TIME Video Games

TwoDots Is the Sequel to one of Last Year’s Smartest Mobile Games

Betaworks

Betaworks puzzler-sequel to last year's viral iOS and Android hit heads in a wild-sounding new direction, letting you "traverse arctic tundras, navigate fiery jungles, and plunge the ocean depths."

Meet TwoDots, the sequel to Dots, one of the biggest mobile games of 2013. Developer Betaworks just released the game for iOS Thursday and says an Android version should follow later this year. It’s available now for free (with optional in-game purchases) from Apple’s App Store.

The original Dots, subtitled “a game about connecting” and released a little over a year ago, was about lining up two or more same-colored circles at 90-degree angles. The parameters were simple: you couldn’t do diagonals, if you scored four-in-a-row all dots of the same color on the screen vanished, you could use power-ups to remove certain dots or extend the clock, and that clock lasted 60 seconds per round. It was neat and pretty and pastel and in view of iOS 7′s clean-lined, polychromatic vibe, the kind of game you’d expect someone like Apple’s Jonathan Ive to design.

TwoDots, which makes me think of that lyric in the Peter Gabriel song “Growing Up,” where he’s singing his way through abstract levels of existence, is apparently like and not like Dots. “Join two brave dots as they traverse arctic tundras, navigate fiery jungles, and plunge the ocean depths. Sharpen your skills across 85 challenging levels while uncovering many exciting new features along the way,” reads the pitch on the App Store.

Wait a second, is this Dots or Temple Run?

“The TwoDots gameplay looks much more derivative of Dots then it actually is,” says Patrick Moberg, one of the first game’s creators. “As you dig deeper, you realize TwoDots simply tips their hat to our first game Dots, but quickly takes the player down a very different and fun path.”

So there you go, now it’s a mystery game, too — just the sort of lure the company needs to entice its base. And that base sounds massive: the first game is still played more than 500 million times per month, says Betaworks.

TIME Video Games

Dragon Quest 8 Is Now Playable on an iPhone, iPad or Android Device

Square Enix

One of Japanese game studio Level-5's most critically acclaimed roleplaying game is now available for $20 on iOS or Android phones and tablets, and includes tweaks to both the gameplay and graphics.

I’m looking at Dragon Quest 8 on my iPhone 5 as I type this. Hard to believe a game as grand and clever and open-ended and now going on a decade old can exist on a device this slender and elegant and totable, a device no one was really thinking about in 2005 (save Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive), but that now goes hand in glove with millions everywhere.

But when you think about the decade thing, it makes sense. The PlayStation 2 version arrived in 2005, about a year ahead of Final Fantasy XII and in the vicinity of Xenosaga 2, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Gothic 2 and Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich. Good times.

But now I’m babbling. What I mean by “makes sense” is that Dragon Quest 8, being a PS2 original, ran at lowish NTSC and PAL resolutions, whereas the horsepower in your average iOS or Android mobile these days hangs out in Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 territory.

The iOS/Android version isn’t cheap: Square Enix usually charges $10-$20 for its phone/tablet ports, and Dragon Quest 8 sits at the pricey end of the spectrum, or $20. But then you’re getting a higher-resolution version of the game, a “reworked” combat engine that supports “one-tap” battles and “more complex play,” and an overall interface redesigned for touchscreens, though it uses an on-screen directional pad for navigation, one of those interface-shoehorning tricks I’ve never cared for. That’s the price you pay to see the thing converted without having to radically reimagine it.

It’s a shame Square Enix isn’t doing more HD ports of games like this to consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One (or handhelds like the Vita). I’d rather play a game this expansive and time-consuming with a gamepad (if you haven’t played it, it’s a mammoth thing that can easily consume over 100 hours). But I’ll take what I can get, and close by noting that the game supports iOS 6 and above (the iPhone 5 or a 3rd-gen iPad are recommended) as well as Android 4.0 and higher.

TIME FindTheBest

18 Streaming TV Boxes Ranked from Worst to First

Quick: which type of device is currently dominating Amazon’s Best Sellers list, holding the top two overall spots (as of this writing)?

