TIME Gadgets

5 Charts That Show Why the iPad’s Fifth Birthday Is Bittersweet

iPad Original Apple 5th Anniversary
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPad as he speaks during an Apple Special Event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Jan. 27, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

See how crazy people were for the iPad back in 2010 — and how that's changed

Five years ago Friday, Apple released its very first iPad to a skeptical public. The 9.7-inch device was Apple’s first tablet, and no one was sure how it would fare. After all, Bill Gates revealed Microsoft’s Tablet PC in 2000, promising the keyboard-less computer would be the next big thing. (It wasn’t.)

While Apple achieved what Microsoft couldn’t by convincing mainstream consumers to buy a tablet computer, the iPad’s fifth birthday is hardly a time to linger on its success. Analysts believe the next iPad, said to be a huge 12.9-inch tablet, was delayed in part because tablet sales are in decline across the world as people turn to big-screen smartphones — “phablets” — or keep the same tablet longer than they hold onto their smartphones.

In fact, while global tablet shipments are forecasted to rise steadily by several million each year, tablets’ year-over-year growth has plummeted to single-digits, according to a report by IDC:

Apple’s iPad wasn’t immune to the tablet slump — sales began to decline not long after its release. Looking at how each quarter’s unit sales compared with the same quarter year-over-year, it’s not exactly a pretty picture. Year-over-year change from Q3 2011 to Q3 2014 plummeted from 183% to -9%:

That said, the iPad has remained a consistently popular product based on the number of quarterly sales since its debut:

Still, the iPad’s sales have been consistently lower than expected. Analysts predicting Apple’s quarterly iPad sales tend to estimate a sales figure slightly too high — even when they take into account how tablet sales may be slowing. Here’s an example from the end of the iPad’s first year, when its year-over-year growth had already begun to slow:

In fact, the only time the iPad’s performance was truly shocking was right after its initial release. Doubts surrounding the original tablet turned out to be misguided — analysts had severely underestimated the iPad’s performance in its inaugural quarter:

What might Apple want for the iPad’s fifth birthday? Perhaps it simply wants the device to excite people as much as it did when it was first released. In TIME’s April 12, 2010 issue, whose cover story was dedicated to Apple’s new tablet, actor-comedian Stephen Fry tells of how he fell in love with the iPad after it was unveiled. Its a tribute — perhaps a tad exaggerated — to Apple’s characteristic ingenuity, but also a reminder of how the iPad may no longer be as great as it was in the public’s eye. And it’s especially poignant now that Apple is on the verge of releasing its first new product line since the iPad: The Apple Watch.

It is possible that the public will not fall on the iPad, as I did, like lions on an antelope. Perhaps they will find the apps and the iBooks too expensive. Maybe they will wait for more fully featured later models. But for me, my iPad is like a gun lobbyist’s rifle: the only way you will take it from me is to prise it from my cold, dead hands. One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest thing to his Hitchhiker’s Guide that humankind has yet devised.

 

TIME apps

One of Microsoft’s Best Apps Is Now on iPhone and Android

Office Lens
Microsoft

Office Lens converts real-world ink into editable files

Microsoft released paper-scanning app Office Lens for iPhones and Android on Friday, opening one of its most popular apps to a wider world of mobile devices. Office Lens was previously available only on Windows Phone devices.

Office Lens uses a smartphone camera to scan business cards, sticky notes, white boards, or anything else written in real-world ink before converting them into electronic files that can be saved to the cloud or shared over email.

It works its neatest trick on printed documents. The app uses optical character recognition to upload text to a Word document for easy editing and keyword searches. It can also import business card text into your phone’s contact list.

The app has proved popular among Windows Phone users, a tiny 3% sliver of all mobile phone users. It’s now available to the other 97% for free in the iTunes store and in preview mode for Android users.

Read next: 5 Charts That Show Why the iPad’s Fifth Birthday Is Bittersweet

TIME Media

How Sprint Could Help Tidal Actually Succeed

Tidal Launch Event NYC #TIDALforALL
Jamie McCarthy—2015 Getty Images Kanye West (L) and JAY-Z onstage at the Tidal launch event #TIDALforALL at Skylight at Moynihan Station on March 30, 2015 in New York City.

A bundle deal of cell phone service and music streaming could help Tidal gain a foothold

Jay-Z’s new music streaming service Tidal is facing a healthy dose of skepticism despite the high-profile list of artists that have invested in the company. However, the startup may have a fighting chance against streaming heavyweights like Spotify (and Apple’s upcoming new service) if it can hammer out a key partnership.

