Google Drive Cloud Storage Service Sees Major Price Drops

The price of Amazon Prime may be increasing, but not everything on the web is getting more expensive. Google announced a series of major price cuts to its Google Drive cloud storage service.

Google Drive’s 100GB storage plan is now priced at $1.99 per month ($23.88 per year), while a more robust 1TB plan now runs $9.99 monthly ($119.88 per year). The first 15GB of storage space on Google Drive remains free.

Existing Google Drive customers will “automatically move to a better plan at no additional cost,” says Google Director of Product Management Scott Johnston on the Official Google Blog.

A cloud service like Google Drive is a terrific option if you need to access a diverse number of files over a number of different devices. Drive also interfaces well with the Google Android mobile phone ecosystem.

Just be warned, though: Once you start paying a monthly fee for cloud storage, it’s hard to turn back.

You can learn more about Google Drive by visiting drive.google.com.

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

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TIME Android

The 14 Best Android Widgets for 2014

New additions and old favorites to make your Android home screen more useful

Widgets are a classic example of where Android can go right and wrong. Pick some great widgets, and your phone transforms into a more powerful tool. Pick bad ones, and your home screen becomes an abomination.

We’re here to help. After doing these Android widget roundups for a couple years, our list for this year includes both new additions and old favorites, so your home screen can be as useful–and as attractive–as possible. Here are 14 of the best Android widgets to have on your phone in 2014:


  • 1Weather

    OneLouder Apps

    1Weather includes your choice of six home screen widgets, the best of which is the “1Weather Tabbed” option pictured here. With this widget, you can get all the essential info of your local forecast, and switch between extended, detailed and hourly views. The appearance is also customizable, letting you choose from light, dark or “live weather” backgrounds. The app is free, but you can upgrade to an ad-free version for $1.99.

    [Get 1Weather from Google Play]

  • BaconReader for Reddit

    OneLouder Apps

    That funny cat picture your aunt will share on Facebook next week? You can probably find it right now by scrolling through BaconReader’s slick Reddit client. The “BaconReader Scroll” widget includes light and dark themes, and lets you create separate widgets for subsections if you like. And it’s resizeable, so you can dedicate as little or as much of your home screen as you want to the so-called “front page of the Internet.” The app is free, with a $1.99 upgrade to remove the ads.

    [Get BaconReader from Google Play]

  • Directions


    Using the Directions widget for Google Maps, one tap can get you instant directions to your usual haunts. Just drag the “Directions” widget onto your home screen, enter the address and a nickname for the location, and specify whether you want driving, walking, biking or public transit directions. This widget is part of Google Maps, which is probably pre-loaded on your phone, but here’s the Google Play Store listing just in case.

  • Google Keep


    We’ve sung the praises of Google Keep before. It’s not a comprehensive note-taking app, but rather a fast way to jot down thoughts, lists, images and audio. Google Keep is even faster when you install the widget on your home screen, as it includes shortcuts to your latest notes and buttons for creating new ones. The app is free, and you can also access your notes from any web browser.

    [Get Google Keep from Google Play]

  • Holo Bulb


    This 1-by-1 widget serves just one purpose: Tap it, and it’ll turn on your phone’s camera flash. A handy prompt then appears at center-screen so you can turn it off again. It’s the only Android flashlight functionality you need, and it’s free.

    [Get Holo Bulb from Google Play]

  • Contact


    This little widget is great for keeping a close friend or loved one within easy reach. When you drop the widget onto your home screen, you then choose the contact you want it to represent. This widget is available in some form on most Android devices, but its name and appearance may vary depending on the phone maker. (HTC, for instance, calls it the “Person” widget, and gives you several options for what happens when you press the button.)

  • CBS Sports


    We’ve had other sports widgets on this list before, but CBS Sports ultimately proved triumphant with its clean design and abundance of options. You can choose from either a 4-by-1 ticker or a 4-by-2 scrolling widget, and each one can display your favorite teams, leagues or live events. There’s also a third widget just for news. And while other widgets pointlessly display game times for days into the future, CBS Sports limits itself to just the current day, so you don’t get lost. It seems like an actual sports fan designed this.

    [Get CBS Sports from Google Play]

  • Slider Widget – Volumes


    You may think that pressing your phone’s volume button down makes everything quieter, but then you start playing a video and for some reason it’s blaring. That’s because different functions on Android phones each have their own individual volumes, and you can’t normally control them all at once without going into the settings menu. Slider Widget gives you greater control over all your volumes straight from the home screen, and it throws in brightness adjustment for good measure.

