TIME Instagram

Instagram Just Unveiled ‘Bolt,’ Its Answer to Snapchat

Instagram

And the already existing Bolt voice call and SMS service is not pleased

The photo-sharing, Facebook-owned social network Instagram on unveiled “Bolt” on Tuesday, a new messaging app that allows users to send short-lived photo and video messages from mobile devices.

Bolt allows users to send quick messages that self-destruct by merely tapping on a user’s photo on a smartphone screen. The service is Instagram’s answer to similar apps like Snapchat, which has a smaller but much more active user base (500 million snaps per day versus 60 million Instagrams), and even Slingshot, which is also owned by Facebook.

For the moment, Bolt can only be used in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. “We’re going to other regions soon, but are starting with handful of countries to make sure we can scale the experience,” a spokesperson for Instagram tells the Verge.

At least one group is peeved by the news of Instagram’s announcement — the startup firm Bolt, which since last year has been building technology to replace voice calling and text messaging through traditional cellphone plans. On Monday, as rumors of Instagram’s forthcoming Bolt announcement spread, Bolt publicly implored the Facebook-owned social behemoth to change the name of the service.

“We know it’s a great name, because we chose it last year when we set out to build a better mobile voice and messaging experience,” Bolt said in an open letter to Instagram. “We’ve worked really hard since then building the Bolt brand and technology to where it is today. Please don’t destroy all that effort.”

[The Verge]

TIME Earnings

Twitter Shocks Wall Street With Big Growth in Revenue, Users

Twitter Goes Public On The New York Stock Exchange
(L-R) Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone applaud as Twitter rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while also celebrating the company's IPO on November 7, 2013 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Stock shoots up 25% in after-hours trading

Updated July 29 at 6:18 p.m.

Twitter shares leapt more than 25 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday following stellar results in the company’s latest quarterly earnings report.

The social network posted greater-than-expected growth in both revenue and monthly active users during the second quarter. Twitter added 16 million monthly active users to bring its total to 271 million, the biggest period of user growth since the first quarter of 2013. Revenue for the quarter was $312 million, blowing past analysts’ estimates of $283 million. Adjusted earnings for the company were 2 cents per share, beating expectations of a 1 cent per share loss. Overall, the company posted a net loss of $145 million for the quarter when including stock-based compensation expenses and other line items.

Pundits have been writing Twitter’s eulogy for months as its user growth slowed in the last year and the company has regularly posted losses. But the latest report shows that Twitter’s plan to make its platform more user-friendly may be paying off. Features such as a more Facebook-like profile pages and a mute button that lets users remove certain users’ tweets from their timelines are aimed at making Twitter novices feel less overwhelmed by the deluge of messages.

The World Cup, which became the most tweeted-about sporting event in Twitter history, was also likely a big boost for the social network during the quarter. Twitter organized conversations around individual matches, featured real-time score updates and attached countries’ flags to hashtags representing each team. “We made progress on multiple fronts across the business and our financial performance was truly exceptional,” CEO Dick Costolo said in a conference call with investors.

A negative point for the quarter were timeline views. At 640 per monthly active user, they were down 7% year-over-year. In the U.S., views are also down from the first quarter. Twitter regularly attributes these drops to changes in its interface that make it easier for users to see interesting tweets without scrolling through a deluge of messages. Also, some of the content on Twitter’s specially curated World Cup pages didn’t count toward the metric.

As Twitter works to differentiate itself from Facebook in the eyes of investors, Costolo spent a lot of time discussing the audiences Twitter serves outside of its monthly users. He said the total number of people who visit Twitter each month is two to three times its official user base when including those who don’t log in. He also touted what we called syndicated viewers, people who see tweets while reading news sites or watching television broadcasts.

Eventually, the company hopes to monetize these less dedicated users somehow, though Costolo said for now the company is just focused on improving the user experience of Twitter’s many casual visitors. He also wouldn’t rule out the idea of a version of the timeline that selected tweets based on an algorithm, like Facebook’s News Feed, rather than showing them in chronological order. “We’re not ruling any any kinds of changes that we might deliver in the product in service to bridging that gap to signing up for Twitter and receiving that value,” he said.

Challenges still remain for Twitter, which won’t have another World Cup to goose its metrics for another four years. But the company reversed some ominous trends this quarter and proved it can take advantage of global events tailor-made for the Web’s water cooler.

