TIME Media

These Are the Cheapest Ways You Can Now Get HBO

New Product Announcements At The Apple Inc. Spring Forward Event
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO, speaks during the Apple Spring Forward event in San Francisco, Calif. on March 9, 2015.

HBO's new streaming service isn't the only way to get Game of Thrones

At long last, TV lovers don’t have to buy a cable subscription with 100 other channels just to get HBO. The premium network has officially launched a new standalone streaming service, dubbed HBO Now, that lets users subscribe to HBO without any kind of cable plan.

Still, getting HBO remains a bit more complicated than signing up for Netflix. HBO is continuing to work with cable and tech companies to distribute its content, and everyone is offering up their own different bundle to try to entice customers. While a standalone HBO seems like a steal at first blush, it’s important to remember that HBO now customers still have to buy an Internet plan separately. Internet Service Providers will likely continue to try to keep customers buying HBO through them by offering up compelling bundles.

Here, we break down the myriad HBO deals currently on the market that allow you to subscribe to the network and receive a high-definition broadcast, either with an Internet plan or a small bundle of other channels. In order to make a fair price comparison for those offerings that include Internet service, we pegged the median price tag of standalone high-speed Internet at $41.95, based on price ranges gathered by the New America Foundation for plans with download speeds in the range of 15 to 20 Mbps.

It’s also worth noting that these prices are based on promotional rates that cable operators often offer for the first 12 months of service. Prices for television and Internet service can increase by $20 to $30 each in ensuing years, depending on the plan. Fees charged also vary slightly based on region.

HBO Now (No Contract)

What You Get: Stream HBO content live and access back catalogue of shows and movies

In the Fine Print: HBO Now is almost entirely exclusive to Apple devices like the Apple TV for the first three months. The Apple TV costs $69, though subscribers can also use an iPhone, iPad or PC. You’ll also have to pay for Internet separately.

Perfect For: Dorm-dwelling college students who don’t have to pay for their own Internet

Total Cost: HBO Now ($15) + Internet Access ($41.95) = $56.95 per month

HBO Now via Optimum (No Contract)

What You Get: High-speed Internet with 15 Mbps download speeds and HBO Now

In the Fine Print: HBO Now is available to Optimum Internet subscribers regardless of what device they’re using to access it. But there’s a $40 installation fee and it’s only available in a small part of the northeastern U.S.

Perfect for: People who just want to watch this season of Game of Thrones, then cancel HBO

Total Cost: Internet Access ($40) + HBO Now ($15) = $55 per month

Amazon Prime Instant Video (12-month contract)

What You Get: Access to thousands of movies and TV shows, including a large selection of HBO classics like The Sopranos and The Wire (to say nothing of the free 2-day shipping for Amazon products, the music streaming service and other perks)

In the Fine Print: HBO shows arrive to Amazon three years late and current mega-hits like Game of Thrones and True Detective aren’t part of the deal at all

Perfect For: A streaming novice who’s never watched HBO’s past content or the other popular shows available

Total Cost: Internet Access ($41.95) + Amazon Prime ($8.25) = $50.20 per month

Comcast (No Contract)

What You Get: High-speed Internet with 25 Mbps download speeds, HBO, local TV channels

In the Fine Print: A $32 installation fee

Perfect for: People who live in areas where an antenna won’t pick up the local networks

Total Cost: Bundle Cost ($40) + Modem fee ($10) + HD fee ($10) + broadcast fee (up to $3.50) = up to $63.50 per month

AT&T (12-month Contract)

What You Get: High-speed Internet with 18 Mbps download speeds, HBO, local TV channels and a year-long subscription to Amazon Prime

In the Fine Print: A $100 installation fee, as well as a $180 termination fee for ending the contract in less than a year

Perfect For: Game of Thrones fans who also love free shipping for their Amazon orders

Total Cost: Bundle cost ($49) + equipment fees (approximately $7 per month) + HD fee ($10 per month) + broadcast fee (approx. $3) = $69 per month

Sling TV (No Contract)

What You Get: HBO and 21 other channels streaming live, including ESPN, AMC and CNN. Sling’s streaming version of HBO will be available on many more platforms than HBO Now, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Xbox One.