    [Get Slider Widget - Volumes from Google Play]

  • Flipboard


    Flipboard is still the king of news reading apps, and its widget has gotten better lately. It no longer has the annoying bug where tapping on a story doesn’t take you directly to that story, so you can just mash that little reload button until you find something worth reading and dive right in. As always, the app is free, and there are two widget sizes to choose from.

    [Get Flipboard from Google Play]

  • LinkedIn Pulse


    LinkedIn Pulse’s widget isn’t as pretty as some other news widgets, but it’s packed with information so you can catch up with the latest headlines. After adding your favorite news sources to Pulse, you can pick one of them to include in the widget, which always shows a few headlines at once. Pulse’s larger widget also gives you a snippet of the story you’re looking at, so you can decide whether to dive in further.

    [Get LinkedIn Pulse from Google Play]

  • Shazam


    Shazam is an app that identifies songs and TV shows as they play, and having the widget on your home screen can be the difference between successfully tagging a song and just barely missing it. There’s really no good reason to have the standard app on your home screen instead.

    [Get Shazam from Google Play]

  • App Dialer

    Aleksey Masny

    If you’re overwhelmed by all the apps you’ve downloaded over the years, App Dialer can help you get to them just a little faster. Instead of a typical keyboard search, App Dialer displays a numeric keypad, with each number representing a trio of letters. As you type, the dialer suggests a few apps that match, so you can find them without digging through folders or running a full-blown search. The app is free, and there’s a $3 Pro version with extra features.

    [Get App Dialer from Google Play]

  • Cal


    It was sort of agonizing to choose a calendar widget for this list. The Play Store is filled with them, many of which are crammed with features, such as multiple views, sizes and color themes. Ultimately, Cal stuck out because it doesn’t try to do all of those things. Instead, it recognizes that what you need to glance at the most is your agenda for the next few days, and that if you need to see more, you can just open the app. The app also supports Exchange as well as Google Calendar.

    [Get Cal from Google Play]

  • DashClock

    Roman Nurik

    DashClock can technically serve as a home screen widget, but where it really shines is on your phone’s lock screen (provided you’re running Android 4.2 or higher). At a glance, DashClock can show a count of unread e-mails and messages, battery status, weather and a lot more using a variety of DashClock extensions. Essentially, it’ll let you know when your phone needs to come out, and when it can safely go back in your pocket.

    [Get DashClock from Google Play]

TIME Technologizer

I Made Phone Calls and Sent Text Messages During a Plane Flight, and Didn’t Get in Trouble

Gogo antennas
Two Gogo antennas on the bottom of the company's test plane. The smaller one at the rear is the next-generation version Harry McCracken / TIME

But really, what I'm looking forward to is better Wi-Fi in the air.

Less then 24 hours after I arrived in Austin for the South by Southwest Interactive festival, I hopped on a plane and left again — but only for an hour. I was on a flight hosted by in-flight Internet provider Gogo on its test jet. The company invited journalists to briefly take wing and try out its upcoming services for making phone calls and doing text messaging in the sky.

The call I made was the first in-flight one I’d made since the heyday of GTE’s Airfone service back in the 1990s. (I think I used that pricey option twice: once for fun, and once when it was actually useful.) It might also be the last one I make anytime soon, at least in this country. Even Gogo says that sentiment in the U.S. runs against such calls being legal and airline-approved. Other nations may feel differently, and the company already offers calling and texting services for private planes.

I tried out the services using a test Moto X smartphone pre-loaded with Gogo’s software. (iPhones will also be supported.) I rang my mom; she didn’t pick up, so I left a message. When she called back a moment later, I explained myself, and we had a pleasant chat.

It wasn’t a dazzling experience, though. The quality was just tolerable, and we got cut off after a few minutes. And I was reminded of one basic problem with in-flight phone calls: It can be tough to hear over the roar of a jet engine.

Texting worked fine, and would certainly be handy, especially if you could partake in it for a lot less money than you currently pay for full Gogo Internet access. (The company hasn’t announced pricing plans for these new services yet.)

