TIME FindTheBest

The Best Smartphone Cameras on the Market Right Now

What’s the best way to compare camera quality in today’s top phones? By now, even most moms know that megapixels (MPs) aren’t everything. Sure, your old lady may not think in terms of sensor size, texture, and contrast, but she knows great photos when she sees them, and they’re not all coming from the 41-MP Lumia 1020.

Like Mom, however, many of us still quietly assume megapixels are important, even if they don’t tell the whole story. We tend to think about megapixels like wine prices: a $45 bottle may not be three times better than a $15 bottle, but on average, it has to be at least somewhat better, right?

Not so fast. We took a look at ratings from DxOMark for today’s most popular mobile phones, then charted them against megapixels. DxOMark has long scored the quality of traditional cameras by focusing on RAW images, stripping away the effects of converters and focusing on the empirical quality of the image, as captured by the sensor and lens. More recently, they’ve begun rating mobile phone cameras with a similar diligence, reviewing smartphone images based on seven factors, including color, texture, noise, and artifacts — across both still images and videos. They take at least 400 photos and shoot over 20 videos in both real-world and lab conditions to determine the quality of each device’s camera. Here are the current scores (out of 100) for the 19 phones they’ve tested so far:

We see a different landscape here. As with our megapixel comparison, the 808 Pureview still snags the top spot, but its lead is tenuous, barely edging out the iPhone 5s. Meanwhile, the Lumia 1020 performs well, but nowhere near where that 41 MP rating would seem to predict.

Here’s what the two metrics look like side-by-side:

We should be careful about drawing too strong of a conclusion here. High megapixel counts aren’t worthless — they’re just only useful in very specific situations. For instance, the 808 Pureview’s and Lumia 1020’s 41 MPs will certainly come in handy if you need to enlarge one very small part of a larger photo. When you snap a shot of hundreds of people, then crop it later to grab just your two kids’ faces in the crowd, you’ll be happy that tiny square inside the larger image still has so many pixels. You can blow up that small section of the photo and frame it on top of your Baldwin baby grand in a 5×7 print, and it will still look plenty sharp, a convenience not possible with an 8-MP shot.

But for most of the photos we take, it’s worth remembering that factors like sensor size and lens quality matter a whole lot more than the sheer number of pixels. If you don’t believe it, take a few family photos with an iPhone 5s or Xperia Z1 and compare them to your buddy’s Lumia pics. Let your parents be the judge. The experts say that mother (not megapixels) still knows best.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Technologizer

Newsbeat: Have People (and Machines) Read the News to You

Newsbeat Tribune Digital Ventures

This new smartphone app offers 7,000 newspaper stories a day.

Newsbeat is a new iPhone and Android app from Tribune Digital Ventures, an arm of the Tribune Company, publisher of such newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun. It lets you read a personalized feed of stories from these and other sources, with an interface that’s pretty much like the one you might guess it would have. But it also lets you listen to them, turning newspaper content into a news radio-like experience you can operate hands-free in your car. And the spoken stories come in two forms: those read by humans, and those generated using text-to-speech technology.

Tribune chose this dual approach because Newsbeat offers a lot of stuff: 7,000 articles a day, ensuring that you can listen to all you like without getting any repeats. The stories that are likely to get the most attention from app users get the real-person treatment, while others are read by machine. There are multiple human readers and multiple synthetic voices, including both male and female ones, approximating the sort of experience you’d get if you listened to a radio station with several hosts. (There are also radio-style ads.)

The notion of mixing real and simulated news anchors sounds jarring. But when I got a sneak peek at the app recently, it was smoother than I might have expected. As computer-generated voices go, Newsbeat’s aren’t too grating or devoid of emotion. And the real readers aren’t quirky types like This American Life‘s Ira Glass — they all have a brisk, professional but essentially anonymous quality that doesn’t contrast sharply with that of their robotic colleagues.

Former Yahoo and Google executive Shashi Seth, who heads up Tribune Digital, told me that Newsbeat’s closest counterpart is NPR — but “there really isn’t a product in the market today which is like this.” The company is planning to add more content from more sources — it’s already syndicating some from non-Tribune publications — and to further customize the listening experience. Right now, it lets you specify the news categories you care about and learns as you Like articles or skip over them, but you can’t listen to a stream on one subject, such as sports.

As for the quality of Newsbeat’s automated newsreading, Seth says that it’s already quite good — one of the synthetic voices, nicknamed “James,” does a particularly impressive job of avoiding robotic intonation. But Seth also acknowledges that there’s plenty of room for improvement. “Our job is to make the text-to-speech better and better over time,” he told me. “I think it can be done.”

TIME

Every 60 Seconds, Apple Makes More Money Than You Do in a Year

WorldPay Zinc
WorldPay Zinc

But Amazon and Twitter? Not so much

Check out this interactive: It shows how much revenue and profit a handful of technology companies generate—by the second. When you land on the page, a clock starts ticking, showing how the profits at Apple, Google, Samsung and others grows comparatively. Apple brings in about $70,000 in profit every 60 seconds, Samsung follows at about $55,000, with Microsoft at $42,000, Google at 24,000 and Amazon at just $1,400. Twitter, in contrast, is still losing money.

