TIME Video Games

Nintendo Apologizes for Not Allowing Same-Sex Relationships in Tomodachi Life

Nintendo Tomodachi Gay Marriage
This photo provided by Nintendo shows a screenshot from the video game, "Tomodachi Life." Nintendo/AP

The company issued a formal apology Friday and promised to be "more inclusive" and "better [represent] all players" in future versions of the life simulation game. The apology comes after a wave of protests demanding the company include same-sex relationships in the game

Stating that it’s “committed to fun and entertainment for everyone,” Nintendo issued a formal apology Friday afternoon for it’s failure to include same-sex relationships in the upcoming 3DS game Tomodachi Life.

Billed as a “life simulation,” Tomodachi Life allows players to use virtual avatars knowns as Miis to engage in everyday activities with each other, from eating to modeling clothing to falling in love with other Miis right up to (and including) marriage. The same-sex controversy arose when, in the original Japanese version of the game, players unearthed a glitch that allowed users to re-gender male characters as female, allowing the semblance of same-sex relationship. But Nintendo eliminated that bug, unleashing a wave of protests and campaigns demanding the company enable same-sex relationships as part of the game’s upcoming North American and European release (it launches stateside and in Europe on June 6).

Here’s Nintendo’s apology in full:

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

It’s impossible, standing on the outside, to say how “significant” the development change Nintendo refers to would have been, but Nintendo’s quality control is legendary in the industry — it does nothing lightly or easily. The company is doubtless hoping its formal apology and promise to be “more inclusive” and “better [represent] all players” in future versions will quell or at least mitigate some of the outrage.

TIME Opinion

Friday Rant: The Ever-Sorrier State of Android Bloatware

Pre-loaded, junky Android apps are nothing new, but they keep finding more ways to annoy.

I’ve used a lot of Android phones over the years, and while the platform has become smoother, faster and more pleasant with age, one thing hasn’t changed: You still have to deal with bloatware.

You may know it by some other name. Crapware. Junkware. The euphemistic “pre-loaded apps” or the less technical “all this stuff on my screen.” Regardless of the term, I define it loosely as “apps of dubious value that you didn’t install and are difficult or impossible to remove.” Most Android phones, especially as sold by major wireless carriers, are lousy with these apps.

This is not a new trend; phone makers have been pre-loading their devices with junk for years, either on their own or at the behest of wireless carriers. But now it seems to be getting worse.

I was reminded of this last week while setting up my wife’s Samsung Galaxy S5 from Verizon. This fine phone is bogged down with all kinds of junk, but one thing in particular stood out to me when I got to the home screen:

Samsung

At first glance, it looks harmless–logical, even. But what’s that “Message+” app in the center of the dock?

Upon closer inspection, this is not Samsung’s typical text messaging app. It’s an entirely separate messaging app from Verizon:

Verizon

Verizon has set this up to be the main text messaging experience on the Galaxy S5, but it’s actually one of three apps for this purpose. Samsung has its own messaging app, and Google has Hangouts, which can display both standard texts and Google chat messages.

Verizon’s app is ugly, but it’s not awful. It even has one noteworthy feature: the ability to aggregate all links in a separate view. But that’s beside the point.

The real problem here is that where users once had two pre-loaded texting apps to choose from–already one too many–they now have three. And they’re all taking up space and consuming system resources. We’d better hope Samsung doesn’t get into the cloud storage and turn-by-turn navigation businesses, because Verizon and Google already have apps for that.

I’ve had struggles with increasingly intrusive bloatware on my own HTC One. In March, AT&T delivered an update to Android 4.4 KitKat, and with it, included a sneaky new version of the carrier’s “Browser Bar.” Instead of just being limited to HTC’s own web browser (which, again, doesn’t need to exist in the first place), it gained the ability to pop up in Chrome, and pestered me via push notifications to do so.

Jared Newman for TIME

Similar to the Windows crapware, these pre-loaded apps and “services” are easy ways for phone makers and carriers to boost their profits. All they have to do in return is flick the user experience in the ear.

Users aren’t completely powerless to fight back, at least. If you’re bothered by bloatware, you can go to Settings > Applications (or Apps on some phones), then swipe over to the “All” section. Tap on any app you don’t want, and press “Disable.” Ignore the message that says it may misbehave if it’s a built-in app. As long as it’s an actual app, represented by an icon in your app tray or on your home screen, you shouldn’t have any problems. But even this isn’t a perfect solution, because these apps are still hogging space on your device, and removing them is still a chore.