Speaking solely about my own in-flight needs and wants, I’ll be just as happy if U.S. commercial flights don’t permit Gogo calls. And really, I don’t need text messaging, either. On almost any flight I take for which Gogo Internet access is available, I buy it — and between e-mail, instant messaging, pseudo-text-messaging tools like Apple’s iMessage and various other modes of communication, I have more than enough ways to stay in touch.

What I crave is Gogo Internet access that’s dependably fast and reliable. Currently, that’s not a given: From flight to flight, I find that it’s anywhere from delightful to unusable. So the Gogo innovation I’m most excited about is its upcoming next-generation network, which will reach up to 60-Mbps download speeds, shared among a plane’s passengers. It’s due to arrive on Virgin America later this year — and if it lives up to its potential, it’ll be yet another reason to love that wonderful airline.

TIME Shopping

Is Amazon Prime Still a Good Deal at $99? Let’s Run Some Numbers

Doug Aamoth / TIME

Now that it costs $20 more, a look back through all of 2013's purchases to see if an Amazon Prime membership pays off

I’ve paid $79 per year for an Amazon Prime membership for the past five years or so, and I’ve always wondered how much (if any) it’s saved me. Now that the price is going up to $99 a year, I thought I’d run through all my purchases from 2013 to see what the difference would have been if I hadn’t shelled out for Prime last year.

Quick Prime primer: You pay Amazon (now) $99 a year, and in return, you get free two-day shipping on a vast selection of what Amazon sells, and you can step up to overnight shipping for $3.99 per item. Amazon also includes a Netflix-like streaming video service containing 40,000 movies and TV shows – some popular, most not. You also get the ability to digitally borrow half a million eligible Kindle books one at a time. More info here.

This is all very unscientific, back-of-the-napkin math, but here are some stats and assumptions about my 2013 orders.

Basic Stats:

  • Total number of orders placed in 2013: 76
  • Number of Subscribe-and-Save orders: 13
  • Total number of shipments (orders + Subscribe-and-Save): 62
  • Total number of orders totaling less than $35: 31

I placed 76 orders last year, but some of these orders were multiple different orders placed on the same day or Subscribe-and-Save orders, which are basically discounted subscriptions to items that get shipped out on a set schedule (paper towels, batteries, detergent and things like that).

So when the dust had cleared, I ended up getting 62 shipments last year. Of those shipments, exactly half were orders that totaled less than $35. Amazon offers free shipping if you spend $35 or more.

Extra Shipping Charges:

  • Number of items overnighted at $3.99 per item: 5
  • Number of non-Prime orders: 1
  • Total 2013 shipment costs (Prime + extras): $104.44

I had five items overnighted at $3.99 per item ($19.95 total), I paid $79 for the membership, and I bought one item that wasn’t eligible for Prime shipping. It was a t-shirt that carried $5.49 in additional shipping costs. I have no regrets about buying this shirt. None whatsoever.

So: $19.95 plus $79 plus $5.49 comes out to $104.44 – the total amount I paid for shipping last year on all my Amazon purchases.

Cost of Overnighting the Same 5 Items Without Prime:

  • Pair of shoes: $18.98
  • Wireless weather station: $18.98
  • Wig I bought but never used: $18.98
  • Another wig I bought but never used: $18.98
  • Wireless keyboard: $20.97
  • Total overnight shipping costs if not for Prime: $96.89

I would have incurred $96.89 worth of shipping costs just for the five items I chose to overnight. That’s before even getting into how much I would have paid in shipping charges for orders totaling less than $35.

However, I can look you straight in the eye and tell you that there’s no way I would have overnighted a single one of these items if I hadn’t been able to do so for $3.99 apiece. I probably wouldn’t have purchased any of these items from Amazon in the first place. The two wigs (see above photo) are my biggest regrets for several reasons, but I know deep down in the cockles of my heart that having them on-hand will someday pay off in spades. I didn’t need to overnight either of them, though.

Standard Shipping Costs Without Prime:

  • Total standard shipping costs on orders under $35 if not for Prime: $112.15

I fudged the numbers a bit here: I had a few orders that were shy of $35 by less than a buck, and a smattering of orders staggered within a day of each other. In a non-Prime life, I would have found something dinky to make a $34 order clear $35 and I would have been more vigilant about placing larger orders that qualified for free shipping. So I didn’t count those orders in my 2013 totals. But for the rest of the one-off, sub-$35 items I ordered, I would have paid around $112 in shipping costs.

Assumptions, Advice and Conclusion:

I’m surprised at how close these two realities are. In a Prime life, I paid $104.44 in shipping charges; in a non-Prime life, I would have paid $112.15 in shipping charges.

In my case, I actually have to think a bit about whether $99 is worth it. Prime was a no-brainer for me at $79, but if I buckled down and made sure to order things only in $35-and-up clumps, I could conceivably cut shipping costs out of the equation altogether. (I’d still pay $5.49 extra for that shirt – all day long. No regrets.)

What such a scenario doesn’t take into account, of course, is that Prime offers two-day shipping, whereas standard shipping is listed at five to eight days. If you live in a populated area that’s relatively close to an Amazon distribution center, however, I can tell you that a standard shipment generally shows up in three days. At least, that’s been my case (I live in Boston).

It also doesn’t take into account the free movies and TV shows, or the free Kindle books. You could make the argument that if Amazon has the same stuff you want to watch as Netflix does, you could save $8 a month on a Netflix membership and basically offset the yearly cost of Prime. I also happened to read more Kindle books this year thanks to my Prime membership, but I can’t argue that I would have paid full price for any of them otherwise.

My colleague Brad Tuttle lays out 5 ways to skirt paying $99 for Prime, the least cumbersome being to sign up for an educational discount if you have a .edu email address, or being diligent about placing $35+ orders. I’ll also add that you can share a full-price Prime membership with four other people (Prime members: see the “Invite a Household Member” section on this page), so round up four friends – sorry, “household members” — and everyone can chip in $20.

And now the big question: Will I be re-upping my membership at $99 this time around?

Yes. Yes, I will. Being able to pay $4 to overnight a wig I’ll probably never use is worth it to me. So is not having to look around for stuff to pad a $34 order. The two-day shipping on everything else, coupled with the video and e-book extras is icing on the cake.

But finally running the numbers after all these years has left me feeling less like Prime is a must-buy, especially now that it costs $99. If the price goes up any higher, I think that’ll be it for me.

TIME Domestic Surveillance

Mark Zuckerberg: I Called Obama Over NSA Spying

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes in an open letter, published on Thursday, that he called President Obama to "express my frustration" at the threat he believes mass government surveillance poses to the future of the Internet


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post to the social network Thursday that he called President Obama in exasperation at the threat he believes mass surveillance poses to the future of the Internet.

“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform,” Zuckerberg writes. In a statement, the White House confirmed the conversation took place.

In his open letter, Zuckerberg, laments the damage he believes state surveillance — and the National Security Agency’s systematic work to crack encrypted privacy protections — does to the future of the Internet.

“The Internet is our shared space. It helps us connect. It spreads opportunity,” he writes. “This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

Zuckerberg has been vocal in the past about his displeasure with the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. In closing his note, he seems to implicitly endorse the work of nongovernmental groups developing technological tools that circumvent state surveillance. “So it’s up to us — all of us — to build the Internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure,” he writes.

If Zuckerberg’s comments ring familiar it’s because Edward Snowden, speaking at the South by Southwest Interactive technology festival this week, said something similar. “They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden said, “and the people that are in this room now — you guys are the firefighters.”

TIME Technologizer

How Target Made Itself a Target for Hackers

Shoppers leave a retail Target on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, in Hackensack, N.J.
Amy Newman—AP

Businessweek has the spine-tingling details.

If you’ve ever used a credit card at Target — or, really, anywhere else — Businessweek’s long story on the Target data breach, by Michael Riley, Ben Elgin, Dune Lawrence and Carol Matlack, makes for chilling but rewarding reading.

Based in part on interviews with former Target employees, it says that the malware the attackers used to hack the retail chain’s point-of-sale system wasn’t all that sophisticated — and that the company’s security software detected something was amiss, and could have been set to block the attack without human intervention. But Target opted to turn off this option, and the humans in charge of protecting data didn’t intervene. (The fact that a key employee had recently left and hadn’t been replaced may not have helped.)

A few details about the heist:

Once their malware was successfully in place on Nov. 30—the data didn’t actually start moving out of Target’s network until Dec. 2—the hackers had almost two weeks to pillage credit card numbers unmolested. According to SecureWorks, the malware was designed to send data automatically to three different U.S. staging points, working only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Standard Time. That was presumably to make sure the outbound data would be submerged in regular working-hours traffic. From there the card information went to Moscow. Seculert, an Israeli security firm, was able to analyze the hackers’ activity on one of the U.S.-based staging points, which showed them eventually taking 11 gigabytes of data stored there to a Moscow-based hosting service called vpsville.ru. Alexander Kiva, spokesman for vpsville.ru, says the company has too many clients to monitor them effectively, and that it hadn’t been contacted by U.S. investigators as of February.

