TIME apps

These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo
John Normile—Getty Images Tami Normile and Richard Brooks attempt to remove some of the five feet of snow from a roof top on November 20, 2014 in the Lakeview neighborhood of Buffalo, New York.

These apps will help you know when to grab your umbrella

Opening this story with a weather-related adage or aphorism would have been great, if Mother Nature’s approval ratings weren’t currently quite so low. Things have gotten so bad for the topic of weather in general that Game of Thrones has even stopped warning its fans that “winter is coming.”

But guess what — it’s here, and we’re all white walkers. So don’t bother making chit-chat by talking about the weather, tap about it instead. No matter the conditions, these ten apps will keep you covered, because believe it or not, it can actually get worse than this.

Dark Sky

Ideal for runners, dog walkers, and anyone who’s looking to dodge the raindrops (or snowflakes), this app uses GPS and local radar to forecast precipitation with down-to-the-minute accuracy. Arm this one up with its push notifications, and you’ll always be aware when a storm is passing through.

In addition, the $3.99 app has a widget that allows it to sit in your iPhone’s notification screen, giving you the next hour’s weather without having to dive into Dark Sky’s full interface.

Hurricane Tracker

This app has outlasted many weather reporters, having helped users stay out of the eye of the storm since 2009. Pulling official maps from the National Hurricane Center and providing push alerts, the $2.99 app is a favorite of users from South Texas to the Northeast because it provides audio and video updates, long range models, and allows you to share information with friends and family easily through email, text messaging, and Facebook.

NOAA Radar Pro

Currently on sale for $1.99, this iPhone and iPad app puts pro-level maps in your hands, giving you overlays of rain, snow, and cloud cover, as well as detailed 24-hour forecasts and 7-day outlooks. Great for storm-watchers, it not only tells you the air pressure, humidity, and wind direction, but shows you how the clouds progress with animated maps. In addition, the ability to pin multiple favorite locations makes this app a favorite for frequent travelers.

NOAA Snow Forecast

Sure, it seems almost comical to wonder if it will snow again, but this iPhone and iPad app will help you track the inches before they pile up. For $1.99, you get a great bar graph visual of hourly snowfall, worth its weight in the wet stuff when it comes to planning out your shoveling strategy. Lauded for its accuracy, it will even give you lightning strike information. But the question is, do you think you’ll enjoy thundersnow as much as this guy?

Quakefeed

When the big one hits, you’ll know it. But in the meantime, you may want to also keep track of the little and medium ones, too. This free and ad-forsaking earthquake app will notify you of rumblings worldwide, sending alerts as well as earthquake-related news from all over the world.

Pulling its its information from U.S. Geological Survey data, it plots incidents on a color-coded, worldwide map complete with fault lines. And with social media and email integration, you can keep your loved ones in the know about seismic events that may impact them.

Storm

Lots of apps are all flash and no substance, but this free iPhone and iPad app by Weather Underground dazzles while keeping you warm and dry. Its maps comes with various data layers and overlays, from radar and satellite to showing weather advisory areas and storm fronts. It even displays animations of both the jet stream and surface air movement — crucial details for knowing how the weather is churning around you.

Toss in some gorgeous single-site sweeping radar animations and hyperlocal information sourced from more than 100,000 personal weather stations, and Storm practically gives you a meteorologist in your pocket.

Storm Shield

Using location-based technology to make sure weather alerts reach you no matter where you go, this $2.99 app can keep you appraised of everything from severe thunderstorms to flash flooding, while providing severe weather forecasts, showing live video feeds, and displaying current radar and mapping info. When electricity or television goes out, this kind of information can be a life-saver, as many of its loyal users have already attested.

Tornado by American Red Cross

No one knows natural disasters like the American Red Cross, and its free twister-focused app is all about being prepared and ready when the next one touches down. With settings able to alert you in the event that storm clouds are forming, the app provides step-by-step instructions on what to do next. The app also has the ability to monitor multiple locations, and by providing information direct from NOAA, you’ll be sure to have the most up-to-date details. It also has siren and strobe functionalities to help people find you in case you get lost during the storm.