Sprint, the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. with 56 million subscribers, is working on a deal with Tidal to distribute the service to its customers. “We are working together in partnership for the vision of the common cause of reestablishing the value of music,” Sprint said in a statement to USA Today to dispel rumors that the company had already bought a stake in Tidal. “It is NOT a financial investment or exclusive partnership.”

Details are murky, but there is plenty of precedent for deals between music streaming services and wireless carriers. When Beats Music launched in January, it offered a discounted family plan to AT&T subscribers that let up five people to use Beats accounts for a combined $15 per month (five subscriptions would cost $50 per month normally). Sprint itself is currently offering six months of Spotify Premium for free to customers on certain wireless plans.

“Every major digital music service that you might care to name have dedicated senior executives whose mission is to do nothing but bundling deals with mobile operators,” Larry Miller, a music business professor at New York University, told TIME when the Beats-AT&T deal was rolling out.

A bundle deal would be especially helpful for Tidal, which lacks the name recognition of Spotify or the Apple-owned Beats Music. And the more tightly packaged the service is into customers’ wireless plans, the better for Tidal — Spotify has found that customers who sign up for so-called “hard bundles,” in which its music service is included in the standard monthly rate instead of as an add-on, end up keeping Spotify 80% of the time even after the discount period ends.

Tidal will need a lot of other things to go right to gain a toehold in the streaming space. Carrier partnerships can be lucrative, but also fleeting—the heavily promoted AT&T-Beats tie-up ended in October. Eventually, the service will simply have to stand as a better user experience to overcome its competitors.

Read more: How Jay Z’s Tidal Press Conference Showed He’s Out of Touch

TIME Drones

This Is How Drones Work

Product Displays At The CP+ Camera And Imaging Expo
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drone, manufactured by SZ DJI Technology Co., flies during the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015.

There’s more than just physics keeping these small wonders aloft

When things look easy, they’re typically anything but. From Ted Williams’ swing to Raymond Carver’s prose to Jennifer Lawrence’s acting, this has been demonstrated time and time again. You might think it’s a leap to include drones with these effortless artists, but hold your judgement until after you watch an unmanned aircraft dance gracefully across the sky. Because while these machines may look like little more than propellers and plastic, these aerial acrobats actually pack a lot of tech into their lightweight frames.

In order to describe how drones work, you have to first distinguish them from their predecessors: remote control helicopters. According to Michael Perry, public relations manager at drone maker DJI, the key differentiator between the two airborne devices is that drones have some level of autonomy — meaning they can fly, hover, or navigate without input from a pilot.

“When you’re fully engaged with every single part of the flight process, that’s technically not a drone.” says Perry. “The ability to self-stabilize, to be able to hold a GPS-based position, that’s the level of autonomy that actually makes it an intelligent machine.”

This detail is key when you analyze one obvious differences between model aeronautics and drones: smart copters have multiple rotors. While RC copters also can have multiple propellors, hobbyist drones (not the ones flown government or the military) need them in order to achieve the level of control necessary for the unmanned aerial vehicle to be self-reliant.

“When you have multiple rotors, you get a lot of really interesting benefits,” says Perry. For instance, having more than one propeller gives drones more fail-safes. For instance, if one of the motors fails, the aircraft can still stay aloft with the remaining motors working in concert to compensate. In addition, the more rotors that you have, the more lift an aircraft will generate, allowing it to carry a heavier payload, something that comes in handy when you’re attaching a camera to a drone. And finally, having more rotors lets designers shrink the size of the blades, making them more manageable and even safer to use.

But it takes a power source to get these propellors spinning. Drones typically come with a removable battery that provides around 12 minutes of flight time. Many drone makers sell extra batteries, and you can even upgrade them to get up to 25 minutes of flight. But more power means more weight, which is why these machines get such little airtime. Everyone would love to have a drone that flies for hours on end, but the battery powerful enough to do that would act like an anchor, tying it to the ground.

In order to take flight, drones require a controller, something the pilot uses to launch, land, and navigate. Controllers can take many forms, from gamepad-like controllers to smartphones and tablets. Regardless of how they look, controllers need to communicate with the drone, and typically do that using radio waves. According to Perry, drones are typically run by 2.4 gigahertz radio waves. To communicate with their aircraft, many drone controllers use Wi-Fi, which can be transmitted on the 2.4 gigahertz spectrum, and is something that smartphones and tablets can tap into without any accessories.