Android users may be able to get actual relief in the future through a rumored “Android Silver” program. If reports are correct, Google may work with phone makers and wireless carriers to curb the bloatware on their high-end Android phones in exchange for direct payment and marketing support. It’d be kind of like the Nexus and Google Play Edition programs, but with phones you could actually buy through your wireless carrier.

Until that happens, though, the only way to guarantee a bloat-free experience is to buy a bloat-free phone, such as Google’s Nexus 5, Motorola’s Moto X or any Google Play Edition handset. You may have to pay full price if you’re not buying straight from your wireless carrier, but AT&T and T-Mobile will at least give you a cheaper monthly bill in exchange. After seeing the carrier bloatware situation get worse over the years, I’m becoming more and more tempted to go this route.

TIME viral

Here Are the Top 10 Things People Share With Their Moms on Facebook on Mother’s Day

Kid President and Boyz 2 Men are very popular with the mamas

Mother’s Day can be a lot of pressure. You need to write your Mom the perfect card, get her the perfect gift, and now that we live in a social media obsessed era, you need to post the perfect thing on her Facebook wall.

But Facebook wants to help you out. The social network sent us the 10 most popular things people shared with their moms on Mother’s Day last year, and 365 days later, they’re still pretty adorable.

1) An Open Letter To Moms from Kid President

2) Someecard for Mom, “I love how we don’t even need to say that I’m your favorite child”

3) Boyz 2 Men, “A Song for Mama”

4) Family Guy episode, “Lois Mom Mum Mommy”

5) Clay Weiner, “Mother’s Day”

6) 35 Signs You Were Raised By A Jewish Mother

Top sign: “You know to always bring a jacket no matter what the temperature is.”

7) 2PAC, “Dear Mama”

8) The Lonely Island, “Motherlover (feat. Justin Timberlake)”

9) Mr. T Treat Your Mother Right

10) Barats and Bereta, “Mother’s Day”

TIME Technology and Media

What’s Behind Apple’s Possible Beats Buy?

If completed, the deal would be Apple's largest-ever acquisition

Apple is said to be looking to bolster its streaming music business with a possible acquisition of Beats Electronics. Why would Apple want to buy the company?

The reported $3.2 billion price tag would be Apple’s largest single acquisition to date. From the iconic Beats headphones to streaming music, the buyout makes a lot of sense: the era of digital downloads is coming to an end and Apple is still without its own truly successful streaming music service.

If completed, the deal would be Apple CEO Tim Cook’s boldest move yet to place his own signature on the tech giant, more than two years after the death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

Watch the video above for more.

TIME

Apple Is Poaching the Genius Behind Nokia’s Amazing Cameras

US-FINLAND-IT-NOKIA 1020
A employee demonstrates the photo capabilities of the Nokia Lumia 1020, a Windows Phone with a 41-megapixel camera after its unveiling in New York City July 11, 2013. TIMOTHY CLARY—AFP/Getty Images

One of the senior engineers behind Nokia's pixel-packing Pureview cameras bids farewell to Nokia, hello to Apple

A senior engineer behind Nokia’s Pureview camera, a 41-megapixel behemoth that took smartphone imagery to new heights of crispness, has confirmed that he will be moving to Apple.

In a farewell tweet to the Nokia team, Ari Partinen wrote that he would “start a new chapter in Cupertino, California.” The move comes at a time of upheaval for Nokia as it completes a merger with Microsoft’s new mobile unit.

Nokia called Partinen its resident “camera expert” during a fashion photo shoot with one of his pixel-packing creations. Apple’s iPhone 5 currently packs a respectable 8 megapixel punch, a relative featherweight compared with Nokia’s Lumia 1020 smartphone.

[TechCrunch]

TIME Web

8 Best Sites for Incredible Retina Images and Desktop Wallpaper

Back in 2012, shortly after Apple got the whole “Retina” ball rolling, the pickings for beautiful high-resolution desktop wallpapers were pretty slim. The list I compiled in October 2012 highlighted just five sites, and I had to scour the place to drum that many up.

Thankfully those five were terrific, flush with beautiful imagery, much of it captured and cultivated by professional photographers, talented artists and enthusiasts of eclectic cultural miscellany. They’ve more than kept my 2800 x 1880 pixel workspace happy. But we’re a ways from 2012, and with 4K and higher screens on the rise, the world’s filling up with post-1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) content.

