TIME Companies

Amazon Will Stream in Ultra-High Def 4K by January

The Amazon logo is seen on a podium duri
Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images The Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York, September 28, 2011.

Amazon is planning to launch 4K streaming on its Prime Instant Video service before the end of the year, the company said Wednesday. 4K is an extremely high-definition video resolution that is only compatible with certain top-of-the-line computer displays and televisions, often called “Ultra HD TVs.”

Competitors like Netflix already offer 4K streaming for select titles, but Netflix charges $3 more per month for the highest-quality stream. Amazon says Prime subscribers will be able to access 4K content at no additional cost.

Shows available in 4K on Amazon will include a concert by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett called “Cheek to Cheek” as well as some Amazon originals like Transparent and Alpha House, The Wall Street Journal reports.

[WSJ]

TIME Tech

Watch Samsung’s Rap Video About Corporate Diversity — It’s Just as Bizarre as It Sounds

The tech giant hired Korean rapper Mad Clown to do the honors

Tech giant Samsung announced its sustainability report just the way that a tech giant should: By hiring a Korean rapper named Mad Clown to rap about it.

No, this is not a spoof.

Lyrics include:

Samsung we two hundred
Eighty thousand humans
Forty percent of 100
Twelve thousand women
That don’t have to worry
After giving birth
Sit back, relax, no need to work

Translation: 40% of Samsung’s 280,000 employees are women. Parental leave policies are illin’.

Sure, this outreach method may be a little quirky, but it’s better than Samsung’s past PR gaffes — like that kinda sexist Galaxy S4 Broadway spectacular launch event at Radio City Music Hall last year. And who can forget that quickly yanked ad that made light of abusing puppies?

In fact, we’re kind of hoping that one of Samsung’s competitors will challenge Samsung to a rap battle. Dare to dream.

[H/t The Verge]

TIME Companies

Twitter Just Revealed its Big Plans For Next Year

FRANCE-US-INTERNET-IT-IPO-TWITTER
Damien Meyer—AFP/Getty Images A photo taken in the western French city of Rennes on November 7, 2013 shows an official Twitter account on a smartphone.

The social network is working hard to retain new users

Under intense media and investor scrutiny amid slowing user growth, Twitter on Wednesday gave the public a look at its roadmap for the next year, using its first-ever Analyst Day to explain how it intends to add more users who both tweet and consume content on the service.

For new users, Twitter touted recent changes to its onboarding process that make it easier to sign up. Through an upcoming feature called “Instant Timeline,” for example, first-time tweeters will be able to initially pick from categories like sports, television and technology to be automatically shown a feed of interesting tweets and users. Twitter will also better educate new users on the site’s quirky parlance, which is currently complicated enough to necessitate a glossary.

The company also plans to roll out new features to get current users visiting more often. A new “Timeline Highlights” section will display popular tweets that were sent while a user was not on the site and live above Twitter’s traditional chronological list of tweets. Users will also be able to send public tweets to other users in direct messages to discuss privately. Twitter is also planning to introduce more event landing pages, similar to ones used during the World Cup and for NFL football games. Finally, Twitter will soon let users shoot and upload videos from directly within the Twitter app.

In addition to these changes to Twitter proper, the company said it plans to launch more independent apps similar to the microvideo sharing service Vine that Twitter acquired in 2012. Twitter didn’t specify what its standalone apps might do, but rival Facebook has released single-purpose apps for private messaging and group chats, among other features.

To address ongoing criticism of its slowing growth rate, Twitter emphasized its opportunity to better engage with the massive number of people who visit the social network every month without logging in—500 million people in total. The company is offering its top 50,000 hashtags each day to be indexed in search engines, thus enabling all Internet users to peruse Twitter when viewing search results. It will also present more content recommendations to logged-out users who visit the site — someone who stumbles upon Katy Perry’s page, for example, might see links to other pop stars’ profile pages.

The scope and specificity of Twitter’s presentation seemed to please Wall Street, as the company’s stock climbed more than 7% in midday trading Wednesday.

TIME Security

Chinese Hackers Breached National Weather Websites

The breach wasn't acknowledged until after several probes

Officials announced Wednesday that Chinese hackers had gained access to Federal weather data as early as September.

The hack occurred in late September, but was not acknowledged by the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration until Oct. 20, the Washington Post reports. As a result of the hack, some national weather websites were unavailable for as many as two days, including the National Ice Center website. And those sites being offline impacted some long-term forecasts.

NOAA also lagged in its response to the breach. The Post reports the the administration “did not say its systems were compromised” when the problem was first acknowledged on Oct. 20. When NOAA admitted Wednesday that there had been a cyber security breach, they did not say who was responsible either. That information came from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who disclosed that the attack had come from China. Wolf blasted the agency saying, “They had an obligation to tell the truth. They covered it up.”

Read more at the Washington Post.

TIME Smartphones

Hands-On With Google’s New, Insanely Huge Nexus 6 Smartphone

Google Google Nexus 6

Bigger might not mean better

This hands-on originally appeared on Trusted Reviews.

