TIME Gadgets

Verizon Offering Discounts for Bringing Your Own Phone

Verizon
Bloomberg / Getty Images

Verizon is finally willing to give you a discount for bringing your own device to its network. The company announced that starting Thursday, April 17, compatible phones brought to Verizon will qualify for its lower, no-contract Verizon Edge discount rate on a new MORE Everything plan.

For individual users, the savings amount to $10 per month discount on your monthly line access fee with your own phone. Under the Edge plan, one line with 250MB will cost you just $45 per month (albeit with nasty data overage fees looming).

Larger families can qualify for even larger discounts as long as you purchase a 10GB or larger data plan. Four lines with 10GB of shared data now cost just $160 per month on Verizon Edge, the same cost as AT&T.

For more on getting the best deal while for shopping for a new cell phone plan, check out Techlicious’ recently updated carrier price comparison chart.

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

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TIME Technologizer

Shocker: In 1980, Motorola Had No Idea Where the Phone Market Would Be in 2000

When you make predictions about tech, prepare to be wrong

Yesterday, I wrote two pieces about the impossibility of making tech predictions–one involving a 1981 magazine cover, and one concerning current predictions about the wearable-gadget market in 2018. I promise to move on to other subjects in a moment, but I stumbled across one more random artifact that’s too good not to share.

Marty Cooper is the legendary inventor of the mobile phone, which he came up with in 1973 while working at Motorola. Over at the website of his company, Dyna, there’s a digitized version of an amazing article about the wireless phone market by H.P. Burstyn, from the November 1980 issue of Electronic Business magazine.

At that point, the wireless phone industry barely existed. The story reports that it may be shaping up as a war between AT&T and Motorola; says that what we later came to refer to as “car phones” would make up the bulk of the market, but that pocket-sized phones could be a big deal someday if they could be made to work indoors; and addresses concerns such as whether thieves would be likely to break into automobiles to steal phones, as they’d done a few years earlier with CB radios. Reading it today, it’s both an endearing period piece and a pretty smart summary of where the market was at the time.

It also features some stats forecasting the number of wireless phones to be sold in 10 major U.S. markets:

Wireless phone projections
Electronic Business

The projections I find fascinating are the ones in the middle column. They’re from Motorola, and they involve the year 2000, which was then two decades in the future.

It’s not entirely clear whether the total figure of 207,399 phones represents cumulative sales or sales in the year 2000 or the number of subscribers. But no matter how you slice the data, it’s wildly off. I don’t have numbers for the 10 markets mentioned, but according to the FCC, when the year 2000 rolled around, there were 109 million wireless phone users in the entire country. That’s 400 times Motorola’s estimate for the markets in its study.

In 1980, the folks at Motorola knew more about wireless phones than anyone else in the world. But they couldn’t see what economies of scale would do to pricing for handsets and service. They weren’t aware that the breakup of AT&T, mandated by the U.S. federal government in 1982, would lead to dramatically increased competition in the communications market. They likely didn’t envision that by 2000, it would be clear that phones and PCs were on their way to merging into one category of device.

Today, as far as I know, no research firm is attempting to estimate sales figures for the year 2034. Bu things move a lot faster than they did 34 years ago, so looking out even a few years is an exercise fraught with peril. And the best way to look smart isn’t to act like we’re capable of predicting the future with any precision–it’s to cheerfully admit that we often don’t have a clue.

TIME Rumors

Report: Amazon’s Smartphone Might Include Eye-Tracking 3D

The e-commerce giant is reportedly working on a smartphone that features eyewear-free 3D interface that tracks users' eyes and face motions. The rumored phone could be available as soon as this year

The Wall Street Journal reignited longstanding rumors about an Amazon smartphone last Friday, when it reported Amazon planned to announce the phone in June, it intended to feature an eyewear-free 3D interface and that we’d be able to lay hands on the device sometime later this year.

Now BGR’s splashing kerosene on the Journal‘s fire with what it claims are exclusive pictures of the phone — a prototype wrapped in a protective plastic shell, to be fair — but representative, according to BGR’s sources. If indeed this is the fabled smartphone, and assuming we’re looking at something that resembles the final product (companies can run anywhere with prototypes, and many never see light of day), it looks pretty much like any other smartphone.