So here’s my list of picks updated for 2014, including the five original sites — still some of the best around — but with several lovely additions. Keep tabs on these, and you’re looking at enough art to swap your desktop or mobile device’s wallpaper several times a day for years to come.

InterfaceLIFT

InterfaceLIFT

If I had to pick one site, it would still be this one (it was my favorite last time, too). The photographic and post-shot editing talent on display in this joint is second to none, and the images now roll up past my 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s 2880 x 1880 resolution to 3840 x 2400 (as well as 3860 x 2160, the 4K ultra high definition TV standard). The site itself is also one of the most elegantly designed and easy to navigate, each picture annotated with the photographer’s capture device specs and post-processing notes.

Cost: Free via website, $6 for Macdrops OS X menubar, $1.99 for Backdrops iPhone/iPod, $2.99 for Backdrops iPad

Vladstudio

Vladstudio

You won’t find many photographs at Vladstudio, but you will find some of the best eclectic digital art on the web. Russian artist Vlad Gerasimov’s collection of desktop wallpapers is gorgeous, a trove of clever, imaginative and occasionally humorous themes that range from seasonal showcases and riffs on maps of the world to playful musings on digital life. Note: the desktop resolutions currently top out at 2880 x 1880, but the site includes support for most Apple and Android devices as well as multi-monitor (up to three) ultra-wide images.

Cost: Free for lower resolution images, $14.99 for a premium membership that unlocks the high-definition versions (the membership cost is one-time, and thus for life).

WallpapersWide

WallpapersWide

Think of WallpapersWide as the grab bag of Retina wallpaper sites, offering everything from cartoons and celebrities to “motors,” music, nature and “vintage” backgrounds (you can sort by any of those categories, and dozens more). The site auto-detects your resolution, too, though if you’re running a scaled interface, like most Retina MacBook Pros, you’ll need to manually input your native resolution since the site detects the considerably lower-scaled one.

The only caveat: Some of the wallpapers top out below resolutions like 2560 x 1600 or 2880 x 1880, so be sure to use the handy “Filter By” resolution option on the left column. That said, sorting by 2880 x 1880 turned up well over 12,000 pages of material (in 2012, there were just 4,000 at this resolution) and the site now supports crazy-high resolutions and ratios, up to 5:4 and 10240 x 4096.

Cost: Free

Digital Blasphemy

Digital Blasphemy

Another multifaceted digital art site, Digital Blasphemy offers splendid 3D-rendered original art by Ryan Bliss, who’s been selling his work through the site for years. While many of the compositions are intentionally idiosyncratic, you’ll find glamour shots of beautified landscapes here that in some cases look so photorealistic you’ll be hard pressed to discern fantasy from reality. Resolution coverage is excellent, too, running up to 7860 x 1600 (triple-screen 16:10).

Cost: Free in the “free” gallery, but most artwork is membership-based. Memberships range from $15 for 100 days to a lifetime option for $99.

WallpaperFX

WallpaperFX

Like WallpapersWide, WallpaperFX offers a hodgepodge of high-resolution pictures (celebrity, animals, nature, etc.) as well as rendered and tinkered-with artwork, with resolutions running up to the 4K TV spec (3840 x 2160). It sports a notably smaller collection than most, but has its share of zingers, like the one pictured here.

Cost: Free

2048pixels

2048pixels

2048pixels doesn’t support the Retina MacBook Pro family’s 2560 x 1600 or 2880 x 1880 resolutions, but it remains the go-to site for the the Retina iPad and iPad Mini (2048 x 1536).

Before you download one of 2048pixels’ wallpapers, be sure to fiddle with the “FX” button in each image’s upper-left-hand corner, where you can actually custom-tailor the properties like blurring, textures (lines, mesh grains) and pixelation.

Cost: Free

MrWallpaper

MrWallpaper

Another site with a smaller collection but plenty of gems, MrWallpaper has you covered up to 2880 x 1880 and offers a fast, simple, ad-free interface that lets you sort by general categories, filter by resolution or drop keywords into a search box.

Cost: Free

Google Images

Google

I mentioned Google Images last time in passing, but it’s really become a pretty terrific alternative to using a fixed site, surfacing content across the spectrum of crawled art sites and blogs, and you can restrict your search to high-definition images using Google’s search tools (including the option to sort by exact pixel sizes). If you’re doing a general “larger than” search, be sure to turn on the helpful “show sizes” option in the menubar, too.