A) Smartphones

B) Tablets

C) Headphones

D) Laptops

E) Streaming Media Players

Answer: E. And it’s not close. Between the Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku 3, and Apple TV, streaming media players are lighting up online retail. As customers continue to cut cable, the streaming box (or stick) is the hottest new device, a product that is somehow both affordable (usually, sub-$100) and magical (can beam just about any media from one screen to the next).

But which streaming device should you pick? Clearly, a lot comes down to content. If you’re a Yupp TV fanatic, you’ll pick the Sony NSZ-GS8, ASUS Cube, or VIZIO Co-Star LT. Decision made. Suppose, however, you’d simply like a nice blend of Netflix and Hulu, plus the ability to use your friend’s roommate’s password to access HBO Go? Good luck choosing: You’ve still got a dozen different boxes, sticks, and hockey-puck-shaped streamers that meet your needs.

Since we have no way of know whether you’re a Mad Men junkie or Game of Thrones fan—and since all the top boxes seem to be getting all the same services anyway—let’s put the actual content aside.

Instead, we set out to rank the 18 most recent streaming media players based on specs, features, usability and expert reviews. We considered every major streamer released or updated since January 2013, looking at the following factors:

- Specs and features: This primarily includes output resolutions and audio support, but also factors in wireless connectivity and features (like voice control, screencasting, and DVR functionality).

- Expert reviews: What do the likes of PC Mag, CNET, TechHive, TechRadar, LAPTOP Mag, Home Theater Review, and Wired think? We aggregated review scores to get the best big picture perspective.

Here’s what we found:

The Rejects

18. Sony NSZ-GS8

17. TiVo Roamio

16. ASUS Cube

Like a rejected TV script, these media players simply don’t have the mass appeal or originality to become a true success. With limited inter-device streaming (the NSZ-GS8), clunky user experience (the ASUS Cube), and lackluster file-format support (the TiVo Roamio), they’re all stuck in pre-production. You can feel bad for them, but let them die their natural death. It’s better this way.

The Cancellations

15. Roku LT (2013)

14. TiVo Roamio Pro

13. TiVo Roamio Plus

Give these players credit for trying: Each brings something unique to the market. The Roku LT offers a low-priced, lower-resolution alternative to its cousins (the more popular Rokus 1, 2, and 3), while the TiVo Roamio Pro and Plus provide a strong feature set and all the familiar benefits of pause-and-rewind TV. Unfortunately, each ends up feeling a little like a lesser version of a more popular show, like Last Resort was to Lost or like Low Winter Sun was to every detective show ever made.

The One and Dones

12. Philips HMP2000

11. Samsung Smart Media Player

10. VIZIO Co-Star LT

Each of these players gets a lot right, with reasonably simple set-up, moderate feature sets, and decent compatibility. Still, clicking the Co-Stars’ retro-style remote or navigating the Smart Media Player’s menus has a subtle, dated feel—the kind of feeling you get when watching Seinfeld, licking an envelope or signing a check. These players had their day, but the world is moving on. Oh well. We’ll always have that one season.

Renewed for a Season

9. Matricom G-Box Midnight MX2

8. PLAiR 2

Unique, intriguing, and capable, both the Matricom G-Box Midnight MX2 and PLAiR 2 offer something special. The MX2 features full Android-based web browsing, something none of the top-selling players allow. Meanwhile, the PLAiR 2 is among the cheapest streamers you can buy (as low as $25), a good Chromecast alternative for Google haters and capitalization ignorers across America. Still, neither device is as polished or as reliable as any of the products below. Keep these options in mind, but don’t be surprised if they fade off in another year, like a once-renewed, forever-forgotten sitcom.

Network TV

7. Roku 1

6. Roku 2

Solid, predictable, and popular, the Roku 1 and 2 are a great choice for anyone who can’t afford the more full-featured Roku 3. Each offers top output resolutions, compatibility across dozens of file formats, and low prices to match (approximately $45 for the Roku 1 and $65 for the Roku 2). Like CSI and Law & Order, expect the two entry-level Rokus to stick around for several more years.