In the Fine Print: Sling’s version of HBO doesn’t allow users to make use of either HBO Go or HBO Now, though subscribers will still be able to access HBO’s programming through Sling’s own video-on-demand interface

Perfect For: TV-lovers who are looking to trim down on their channels but not go totally cold turkey on cable

Total Cost: Sling TV basic package ($20) + HBO ($15) + Internet Access ($41.95) = $76.95 per month

Verizon (No Contract)

What You Get: High-speed Internet with 50 Mbps download speeds, HBO, local TV channels

In the Fine Print: An installation fee as high as $90

Perfect For: Power users who plan to be streaming lots of HD content at once, or fans of Showtime, since you can sign a 2-year contract and Verizon will throw that channel in for free

Total cost: Bundle cost ($60) + Equipment fees (up to $22) + broadcast fee ($2) = up to $84 per month

TIME Technology & Media

An Ad-Free Paid Version of YouTube Is Definitely Coming

An employee at the Google Inc.'s YouTube Space studio in Tokyo, Japan.
Bloomberg via Getty Images An employee holding recording equipment walks past Google Inc.'s YouTube logo displayed at the company's YouTube Space studio in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, March 30, 2013. In Japan, YouTube's biggest regional success story in Asia, the company is recruiting online stars to bolster its local-language channels with more-targeted original programming and higher production values. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The service is expected to launch by the end of the year

YouTube said Wednesday it will soon launch a new subscription-based service that will let users watch videos on the website without annoying ads interrupting the clips.

The streaming video website, which is owned by Google, reportedly disclosed the planned paid service in an e-mail sent to producers of top video content and obtained by various media outlets. The e-mail did not say how much the subscription would cost or when it would become available. However, Bloomberg cited an anonymous source who said the paid service would be available before the end of this year.

YouTube also reportedly plans to update its terms of service for video partners, effective in June, to give them a 55% cut of subscription revenues, according to TechCrunch. Current YouTube content creators — including social media stars like Michelle Phan — already get a similar share of ad revenues.

Last fall, reports surfaced claiming YouTube was considering an ad-free, paid service as part of its effort to boost revenue (and, eventually, turn a profit), but the company had offered no confirmation until now.

The subscription will be Google and YouTube’s latest attempt to diversify beyond the ad-based business model for the more than a billion users who visit the streaming video site monthly. In November, YouTube introduced a test version of Music Key, the website’s ad-free, subscription music service that will cost $9.99 a month. YouTube already offers top-flight videos on certain paid channels and users can also rent or buy moves through the site.

Wednesday’s disclosure comes at a time when Google and YouTube are facing stiffer competition than ever from rival online streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu. Netflix, in particular, has been adding original content including television series and movie deals with big names like Adam Sandler to better compete with more traditional media outlets. Amazon has followed suit, adding critically acclaimed original content to its own Prime Instant Video service.

Meanwhile, traditional media outlets like HBO and CBS are also building their own subscription-based services, while startups such as Vessel — a paid video site created by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar — are taking aim directly at YouTube’s users.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

 

TIME Apple

Apple Exec: Apple Watch Demand ‘Will Exceed Our Supply’

You'll only be able to buy an Apple Watch online

Apple expects consumer demand for the upcoming Apple Watch to “exceed our supply at launch,” Apple Vice President of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts said in a press release Thursday, one day before pre-orders for the new device begin.

Ahrendts went on to say that shoppers interested in the Apple Watch will at first only be able to place orders for the device online. Still, shoppers can schedule Apple Store appointments to get hands-on time with the Apple Watch before deciding to buy the device, which marks Apple’s first wholly new product under the tenure of CEO Tim Cook.

Via Apple:

Customers interested in learning more about Apple Watch can visit their local Apple Store for a personalized session with a Specialist to try on, fit and size their band, and explore the amazing features of Apple Watch. Customers who want to try on an Apple Watch are encouraged to make an appointment by going to www.apple.com.

Apple Watch preorders will begin at exactly 12:01 a.m. Pacific time Friday, the company says. Shoppers who pre-order an Apple Watch can expect to have their device shipped April 24.

TIME Gadgets

This Is the Best Wi-Fi Hotspot You Can Buy

02LTEhotspot
The Wirecutter

Verizon's Jetpack MiFi 6620L runs on the fastest technology available

the wirecutter logo

If you regularly travel with devices needing Wi-Fi, get Verizon’s Jetpack MiFi 6620L. Its battery life is among the best we’ve seen in hotspots, it runs on the largest and fastest U.S. LTE network, and its pricing is competitive.

Is my smartphone enough?

Just about every smartphone can act as a hotspot, sharing its connection over Wi-Fi with tablets or laptop. But if you work on the road a lot, a hotspot offers a more reliable data connection than your phone and will run for much longer on a charge than a phone in tethering mode. Think two full days of work versus five hours.

How we picked and tested

We started with networks. Our best-wireless-carrier research and outside reports like PCMag’s “Fastest Mobile Networks” and RootMetrics’ testing all pointed to Verizon.

AT&T, however, isn’t far behind and in parts of the U.S. beats Verizon. It also ended an advertising scheme to track subscribers’ unencrypted Internet use, while Verizon took until January to announce an opt-out.