The graphic was produced by online marketing outfit Distilled forWorldPay Zinc, a U.K.-based payment service for small business. The data is sourced from fiscal 2013.

TIME How-To

Here’s What’s Draining Your Android Battery (and What You Can Do About It)

Android
Bloomberg / Getty Images

Tired of carrying your Android phone charger or backup battery to ensure a full day’s worth of use? Fortunately, Android has some of the best tools to find out what’s killing your battery. Once you’ve identified the culprits, chances are you can extend your phone’s battery life by changing some settings and taking a couple of steps to conserve battery power. Read on to find out how to max out your battery life.

Before we start, a note: All of the information below is accurate for Android 4.4.2 (KitKat). If you’re running an earlier or later version of Android, you may find the location of options screens and the type of available options to be slightly different. Users running a version of Android that’s been modified by the manufacturer (Samsung, LG and HTC, among others) are likely to have a slightly different experience. If you have trouble finding a setting mentioned below, please consult your manufacturer’s documentation.

Google

What’s killing my battery?

Want to know what’s draining your battery? Android makes it easy: Head to Settings > Battery to pull up a list of exactly which apps have used up your battery power. The worst battery hogs are listed at the top — and if they’re apps or features you can live without, it may be best to disable them.

What you need and what you don’t

Even if you know what’s draining your battery, it may not be immediately obvious what to do to fix it. Some things like phone talk time aren’t easy to simply stop using — after all, you probably own a phone so you can make and take calls on the go. But there are other functions you can live without, and maximizing your battery life is about figuring out which ones.

Some manufacturers, like Samsung and HTC, make it easy by offering a low power mode you can run in or set to turn on when your battery reaches a certain percentage. These modes will automatically dim the screen, limit the processor’s speed and turn off vibration feedback, among other things.

If your phone doesn’t have a low power mode or you want to customize your setting, here are the features you can turn off (or tweak) without much impact on your day-to-day usage.

Lower your screen brightness

Chances are that screen brightness was somewhere near the top of your battery use list. You can make a few easy tweaks to reduce battery drain from screen brightness. Go to Settings > Display > Brightness, and dial down the brightness to the low end of your comfort zone.

Similarly, you can set the screen time-out to one minute or less of inactivity to minimize battery drain. Go to Settings > Display > Sleep, and set it to the lowest setting for the best energy savings. If the low-end setting at 15 seconds is too quick for you, 1 minute is a reasonable time-out.

If your device has an AMOLED screen (check with your manufacturer), you can enjoy big power savings just by using a black background for your home screen. That’s because AMOLED screens use less power to display black. You may be surprised how much these small tweaks help.

Disable Bluetooth

If you don’t use any Bluetooth accessories with your phone, it’s an easy call to turn off Bluetooth entirely. But even if you do use Bluetooth devices, you probably don’t use them all the time. To minimize battery drain, switch off Bluetooth when not in use under Settings > Bluetooth.

Turn off GPS

Though we love location services, which allow us to do things like navigate in unfamiliar areas, find nearby restaurants or check in to favorite places on Facebook or Foursquare, we don’t always need them. In KitKat, go to Settings > Location, and change your location mode from high accuracy to battery savings to lower your battery drain. In this menu, you can also see applications and services using locations and gauge whether or not they really need it. If you aren’t on KitKat yet, you may be able to turn GPS off entirely.

Turn off voice services

Your device may include voice services that drain your battery by always listening for a command. Turn off that feature by opening Google Settings (a separate app from Settings) and going to Search & Now > Voice, and then unchecking hotword detection, which prevents your phone from constantly waiting to hear if you say “OK Google” to search.

Turn off NFC

Your phone may or may not have NFC. If it does and you don’t use NFC (which powers Android Beam and other wireless features), you don’t need to leave it turned on. To disable NFC, go to Settings > More, and uncheck NFC.

Watch your Wi-Fi

If you’re in an area without Wi-Fi, turn off Wi-Fi to prevent your Android device from using power by regularly checking for Wi-Fi networks. If you don’t need data connection at all, turn on airplane mode, which also disables cellular data and Bluetooth. This is no good if you’re waiting for an email, but it’s a great way to save battery life if you’re out of range of cellular service or are only doing offline tasks.

If you’re in an area with Wi-Fi, using Wi-Fi will drain your battery less than pulling down data in cellular mode. So if you’re going to be streaming video, syncing or downloading data, keep Wi-Fi running. Tweak your Wi-Fi settings under Settings > Wi-Fi. If you want to turn on airplane mode, go to Settings > More > Airplane mode.

Stop syncing everything

Your Android device helpfully tries to sync all your data with your Google account. While this is great for things like calendar and email, it can drain your battery and pump up data usage when it syncs things like photos. To make sure your phone isn’t constantly backing up things you don’t want or need to back up, go to Settings and then click your account listed under accounts. From there, click on your email address to see everything Google is syncing. Uncheck anything you’d rather not sync.