Cost: Free

TIME

China’s Tinder Plots IPO in the Shadow of Anti-Porn Crackdown

Chinese officials launch a ceremony to d
Chinese officials launch a ceremony to destroy thousands of pornographic books and video materials in Beijing on April 24, 2011. AFP/Getty Images

China's dating app has 120 million user profiles, some of which may be too hot for Beijing

China’s dating app Momo has 120 million users, a possible valuation of $2 billion, and an ongoing flirtation with U.S. banks, eager to get a piece of the action should the company go public on a U.S. stock exchange, but a few of the racier user profiles have investors on edge.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some of the photos could run afoul of China’s widening crackdown on internet pornography. A reporter from state news service Xinhua logged onto the app in a popular bar district of Beijing and reportedly found scantily clad women “wearing bikinis to show off their physiques” and profiles suggestive of escort services. The salacious details may not shock users of dating sites the world over, but in China, the pictures can trigger regulatory crackdowns. Web companies Sina and Sohu.com have seen their publishing licenses revoked for explicit content.

In an email to the Journal, a company spokesperson insisted the company supported the government’s crackdown and would expand its team of internal censors from 60 to 100 employees, saying its commercial interests were “totally incompatible with lewd and sexual content.”

[WSJ]

TIME Web

Last-Minute Digital Mother’s Day Gifts She’ll Love

It’s been a busy week for you, but that’s not an excuse for not getting her a gift for Mother’s Day. There’s still time to put the thought and effort into choosing a great gift.

Here are our top picks of digital Mother’s Day gifts that will save you a hurried trip to the store.

Giftly: A more personal gift card

Giftly

If your mom is hard to shop for, you can give her a personal gift card through Giftly. The gift card service lets you send money along with a suggestion of how you’d see Mom using it — from buying coffee in the morning to splurging on a spa day — to show you’re really thinking of her.

Once your mom has spent it, she can share what she did. Customize the way your Giftly gift card looks with colors and a message, then choose to send it by email or text message, or print it out and give it yourself.

Price: As much as you’d like to spend plus a small service fee, from giftly.com

Bluum: A monthly gift box for expectant and new moms

Bluum

Bluum is best for expectant moms, or new moms of babies 0-12 months old. Each month, Mom will receive a gift box filled with five or more full-size products based on the child’s age, with one or two items for Mom.

Expectant moms will receive products for them along with a few items for her newborn child. Boxes have a value of $40 or more.

Price: $24.95 for 1 month, $69 for 3 months, $126 for 6 months, $249.50 for 12 months at Bluum.com

Scribd: An ebook subscription service

Scribd

If your mom has taken the plunge into ebooks, consider a gift subscription to an online book service like Scribd. This Netflix-type service gives her access to more than 300,000 books, including New York Times bestsellers, non-fiction, fiction in every genre and even young adult books.

She can save any books she wants to read to her library for easy access. And while she’s reading, the books are synced across iOS devices, Android devices (including Kindle Fire) and any computer with a web browser.

Price: $8.99 per month for unlimited books with a free starter month at Scribd.com

Umba: A monthly gift box of handmade goods

Umba

A perfect gift for the mom who spends hours surfing Etsy each week, Umbabox offers gorgeous handmade gifts delivered each month. Umba is a Swahili word meaning “to create,” and they curate either one large handmade item or several small handmade items. Inside, there’s also a “meet the artists” card with information about the people who created the items.

Price: Starts at $25 per month at Umba.com

TwoSmiles: For non-monetary gifts

HP

Mother’s Day is about appreciating Mom, and sometimes the best gifts are those you can’t buy, like breakfast in bed, letting her sleep in or a hug. TwoSmiles makes it easy to give those gifts with its free print-at-home greeting cards. You personalize your card, pick your gift—a coupon for a non-monetary gift or a gift card to places like Sephora, Spafinder or Harry London Chocolates—and print. If you won’t be seeing Mom in person, you can also email or send the card on Facebook.

Price: free at TwoSmiles.com

Rescue Gift: For giving to others

Rescue.org

If you want to avoid the consumerism, give a donation in Mom’s name to the International Rescue Committee to benefit mothers in need. Choose from options like Emergency Care for a Child, A Safe Delivery and Maternal Health Care, among others. Mom will receive a personalized print or digital card to let her know how her Rescue Gift is making a difference.

