TIME Gadgets

As Sony’s Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception

Sony Walkman with headphones, c 1980.
The original 'Walkman', model TCS 300, made by Sony of Japan. The TCS 300 was the first personal stereo cassette recorder manufactured by Sony. Science & Society Picture Library / Getty Images

Sony's iconic personal stereo music player, the Walkman, turns 35 on July 1, 2014.

Imagine you’re the co-founder of a global corporation, a Japanese electronics industry behemoth with virtually limitless resources at your disposal. But you live on planes, you like to listen to classical music during lengthy trans-Pacific trips, and you’re tired of schlepping your company’s bleeding edge bulky monaural-only player around.

So, because you can, you instruct your research and development wing to build a smaller, more portable version for your personal use. The year is 1978.

From that self-serving request — made over three decades ago by frustrated Sony co-chairman Masaru Ibuka and serviced by Sony’s tape recorder division with a device Ibuka liked so much he pushed to bring it to market — poured the world’s first portable audio empire. Sony’s Walkman, which turns 35 years old on July 1, 2014, went on to sell hundreds of millions of magnetic tape-reeling units, decades before Apple’s iPod ushered in the digital, solid state audio playback revolution.

Portable audio devices weren’t new when Sony’s first Walkman, the unsexy-sounding model “TPS-L2,” arrived on July 1, 1979. The world’s first portable audio player appeared two-and-a-half decades earlier in 1954: the Regency TR-1 — it had a more logical-looking model number, the TR being short for “transistor,” itself technology that was turning heads in the mid-1950s. It cost $49.95 when it launched, or $442 in today’s dollars. It played back radio audio, of course, weighed 12 ounces (with its 22.5-volt battery, which lasted 20 hours), was about the size of an inch-thick stack of index cards and didn’t fit in your pocket. But though Regency only sold about 150,000 TR-1 units, it’s recognized as the first device that got people out and listening to music on the go.

Magnetic tape appeared earlier still, back in 1930, courtesy German chemical engineering company BASF, though at this point the tape was wrapped around giant reels and hung on machines that were anything but portable (AEG showed off the first reel-to-reel commercial recorder in 1935, dubbed the “Magnetophon”). It took half a century — a period that witnessed the emergence of everything from 8-track players in the 1960s to semi-portable cassette-wielding “boombox” stereos in the 1970s — before Sony began toying with the notion of music-focused tape players small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Even then, one of Sony’s first attempts at a high-end “portable” stereo music player was hardly mainstream: the TC-D5, released in 1978, was heavy and cost a fortune. It was the bulky TC-D5 that Sony’s Ibuka was hauling back and forth on all those lengthy business flights, and which prompted him in 1978 to ask Norio Ohga, Sony’s section manager of its tape recorder division, to have a go at creating a stereo version of Sony’s Pressman — a relatively small, monaural tape recorder Sony had begun selling in 1977 and targeted at members of the press.

Ohga took Ibuka’s request to Kozo Ohsone, the tape recorder business division’s general manager, who immediately began fiddling with a modified Pressman that wouldn’t record audio but instead offered stereo playback. The resulting device so pleased Ibuka after he tried it on a business trip that he went to then-Sony chairman Akio Morita, saying “Try this. Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”

Morita did, and he thought the world would, too, immediately instructing his engineering team to begin work on a product “that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day.” The device had to be ready by summer (to appeal to students on vacation) and ship at a price comparable to the Pressman’s.

After just four months in development, the device was ready. But what to call it? Sony’s Ibuka wanted “Walkman,” in accord with the company’s Pressman, but the company wasn’t so sure the name was right, at first marketing the device as the “Soundabout” in the U.S. (where it debuted slightly later in June of 1980) and with completely different names in other countries. Sony eventually settled on Ibuka’s function-angled moniker — the underlying principle was musical ambulation, after all — and so the Walkman was born, though it wasn’t an instant hit.

Sony produced 30,000 units at the device’s Japanese launch in 1979 — the TPS-L2 ran on two AA batteries and required headphones, since it had no speaker — and priced it at $150 (just under $500 in today’s dollars), but only sold a few thousand by the close of July. It took Sony representatives walking the streets of Tokyo with test units in hand, working the crowds and letting them try the Walkman for themselves, to generate interest that devoured all of Sony’s product stock by August’s close. And to address critics of the TPS-L2, who balked at the notion of its playback-only limitation, Sony quickly followed with a version of the Walkman it dubbed the TCS-300 that added the option to record as well.