Manage your settings with widgets

To more easily wrangle some of these settings, add Android’s power widget to your home screen. Go to Widgets, then select Power Control and drag it where you’d like it on your screen. This widget lets you tweak settings for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location settings, syncing and screen brightness with a simple click rather than making you dig through settings menus.

Let an app manage your settings for you

Lots of apps in Google Play help you get the most out of your battery, but our favorite is Juice Defender. Juice Defender comes in three versions: free Juice Defender, $1.99 Juice Defender Plus and $4.99 Juice Defender Ultimate. The free version definitely gets the job done, automatically turning off big battery drainers when your screen goes to sleep. When you wake your phone up again, Juice Defender turns these things back on, so you get the best battery life possible without having to worry about switching things on and off.

If you want battery life management that’s a bit less draconian, look into Agent, a handy app that does things like silencing your phone during meetings, remembering where you’ve parked and responding to text messages while you’re driving. Agent also turns off features that you specify when your battery level gets to a certain percentage. If you like its extras, it’s free to download.

Google

Watch your apps carefully

Whether you have an Android smartphone or tablet, the experience is all about apps. Every app you have running uses at least a little power, so using these tips ensures your apps don’t drain too much battery power.

Keep your apps up to date

The whole point of app updates is to make the apps better — and “better” often means bug fixes and improvements for issues that might have been causing your apps to use too much battery power. Updating your apps is easy. Just fire up the Google Play store and go to the My Apps section, which you’ll probably find listed when you tap the Play Store button. Any apps in need of updates will be listed at the top. Click on the app, then hit Update, then Accept to load the newest app versions. Speed through multiple updates by clicking Update All.

To keep updates as simple as possible, when you’re on an app’s page (before you’ve clicked Update to update it), click the checkbox to allow automatic updating so that your Android device will automatically download and install future updates. Some updates could still require manual installation, so check My Apps regularly for updates.

Uninstall unused apps

Even if you aren’t using an app, it could still be running in the background, doing whatever it’s still supposed to do. If you’ve tried an app but don’t plan to use it again, go ahead and uninstall it. To uninstall an app, go to Settings > Apps, and tap on the app you want to uninstall. In the App info page that comes up, tap on Uninstall in the upper right.

Pay for the apps you use

Research has shown that ad-supported free apps can drain your battery much faster than paid apps. That’s because they’re running your processor and using your data connection to download and display new advertisements. For apps you love, it’s definitely worth it to shell out a few dollars for the full version.

Google

Don’t run more apps than you need

The ability to run more than one app at a time (multi-tasking) is great — except for what it can do to your battery life. Check out what’s eating your battery (Settings > Battery) and what’s gobbling up data (Settings > Data usage). If there’s anything here using a lot of resources, consider whether you really need it to be running.

Close running apps by hitting the recent apps button at the bottom of your home screen, which will bring up a list of currently running apps. Swipe to close the application. (If you’re running modified versions of Android by HTC, Samsung or other manufacturers, these processes may be different.)

You might find that some apps seem persistent, always wanting to run. For these apps, check to see if there’s a setting inside the app that causes it to open automatically or to check regularly for data or status updates. You may be able to tell it not to run all the time or configure how often it checks for updates, reducing your battery drain. If you’re still having trouble, it may just be a flaw in the app itself; if you’re having battery problems, you may need to consider whether you need the app at all.

Consider a task manager app

Task managers (sometimes called task killers), which help shut down battery-draining apps on your Android device, have very mixed reviews. Some (like the 50 million people who have downloaded Advanced Task Killer) would say they’re essential tools for keeping your Android device running smoothly; others would argue that they’re needless on Android devices.

There is one app in this category, however, that we really like: Watchdog (free or $3.49 without ads). Watchdog is great because it gives you the information you need to decide when an app is misbehaving without terminating apps left and right. Watchdog tells you how much of your Android device’s memory and processor power an app is using and alerts you if any seem to be gobbling more than their fair share of resources. When you know that, you can kill the app, check for updates, tweak its settings or just uninstall it.

More battery life tips

If you’re still not getting the battery life you want, here are a few other things to try:

  • Turn off any live or animated wallpapers. Go to Display > Wallpaper and selecting a non-live background.
  • Use fewer widgets. Loading your home screen with widgets (all of which run in the background all the time) could be bogging everything down. While widgets are a great feature of Android, don’t use more than you need, and cut back if you need the battery life more than the widgets. To remove a widget, just press and hold until a trash can or X icon shows up on the screen; drag the widget to it, and it’s gone.
  • Control your syncing. Configure email, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and other services that your smartphone checks automatically to check less frequently or only when you ask. You’ll find settings for these in a settings menu within the app itself. (Check the app’s help documentation for details on exactly where.)
  • Turn off vibrations. A vibrating ringtone can really cut into your battery life. Turn it off under Settings > Sound.
Google

What’s using my data?

One of the biggest battery drain culprits is applications that download data over cellular or Wi-Fi. Knowing what’s using data and shutting it down can be important when you need to conserve battery power.