It sounds like any other smartphone, too, spec-wise: BGR’s sources claim the phone includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2 GB of memory, runs a version of Android comparable to Amazon’s tablet lineup, has a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 4.7-inch screen that runs at 720p. Where this thing starts to differ from other smartphones, however, is that it reportedly employs 3D algorithms tied into six cameras — two in back, and four infrared in front that’ll track your face and eyes — that enable 3D effects requiring neither eyewear nor the sort of parallax screen barrier Nintendo uses to facilitate eyewear-free 3D in its 3DS.

3D — that is, stereoscopic 3D, an idea as old as View-Masters — is one of those features-looking-for-an-audience that’s never worked for me. I don’t care for it in movie theaters, nor fiddling with handhelds like Nintendo 3DS or HTC’s EVO 3D. You’ll hear a lot of people use it and “gimmicky” in a sentence, partly because it typically involves clumsy equipment and/or restrictive eye-positional trickery, and partly because our brains already interpolate 2D content as three-dimensional, making it superfluous. It’s so rarely used non-superfluously that the exceptions — Hugo and Gravity are the only two that come to mind in film — prove the rule, at least for me.

So part of me hopes these claims turn out to be wrong, while the other part hopes that if they’re not wrong. It’d be nice if Amazon figured out how to do something no one’s thought of with 3D — something that’s more than a whiz-bang gimmick, like iOS 7’s pointless parallax scrolling, or the way most 3DS developers relegate Nintendo’s handheld to glorified shadow box-dom.

Remember the days when “holograms” were cool? When you could tilt a flat piece of material this way or that to make different images appear and we called it “incredible”? I don’t. But then I’m ready for anything. Surprise us, Amazon, if indeed we’re not straw-manning you. Show all us stereoscopic 3D naysayers the error of our ways.

TIME Technology & Media

Twitter Has a Massive Plan to Conquer Your Data

Social Media Site Twitter Debuts On The New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images

Step 1: Buy data firm Gnip

Twitter is purchasing its long-time data partner Gnip in order to sell more sophisticated products built from the Twitter dataset. The social network has historically sold access to its so-called firehose—the never-ending stream of all public tweets—to a few select companies, who then license that data to businesses and academics.

By purchasing Gnip, Twitter will be able to directly cut deals with the companies that want to use its data. “We want to make our data even more accessible, and the best way to do that is to work directly with our customers to get a better understanding of their needs,” Twitter wrote in a blog post. “Together we plan to offer more sophisticated data sets and better data enrichments, so that even more developers and businesses big and small around the world can drive innovation using the unique content that is shared on Twitter.”

Gnip currently provides its customers with access to data from a variety of online platforms, including Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare. It’s not clear whether Twitter will renew contracts to access these companies’ datasets, or whether these companies will allow it. Gnip’s current customers, such as the Library of Congress, will continue have access to Twitter data, the company said in the announcement of the deal. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment; no deal price was disclosed.

Twitter made $70 million in 2013 selling access to tweets to Gnip and other data resellers, up from $47 million in 2012. Corporations like IBM and Oracle pay tens of thousands of dollars per month for access to the Twitter firehose, Gnip CEO Chris Moody told TIME last fall. LinkedIn, which directly offers businesses access to all of its users’ resumes through its Recruiter tool, has proven that licensing social data can be extremely lucrative. By bringing data sales in-house, Twitter may be hoping to imitate that success.

The company, which posted a small profit for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2013, has faced a slumping stock price in the last two months due to investor worries about slowing user growth and an overall decline in the tech sector.

TIME technology

Amazon Says It Won’t Accept Bitcoin

Amazon
Bloomberg / Getty Images

America’s largest online retailer has no plans to hop on the Bitcoin bandwagon. Amazon’s head of payments told Re/Code that the company has no current plans to accept the digital currency. “Obviously it gets a lot of press and we have considered it,” he said, “but we’re not hearing from customers that it’s right for them.”

Despite widespread media coverage, Bitcoin is not currently accepted by many traditional retailers. Overstock.com is one of the largest online stores to accept the currency. Several vendors of digital cift cards, such as Gyft and eGifter, do accept Bitcoin, so people can buy cards through those channels and then spend them at Wal-Mart, Target and other big stores.

