TIME e3 2014

Pac-Man Chomps His Way Onto Super Smash Bros. Roster

Mario and company will face a hungry challenger in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. games: Pac-Man was announced as a playable character for both the Wii U and 3DS versions at a Nintendo E3 event Tuesday.

The iconic yellow orb will mostly play as his anthropomorphic version from the Pac-Man World 3D platformers, but the original 2D version will also make an appearance for some special moves. Pac-Man’s attacks will include the ability to hurl fruit and, of course, chomp down on his opponents. No word yet on whether Ms. Pac-Man will make a cameo as well.

Pac-Man, a character created by Namco, joins a growing cast of non-Nintendo characters that will be featured in the new Smash Bros., including Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Capcom’s Mega Man. The 3DS version comes out this summer, while the Wii U version will release during the holiday season.

TIME e3 2014

What It’s Like to Play Destiny Competitive Multiplayer

Destiny's "Crucible" mode feels familiar, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It feels like Halo.

I’d heard this even before laying hands on Destiny for the first time, and wondered if it was a lazy comparison.

But with Destiny’s competitive multiplayer (known as “Crucible”), the similarities to Halo are easy to notice. You’re still an armor-clad soldier with regenerating health that can absorb more than just a shot or two to the gut. The pace is slower compared to twitchy shooters like Call of Duty, allowing cat-and-mouse games to emerge as players chase each other around corners and into hidey holes. You’ve got a couple guns, some grenades and a mêlée attack, and you may need to use some combination of them to bring another player down.

I could use the same description for Halo, which Bungie worked on for over a decade before moving on to build Destiny under publisher Activision. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Halo is one of the most revered first-person shooters of all time. But clearly, Bungie isn’t reinventing any basic mechanics. Instead, it’s offering a slightly different take on the style of shooter it created in 2000.

In a demo at E3, I played a couple rounds of Control, in which two teams tussle to maintain command of three zones. It’s the kind of mode you’ll find in lots of shooters, and the flow wasn’t much different here. The winning strategy, as always, is to pick a base and stick with it, finding a good vantage point to fend off foes as they approach. I would’ve happily played more if Activision let me.

While there are differences from Halo, they’re subtle. You can see how much health your opponents have, which takes some guesswork out of deciding your next move. In larger maps, you can summon a personal hovercraft, called a “Sparrow,” to help you zip to your objective. And instead of picking up weapons scattered around the map, you bring your own preset arsenal to the fight. (The occasional “heavy ammo” drop allows you to use your most powerful weapon, so the mad scramble for rocket launchers or chainguns is essentially intact.)

I may be understating what could be Destiny’s biggest distinguishing trait: In Halo, everyone has the same abilities and the same choices in weaponry, but in Destiny, every character is different, based entirely on the weapons, armor and special abilities they’ve unlocked in the main game. Halo was almost religious in making sure everyone fought on a level playing field–the ability to customize your loadout didn’t happen until Halo 4, which Bungie didn’t work on–but Destiny appears to take the opposite approach. Having the story mode influence the competitive multiplayer is something few games have attempted, and it’ll be interesting to see if Destiny can pull it off.

Still, I couldn’t get a sense of how this actually affected the game just from a short, standalone demo. In my brief experience, Destiny’s competitive multiplayer was easy to fall into, as if it was something I’d already spent hundreds of hours of my life playing. If Destiny’s character-building hook makes a meaningful difference, I think I’ll be okay with that.

TIME technology

Mozilla’s $25 Smartphone Is a Brilliant Gamechanger

SPAIN-TECHNOLOGY-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS-ERICSSON
A device with the new Firefox OS is presented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, on February 24, 2014. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

If you don't have any customers, create them.

Mozilla plans to roll out a $25 smartphone by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

$25? For a smartphone? Sounds crazy, right? Actually, not so much.

Mozilla is best known for its desktop browser, Firefox. But it also has a mobile operating system, Firefox OS, that gets so little attention you might think the company was trying to keep it a secret. (To see what it looks like, check out this Fortune story.)

Mozilla’s big problem in getting people to use Firefox OS is that if you’re an Android or Apple iOS user enjoying top-notch hardware and the myriad apps available for either system, why would you ever want to switch to an upstart, unproven OS with few developers working on cool new software? You wouldn’t. And Firefox OS’ competitors already dominate the existing smartphone market—globally, in the last quarter of 2013, Android OS had 78% of smartphone users, Apple’s iOS had 18% and the rest was split between BlackBerry, Windows Phone and various small-fry operations.

So if people who already have a smartphone won’t switch to Firefox OS, how could Mozilla possibly get a bigger slice of the mobile OS pie? Simple: Create new smartphone owners.

The $25 Mozilla smartphone—packed with Firefox OS, of course—will be sold in emerging markets like India and Indonesia, the Journal reports. Old-school “feature phones” still dominate in those countries because they’re ultra-cheap devices in countries where a few dollars can make the difference between poverty and sustainability. Mozilla’s bet is this: Bring smartphone prices in emerging markets down to $25, where they can compete on cost with feature phones, and people will jump at the chance to upgrade. And when they do, boom, a bunch of people are suddenly using Firefox OS, finally making it a relevant player in the global mobile OS wars.