If Target’s security team had followed up on the earliest FireEye alerts, it could have been right behind the hackers on their escape path. The malware had user names and passwords for the thieves’ staging servers embedded in the code, according to Jaime Blasco, a researcher for the security firm AlienVault Labs. Target security could have signed in to the servers themselves—located in Ashburn, Va., Provo, Utah, and Los Angeles—and seen the stolen data sitting there waiting for the hackers’ daily pickup. But by the time company investigators figured that out, the data were long gone.

Businessweek’s piece also delves into the likely suspects behind the breach and why stealing credit-card information and other personal data is such a rewarding business to be in. I hope this doesn’t end up being the definitive article on all this — there’s still a lot we don’t know, and Target itself isn’t really talking — but it’s a remarkable piece of reporting nonetheless.

TIME Technologizer

United’s In-Flight Video Streaming: More Evidence That Apple Won the App Wars

United Movie Streaming
United Airlines

Last month, I wrote that iOS was still the dominant mobile platform when it came to important apps. Actually, I did more than that: In my headline, I said that the smartphone app wars were over, and iOS had won. Some folks agreed with me, but plenty of others said I was being extreme.

Since I posted that piece, I’ve talked to lots of companies with apps, at home in San Francisco and at SXSW Interactive. Even more than usual, my brain has been attuned to obsess about their prioritization of iOS and Android. One of the companies I’ve chatted with lately — Cyberlink — has released Android versions of some of its multimedia apps, with the iOS editions following along a bit later. Another, PPLConnect, is Android-only for now, but it’s doing things with phone numbers and text messages that I don’t believe iOS permits.

In a few cases, iOS and Android apps shipped at the same time. But in every other instance, iOS came first.

This morning, United Airlines announced a cool-sounding system for streaming movies and TV shows for free on what it calls “your personal device.” But if that personal device happens to run Android, it’s a second-class citizen:

1. Download the latest United app from the iTunes® App Store if you’ll be using a mobile device. Laptops do not require the app. (Android™ and other mobile devices are not fully supported at this time.)

2. Charge your device fully.

Once you’re onboard, you’ll see two types of media. Some programs require a browser plug-in on your laptop or the latest United App on your Apple® iOS. This can be downloaded at any time during your flight without purchase of United Wi-Fi. Other programs can be watched through the United Portal on your browser with no plug-in or app required.

Again, I’m not claiming that the app situation on Android is terrible. It’s very solid overall, and (I really don’t need to mention this) radically better than that of any mobile operating system that isn’t iOS. Stuff such as United’s new offering generally arrives on Android sooner or later, and there are whole categories of apps — such as alternative keyboards — that are Android-only.

Much of the time, I’m an Android user myself, so I’m happy when something is available for Google’s operating system and sorry when it isn’t. But despite the fact that iOS’s market share is much smaller than that of Android, and has been for years, Apple devices are still nearly always first in line when a major company or hot startup has to decide where to allocate its development resources. That’s a dynamic that pundits keep telling us makes no sense — but it’s happening, and it’s an enormous competitive advantage for Apple. Sounds like a victory to me.

TIME apps

How to Block Telemarketers on Android and iPhone

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 (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 listings 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.

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.

Mr. Number

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 7 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) in 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 was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Google

Google Will Start Encrypting Your Searches

Google privacy concerns
A sign is posted on the exterior of Google headquarters on Jan. 30, 2014 in Mountain View, Calif. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The tech behemoth plans to make users' searches more private as part of the company's broader campaign to push back against hackers and government surveillance. They've already started in China as a show of defiance against the country's infamous censors

Google is making users’ searches more private as part of the company’s larger efforts to improve information security in light of last year’s revelations regarding government surveillance in the U.S.

Google will introduce encrypted search results globally on a yet-unannounced release schedule. However, Google has already started encrypting searches of Chinese users in defiance of that country’s tight censorship regime, The Washington Post reports. The move represents a shot at Beijing in Google’s standoff with Chinese authorities over unmet demands that the company send Chinese users to government-approved sites. In 2010, Google moved its Chinese operation to semi-autonomous Hong Kong and now accounts for only five percent of China’s search market.