Not coincidentally, drones have adopted an array of onboard technology also developed by the smartphone revolution. One is a GPS chip inside the aircraft that relays its location to the controller. It also logs the aircraft’s takeoff spot in case it needs to return unassisted. Gyroscopes, the kind that are found in smartphones’ accelerometers, are also crucial.

“Those accelerometers have gotten smaller, more affordable, and more powerful, making them able to give a lot more information,” says Perry. “We’ve been able to take that size, cost, and power differential and put it into the platform to make something that’s even more accessible to everybody.” And the shift in both price and power has propelled the drone boom.

When it comes to flying, these onboard sensors keep drones aloft. For instance, an altimeter lets the drone know what altitude it’s at. So, when you set the aircraft to hover in place, this chip will tell the drone to maintain that height. In addition, the GPS chip helps to hold the drone within the x and z axes, correcting course when stiff winds blow it around. And these machines are no pushovers, says Perry, who says DJI’s larger rigs can withstand gusts of up to 50 miles per hour.

But landing, as Indiana Jones will attest, can be even more challenging. Drones are programmed to automatically land slowly, a necessity for propellor-based craft. “When you descend quickly there’s a state that’s well known to helicopter pilots called the vortex ring state,” says Perry. While drones may not know it by name, they can certainly feel it, because when they drop in altitude too quickly, they end up sinking into the wash of their own propellors. This vacuum of air is hard to escape even for seasoned pilots (of remote controlled or real helicopters), because when they throttle up to escape, they create an even stronger vacuum that pulls the aircraft down even faster.

But these are just the first advances to propel drones, and there will be plenty more as as technology drifts onward. For example, tapping into its onboard camera, the DJI Aspire 1 has a visual positioning system which uses a downward facing camera and two ultrasonic sensors to land. A key feature for flying indoors or somewhere without GPS, the camera creates a real-time map of the ground below, identifying a grid where it can plot points and safe places to land. If the drone drifts away from the points, it can visually triangulate to correct itself and stay locked in position. Meanwhile, the ultrasonic sensors tell the drone how close it is to the ground. In other words, even in harsh terrain, technology can make landing a drone look easy.

 

 

TIME Smartphones

How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone

smartphone-front-view
Getty Images

Applicable for Androids and iPhones

No one enjoys cell phone spam, especially aggressive telemarketing calls and texts while you’re on the go. Though you can list your cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry, that doesn’t stop telemarketing text messages or even all phone calls in our experience.

If you’re tired of these nuisances, you have options. You can use the following apps and features built into your phone to help cut down on spam.

For Android smartphones

If your phone is updated to Android 4.4 KitKat or later (check Settings > About Phone to check which Android version your device is running) there are some built-in features that identify incoming calls. Caller ID by Google will match incoming calls with Google Places listing and display that name on the call screen for you. Unfortunately, this is highly dependent on the company being listed in Google’s business directory.

If you’re getting nuisance calls from the same number, you can block it from the call log. Select the number you want to block and when you see the details for the caller, hit the menu button. There you’ll find the option to “Add to reject list.” You can manage your call reject list, including adding contacts or numbers, under settings >> call >> call reject >> auto reject list.

For earlier versions of Android, your options vary somewhat by manufacturer. When you get a spam call, open the call log and press and hold the number you want to block. While you’re holding, a menu will pop up letting you add that number to your contacts or block it. Samsung calls it “add to reject list,” HTC calls it “block contact”—you get the idea. On LG models, you can go into system >> call >> call reject >> and then use the + to add numbers from your recent calls.

If you have Android 4.2.2 you can also opt to send all calls from a specific contact directly to voicemail. Once you get a call, make a contact out of that incoming number. Then view that contact (the People widget) and tap on the menu to see the option “All calls to voicemail.”

If your version of Android doesn’t have what you need, check out one of these apps that specialize in dealing with annoying calls in different ways.

Best for blocking spam: Mr. Number

Mr. Number lets you block calls and texts from specific numbers or specific area codes, and it can automatically block private or unknown numbers. It also lets users report spam, so when you get a call from an unknown number, you can see what others have reported about it.

When a blocked number tries to call, your phone may ring once, though usually not at all, and then the call is either disconnected or sent to voicemail, based on how you want the call handled.

Price: Free at Google Play (reverse lookups for a fee)

Best for Identifying Calls: Truecaller

While Mr. Number focuses on blocking calls and texts, Truecaller focuses on identifying who’s trying to get in touch.

Truecaller provides caller ID information and reverse lookup data for incoming calls and texts — and all this info means that Truecaller knows who spammers are and lets you block them before they start bothering you.