TIME Video Games

Xbox One Owners Can Now Pay $4.99 Month for EA Games

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana (L) walks on stage to join the head of EA Sports Andrew Wilson (R) as they introduce the new EA Sports Madden 13 game with Kinect voice functionality at the Microsoft Xbox E3 2012 media briefing in Los Angeles on June 4, 2012. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Only four games are available so far

Electronic Arts is adapting the subscription service model to the video game industry with a new offering for Xbox One. The new service, called EA Access, will allow Xbox One owners to download and play hit EA games for an unlimited amount of time for $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. A release date was not announced.

Netflix this is not, so far. EA Access will launch with four games: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4. Combined, the games retail for more than $150, so the offer is a steal if you happen to enjoy some combination of sports games, first-person shooters and puzzlers. EA says more games will be added to the lineup in the future.

In addition to the catalog of older titles, EA Access members will get a 10 percent discount on the digital version of upcoming Xbox One games like Dragon Age Inquisition and NHL 15. Members will also have access to free trials of upcoming games five days before their official release.

Video game makers are keen to get gamers used to buying and downloading games online because they get to avoid manufacturing and distribution costs while often charging just as much as versions sold in brick-and-mortar stores. So far, there’s no word on a PS4 version of EA Access, but Sony is currently rolling out a new service called PlayStation Now that will allow users to stream older games to a variety of Sony devices.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles

TIME facebook

Get Ready to Download an Extra App to Send Facebook Messages

A view of and Apple iPhone displaying th
A view of an Apple iPhone displaying the Facebook app's splash screen, May 10, 2012 in Washington. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

If you enjoy messaging with friends via Facebook’s primary mobile app, you’re soon going to need an entirely new app to keep chatting. The social network is quietly eliminating the ability to chat with friends on its iPhone and Android apps. Instead, users will have to download Messenger, a dedicated chat app from the company, in order to have real-time conversations (to be clear, users can still write on each other’s profile pages and communicate in other ways via the regular Facebook app).

The change was announced earlier this year and has already rolled out in Europe, much to the consternation of many users. Some users have griped that they don’t want to juggle two Facebook apps to perform functions that were easily done in one app before. But the social network says the transition from Facebook proper to Messenger is seamless and that people using Messenger respond about 20 percent faster, boosting usage.

“In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences.”

In the last year, Facebook has sharply increased its focus on Messenger, which now has more than 200 million active users. The app has gotten a bevy of new features, such as the ability to send videos, and a redesigned interface that allows for visual conversations, a la Snapchat. The company is also keen to divine a way to make money off its Messenger users—recently, a former PayPal exec jumped ship to Facebook to lead the company’s mobile messaging business.

News of the wider rollout of the Messenger requirement was first reported by TechCrunch.

Facebook’s plan mirrors a similar effort over at Foursquare to force users to download a new app called Swarm to check-in to locations. Unlike Swarm, though, Messenger is already a popular standalone service in its own right.

For now, the Messenger requirement will primarily affect smartphone users. People who access Facebook on the iPad, on desktop computers, on the Windows Phone and through web browsers on their phones won’t be affected.

TIME Transportation

Uber Rolls Out ‘Uber for Business’ To Help You Expense Rides

Barcelona Cabs Strike Against Uber Taxi App
In this photo illustration, the smartphone app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location on July 1, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. David Ramos—Getty Images

Uber doesn’t want to be just a service for people on vacations or late-night benders — the company is launching a new business portal to target customers traveling for work.

The new platform, called Uber for Business, will let companies set up corporate accounts through which employees can charge their rides directly to their employers rather than having to keep track of receipts.

“A centralized billing system helps administrators, team leads and small business owners by providing trip information in place of receipts and helps employees by connecting with the same safe, reliable Uber ride they are used to without the hassle of having to file expenses,” Uber said in a Tuesday blog post announcing the new feature.

In addition, Uber has partnered with Concur, the corporate expenses management company, to include Uber rides directly in Concur’s expense options. Concur’s 25 million users will be able to link their Uber and Concur accounts and add Uber charges to their expense reports seamlessly.

The new focus on business could help Uber tap into a large pool of wealthier customers. The startup is growing fast and recently earned a valuation of $17 billion.

Airbnb, another hot startup that lets people rent out their homes to guests, announced a similar business portal on Monday aimed at corporate travelers.


TIME Software

Photo App Makes You Wait an Hour for Your Snaps to ‘Develop’

1-hour photo
The 1-Hour Photo app makes you wait to see your photos Nevercenter Labs

Free for iPhone, this 1-Hour Photo app aims to whisk us all away to simpler times.

The premise is straightforward: You can use the app to snap photos, but you have to wait an hour for photos to virtually “develop” before you can see them. And just to add an extra old-timey touch, your photos are converted to black and white.

