better composition, turning your camera both into a viewfinder and instant editor.

SKRWT is on sale for $0.99 in the App Store.

Ancient Battle: Rome

Back in the mid 2000s, Rome Total War was responsible for pulling millions of students away from their schoolwork, children from social occasions, spouses from marital duties. It was a strategy game that blew the others out of the water. Ancient Battle: Rome, is, in many ways, a facsimile of the much beloved Rome. Command specialized units in battle against enemy forces. Outflank, outmaneuver, or straight up outnumber your opponent for the win.

Ancient Battle: Rome is on sale for $0.99 in the App Store.

Business Card Reader

Ingenuity, practicality, and technology all cross paths with Business Card Reader. All manner of networking is cut short when you get back from an event and find you have lost a business card, or worse, cannot find it when you need it many months later. Business Card Reader not only photographs a business card, but creates a contact in your iPhone with the information on the card.

Business Card Reader is on sale for $1.99 in the App Store.

Surgeon Simulator

A disturbing version of Operation, Surgeon Simulator takes you into the mind of a surgeon before his patient. It’s honestly a very dark game, allowing users to now perform dental surgery or surgery on an alien body (the latter being the game’s coolest feature.) But the sheer absurdity of the game makes it strangely mesmerizing. Think Goat Simulator meets The Simpson’s Dr. Nick.

Surgeon Simulator is on sale for $3.79 in the App Store.

ShutterSnitch

Perhaps one of the most useful apps for photographers on the move, SutterSnitch allows you to wirelessly transmit images from certain digital cameras to an iPad or iPhone. Although the list of compatible cameras is relatively short at the moment (it includes some popular options like GoPro), it also works with Eye-Fi wireless memory cards and FTP transmitters. Combine this with Pixelmator (which is also on sale for Black Friday), and your iPad suddenly becomes an almost-fully-powered mobile editing station.

SutterSnitch is on sale for $8.99 in the App Store.

TIME Gadgets

This Is the Best Samsung Galaxy S5 Case You Can Buy

ENDING OF MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS IN BARCELONA
Several attendees are at the Mobile World Congress that was held in Barcelona between 24 and February 27, Samsung introduces its latest model Galaxy S5 in Barcelona, Spain on February 27, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The Spigen Slim Armor is the best everyday Samsung Galaxy S5 case

The Best Samsung Galaxy S5 Cases

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

After evaluating 43 distinct cases over a period of 30 hours, we think the Spigen Slim Armor is the best everyday Samsung Galaxy S5 case for most people. The dual-layer plastic and rubber case adds less bulk than most cases made with the same materials, and the attention to detail is obvious. It costs under $20, comes in an array of colors, and even maintains the Galaxy S5’s signature “Band-Aid” look.

How we picked

A good case has to offer cutouts for the headphone port, IR blaster, microphones, speaker, charging port, and the rear camera/heart rate sensor array. It should also cover the volume and power buttons without reducing the clicky sensation when you press them. Most importantly, it needs to provide at least some protection from drops and impacts. This means it needs to cover the back, sides, and corners of the case, and prevent the screen from rubbing against a surface when the phone is face-down. It doesn’t have to have military-grade protection (though we have a recommendation for that!), and because the S5 is already water-resistant, the case doesn’t need to be.

Our pick

We think the Spigen Slim Armor has the best balance of protection, size, and looks for most Galaxy S5 owners. The TPU and polycarbonate plastic case offers full body protection from drops and scuffs while adding minimal bulk, a combination that bumped it to the top of all those we looked at.

The Slim Armor adds less than 3.5mm to the Galaxy’s total thickness. Its height and width are right in the middle among the cases that made it to our final consideration. Spigen’s case also creates a lip that’ll help keep the glass from hitting the ground if the phone is dropped and elevating it when the handset is placed face down on a desk or table. The plastic back is smooth and easily slides in and out of a pocket. It also has some thoughtful design touches, like separate cutouts for the camera and heart rate sensor and individual speaker grates.

We’re not the only ones who like this Slim Armor. On Amazon, the listing that includes the case along with a few variants has 2,092 ratings with an average star rating of 4.5.

Other great cases

Another great protective pick for the Galaxy S5 is the NGP from Incipio, which sells for $12. The NGP is a tiny bit thinner than the Slim Armor. It doesn’t have a plastic shell, just TPU, so it’s not as rigid as Spigen’s, but it still securely grips the phone without letting go unless you want it to.