The rest of the story you know: While cassette and later disc-based mobile media players have long since been supplanted by Apple’s iPod and the MP3-focused post-iPod listening era, the Walkman, through all its many feature iterations and media shifts to alternative formats like the MiniDisc (sold under the Walkman brand), has gone on to sell nearly 400 million units. By contrast, you have to add up all of Sony’s PlayStation game consoles and handhelds sold to date (the first PlayStation went on sale in late 1994) to slide past that figure.

This is somewhat less well-known — you’ll find this nowhere in Sony’s elaborate corporate self-history — but Sony got into a bit of legal trouble with the Walkman that it didn’t fully get out of until roughly a decade ago. That’s because of one Andreas Pavel, a German-Brazilian inventor who created a device way back in 1972 that he dubbed the “Stereobelt” (because you wore it like a belt). Pavel’s device was enough like the Walkman, and his patents filed well enough in advance, that Sony eventually had to pay him royalties on the Walkman’s sales, but then it only did so in certain countries and for select models.

But Pavel, described in this 2005 New York Times piece as “more interested in ideas and the arts than in commerce, cosmopolitan by nature and upbringing,” also wanted recognition for being the inventor of the “portable stereo,” so he pursued Sony, culminating in threats in the early 2000s to sue the company in every country Pavel had filed a patent. In 2003, Sony finally relented, settling out of court for an undisclosed amount, and Pavel won the right, once and for all, to call himself the inventor of the personal portable stereo player.

My own memories of the Walkman’s arrival are filtered through the haze of a pre-Internet-chronicled childhood. I was nine-going-on-10 when the Walkman debuted stateside, living in a remote Nebraska town with a population in the low thousands. (Alexander Payne exaggerates the details of small-town Nebraska life in his eponymous film, but gets the sedate pace and disconnected tone precisely right.) In 1980, my parents had a combo 8-track stereo and record player that looked like a sofa table and took at least two people to move. It had a giant lid to hide all its knobs and levers — a monument to technological unsightliness encapsulated by elegant woodwork. It was state-of-the-art where I lived, and my interface to music as the world was transitioning to mobile.

When I got my first Walkman — I don’t recall the exact year, though I’m sure it wasn’t the first model — it was a revelation, a means of listening to music when and where I wanted to, of breaking up weekend family car trips (every car trip’s forever when you’re a kid and an hour in any direction from a major city), of liberating the music I was listening to at the time (a great many John Williams film soundtracks courtesy my uncle, who’d make me cassette copies of his own recordings) from the confines of living rooms, or the aural and control compromises of automobile stereos.

I’m not sure I cared about or even fully understood Sony’s role in portable stereo-dom growing up in the 1980s, and Sony or no, a device like the Walkman (just as the iPod after it) was probably inevitable. But credit where credit’s due: Sony’s Walkman is emblematic of what it meant to be a music connoisseur during the cassette tape’s glory days, where keeping the music in transition from your living room to your car stereo to on your person after driving to a park for a stroll or jog was as simple as hitting a button (EJECT), slipping the tiny tape-spooled piece of plastic from one magnetic door to another, and pushing PLAY.

TIME technology

California Lifts Ban on Bitcoin

California Legalizes Bitcoin
California Gov. Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at Google headquarters on September 25, 2012. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Technically, all transactions using digital or alternative currencies had been illegal in California until Monday

California lawmakers approved a bill Monday that lifted an outdated ban on the use of bitcoin and other alternative currencies, as more states seek to clarify and revise virtual currency laws.

AB 129, which Governor Jerry Brown had signed on Saturday, will ensure that “various forms of alternative currency such as digital currency” will be legal in purchasing goods and transmitting payments, according to the bill’s text. The bill reflects the growing use of digital currencies, revising Section 107 of California’s Corporations Code that prohibits use of “anything but the lawful money of the United States.”

“In an era of evolving payment methods, from Amazon Coins to Starbucks Stars, it is impractical to ignore the growing use of cash alternatives,” Democratic Assemblyman and the bill’s author Roger Dickinson said in a recent statement.