Weather Underground

A longtime favorite of weather-watchers, this free app harnesses the power of more than 100,000 personal weather stations scattered around the country, which allows it to provide hyperlocal current conditions that could even come from your own street. Paired with a trove of historical weather data, it can pump out 10-day forecasts that include snow and rain information.

But if things are off, crowd-based reporting lets people provide corrections to the conditions — or lets them report things like hazardous road conditions — making this the most user-friendly and user-based weather service out there.

Weathertron

If you’re a visual person, and you don’t waste that skill looking for animals in the clouds, Weathertron’s chart-and-graph oriented presentation of the weather is the perfect thing for you. With bold graphics and an easy to understand presentation, the $1.99 app can do everything from provide current conditions to seven-day forecasts at a glance. Currently running in 15,000 cities worldwide, the app pares down weather data to its essential information, making it perfect for people who are on-the-go but need to keep an eye out for puddles, too.

TIME Web

Google Just Made It Easier to Search for Flights Online

And you don't even have to know where you want to go

Google has updated its flight-search tool and included an array of cool features.

Much like most flight-comparison sites, Google offers a range of fares and available flight options.

Photo: Google

But for undecided travelers, the newest feature lets users plug in countries or whole regions. For example, enter “flights to Europe” and a map will appear showing varying prices for different European destinations.

And if you really have no idea where to travel, you can even hit the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button to generate a completely random location.

Flexible-date search options are also available so users can compare prices across multiple months, and the search engine will even suggest tips for how you can bag a cheaper deal.

Google Flights was launched in 2011, but the latest version of the site was announced on Wednesday.

Read next: 10 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Know

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Apple watch

Just Look at This Completely Ridiculous $75,000 Apple Watch

It has a lot of diamonds

Many have speculated that version of Apple’s upcoming smartwatch could retail for vastly more than the $349 entry-level price the company announced when it unveiled the device last year. In fact, by some estimates, the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant could net as much as $5 billion per quarter from sales of its highest-end gold version alone. Then there are the planned versions below, put out by reseller Brixx. Its top-of-the-line model will cost just shy of $70,000.

The company says it plans to take apart Apple’s devices and reassemble them—with extra luxury. According to a Brixx release, the company will do the following:

Each piece is disassembled inside Brikk’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Los Angeles by a team of skilled engineers. They are hand polished, then plated with five layers of diverse metals before their final plating in either two layers of gold or platinum. High quality diamonds are set with a microscope in a custom-machined bezel. Each piece is then reassembled and tested before shipping to clients.

More information about the final availability of the Apple Watch will be available in early March, when the company holds its “Spring Forward” event in California.

TIME Companies

Do This 1 Thing For a Better Google Ranking

Google Mobile Search
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a Nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Mobile-friendly sites will do better in search results next month

Google is once again tweaking its search algorithm with a new change that should have some benefits for users.

The company announced in a Thursday blog post that it will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results starting April 21. Sites that work well on a smartphone will get a “significant” boost over other sites, the company says.

The change should ensure that people conducting Google searches on their phone typically arrive on easily-readable sites rather than messy desktop-based layouts that are hard to navigate on a small screen. Google offers a form where developers can input a URL to see whether it is mobile-friendly or not.

In addition to the algorithm change, Google said starting Thursday it will begin surfacing content hidden within apps more prominently in search results. If a developer has enabled App Indexing, Google’s search bots can crawl the contents of an app just like a Web page. Information from the app can show up along with regular search results on Google.

It makes sense that Google would want to incentivize App Indexing. The search giant doesn’t have the stranglehold on information queries on phones as it does on the desktop because people often boot up more narrowly-focused apps (Amazon for shopping, Yelp for food) instead of using Google to trawl the entire World Wide Web. More indexing means more valuable information that Google can present to users and serve ads against.

