TIME ces 2015

Neil Young’s Pricey Pono Music Player Is Finally Going on Sale

PonoMusic
PonoMusic

A new music player that...only plays music

Neil Young’s high-quality music player is going on sale for $399 in retail stores beginning Monday after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Pono is a small device with a triangular-shaped back that allows users to buy high-quality audio files at a premium. The idea is to make a product entirely devoted to listening to music, a departure from devices like the iPhone and Android that have turned music-listening into a mere feature.

Young said he wanted a music player that sounded better than MP3s. “I didn’t listen to music for the last 15 years because I hated the way it sounded and it made me pissed off and I couldn’t enjoy it any more,” he said at on stage at CES on Tuesday, according to the Verge. “I could only hear what was missing.”

TIME Companies

Has Apple Software Quality Has Taken a ‘Nosedive’?

Apple Software Bugs
Bloomberg/Getty Images An Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the company's iPhone 6 Plus inside SoftBank Corp.'s Omotesando store during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Tokyo on Sept. 19, 2014.

Are software updates too buggy?

Marco Arment is the closest thing in Apple’s 300,000-strong developer community to a superstar. He co-founded Tumblr. He created Instapaper and Overcast. He’s co-host of Accidental Tech Podcast — a weekly gabfest with a big Apple following and a catchy theme song.

Arment has been complaining for some time about a problem I’d felt but hadn’t figured out how to put into words.

On Sunday, he did it, more harshly than I might have, on marco.org.

Apple’s hardware today is amazing,” he begins, “it has never been better. But the software quality has taken such a nosedive in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future. I’m typing this on a computer whose existence I didn’t even think would be possible yet, but it runs an OS riddled with embarrassing bugs and fundamental regressions. Just a few years ago, we would have relentlessly made fun of Windows users for these same bugs on their inferior OS, but we can’t talk anymore.

“Apple has completely lost the functional high ground. ‘It just works’ was nevercompletely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer. We now need to treat Apple’s OS and application releases with the same extreme skepticism and trepidation that conservative Windows IT departments employ.”

Read more at Fortune.com.

TIME Rumors

There Are 2 Huge Rumors About New Apple Products

Apple Watch Launch Rumors
Loic Venance—AFP/Getty Images View of the Apple watch displayed in a shop on the Saint-Honore street, a day after after the unveiling of the new and highly anticipated product in Paris on Sept. 30, 2014.

Speculation about Apple Watch launch date and new MacBook Air

Rumors are flying about the Apple Watch release date and a brand new MacBook Air.

The Apple Watch is expected to launch in March, with retail training of Apple employees scheduled for mid-February, 9to5Mac reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the smartwatch’s development.

Apple SVP Angela Ahrendts previously said the Apple Watch was scheduled to launch “in the spring,” following Chinese New Year.

There’s also a new, thinner MacBook Air rumored to be on sale around mid-2015, 9to5Mac reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources from within Apple. The new laptop is speculated to be 12-in. across, and so thin that there won’t even be normal-sized USB ports. Apple reportedly refers to it as the “MacBook Stealth” internally because of its slimness.

[9to5Mac]

TIME ces 2015

5 New Health Gadgets That Will Actually Make You Healthier

You might already have a fitness tracker, but these devices want to go much further

Sure, you’ve already got an activity monitor that counts your steps, plots your distance covered, and calculates the calories you’ve burned—but how much is it tracking stuffed away in your sock drawer? The truth is that one-third of personal health gadgets get ditched within a few months of being purchased. Why? A lot of so-called wearable tech is, well, kind of dumb—and doesn’t make good on the grandiose promises many consumers have in mind (and some manufacturers make).

Now many electronics manufacturers are trying to adapt. “This shift from simple pedometers and digital scales to connected devices that address health and wellness is what makes the digital health sector such an important area to watch going forward,” writes Mark Chisholm of the Consumer Electronics Association in a report on 2015 tech trends to watch. Launching at CES, these five new wearables are ready to kick off the new year—and the new you—by doing more to improve your health.