Dickinson noted that points and rewards programs function as digital currencies, and thus would not have been legal without the passage of AB 129, which legalizes these “community currencies,” that is, alternative payment systems between businesses and customers.

Other states have similarly sought to clarify their bitcoin laws. In March, the Texas Department of Banking stated that bitcoin transmissions, while permitted, are not technically “currency” transmissions. That month, the New York State Department of Financial Services announced the state will accept proposals for a virtual currency regulation system.

While bitcoin use is now legal in California, it is not technically legal tender, a status reserved for and defined federally as “United States coins and currency” under the Coinage Act of 1965. The IRS clarified in March that bitcoin functions more like property than currency, which means that taxes applying to property transactions also apply to bitcoin transactions.

Elsewhere in the world, only very few countries, notably Brazil and China, have specific regulations of bitcoin use.

TIME apps

Yik Yak, the Hyperlocal Gossip App, Raises $10M and Unsettling Questions

US-IT-TEEN-TREND-ANONYMOUS-APPS
A March 28, 2014 photo illustration shows websites for several anonymous social networking apps in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan—Getty Images

Will the old high school rumor mill start spinning out of control?

Yik Yak, a hyperlocal gossip-sharing app, has received $10 million in venture capital to help spread the gossip at college campuses across the globe.

Yik Yak allows users to anonymously post messages to a local “bulletin board,” which is visible to anyone within a 1.5 mile radius of the sender. Its co-founders, Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, launched the app 7 months ago, shortly after they had graduated from South Carolina’s Furman University. Since then, the app has rapidly expanded its herd of “yakkers,” logging users in 250 college campuses, up from 100 campuses in April, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Anonymity encourages users to air refreshingly frank confessions that they might hesitate to post to Twitter or Facebook. “I am so obscenely overpaid, I actually almost feel bad,” wrote one yakker within 1.5 miles of TIME’s midtown headquarters.

But the app has also sent rumor mills spinning dangerously out of control. One Connecticut high school temporarily suspended classes as Yik Yak’s local message board was flooded with venomous posts. “Nobody is taking H. to prom because nobody has a forklift,” read one such message, according to a student’s personal account in New York Magazine. Two schools in Chicago have sent letters urging parents to stop their children from downloading the app.

Yik Yak’s founders have acknowledged the concerns, offering to block the app from high school campuses using geo-fencing technology. “We’re proactively trying to keep high schoolers off the app,” co-founder Droll told Fox News. They have also added an age warning to the app, advising users age 16 and below to stick to the old-fashioned methods of spreading gossip.

TIME Social Media

Calm Down: Facebook Isn’t Manipulating Your Emotions

Yes, they played with your News Feeds. Yes, that’s creepy. But here’s why you shouldn’t be so shocked and upset

Have you heard that you might have been Facebook’s guinea pig? That the company, working with some scientists, fiddled around with 698,003 people’s News Feeds in January 2012 and tried to make the users feel sadder (or happier) by manipulating what members read?

Shocked? Violated? Creeped out? Well, be prepared to be even more shocked, violated and creeped out. Because what Facebook did was scientifically acceptable, ethically allowable and, let’s face it, probably among the more innocuous ways that you’re being manipulated in nearly every aspect of your life.

First things first. The researchers didn’t “make” users feel sadder or happier. What they did was make it more or less likely for them to see posts that contained either slightly more negative language or slightly more positive language. Overall, those who had emotionally charged messages hidden from their News Feed used fewer words when posting, and those who did see emotional words tended to reflect the tone of their feeds when they posted. But there’s a difference between using, as the study found, one more negative word per 1,000 in a week of posts, and what psychologists would call feeling sad or depressed.

Adam Kramer of Facebook, one of the study’s co-authors, posted on an apology of sorts, for the way the study was presented. “My co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused,” he wrote.

But the study is not without value, says Dr. Nicholas Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University who has studied emotional contagion across social networks. “The scientific concerns that have been raised are mostly without merit,” he says. He points out that while the positivity or negativity of words may not be a validated measure of mood, the fact that the study found similar effects in both directions – people were affected in similar ways when the number of negative and positive words were manipulated in their feeds – suggests emotional contagion on social media is, indeed, real.