Fortunately, Android 4.0 and higher has a built-in tool to tell you exactly which apps are downloading exactly how much data. Just go to Settings > Data usage to see what each of your apps is doing (and whether they’re doing it when you’re using the app or in the background).

When you’re trying to save battery life, we recommend avoiding data guzzling apps that stream media (like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Spotify), teleconference or videoconference (like Skype, Google+ Hangouts and Google Voice), download or upload photos (like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr), help with navigation (like Google Maps) or download data (like Google Play, Google Drive and Dropbox).

Here’s how to check on the amount of data you’re using:

  • AT&T: AT&T should text you data usage alerts when you reach 65% and 90% of your data plan. If you want more details, the myAT&T app will let you see all of your AT&T account information in one place. Alternatively, dial *3282# to receive a text message indicating your current data usage.
  • Verizon: Verizon will send you an alert when you reach 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% of your data allowance. If you want more details, download the My Verizon Mobile app to view all your Verizon account information. You can also dial #3282 to receive a text from Verizon listing your current data usage.
  • Sprint: Sprint will send you an email or text alert when you reach 75%, 90% and 100% of your data allowance. Though Sprint doesn’t have an app, you can log on to the Sprint website for account information. If you aren’t keen on that, you can also text “usage” to 1311 to receive a text message listing your voice, text and data usage.
  • T-Mobile: T-Mobile will send you usage alerts that can be configured on My T-Mobile on the web. (Once you’ve logged on, go to Go to Manage, Your Profile page and then the Account Usage Alerts.) Download the T-Mobile My Account app to check your account info from your phone, or dial #932# to get a text message with usage information.

We hope this information has been helpful in increasing your Android device battery life. If you use any great battery-saving tips we may have missed, let us know in the comments.

This article was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME HD

Texas Motor Speedway Unveils World’s Largest HD Screen

"Big Hoss" TV Construction Tour
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage looks on during the "Big Hoss TV" Contruction Tour at Texas Motor Speedway on February 14, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. Sarah Glenn—Getty Images

Because everything’s bigger in Texas

The world’s largest HD screen is now deep in the heart of Texas.

Positioned along the backstretch of the Texas Motor Speedway outside of Fort Worth, “The Big Hoss TV” is reportedly 12 stories tall and provides 20,633.34 square feet of HD broadcasting, according to ESPN.

“To have the biggest one in the world, this is another one of those everything-is-bigger-in-Texas stories,” TMS president Eddie Gossage told the sports broadcaster.

The gargantuan monitor is set to make its high-definition, NASCAR debut during the Duck Commander 500 on April 6.

According to the designers, Big Hoss is outfitted to withstand central Texas’s temperamental climate and will be able to handle 120 m.p.h. wind gusts and hail storms. Workers tested the monitor’s resilience by reportedly hitting golf balls at the screen.

[ESPN]

TIME SIM cards

The Netherlands Becomes the First Country to Legalize Carrier-Free SIM Cards

Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Could herald more user freedom (and more manufacturer influence)

In great news for those sick of fiddling with their cellphone handsets on every trip abroad, the Netherlands has become the first country to legalize carrier-free SIM cards.

Instead of adding to your pile of miniscule circuit cards, or locking your device to one network, this could herald the true freedom for users to switch between operators at will.

Manufacturers are already vying for it, since it would mean customers wouldn’t have to enter agreements with specific providers to connect their devices, and in the long-run could cut out the middle man for voice and data services. It may still be a while until we get there, though. Legal restrictions already quashed an initiative by Apple to create its own carrier-free SIM card in 2010.

[CNET]

TIME Technologizer

Haunted Empire: A Bad Book About Apple After Steve Jobs

Haunted Empire
HarperCollins

If there's a compelling case to be made that Apple is in deep trouble, you won't find it here.

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, former Wall Street Journal Yukari Iwatani Kane’s new work, may be a business book — but as its name suggests, it’s also a ghost story. The empire in question is the fabulously successful company Jobs left behind when he died in 2011. And it’s Jobs doing the haunting, by being a still-iconic, impossible-to-replace role model for his successor as CEO, Tim Cook, who Kane portrays as a fumbling, uninspiring number-cruncher.

Kane seems to be in love with the metaphor: The spectral Jobs keeps making return appearances, looming over Cupertino as the Ghost of Apple Past. Back in the real world, Cook is so nonplussed with the book and its portrayal of Apple that he was moved to give CNBC a statement dismissing it as “nonsense.”

(Apple bristling at an unflattering book, incidentally, isn’t new or un-Jobslike. In 2005, it reacted to John Wiley & Sons’ plans to publish a stinging biography of Steve Jobs by pulling all of the publisher’s tomes from its stores, thereby giving the bio a priceless jolt of free publicity. This time around, it doesn’t seem to be conducting a similar boycott: You can buy Haunted Empire from Apple’s own iBooks store.)

Of course, there’s no scenario in which Apple would shower praise on an even mildly critical book about itself. But when Cook says that Haunted Empire “fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company,” he happens to be right.