If you need more protection, we suggest Speck’s CandyShell, which sells for $23 and up. It meets MIL-STD-810G drop test standards, so it’s the one to get if you drop your phone a lot. It’s better-looking than most other hardcore cases (like Otterbox) and comes in five different colors. Speck told us that, in their own tests, the case “was dropped onto a hard, unrelenting surface from 4 feet 26 times and . . . retained full functionality, with no damage to the screen or buttons.” (It’s important to note the case has only been tested against the standards of military uses, not actually evaluated by the military.)

Spigen’s Tough Armor ($18+) is a slightly thicker and wider version of the Slim Armor, with a little more protection. The outer layer is flat with a metallic finish instead of a dimpled back. It offers the same high level of coverage around the camera and heart rate sensor as well as the speaker. It’s larger than the CandyShell, so you’ll feel the extra bulk in your hand and pocket. It’s also more angular where the CandyShell is smooth and curved.

In closing

While personal preference plays a big role in choosing a case, the Slim Armor is the most well-balanced option for most people in their day-to-day lives. It offers an impressive level of protection and has a look that should appeal to a majority of people.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to The Wirecutter.com

TIME Gadgets

These Are the Best TVs You Can Buy Under $500

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Man standing in shop surrounded by televisions Peter Cade—Getty Images

New, low-cost models offer the best deals of the year

Looking for a new TV but on a strict under-$500 budget? Want a large screen model that you don’t need to squint at from across the room?

There’s good news. Two recent models from Vizio — the 42-inch M422i-B1 and the 48-inch E480i-B2 — deliver an excellent picture and a robust set of Smart TV features for less than $500. Each is an LED LCD set with full array LED backlighting and local dimming, features usually found only in much more expensive models, providing darker blacks and great contrast, and less of the light bleed around the edges of standard edge-lit displays.

You’ll also get built-in Wi-Fi and an array of Smart TV apps, such as Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon and more. The M-Series remote even has a full QWERTY keyboard on the back, making it far easier to search for movies or shows by name. And Vizio doesn’t short you on HDMI ports, either (an annoying problem on so many low-priced sets), with 3 HDMI ports on the E480i-B2 and 4 on the M422i-B1.

Across the board, professional reviewers have been admirers of both model lines. CNET’s David Katzmaeir gave each 4 out of 5 stars in his detailed evaluations. And Reviewed.com said the E-Series “might be the TV deal of the year.” Actual owners have also been happy, awarding both the M- and E-Series 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 4.2 out of 5 stars (E-Series) and 4.6 out of 5 stars (M-Series) on Best Buy.

Other TVs at this price point (of which there are few real options) fail to measure up. The 47-inch LG Electronics 47LB5900 gets a strong 4.4 out of 5 star review from owners on Amazon, but is dinged on rtings.com for its poor contrast ratio and motion blur issues. The 46-inch Samsung UN46H6203 comes close to the Vizio on picture quality, but you get two fewer inches versus the Vizio, sluggish app performance, only 2 HDMI ports and slightly lower Amazon ratings. (3.8 out of 5 stars.)

The choice between the M-Series or E-Series comes down to whether you value the larger screen for your buck with the E-Series versus a marginally better image along with the convenience of a full QWERTY keyboard on the remote on the M-Series. Whichever way you go, you’ll be getting far more TV than would have been available a year ago for under $500.

This post was written by Josh Kirschner and originally appeared on Techlicious. More from Techlicious:

Passwords Often Reveal People’s Deepest Secrets
Doctors 3D Printing Replacement Parts for the Human Body
Best TVs under $500

TIME Advertising

Watch Apple’s Black Friday iPhone Ads

See six ads from both sides of Apple’s — and America’s — cultural divide.

Having cut the cable TV cord before the busiest shopping day of the year, I had to go to YouTube to see how Apple was promoting its products in advance of Black Friday.

Here’s what I found: Six ads in two days, three for the iPhone and three for Beats by Dre, the headphone-and-streaming-music company acquired by Apple in May for $3 billion.

I liked them all. But they’re very different.

Two white comedians, Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon, are once again carrying the water for Apple.

Beats’ SoloSelfie-with-iPhone campaign taps into a different celebrity culture.

The iPhone ads

Nov. 24: Gamers

Nov. 24: Reservations

Nov. 26: Voice text

The Beats by Dre ads

Nov. 26: #SoloSelfie Kenan Thompson Tutorial

Nov. 26: #SoloSelfie

Nov. 26: #SoloSelfie – The Tutorial

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME technology

Blackberry offers iPhone users up to $550 to trade in for a Passport

Holiday offer is designed to build on promising initial sales for the square-screened “workhorse”

It’s perhaps one of the most poignant holiday promotions out there this year, a reminder – if one were needed – as to just how sharply fortunes can reverse in businss.