The LTE networks of T-Mobile and Sprint, even after recent progress, can’t match the big two’s rural coverage—important in a device used often on the road. (For more on this, check out our guide to the best wireless carriers.)

01LTEhotspot
The WirecutterThe AT&T Velocity (left) and the Verizon Jetpack (right) are the only hotspots currently worthy of serious consideration due to the reliability of their networks.

We spent a few months with AT&T’s Velocity and Verizon’s Jetpack 6620L, using loaner devices with a MacBook Air, an iPad mini, two Android phones and one Android tablet around Washington D.C., New York, the Bay Area, Las Vegas and a few spots in between.

Our pick for most people

The Verizon Jetpack 6620L—$50 on a two-year contract, $200 full price—offers long battery life, fast performance, and exceptional coverage.

02LTEhotspot
The Wirecutter

You’ll need to put the Jetpack on a More Everything plan, with or without a Verizon phone, where pay $20 for the hotspot’s monthly “line access” fee then buy data as needed. A hotspot by itself with 4 GB of data will cost $50 a month. If you already have a phone and 2 GB of data, adding the Jetpack and another 4 GB puts another $50 on your bill; adding the hotspot and 8 GB increases your total by $80.

The Jetpack supports 15 devices over either 2.4 or 5GHz Wi-Fi and allows USB tethering. Devices connected without a hitch and then stayed online.

The 16 hours and 8 minutes of LTE sharing we saw didn’t meet Verizon’s advertised 20-hour battery life but was still great. And the 6620L shares power via a USB port to charge other devices from its 4,000-mAh battery.

One gripe: its soft-touch buttons–there’s no touchscreen–often didn’t register a press. To edit the password and change other, advanced settings, connect to the hotspot and log into a “my.jetpack” site.

Runner up

AT&T’s ZTE Velocity—99 cents on a two-year contract, $149.99 full price—connects 10 devices via 2.4 or 5 GHz Wi-Fi. It can’t do USB tethering, but functions as a network drive if you insert a microSD card.

03LTEhotspot
The Wirecutter

The Velocity shared an LTE signal for 15 hours and 15 minutes, 5 hours longer than advertised. Devices connected to it reliably, save some hiccups in the noisy environment of CES.

04LTEhotspot
The WirecutterThe AT&T Velocity’s touchscreen beats the Verizon Jetpack’s buttons.

The Velocity’s 2.4-inch touchscreen was easier than the Jetpack’s buttons. But we couldn’t change advanced settings on its “attwifimanager” page, which demanded a separate password nowhere to be found on the device’s screen.

Standalone service consists of a $50 5 GB DataConnect plan. For more data, you’ll have to put the device on a a Mobile Share plan, with or without an AT&T phone, at $20 for the hotspot’s access fee plus data. If you already have a phone on a 3 GB plan, adding the hotspot and 3 GB of data increases your monthly bill by $50; adding the hotspot and 7 GB of data inflates your costs by $80.

AT&T’s new Rollover Data applies data unused last month to this month but probably won’t let you pick a cheaper rate.

Competition

T-Mobile’s network has improved; its hotspots have not. The ZTE HotSpot 915’s 17:09 observed battery life didn’t compensate for crude soft-touch-button controls and lack of 5 GHz Wi-Fi support.

Sprint’s ZTE Live Pro runs Android apps and projects them on a wall. But its network needs work and its pricing ($300 even on a two-year contract) is out of whack.

In pay-as-you-go, avoid anything using the slower WiMax 4G that Sprint is shutting down. Among LTE prepaid hotspots, the upcoming Karma Go’s non-expiring data ($14 for 1 GB, $59 for 5 GB, and up) might satisfy intermittent needs.

Wrapping it up

If you need a mobile hotspot, the Verizon Jetpack 6620L, crummy interface and all, should get you online and keep you there over more of the U.S. than its competitors.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation, please go to TheWirecutter.com.

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article above at TheWirecutter.com.

TIME apps

The 5 Best iPhone Apps of the Week

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Try Office Lens, which lets you turn paper documents into digital files

It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found some apps actually worth downloading.

Office Lens

Long one of the best Windows Phone apps out there, Microsoft’s Office Lens is now available for iPhone (and Android), letting you use your iPhone’s camera to digitize just about anything. Office Lens can turn whiteboard notes into a readable document; it can convert images into a PowerPoint presentation, and it can make digital versions of print documents. In short, your phone is a lot more useful with Office Lens than without it.

Office Lens is free in the iTunes App Store

Periscope

When Meerkat came out and gave Twitter users a way to stream live video feeds directly to their followers, it was clear that Twitter itself would need to respond, and quickly. Like Meerkat, Twitter’s new app Periscope allows you to send direct live video feeds to your Twitter followers. However, the app is more polished and easier to use, plus it has the benefit of official Twitter support.

Periscope is free in the App Store

Flyp

Flyp works a lot like Google Voice: it gives you multiple numbers to use and connects them to your mobile device. That means you can create dedicated lines for work, for family, for friends, or for people you never hope to hear from again. It makes compartmentalizing your life a lot easier and makes managing a hectic social or work life a lot simpler.

Flyp is free in the App Store

Tempo Video Editor

For a little more depth in your iPhone videos, Tempo is a perfect app that gives you just enough control to make your clips more interesting. You can select parts of your video clips and edit them either to speed up or slow down playback by varying degrees.

Tempo Video Editor is free in the App Store

Unlimited photo and video transfer

This powerful file transfer app eliminates any need for thumb drives and zip files. You can send videos and photos of any length directly to your contacts, as well as between your iPhone and your desktop. This app works incredibly quickly, which means you won’t have to wait 20 minutes for a file to finish transferring.

Unlimited photo and video transfer is free in the App Store

TIME Social Media

You Can Now Use Facebook Messenger As a Standalone Website

US-FACEBOOK-MENLO PARK
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images A thumbs up or "Like" icon at the Facebook main campus in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 2012.

The new site doesn't have News Feed or other Facebook features

Facebook on Wednesday launched a standalone version of its Messenger service for web browsers separate from Facebook’s main site, marking another step in the company’s plan to make the service more ubiquitous.

The new Messenger service is available by going to Messenger.com and signing in with your Facebook account. For all other Facebook functions like browsing News Feed and viewing Timelines, you’ll have to go to Facebook’s main site, where messaging will also still be available as usual.

Facebook has no plans to remove messaging from Facebook’s main site, a spokesperson confirmed. In 2014, Facebook pulled messaging from the Facebook’s mobile app and moved it into the standalone Messenger app, angering customers who had no choice but to download a second app to keep using the service.

Messenger.com carves out webpage real estate as Facebook turns its focus on building more features into Messenger. The company launched a mobile payments system on Messenger in March. It also recently unveiled an initiative called Messenger Platform, which allows developers to build apps specifically for Messenger, opening up the service’s 600 million monthly users to third-party developers and giving users new features like chatting with GIFs and business-to-user messaging.

TIME technology

Here’s Why Asparagus Is Yet Another Thing We Should Not Deliver by Drone

Spoiler alert: Explosions

In the not-so-distant future, your dinner will probably be delivered straight to the window of your fifth floor apartment via drone.

Amazon is fighting with the FAA for the ability to test drone grocery deliveries, but drones have also been used less formally to delivery everything from burritos to pizza to champagne to… asparagus.

According to Dutch News, restauranteur Ronald Peijnenburg decided to celebrate asparagus season by using a drone to deliver the vegetable from the countryside to his Michelin-starred Netherlands restaurant. (He had previously delivered asparagus via Formula 1 cars and hot air balloons). But a video chronicling his attempted delivery shows a con of drones: Sometimes they crash and burn.

Between this and that one time a promotional drone in a TGI Friday’s accidentally lost control and cut off the tip of someone’s nose, can we maybe agree drones and the restaurant industry might not be a great fit?

TIME technology

Today’s iPhone Update Gives You Hundreds of New Emoji

Apple

Including more racially diverse options

After some beta tests, Apple has released iOS 8.3, an update that comes with 300 new emojis, a highly-anticipated feature since the tech giant pledged last year to make the popular characters more diverse after users protested.

Notable new emojis in this keyboard — in addition to faces with different skin tones — include same-sex families, a range of gadgets like the new Apple Watch and flags from 32 countries.

The update also boasts bug fixes to CarPlay, the Messages app, WiFi and Bluetooth, among others.

(h/t 9to5Mac)

TIME Innovation

Skype Can Now Live-Translate Even More Languages

Skype Translator
Microsoft

The Skype team takes two more whacks at the Tower of Babel

The latest release of Skype Translator, Microsoft’s live-translation service, can now translate spoken conversations in Mandarin and Italian. The update doubles the program’s spoken languages since December, when the service first launched with service in English and Spanish.

Mandarin, in particular, posed a knotty challenge for the team. “With approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones, this is one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master,” wrote Microsoft’s Yasmin Khan in an announcement of the update.

English speakers who want to bypass Mandarin and Italian lessons can download a preview version of Skype Translator for free.

The program itself is still in training mode, but breakthroughs in machine learning have dramatically improved its conversation skills in recent years. It’s a learning curve Microsoft’s professional translators have witnessed first hand.

“There were things not translated,” said one translator in an early demonstration of the program for TIME, “but now he’s a teenager and knows a lot of words.”

Read More: Microsoft Is Getting Close to Perfecting a Universal Communicator

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