In an author’s note, Kane says that Haunted Empire is based on five years’ worth of reporting on Apple (including her time at the WSJ) and more than 200 interviews. To be sure, there are moments when the breadth and depth of her research pay off nicely. Some tidbits are new — at least to me — such as the details of Steve Jobs and New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrangling over the latter’s commentary on Jobs’ health. The best, most vividly-reported extended sections are the chapters on Apple’s Taiwanese contract manufacturer, Foxconn; if Kane wrote a book entirely on that topic, I’d look forward to reading it.

But the closer she gets to the book’s conceptual nub — that Tim Cook’s Apple has created one disaster after another for itself — the shallower the story gets. That’s not entirely Kane’s fault: Any writer trying to go behind the scenes at Apple is automatically hobbled by the fact that the company grants few on-the-record interviews, and usually not in situations which require it to deal with unhappy subjects head-on. Still, there are plenty of instances in which I was hoping for more insight on an Apple mishap — such as the iOS 6 Maps meltdown or the company’s brief, inexplicable decision to entrust the Apple Stores to John Browett, the CEO of a famously cheesy chain of British electronics stores — and didn’t get much that hadn’t already been widely covered elsewhere.

In some respects, Haunted Empire would have been a better, more convincing book if there were less of it. Kane’s bashing of the original version of Siri — which, though imperfect, doesn’t strike me as having been a fiasco for Apple — is particularly long and overwrought. And when she wants to show that Cook’s hometown was really small, she provides 10 examples of small-town stories covered by its newspaper, when one or two would have made the point. There are also some odd small errors I’m surprised weren’t caught by editors, such as a reference to Queen Elizabeth II’s only female offspring, Princess Anne, as the monarch’s “eldest daughter.”

Kane doesn’t dismiss all evidence of Apple’s post-Jobs successes: There’s mention of popular products and profitable quarters. But she doesn’t find space to acknowledge the biggest financial triumphs. When Apple’s market capitalization passes Exxon’s in August 2011, she gives it a paragraph but doesn’t explain that this victory made Apple not just more valuable than Exxon, but the most valuable company in the world, period. Nor did I find any nods to the fact that Apple has continued to collect the vast majority of the smartphone industry’s profits even as its market share has shrunk — a data point that would tend to suggest Apple has outfoxed the competition rather than being trounced by it.

Again and again, Kane paints a picture in which there’s no such thing as news that doesn’t indicate Apple is in trouble. In Haunted Empire, as Macworld’s Jason Snell points out, it’s alarming when the cheap iPhone 4s holds its own in sales against the pricier iPhone 5 — and when consumers opt to buy the top-of-the-line iPhone 5s rather than the lower-cost iPhone 5c.

As for Cook, when he shows little emotion in meetings and puts the screws to his employees and suppliers, it’s not a good sign. When team members have enough time to take vacations and Cook thoughtfully avoids intruding upon them…well, that, too, is a bad sign.

Kane also says that the the theories of Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, cogently explain Apple’s alleged downfall in progress. Which is giving the distinguished Harvard Business School professor a huge pass given that — as Kane notes earlier in the book — his original, wildly inaccurate take on the iPhone back in 2007 was that it wouldn’t compete successfully with phones from then-dominant companies such as Nokia.

It’s not just the analysis of Apple’s current state that opts for melodrama over coherence. During an account of Jobs’ 2010 WWDC keynote, when his demo of the iPhone 4 went awry and he asked attendees to get off the Wi-Fi network, Kane asserts that “(m)ost of the audience thought he was joking, even though Jobs’ tone was serious.” An attentive editor might have questioned Kane’s ability to divine the majority opinion of the several thousand people in the room. (I was in the crowd that day, and didn’t think for a nanosecond that Jobs was just kidding around.)

That Kane devotes considerable space to a Steve Jobs demo running off the rails points to a basic flaw in her thesis. In the Jobs era, things went wrong constantly. Products didn’t always live up to expectations. People made fun of Apple’s tendency to over-hype its own accomplishments. Customers were unhappy with one policy or another. Apple keynotes were declared to be disappointments, and the stock market responded to them by selling Apple stock.

In other words, all the stuff that happens today to Cook’s Apple happened to Jobs’s Apple. And while Jobs’ communications skills and personal charisma often helped to paper over problems, anyone who thinks that the company wasn’t subject to constant second-guessing in those days is haunted by a romantic ideal of an Apple that never actually existed. (To pick just one example, Kane trashes the Cook-led WWDC 2013 keynote, but she’s kinder to it than Wired’s Leander Kahney was to Jobs’ presentation at WWDC 2006.)

Jobs didn’t change the world nearly as frequently as Kane suggests, either. True, his Apple unleashed landmark products every few years, in a way that no other technology company has done. In between, though, it released ones that improved incrementally on the landmarks, in exactly the same way that the Cook-era iPhone 5s and iPad Air, both of which Kane describes as disappointments, improve on their predecessors. I’ve argued before that we won’t really know how well Apple will fare in the post-Jobs era until the company enters a whole new category, which makes Haunted Empire feel premature as well as superficial.

