TIME Reviews

Review: The Weather Channel’s New iPhone App Is Gorgeously Vertical

The Weather Channel

One of the best weather apps for iOS is now the best and most socially-engaged, bar none.

I took a look at The Weather Channel’s free mobile app for iOS back in May 2012, just after the company overhauled and streamlined its interface, adding visual elegance to functionality and helpful swipe gestures to complement button tapping. The only ad-related concession was to a strip that ran along the top, though the ads tended to clash with the app’s often pastel sky hues and picturesque weather-related phenomena.

I liked it a lot — enough to make it my primary mobile weather-checking tool. But at the same time, speaking as a guy who likes to commit cross-platform, I’ve been a little less than satisfied with the company’s web approach. Visit it these days and you’re as liable to encounter stories like “Your Kids May Never See THIS,” or “World’s Scariest Airport Runways (PHOTOS),” or “How I Lost 115 Pounds!” or “Don’t Miss Out on THIS” (with a shot of a giant potato on a flatbed) as genuine weather news. It’s obviously the company trying to pay the bills, if at the expense of offering a focused, informationally consistent experience.

You may also have heard about The Weather Channel’s shift toward infotainment if you watch the cable channel, and non-weather-related shows like Prospectors or Loaded or Reel Rivals. That, and in recent years, The Weather Channel’s taken to giving moderate to large winter storms names like “Athena,” “Brutus,” “Gandolf,” “Iago,” “Khan” and so forth. Even the National Weather Service took umbrage with that, refusing to recognize the channel’s questionable dubbing. You could argue The Weather Channel’s been following in MTV’s footsteps, gradually diversifying its content to broaden its viewership, but to the point that the channel’s name becomes a misnomer.

The way to avoid most of that is to use The Weather Channel’s mobile app, which the company overhauled significantly last night, trading its left-right, tab-based interface for a seamless scrolling column of information packed with visually polished meteorological data. Now, instead of one screen sporting multiple levels of left-right tabbed information you’d have to shuffle through like a deck of cards, you simply scroll down from the default temperature view through a parade of features: hourly weather, the 10-day forecast, a radar square (The Weather Channel claims radar is “faster than ever” now), a carousel of video stories, a feature called “social weather” (more on this below), a news carousel, a pollen index, another story carousel called “Our Favorite Things,” current airport conditions for your area and a flu report. The column’s intercut by a few tastefully unobstrusive banner ads, and that’s it: as I’m looking this morning, there’s one for a show on The Weather Channel, one for Microsoft Cloud, and a repeat of the show ad at bottom — so just three in all.

The Weather Channel

A few of the subsections offer “more” links, which slide you over one page to an expanded view, say you want to see hourly predictions — accuracy notwithstanding — that run out three full days instead of just five or six hours. Other subsections, like the 10-day forecast, let you slide those days left or right to see further ahead without leaving the up/down column interface. And instead of waiting for the app to update at intervals, as so many apps force you to, you can get this version to refresh by gently tug-swiping downward (from the default view). It’s all very slick and beautifully designed — leaps and bounds better than the last version, which was already headed in the right direction.

By default, The Weather Channel’s app uses your phone’s location-tracking capabilities to provide forecasts, taking its best guess at a street address and displaying it up top (as I sit here in my home office, the app shows the address for the home next door, which is close enough for me). This can be disabled, of course, and the app still supports adding locations manually, after which you just have to swipe left or right to view them. And if severe weather’s occurring nearby, the app now displays a prominent banner along the top, whereas before, alerts were tiny icons you had to slide out for details.

If you live in a major metropolitan area, say New York City, the default screen will display a shot of downtown Manhattan that’s also indicative of the weather (sunny, cloudy, raining, etc.). If, on the other hand, you live in a tiny Michigan village like me, you’ll see a nondescript photo that matches the local weather conditions. All that’s missing at this point is a mechanism that’d let you take your own photos of various local weather conditions and map them to local weather states that the app would know to display (in lieu of the generic ones) for the relevant location. Now that would be cool.