The app makers maintain a database of spam callers and telemarketers and will automatically flag incoming calls as such. This database comes from both white and yellow pages services as well as crowdsourced from the Truecaller community. And, it’s proven effective in screening out the One Ring Phone Scam calls.

Truecaller will ask to add your list of contacts to its database, but this is purely optional. You will have to verify your number with Truecaller before being able to use the service.

Price: Free at Google Play

For iPhones

iOS 8 has built-in options for blocking numbers.

Go to the Contacts app and tap on the contact you want to block or find the number on the Recent Calls tab (clock icon) on your Phone app and tap the circled “i” icon to the right of the number. Both these methods will take you to the contact page for that caller. Scroll to the bottom and click on the Block This Caller.

But what about identifying incoming calls or texts as spam?

For that you can rely on Truecaller listed above in the Android section. It also has an iPhone version that will identify incoming calls against their extensive list of telemarketers and spammers.

Price: Free on iTunes

Other blocking options

If you don’t find any built-in features or apps to your liking, your carrier might offer blocking options (although they could come at a cost).

  • AT&T users should look for Smart Limits, a parental control feature that lets you block calls and texts for $4.99 per month.
  • Sprint users can set up call blocking from My Sprint.
  • Verizon users can block five numbers for free or pay $4.99 a month for more blocking options.
  • T-Mobile offers the fewest features here, though you can block all text messages or contact support about potentially blocking specific numbers.

Finally, try filtering by using a Google Voice number as your primary means of contact. Google Voice offers great spam filtering options with a database of known spam numbers, and it can automatically block potential spam. You can port an existing number to Google Voice for a $20 fee to enjoy first-class call filtering options no matter what kind of phone you’re using. This method works for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Semiconductors

This Is the Biggest Question Facing Tech Right Now

TIME.com stock photos Computer RAM Memory Microchip
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

What happens to a key technology almost everybody depends on?

After two years of a glorious rally, investors in chip stocks are beginning to worry that the party is over.

The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index – or SOX, which includes 30 chipmakers like Intel, Qualcomm, and TSMC – has outperformed the Nasdaq Composite since March 2013, rising 63% during that period to the Nasdaq’s 51%. But this past month, the SOX has dropped 6.1%, while the Nasdaq is down 2.9%.

And that’s after a slight recovery in prices of chip shares this week. There were a few days last week when the SOX dropped 8%, amid concern that semiconductor makers don’t just have to grapple with a strong US dollar but weakening demand among the tech companies that are the chipmakers’ biggest customers.

In that sense, the fate of chip stocks is a big question for all of tech. Semiconductor orders are seen as a bellwether the tech industry because they signal optimism or pessimism among the manufacturers of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. When those companies are cautious, chip orders decline. When they expect growth, orders increase.

Many chips are sold in US dollars, so investors have been bracing for the impact of the strong dollar pushing up manufacturing costs or weakening demand. But last month, concerns mounted that other factors may be weakening demand as well. PCs, for example, had been seeing shipments stabilize last year but now may be declining again. And smartphones in emerging markets could be seeing slower growth as countries like China see their economies slow down.

Chip sales rose 6.4% in 2013 and another 9.4% in 2014, according to research firm IHS. More clarity on 2015 sales will come once semiconductor companies report first-quarter earnings this month, but early signs of a slowdown may be already emerging.

One source of worry was Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which is coming off a record quarter of revenue rising 53% and net income rising 79%. The company’s CFO recently said at an investment conference in Hong Kong that it’s seen a slowdown in recent weeks. That followed a report by Intel on March 12 that its sales may be more than $1 billion below its previous forecast because of weak PC sales.

Chip bulls argued that TSMC’s weakness could also be tied to reports that Apple was switching its supplier of iPhone CPUs from TSMC to Samsung. But on Thursday, flash chip maker SanDisk issued a warning to investors about its first-quarter earnings and withdrew its guidance for the full year, citing pressure on prices and soft enterprise sales. On top of that, the durable goods report showed demand for computing equipment slack in February.

Another factor driving up chip share prices over the past couple of years has been the wave of consolidation sweeping the industry, a trend that has lifted the stocks ofacquirers and potential targets alike. Big chipmakers are flush with cash and are seeking to expand their share of existing markets or to expand into growing areas like the Internet of things.

And indeed, semiconductor stocks had a reprieve on Friday as news that Intel was in talks to buy Altera stoked speculation that the M&A wave would continue into this year. The news pushed up other chipmakers like Fairchild, Lattice and Xilinx.