Concerns about people’s privacy being violated by the experiment may also be unwarranted. First, Facebook users know that their data is no longer exclusively their own once it’s on the site. And the whole premise of News Feed is that it’s a curated glance at the most appealing or engaging updates your network of friends might post. That’s why the Cornell University Institutional Review Board (IRB), which reviews and approves all human research studies conducted by its members, gave the experiment the green light. They determined that the study posed minimal risk of disrupting people’s normal environments or behavior, and therefore waived the need for getting informed consent from each participant (something that IRBs routinely do for studies involving medical records, prison records and educational information as long as the scientists maintain the anonymity of the owners of the data).

Should the 698,003 users have been told once the study was done? Perhaps, but only out of courtesy, and not for any legal or ethical reasons. “Certain items weren’t shown to people in their News Feed,” says James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at University of California San Diego, who has collaborated with Christakis and has spoken with Facebook about the company’s research. “This sounds like something that happens to people ordinarily. As a consequence, I’m having a hard time understanding why people are so upset.”

“Things that happen to you that you aren’t aware of can be scary to people,” says Fowler. That could explain why, despite the fact that Fowler and Christakis conducted a similar intervention by seeding Facebook users’ accounts with messages from friends asking them to vote at an election, they weren’t accused of manipulating people in the same way. “It’s fascinating to me that everyone is piling on [this study] when we have already done it,” Fowler says of tweaking people’s social network to see how it influences their reactions.

It’s not that anyone condones the fact that we’re being studied and analyzed all the time (the fact that you clicked on this story was recorded by this site’s administrators, as well as how long you’re taking to read it to see if posts like these are appealing).

But if social networks are here to stay, and if, as many intriguing studies suggest, they do have some influence on the way we act and think, then it’s worth trying to figure out how they do it.

“I wouldn’t want the public outcry to shut down the science,” says Fowler. “I would much rather study it and understand it than stick my head in the sand and avoid the issue altogether.”

TIME Gadgets

How Google and Apple Plan to Invade Your Next Car

Jared Newman for TIME

Between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the road to smarter cars is looking less rocky.

Just plug in your phone.

That simple step is how Apple and Google will shave years off the process of getting their software into automobiles. Instead of trying to bake iOS and Android into car makers’ infotainment systems, the two tech giants have come up with a workaround: You just plug in whatever phone you have, and send the software to the car by wire.

We’ve known for a while now that Apple was going this route with CarPlay. As announced in March, users will connect their phones to supported vehicles through a Lightning cable, and a specialized version of iOS takes over the center screen. You can then ask Siri for directions, put on some music, make a phone call through the car’s speaker system or dictate a text message. It’s supposed to be just as safe as any in-car dashboard–and much safer than looking down at your phone while driving.

Last week, Google announced a similar system called Android Auto. Instead of using a Lightning cable, it uses MicroUSB. Instead of speaking to Siri, you use Google voice search. Instead of Apple Maps for directions, you get Google Maps. Both Apple and Google are also soliciting app developers so that certain apps on your phone–such as your favorite streaming music service–will show up in the car.

Naoki Sugimoto, Senior Program Director for Honda’s Silicon Valley Lab, told me during Google’s I/O conference that it can take five years to develop a new car. But since Android Auto doesn’t involve specialized hardware, Honda has figured out how to quickly integrate Google’s software.

“These are mostly software features, so the way we work is to try to decouple software architecture from hardware architecture,” he said. “So this way, in the five-year process, we can wait until the last moment to put a new feature into the production schedule.”

And here’s the kicker: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are similar enough in their underlying architecture that some auto makers–including Honda and Volvo–are planning to support iOS and Android at the same time. So at least in some vehicles, you won’t have to pledge allegiance to a single platform when you buy your car.

The plug-in system doesn’t just provide more choice for users. It also allows auto makers to retain some control over the dashboard, and frees Google and Apple from having to support things like FM radio, climate control and Bluetooth connectivity. For all those things, you’d still use the car’s built-in system. But when you want your car to be a little smarter, you’ll just bring along your cable of choice–MicroUSB or Lighting–and plug in the phone you’ve got. (Both Google and Apple are letting auto makers decide how the car’s native systems should integrate with Android Auto and CarPlay. Google is also letting auto makers add some of their own features to Android Auto, such as vehicle diagnostics and roadside service requests.)