Even if Mozilla breaks even or takes a loss on the hardware, it could eventually turn some kind of a profit on software, a model used by Amazon’s Kindle and most gaming consoles. And there are good reasons to root for Mozilla’s $25 smartphone gambit: If it’s successful, it has the potential to ignite a new wave of software entrepreneurship in emerging markets, where a comparatively small number of developers have mostly been focused on low-tech—but still impressive—apps based on SMS and WAPP, two technologies largely considered outdated in the U.S. but still widely used in many countries abroad.

What could thwart Mozilla’s plans, however, is largely outside of its domain: infrastructure. For smartphones to do smartphone stuff, they need a mobile data connection. India and Indonesia have both been taking pains to improve their respective mobile broadband infrastructures—and there’s clear demand for it in both countries—but both countries have plenty more to do before penetration rates hit satisfactory levels.

If there’s clear customer demand for Mozilla’s $25 smartphone in either country (and elsewhere), that could convince lawmakers and telecom leaders to build more cell towers, lay down fiber and make other capital investments in their networks. But for now, infrastructure remains the weak link in Mozilla’s mission to conquer emerging markets $25 at a time.

TIME technology

Sean Parker’s Startup Buys Causes.com To Help Fix U.S. Politics

Sean Parker
Sean Parker attends the World Premiere of "Downloaded" during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre in Austin on March 10, 2013. Michael Buckner—Getty Images

The Silicon Valley tech tycoon’s plan to revamp civic activism in America is off to the races with a savvy acquisition

Tech mogul Sean Parker has bolstered his plan to revitalize American politics through tech with some significant acquisitions announced Wednesday.

Parker’s Brigade Media, revealed in an April SEC filing reported on by TIME, has purchased a controlling stake in Philotic Inc., which owns Causes.com, “the world’s largest online campaigning platform,” the group said in a statement. With the takeover, Brigade also acquires Votizen, a startup launched in 2013 to help educate and organize voters.

“This is one of the first steps we’re taking to re-energize interest in democracy by bringing together people who are passionate about different issues in their communities, cities, states and countries, and allowing them to take action,” the group said.

Launched as a social good app for Facebook in 2007, Causes acts as a social network and fundraising platform for 186 million users in 156 countries. The site will continue to function for now but eventually Causes.com will disappear and be subsumed into Brigade.

Causes CEO Matt Mahan will take over from Parker as Brigade Media’s new CEO while former VP of Revenue James Windon becomes Brigade Media’s president. The Facebook billionaire will serve as Executive Chairman and “continue to drive product vision and will work with Matt and James on strategic functions of the company,” a spokesperson told TIME.

Other organizations aren’t the only things Brigade says it’s acquiring. As it seeks to overcome “50 years of declining participation in democracy and feelings of powerlessness,” the company says it’s on a hiring spree looking to pick up engineers, product designers and political strategists.

“We believe there is great power in the technology that Causes and Votizen helped build,” the group said, “and today’s acquisition supports Brigade’s goal of tackling one of the last areas of our society nearly untouched by technology: civic engagement.”

TIME media and technology

Microsoft Refuses U.S. Request to Hand Over Email Stored Abroad

The Microsoft Corp. logo at a launch event for the company's Windows 8.1 operating system in Tokyo, on Oct. 18, 2013.
The Microsoft Corp. logo at a launch event for the company's Windows 8.1 operating system in Tokyo, on Oct. 18, 2013. Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The tech giant said acceding to the U.S. request for an email from a data storage site in Dublin, Ireland would "violate international law and treaties, and reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet"

Microsoft is opposing a U.S. government request that would force the technology giant to hand over a customer’s email stored in an Ireland data center, the latest tech challenge of federal information requests after the Snowden disclosures.

The company said in a court filing made public Monday that the judicial order to hand over email stored in a data center in Dublin, Ireland “would violate international law and treaties, and reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet.”

Microsoft’s argument is partially based on the premise that the Fourth Amendment requires the government to specify the place to be searched. As the email is stored in Ireland, Microsoft said, the U.S. government would be violating the “territorial integrity of sovereign nations.”

The U.S. government’s ability to sweep up emails stored in data centers abroad would hurt Microsoft’s business, the company said, as well as other American companies.

Federal prosecutors argued in February that a court can order companies to release records, regardless of where the records are stored. A judge in April agreed, saying that a search for digital information occurs when information is exposed to possible human observation, “such as when it appears on a screen,” rather than when it is copied by the hard drive.

Microsoft’s latest challenge came in the last week and was first reported yesterday by the New York Times.

Tech companies like Microsoft have begun resisting the government’s efforts to obtain their data. Google is laying a fiberoptic cable under the world’s oceans which would allow it better protect its customers’ data, and is also encrypting more of its information, and companies are building data centers abroad.