Price: Gifts start at $18 on Gifts.Rescue.org

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME technology

Colorado Congressman Seizes on New Bitcoin Rules

Jared Polis
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., looks on during the Colorado Democratic Party's State Assembly in Denver on April 12, 2014 David Zalubowski—AP

Rep. Jared Polis of Coloardo has launched a website for supporters to contribute to his campaign using the digital currency, becoming the first to do so under new federal guidelines, and has received "well over" $1,000 worth of bitcoin in less than 24 hours

Almost immediately after regulators voted Thursday to allow small political contributions in the form of bitcoin, Rep. Jared Polis launched a website for supporters to contribute to his congressional campaign using the digital currency.

Though a smattering of other politicians have experimented with bitcoin contributions, the Colorado Democrat said he’s the first to do so under the Federal Election Commission’s new guidelines.

“I think there were one or two that toyed around with [bitcoin contributions] before these rules came out,” Polis told TIME. “But under the actual permission from the Federal Election Commission, we’ve been working on this for weeks expecting that a ruling would occur, so we were able to go live within hours of the ruling.”‘

Polis said he’s raised “well over” $1,000 in bitcoin contributions in less than 24 hours since his site went live. The FEC’s current rules cap bitcoin contributions at $100, but Polis says he’s ready to accept more if the Commission decides to increase the limits. Bitcoin’s value can fluctuate wildly, but as of Friday morning, one bitcoin was worth about $450.

Polis being quick to jump on the new bitcoin rules makes sense: Before coming to Congress, he was a technology entrepreneur, founding online greeting card site BlueMountainArts.com and, later, ProFlowers.com. His background has helped him become a player on technology policy issues, especially during the heated debate over the anti-piracy Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) a couple years ago. Polis has been outspoken in calling for the government to keep its hands off bitcoin, which has caught the eye of regulators in the U.S. and abroad, in part because the currency’s anonymous and difficult-to-track nature makes it a favorite for shady “deep web” online purchases of guns, drugs and other questionable transactions. Despite those concerns, Polis said there’s plenty of good in the currency as well.

“I’ve been a critic of colleagues of mine who seek to restrict or ban the currency,” Polis said. “I believe that alternative currencies add value, help reduce the cost of remittances, provide alternatives to conventional banking systems and can reduce transaction cost. So I think they offer a lot and government should tread lightly, and consumers should be wary as well because of the risks associated with them.”

On the surface, it would seem that allowing political contributions in an anonymous cryptocurrency like bitcoin is taking a step away from campaign finance transparency at a time when many are calling for exactly the opposite. Polis, however, was quick to point out that under the FEC’s new rules, he and other politicians are required to collect the same information from donors as they would with any other contributions. Why, then, would anybody bother contributing to a campaign with bitcoin instead of dollars?

“Somebody who is accustomed to dealing in dollars would likely donate in dollars,” Polis said. “However, there are more and more people that use bitcoin as a currency for engaging in e-commerce transactions and purchasing items on the Internet. And they would be inclined to also make their political donations in bitcoins.”

TIME Companies

Binge-Watching Netflix Is About to Get More Expensive

New Netflix subscribers will now have to pay $1 more per month than existing members, who will still be charged $7.99 a month for two years. If they cancel during that span and then resubscribe, they'll have to shell out the new price

Binge-watching House of Cards just got a little more expensive.

New Netflix members will have to pay $1 more per month than existing members starting Friday, a company spokesman confirmed. Existing members will still be charged $7.99 a month for the next two years, but they will have to pony up the new price should they cancel during that span and later re-subscribe.

Netflix’s planned price hike was first revealed last month in the company’s quarterly earnings report. Netflix noted in that report that it saw “limited impact” when it raised prices in Ireland from €6.99 to €7.99.

Netflix says the increase in price will help it add more movies and television shows to its lineup and deliver an “even better streaming experience.” As TIME’s Victor Luckerson reported, the company is under pressure to pay high licensing fees to studios—almost $3 billion for shows and movies this year.

“If we want to continue to expand to do more great original content, more series, more movies, we have to eventually increase prices a little bit,” CEO Reed Hastings said in a video conference with analysts in April. “You’re talking about a dollar or two difference per month, so I don’t think that it’s a huge difference.”

A Netflix spokesman told TIME that the global price increases would be between $1 and $2 on a country-by-country basis.

Victor Luckerson contributed to this report.

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