The trade-off is that performance can be a little laggy–at least that was the case in my Android Auto demo at Google I/O last week–and you’ll always have to take the phone out of your pocket to use Android Auto or CarPlay. Maybe someday we’ll see a system that connects wirelessly to your phone while still providing the entire Android or iOS interface, but doing so today would cause a huge hit on the phone’s battery life. I imagine people will still rely on Bluetooth connectivity some of the time, even if it means having no apps and no on-board navigation.

I haven’t tried CarPlay yet, but I spent some time in a Honda demo car with Android Auto at Google’s I/O conference this week. In short, it looks like a much safer way to listen to music, make phone calls and get directions while driving. Both Apple and Google claim that their software will start showing up in cars later this year; I’m looking forward to when plugging in your phone is as common as popping in a CD once was.

TIME space

NASA to Re-Attempt Global Warming Satellite Launch

After first mission failed in 2009

NASA will launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) on Tuesday to further scientific understanding of carbon dioxide emissions, the agency’s first mission to study greenhouse gases.

The $468 million mission will allow scientists to record detailed carbon dioxide measurements, contributing crucial information to the incomplete understanding of “where all of the carbon dioxide comes from and where it is being stored when it leaves the air,” according to a statement. A clearer picture of the global carbon cycle will allow scientists to evaluate methods to mitigate climate change.

“The observatory will use its vantage point from space to capture a picture of where the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide are, rather than our cobbling data together from multiple sources with less frequency, reliability and detail,” Gregg Marland, an American geology professor, told NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Officially cleared for launch on Sunday, the OCO-2 will be the second satellite to observe carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, after Japan launched the Greenhouses Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) in 2009. While the GOSAT records only one observation every four seconds — only 500 per day prove useful — the OCO-2 will log 24 observations per second. And thanks to a small one-square mile viewing frame, the OCO-2 will dodge clouds to report nearly 100,000 highly usable observations per day.

As the name’s appendage suggests, OCO-2 is a replacement for the mission’s original satellite, which was lost in 2009 when the Orbital Taurus XL launch vehicle, carrying the satellite, failed to enter orbit. A mishap investigation report determined that the failure to separate of the payload fairing — a heavy cover designed to jettison after launch — prevented the Taurus from achieving orbital velocity. The Taurus re-entered the atmosphere, igniting and disintegrating before plummeting into the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica.

This time, the OCO-2, which entered its implementation phase in 2010, will launch atop the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The Delta II was selected after a second Taurus rocket failed to launch in 2011 for a similar reason. NASA stated that “there are no issues or concerns with either OCO-2 or the Delta II,” noting a “zero percent chance” of a weather criteria violation.

The OCO-2 has a planned operational life of 2 years.

 

 

 

TIME Smartphones

10 Free iPhone Apps Everyone Should Download

There are tons of apps on my iPhone that I love and use all the time, from my local supermarket’s app to fun games like Threes. It’s really hard to choose favorites, but that’s exactly what my editor Suzanne asked me to do: Pick my 10 favorite free iPhone apps.

It wasn’t easy. But after much deliberation, I narrowed the apps I use every day down to a list of 10 that spans multiple genres, from GPS navigation to fitness tracking. Take a look at my faves, and if you’d like, use the comments section to tell us all your favorite free apps that I might have missed.

 Maps
Google

Google Maps

To be sure, the stock Maps app on your iPhone has improved a lot since its disastrous launch two years ago, but it’s still not as well designed and robust as the Google Maps app it replaced. Google Maps 3.0 offers highly accurate traffic reports, construction alerts and road closings provided by Waze, lane guidance so you don’t miss your next turn, the ability to save maps for offline use and even mass transit directions with schedules built in. And if a new, faster route becomes available, Google Maps will alert you and ask if you’d like to switch.

You can download Google Maps for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Weather Channel App

Yahoo has long been the provider of your iPhone’s stock weather app, but that’s about to change later this year in iOS 8 when Apple will switch to The Weather Channel. But you shouldn’t wait for iOS 8 – the stand-alone Weather Channel app is leagues ahead of Yahoo’s version now. It offers extended 10-day forecasts and hyperlocal rain reports down to your exact location. It looks great, and as an added bonus, it doesn’t glitch out like the stock iPhone app occasionally does.

You can download The Weather Channel app for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Stitcher

I’m a big fan of NPR shows like Radio Lab and Wait, Wait, but I’m rarely around a radio when the shows are broadcast. That’s why I like the Stitcher radio-on-demand app. It streams podcasts direct to your phone from all the biggest names, from popular NPR shows to The Nerdist to Penn Gillette to Joe Rogan. There are plenty of news briefs, too, so you can stay current on what’s going on in the world.

You can download Stitcher for iOS on the Apple App Store.

gas-buddy-ios-app-510px
Gas Buddy

Gas Buddy

I recently took a cross-country road trip, and as you can imagine, I spent a lot of money on gas along the way. But I was able to save a lot of money on gas, too, thanks to the Gas Buddy app. It relies on crowdsourcing to constantly update gas prices at fueling stations across the country, letting you compare prices no matter where you are. You can even overlay prices on a map, pinpointing the best, cheapest location to refuel on your route. Prices tend to be accurate, and are generally quickly updated when they’re not.

You can download Gas Buddy for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Facebook

Pretty much everyone is on Facebook these days, for better or worse. To stay connected with everyone in your social circle, I recommend downloading the official Facebook app. It learns your preferences as you use it, delivering content it thinks you’ll find most relevant. And you can change your own profile and write your own updates on the go, making all your friends jealous of your exciting night out on the town. It’s a guilty pleasure that I just can’t do without.

You can download Facebook for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Google Now

It the past, I’ve called Google Now “creepy” – and it is. But that’s just because it’s so good at learning about you and your life. Google Now learns where you work, where you live, and where you travel, providing you with instant weather alerts, traffic and mass transit updates based on where it thinks you’re going. And if you’ve got a Gmail account, Google Now pulls travel bookings and restaurant reservation confirmations from it, automatically notifying you if your flight is delayed and letting you know when you’ll need to leave home to catch it. Plus, it learns from your Google searches to deliver sports scores and news headlines it thinks you’ll be interested in. You have to give up a lot of privacy to Google to use it, but Google Now is so good that doing so feels worth it.

Google Now is part of the Google Search app and is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Adidas miCoach

There are plenty of great fitness apps available on your iPhone, but one of my (and Suzanne’s) favorites is Adidas miCoach. It offers coaching, training plans, exercises, performance tracking that includes steps taken and calories burned, and GPS tracking. You’ll get the most out of miCoach by pairing it with a compatible activity monitor, but it still works great as a standalone app. Give the free app a try – you have nothing to lose but a few pounds.

You can download Adidas miCoach on the Apple App Store.

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Yelp

Yelp

Whenever I’m feeling hungry away from home, I reach for the Yelp local discovery app. It ranks local businesses based on user-submitted ratings and reviews, making it easy to discover a great new hair salon or the place with the best pizza in your town. Yelp learns your preferences as you use it and check in to businesses, tailoring recommendations to your own individual tastes. Yelp also helps you save money: Occasionally, businesses offer coupons and specials on the app just for stopping and checking in.

You can download Yelp for iOS on the Apple App Store.

RedLaser

RedLaser is a shopping assistant app designed to help you find the best prices on any item with a barcode. Just use the app to take a photo of an item’s barcode and RedLaser will figure out what the item is, which local stores and websites sell it, and at what prices. And as a bonus, the app stores all your loyalty card info and offers coupons, helping you turn a good deal into a great deal.

You can download RedLaser for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Spotify

I’ve said it before, but Spotify is my absolute favorite app for streaming music to my iPhone. I pay for the $9.99 monthly premium service, but there are plenty of free listening options available for those who don’t mind a few ads every now and then. Spotify lets you create and modify your own radio stations, create playlists and shuffle through songs by your favorite artists. And if you install the app on an iPad, Spotify now lets you listen to individual songs on demand without you having to shell out the cash to become a premium subscriber.

You can download Spotify for iOS on the Apple App store.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Mobile

Find Out Which New York Subway Line Has the Best Cell Phone Coverage

Update 5:52 p.m.

One of the travails of living in New York is spending lots of time in underground subway tunnels, where finding decent cell phone coverage can feel like sifting for gold. A new study by a company that benchmarks wireless networks reveals which subway lines in the city have the best coverage and which will turn your smartphone into a paperweight (or a Candy Crush machine).