Forrester Research has estimated that the potential lost sales for U.S. tech companies abroad hurt over the Snowden revelations could be as high as $180 billion, or 25 percent of industry revenue.

TIME apps

The Best Replacement Android Keyboard Is Now Free

SwiftKey
The SwiftKey Android keyboard predicts which word you'll type next SwiftKey

SwiftKey is one of the first apps I install on any new Android device I get, so consider this a mini-review, if you would: If you type a fair amount on your Android phone and you haven’t tried SwiftKey yet, it’s worth a download — especially now that it’s free.

The app replaces your stock Android keyboard with one that lets you quickly swipe around from letter to letter, figuring out which word you’re trying to type.

What’s more, it uses prediction technology to try to guess the next word you’ll type, offering a few choices up above the top row of keys. If you see the correct word, just tap it and it’ll get plopped into your current sentence. The guesses improve over time: The more you use the app, the better it gets.

SwiftKey used to cost $4 after a one-month free trial, but the company has decided to make the app free from now on, charging users for additional keyboard designs instead. (If you’re a former paid customer like me, we get 10 free themes that would otherwise cost $5. Hooray?)

The latest version of SwiftKey finally includes access to a top row of numbers, too, which can be activated from within the app’s settings.

I don’t have a ton of complaints about the app — certainly no major complaints, anyway. Its former $4 price tag would have been a strike against it, but now that it’s free, Android owners should find a lot to like about it.

The company is also planning an iPhone version once the next iteration of Apple’s mobile software, iOS 8, rolls out this fall. (Current Apple software rules restrict the installation of third-party keyboards, but iOS 8 is lifting that restriction.)

TIME Apple

9 Awesome New Camera Features in iOS 8

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces IOS 8 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, USA, June 2, 2014. John G. Mabanglo—EPA

A pretty good point-and-shoot camera just got better

fortunelogo-blue
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

Gathered from around the Web. Some of these improvements made it into Apple’s WWDC keynote last week. Many did not.

– Permanent backup. Every photo and video you take is stored forever in the cloud – for a price. See The great photo shoebox in the sky.
– Exposure control. Slide your finger up and down to set the exposure. See Yahoo Tech.
– Photo editing. Crop, straighten, rotate, adjust light and color in the app. See iClarified.

Click here to see the rest of the list.

TIME Gadgets

Mozilla Will Sell $25 Smartphones in India and Indonesia

The U.S.-based company is aiming to be competitive in developing countries, by creating a smartphone that can be sold for a low, low price

You’ll soon be able to buy a smartphone for $25—if you live in India or Indonesia, that is.

Mozilla plans to begin selling a low-cost smartphone with its Firefox operating system in emerging markets later this year, challenging Google’s Android and Apple iOS in low-cost regions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The U.S.-based company’s current phones, produced in Europe and Latin American in collaboration with handset makers ZTE Corp., LG Electronics and several wireless carriers, cost above $60 and are too expensive for consumers in India and Southeast Asia, Mozilla said.

Mozilla is teaming up with the Chinese chip maker Spectrum Communications Inc. to produce a $25 phone in order to capture the next generation of smartphone users in India and Indonesia.

“One U.S. dollar means a lot of things to consumers in emerging countries. It’s difficult to sell smartphones that cost more than US$50 in those markets,” Mozilla Chief Operation Officer Gong Li told the Journal.

[WSJ]

 

TIME Retail

Amazon Eyes Local Services Market

Workers pack boxes at Amazon's logistics centre in Graben
Workers pack boxes at Amazon's logistics center in Graben, Germany, on Dec. 16, 2013 Michaela Rehle—Reuters

Amazon will be branching into the local services market later this year by linking its consumers to professional services — potentially increasing its sales by acting as the middleman for service providers

Amazon.com is expanding its growing portfolio by branching into the local services market, according to reports.

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant, which currently sells everything from groceries and clothes to home appliances, will offer services to complement every product featured on its site, according to Reuters.

Customers will be matched with service providers that specialize in the relevant product; for example, those who have recently bought a violin will be recommended local music instructors.

Amazon is taking its cue from sites such as Yelp and Thumbtack — the latter matches 63,000 professionals with customers, according to Reuters. By linking customers with services, Amazon aims to leverage its reputation as a trusted company.

Amazon’s expansion marks the increasing appeal of sites that streamline products and services, which is only expected to flourish with the growing use of smartphones. Rival eBay also tapped into the market late last year with its launch of Hire, which advertises service professionals along with related products.

[Reuters]

TIME e3 2014

E3 Recap: Ubisoft Press Conference in Under 2 Minutes

All you need to know from Ubisoft's press conference in less than 2 minutes:

At the E3 Gaming conference on Monday, Ubisoft joined the list of the massive gaming publishers who were announcing new games during lavish press conferences. During the conference Ubisoft announced titles such as Far Cry 4 and showed attendees new footage from games like The Division. For those of you who don’t have the time to watch an long hour press conference, don’t worry about it – we got you covered. Here are all the highlights in 2 minutes

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser