TIME apps

The 5 Best Smartphone Apps You Should Try This Week

From budgeting to travel

It seems like hundreds of new smartphone apps pop up every day, but which ones should you bother trying? Here, TIME offers a look at five apps for iPhone and Android that stand out and are worth a try.

Pennies

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Although online budgeting tools like Mint have helped streamline the way many people track expenses, the genius of Pennies is that this iOS app understands how time-consuming (not to mention nerve wracking) it can be to maintain an expense file that looks like an Excel spreadsheet. The developers say Pennies works because it’s flashy and not boring, but this young app’s success may stem from the fact that it’s about as intuitive and easy-to-use as a Fisher Price toy. Gone, perhaps, are the days of daunting month-to-month graphs.

Pennies is available in the iTunes App Store for $1.99

MiFlight

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A new app available only on iOS for now, MiFlight allows airline passengers to crowdsource wait times at different airports, aiming to eliminate the anxiety of arriving at an airport a few hours too soon, or worse, a few minutes too late. Passengers on line in security send their wait times, allowing the rest of us to plan ahead. Although it depends entirely on the connectivity and kindness of strangers, users may quickly understand that MiFlight is an efficient, guerrilla-style approach to circumnavigating mostly useless airline guidelines.

MiFlight is available free in the iTunes App Store.

Push

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Most people have a collection of news and social media apps that will regularly send notifications to lock screens. Push allows users to aggregate notifications from various news outlets as well as curate pings from other online sources, alerting you to events like trending topics on Twitter or football scores. In short, the app turns your phone into a highly personalized news wire.

Push is available free in the iTunes App Store.

Snowball

For those who regularly use Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or other messaging apps, Snowball, an Android app still in beta, curates notifications from these different apps onto one platform. Snowball makes sure you can keep track of different conversations in various apps, and, at the very least, that you don’t accidentally leave one conversation idle for hours before remembering to respond.

Snowball (beta) is available free in the Google Play store.

Seasonal Cities

Released a few weeks ago just in time for Fall (and Oktoberfest), Seasonal Cities is a mobile tour guide for major cities that offers new content packages every season. The recommendations in each update change depending on the weather, and the app even tailors suggestions based on the weather that week. 11 cities are on the list so far, including London, New York, Tokyo, and Paris. Guides are written by travel journalists and take different travel budgets into consideration.

Seasona Cities

Season Cities is available free in the iTunes App Store, every seasonal update will cost about $1.

Read next: 50 Best iPhone Apps, 2014 Edition

TIME Security

Dropbox Denies Thousands of Accounts Were Hacked

Key Speakers At The Brooklyn Beta Conference
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Dropbox Inc. signage is displayed at the Brooklyn Beta conference in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.

"Your stuff is safe," Dropbox tells users after hacking scare

Dropbox said Monday that a list of login credentials posted online early this week was not made public as the result of it being targeted by hackers, but rather because hackers stole usernames and passwords from other services and attempted to use those credentials to access Dropbox accounts.

“The usernames and passwords referenced in these articles were stolen from unrelated services, not Dropbox,” said Anton Mityagin of Dropbox’s security team in a blog post. “Attackers then used these stolen credentials to try to log in to sites across the Internet, including Dropbox.”

Hundreds of username and password combinations allegedly belonging to Dropbox users appeared early this week on the website Pastebin, a common dumping ground for hackers to post such information. An accompanying message alleged that 7 million Dropbox accounts were hacked in total, The Next Web reported Monday, and the hacker or hackers were asking for money before posting the rest of the information. However, Dropbox later said that a larger list of usernames and passwords posted online were “not associated with Dropbox accounts.”

Dropbox also said it recently reset passwords on accounts which showed suspicious login activity, a move it said prevented the service from being breached. “We have measures in place to detect suspicious login activity and we automatically reset passwords when it happens,” Mityagin wrote. Dropbox also emailed any affected users and advised them to change their passwords on Dropbox as well as other Internet services.

Hackers often target less secure platforms to steal login information they then use on other websites, as seems to be the case here. That’s why it’s a good idea to use different passwords on different websites as well as activate two-step authentication wherever available.

TIME Gadgets

New Activity Monitor Tells You When It’s Optimal to Start Exercising

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Jaybird

By now, there’s no shortage of exercise monitors on the market, each with its own gimmick. Some offer style, some offer waterproof construction, some turn fitness into a game and some will even help you track your food consumption. But none will actually tell you when it’s optimal for your body to start exercising — at least until the new Reign by Jaybird monitor is released later this month, that is.

Each day, Reign conducts a Heart Rate Variability test, an analysis of time interval between heartbeats. The more relaxed and rested you are, the more variability there is between beats. Reign uses this data to calculate your “Go-Score,” a number ranging from 0 to 100 that shows your body’s readiness for exercise. The higher the score, the more primed your body is for activity. It’s meant to push you toward being active when your body is ready to make the most out of your effort.

What you wind up doing when your Go-Score maximizes is up to you. The Reign can track walking, running, cycling and sports. It’s also waterproof, so it can keep tabs of your swimming, too. Steps, calories burned, duration, activity, sleep quality and your numerical Activity Score can all be monitored on your iOS or Android smartphone via a low-energy Bluetooth connection. A full charge of the Reign’s battery takes two hours and offers five days worth of tracking.

Another nice feature: The attractive looking Reign band is designed to perfectly fit your wrist no matter its size. Each monitor comes with a soft-touch silicone and brushed-metal band and an interchangeable lower band in your choice of sizes. Two seamless sports bands are also included, as is an ankle strap for biking.

The new Reign by Jaybird fitness tracker will be available in black, white and green when it’s released on October 26. It carries a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199. Pre-orders are not being offered, though you can enter your email at jaybirdsport.com to receive updates.

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

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TIME apps

People Can Now Pay Each Other Via Twitter in France

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LEON NEAL—AFP/Getty Images The logo of social networking website 'Twitter' is displayed on a computer screen

Digital payments in 140 characters or less

A new digital payment service in France will let people pay each other via Twitter for free.

French banking group BPCE announced details Tuesday about the new app, S-Money, which can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play and allows users with a French credit card and phone number to link their card information to Twitter to begin making payments to other individuals or organizations and companies that have downloaded the service.

Payments are capped at 250 euros (about $317) for individuals and 500 euros ($635) for charities in times of crowd-funding. Users also have to use a specific format for their payments to be accepted. S-Money has opted for € rather than the written version of euros, for example.

While other digital payment platforms have the option of privacy for payments, all Twitter payments are visible to the public–so discretion is advisable.

TIME technology

Google’s Former CEO: Amazon Is Biggest Rival

The South Summit - Spain Start-Up Convention, Madrid
Geisler-Fotopress/DPA/Corbis Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt speaks at the 'The South Summit'- Spain Start-Up convention at Las Ventas bullring in Madrid on Oct. 10, 2014.

Eric Schmidt said there's competition brewing from unknown entrepreneurs, too

Google’s former CEO said Monday that the tech giant’s biggest rival is Amazon.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon,” Eric Schmidt, currently serving as Google’s executive chairman, told a crowd in Berlin. “They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”

Google is the most-visited site on the Internet, with 233 million unique visitors in August. According to the same ranking, 172 million visited Amazon, making it the sixth most visited.

But while Schmidt may see Amazon as Google’s biggest competitor right now, the CEO said that there’s competition brewing from unknown entrepreneurs.

“Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us,” Schmidt said. “The next Google won’t do what Google does, just as Google didn’t do what AOL did. Inventions are always dynamic and the resulting upheavals should make us confident that the future won’t be static.”

TIME Video Games

Don’t Blink: Assassin’s Creed Rogue Is Coming for PC

Ubisoft confirms its ice-pirate tale of an arctic Assassin gone rogue is coming to Windows PCs early next year.

The best place to play the Assassin’s Creed series remains a Windows PC, if you don’t mind waiting.

This isn’t a subjective thing: If you want the games to run at your monitor’s native resolution, for the older ones to look as good as they’re ever going to, and now to play the highest-fidelity version of Ubisoft’s upcoming ice-thronged conclusion to the Kenway saga, you’ll want a box that runs Windows. The catch: you have to wait for that last perk until next year.

Ubisoft just confirmed Assassin’s Creed Rogue will hit PC in “early 2015.” It did so in a slightly sneaky way, too: at the close of a brand new story trailer.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue lets you play as Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin who’s thrown in with the rival Templar faction. You’ll spend much of your time skippering arctic waters in a ship capable of river travel and parkouring across frozen ice-scapes, which is another way of saying “Assassin’s Creed IV with snow.”

The no-longer-exclusive PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game arrive on November 11 this year, the same day Ubisoft’s franchise rethink Assassin’s Creed Unity arrives for PlayStation 4, Windows and Xbox One. But where the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions top out at 720p (1280 by 720), the Windows PC versions of these games have included subtle visual enhancements, and best of all, they run at whatever resolution your system’s capable of.

TIME Companies

Perk Up: Facebook and Apple Now Pay for Women to Freeze Eggs

Apple iPad Facebook
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images An Apple iPad displays Facebook's profile page on Aug. 6, 2014.

Two Silicon Valley giants now offer women a game-changing perk: Apple and Facebook will pay for employees to freeze their eggs.

Facebook recently began covering egg freezing, and Apple will start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News. The firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons.

“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do,” said Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women, she said, and supporting them in carving out the lives they want…

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Transportation

Flight Attendants Sue to Bring Back Electronic Device Ban

Two flight attendants walk in the luggag
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images Two flight attendants walk in the luggage claim area of the US Customs and Immigration at Dulles International Airport on Dec. 21, 2011 near Washington, DC.

Want tablets and smartphones to be stowed for landing and takeoff

The nation’s largest union of flight attendants took the Federal Aviation Administration to court on Friday, arguing that the agency should have upheld a ban on the use of smartphones and tablets during takeoff and landing.

Lawyers for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA argued that the devices distracted passengers from safety instructions and could fly out of their hands, becoming dangerous projectiles, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The FAA relaxed its ban on personal devices in 2013, enabling passengers to use devices such as iPhones and Kindles at all times of the flight so long as they were switched to “airplane mode.”

“Essentially we want to set the reset button to the way personal electronic devices were handled prior to October 2013,” said attorney Amanda Duré.

Lawyers for the union argue that the FAA violated an existing regulation to stow away all luggage during takeoff and landing. The defense team argues that the regulation only applies to larger items, such as laptops, and never was intended for handheld devices.

[WSJ]

TIME How-To

The Best Sites for Booking Last-Minute Travel

Many great travel deals can be found by carefully planning in advance. But spur-of-the-moment trips can also be had for cheap if you know where to look.

That’s because hotels, airlines, resorts and more are looking to fill vacant spots at the last minute.

Here are our picks for the best sites to book a great trip on short notice without blowing a crazy amount of money.

Best all around last-minute booking site: Expedia.com

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Expedia

Expedia.com’s last-minute booking page wins for layout as well as price and convenience. Three columns of deals under the headers of Tonight, This Weekend and Next Weekend show you top deals for the destination you select. You can further filter your results to see just flight, just hotels or package deals for both. Destinations include both major U.S. cities and foreign vacation spots.

Clicking on a deal will give you a page showing you pictures plus ratings, reviews and amenities. You will also see, in the case of a hotel, what other rooms are available and their prices as well. Flights work in a similar fashion. Find the destination and deal that appeal to you and you will be shown other flights leading to that destination in case you’re looking for alternatives.

Of course, the best deal is flight + hotel. Just mousing over the options will show you how much money you’ll be saving by booking them together. Just remember that the stated price doesn’t include baggage fees.

Best last-minute hotel: Hotel Tonight

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Hotel Tonight

This isn’t a site, but an app — and it’s a life saver. Need an extra night’s stay but your hotel has no more vacancy? Score a last-minute flight and need a place to stay? The Hotel Tonight app detects your location and shows you all the hotels in your area with vacancy. You can also set it to show you a city you haven’t arrived in yet.

The display shows you pictures of the property, the price, the quality of the hotel and how much you’ll save. Tapping on a specific hotel on the list will give you more images, user reviews and, most importantly, a Need to Know section under the Info tab. This lists the restrictions of that particular deal. Pay attention to limitations like the inability to book a specific type of bed until arrival or warnings about the neighborhood around the hotel.

Price: Free on iTunes and Google Play.

Best last-minute flight: Kayak

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Kayak

Kayak pulls in data on more than 400 airlines and lets you compare multiple travel sites at once. Not only can it direct you to other travel deal sites, but it also shows you the current prices directly from the major airlines’ websites.

The sliders on the sidebar is what makes Kayak really shine. Adjusting the sliders and checking off the options you want will quickly show you the exact deals you’re looking for. You can upgrade or downgrade your seat, choose a different airline or select a new take-off/landing time.

Don’t forget to click on the “More Filters” button in the sidebar to narrow down the price range, layover options and, most importantly, planes with built-in Wi-Fi. Seriously, what did we do on planes before Wi-Fi?

Best last-minute room rental: Airbnb

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Airbnb

Though there’s no explicit LAST MINUTE DEALS CLICK HERE! button on the front of the site, Airbnb is still a great service for finding a last-minute room at a fraction of the cost of even a deeply discounted hotel room. Simply enter your destination and dates (even if it’s tonight) and the site will display all the rooms, apartments and houses that are available to rent by the day. (Note: There is a “Help! I need a place, tonight” search feature in the app for iOS and Android.)

Concerned about the safety of spending the night in someone else’s home? Every listing includes actual user reviews. There’s also a 24/7 hotline if you have any issues with your stay. It’s one of the best ways to find a place quickly and cheaply and to make a new friend along the way courtesy of your gracious hosts.

Pro tip: The best way to save money on last-minute travel plans is to have some flexibility. Can you take a plane with a layover instead of a direct flight? Are you willing to stay in a hotel in a new part of the city? Comfortable sleeping in an extra room of a welcoming host’s house? A little adventure can go a long way in saving you a lot of cash.

This article was written by Dan O’Halloran and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Big Picture

The Force Disrupting Samsung and Other Tech Giants

Shenzhen
Getty Images Shenzhen is an ultra-modern city of 14 million people located in southern China approximately 30 miles from Hong Kong.

Over the past five years, Samsung has become one of the big tech giants, enjoying a lot of success with its smartphones and tablets. It became a dominant player in China, Korea and other parts of Asia, and became Apple’s biggest competitor in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world.

However, over the last two quarters, Samsung’s profits have declined substantially, with its executives recently warning that profits could be off as much as 60% in the most recent quarter. So in such a short time, how did a tech giant go from the top of the mountain to a place where it’s looking like the next BlackBerry?

The High-Tech Flea Market

This came about because of the Shenzhen ecosystem effect. Shenzhen is a large town about 30 miles north of Hong Kong and an important part of the China manufacturing area. What makes this area interesting is that it has emerged as a kind of technology parts depot that provides off-the-shelf components that can be used to create everything from smartphones, tablets, PCs or any other type of tech device, which can then be sold as no-name — or what we call white-box — products.

During my first visit to Shenzhen many years ago, I was taken to a six-story building that was affectionately called the flea market for cell phones. On every floor were dozens of vendors with glass showcases peddling cell phones and early smartphones by the hundreds. In Asia and many other parts of the world, users actually buy their cell phone of choice first and then go to a store to buy a SIM card that provides voice and data services.

In this part of China, the Shenzhen flea market was a hotbed for locals to come and buy their phones, providing all types of sizes and models to choose from. Most of the cell phones were of this white-box nature, carrying no known brand name and having been manufactured cheaply from readily available components. They were sold all over China and parts of Asia, and up until around 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone, these types of phones dominated these markets.

Upstarts Aplenty

Over the last seven years, the Shenzhen ecosystem of component makers has become much more sophisticated, supplying high-quality components to vendors of all types, which are then used to make smartphones and tablets that can rival products from Apple, Samsung and anyone else making top of the line devices. And vendors from all over the world are making the trek to Shenzhen to buy these components, get them manufactured in quantity and take them back to their regions of the world to sell against established brands.

The best example of this comes from a company called Xiaomi, which didn’t even release its first smartphone until a few years ago but is now the number one smartphone provider in the region. It did this by leveraging the Shenzhen ecosystem to create well-designed smartphones. Until early 2013, Samsung was a top player in China, but big brand Lenovo jumped into the China market with smartphones and gave Samsung some serious competition. Apple also entered China in a big way. Between these three companies making aggressive moves in China, Samsung began to lose market share dramatically.

Micromax has done something similar in India, coming from nowhere to own 40% of that market today. Cherry Mobile did the same thing in the Philippines, and this similar pattern is being replicated in Brazil, South Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere – all markets that Samsung had leads in but where it’s now coming under major competitive threats.

Big Apple

Samsung has a double whammy going on here, too. One of the reasons the company has been so profitable in the mobile business is because of the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 smartphones and the Galaxy Note 3 phablet. These smartphones are in the premium category and Samsung dominated the five-inches-and-up smartphone space for almost three years.

However, research is showing that Samsung benefited from a lack of a similar products from Apple, but now Apple has the new 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch 6 Plus. These products take direct aim at Samsung’s similar models and demand for these new iPhones has been very strong, so Samsung is impacted by this Apple move as well.

Hardware Headaches

What makes this even more problematic for Samsung is that its business model is to make money from the hardware. These white-box vendors can take these phones to their local regions and sell them pretty much at cost because they make their money on apps and local services that they provide their customers. Samsung and many of the other big vendors aside from Apple make most of their money on hardware, while Apple makes money on hardware, software and services.

When it comes to PCs, we have always had white-box products in the market. In fact, no-name white boxes represent about 40% of all PCs shipped. However, companies like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus and others have had solid brands and offered things like warranties and service agreements. Even though brand-name PCs are priced much higher than white-box PCs, the big players have been able to compete around the world based on brand, distribution and customer services.

This has been especially true in the U.S., Europe and most of the developed markets. However, if you look at what’s going on with laptops now and see how products like Chromebooks and low-end laptops and desktops are dominating consumer markets, even these major vendors are being squeezed when it comes to trying to actually make money just on hardware.

We are starting to see new PC players go to the Shenzhen components market in order to create PCs to sell in their home markets. Once there, they add local apps and services while pricing these laptops and PCs almost at cost. If they gain more ground in these local markets, this could have real impact on traditional PC vendors who are still trying to compete in these markets but have to make profits from hardware alone in most cases.

For Samsung, the Shenzhen effect is a serious problem — one that will be very difficult to counter while still maintaining profitability. Even with new hardware products, Samsung’s lack of software and services for local markets will continue to make it difficult to compete with Xiaomi, Huawei and others, especially in markets like China and other parts of Asia.

Even worse for Samsung are rumors that companies like Alibaba and Tencent may jump into these markets with smartphones of their own in the next year. Both of these Chinese companies have strong local services they can tie to these smartphones, allowing them to almost give these devices away since they are assured an ongoing stream of revenue from preloaded apps and services.

The Shenzhen ecosystem will continue to be a disruptive force as hardware becomes commoditized and real money is made from apps and services. Companies just selling hardware will continue to be challenged by these upstarts, who can buy components cheaply and get them manufactured cheaply. This can leave even the big tech players hurting, as we’re seeing now with what’s happening to Samsung.

To get a better understanding of the Shenzhen ecosystem and Xiaomi in particular, check out Ben Bajarin’s short presentation on this topic.

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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