One of the more intriguing new features is something The Weather Channel calls “Social Weather,” which eschews the prior version’s social networking hooks to platforms like Facebook and iWitness in favor of a native, Waze-like weather reporting service. Click a checkmark icon that hovers above the temperature circle in the default view and you’re taken to Apple’s Maps app overlaid by a tagging interface: a row of icons at bottom reflecting general weather conditions, e.g. sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy and so forth. Tap the one that best represents what you see outside and you’ll automatically submit your report to The Weather Channel, then have the option to take a photo and submit that as well, after which an icon appears on the map over the submission location above a timer that counts down from 15 minutes before allowing you to report in again.

The Weather Channel

I expected to be able to see my photo by tapping the map icon, but if that’s the intention, it wasn’t working when I tested it, and tapping other nearby icons failed to conjure pictures as well, so perhaps the photos are just for your benefit (you can email them on, or attach them to a text message). In any event, the social weather report interface could be huge if enough people use it and do so accurately, potentially offering a far more immediately accurate survey of local weather conditions than The Weather Channel’s own sometimes-delayed reports (in a promotional video for the new app, The Weather Channel says it intends to use the data “to identify hard to predict spots, to help improve the forecasts”).

If you’re looking for the what might be the prettiest weather app on the market, as well as one that wisely keeps ads and non-weather-related stories to a minimum — speaking as someone who routinely uses or keeps tabs on apps ranging from Apple’s own iOS Weather to Intellicast, NOAA Hi-Def Radar, WeatherBug, Weather Underground, AccuWeather, MyRadar and Weather Radar — The Weather Channel’s latest is my new favorite, and it’ll even work with slightly older devices: while it’s designed with iOS 7 in mind, The Weather Channel says it’ll load on anything running iOS 6 and above.

TIME Technologizer

LittleBits’ Space-Themed Electronics Kit Is Plug-and-Play and NASA-Approved


Snap-together electronics modules let you learn about space exploration by building stuff

What if experimenting with electronics was more like playing with Lego? That’s the idea behind LittleBits, a system of modules such as motors, displays, sensors and buzzers. They’re color-coded, snap together magnetically and come with instructions for projects, letting young and not-so-young amateur engineers build stuff without ever getting near a soldering gun.

Today, LittleBits is introducing a new package called the Space Kit. And it’s doing it in collaboration with the ultimate expert on its theme of space exploration: NASA. The space agency collaborated with the company on the projects supplied with the kit, which provides build-it-yourself desktop versions of some of the devices and technologies used by real astronauts.

The $189 collection includes modules such as a DC motor, an LED display, a microphone, a speaker and a doohickey that can accept input from a standard remote control. You combine these parts with household items of your own–bowls, aluminum foil, string, craft sticks–to create projects such as a robotic grappler, satellite dish, star chart and energy meter.

As with Lego, it’s all very well to piece together LittleBits projects using the supplied plans, but the same parts can be mixed and matched for a more inspiring purpose: inventing your own items from scratch. You can share your creations on LittleBits’ site, where you’ll find an array of gizmos designed by teachers, students and other enthusiasts, from a space helmet to the baby stroller of the future.

See LittleBits’ video about the Space Kit below.


Meet the Disruptors of the TIME 100

Jeff Bezos Launches Bezos Center For Innovation In Seattle
David Ryder—Getty Images

The Time 100 has featured its fair share of tech world disruptors, from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg. This year is no different, with an impressive array of tech CEOs that range from a couple of Chinese mega-moguls to a pair of fresh-faced innovators fresh out of Stanford University. Here’s a breakdown of the people on this year’s list who are doing the most to change the world of technology:

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy

Ages: 23 and 25

What they did: Launched the messaging app Snapchat, through which users send each other pictures that disappear after a few seconds. The app is changing the way we communicate—or at least, the way your kids communicate. The rapid growth of the app, which processes 400 million photos per day, is the latest sign that people are craving ways to connect through private networks online instead of broadcasting all their thoughts to their Facebook friends.

Who’s scared of them: Facebook, which offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion last fall and got turned down. The company also launched a Snapchat clone called Poke, which flopped.

Pony Ma

Age: 42

What he did: Founded Tencent, the giant Chinese Internet company that runs everything from social networks to massive multiplayer online games. At more than $150 billion, its market capitalization eclipses large American tech firms like Intel and Hewlett-Packard.