  • Gymwatch

    Gymwatch Gymwatch

    Ah, 2008. Those were the good ol’ days when people strapped garage door opener-sized gadgets to their triceps which could count calories burned and…that’s about it. Seven years later, Gymwatch not only feels your burn, but makes it better by detecting incorrectly performed exercises, offering tips on improvement for up to 900 distinct workouts. Able to tell the difference between a solid rep and a half-hearted effort, this $199 motion-tracker uses your movement data (along with some heady math) to help you hit personalized fitness goals. It also pairs with a smartphone app that provides audio feedback, like a personal trainer only not as physically intimidating.

  • Healbe GoBe

    Healbe GoBe GoBe

    More than just an activity tracker, this wrist-worn device automatically measures caloric intake, without having to painstakingly peck your breakfast into an app. The $299 band uses an advanced sensor to measure the amount of glucose in your cells through your skin, taking a true count of your calories. Pairing that ability with an always-on heart rate monitor and an accelerometer, GoBe not only keeps track of calories consumed and burned, but also stress and hydration levels, as well as your sleep. But around the halls of CES, skeptics have questioned the science behind the novel device—so study up before you buy.

  • MyBrain Melomind

    MyBrain Melomind

    Speaking of weird science, Melomind, a wearable that claims to rid the wearer of stress, is turning lots of heads at the show. The headset, which looks like the back half of a white, plastic Magneto helmet, connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone app which claims to put your mind at ease in just 15 minutes. Once donned, the $299 system provides guided relaxation and creates music using your brain activity. Developed in collaboration with the Brain & Spine Institute of Paris, this could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in stress tech ever, or a bunch of hooey. Time will tell.

  • TempTraq

    TempTraq body temperature wearable bluetooth thermometer and its accompanying app are displayed at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas
    Rick Wilking—Reuters The TempTraq body temperature wearable bluetooth thermometer and its accompanying app are displayed at the International Consumer Electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas on Jan. 4, 2014.

    A wearable you’d hope to never use (but if you have a baby, you’ll probably want to), this 24-hour temperature monitor sticks to little ones’ torsos, just behind the armpit. Using Bluetooth, it connects to a smartphone app that continually records and logs temperatures. An innovation that’s clearly an improvement to anyone who has used thermometers that you have to stuff in places (I was talking armpits, what were you thinking?) or even the newer temporal scan devices that babies love to squirm under, this intelligent device can also send your phone alerts when fever spikes, and give you advice on when to medicate or feed your ill child—as well as when it’s time to replace the patch. But that last capability puts the cart before the horse. Currently undergoing FDA review, TempTraq is not available for sale, yet.

  • Withings Activite Pop

    Withings Activité Pop

    Bringing Swatch-like style to the tech-blech world of motion trackers, this $150 smart watch is ready to tell time first and track activity in the process. Packing an eight month battery and Bluetooth connectivity, the watch has an analog dial that shows how active you are at a glance, while its accompanying app takes a deeper dive into your fitness stats. World travelers will like how the watch automatically adjusts to the time zone they’re in (when their plane lands and they bring their smartphone back online). And the Activite Pop’s ability to count strokes while doing laps will make it a big splash with swimmers — when the watch becomes available for sale.

TIME ces 2015

Ford CEO: We’re Not Ready for Self-Driving Cars Yet

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2015 International CES
Ethan Miller—Getty Images President and CEO of Ford Motor Co. Mark Fields delivers a keynote address at the 2015 International CES at The Venetian Las Vegas on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas,

Chief Mark Fields says the company is more focused on improving in-car technology

Ford Motor Company won’t sell self-driving cars until the company is ready to provide an experience that “satisfies customers in a profound way,” CEO Mark Fields told TIME Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Fields’ comments put Ford at odds with several of its competitors, which have increasingly used the annual technology confab to showcase the latest in automated driving technology. Earlier in the week, Audi successfully navigated what it calls a “piloted vehicle” from San Francisco to Sin City on highways without input from a human driver. BMW is showcasing a smartwatch app that lets users hail their car from a parking garage automatically. And Volkswagen has technology that learns drivers’ parking habits, such as pulling into the same driveway every night.

Fields said Ford isn’t interested in making a “marketing claim” of being the first to make an automated car if that means the vehicle isn’t accessible to a wide range of consumers. He does, however, believe “there will be a fully autonomous vehicle on the road sometime in the future.” But, for now, Ford is focused on bringing more semi-autonomous features to its more affordable models, like the parallel parking assist feature that the firm has included in some vehicles for years. This, said Fields, complement’s back to the company’s original mission: “Henry Ford was all about democratizing new technology.”