While this may be welcome news for some chip investors, it’s possible that the best hope for the two-year chip rally now depends more on speculation of future deals than sound estimates for fundamental growth. Mergers often require several years of integration and cost cutting before they add materially to profit margins, especially when they coincide with a cycle of declining demand. The risk in the near term is that valuations could decouple from profit growth.

sox vs booktobill

Something like that might be already happening. The graph above measures the SOX Index’s performance against the semiconductor book-to-bill ratio, which measures the demand for new chip orders received against those being shipped. For much of the past few years, while chip stocks rallied steadily, the book-to-bill ratio remained over 1 – that is, new orders outpaced shipments. But in recent months it’s come closer to parity while the rally continued. And if chipmakers like TSMC and SanDisk are right, the ratio could fall further.

The long-term outlook for chip shares still looks bright. PC’s may be in decline but mobile devices are still in demand globally and emerging technologies like the Internet of things are encouraging. But the Goldilocks environment that the chip industry has enjoyed may be interrupted this year. And if so, it could signal a bigger slowdown inside the broader tech industry.

TIME apps

This App Tells You How Long You’ll Be Stuck in That Traffic Jam

Waze
Lionel Bonaventure—AFP/Getty Images The logo of mobile app "Waze" is displayed on a tablet on January 2, 2014 in Paris. /AFP/Getty Images)

Waze adds a countdown clock for those seemingly interminable traffic snarls

Waze has added a new feature to its real-time traffic mapping app that answers a timeless question for commuters: “Will this traffic jam ever end?”

It will, and Waze can estimate just how long it will take to break free by tracking real-time GPS data from its community of drivers. The latest update to Waze’s iOS and Android versions now includes a “Time in Traffic” bar that displays how far your car has progressed through the jam and counts down the minutes to freedom.

It’s a handy tweak for those moments when the app can’t find a detour around the nastiest snarls.

TIME Apple

Apple’s First Version of the Watch Was Surprisingly Low Tech

Apple Debuts New Watch
Stephen Lam—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

"A very nicely designed Velcro strap"

Apple’s earliest Apple Watch prototype was basically just an iPhone strapped to somebody’s wrist with velcro, a new story detailing the Watch’s origins reveals.

In the early days of the the Apple Watch, software for the device was being developed at a quicker pace than the hardware, according to Wired. That meant the Apple Watch team had to rely on a decidedly bootleg method of developing the user interface: Essentially emulating the Apple Watch software on a modified iPhone.

Via Wired:

The goal was to free people from their phones, so it is perhaps ironic that the first working Watch prototype was an iPhone rigged with a Velcro strap. “A very nicely designed Velcro strap,” Lynch is careful to add.

The team built a simulator that displayed a life-size image of an Apple Watch on the screen. Software was moving much more quickly than hardware, and the team needed a way to test how it worked on your wrist. There was even an onscreen digital crown—a facsimile of a watch’s classic knob—that you could swipe to spin, but it hardly replicated the feeling of twisting a real crown. Swiping, after all, is what the knob was supposed to replace. So they made a custom dongle, an actual watch crown that plugged into the bottom of the phone through the cord jack. In a sense the first true Apple Watch prototype was, like 10,000 Kickstarter projects, just a weird iPhone case with a strange accessory sticking out of it.

 

The Apple Watch is due out April 24, with preorders beginning April 10.

Read the rest of Wired’s story here: iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch

 

TIME Gadgets

The Best Smartphone-Controlled Lightbulbs Are Now Even Better

Philips

The Philips Hue Go is a wireless lamp you can control with your phone

Philips Hue, the maker of smartphone-controlled, color-changing lightbulbs, has launched a new, portable lamp that unplugs from the wall and can be carried just about anywhere.

The Hue Go keeps the lights on thanks to a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 3 hours between charges. Like the rest of the lights in the Hue product line, the light syncs up wirelessly to Hue’s mobile app, where user’s can adjust the lighting between seven preset “moods” or nitpick between 16 million colors on a touchable palette.

But portable mood-lighting doesn’t come cheap. The Hue Go will retail for €100 ($109) when it goes on sale in Europe this April, followed by North America this June.

TIME weather

This Amazing NASA Video Shows Every Rainstorm on Earth for 10 Days

Take a worldwide tour of global precipitation

NASA has released a stunning visualization of every rainstorm, snow storm, hurricane and everything else that occurred on Earth from August 4 – 14, 2014. The time lapse video was made possible by data from NASA’s one-year-old Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission, which scientists are using to understand the Earth’s freshwater resources and natural disasters.

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