In recent years, Google’s Nexus smartphone line has become synonymous with high-end functionality and great value for money. The Nexus 6, however, is something of a curve ball, and a massive one at that.

It’s a phone brimmed with high-end components – a 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, QHD display – but one which has overlooked mass market appeal in favor of a phablet dwarfing 6-inch form factor. As the phone’s size has gone up, so too has its price. The handset will set you back $649 or $699 depending on your choice of internal storage – 32GB or 64GB.

Nexus 6: Design

There is no getting away from it, the Nexus 6 is huge. At 159.3mm tall, 83mm wide and 10.1mm thick it dwarfs flagship phones such as the Galaxy S5 and LG G3. Although it features an overall footprint not much larger than the iPhone 6 Plus or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, it doesn’t carry its size as well as either rival.

I found the phone to feel bulky and cumbersome from the start. Its considerable 184g weight is distributed well across the phone’s sizeable form, but unlike some overweight handsets, the Nexus 6 does little to hide its size. It’s wider than the 6 Plus, less graceful than the Note 4 and fatter than both — it’s an awkward, gangly teenager of a handset.

Visually, the Nexus 6 is basically an oversized Moto X. It’s not ugly phone, but it lacks the refined simplicity of the Nexus 5 and certainly can’t match the iPhone 6 Plus or Note 4. The two-tone colour scheme is easy on the eye and the metallic blue edges give the phone an air of elegance, but this is overshadowed by the phone’s cheap-looking – and feeling – plastic back.

Further highlighting the Nexus 6’s awkward design are the phone’s physical buttons – a power key and separate volume rocker. Both feel dwarfed by the handset’s overall size. They are well located in the centre of the phone’s right-hand edge, but are small and fiddly to operate.

Nexus 6: Screen

As with the phone’s overall look and feel, the Nexus 6’s screen fell slightly short of expectation on first use. While the handset’s 5.96-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel QHD panel is sufficiently sharp and detailed, it lacks the pop and vibrancy of either the Note 4 or 6 Plus.

Unusually for an AMOLED panel, I found the Nexus 6’s colour range to be a little subdued. Hues aren’t exactly muted but neither do they wow. This ran throughout all elements of the Nexus 6 from the new Material OS design to web pages and the image viewer.

Where visuals were slightly off, the screen’s touch capabilities and performance were on point. Screen transitions were smooth, swipe gestures fluid and all multi-finger commands handled with ease. Brightness levels are also hard to fault. The phone’s screen adjusted elegantly to bouts of direct sunlight and periods in a shadowy corner.

We’ll need more time with the Nexus 6 to judge the screen definitively, but it doesn’t wow as much as the raw size and resolution suggest…

For the full Google Nexus 6 Hands-On, please visit TrustedReviews.com.

See more from Trusted Reviews:

iPad Mini 3 review

iPad Air 2 review

Amazon Fire HD 6 review

TIME privacy

9 in 10 Americans Feel They’ve Lost Control of Their Personal Data

Facebook Said to Plan IPO Filing for as Early as Coming Week
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg / Getty Images

A new survey finds many Americans want stronger safeguards for their personal data

More than 90% of Americans feel they have lost control of their personal data, according to a new survey of Internet users that reveals a pervasive sense of unease about who is monitoring and misusing their information.

Pew Research Center surveyors asked 607 Americans which interlopers, in particular, were a cause for concern. Eight out of ten respondents expressed concerns about the government surveilling their online communications and phone calls. An equal percentage shared concerns about businesses and marketers accessing their social media feeds. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of respondents wanted lawmakers to pass tighter regulations against advertisers looking to access people’s personal data.

Still, those polled expressed ambivalence about exchanging their personal information for access to free online services — more than half said they were willing to accept that trade-off.

The survey results come despite recent efforts by social media companies to give users a greater sense of control over privacy settings. Facebook, for example, tightened its default privacy settings in May and launched a “privacy checkup” pop-up window.

Read the full survey at Pew.

TIME Media

YouTube Launching Spotify-Style Paid Music Service

Google The new version of YouTube's app allows users to view full albums and artist discographies

New service will offer no ads and offline listening for $9.99 per month

YouTube, the most popular online destination for music, is launching a revamped free music listening experience and a paid music service that will compete directly with Spotify and the Apple-owned Beats Music.

For its free offering, Google-owned YouTube will on Wednesday begin offering full albums and even complete discographies for many artists through a new Music tab on its website and mobile apps. The company has signed licensing agreements with major U.S. labels and hundreds of independent labels to offer audio-only tracks for millions of songs that don’t already have official music videos on YouTube. YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon said the size of the library would be on par with Google’s other streaming music service, Google Play Music, which has more than 30 million songs.

“This is the first time we’ve ever made a home just for one certain type of video on YouTube,” McLernon says.

YouTube’s new paid service, meanwhile, will be called YouTube Music Key, a $9.99-per-month service that functions similarly to Spotify or Beats Music, letting users listen to songs without ads, play songs on their devices while using other apps and download videos to their phones for offline viewing.