Who’s scared of him: The Chinese government, whose strict censorship laws are harder to enforce on private messaging services like Tencent’s WeChat app. The government has forced WeChat to restrict certain words, but users can still communicate through images and audio in ways that are tough to regulate.

Tony Fadell

Age: 45

What he did: Known as the “father of the iPod,” Fadell spearheaded the development of Apple’s disruptive music device. Later, he launched the smart smoke detector company Nest, which was bought by Google for $3.2 billion at the start of the year.

Who’s scared of him: Well, smoke alarm manufacturers, obviously. More broadly, though, Nest and other companies that are developing products tied to the “Internet of Things” could threaten the manufacturers of all sorts of traditional appliances, from televisions to refrigerators to automobiles.

Jeff Bezos

Age: 50

What he did: What didn’t he do? Bezos’s Amazon began as an online book store and is now a grocery store, a music retailer, an entertainment company, a fashion outlet, and a web hosting service that keeps much of the Internet online. Most recently he entered the journalism business by buying the Washington Post for $250 million.

Who’s scared of him: Physical retailers like Wal-Mart, of course, but also a growing a number of his tech peers. Next on his list of targets may be Apple—Amazon is rumored to be launching a smartphone to compete with the iPhone later this year.

Jack Ma

Age: 49

What he did: Created the Chinese giant Alibaba, the biggest e-commerce company in the world. The company runs a merchant marketplace like eBay and an online payments service like PayPal, as well as a cloud computing service and other businesses. Its public offering in the U.S. later this year could be bigger than Facebook’s and bring an onslaught of Chinese tech firms to American shores.

Who’s scared of him: Probably everyone. Like Amazon, Alibaba has its hand in a lot of different businesses, and it’s increasingly making big investments that operate outside of China. For example, the company invested $215 million in a messaging app called Tango that is competing in the same sector as WhatsApp.

Travis Kalanick

Age: 37

What he did: Launched the upscale, on-demand taxi service called Uber, then expanded its appeal to the masses with a cheaper ride-sharing program.

Who’s scared of him: Traditional taxi companies, which have tried to claim that Uber’s service is illegal. Soon it may be FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service complaining—Uber is testing a new courier service in New York right now.


TIME Companies

Google, Amazon, Microsoft Plan $3.6M for Open Source Projects After Heartbleed Bug

Google, Amazon, Microsoft and at least nine other companies plan to contribute $100,000 or more per year over the next three years to the Core Infrastructure Initiative in the wake of the Heartbleed bug that targeted the free encryption protocol OpenSSL

Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are among a collection of technology giants backing a $3.6 million effort to support open source projects that are notoriously underfunded despite serving as a cornerstone of Internet security.

The non-profit tech firm Linux Foundation announced that at least twelve companies will contribute $100,000 or more annually over the next three years to the Core Infrastructure Initiative. That fund will support open source projects including OpenSSL, which will be the first project to receive funds through the new project.

The funding announcement comes just weeks after the Heartbleed security bug, which exploits a vulnerability in the OpenSSL data protection protocol, was first revealed. OpenSSL is open-source and free to use, making it a popular choice for many top companies around the world looking to keep their data transmissions secure. However, it has long suffered from funding deficiencies.

Internet security experts and other activists have called for additional funding and support for the OpenSSL project in the aftermath of the Heartbleed crisis.

TIME Technologizer

Opera Coast — the Browser That Makes Sites Feel like Apps — Lands on the iPhone

Opera Coast

No disrespect meant to Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them. They aim to do much the same thing in much the same way with much the same features.

And then there’s Opera Coast. This fresh take on web browsing from the venerable Norwegian web browser company, which debuted on the iPad last September, doesn’t have a conventional address bar, forward and backward buttons or other features that have defined browsers for more than 20 years now. Instead, it treats sites like apps, showing them as icons you can arrange on a desktop, running them in full-screen mode and automatically returning to where you left off each time you visit. It feels a little like a tiny operating system for sites.