BlackBerry is offering iPhone users lump sums of $150 to trade in their Apple smartphone in a new “trade-up” program to bolster sales of its new Passport, which the once-dominant Canadian company is hoping will make it a player again in the premium smartphone segment.

Calculating a trade-in value of up to $400 for a nearly-new iPhone 6, BlackBerry is pitching the offer as being worth up to $550.

The company is trying to build on what appeared to be a generally successful launch of the Passport in September, despite some mixed reviews. Initial sales — 200,000 units in the first two days – far exceeded the company’s conservative estimates, and the device sold out within six hours on BlackBerry’s website and within 10 hours on Amazon.com.

The new offer (which is valid in North America only) helped make it the best-selling unlocked smartphone on Amazon as of Thursday morning.

BlackBerry’s overall shipments of smartphones have collapsed in the last three years as both Apple and, increasingly, Samsung Electronics Co. have eaten into its once loyal fan-base among corporate executives. From a peak of 52.3 million in 2010, shipments fell to less than 14 million in the last fiscal year.

The Passport, which features a monster 4.5″ square touch screen as well as the company’s trademark physical keyboard, is designed to sharpen the focus on executive users, especially as regards the reading and editing of spreadsheets.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Companies

European Parliament Calls for Possible Breakup of Google

The vote went through despite U.S. concern over its politicization

The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday asking the European Commission to consider breaking up Google as a means to address what some in Europe view as Google’s abuse of its dominance in search to benefit its other products.

The vote succeeded by an overwhelming margin of 458 to 173, the Wall Street Journal reports. The resolution is non-binding and Parliament has no power to break up Google on its own. Still, lawmakers are hoping it will put pressure on the European Commission, currently investigating Google’s search practices on the continent, to take action against the tech giant.

The resolution went forward despite the United States expressing “concern” over what it perceives as an unnecessary politicization of the anti-trust probe.

[WSJ]

TIME Gadgets

Amazon Slashes Kindle Prices for Black Friday

Amazon Holds News Conference
People try out a new Kindle fire reading device at a press conference on September 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. David McNew—Getty Images

Bargains on the Fire Phone follow a tepid public reception on the device

Amazon has dropped the prices on a slew of its devices as part of the Black Friday shopping rush.

Amazon’s $79 Kindle e-reader will be on sale for $49, and the company’s Kindle Fire tablets are also dramatically cheaper, with the Fire HD 6 going for a mere $79 (versus its usual $99 price tag) and the Fire HD 7 on sale for $109 (versus $139).

Meanwhile, the e-commerce giant has pegged the price of an unlocked Fire phone to just $199, a $250 price cut from its already reduced price. Amazon is still including a year of free Amazon Prime with the phone.

Vote Now: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

 

Amazon has dramatically reduced its prices on the Fire phone after it received mediocre reviews and suffered lackluster sales.

TIME You Asked

You Asked: What Are Podcasts?

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Woman listening to a podcast. Michael Hitoshi—Getty Images

You’ve heard how addictive Serial is — but do you actually know what it is?

By now, no doubt, you’ve heard the chatter around the watercooler or seen the posts on Facebook. Did Adnan really do it? Do you really believe Jay’s story? And what’s the deal with this reporter — does she really not know how this will all end? These friends and co-workers aren’t talking about the latest HBO series — They’re fans of Serial, weekly podcast that launched a couple months ago, skyrocketed in popularity and just announced a second season is in store.

“Serial is the equivalent of a non-fiction book told in a narrative style but using the best parts of high-end public-radio production,” says Glenn Fleishman, host of The New Disruptors, a podcast about how creative people connect with audiences, and a regular guest on The Incomparable, a weekly podcast that turns a geeky eye towards pop culture. “It’s like a shorter version of The Orchid Thief from the standpoint of research and narrative depth, but absolutely native to audio storytelling.”

But as popular as Serial has become, it’s just one of thousands of great, downloadable shows produced every week. According to a 2014 study by Edison Research, 39 million Americans listen to podcasts every month, enjoying six shows per week, on average. So, if you’ve been ignoring podcasts, you’re not just missing out on Serial, you’ve been shunning an entire medium full of great content. And if that makes you feel dumb, this part will really embarrass you: almost every podcast available is completely and totally free to you, the listener.