A YouTube Music Key subscription will include access to Google Play Music, and the two services will track users’ listening habits together to offer up better recommendations on both platforms. An invite-only beta version of YouTube Music Key will be available to some of YouTube’s top music listeners on Monday, Nov. 17. Beta users will get the service free for six months, then pay a lifetime promotional price of $7.99 per month. The service will see a full launch sometime in 2015.

McLernon would not disclose the bitrate of YouTube’s new streaming services, but said it would be the same for the paid and free options.

By rolling out a paid streaming service in 2015, YouTube is late to enter a crowded market that already features Spotify, which just disclosed that it has 12.5 million paying customers, and Beats Music, which Apple is rumored to be planning to integrate into its iTunes music software. But YouTube has a key differentiating factor—its content. The website is popular not only for official music videos from artists but also for the myriad covers, parodies, remixes and original songs recorded by lesser known musicians. These types of songs and videos will also be available ad-free on the paid service, giving that platform a library that will likely exceed all others on the market in terms of raw amount of music. McLernon said these unofficial songs not covered by agreements with record labels will be added on a case-by-case basis for now, but the company hopes to eventually automate the process in the same way that users can currently sell ads against their videos with the click of a button.

YouTube’s new paid service is the biggest endorsement yet of the paid streaming model as a viable revenue stream for the music industry. YouTube has mostly been viewed as a promotional tool by artists in the past — the video site has paid out more than one billion in ad revenue in its lifetime, but that’s a relatively paltry figure given YouTube’s massive scale. (Spotify has paid $2 billion to the music industry with just 50 million users.) YouTube’s paid tier could present an opportunity for artists to earn significant revenue from the platform if customers adopt it. With more than 1 billion monthly users, YouTube will have a massive pool of customers to which it can sell music, but it’s not clear how many of them will be willing to pay for music on a site that’s always been free. The company’s last big foray into paid content, charging users a monthly subscription fee, was initially met with a muted response, though it’s since been expanded to include more channels.

YouTube’s many new features are rolling out for iOS, Android, and YouTube.com. And at least a portion of Taylor Swift’s catalogue, which was completely removed from Spotify, will be available on YouTube Music Key and Google Play Music.

TIME Gadgets

Beats Just Released a Wireless Version of its Most Popular Headphones

Beats Beats Solo2 Wireless

The Solo 2 Wireless headphones can stream audio from up to 30 feet away

Beats cut the cord on its hottest selling headphones Wednesday with the launch of its latest product, the Solo2 Wireless, a pair of brightly colored cans that can wirelessly stream music and calls from any device.

“We’re taking the most popular headphone in the world and adding wireless Bluetooth functionality to it,” said Beats President Luke Wood in a statement Wednesday. The headphones can pick up signals from up to 30 feet away, while control buttons embedded on side of the ear cup allow the listener to skip songs, adjust the volume and answer phone calls. The Solo2 Wireless will go on sale at Apple’s online store later this month for $299.99.

The announcement marks the first product launch by Beats since Apple acquired the company for $3 billion, capturing the biggest player in the premium headphone market. However, it’s likely that the Solo2 Wireless was in development before Apple bought the company.

TIME Retail

We Won’t Have an Internet Sales Tax Any Time Soon

John Boehner Holds Press Briefing At U.S. Capitol
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds his weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitors Center at the U.S. Capitol on April 18, 2012 in Washington, DC.

But brick and mortar retailers insist the idea won't go down without a fight

Republican leaders in Congress are renewing their vows to fight a proposal expanding the sales taxes applied to online purchases, dealing a blow to brick and mortar retailers who hoped to get a bill passed during the post-midterm lame duck session.

Currently, states can only apply sales tax to online purchases made by their residents from retailers with a physical presence in the same state. The Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) would reverse that, allowing states to tax online purchases made by their residents regardless of the merchant’s whereabouts. While the idea has sometimes been called the “Amazon Tax,” it’s become less applicable to the giant online retailer because the company is increasingly setting up warehouses in new states to reduce shipping times.

The MFA passed the then-Democrat-controlled Senate last year, but it was never picked up in the Republican-controlled House. With Republicans now firmly in control of both chambers of Congress, the bill looks like it’s headed nowhere fast. House Speaker John Boehner, who’s long been opposed to the MFA, said this week it will be tabled for the remainder of this year’s lame duck congressional session and would face heightened scrutiny in the year ahead, the Hill reports.

“The Speaker has made clear in the past he has significant concerns about the bill,” a Boehner spokesperson said. “And it won’t move forward this year. The Judiciary Committee continues to examine the measure and the broader issue.”

Still, backers of the bill vowed to continue the fight. “Most Americans won’t be taking the next two months off, and neither should Congress,” said Jason Brewer of the Retail Industry Leaders Association in a statement to CNBC News.

Supporters of the Marketplace Fairness Act have attempted to tie it to a similar-sounding but separate bill that extends a longstanding ban on taxing Internet access, a deeply popular moratorium on both sides of the aisle.

[The Hill]

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