TIME Video Games

The 5 iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

Give these games a shot

Looking for a new iPhone game for your commute to work or lunch break at school? TIME rounded up some recent favorites that are worth a try.

  • War of Ages

    App Store

    It’s hardly a surprise that War of Ages is in the top 100 apps in the App Store. For those of us who played games like Age of Empires in the late 90s and early 2000’s, everything from the similar title, to building a nation, to developing a reliable army makes War of Ages feel like a throwback to these original strategy games. But War of Ages allows you to play online against millions of players, which adds a fascinating dimension to the classic medieval strategy genre.

    War of Ages is available free in the App Store.

  • Goat Simulator

    App Store

    When Goat Simulator was announced earlier this year, it was given web-wide attention due to its premise: a surreal Grand Theft Auto-type game involving a goat. Some believed it was an absurdist work of art; others called it a glitch-ridden disaster. Either way, Goat Simulator allows players to control a third person goat and explore the animal’s world, slingshotting the goat from object to object using its extremely elastic tongue while destroying everything in its path.

    Goat Simulator is available for $4.99 in the App Store.

     

  • Banner Saga

    App Store

    While many game developers have started using the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus’ larger screen sizes as a way to explore three dimensions, Banner Saga still delivers a stunning 2D landscape. Players choose their own characters and can follow any number of paths in this role-playing game that feels more like a Norse epic than a game one might plan on a phone. The art itself looks a lot like a detailed cartoon, which seems all the more appropriate when you take your Vikings into battle or sneak through a dark forest to avoid being seen by an enemy patrol.

    Banner Saga is available for $9.99 in the App Store

  • Daddy Long Legs

    App Store

    Daddy Long Legs is as hypnotic as it is simple. The premise sounds almost like a bad joke: successfully tap your screen to guide a hairy black cube with two gigantic legs down a track. Every time the cube falls, it splatters on the ground and the player starts over. For the cube, the road is endless. The only limit is how many hours a player is willing to spend trying to beat a shamefully low high score.

    But Daddy Long Legs also inadvertently delivers a disturbingly poignant message to its players: sometimes baby steps and persistence and a little luck yield greater results than big strides.

    Daddy Long Legs is available free in the App Store.

  • Jack B. Nimble

    App Store

    The first thing one notices about Jack B. Nimble is that it looks almost exactly like an original Game Boy game. With hints of Mario and Sonic and obvious traces of Indiana Jones, Jack B. Nimble is an endearingly old-fashioned monochrome game that lends a dash of eeriness to this hand-held style game. But Jack B. Nimble moves at a decidedly faster pace than its predecessors, and developers didn’t forget that players would be using a tool far more powerful than an old-school Game Boy. Somehow it’s as much at home on the iPhone than it would have been on a Christmas wish list in 1992.

    Jack B. Nimble is available for $1.99 in the App Store.

TIME Gadgets

The Revolutionary New iPad Feature Apple Didn’t Talk About

Apple Inc. Announces The New iPad Air 2 And iPad Mini 3
A member of the media displays an Apple Inc. iPad Mini 3, left, and iPad Air 2 for a photograph after a product announcement in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It could foretell a future where consumers have unprecedented choice over their mobile carrier

Apple unveiled a pair of new iPads during a somewhat subdued event Thursday at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. At first, it seemed there was nothing groundbreaking about the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 — these were somewhat boring, iterative improvements like thinner bodies, faster processors and the inclusion of Touch ID. But one feature of the iPad Air 2 that Apple didn’t even talk about on stage represents a change that could foretell a future where consumers have unprecedented choice over their mobile carrier.

The WiFi + Cellular models of the iPad Air 2, as revealed only on Apple’s website after Thursday’s event, comes with something called an “Apple SIM.” SIM cards are small, rectangular devices used by many mobile carriers to identify customers on their networks. If your mobile carrier uses SIM cards, you can switch your service to another device simply by popping the card out of your old device and putting it in your new one. It’s also possible in many cases to bring your old device to a new mobile carrier by getting rid of your old SIM and replacing it with a card supplied by your new carrier — a common practice among travelers, who have to hop from carrier to carrier as they cross from one company’s territory into another’s.

What the new Apple SIM changes is that iPad Air 2 owners who want to bring their device from their current mobile carrier to a new one no longer have to get a SIM card from their new carrier. Instead, switching carriers is as simple as selecting the new company from a menu option on their iPad, provided the carrier is one that currently supports Apple SIM — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and European carrier EE, for starters.

“The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and U.K. right on your iPad,” Apple wrote on its website for the iPad Air 2. “So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments.”

That sounds pretty nice for iPad owners, but what about iPhones? For now, Apple SIM is only found in iPads with wireless data capabilities, which serve a much different function than phones. But it’s not hard to imagine a future where Apple puts its Apple SIM in every iPhone on the market, making it that much easier to change your wireless carrier on the fly. As Quartz noted Friday:

A more compelling, user-friendly scenario might see your phone number and crucial services—messaging, voicemail, etc.—tied to your Apple SIM, and a vibrant marketplace where carriers compete for your business. This is already sort of what Apple is about to offer for the iPad.

Imagine booting up your iPhone for the first time and seeing four competing offers for your business from different operators—with short or no contract duration.

That sounds really nice, but it’s still far from reality. Some mobile carriers may be happy to experiment with the Apple SIM for tablets like the iPad, but their contractual chokeholds on cellphone owners are far too lucrative for them to loosen up easily — and, notably, America’s biggest mobile carrier, Verizon Wireless, is absent from the Apple SIM iPad plan (though, for historical and technical reasons, Verizon was slow to embrace SIM cards at all). Apple did not immediately respond to a question regarding whether it will put the Apple SIM in iPhones.

The future of how you pick and choose from mobile carriers will ultimately depend on how far Apple is willing to go to break up the status quo. If the tech giant truly does want to rid the world of the two-year contract, it’ll need the carriers’ cooperation, even if reluctantly given, to do so. Apple has power here: It could conceivably threaten to pull the iPhone from any carriers that don’t play ball with Apple-SIMs-in-iPhones, using its devices’ popularity with consumers as a means of squashing dissent. But Apple’s theoretical plan here can also be beaten: If the carriers band together in refusing the idea, it would go nowhere fast.

TIME technology

FBI Director Implies Action Against Apple and Google Over Encryption

FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington
FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington May 21, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

The law enforcement chief made it clear, however, that he was speaking only for his own agency and not others

FBI Director James B. Comey has expressed exasperation at the advanced data encryption technologies that companies like Apple and Google say they will offer their customers, and implied that the government might attempt regulations to ensure a way around them.

“Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction — in a direction of fear and mistrust,” Comey told the Brookings Institution in a speech Thursday. Comey also spoke of the need for a “regulatory or legislative fix” to hold all communications companies to the same standard, “so that those of us in law enforcement, national security and public safety can continue to do the job you have entrusted us to do, in the way you would want us to.”

But in response to questions from reporters and Brookings experts, the FBI director made it clear that he was only talking on behalf of his own organization and thus could not speak for the NSA or other intelligence agencies, reports the New York Times.

This is not the first time that Comey has spoken out against Apple and Google’s move to give users complete control over data encryption, but the implications of legislative action against these companies is a step forward in government efforts to thwart it.

While Apple and Google have not commented on Comey’s latest remarks, technology companies have previously said that the move toward personal data encryption will not slow down, and will in fact probably be stepped up.

“I’d be fundamentally surprised if anybody takes the foot of the pedal of building encryption into their products,” Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch told the Times. He added that encryption was a “key business objective” for technology companies.

TIME Education

How the iPad Helped Bring Down the Los Angeles Schools Chief

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on April 11, 2014.
John Deasy resigned as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District on Oct. 16, 2014. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

John Deasy resigned after a bungled effort to give an Apple tablet to every student in the district

For all that an iPad might be able to offer a growing mind, the device is missing a component many students would consider essential for coursework: a keyboard. A failure to recognize the importance of that omission is just one of many things that went wrong when the head of the Los Angeles public schools embarked on a plan in 2013 to get iPads in the hands of all 650,000 students in the system.

Two months after abandoning the heavily-publicized effort, John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, stepped down Thursday. The school board reportedly sent him packing with $60,000 in severance pay and appointed an 82-year-old former superintendent to run the second largest school district in the country in his place.

Deasy’s tenure had been troubled for some time. Test scores and graduation rates went up under his leadership, but his aggressive push for more teacher accountability rankled the teacher’s union. And recent municipal elections left him with fewer allies on the school board. Beyond the political backdrop, however, Deasy’s downfall can be traced, in part, to his devotion to the cult of Cupertino.

When Deasy promised to give every public school student under his care an iPad, it earned him hopeful, glowing praise. The iPad proposal seemed like a forward-thinking, even glamorous, way to transcend the socioeconomic barriers to academic achievement.

As critics have since pointed out, however, iPads are more expensive than many tablets from other manufacturers that are used by school districts. They also lack keyboards and other components many students find useful—like drives and USB ports—that are available on laptops. When some iPads were distributed to students during an early phase of the LAUSD program, some hacked the devices — which the district had said were meant solely for academic work — to enable more general use. And when the program began, some schools did not yet have proper wifi infrastructure that would allow all their students to be online at the same.

As more school districts adopt digital technology, Apple is pushing hard to become the go-to vendor for the products they need to make it happen. Deasy lent a hand to this effort, appearing in a 2012 Apple promotional video touting the iPad’s potential as an educational tool. In July, the company announced it had sold 13 million iPads for educational use worldwide.

But to critics, Deasy’s enthusiasm for Apple crossed a line when it was revealed earlier this year that he had been in close contact with Apple and Pearson, which makes software that was to be installed on hundreds of thousands of LAUSD iPads, long before the companies secured LAUSD contracts as part of an effort that was to cost the district more than $1 billion. The relationships between Deasy, one of his a deputies and executives at the companies were revealed in e-mails released to local media outlets. In one 2012 email before Apple was awarded an initial $30 million contract to provide iPads to LAUSD students, Deasy wrote to the CEO of Pearson, “I had an excellent meeting with Tim at Apple last Friday,” referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook. “The meeting went very well and he was fully committed to being a partner.”

Deasy recused himself from the formal bidding process because he owned Apple stock and has said communication with potential vendors is common and not wrong. The L.A. district attorney’s public integrity division investigated and found no criminal charges were warranted. Still, critics said the whole episode left the impression that LAUSD was biased in favor of awarding a contract to Apple, leaving bids from competing technology companies at a disadvantage.

This summer, under intense pressure over the Apple and Pearson deals, Deasy suspended LAUSD’s contract with Apple and said the district would restart its bidding process. In a memo to the school board, Deasy said the decision to halt LAUSD’s contract with Apple would “enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances.”

It proved to be too little, too late, for a hard-charging education reformer with a soft spot for shiny tech.

Read next: Apple Unveils Its Thinnest iPad Ever

TIME Social Media

Twitter Introduces New Way to Listen to Audio

Now you can listen and scroll at the same time

Twitter has created a new way for users to play audio inside tweets, announcing Thursday that they have teamed up with Soundcloud to bring a full catalogue of music and other recordings to Twitter.

Embedding audio inside tweets is nothing new, but this freshly developed audio card allows a user to additionally “dock” a music card inside the app while continuing to scroll through the timeline while listening simultaneously.

David Guetta and Chance the Rapper have already taken advantage of the new cards:

This isn’t Twitter’s first attempt at re-imagining how tweets make use of sound — the company killed its #Music app in March, after it failed to draw listeners away from more dominant music streaming services like Spotify.

TIME Gadgets

Hands-On With Apple’s New iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and Retina iMac

Apple's iPad just got a whole lot thinner

There were three big dates on Apple’s calendar this year. The first was June’s WWDC, where it presented iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, the second was a surprise event last month that presented us with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch. Thursday marked the third, and Apple got out the big guns in the run up to the holiday shopping tablet rush – the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

We went hands-on with the two new tablets to find out what’s new.

The first thing you notice when picking up the iPad Air 2 is that it’s a lot slimmer and lighter than previous models. The iPad Air was last year’s best-designed tablet, but Apple has improved on it by carving 1.4mm from the already slender slate. It feels like a tablet you can hold for hours without getting tired, and it’s perfectly balanced whether you’re in portrait or landscape mode.

Battery life is always a worry with slim tablets because they have less room for, well, batteries — but Apple promises that the Air 2 will have the same 10-hour stamina of its predecessor, a claim we couldn’t verify during our limited hands-on time Thursday.

It’s not just the body that’s had a tweak. The screen has also had a major upgrade, but not the one many observers thought was coming. The resolution remains the same, and that’s no bad thing – the iPad Air is plenty sharp. What Apple has done is fuse the different components of the screen together, eliminating all air gaps. So what, you might ask? Well, aside from helping reduce the thickness of the overall body, that process also means the screen is less reflective. Coupled with an anti-reflective coating, Apple claims that the iPad Air 2 is the least reflective tablet in the world. That’s good news if you like using your tablet outdoors, and it also makes images look like they’re almost painted onto the glass.

All these, however, are iterative improvements — there’s nothing radically innovative on the new iPad. One new feature for the iPads is Touch ID, a feature Apple introduced on the iPhone 5S that lets you access your phone with your thumbprint rather than a four-digit passcode. On an iPhone, Touch ID is fantastic, and within a few days of use you wonder how you ever lived without it. We’re not convinced it’s quite as compelling on a tablet, though. You don’t unlock tablets with as much regularity and they’re not at constant risk of loss or theft like your phone, which is always out and about with you.

But Apple hasn’t included Touch ID on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 for the sake of unlocking them with ease — this is a big retail play. Touch ID is integral to Apple Pay, which is in part a slick and easy way to buy products online with the touch of a finger. Judging from how many more apps we buy since Touch ID purchasing was introduced to the App Store, we think this could eliminate multiple drop-off points in the buying process. No wonder retailers are clamoring to get on board – these tablets are the highest-tech shopping carts around.


The iPad Air 2 also got a new processor. This isn’t like the slightly tweaked iPhone 5S chip we saw on the iPad Air. Instead, Apple has designed it specifically for the iPad Air 2, and Apple claims some staggering performance improvements – up to 40% better CPU speeds and 2.5 times the graphical grunt. That’s big news if you edit photos or videos on your tablet or if you’re a mobile gamer.

To take advantage of the extra power, Apple has also upgraded the iPad Air 2’s iSight camera. It’s now an 8-megapixel affair, but the real benefits come from additional software features. You get all the tricks that iPhone users have enjoyed for a while. There’s time-lapse, burst shooting and the impressive slo-mo video capture.

The iPad mini 3 is less interesting than its bigger cousin — It’s essentially last year’s tablet with the inclusion of Touch ID.

Both of Apple’s new iPads look and feel great on first play. They will likely remain the tablets to beat in terms of quality and usability, but Apple had another surprising announcement. The iMac, Apple’s all-in-one desktop, got a refresh. It looks the same in terms of design, but the highest-end model now packs an incredibly sharp 27-inch 5K Retina display. The sharpness is immense — it will make graphic designers froth at the mouth with anticipation.

The new iPads are available to preorder now in 16/64/128GB models for $499/$599/$699 respectively for Wi-Fi only. Add $130 on top if you have a hankering for 4G connectivity. The Retina iMac will run you $2,499.

For Trusted Reviews’ full hands-on with the iPad Air 2 and Apple’s other new products, visit Trusted Reviews.

TIME Gadgets

See Apple’s Latest iPad Enhancements

The iPad Air 2 is the thinnest tablet around

Apple hosted another gadget unveiling Thursday, to much fanfare. The company’s new iPad is thinner and faster, and for the first time Apple is opening up its operating system to third party developers.

The iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini will now be available in gold. iPad products will have improved screens, camera functions, and more storage space, and are thinner than ever before (the iPad Air 2 will be 18% thinner than the old iPad, making it the thinnest tablet around).

OS X Yosemite is also available to start downloading for free today. Here are all the highlights from Apple’s latest reveal.

TIME Companies

Here’s Why Netflix Can Shrug Off its Stock Plunge

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France. Netflix September 15 launched service in France, the first of six European countries planned in the coming months. Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Netflix is hanging on tight to its core mission

It’s not every day that a brand-name stock loses a quarter of its value in a matter of minutes, as Netflix did after reporting its financial earnings Wednesday. It’s even rarer when executives respond as if it’s no big thing.

After Wednesday’s stock market close, Netflix reported a net profit that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. So far so good. But Netflix’s success hinges on whether it can keep signing up new subscribers, and it’s here where the company came up short: The company added 3 million net subscribers around the world after publicly predicting it would add 3.7 million.

Investors read those numbers and started running for the hills. It took about 30 minutes for Netflix’s stock price to fall by more than $120 a share. After the plunge, the company was more philosophical than apologetic. “Our internal forecast . . . will be high some of the time and low other times,” CEO Reed Hastings shrugged in a letter to shareholders. Later, on a Google Hangout with select analysts, he was just as Zen-like, saying he expected to miss subscriber estimates “frequently.”

There are a few reasons why Hastings can get away with this attitude without investors calling for his head. Wednesday’s stock market was a tumultuous one in general, seeing the Dow close down 173 points after a 458-point drop at its worst. And amid lingering concerns that tech valuations in general were too high, many investors were ready to sell any stock on bad news.

On top of that, Netflix has long been a favorite of speculators, who have made it one of the most consistently volatile issues in the tech sector for the past decade. This has long been a headache for Hastings, who’s complained before about “momentum investor-fueled euphoria.” Such euphoria usually ends in nasty hangovers, like the 80% plunge in Netflix’s stock price after it raised prices in 2011. What Netflix is seeing today is another bender coming to an end, one Hastings predicted a year ago.

The main reason Netflix is shrugging off the current decline is that the company has always hewed, come what may, to a single strategy of finding a more efficient way to distribute video content. That tactic, which has always worked out in the long run, is the classic distrupt-the-incumbent model. And in the world of video content, no one has done this better, and more consistently, than Netflix.

The creation myth of Netflix says that Hastings founded the company after racking up $40 in video rental late fees. As DVDs emerged, Hastings started delivering them by mail, precipitating the slow but sure extinction of video-store giants like Blockbuster. As bandwidth improved, Netflix switched to an even more efficient way to deliver movies: by streaming them online. Today, 87% of Netflix revenue comes from streaming movies and TV shows. Netflix has effectively disrupted its own founding business model. Netflix wasted no time disrupting its founding business model, splitting off its DVD-by-mail business into an ill-fated venture called Qwikster. Today, Quikster is an unsightly footnote in the company’s history, and 87% of Netflix revenue comes from streaming movies and TV shows.

More recently, Netflix has begun to bump up against the cable companies that are so loathed by consumers by pushing more into TV programming, notably several of its own series. In a victory for cord-cutters, Time Warner said Wednesday it would offer HBO as a standalone online service starting next year. That will provide Netflix a strong competitor, but it’s likely to do more damage to the cable providers in the long run. In effect, HBO is hedging its future by adapting to the model Netflix pioneered. CBS followed suit Thursday with its own launch of an on-demand subscription service for its programs.

Now Netflix is moving into a new area by producing its own original films, reasoning that it’s often cheaper than entering into bidding wars for titles every several years. This is likely to work with “branded” films, like a sequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and a series of Adam Sandler vehicles (Netflix says data shows Sandler’s comedy translates well in global markets like Brazil and Germany — who knew?).
This latest move is angering movie theater chain owners, mostly because their own aged business model has turned into another unpleasant experience for consumers. Moviegoing often involves paying upward of $15 a ticket to endure a gauntlet of pre-film commercials and obscenely overpriced popcorn. Another recent technological development, the rise of affordable, high-def home entertainment systems, is making it easier to bypass that experience. And Netflix is now working to speed up the time it takes for new movies to reach home theaters.

All this is costing Netflix a lot of money. Streaming content obligations rose to $8.9 billion from $7.7 billion in the last three months alone. Netflix is warning that these obligations will weigh down cash flows for years. This is risky, because the new content costs may not translate into enough new subscribers. And that’s why investors freaked out about the low subscriber figures this quarter. Netflix keeps building more content, but what if subscribers don’t come?

Right now, Netflix is shrugging in the face of all this fretting. Investors also worried two years ago, when the company’s overseas operations were losing $400 million a year. This year, Netflix’ international subscriptions are close to breaking even. Most of all, the company has learned to ignore speculators and naysayers as it pursues its core strategy of finding better ways to bring quality video content to consumers. Producing movies may sound like a new and risky area to move into, but as Netflix sees it, it’s the same old business model that’s worked so well in the past.

TIME Media

The Cable-TV Bundle Is Finally Starting to Unravel

The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington on June 11, 2013.
The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington on June 11, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's not a matter of if more channels will be sold a la carte, but when

It’s been a long time coming. For years, television viewers have griped about having to pay for a massive bundle of channels that they barely watch. In 2013, the average American TV household received 189 channels, but tuned into just 17 of them. A careful, decades-long dance between pay-TV providers and networks has ensured that, for the most part, you need a cable or satellite subscription to watch live TV.

Two back-to-back announcements this week could threaten this extremely lucrative business model. HBO, which has TV shows so valuable that people have actually been begging to pay for them, announced Wednesday it’s launching an online streaming service in 2015 that doesn’t require a cable subscription. If it’s like HBO Go, that means users will be able to stream all the network’s hit shows as they air on TV. CBS made a similar move Thursday by announcing CBS All Access, a new platform that will allow customers to access much of the channel’s past and present content online for $5.99 per month, including live broadcasts in 14 markets.

By making these channels available for purchase individually, CBS and HBO are embracing the “a la carte” TV model, in which viewers would be able to select the individual channels they want to pay for and ignore the rest. It’s a concept that makes intuitive sense in a world where songs, movies, books and news can be consumed individually, on the go and at little cost.

But the model poses a huge threat to cable operators, network owners and even subscribers. If every network did what CBS and HBO are doing, cable and satellite operators would have the core part of their businesses wiped out. Network owners, meanwhile, would have to convince millions of individual customers to buy their channels instead of negotiating with just a few large pay-TV companies. Greater price transparency would hurt most channels—just ask Netflix, which said a $1 price increase caused it to miss its subscriber growth projections in the most recent quarter. While a prestige channel like HBO could command a high price on its own, more niche channels would probably find it tough to turn a profit individually. Many of them would likely fold, according to one study, and the quality and quantity of content of available on TV might actually diminish.

For these reasons, we’re still not close to a world where consumers can buy any channels they want in any combination. The owners of basic cable channels in particular, which are widely distributed and generate revenue even from subscribers who never watch them, aren’t keen to disrupt the current model. And anything involving high-profile sports is likely to remain under tight lock and key—CBS’s streaming service, for instance, won’t play NFL games.

“It would be absolutely detrimental to their current business model,” Erik Brannon, an analyst at IHS Screen Digest, says of the full unbundling of cable channels. “I just don’t see them being willing to jeopardize future affiliate fee growth for a few bucks here and there on the Internet.”

Still, operators and networks are finally being forced to reckon with shifting consumer habits. The number of U.S. pay-TV subscribers declined for the first time ever in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of households that watch TV content solely through a broadband connection has doubled in recent years, according to Nielsen. These are mostly young adult viewers who will define the way TV content is consumed in the future.

“There’s a shift that’s going on in consumer behavior in viewing video,” says Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner. “Consumers are slowly but surely moving away from watching linear television on cable. They’re starting to watch these TV shows and movies more on their mobile devices.”

In the near term, analysts say the networks most likely to mimic the HBO or CBS model are their most direct competitors. It’s easy to imagine Showtime offering an HBO Go-like service, Brannon says, or ABC live-streaming its programming for a monthly fee. And while the cable bundle isn’t going anywhere, it may go on a much-needed diet. A growing number of consumers are picking smaller cable packages, indicating they’re tired of paying for hundreds of channels they don’t watch. And new entrants in the pay-TV space like Dish Network are building their business models around offering smaller, cheaper bundles of channels.

What HBO and CBS are doing suggests the future of TV will be messier and more confusing and perhaps less entertaining than the so-called “golden era” we live in now. But consumers will have more choice of what they watch and how much they pay for it. “It’s not a matter of if” more channels will be sold individually, says Brannon, “but when, and for how much.”

TIME Gadgets

Buying Guide: Apple’s Holiday Gadgets Lineup

For a company that’s made a lot of money by selling the concept of simplicity, Apple’s holiday lineup features an almost overwhelming number of gadgets. Here’s a look at the main product lines, along with some buying advice for each category.

Computers

MacBook Air Laptops ($899+)

MacBook Air
Apple

When it comes to Apple’s portable computer lineup, you’ve got the less expensive, more portable MacBook Air line or the more expensive, more powerful MacBook Pro line.

There are two base models to choose from in the MacBook Air line: an 11-incher starting at $899 and a 13-incher starting at $999. They were last updated in April of 2014.

The 11-inch model is — surprise — the more portable of the two, weighing in around 2.4 pounds. However, for $100 extra, the 13-inch model gives you a higher-resolution screen, three additional hours of battery life (9 for the 11-inch, 12 for the 13-inch), and an SD memory card slot.

Product Page [Apple.com]

MacBook Pro Laptops ($1299+)

MacBook Pro
Apple

The more potent of Apple’s portables, the MacBook Pro line consists of 13- and 15-inch models with super high-resolution “Retina” screens and a top-of-the-line model with a starting price (before custom configuration) of $2499. The line was last updated in late July of 2014.

They’re still plenty portable: Each model measures less than three quarters of an inch thick, with the 13-incher weighing just shy of 3.5 pounds and the 15-incher weighing just shy of 4.5 pounds.

Making the leap from the base 13-inch model to the base 15-inch model commands a $700 price premium, but nets you a better processor, double the RAM, double the storage, and higher-resolution screen with a better graphics chip. You lose an hour of battery life with the 15-inch model (eight hours versus nine hours for the 13-incher), and there are a couple upgraded 13-inch models to choose from ($1499 and $1799) before you get to the first 15-inch model.

Note that there’s also an aging non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro that’s still for sale with a $1099 starting price. It’s not touted on Apple’s main MacBook Pro page, however, and hasn’t been updated for quite a while. It’s been rumored that it’s being killed off entirely. You can do better with $1099.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iMac All-in-Ones ($1099+)

iMac
Apple

Apple’s all-in-one desktop line comes in 21.5-inch models starting at $1099 and 27-inch models starting at $1799. They were last updated in late September of 2013, with the entry-level model added in mid-June of 2014. The Retina 5K model was added in mid-October 2014 with a $2499 starting price.

The entry-level $1099 jobber tends to steer you into taking a good, hard look at the next step up; a $1299 21.5-inch model which, for $200, gets you a much better processor (2.7GHz quad-core versus a 1.4GHz dual-core), double the storage space, higher-end RAM, and a better graphics chip.

Stepping up to the baseline 27-inch model (starts at $1799), gets you a super high-resolution screen (2560 x 1440), a better processor and a better graphics chip. You’re paying mostly for the enormous 27-inch screen. It’s a really nice screen — I use one for work on occasion — but the rest of the system’s innards aren’t mind-blowing by any means. You can do some custom upgrades to increase the mind-blowingness, of course.

Find another $700 in your couch cushions, and you can step up to the all-new Retina iMac, which starts at $2499 and sports an insanely high-resolution screen (5120 x 2880). Apple blew right past “4K” and is calling this “5K” instead. Aside from the screen technology, this model starts out with a quad-core Intel processor, a faster graphics chip and a faster one-terabyte hybrid (solid-state + standard storage) hard drive.

Product Page (iMac) | Product Page (Retina 5K iMac) [Apple.com]

Mac Mini ($499+)

Mac Mini
Apple

The diminutive Mac Mini desktop is still kicking, with a $499 starting price (d0wn from $599) and the continued understanding that you’ll need to bring your own monitor, keyboard and mouse. There’s a $699 model that gets you almost double the processing speed, double the storage, double the RAM and a better graphics chip. Tough choice, to be honest.

Product Page [Apple.com]

Mac Pro ($2,999+)

Mac Pro
Apple

The Mac Pro comes in quad- and six-core configurations, starting at more than many people’s monthly mortgage payments. If you’re buying this as a gift for someone, you are incredibly generous, well-off or both. Either way: congratulations on all your success!

You should check with this person to see what he or she actually wants out of a Mac Pro. This isn’t a great “surprise” gift, in other words. At the most basic, however, an extra $1000 jumps you from four to six processing cores, and gets you more RAM and a better graphics chip.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPhones

You have four iPhone models to choose from, running the price gamut from free with a two-year contract to $499 with a two-year contract.

iPhones
From left to right: iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C Apple

iPhone 6 Plus ($299+)

Starting on the left-hand side of the above image, the iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s biggest phone to date. With a 5.5-inch screen, it straddles the tablet-phone chasm with a starting price of $299 with a two-year contract. Going this big (and expensive) gets you a higher-resolution screen than the iPhone 6, optical image stabilization, and longer battery life.

iPhone 6 ($199+)

Apple’s flagship phone until (probably) late 2015, the iPhone 6 attempts to summon Goldilocks with a not-too-big, not-too-small 4.7-inch screen. Apple promises up to 14 hours of 3G talk time or up to 10 hours of web surfing. Like all iPhones, an extra $100 for each trim level gets you more storage, though where previous lines doubled the storage for every $100 you spent, the 6 and 6 Plus jump you from 16 gigabytes to 64 gigabytes this time around. Another $100 pops things up to 128 gigabytes.

iPhone 5S ($99+)

Last year’s flagship model, the iPhone 5S sports a four-inch screen, fingerprint sensor, decent processor and 8-10 hours of continuous-use battery life. It’s still a fine phone, with a good camera and a 32-gigabyte storage option that costs an extra $50.

iPhone 5C (Free)