The value of Bitcoins has fluctuated wildly in the last week on conflicting reports that Chinese government is planning to ban the country’s banks from working with Bitcoin-related businesses. The currency was valued at $495 early Tuesday.

TIME Video Games

Get the Xbox One April Update Today, Including Kinect Tweaks and Friend Notifications

Larry Hryb / Microsoft

And you can finally (finally!) run manual system updates by poking around in system settings.

Larry Hryb, Microsoft’s director of programming for Xbox Live, writes that the April Xbox One update started rolling out last night, and that the following list of features should be live now, or available “over the next few days.”

Along with the the usual presumptive bug fixes, the update adds a feature Xbox 360 owners have been enjoying forever: friends list notifications; when friends sign into Xbox Live on Xbox One, you’ll now see an alert.

This was one of the most frequently requested features, so we made it a priority to include it in this update,” writes Hryb, adding that friends in multiplayer will now be identified as such in the list. I’m not sure why this wasn’t present at launch. Maybe the company worried these kinds of notifications were annoying (and they can be, especially if you have a big list of very active Xbox Livers, thus I assume the new notifications can be disabled, too).

Microsoft’s still chipping away at Kinect’s uneven gesture-recognition algorithms, which Hryb says the company’s updated “to reduce false positives on non-hand objects triggering gesture commands.” Voice recognition has also been fine-tuned “for quality and reliability.” Speaking of audio, the controller and headset firmware’s been updated to “reduce audio static and improve wireless connectivity.”

If you’ve had trouble keeping track of large game or application saves and updates, there’s now a game save progress bar that’ll keep you apprised of what’s what, and Hryb says you’ll be able to easily identify what’s being updated (or been updated recently).

Xbox One’s GameDVR feature — the ability to capture gameplay video clips, then edit and share them via Upload Studio — now offers better video quality using an improved compression algorithm, and Microsoft’s tweaked its Blu-ray player to support 50 Hz video output (which, as I understand it, essentially means you’ll be able to watch region-free imports, e.g. Europe-originated content). Hryb adds that Microsoft plans to update the Xbox One’s Blu-ray Player app “in the coming days” to “round out these improvements.”

Last but not least, Microsoft’s finally added an option to manually update the Xbox One in system settings (Hryb says it’ll only be there if there’s an update in the wings — you won’t need to click it to check, in other words; you’ll know there’s something available simply by its presence). I’ll golf clap to that.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Gadgets

Tiny New Laptop Charger Could Be Mistaken for a Cell Phone Charger

FINsix_Dart
The FINsix Dart is a 65-watt laptop charger that's about the size of a cell phone charger. FINsix

Back at the CES gadget show in January, yours truly laid eyes on FINsix’s pocketable laptop charger. As someone who hates — hates — stuffing a bulky laptop charger into a bag full of modern-day, svelte gadgets, to say the idea of this charger was intriguing to me would be an understatement.

The charger was developed by a few MIT alums, using a patented MIT technology known as very high frequency (VHF) conversion that shuttles power from wall sockets to devices at a much higher frequency and more efficiently than standard chargers, allowing FINsix’s version to be scaled down to its diminutive stature. The charger also sports a USB port for good measure, which you can use to charge your phone or other small devices.

The group used a Kickstarter campaign to raise $200,000 for production of the charger, which is now being called the Dart. That goal was met within 24 hours, with 1,000 early backers getting in at $79. Back at CES, FINsix told me the retail price would be around $90, and it looks like there’s an $89 option that’s still available to potential backers.

When the charger was first unveiled, it was shown off with a MacBook-compatible MagSafe adapter — the connector that magnetically attaches to a MacBook and can quickly detach without damaging the computer if someone trips over the cord. The problem was — and still is — that Apple doesn’t license the MagSafe technology to third parties.

FINsix has found a way around this hurdle, but it doesn’t come cheap: If you want a Mac-compatible Dart, you’ll need to shell out an additional $79, which is used to purchase an off-the-shelf MacBook charging kit from Apple in order to get access to the magnetic connector. The Dart can also only charge laptops up to around 65 watts, which means the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros and the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display aren’t compatible.