Here’s what you need to know to get started:

So what, exactly, are podcasts?

While podcasts can technically be videos, they are mostly audio files, much like music MP3s. (In fact, many podcasts actually are saved as MP3 files, but casual listeners don’t need to worry about technical details like these.) In terms of content, they cover everything from music to comedy, though typically the programs sound like talk radio shows.

As varied as reports from inside the locker room (NFL Podcasts), snappy self-improvement ideas (Quick and Dirty Tips), and off-beat analysis of historical events (Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History), the medium offers something for every listener, whether you’re into cooking (Good Food) or cars (NPR’s Car Talk).

Who makes them?

“Because in a smartphone and earbud era, everyone has ready access to a halfway decent mic, everybody is making podcasts,” says Fleishman. For instance, he says, churches post podcasts of sermons, clubs can put discussions online, and people just obsessed by things like pens or cameras are making programs for other people who share their interests. And since there’s no professional or financial barrier producing these shows, everyone from kids who used to record audio with tape decks in 1980s (like Fleishman) to the public radio professionals behind shows like Serial are making them.

Podcasts have also helped aspiring creatives become stars. For instance, stand-up comedian Marc Maron was a relative unknown for years before his WTF podcast became a success. Each week, as he held intimate conversations with other comedians in a studio in his garage, his popularity grew. Now he has his own television show, and his podcast is one of the most popular downloads on the web.

But not every podcast comes from obscurity. The public radio show This American Life (which helped launch Serial) had a large over-the-air following before it hit the web as a podcast way back in 1998, though its continued success is absolutely due to its ability to be accessed online. Meanwhile, shows like Freakonomics were born out of the runaway success of a book by the same name. So, just as no two shows are the same, no two podcasts trod the same path to popularity.

How to find and listen to them

Any Internet-connected computer can play podcast files, though they are best (and most easily) listened to on mobile devices. In fact, the term “podcast” evolved from the success of Apple’s iPod, so it’s most natural to think of these programs as ideally enjoyed on-the-go.

On computers, listening to a podcast is as simple as clicking on the file in a web browser and letting it play. There are many ways to get podcasts on your mobile device, and if you don’t have a smartphone (or iPod Touch), the easiest way to do that is through iTunes. Just navigate to the Podcast tab of the iTunes Store, browse, download, and put them onto your audio player.

But the easiest way to find and listen to podcasts is with a smartphone. Apple iPhones have a Podcasts app that come standard on the current iOS. This app lets you explore, subscribe to, download, and listen to programs, all in one place. Of course, with Apple’s app-for-everything mentality, there are plenty of alternatives to try out.

Android users also have many options for finding and enjoying podcasts. For instance, Stitcher uses podcasts to create a radio station-like experience that’s fully customizable to your interests. TuneIn Radio specializes in streaming radio stations over the web, and DoggCatcher is a powerful podcast manager that does a great job of automatically cleaning up files after you’ve listened to them.

And along those lines, here’s our parting advice when it comes to podcasts: These files are much larger than typical music files because they tend to be several times longer. So be sure to tidy up after yourself as you enjoy exploring all the podcasts out there. If you don’t, your mobile device will be stuffed full of files in no time.

TIME Social Networking

Twitter Will Now Track Which Other Apps You Install

Social Media Site Twitter Debuts On The New York Stock Exchange
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Bethany Clarke—Getty Images

The feature is opt-out, but it's easy to turn it off

Twitter is rolling out a new feature that will track which apps you have installed on your phone, the company revealed Wednesday. The new feature, called “app graph,” is being pitched as a way for Twitter to deliver “more relevant tailored content” to its users.

“To help build a more personal Twitter experience for you, we are collecting and occasionally updating the list of apps installed on your mobile device so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in,” Twitter’s app graph page reads.

While Twitter promises it’s not collecting any data from within non-Twitter apps, it’s not hard to see this new feature raising privacy concerns — especially because many users will have to opt out of app graph, rather than being asked to opt in.

If you’d like to disable the app graph feature before it appears, you can turn on “Limit Ad Tracking” in your iPhone Twitter app’s settings or, if you’re an Android user, select “Opt out of interest-based ads.” Once the feature appears in your Twitter app (you’ll be notified when it does), you can follow the instructions on this Twitter page to disable it. Note, however, you’ll still get ads in your Twitter stream — they’ll just be less relevant to you.

The app graph feature comes as Twitter is experimenting with ways to put more relevant content, both organic and commercial, in front of its users.

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