The interface is even more straightforward: just a big button, flanked by the number of photos processing on the left and the number of minutes until the processing’s done on the right.

The idea is that you shouldn’t get so caught up in reviewing, sharing or deleting photos right after you take them that you miss out on whatever’s actually happening around you. As a super bonus (for the rest of us — maybe not you, though), the front-facing camera is disabled, meaning no selfies.

[Uncrate]

TIME Gadgets

Top Tech for Back to School

Back to School time is upon us. The yellow buses are all being tuned up and hosed down, the classrooms are getting that final coat of paint and the teachers are finalizing their lesson plans. It’s also the time for you to make sure your kids have all the supplies they need for a successful and happy school year.

These days, though, you need more than just a new pair of jeans, a handful of pencils and a new Trapper Keeper to get your kids ready. Here are our picks for the best – and most affordable – back-to-school tech.

Laptop: Acer Aspire E1

Acer

These days, a sturdy, reliable computer is a must when it comes to homework, research projects or just keeping in touch with friends from school. For these simple tasks, we recommend the budget-friendly Acer Aspire E1 Windows laptop.

Why the Aspire? First of all, we like the 15” size, which has a big enough screen for comfortable viewing, but still lends itself to better battery life, better portability and a lower price tag. We also like the Core i5 processor (for plenty of power), the 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB if needed) and the 500GB hard drive. Plus, it gets high marks from reviewers for long battery life and good performance for the price, and a respectable four stars on Amazon.

You can find the Acer Aspire E1 for $466.77 at Amazon.

Travel Mouse: Microsoft Arc Touch

Microsoft

Most laptops come with a capable touchpad, but they can be too touchy when there’s a lot of typing to do. That’s why we recommend the highly portable Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse.

The curious design of the Arc Touch Mouse is actually its best feature. It’s flexible, allowing you to flatten it when not in use for easy storage. Flattening also turns off the mouse, so you won’t waste the battery. The traditional mouse wheel is replaced with a small “touch scroll strip,” while the magnetic Nano transceiver easily stores on the bottom of the mouse when not in use. BlueTrack technology, meanwhile, allows the Arc Touch to work reliably on just about any surface – even carpet or rough wood.

The Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $39.99.

Tablet: Sony Xperia Z2

Sony

Not every student needs a laptop. A tablet can be a better bet if your child needs to take notes or do some word processing and web-basesd research. Plus, a tablet can do double duty as an entertainment device. For a sturdy, solid device that best mixes work with play (and isn’t an iPad), we like the 10.1” Sony Xperia Z2 Android (4.4 Kit Kat) tablet.

The waterproof and dustproof (IP55/58) Xperia Z2 is just 0.24 inches thick and 15.5 ounces, giving it a sleek and easily portable design that’s great for going to class or around the house. It packs a powerful 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM for demanding gamers.

Sony.com is currently offering the 16GB version of the Xperia Z2 tablet for $499.99, which includes a free charging dock for a limited time.

Smartphone: Motorola Moto G

Motorola

Here’s a pretty common problem: Your teen is finally the right age for his or her first cellphone, but the thought of a $650 device being stolen from a locker or left on the field after practice has your heart racing with panic. What’s a parent to do?

We like the off-contract Moto G 4G ($99 off-contract at Verizon; $219 unlocked at Amazon) – it’s the perfect nexus of power and value. It’s a full-featured 4G LTE phone that runs the most recent build of Android. The device has Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance, and is water resistant enough to handle a few spills in the cafeteria. Kids, meanwhile, will appreciate the selection of $14.99 OEM shells that allow you to easily and seamlessly change the color of the phone to suit any style.

Portable Charger: myCharge Hub 9000

myCharge

If you send your kids to school armed with a phone “in case of emergency,” then it’s important to make sure his or her phone has enough juice when it really counts. That’s why we like the myCharge Hub 9000, Techlicious’s pick for the best portable battery charger.

The myCharge Hub 9000 has micro USB and Lightning connector jacks built in, so there’s no need to clutter backpacks up with easily tangled cables. The 9000 mAh battery charges in just five hours when plugged in to a standard electrical outlet, storing enough power to recharge most smartphones four to six times.

You can find the myCharge Hub 9000 at Amazon starting at $116.99; 3000 mAh and 6000 mAh versions are also available at a lower cost.

Backpack: Tylt Energi+

Tylt

Obviously, no back-to-school list would be complete without a backpack to haul all those books (and gadgets) to and from class. For tech-focused older students, we like the Tylt Energi+ backpack. It’s an attractive carry-all that doubles as a mobile recharging station.