MONEY Net neutrality

Why Net Neutrality Isn’t Worth Celebrating

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler (C) holds hands with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn (L) and Jessica Rosenworcel during an open hearing on Net Neutrality at the FCC headquarters February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. Today the FCC will vote on Net Neutrality seeking to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Net neutrality doesn't fix the most pressing problem with our internet service.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission officially approved net neutrality regulations intended to protect consumers and businesses from internet service providers.

The new rules, broadly outlined earlier this month by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, will restrict ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner from blocking or slowing down traffic to certain websites, or allowing certain companies to pay extra for better treatment.

These regulations are positive step, but those swept up by the hype might end up disappointed when the real thing finally arrives. That’s because net neutrality doesn’t seriously address anything cable companies are currently doing, nor will it help with the number one issue most people care about: the price and quality of their service.

What Net Neutrality Really Does

Let’s start with the restrictions against blocking or slowing down websites. It’s obviously good that cable companies will now be prevented from actively censoring content, but this isn’t something ISPs ever actually practiced.

“I think it’s funny that the three big rules are no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization,” Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan and owner of StreamingMedia.com, told MONEY. “That’s all great, but do we have a single instance of an ISP doing any of those things?”

That might sound surprising to those who’ve heard Netflix’s repeated complaints that various ISPs, particularly Comcast, were intentionally degrading its service unless the company paid a “toll.” Isn’t that exactly what net neutrality is meant to stop?

Well, sort of. What Netflix and Comcast are really fighting over is something called “interconnection” or “peering,” where sites with especially heavy traffic have to pay more for extra capacity. Comcast says Netflix should be charged for using additional resources, whereas Netflix thinks it’s being strong-armed into forking over more than it should.

The new net neutrality regulations give the FCC some oversight over these agreements to determine if they’re “just and reasonable,” but that standard is so vague as to make an already complicated issue difficult to enforce. In Chairman Wheeler’s proposal, broadband providers are allowed to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they defend their actions as “reasonable network management,” which, as The Verge points out, is “a term which the ISPs have already been using to justify congestion at interconnection points.”

What Net Neutrality Doesn’t Fix

The upshot of all this is very little will change for the average U.S. internet user in a post-net-neutrality world. That’s a bad thing, because America does have a very serious internet problem desperately in need of regulatory assistance: namely, the fact that our internet connections are slower and costlier than the rest of the developed world’s.

The solution to this problem is simple: more competition. Almost one third of Americans have no choice in their broadband provider—a number that will go up to 66% if Comcast is allowed to merge with Time Warner Cable—meaning cable companies don’t have to compete very hard for your business.

Competition is scarce because it’s prohibitively expensive for a new company to build its own fiber network. The FCC could have fixed this problem by requiring “last-mile unbundling,” a policy that would force major broadband providers to lease their own networks to competing ISPs, when it reclassified broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. However, Chairman Wheeler explicitly ruled unbundling out of any net neutrality regulation.

This means the average internet user is going to be paying more for subpar internet for the foreseeable future. The Obama administration is planning to address this by encouraging cities to develop their own broadband networks, which, if effective, should create more competition and faster internet service. But such a solution is far away and will likely face significant legal hurdles.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying net neutrality is actively bad. We’re better off in a world with these kinds of restrictions. That said, the new rules should be seen as little more than a preventive measure for abuses that have largely yet to occur. For more meaningful reform, Americans should throw their support behind other policies that will break broadband monopolies and actually improve their connections. The fight for a better internet isn’t over. It’s barely begun.

TIME Social Media

Your Facebook Gender Can Now Be Anything You Want

Facebook Gender
Bloomberg via Getty Images The Facebook Inc. logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad Air in Washington, D.C., on Mon, Jan. 27, 2014.

From 58 genders to an infinite selection

Facebook added a fill-in-the-blank option for gender on Thursday that lets users describe their gender identity freely.

“Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own,” Facebook said in a statement.

The update is a step forward in Facebook’s efforts to expand gender identity, which previously included creating 58 options for gender from “cis woman” to “two-spirit” in Feb. 2014.