At the very end of the book, in an epilogue, Kane compares Apple to Google by contrasting a TIME cover story on Google’s anti-aging initiative and other “moonshot” efforts with a Businessweek cover on Apple. By now, you already know that she doesn’t mean it as a compliment to Apple.

I happen to be the guy who co-wrote that TIME piece, and for the record, I don’t find the juxtaposition between the covers to be a knock on Cook’s Apple in the least. The world is a better place because Google is pursuing far-flung, absurdly ambitious dreams. But that isn’t Apple’s style, and never was. Producing polished pieces of consumer electronics that aspire to greater things than the average gadget — and that often set the agenda for the rest of the industry — is what the company does best. And irreplaceable though Jobs is, it’s continuing — so far — to do a much better job of retaining its mojo than Haunted Empire gives it credit for.

TIME Smartwatches

With Android Wear, Google Just Made Other Smartwatches Look Foolish

Google

Android Wear is more advanced than anything we've seen so far.

No disrespect to Samsung, Sony and Pebble, but their smartwatch efforts are now in trouble.

On Tuesday, Google announced Android Wear, a version of Android for smartwatches and possibly other wearable devices. The hardware isn’t coming until next quarter, and we haven’t seen the software in action on a working prototype. But if Google’s documentation reflects reality, this is the closest we’ve come to what a smartwatch should be.

Some pundits are saying Android Wear is basically Google Now on a smartwatch, but that analysis misses the big picture. While Google’s virtual assistant software can be helpful if you’re waiting on a package or heading to the airport, it’s dormant most of the time. A smartwatch that focused on Google Now would be dull and useless for most people.

The real key to Android Wear is how it hooks into existing smartphone apps through notifications and voice controls. Compared to other smartwatches on the market now, Android Wear is miles ahead.

Push(ing) Notifications

For years, the groundwork for Android Wear has been in place thanks to the way Android handles notifications. When you get a notification on an Android phone, you can do more than just open the corresponding app. Android lets you take action straight from the notification area, so you can send a quick response to a text message, delete an unwanted e-mail, return a missed call or control music playback, all without opening the app itself.

Those actionable notifications will play a major role in Android Wear. By swiping to the left of any notification, you’ll see more information and potential actions, such as a list of canned text message responses, directions to your meeting or a check-in option for your upcoming flight. These are the same actions that appear when you expand a notification on an Android phone. And while developers will be able to add more actions or pages specifically for smartwatches, the basic work is already done.

Even the way Android displays notifications ties in nicely to Android Wear. When you have lots of unread notifications on an Android phone, each one becomes a small snippet to conserve space. If you want a larger summary, you can expand any notification by pinching outward. But on Android Wear, the larger summary appears by default, taking up the entire screen, and you can swipe up or down to move between notifications. Having a larger view of notifications makes sense on a smartwatch, and again, it doesn’t require much extra work from developers because the capability is already built into Android proper.

Giving Apps a Voice

At the same time, Google is looking to give more power to existing Android apps through voice commands. The documentation here isn’t as clear, but apparently users will be able to speak a command into the watch, and have a third-party app of their choice carry out the appropriate action. For example, you might want to play an artist in Pandora instead of Google Play Music, or send a message in WhatsApp instead of Hangouts. Some of these functions already exist in Android proper, though it’s possible that Google will expand them with Android Wear.

The key takeaway from all these features is that they require no setup by the user and no mandatory work by the app developer. Everything’s tied into the apps you’re already using on your phone.

That isn’t the case with existing smartwatches. Pebble, for example, requires downloading a setup app on your phone and then using it to load individual apps onto the watch. Those apps are often more trouble than they’re worth. And while Pebble can display notifications from any smartphone app, it can’t let you take action on those notifications, and it doesn’t format them in an intelligent way. It’s a clunky system.

Google’s system is different. Instead of building a new set of smartwatch apps, Google is tapping into the huge library of existing Android apps and pulling out just the parts that make sense for smartwatches — that is, actionable notifications and voice controls. It’s not just Google Now on a watch, but a way of pulling the entirety of Android into a Google Now-like system. Whether that’s by design or by happy accident, it will make competition difficult for any company that doesn’t control its own platform. Your move, Apple.

TIME facebook

Here’s What Facebook’s New Frank Gehry-Designed Campus Will Look Like

Courtesy of Facebook

The world-famous designer was asked to tone down his usual "expression" for the assignment, which gives a more subdued feel than his other iconic designs, like Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall and Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum

If you took each square foot of Facebook’s proposed expansion and laid them in one long line, the length of that line would be the equivalent of 75,400 Mark Zuckerbergs, laid head to toe (not including the 5’9″ CEO’s hoodie or Adidas sandals). The new “West Campus” planned to be completed by spring 2015 is a sprawling 433,555 sq.-ft., design by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry.

Courtesy of Facebook

New photos of a model of the campus, provided to TIME by Facebook, show a design that is more subdued than iconic Gehry landmarks like the flowing silvery sails that make up L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Facebook asked that the design be less brazen, something that fit naturally into the marshlands that are already there in Menlo Park, Calif. “They felt some of those things were too flashy and not in keeping with the kind of the culture of Facebook, so they asked us to make it more anonymous,” Gehry’s partner Craig Webb told the Palo Alto Daily News. “Frank was quite willing to tone down some of the expression of architecture in the building.”