The key feature of the Tylt Energi+ is its powerful 10,400 mAh lithium-ion battery and two USB ports, which allow your kids to charge their power-hungry devices as they move around from place to place. The backpack has a hard-lined pocket for sunglasses, a specially lined laptop pocket that fits and protects computers up to 15 inches, a side hydration sleeve and plenty of secondary tech pockets for phones and tablets. And yes, the 1,450 cubic inch backpack has plenty of room for books and pencils, too.

The Tylt Energi+ is available at Amazon for $128.99, and direct from Tylt.com for $199.99.

Headphones: UrbanEars Humlan

Urbanears

Most kids are experts when it comes to getting dirty. That means their tech gadgets get dirty, too. And while it’s easy to wipe down a sticky smartphone screen or a set of laptop keys, cleaning a pair of headphones can be incredibly difficult.

Incredibly difficult, that is, unless you own a pair of UrbanEars Humlan over-the-ear headphones. The colorful, stylish Humlans quickly disassemble, allowing you to throw the ear covers and headband in with the laundry. Humlans also come with a “Zoundplug,” which allows a friend to plug their headphones in and share the tunes.

You can find UrbanEars Humlan headphones in a wide variety of bold colors for $45 each at Amazon.com. For younger kids, you may want to check out the Etymotic Research EtyKids Safe Listening in-ear headphones ($39.99), which limit sound volumes to kid-safe levels.

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

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TIME Advertising

Microsoft Gets Revenge for Those Old ‘Mac vs. PC’ Ads

Cortana vs. Siri, round one: Fight!

Correction applied Tuesday, July 29

One of Apple’s first effective assaults on Microsoft’s tech empire was the Mac vs. PC ad campaign, which cast Windows computers as devices for schlubby nerds and Macs as tools for cool creatives. The battlefield has now shifted from desktops to smartphones, but Microsoft is taking a cue from Apple’s old campaign with a put-down ad of its own.

In a new pitch for Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, the company pits a Windows Phone boasting the software against an iPhone with Siri. As Cortana effortlessly answers a user’s questions, Siri fumbles its responses and is eventually forced to admit, “Now that is a smart phone.”

The ad, which features a Lumia 635 Windows Phone, mainly shows off Cortana’s contextualization abilities. The assistant can use geofences to issue reminders when users arrive at a specific location or automatically serve up messages when a specific person calls. Some reviewers have still found Siri to be a more helpful assistant overall, so it’s likely this new version of “Mac vs. PC” will continue to be hotly debated.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the feature set of Siri. The software does use geofencing to set location-based reminders.

 

TIME Smartphones

Microsoft Windows Phone Ad Pokes Fun at Siri

Apple’s Siri virtual assistant seems equal parts nervous and impressed in the above video, as Microsoft’s new-ish Cortana virtual assistant breezes through a list of date- and location-based reminders before informing her owner that he’d better hop in the car so he can beat the traffic. Frequent Google users might be quick to point out that Google Now can perform similar feats, though this beef is between Microsoft and Apple.

The ad is reminiscent of Microsoft’s previous Surface Tablet versus iPad ads, though perhaps somewhat buried in this newest one is that the Windows Phone handset being used — the Nokia Lumia 635 — cost $129 without a wireless contract. The iPhone 5s shown in the ad costs $649 contract-free from Apple, for comparison.

Still, showing off virtual assistants makes for a futuristic demo, regardless of how often people in the real world actual leverage the features shown in the ad. Microsoft has infused the latest version of Windows Phone with a bunch of other neat tricks, too, so maybe it’ll show some of them off in future ads as well.

[The Verge]

TIME Computers

Apple Updates MacBook Pro Line, Drops Prices for Certain Models

MacBook Pro
Apple

More RAM, friends. That’s the real story here.

Apple has bumped its Retina MacBook Pro line to include eight gigabytes of RAM as the baseline for the 13-inch models. The 15-inch models sport 16 gigabytes of RAM, standard.

Think of RAM like a tool belt: The bigger the tool belt, the more tools you can have readily available when you need to use them. Or think of RAM like a desk: The bigger the desk, the more papers, pencils, tablets and calculators you can have within arm’s reach. This concludes today’s lesson on random access memory.

For those of you who are well-heeled, you’ll be happy to learn that the top-of-the-line 15-incher has gotten a $100 price drop. Its starting price is now $2,499. If you’re poorly-heeled, you’ll be happy to know that the non-Retina 13-incher has dropped $100. Its starting price is now $1099.

Processor speeds have been bumped across the Retina line as well, though the non-Retina version “has not been updated with faster internals and remains the same model introduced in June 2012,” as MacRumors reports.

 

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