Ford is spending the week showing off its revamped in-car infotainment system, Sync 3. Sync, which lets drivers and passengers control music and temperature, look up directions and more, is getting better at understanding normal human speech, the company claims. Whereas drivers might have previously had to say “P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro” to chart a course to dinner, now a simple “P.F. Chang’s” should work, Ford says. “CES has become just as important for us” as major car shows, Fields said, noting that Ford was the first major carmaker to appear at the show. “It’s a great venue for us to showcase our innovations,” he said, adding that the show lets Ford be “part of the [technology] community.”

Sync is a big selling point for Ford. Drivers increasingly care more about in-car technology than things like horsepower or handling, according to a 2013 survey from research firm Accenture. And Fields says a majority of Ford customers reported it was a major factor in their car-buying decision.

The revamped Sync, which should find its way into some Ford models by early 2016, is launching just as Silicon Valley firms are making a play for control of the dashboard. Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto both do much the same thing: turn a car’s display screen into an extension of the phone’s interface. On the show floor, both services appeared to make marked improvements over what most consumers may have gotten used to over the past few years.

Nearly 30 automakers—including Ford—are signed on as CarPlay and Android Auto partners. When asked about any potential tension, Ford Vice President of Global Product Development Raj Nair downplayed the idea that Ford might be worried about Silicon Valley firms taking over their cars’ dashboards—and access to valuable consumer data with them. “It’s about giving [consumers] the choice,” Nair said.

TIME Social Media

For Twitter, Potential and Reality Are Increasingly at Odds

Twitter
Bethany Clarke—Getty Images The Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile device.

Here's why 2015 will be the most important year in Twitter's short history

Twitter has seen its stock rallying lately, but not for reasons the company would like. On Jan. 6, it shot up 7% on rumors activist Carl Icahn was buying a stake. Right before Christmas, it also rallied 4% on another rumor CEO Dick Costolo would step down.

Costolo has outlined a long-term vision for the company, but it’s the rumors of the plans others have for Twitter that moves its stock higher. That’s because there have been two Twitters for a while–the premier publishing platform the company could be and the one that always seems to be falling short of that potential.

There’s the influential company that breaks big stories, hosts large-scale debates and writes history in real time. And there’s the troubled company that can be found in Facebook’s shadow. There’s the stock that’s trading 40% above its offering price. And the stock that’s lost more than half its peak value.

There’s the startup that everyone doubted the first time they used it. And there’s the company that has become an addiction to many. There’s the social media site that has proven to be an indispensable platform for people in the media industry. And there is the social media site that draws naysaying predictions from people in the media industry.

There is the social network that some argued was unmonetizable, and the one that saw revenue double to $1.3 billion in 2014. There is the company that promises a decade of revenue growth, and the one that hasn’t shown an operating profit for years. There is the company that can boast 284 million monthly users and a half billion tweets a day. And the company with a measly 284 million monthly users, less than Instagram’s and a faction of Facebook’s.

But here’s the thing: As time goes on, the world has less room for two Twitters. It may well be that when 2015 comes to a close, there will only be one. The only question is which one will it be? Twitter the success story? Or Twitter the falling star?

There’s no question which Twitter Costolo wants to see survive. Over the past several months, Costolo has been working on a plan to boost user growth and engagement, convert logged-out readers into monetizable users, and insert more ads into Twitter feeds without driving away users.

The pressure to deliver on these goals is on. After the resignation rumors, critics emerged to call for his removal, including a Harvard professor who dismissed Costolo as “a consultant.” But Twitter has seen a lot of reshuffling in its executive ranks, and further instability in its leadership won’t help.

Besides, it’s not clear who would do a better job at growing Twitter right now than Costolo, who understands the devilish balance the company needs to maintain in order to keep growing without driving away its core users–a process that requires time. Facebook had nine years as a private company before facing the pressures to grow profits (and its first post-IPO year was a bummer). Twitter had only seven.

The tension that divides the two Twitters–grow users, but also grow revenue by showing them ads–is one familiar to social networks. Push too hard on one and the other vanishes. Facebook succeeded by building an inimitable place for friends to connect in non-public conversations. But Twitter isn’t Facebook. Like the “microblog” it started out as, it’s closer in spirit to Web 1.0 publishing–that is, a one-to-many format, only on a much richer, social venue.