PC users have it easier, as the Dart is compatible with most major brands (see this PDF here for the full list). Just make sure you have a machine that draws 65 watts or fewer at between 18 and 21 volts.

FINsix is aiming to start shipping the chargers out to backers by the end of the year.

Dart: The World’s Smallest Laptop Adapter [Kickstarter]

TIME Gadgets

Google Glass On Sale Today, For One Day Only

For $1,500 a pop you too can put the Internet centimeters from your eye — but hurry up, as it's first come first served

For one day only, Google Glass goes on sale Tuesday to the general public, as the tech firm seeks to expand its Glass Explorer Program to allow any adult in the U.S. to participate.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern time, any adult in the U.S. at least 18 years old can sign up to purchase the wearable computer, provided he or she is also willing to shell out $1,500 for a pair. The sale is first come, first served, so prospective buyers will have to get in line.

“[Explorers] are the first to make, to tinker, to create, to shape, and to share through Glass,” Google says in the sign up website. “We’re expanding little by little, and experimenting with different ways of bringing new Explorers into the program.” Google has made a few changes to the Explorer program too, giving buyers the option of purchasing frames, prescription lenses and attachable earbuds.

The one day sale is the first time the tech giant has made Glass available to the general public. In October last year, Google expanded the program by allowing the current crop of explorers to invite three people.

TIME Gadgets

How to Safely Get Rid of an Old Computer

old computers
Getty Images

Have an old computer lying around the house? Don’t just throw it away. Computers house all sorts of toxins that are bad for the environment and all of us who live in it. Not to mention the personal information—passwords, account numbers, license keys or registration numbers for software programs, addresses and phone numbers, medical and prescription information, tax returns and other personal documents—that you would rather not fall into the wrong hands.

So what to do?

How to delete your personal information

However you choose to dispose of your computer, you need to do several things if you don’t want a stranger to access your data.

Save important files

Back up your files or transfer them to a new computer. While you can certainly invest in an external drive, the simplest way to do this is to use a cloud service such as Google Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive. Google Drive gives you 15GB of storage for free and if you need more you can buy 100GB for $1.99 a month and 1TB for $9.99 a month. OneDrive gives you 7GB of free storage with options to buy 50GB, 100GB and 200GB for annual subscriptions of $25, $50 or $100 respectively. Apple iCloud and Dropbox offer similar packages.

After backing up your files in the cloud, you can easily transfer them to a new machine or access them anywhere you have an Internet connection, even from your smartphone. Cloud storage also comes in handy if your computer dies and you need to restore your files or you’re traveling and need access to data on a different device.

“Wipe” your hard drive clean

Simply deleting files won’t cut it. Even if a file name doesn’t show up on the list of available files the old file data is still there until it is overwritten and a bad guy can use a data recovery program to retrieve it. To remove it from your hard drive permanently, use a dedicated hard-drive wiping program. For Windows PCs try File Shredder (free) and for Macs try Permanent Eraser (free).

Ideally, you’ll want to completely reformat your hard drive, as well. But if that sounds a little daunting to you, at least try to follow the additional steps we recommend below.

  1. Uninstall your programs. Some programs, such as Microsoft Office, may contain personal information such as your name and address or other details. While others, such as iTunes, only allow you to install on a limited number of computers. So be sure to deactivate iTunes and uninstall any programs before disposing of your PC.
  2. Delete your browsing history. Most browsers save information about your browsing history and, depending on your settings, can even store your user names and passwords for various sites. Obviously, you don’t want a stranger having access to this information. For Internet Explorer, click on the Safety tab and then Delete Browsing History. Make sure all of the check boxes are selected so everything gets removed. Repeat this for any other browsers on your computer—Firefox, Safari, Chrome.
  3. Consult your employer about data disposal policies. If you use your computer for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage business-related information on your computer. The law requires businesses to follow data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to customers.

How to dispose of your computer

To avoid all those toxins ending up in a landfill, the better choice is to recycle, donate, trade in or sell your computer.

Recycling your computer

If you opt to recycle it, keep in mind that some recyclers will simply take your old machine and ship it over to developing nations where children are often used to scavenge piles of e-waste looking for valuable components. To avoid contributing to this irresponsible practice, use a recycler that is part of the “e-Steward” network, meaning they don’t export to places like Pakistan or China, and they follow other high standards. Many of them also will reuse and refurbish electronics. The Electronic TakeBack Coalition offers tips for other ways to responsibly offload your electronics if one isn’t located near you.