Courtesy of Facebook

The building is oblong, roughly the shape of a blank status-update box, and 73-ft. high at its tallest. The plan is for one of those giant, open working spaces that start-up culture adores, with no divisions or walled-off offices. (A Facebook spokesperson concedes that a few necessities, like the bathrooms, will not be open-plan.) A total of 2,800 employees can fit in the space, which is about the size of Facebook’s current offices across the expressway in Silicon Valley.

Courtesy of Facebook

The crown jewel of the design is the roof, which will be covered by a park with trees transplanted from around California and “drought-resistant grasses.” Picture: coffee shop, burger shack, walking paths, an abundance of benches. On the ground floor, employees will look out one side to another park and the other to native tidal marshlands.

Courtesy of Facebook

To get approval for the plans, Facebook had to make plenty of promises to the local city council, like contributing millions toward affordable housing and a new charitable foundation, according to the AllFacebook blog. “Congratulations,” Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki told Facebook employees after the council voted unanimously to approve the plans last year. “Where’s the ‘Like’ button?”

Courtesy of Facebook
TIME Ask TIME Tech

13 Streaming Music Services Compared by Price, Quality, Catalog Size and More

Beats Music, Google Play, iTunes, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify and others: See which one's best for you.

Forget for a moment how profitable streaming music services are (not terribly), or how much they’re paying in royalties to rights holders (or in particular, how much is ultimately trickling down to the artists). Those things couldn’t be more important when you get down to it, but they’re also intangible figures we’re left to speculate about, since full disclosure of a revenue network as complex and legally tortuous as the music industry’s is inconceivable.

So let’s talk about what we do know, in the wake of curation-angled streamer Pandora hiking its rates by a buck a month, and revisit how the top music services currently available in the U.S. stack up from a subscription pricing and features standpoint.

The chart below summarizes what I believe most are looking for when weighing options: catalog size, maximum streaming quality (note that in most — if not all — cases, the streaming quality will be lower if your connection is slow or fickle), platforms supported and pricing.

I’ve done my best to provide the most up-to-date info, but bear in mind that streaming services are moving — and in some cases murky — targets: not all services update information like catalog size routinely, and where you’re talking about millions of songs and ongoing catalog negotiations, it probably changes frequently. I’ve also tried to list all of the most notable platforms, mobile or otherwise, but a few of these services support a smattering of others (Sonos, Roku, etc.) that I’ve left out for brevity’s sake.

Catalog Quality Platforms Price
Beats Music 20m 320 Kbps Android, iOS, Web, Windows $10/mo.
Google Play 20m 320 Kbps Android, iOS, Web Free or $10/mo. extras
Grooveshark Unknown Unknown Android, Web Free w/ads, $6/mo., $9/mo. mobile
iHeartRadio 15m Unknown Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Web, Windows, Xbox Free
iTunes Radio 26m 256 Kbps Apple TV, iOS, OS X, Windows Free w/ads or $25/yr
Last.fm Variable 128 Kbps Android, iOS, Linux, OS X, Windows, Sonos, Web Free or $3/mo. extras
Sony Music 25m 320 Kbps Android, iOS, PlayStation, Web, TVs $5/mo. or $10/mo. mobile
Pandora 1m 192 Kbps Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Roku, Sonos, Web, Xbox Free w/ads or $5/mo.
Rhapsody 32m 192 Kbps Android, iOS, Web, Windows, Xbox $10/mo.
Rdio 20m 192 Kbps Android, BlackBerry, iOS, OS X, Web, Windows $5/mo., $10/mo. mobile, $18/mo. family
Slacker 13m 128 Kbps Android, iOS, Web, Windows, Xbox Free w/ads, $4/mo., $10/mo. extras
Spotify 20m 320 Kbps Android, BlackBerry, iOS, OS X, Windows $10/mo.
Xbox Music 30m 192 Kbps Android, iOS, Web, Windows, Xbox $10/mo., $60/yr for Xbox Live to listen on Xbox

Beats Music

Created by musician/producer Dr. Dre and Interscope/Geffen/A&M chair Jimmy Iovine to replace MOG, Beats Music (reviewed by my colleague Harry McCracken here) has been described as a hybrid of Spotify and Pandora: a sort of middle ground, on-demand music service that marries the former’s expansive catalog and direct control of it, to the latter’s “What do I listen to next?” taste curation — though in Beats’ case, it emphasizes listening lists cultivated by human tastemakers over rote computer algorithms. Streaming quality is strong, at up to 320 Kbps.

Monthly cost: $10 individual, $15 family (up to five members on up to 10 devices, exclusive to AT&T Mobility).

Google Play Music

I had mixed feelings about Google Play Music when it launched last May with fewer perks than a service like Spotify. But if you prefer Google’s online app-related modus operandi, Google Play Music lets you upload up to 20,000 songs of your choosing (accessible across all devices), or for $10 a month, access its catalog of 20 million songs, listen to them offline and create playlists as well as themed radio stations with unlimited skips.