Now Coast also runs on the iPhone. It’s the original iPad version intelligently squooshed down for the smaller screen, with a few tweaks. The search feature now suggests “Stuff We Like” — an eclectic list of sites, based on what other Coast users are looking at in your geographic area — and the app automatically downloads a variety of photographic wallpapers for its desktop.

As before, Coast is polished, fun and fluid — and on the iPhone, you can pretty much navigate the whole experience with your thumb. It’s fascinating to see what a web browser looks like when all the cruft that browsers have built up over the years gets stripped away in one fell swoop. Even if you have no desire to dump Safari for most of your iPhone browsing, this inventive alternative is worth a peek.


Twitter Hit With Avalanche of Spam From Hacked Accounts

The security failure may be linked to a breach at the social network We Heart It

The social network Twitter was flooded with malicious posts Wednesday from thousands of compromised accounts.

The posts seem to take a familiar advertising a spam form — e.g. “If I didn’t try this my life wouldn’t have changed. [link]” — and it is not clear if the posts are seeking to install malicious software or something else. In at least one instance the link leads to a website purporting to sell women’s health products, Ars Technica reports.

The attack appears to be related to security breaches at third-party sites like the social network We Heart It and other apps, like Twitter for iPhone. The incident underscores the potential for cascading problems online as security breaches affect other sites in the increasingly intertwined and interdependent network.

[Ars Technica]

TIME Technology & Media

Net-Neutrality Advocates Angered by FCC’s Planned New Rules

Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington March 27, 2014. Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

Internet service providers could strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment, under proposals by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, violating the ideal of equal access for all consumers

The Federal Communications Commission plans to propose new rules that would allow Internet service providers to charge content companies for preferential treatment over the “last mile” to users, according to multiple reports, in a blow for advocates of “Net neutrality,” the principle that consumers should have equal access to content available on the Internet.

The proposed rules, which are being circulated among the five FCC commissioners, come three months after a federal court struck down the agency’s 2010 Open Internet Order. After details of the proposal leaked out Wednesday evening, Net-neutrality advocates reacted with anger, with some claiming the new rules threaten the Internet’s traditionally free and open culture.

In a statement released late Wednesday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler called that notion “flat-out wrong.”

Under the FCC’s new plan, Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T “would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers,” according to an FCC spokesperson. The companies would also be prohibited from blocking or discriminating against online content, but they would be allowed to strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment, as long as they acted in a “commercially reasonable manner subject to review on a case-by-case basis.”

Net-neutrality advocates argue that Internet startups might not be able to afford to pay for such special treatment, potentially stifling innovation on the Internet, which has spawned one of the greatest periods of technological development in U.S. history, generating hundreds of billions of dollars in economic growth.

“The FCC is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online,” Michael Weinberg, vice president at Public Knowledge, a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is not Net neutrality. This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet.”

Net neutrality was enshrined in the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order, which required Internet service providers to be transparent about how they handle network congestion, prohibited them from blocking traffic such as Skype or Netflix on wired networks, and barred them from discriminating against such services by putting them into an Internet “slow lane” in order to benefit their own competing services.

In February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the FCC’s authority to enforce the antiblocking and antidiscrimination rules. That verdict was a blow for President Obama, who campaigned as a strong supporter of Net neutrality. In the wake of that defeat, many Net-neutrality advocates called for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service.

Such reclassification would have restored the FCC’s authority to enforce the rules, but it also would have prompted a major showdown between the FCC and broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, which are extremely powerful on Capitol Hill and oppose such reclassification. Instead, the FCC appears to have chosen a more politically palatable route — based on the agency’s so-called Section 706 authority — that will seek to address blocking and discrimination on a case-by-case basis.

“This is not Net neutrality,” Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, which has long championed Internet openness, said in a statement. “It’s an insult to those who care about preserving the open Internet to pretend otherwise. The FCC had an opportunity to reverse its failures and pursue real Net neutrality by reclassifying broadband under the law. Instead, in a moment of political cowardice and extreme shortsightedness, it has chosen this convoluted path that won’t protect Internet users.”

FCC chairman Wheeler is a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist who was previously managing director at Washington-based venture-capital firm Core Capital Partners. Wheeler, a longtime Obama loyalist, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s two presidential campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Wheeler has insisted he is committed to a “free and open Internet.”