According to Global Wireless Solutions, the 7 train has the most consistent mobile coverage in Manhattan, with phones being able to access their carriers’ data network 74 percent of the time on the subway line. On the other end of the scale, trying to use the Internet on the F train is pretty much impossible—phones can only get online about 8 percent of the time on that line.

To conduct the test, Global Wireless Solutions used a portable benchmarking system called a Freerider and four Samsung Galaxy S III and S IV smartphones to test the wireless networks of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. The test occurred from May 5 to May 8 and covered the area of Manhattan below Central Park. Check out the full results below:

  1. 7 train (Times Square to Grand Central) – 74 percent success rate
  2. E train (50th Street to Lexington Ave/53rd Street) – 52 percent success rate
  3. 6 train (28th St. to Grand Central) – 35 percent success rate
  4. B, D trains (Columbus Circle to Grand St.) – 23 percent success rates
  5. 1 train (Columbus Circle to South Ferry) – 20 percent success rate
  6. A, C trains (Columbus Circle to Fulton Street) – 16 percent success rates
  7. L train (8th Ave to 1st Ave) – 15 percent success rate
  8. 2, 3 trains (Chambers St. to Wall St.) – 14 percent success rates
  9. J, Z trains (Delancey St. to Broad St.) – 12 percent success rates
  10. (Tied) E train (Canal St. to World Trade Center) – 11 percent success rate; N, Q, R trains (Lexington Ave/59th St. to South Ferry) – 11 percent success rates
  11. F Train (Lafayette St. to East Broadway) – 8 percent success rate

In an emailed statement the Metropolitan Transportation Authority called into question the value of the study. “Recently, a Virginia company tried to measure the strength of wireless service in stations that don’t have wireless antennas installed yet – as well as in tunnels which have never been wired for service,” the agency said. “This says a lot about the company’s methodology, but it has nothing relevant to say about wireless service in the subway system. Any New Yorker who has called, texted, emailed or surfed the web while waiting for a train knows the value of this service and, and their opinions matter more than an out-of-state press release.”

The MTA has contracted a company called Transit Wireless to install wireless service in all the city’s subway stations by 2017. So far 47 stations have been equipped with wireless service, the MTA said in its statement.

TIME Research

In 2025, Everyone Will Get DNA Mapped At Birth

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What will the future hold? REB Images—Getty Images/Blend Images

Scientists have scoured trends in research grants, patents and more to come up with these 10 innovations that will be reality in 10 years (or so they think)

Everybody likes to blue-sky it when it comes to technology. Driverless cars! Fat-burning pills! Telepathic butlers! But the folks at Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science do it for a living—and they do it with data.

By examining who’s investing in what, who’s researching what and who’s patenting what, the group has come up with 10 predictions of innovation for 2025, which they presented at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The list included the first attempts at testing teleportation, the ubiquity of biodegradable packaging and electric air transportation.

Here’s what they say will be commonplace in medicine in a decade:

1. Dementia will be on the decline

While the World Health Organization predicts that more than 70 million people will be affected by dementia, much of it related to Alzheimer’s disease, by 2025, that upward trajectory of cases may be blunted somewhat by advances in genetics that will lead to earlier detection and possible treatment of the degenerative brain disorder.

2. We’ll be able to prevent type 1 diabetes

Unlike type 2 diabetes, which generally develops when the body gradually loses its ability to break down sugar properly, type 1 diabetics can’t produce enough insulin, the hormone that dispatches sugar from the diet. Advances in genetic engineering will lead to a more reliable technique for “fixing” genetic aberrations that contribute to type 1 diabetes as well as other metabolic disorders, making it possible to cure these conditions.

3. We will have less toxic cancer treatments

Building on the promise of targeted cancer therapies, which more precisely hone in on tumor cells while leaving healthy cells alone, researchers will have a deeper knowledge of the Achilles’ heels of cancer cells, which will help them to develop more powerful and precise drugs that can dispatch tumors with fewer side effects.

4. Every baby will get its DNA mapped at birth

It’s already a trendy thing to have your genome sequenced, but today there isn’t much you can do with the information. Having that information, however, may prove useful in the near future, both for predicting your risk of developing diseases as well as your ability to respond (or not) to certain drugs. As knowledge about the genome, and what various genes, or versions of genes do, grows, so will doctors’ ability to predict health outcomes and treat patients based on genetic information. So within a decade, getting a baseline DNA map at birth could be a valuable way of preparing to lead a healthier and possibly longer life.