Monthly cost: Free, $10 individual for extra features.

Grooveshark

Launched in 2006, Grooveshark is arguably the black sheep of the bunch if you factor turbulent relations with publishers into the equation: the company, which offers a vast catalog of music through a web interface and Android devices, has been embroiled in legal battles for alleged copyright violations for years (for which Apple eventually kicked it off the App Store, thus it’s not an iOS contender). But on the features front, it’s an interesting amalgam of elements, allowing you to upload your own MP3s, see what friends have been listening to (or subscribe to their playlists) or fiddle with recommendation algorithms derived from users’ ratings of songs.

Monthly cost: Free with ads, $6 individual, $10 individual to access mobile app.

iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio is the only completely free service in the mix, with ad-free streaming of some 15 million songs supporting multiple platforms. The kicker, of course, is that it works like an actual radio station, meaning you can nudge it in a musical direction, but you’ll have to listen to its picks.

Monthly cost: Free

iTunes Radio

Apple’s approach to streaming music is an extension of its iTunes application, thus restricting it to Apple products or iTunes-supported platforms. You gain access to Apple’s impressive catalog of some 26 million tracks, but like Pandora and iHeartRadio, you’re restricted to giving the service directions by selecting an artist, song or genre, then listening as it queues a medley of related tunes, with a limit of six skips per hour (per station).

Monthly cost: Free with ads, free (no ads) with $25/year iTunes Match subscription.

Last.fm

One of the oldest members in this list, Last.fm is a free (no ads) music recommendation tool that keeps track of everything you’ve listened to — a feature endearingly known as “scrobbling,” though Last.fm’s contemporary rivals now offer the same essential functionality — to devise music recommendations. The service has a unique Wiki-like angle, in that users can collaborate to provide annotative material for tracks.

Monthly cost: Free, $3 for extra features.

Music Unlimited

Sony’s streaming music service, Music Unlimited — formerly known as Qriocity — leverages the company’s massive music catalog across its array of Sony-branded devices (TVs, phones, games consoles, etc.) with high-quality playback on par with Spotify, Beats Music and Google Play.

Monthly cost: $5 individual, $10 individual to access mobile apps.

Pandora

The catalyst for this piece was Pandora announcing a fee hike for ad-free music by $1 a month, effective this May (according to Reuters, it’s to cover escalating licensing costs). The only trouble with an automated music streamer like Pandora — another of this list’s oldest members — is the size of its comparably diminutive music catalog: just a million songs. The service’s curation process masks this somewhat, but even at the free-with-ads end of the pool, the service is starting to look awfully threadbare, massive listener base or no.

Monthly cost: Free with ads, $5 individual.

Rdio

Arguably one of Spotify’s chief rivals in terms of dynamism and value, Rdio offers moderate-quality streaming of a Spotify-sized music catalog with offline playback support, robust social networking features and one of the friendliest interfaces of the bunch.

Monthly cost: $5 individual, $10 individual to access mobile apps, $18 family.

Rhapsody

Spotify’s other major rival, Rhapsody, offers a sprawling subscription as well as MP3 download service that’s grown from 16 million songs just a few years ago to 32 million today (thanks in large part to the service’s acquisition of Napster in 2011). Part of Rhapsody’s appeal is its breadth: I’ve listed the primary platforms in my chart above, but according to the company, the service is available on “more than 70 consumer electronics devices.”

Monthly cost: $10 individual.

Slacker Radio

Before Beats Music, Slacker Radio was doing “expert”-created music stations (by professional DJs, says Slacker), and that’s still one of its selling points, offered in either free-with-ads or pay-to-zap-ads tiers. It’s another of the automatic curation streamers, meaning you’re left to the whims of its algorithms (based on your selections), though there’s a premium service option that gives you ready access to select songs on demand.

Monthly cost: Free with ads, $4 individual, $10 individual for extras (including on-demand streaming).

Spotify

Probably the best known streamer of the bunch for its meteoric rise in recent years, Spotify offers high fidelity streaming and a robust 20-million song catalog across a range of platforms with conventional social networking options, all for a flat take-it-or-leave-it $10 a month. The trouble with Spotify these days is that its desktop interface could do with a radical overhaul, and it’s arguably flushing revenue down the drain by ignoring the demographic clamoring for a family subscription option.

Monthly cost: $10 individual.

Xbox Music

Fire up Xbox Music and you’ll almost be seduced by its elegant promise: 30 million on-demand songs (the largest catalog going), a visually pleasing interface, a “smart DJ” radio feature, a cloud-match service for your local tunes and solid multi-platform support. But then the kickers kick in, chief among them the fact that Xbox Music is an embedded subscription: you’ll need an Xbox Pass ($10 a month) subscription for unlimited streaming, plus a $60-per-year Xbox Live subscription if you want to listen on your Xbox.

Monthly cost: $10 individual, plus $60 a year for Xbox Live for Xbox subscribers.

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