Google’s steps to encrypt search results follow a decision to encrypt Internet traffic between its data centers after Edward Snowden, working with journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and others, revealed last year the extent of National Security Agency surveillance of web traffic in the U.S.

“The revelations of this past summer underscored our need to strengthen our networks. Among the many improvements we’ve made in recent months is to encrypt Google Search by default around the world,” a Google spokesperson told the Post. “This builds on our work over the past few years to increase the number of our services that are encrypted by default and encourage the industry to adopt stronger security standards.”

[The Washington Post]

TIME E-Commerce

Don’t Want to Pay $99 for Amazon Prime? Here Are 5 Alternatives

Amazon.com Illustrations Ahead Of Earnings
Andrew Harrer—Getty Images

You could just suck it up and pay the freshly hiked rates for Amazon Prime. Or you could get a little creative, save some money, and still enjoy free shipping.

The idea that’s been floated for a few months has become a reality: On Thursday, Amazon announced that the price of its Prime service would rise to $99 annually, up from the $79 rate that’s been charged since the two-day shipping membership program was introduced nearly a decade ago. The Amazon Prime for Students rate—available to those with a .edu email address until graduation, including a six-month free trial—will rise to $49 annually, up from $39.

In Amazon’s note about the changes, Prime members are told that if the date you normally pay for the service before April 17, 2014, the old rate—$79, or $39 for students—will be charged. On the other hand, “If your membership renews on or after April 17, 2014, you’ll be charged at a membership rate of $99.” Or $49 for those in the Amazon Student program.

And if you’d rather not cough up the extra cash now involved in a Prime membership, consider the following alternatives to lower the costs, at least for a while:

Sign Up for Prime Now
New Prime members can lock in existing rates by signing up for the service no later than Wednesday, March 19. Students who sign up by then will get a free six-month trial, and when that period ends, they’ll be charged $39 for that first year of service (and $49 thereafter until graduation). Likewise, anyone signing up for a new regular Prime membership by March 19 would pay the $79 annual rate, after receiving a free one-month trial.

(MORE: Amazon Prime Loses $11 Annually Per Member … And It’s a Huge Success!)

Use a Workaround Hack
In a lively SlickDeals.net forum about the Prime price increase, several commenters suggest the tactic of buying an Amazon Prime Gift Membership for oneself. Purchasers are allowed to specify the starting date of Prime membership up to one year in advance of the date it’s bought. The idea is that you purchase a gift membership—for yourself—that starts the day after your current membership is set to expire. And of course, you make the gift purchase soon, to lock in the cheaper rate.

Get a Credit Card with Free Prime
Certain American Express cards come with an offer of free Prime membership for one year for new members. At least one of the cards (Blue Cash Everyday) has no annual fee itself.

Consider ShopRunner Instead
ShopRunner, the main shipping service competitor of Prime, is still available at the standard rate of $79 annually, after a free 30-day trial. Members get free two-day shipping from dozens of major retailers, including Toys R Us, PetSmart, FTD, eBags, Calvin Klein, and more. Even better, last November, ShopRunner launched a new partnership with American Express, in which members can get its two-day shipping service totally free so long as you register an AmEx card at ShopRunner checkout. By doing so, the annual membership fee is waived—and this is no one-year promotional deal, the fee is waived indefinitely. Of course, if you’re not a Prime member, you don’t get access to the streaming video services included with a subscription.

(MORE: Amazon Prime: Bigger, More Powerful, More Profitable Than Anyone Imagined)

Just Use Amazon’s Free Super Saver Shipping
Last fall, Amazon raised the minimum purchase from $25 to $35 in order for customers to be eligible for free shipping, without the requirement of a Prime membership. Many people grumbled about the change, but the $35 threshold is pretty easy to reach, considering that Amazon sells nearly everything under the sun. And it’s still much cheaper than the typical e-retailer’s minimum purchase requirement, of $75 or $99, in order to qualify for free shipping. Sure, Amazon’s free shipping for non-Prime members is slow—”your order will be delivered 5-8 business days after all of your items are available to ship,” Amazon explains—but hey, it’s free. And it’s truly free-free, not just “free” after you’ve paid $79, err $99, annually.

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