On the low end, the iPhone 5C is free with a two-year contract, comes in five colors and is available with eight gigabytes of storage. For all intents and purposes, this is a late-2012 iPhone 5 gussied up and re-released in late 2013. An extra $100 gets you more processing power and double the storage in an iPhone 5S, but if you don’t care about that and you don’t care about the fingerprint reader, this one’s a solid choice as a free phone.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPads

You have five iPad models to choose from. Starting prices range from $249 to $499.

iPads
From left to right: iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini Apple

iPad Air 2 ($499+)

The first version of the iPad Air was thinner than a pencil at 0.29 inches. Thanks to a new anti-reflective screen, the iPad Air 2 is thinner than that at 0.24 inches — an 18% reduction — and slightly lighter (like, 0.04 pounds lighter). There’s a souped-up iPhone 6/6 Plus processor onboard, too (the A8X), which Apple says is 40% faster than previous efforts.

Battery life remains 10 hours, as before, and the rear camera has been bumped from five to eight megapixels and can capture time-lapse and slow-motion videos. The front camera has been improved, as well, and wireless connections have been bolstered to provide faster data access.

The newest iPad Air rounds things out by adding the TouchID fingerprint sensor that debuted with the iPhone 5S, so you can unlock the tablet and log into apps and sites without typing passcodes. It’ll be available in gold, silver and gray, and there’s a new 128-gigabyte storage option available starting at $699.

iPad Air

Late November 2013’s iPad Air is sticking around, though this time with a $399 starting price (down from $499). This is still a more-than-fine full-size iPad. Spending the extra $100 on the iPad Air 2 gets you something marginally thinner and marginally lighter, with a better rear-facing camera, the fingerprint sensor and a beefed up processor. If none of these are super important to you, the iPad Air is now a comparatively good deal.

iPad Mini 3

The iPad Mini 3 is almost pound-for-pound a shrunken-down iPad Air, all the way down to the $399 starting price. You do get the fingerprint sensor, so there’s that. There’s also a 128-gigabyte option (the iPad Air tops out at 32 gigabytes). It’s smaller and lighter, too, of course (although not thinner) with a starting weight of 0.73 pounds.

iPad Mini 2

If you’re interested in a small iPad, the iPad Mini 2 looks like a really good bet, actually. It’s very similar to the iPad Mini 3, but doesn’t feature the gold color option, the 128-gigabyte storage option or the fingerprint reader. Just about everything else is there, minus $100 off the starting price.

iPad Mini

The iPad Mini is sticking around, with a starting price of $249. If ever you were to try to scrounge up an extra $50, this is the time to do it. Stepping up to the iPad Mini 2 gets you a much better screen and a much better processor. If the price was $199, it’d be a much harder decision. This thing’s already two years old, though.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPods and Apple TV ($49+)

iPod Shuffle ($49)

iPod Shuffle
Apple

This is one of the cheapest Apple gadgets to own. A handful of sawbucks will get you a wearable music player good for 15 hours of playback that can hold hundreds of songs (up to around 500 if you really compress them, but bank on a couple hundred at least). Keep in mind that you’ll need a computer to transfer songs: This little guy has no wireless connection.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPod Nano ($149)

iPod Nano
Apple

The iPod Nano is a good option if you’re looking for a pocketable gadget that can be used for working out, watching video, looking at photos and listening to music. Like the iPod Shuffle, you’ll need to use a computer to load stuff onto it, but it does feature a Bluetooth connection you can use to sync it to your car’s audio system or wireless headphones. And there’s Nike+ integration if you want to track your workouts.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPod Touch ($199+)

iPod Touch
Apple

Buying an iPod Touch is basically like buying a phone-less iPhone 4S, specs-wise. It’s a great option for kids who aren’t ready for a full-fledged cell phone (and the monthly bill it entails), but who want access to apps and a decent camera and fun stuff like that. Best of all, you don’t need a computer to load content onto it; just a Wi-Fi network.

Product Page [Apple.com]

Apple TV ($99)

 TV
Apple

Hooking an Apple TV box up to your TV serves two main purposes. One: You can use it to stream music and video from popular services like Netflix and other providers. Second: You can use its AirPlay feature to sling content from your iPhone, iPad, MacBook and other Apple gadgets, expanding it for viewing on the biggest screen in your house. Your TV is the biggest screen in your house, right? Right?!

Product Page [Apple.com]

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