Google+ similarly unveiled an “infinite” gender category in Dec. 2014, allowing users to describe their gender identity using words of their choice.

TIME politics

FCC Votes ‘Yes’ on Strongest Net-Neutrality Rules

Net-neutrality advocates quite literally danced in the snowy streets Thursday outside the Federal Communications Commission in Washington just before the agency voted to approve the strongest ever rules on Net neutrality.

The vote marks the culmination of a yearlong struggle that pitted grassroots Internet advocates and Silicon Valley tech giants against the titans of the telecom industry.

The FCC’s vote is considered a historic victory for so-called open-Internet advocates, and a major blow to big Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, which will now be subject to stronger regulations.

Crucially, the FCC’s new rules were designed to give the agency explicit legal authority to regulate broadband-Internet providers by reclassifying broadband under Title II of the federal Communications Act.

Because of a weedy legal issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found in January 2014 that the FCC did not have authority to regulate broadband, and therefore threw out the FCC’s previous rules on Net neutrality, which were passed in 2010. The court recommended that the FCC reclassify broadband under Title II in order to establish its regulatory authority. Mobile-phone companies and public utilities are also classified under Title II.

The ISPs strongly opposed the Title II reclassification. They argue that the move will destroy innovation and investment in the nation’s digital infrastructure by imposing burdensome regulations on the industry. For example, under Title II, the FCC technically has the power to dictate how much ISPs can charge customers for online access.

The FCC has vowed it won’t regulate broadband as strongly as it could and that it will not control broadband prices. The new rules include a line guaranteeing that the FCC will not regulate “unbundling, tariffs, or other forms of rate regulation.”

Many Net-neutrality advocates, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, who did not immediately support Title II reclassification, have announced their support for the move recently. Clinton said at a conference on Tuesday that the move is the only plausible option available to the agency, which needs to establish its legal authority in order to regulate broadband at all.

Earlier this week, Republicans on Capitol Hill said they would not actively oppose the FCC’s new Net-neutrality rules, since any new bill would be nearly impossible to get through Congress without Democratic support. But Verizon, AT&T and their trade group, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, aren’t giving up quite yet. They are expected to sue the FCC again this year in an effort to have the rules thrown out.

The stakes in this battle are high. Net neutrality, the concept that an Internet-service provider can’t block, slow or otherwise hamper users’ access to any online site, has an immediate impact on nearly every business and individual in the country.

One of the biggest sources of controversy has been over what’s known as paid-prioritization agreements or Internet fast lanes. Open-Internet advocates and Silicon Valley tech firms, such as Google, Amazon and eBay, lobbied hard that any new Net-neutrality rules should explicitly forbid ISPs from collecting payment from web companies for delivering their content to Internet users more quickly or in higher quality in paid fast lanes. A record-breaking 4 million people wrote to the FCC last year to comment on its proposed Net-neutrality rules. The majority of commenters supported a version of Net neutrality that prohibited fast lanes.

The ISPs, meanwhile, have argued that paid-prioritization agreements should be allowed, and that the notion was not at all at odds with the concept of “Net neutrality.” (Comcast, for example, has spent millions of dollars on advertisements saying it is in favor of neutrality rules. But its definition of Net neutrality allows for paid-prioritization agreements.) The FCC’s new Net-neutrality rules, passed today, bar paid-prioritization agreements.

The FCC’s 3-2 vote Thursday broke down on party lines. Both Republican commissioners opposed the rules; all three Democrats, including chairman Tom Wheeler, who has close ties with the telecom industry, voted in favor of it. When the vote was announced, the room exploded in cheers.

Read next: The Other Reason Cable Companies Are Sad Today

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME technology

Grumpy Cat Grounded By Blizzard

"Grumpy Guide To Life: Observations From Grumpy Cat" Book Event At Indigo
George Pimentel—WireImage Grumpy Cat attends the "Grumpy Guide To Life: Observations From Grumpy Cat" Book Event on Aug. 9, 2014 in Toronto.