TIME Big Picture

Where Wearable Health Gadgets Are Headed

fitbit
A person wearing a Fitbit fitness band types on a laptop Getty Images

Every once in a while, I’m shown a tech product and I can’t figure out why it was created. One great example of this was a two-handed mouse I was shown at large R&D-based company many years ago.

I was asked to review it to see if they should bring it to market. After trying to use it and viewing the complicated things you had to do to make it work, I told them it would never succeed. However, the engineer behind it was convinced he had created the next great mouse and was determined to try and get it to market. Thankfully, the management at this company killed it, as it would have been a complete failure and provided no real value to any customer. However, the technology was available to create it and this engineer did it because he could.

In the world of tech, most successful products address serious needs that people have. This is very much the case behind the current movement to create all types of wearable devices designed to make people healthier.

Folks behind products like the Jawbone Up, Nike Fuel, Fitbit and others have solid backgrounds in exercise and exercise science. They wanted to create stylish wearable products that could be used to monitor steps, count calories and track various other fitness metrics. Other products such as ones from iHealth, which has created a digital blood pressure device and a blood glucose testing kit that are tied to smartphones, were designed by people close to the health industry who saw a need to create products that could utilize digital technology to power new health monitoring tools.

At a personal level, I’m pleased that these folks are utilizing key technologies like accelerometers, sensors, Bluetooth low-energy radios and new types of semiconductors to create products that aim to impact people’s health. Readers of this column may remember that two years ago I suffered a heart attack and had a triple bypass. As you can imagine, this provided a serious wake up call to me about taking better care of myself. Since then, my Nike Fuelband has been my 24-hour wearable companion: I check its step-monitoring readout religiously to make sure I get the 10,000 steps in each day that my doctor has required of me as part of my recovery regimen.

While I would like to think that these tech folks are doing it for the altruistic reasons, the bottom line is that there is a lot of money to be made in health-related wearables. The folks from IHS published a good report last year on the market for wearables, which are mostly driven by health-related apps.

Most researchers that track this market believe that the wearable health market will represent at least $2 billion in revenue worldwide by 2018. In many developed countries around the world, people are becoming much more health conscious. Reports seem to come out daily, talking about the good or bad effects some foods have on our lives. And more and more, we hear that we need to exercise to either maintain our health or to improve it.

So a combination of the right technology becoming available and an increased awareness for better health has created this groundswell of health-related wearable devices and digital monitoring tools designed to help people have healthier lives. But there is another major reason that we are seeing more and more health-related wearables and digital monitoring products come to market now. This is driven by most healthcare providers and is one of their major initiatives: In simple terms, it’s cheaper to keep a person healthy than to cover their costs in the hospital when they’re sick.

Almost all the major health care providers have created web sites with all types of information about managing one’s health. These sites have information and programs for cancer patients, diabetics, and many other health issues that help people better manage these diseases. Health insurers are also really getting behind the various digital monitoring tools and health wearables, too, viewing them as vital tools that can help their customers stay healthier and keep them out of the hospital as much as possible.

Interestingly, as I talk to many of the executives of these health-related wearable companies, many of them claim to be on a mission. Yes, they admit there is money to be made, but most I speak with are serious about giving people the technology to help them keep themselves healthy. In fact, in at least two cases, the executives I have talked to have special funds they personally set aside to donate to major health causes as part of their personal commitment to using technology to make people healthier.

While there is some chatter about the market for wearable technology not being a sustainable one, I suspect that it will stay on track to eventually become integrated into everyday objects such as watches, hats and even clothes, becoming part of a broader trend called “self-health monitoring.” This trend basically says that people will want to have more and more information about calories the number of calories they’ve burned, the number of steps they’ve steps taken, their pulse and other metrics. Thanks to these new technologies, this data would be available to them in a variety of ways.

Of course, not everyone may want to know these health-related data points, but the research shows that at least one-fourth of U.S. adults have these types of health-related wearable monitoring devices on their personal radars. The fact that this market is growing around 20% or more each year suggests that we could continue to see growth for at least another three years. As these devices become part of our wardrobes, they could eventually fade into the background while still providing health-related info that many people may need to stay motivated. This is the goal that the tech world has embraced wholeheartedly, providing more and better tools for this purpose.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

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