The FCC’s new proposal would establish a “baseline” rule prohibiting broadband providers from engaging in “commercially unreasonable” practices in sending Internet traffic to consumers, but it’s unclear what would constitute a “commercially unreasonable” practice. The proposal would also establish a process for resolving disputes between Internet service providers and content companies on a case-by-case basis.

For over a decade, the Internet has largely adhered to Net neutrality, which is why most consumers take it for granted. In practice, Net neutrality means that all users have open access to the Internet, just like all Americans have the right to travel anywhere in the 50 states without a passport. Without this open access, startups like Google, Twitter and Facebook might never have flourished, according to Net-neutrality advocates, who say the FCC’s new proposal threatens the Internet’s vibrant ecosystem.

“This is a stake in the heart for Internet openness,” says Lauren Weinsten, a veteran tech-policy expert and prominent Net-neutrality advocate. “The nation’s largest Internet service providers have hit the ultimate jackpot. These companies keep secret all of the information needed to evaluate whether violations of Internet openness have occurred, and because the FCC moves so slowly, by the time it acts, a company that’s been victimized could be out of business.”

Wheeler disputed the suggestion that the new rules would harm the Internet’s openness, calling such claims “flat-out wrong.”

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Wheeler said the proposal “will restore the concepts of Net neutrality consistent with the court’s ruling in January. There is no ‘turnaround in policy.’ The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original Open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.”

The new proposal, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would not apply the rules to so-called paid peering arrangements, like the one recently struck by Netflix to pay for a direct connection to Comcast, in order to improve performance for users. In the wake of that deal, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called on the FCC to establish “strong” Net-neutrality rules preventing companies like Comcast from “charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube or Skype.”

Updated on April 23 at 10:20 p.m. E.T. with a statement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.


Best Travel Sites: What to Do and Where to Eat

Some travelers like to pick a vacation destination and leave the details to chance, while others feel the need to carefully plan and schedule their vacation days. Whichever side of the planning spectrum you fall on, you’ll want to have an idea of the area’s must-see attractions and best places to eat. And the easiest way to know is to check out my favorite travel planning sites for pre-trip planning and apps for making plans on the go.

Plan your travel to-do list


It’s impossible to overlook the ubiquitous TripAdvisor for planning out your travel agenda. Though you might think of it mostly as a place to find hotel and restaurant reviews, the site has extensive lists of local attractions reviewed and rated by TripAdvisor’s users.

Just click on “destinations” in the search window and type where you want to go to see not only hotels and flight costs, but also the top attractions, the best-rated restaurants, and upcoming events. It can be a bit of information overload, but you’re sure to find something of great interest to make your trip one to remember.

If you’re looking for even more recommendations, Gogobot may be more your style—literally. Gogobot’s Tribes section helps guide you to the right travel activities based on your preferred travel style, whether you’re looking for adventure, art, culture, nightlife, or something else entirely. Browse by travel style or search for your city to see activities on offer, all rated and reviewed by Gogobot’s users.

For a more visual experience, try Hopper. The site lets you endlessly scroll through photos and captions linked to reviews and recommendations posted by Hopper’s users. It’s a great place to browse if you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for.

Find unique activities


If you’d rather find activities that are a bit more off the beaten path, the above sites—all of which tend to show you the most popular attractions and activities—might not be of much help. But don’t despair, because there are sites geared towards the unique and unusual, too.

Though it only works in select cities and places, including New York, Seattle and Maui, Peek is a great resource for finding activities and excursions. Browse by category, like Food Tours, Sights and Landmarks, What to Do with Kids, Day Trips and What to Do When It Rains, or take a look at the “Perfect Day” plans created by tastemakers, including Rebecca Minkoff, Mark Hix and Jack Dorsey, and site community members.

If Peek doesn’t have what you’re looking for, try Vayable, which lists a wide range of tours hosted by local guides for an insider’s experience of your destination. What’s available will vary, but you can read reviews from other Vayable users to help you decide which tours are for you.