Trading in your computer

As for trading in your PC or laptop, there are scads of companies that offer trade-in programs through which you can sell a wide assortment of used electronics. A few options include BuyMyTronics.com, Gazelle.com and the Amazon Trade-In program. Your local Best Buy or Radio Shack also have trade-in options, but compare what they offer against the online services first.

This article was written by Christina DesMarais and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME

Tech Companies Are Bracing for an Extremely Difficult Week

A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded on Google's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California
Stephen Lam—Reuters

There’s nothing like a sudden sell-off in technology shares to add a little spice into earnings season. It’s never a good sign when stocks begin tumbling well before the first tech giant of the season reports its numbers. That first report will come from Google later this week, and it could set the tone for the next several weeks for tech shares.

Since March 10—interestingly, the same day the Nasdaq Composite peaked 15 years ago—tech stocks have been suffering a prolonged selloff. The Nasdaq has fallen 7% while the S&P 500 declined a more modest 2%. But that doesn’t begin to illustrate the damage in individual stocks, many of them seen as the growth leaders in Silicon Valley these days.

Google, for example, is down 12% during that time. Amazon is down 15%, Facebook is down 16%, and LinkedIn is down 19%. Still others haven’t fared even that well. Twitter has lost 23% of its value, Netflix 26% and Pandora 32%. All of these are stocks that have surged over the past year, and most are still up by a considerable margin over the previous 12 months.

But those rallies mostly came on the back of unexpectedly strong revenue growth over the past year—particularly in mobile. Investors began to doubt the ability of mobile devices to deliver solid ad revenue, but last summer companies like Facebook, Pandora and Google showed that it could be done. And demand for their stocks suddenly grew.

This year is a different story. For one thing, there is a sense that the quarter could be a disappointing one for all industries, not just technology. At the end of 2013, analysts expected S&P 500 earnings to grow 4.4% in the first quarter of 2014. They’ve since revised that estimate down to flat earnings growth. Earnings are expected to grow more slowly than revenue for the first time in nearly three years (when profits were growing closer to a 12% rate). None of that would make for a celebratory quarter.

So why has tech been hit harder as these estimates have been ratcheted down? After all, one of the things that made tech shares popular over the past year is that many companies seemed primed for earnings growth. The selloff came as that broader concern about slower earnings converged with lingering concerns about overvalued tech stocks. The Nasdaq traded at 35 times average earnings of its component stocks, while the average PE ratio for the S&P 500 Index was 17.

All of this makes for a potentially interesting few weeks in technology earnings. On the one hand, if selling off tech shares has set the bar low for tech leaders, they could easily surprise to the upside. On the other, companies are left with little tolerance for disappointment. Pleas for investors to wait a few more quarters for promised growth may be met with indifference.

Google is often among the first major tech companies to report earnings. Although the company’s main revenue stream is search ads, it’s seen as a proxy for the health of the overall industry: how advertisers are feeling about spending, whether ad rates are rising or falling, how expansion into global markets is going.

Analysts are looking for Google to post an 11% increase in revenue in the first quarter to $15.5 billion and for EPS to grow 10% to $6.39 a share. That’s a flat performance for a company that saw its stock rise 38% over the past year, even after its recent declines. But Google is pushing into new areas of content (Play), e-commerce ads (product listing ads), and mobile (Google’s myriad mobile apps). Together they could accelerate growth.

Google’s report may also give insight into how the income statement will look without Motorola Mobility, the smartphone maker that Lenovo agreed in January to buy for $2.9 billion. Offloading manufacturing costs will likely push operating margins higher. But there could be bad news as well: Last quarter, Google hinted at softness in its mobile ad pricing, and further deterioration could become an area of concern for investors.

Such are the risks of Google and other growth-oriented tech leaders. When the market is going up, risk is seen as an opportunity for big rewards. When it’s going down, it’s seen as, well, risky. For much of the past year, risk has been something tech investors have welcomed. By the end of the month, we’ll have a better idea of which perspective prevails. And the first hint will come later today.

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