A mischievous plan by net neutrality advocates to hire an airplane to tow a banner-sized image of Grumpy Cat past Comcast’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia on Thursday morning has been thwarted by a snowstorm.

The fly-by was originally timed to happen just after the Federal Communications Commission votes on rules safeguarding net neutrality.

The banner would have featured Grumpy Cat, whose look of withering contempt has become a popular meme for Internet lovers, next to the words: “Comcast: Don’t Mess With the Internet. Public wins. Team Cable loses. #SorryNotSorry.”

The three net neutrality advocacy groups behind the hijinks—Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Free Press—perhaps chose the plane’s intended flight path to thumb their noses at Comcast, the nation’s largest broadband Internet provider, which has spent millions this year attempting to stop the FCC from passing the version of net neutrality rules it is considering today.

The Flight of the Grumpy Cat has been tentatively rescheduled for tomorrow.

TIME Video Games

The Surprising Reasons People Buy the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U

Sony Launches PlayStation 4 In Japan As Console Retakes U.S. Retail Lead Over Microsoft's Xbox One
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The first customer to purchase the PlayStation 4 (PS4) video game console holds the box at the launch of the PS4 console at the Sony showroom in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.

New data offers a few head-scratching reasons why consumers buy

Infometrics guru Nielsen just published the results of an inquiry into why people are buying the latest game systems from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. The results are surprising in part.

Consider the following chart, which breaks the decision-making variables impacting each system into “factors” ranked by survey respondents:

Nielsen

The chart’s results are weirder than they appear at first. Take resolution, the number of horizontal by vertical lines output as video signal, and constitutive of the number of pixels onscreen. Several first-wave, multi-platform games ran at higher resolution on the PlayStation 4 than the Xbox One, owing, everyone in the media’s assumed based on anecdotal developer chitchat, to disparity between the two systems’ processing power.

The presumption is that slight visual differences shouldn’t matter, that you’re just being slavish to detail if you’re obsessed with subtle pixel differentiation. Yet there it is, the topmost reason for buyers of Sony’s console.

And what’s “Blu-ray Player” doing as PS4 factor number two? The Xbox One’s just as capable a Blu-ray system. Is this telling us something about a Microsoft messaging failure? Or wait—isn’t packaged media all but dead? Whether people are really watching scads of Blu-rays on their PS4s or this is just the psychological “want the option” factor is unclear.

“Game Library” is another head-scratcher. The Xbox One’s library is just as big and just as critically acclaimed as the PlayStation 4’s, while neither system offers native backward compatibility. Is this indication of a preference for the kinds of exclusives Sony’s system offers? And looking across the way at Nintendo, what’s the difference between “Game Library” (PS4) and “Exclusive Games/Content” (Wii U)?

I’m also a little confused about “Brand,” which tops the Xbox One’s factor column. Sony’s PlayStation-as-brand is, judging by platform sales across all systems, far better known than Microsoft’s Xbox—unless it’s more a Microsoft versus Sony (than PlayStation versus Xbox) thing.

And what does “Innovative Features” refer to? Xbox One Kinect, a peripheral the company yanked from the system before its first anniversary? SmartGlass integration? The bifurcated operating system (and Metro-styled interface)? Or the list of features the company wound up retracting in the wake of controversy over player privacy and digital rights management?

What this more likely confirms is that perception remains nine-tenths ownership.

TIME Gadgets

This Is Exactly When We’ll Know More About the Apple Watch

Apple has an event March 9

Apple just sent out media invites for a March 9 event most likely involving the upcoming Apple Watch.

 Invite
AppleApple Invite

“Please join us for an invitation-only event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco on Monday, March 9, at 10:00 a.m.,” the invite reads.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the Apple Watch will hit stores in April, making early March the perfect time to unveil new details about the device. The event could also involve other announcements, like a refreshed MacBook Air or Apple TV.

(Read more: Hands-On With the Apple Watch)

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