Get a table at the best restaurants


If you’re trying to figure out where to eat—that isn’t just another chain restaurant—try Urbanspoon. Just search for your destination and you’ll find a list of restaurants by popularity, price, and buzz—no matter what your taste and budget, you’re sure to find some great eats. If you’re looking for a good meal on the go, make sure you have the free Urbanspoon app on your smartphone (available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Kindle Fire devices), which will tell you what’s nearby.

If you’ve found the perfect place but need a reservation, OpenTable is the place to go. Using the website or the OpenTable app (available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire and BlackBerry devices), you can search for local restaurants with—get it?—open tables when you’re planning on stopping for a meal. If you know where you want to eat, you can search for a specific restaurant—but you can also browse by location, cuisine type, price, and schedule.

Find just about anything else


If you’re looking for anything else—and I do mean anything—Google Maps is your hands-down best resource. You can load it up on your computer or access it via your smartphone—either by downloading the Google Maps app (available for iOS and Android devices) or navigating to the website on your mobile device—to help you find out where anything is as well as how to get there.

You can search Google Maps for specific destinations to see exactly where they are in relation to you—and help you figure out how to get from your hotel to your must-see attraction list, by car, by public transportation, or by foot. However, you can also do more general searches for things like “drug store,” “art gallery,” “sports bar,” “gym” or “museum” to bring up local businesses matching those descriptions—and easy directions to get there. Plus, the mobile app has a feature called “Explore nearby,” which surfaces places by categories, including eat, drink, play and shop, based on your location.

Now that you’ve got planning covered, all that’s left to do is pack your bags and get ready to have a great time.

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

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TIME Apple

Apple Stock Soars 8% on Strong iPhone Sales

The Apple Inc logo sits on display at the company's store in the Gran Plaza 2 shopping mall in Majadahonda, near Madrid, Spain, on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.
Angel Navarrete—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple sold 43.7 million iPhones, substantially more than the 37.7 million that Wall Street analysts had been expecting

Tech titan Apple reported a 4.6% increase in quarterly revenue on Wednesday, handily beating Wall Street expectations after selling significantly more iPhones than analysts had predicted.

The company also said it plans to increase its stock buyback program and dividend, pleasing shareholders who have called for the company to distribute more of its cash.

The solid results, which amount to the strongest non-holiday quarter in Apple history, encouraged investors who have grown restless about a perceived lack of innovation at the company. Apple shares soared as much as 8% in after hours trading, adding $33 billion in value and sending the company’s market capitalization back over the $500 billion level.

IPhone sales were particularly strong, with the company selling 43.7 million units, substantially more than 37.7 million that analysts had been expecting.

“These are surprisingly good numbers, especially on the iPhone,” Piper Jaffray technology analyst Gene Munster said in an appearance on CNBC shortly after the results were released. “Investors should breathe a sigh of relief about these numbers.”

Apple reported revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $11.62 per share, compared to revenue of $43.6 billion and profit of $9.5 billion, or $10.09 per share one year ago. For the current quarter, Apple forecast revenue between $36 billion and $38 billion, slightly below that $38.1 billion that analysts had been expecting.

“We’re very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We’re eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market.”

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Cook said that Apple established a new iPhones sales record in the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China. Earlier this year, Apple announced a deal to make the iPhone available for sale to China Mobile’s 760 million customers. Cook said the company plans to triple its number of retail locations in China over the next two years.

The iPhone has been available on smaller carriers in China for years, but sales have faced pressure in the face of lower-cost competition from devices made by Samsung and other manufacturers that use Google’s Android mobile operating system. Analysts estimate that Apple could sell between 20 million and 30 million iPhones on China Mobile’s network next year.

As usual, Cook declined to go into detail about the new products that the company is developing, but said to expect new gadgets this year. “We’ve got some great things there that we’re working on that I’m very proud of and very excited about,” Cook said. Speculation has centered on a new TV product or possibly a wearable computing device like an Internet-connected wristwatch.

Apple has not introduced a new product category since the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in October 2011, prompting fears about the state of innovation at the company. Still, Apple has made impressive improvements to its existing product lines, and the iPhone and iPad are considered the gold-standard in their respective categories.