Cable TV

5. Google Chromecast

4. Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version)

Compared to the bulky shells of their competitors, Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s Streaming Stick feel like the future: lighter, more efficient, and best of all, under $50. Experts say Roku’s Streaming Stick is roughly comparable to the Roku 2 in features and capabilities, while Google’s Chromecast oozes the company’s commitment to simplicity and user-friendliness. If you’re always using a tablet, laptop, or phone anyway, consider saving the extra cash and grabbing one of these.

Emmy Winners

3. Apple TV

2. Amazon Fire TV

It’s one thing to make a popular TV show. It’s quite another to bring home the hardware year after year. Whenever they present their new streaming media players, Apple and Amazon don’t walk on stage: they swagger. Where their competitors make simple streaming gadgets, the two tech giants create whole entertainment ecosystems, complete with industry-leading features and seamless operation. Even if you can’t stand one (or both) of these companies, it’s hard to argue that their offerings are simply bigger and better than most. If you already own three Apple products, or if you’re a long-time Amazon Prime subscriber, look no further than the company’s corresponding streamer.

The All-Time Classic

1. Roku 3

Sometimes focus is more important than money and talent. The Roku 3 is the best product of the bunch, with the snappiest operation, top-tier video and audio support, and extra features that make each part of the experience just a little better (for example: the headphone jack on the remote allows for convenient, private listening). Better yet, a Roku 3 won’t lock you into the Apple or Amazon ecosystem. Yes, you can guarantee some success if you hire all the best actors and spend the most money. But Roku understands that the best shows aren’t always about star power and special effects, but rather about tight execution and smart, ensemble casting. For the best overall streaming experience, get the Roku 3.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME technology

Apple-Beats: Here’s What Analysts Are Saying

Apple Introduces iPhone 5
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

fortunelogo-blue
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

What a difference three weeks can make. Analysts who “struggled to see the rational” behind Apple’s acquisition of Beats when it was a $3.2 billion rumor now think it’s a pretty smart move. “Probably the only smart move within the last 3 years!” according to one Apple skeptic.

Below: Excerpts from the notes we’ve seen so far. More as they come in.

Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley: Apple beats the service drum.“Subscription music service could make the deal a home run, with every 1% penetration of Apple’s 800M account base equating to $960M of revenue. Apple believes Beats offers the right strategy for streaming music as it leverages both algorithms and 200 human curators to create playlists, which differentiates it from competitors.”

Trip Chowdhry, Global Equities: A smart move from Apple, and probably the only smart move within the last 3 years! “Currently, Beats Music Streaming Service only has 250K subscribers — but with Apple’s power in distribution (iOS Devices and AppStore), subscription to Beats Music Streaming Service can easily grow to 20 million subscribers within the next 12 to 18 months.”

Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray: Thoughts on the now-confirmed Beats deal. “We believe that if successful, adding Iovine and Dr. Dre could help propel Apple into the next level in its content offering, particularly in video, which could pave the way for new products including a television. Finally, given that Beats is the largest acquisition of Apple’s history, we believe it could open the door to other larger acquisitions, potentially around Internet services outside of content.”

Daniel Ernst, Hudson Square: AAPL Beats rhythm and blues. “On balance we are not fans of the Beats acquisition, although, we do not expect a negative market reaction to the news, and we concede Apple Beats holds promise to exceed our very low expectations. As a music-focused premium hardware maker with a budding, well-curated service component, Beats does fit well with Apple, and at $2.6B, the cash deployed represents just 1.7% of the company’s 3/31/14 balance. However, in our opinion even within music, there exists more impactful targets like Sonos or Spotify and moreover so many more targets in a vast array of segments either not, or not well served by Apple today including cloud services, security, commerce/payments, television and games.”

Benedict Evans, Andreessen Horowitz: Content Is King? “Music has gone from being a key strategic lever in the tech industry to an afterthought. The same applies to movie and TV libraries — media has gone from being a choke-point to a check-box, commodity feature than every platform has to offer but where none has any particular advantage… So for a platform owner or device maker, the content you can offer is no longer a strategic asset. Content doesn’t sell devices, because they all have the same content.”

Ben Bajarin, Creative Strategies: Apple, Beats, and Content as Differentiation. “What makes Apple’s products stand out is they are differentiated by hardware and by software. Much of their software runs on no other computers than their own. What if they can bring content into this fold? What if they can acquire exclusive deals, even if exclusive for short time windows, that are only available on their hardware and through their software? Then what if they do release lower cost phones in the $350 range? If you are in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and you are a fan of American music, movies, and even TV, would you pay $100 or $200 more for exclusive hardware, software, and content? Again, while I acknowledge the difficulty or ‘moon shot’ of this effort, content (beyond apps) is an interesting differentiator if done right.”

TIME Money

DISH Network Says It Will Accept Bitcoin

The company says it's the largest to date to accept the online currency.

Satellite television operator Dish Network said Thursday it will accept bitcoin as a form of payment beginning later this year, making it the largest company yet to accept the digital currency.

DISH, which provides pay-TV to about 14 million subscribers, said it will add the payment method as a convenience to customers.

“Bitcoin is becoming a preferred way for some people to transact and we want to accommodate those individuals,” executive vice president Bernie Han said in a statement.

The company said it will use the bitcoin platform Coinbase to process transactions.

Bitcoin, a digital currency once used only by a small group of supporters, has become increasingly mainstream over the past year or so. Bitcoin ATMs have been popping up across the U.S. and elsewhere, and the Federal Elections Commission recently ruled that political campaigns can accept small donations of bitcoin.

TIME Sex

Snapchat CEO Apologizes for Explicit Frat Emails

Evan Spiegel
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for photos, in Los Angeles, Oct. 24, 2013. Jae C. Hong—AP

Evan Spiegel says he is "mortified" that emails he sent as a college student were leaked

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, 23, who runs an app that erases messages seconds after they have been viewed, has apologized after Gawker leaked emails demeaning to women that he sent as a fraternity brother.

The website’s Valleywag section published emails from 2009 in which Spiegel wrote “F–k Bitches Get Leid [sic]” and encouraged fellow members of Kappa Sigma at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., to receive as much oral sex from women as possible. He also offered a blunt to whoever saw the most breasts in one night.

In an email, Spiegel told Business Insider that he was “mortified” and a “jerk,” adding the emails “in no way” reflect how he views women today.

The leaked messages have surfaced at a time when discussion has come to the fore about whether men should feel entitled to sex. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old student at Santa Barbara City College, killed six and injured 13 before taking his own life last week because he was frustrated that he was still a virgin. And the prevalence of sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses is in part fueled by fraternities dominating the social scene and plying minors with alcohol at private parties.

MORE: Why Mass Killers Are Always Male

MORE: The Sexual-Assault Crisis on American Campuses

TIME Google

Google Is Overwhelmingly White and Male

Pedestrians walk past Google Inc. signage displayed in front of the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 27, 2013.
Pedestrians walk past Google Inc. signage displayed in front of the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 27, 2013. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

"Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity,” the tech giant says, after revealing that their workforce is 70 percent male and 60 percent white

After years of resisting calls for more transparency about the diversity of its workforce, Google has released data revealing that the tech giant is mostly staffed by white males.

According to the data, released Wednesday for the first time, 70 percent of the Google workforce is male and 61 percent of its workers are white. And while Asian-Americans make up 30 percent of the workforce, African-Americans and Hispanics make up two and three percent, respectively.

In a statement on the company blog, Google said that it considers racial and gender imbalance to be a problem, and speculates about the underlying causes.

Citing stats from a 2012 National Science Foundation report, Google says that recruitment of people of color and women is difficult because, “Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors” and because that only 18 percent of the computer science degrees awarded in the U.S. go to women.

Google says it has invested millions of dollars in organizations that work to bring women and girls into computer science education.

“But we’re the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be,” the statement continued. “Being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution.”

TIME Acquisitions

The Apple-Beats Deal: 7 Things You Should Know

After weeks of rumors, the Apple-Beats deal has finally become official. Here’s what’s happening.

Which parts of Beats is Apple buying?

Apple is buying all of Beats, meaning the Beats Music streaming music service, and Beats Electronics, meaning the headphones and speakers. It’s a software, hardware and talent deal.

How much is Apple paying?

Both companies – Beats Music and Beats Electronics – are being scooped up (pending regulatory approval later this year, of course) for a total of $3 billion; $2.6 billion of that up-front, with a relatively miniscule $400 million to vest later.

When will the deal close?

Assuming it clears regulatory approval, we’re looking at sometime in fiscal Q4 of this year.

Will Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine be Apple employees?

Yes indeed. They’ll commute back and forth between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Their titles at Apple will simply be “Dre” and “Jimmy.” Iovine is leaving Interscope Records to join Apple full-time.

What will happen to the Beats brand?

It’ll live on as a standalone brand even though it’s owned by Apple — “a first for the company,” says the Wall Street Journal.

Why didn’t Apple just build its own streaming music service?

Tim Cook told Re/code’s Peter Kafka that he thinks Beats Music “is the first subscription service that really got it right.” Cook made no mention of Spotify, instead alluding to the human curation angle as being Beats Music’s biggest strength.

Cook continued, “The thing that Beats provides us is a head start. They provide us with incredible people, that don’t grow on trees.”

How big of a purchase is this for Apple?

Big. Cook told Kafka that Apple’s snapped up 27 companies between fiscal year 2013 and now, but the company’s second biggest buy after this $3 billion Beats deal was buying Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer in 1997 for just north of $400 million.

Sources: Re/code, Apple, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

TIME Internet

The Internet As a Human Right

An audacious idea whose time has come

+ READ ARTICLE

Kosta Grammatis likes to think big.

In 2011, around the time of the Arab Spring, Grammatis grew frustrated at the ways governments can pull the plug on people’s Internet access as a form of social and political control. He wanted to figure out how to circumvent political and physical obstacles and bring digital media to anywhere it was otherwise unavailable. He and some colleagues set out to buy a satellite from a bankrupt company and use it to beam connectivity to places like Tunisia. That plan turned out to be harder to realize than to it was to imagine.

But Grammatis, a web evangelist, is a true believer in the good things that can happen in a more interconnected world. He recalibrated his thinking to rely less on expensive orbital technology and more on working with established communications and financial institutions.

But the idea remains big. His new startup, Oluvus — i.e., “all of us” — remains focused on wiring the entire planet and bringing free Internet to the five billion people who do not have access.

In the video above, Grammatis tells the story of how he got where he is now and why this time, the odds of success look good.

 

TIME Companies

Apple Buying Beats Electronics for $3 Billion

Apple Buys Beats
David Ebener—Zuma Press

Beats founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine will be Apple's newest employees

Apple announced Wednesday it will buy headphones and music streaming company Beats Electronics, co-founded by Dr. Dre, for $3 billion. Wednesday’s announcement confirmed rumors about the deal which had been circulating for weeks.

“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”

Apple is purchasing Beats for $2.6 billion in cash plus another $400 million in equity, marking the company’s biggest-ever acquisition. The tech giant expects to complete the deal by Q4 of this year, pending regulatory approval.

Beats was founded in 2008 by the rapper and producer Dr. Dre and the producer and mogul Jimmy Iovine. The company primarily sells high-end headphones and speakers, as well as audio software and subscriptions to a music-streaming service.

Iovine and Dr. Dre will stay on at the firm working within Apple’s electronics and music-streaming divisions. Their titles will simply be “Jimmy and Dre,” Iovine told The Wall Street Journal.

“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” said Iovine, a longtime friend of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”

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