Apple also announced a rarely seen seven for one stock split — which means that each existing shareholder will receive six additional shares — in an effort to lower the share price and make the company more accessible to small investors. The company, which is now sitting on $156 billion in cash, also boosted its stock buyback program to $90 billion, and increased its dividend by 8% to $3.29 per share.

“We generated $13.5 billion in cash flow from operations and returned almost $21 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the March quarter,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in a statement. “That brings cumulative payments under our capital return program to $66 billion.”

Cook added: “We’re confident in Apple’s future and see tremendous value in Apple’s stock, so we’re continuing to allocate the majority of our program to share repurchases.”

In a message posted on Twitter, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who has been agitating for Apple to return more of its cash to shareholders, said he was “very pleased” with the company’s plan to increase its stock buyback program. He added that he continues to believe that Apple is “meaningfully undervalued.”

In one sour note, iPad sales fell short of analyst forecasts, with the company selling 16.35 million units compared to expectations of 19.7 million. Cook explained the difference by saying that last year Apple increased iPad inventory, but reduced it this year. On the bright side, Cook said that two-thirds of users registering iPads were new customers, and he pointed out that the iPad is the fastest growing product in Apple’s history.

On the conference call, Cook paid tribute to Oppenheimer, who is leaving the company this year, by observing that Apple is now 20-times larger than it was when Oppenheimer joined the company. “His expertise, leadership, and incredibly hard work have been instrumental to the company’s success,” Cook said.

TIME Apple

Powerful: The Best Apple Ads Are Also Tutorials

Apple's latest iPhone commercial is another example of showing people how to do more with their phones.

Apple’s haters like to say the company is only successful because of marketing. The masses are so entranced by Apple advertising that they’re blind to the existence of other, potentially better products.

But this line of thinking falls apart when you look at some of Apple’s best ads over the last few years. They aren’t deceptive (with some alleged exceptions), they aren’t flashy, and they don’t rely on gimmicks to get your attention. Maybe you could level those criticisms against Apple’s iconic “1984” campaign, or its “Get a Mac” campaign from the mid-aughts, but today Apple ads are plain and straightforward by comparison. There’s nothing particularly magical about them, and yet they work.

The newly-launched “Powerful” ad is a great example. For 90 seconds, only one thing happens: People use their iPhones. There’s no narration, no explanation and no interruption. It’s just people using their iPhones in ways that are interesting.

Sure, most of us use our smartphones for duller purposes: checking e-mail, looking at Instagram, posting something on Facebook, browsing the web. We’re not all musicians, artists, videographers or international explorers. In that sense, the ad is aspirational, like a beer commercial with beautiful people partying in lavish environments. But while the beer commercial rubs in your face what you could never have, the iPhone ad sends a different message: You can do all these interesting things. You just need to download a few good apps.

It’s no surprise that immediately after launching the ad, Apple put up a web page with links to the App Store for several of the featured apps. You just learned what you can do with the iPhone. Now do it.

This idea, of advertisement as tutorial, has been done by Apple before. Here’s an ad from 2012 that’s basically a demonstration of how to use the iPhone 5’s panoramic photo feature:

Apple’s iPhone 3GS ad campaign in 2009 coined the phrase “There’s an app for that,” again illustrating what users could do with their phones. It also included this quasi-tutorial on how to use copy and paste, then a new feature:

Even Apple’s first ads for Siri, which drew mixed reactions for relying on celebrities, served a rather basic purpose of showing what you could do with the virtual assistant:

Apple’s detractors might argue that other phones offer features and apps that are similar to the ones Apple advertises. But that’s beside the point. Tech enthusiasts (myself included) can often lose sight of how new and unfamiliar these devices can be to the average user. Many people are still learning to use their smartphones, the functions of which are not always second-nature. These users may not be inclined to go exploring for new tricks and features, so Apple’s ads are providing a little push.

And don’t think Apple is only aiming its ads at people who don’t own iPhones. The U.S. smartphone market is approaching saturation, which means most people are on their first, second or even third smartphones. And in the United States, roughly half of those people are using iPhones. Ads like “Powerful” are as much about showing iPhone users what they’ve got as they are about showing non-iPhone users what they’re missing.

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