The problem is, many people are reading tweets without setting up or logging into accounts. Twitter reckons this passive audience is 500 million large. Still more could be drawn in if a Twitter platform made tweets a part of other mobile apps. Costolo has plans to address these issues, by making it easier for passive users to build profiles and create instant timelines, and by rolling out Fabric, a Twitter platform that developers can easily drop into their apps.

Twitter is also vowing to boost the percent of ads in a Twitter feed from 1.3% of tweets to 5%, which itself could boost annual revenue to $5 billion. In my own feed, I’ve noticed ads are as high as 7%, or one in every 15 tweets, although none have shown up yet in apps like Tweetbot.

Twitter is quick to caution that such figures aren’t formal estimates but mere projections of a potential. And there’s that potential Twitter again, the one that never seems to show up in reality. Costolo has made a credible case for more time to let his plans push Twitter closer to that potential growth. Transitioning to a new leader, or merging Twitter with Yahoo or Google, would only delay a transition that is already short on time.

Moving too quickly to push ads onto Twitter could also drive away more active users. And that would cripple the best part of Twitter–the public forum where events like Ferguson protests unfold online, where debates flourish, where strangers discuss sporting or television events, and where celebrities, politicians and–yes–investors connect with the public. If Icahn does amass a large stake in Twitter, he will probably announce it on Twitter.

So 2015 is shaping up to be for Twitter what 2013 was for Facebook: a make-or-break year. Facebook managed to win over investors by delivering on its promise for growth. Twitter is reaching a similar crossroads this year, and how well Costolo delivers on his vision will likely determine which Twitter is with us come 2016.

TIME Companies

Intel Pledges $300 Million to Boost Diversity

Krzanich, CEO of Intel, talks about the company's RealSense camera technology at his keynote at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas
Rick Wilking—REUTERS Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, talks about the company's RealSense camera technology at his keynote at the International Consumer Electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada January 6, 2015.

The tech giant also aims to increase the minority population in its workforce by 14%

Intel announced Tuesday that it will set aside $300 million to promote diversity within its ranks, aimed at combating criticism often leveled at a technology industry mainly comprised of white and Asian men.

The computer chip manufacturer also announced a plan to raise the population of women, blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups by 14% over the next five years, the New York Times reported.

“This is the right time to make a bold statement,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told the Times. Krzanich announced the plan at the ongoing International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

[NYT]

TIME Gadgets

Smart Gadgets Could Severely Compromise Privacy, Says FTC Chair

Sony's 4.9mm thick Bravia 4K television is displayed during the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
Steve Marcus—REUTERS Sony's 4.9mm thick Bravia 4K television is displayed during the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada January 6, 2015.

The "Internet of Things" has the potential to be very damaging to the individuals using it, she outlined

Smart gadgets of the future could put together a “deeply personal” view of a person’s lifestyle based on the data they gather, the chair of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned on Tuesday.

Edith Ramirez said during her speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that the Internet of Things revolution consisting of machines and sensors monitoring our daily lives could pose a real threat to privacy, the BBC reported.

Ramirez cited smart televisions that keep track of viewer preferences as an example to show that data gathered by these devices could be shared with other organizations that could abuse that privilege, and said data must be gathered only for specific purposes.

“I question the notion that we must put sensitive consumer data at risk on the off-chance a company might someday discover a valuable use for the information,” she said.

[BBC]

Read next: The Science of Why Your Kids Can’t Resist ‘Frozen’

TIME Law

FAA Grants Drone Permits to Agriculture and Real Estate Companies

FAA Drone Agriculture Real Estate
Jeff Chiu—AP In this May 8, 2014 file photo, a Parrot Bebop drone flies during a demonstration event in San Francisco. The government is issuing the first two permits to agriculture and real estate companies to monitor crops and photograph properties for sale.

It's the first time the FAA has given drone permits to companies in these two industries

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Tuesday its first-ever drone permits for use in the agriculture and real estate sectors.

Exemptions to the ban on commercial drones were made for Advanced Aviation Solutions in Spokane, Wash., for “crop scouting,” and to Douglas Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Ariz., for enhanced aerial footage of buildings, according to an FAA statement.

Advanced Aviation Solutions will use a 1.5-pound eBee drone to take photographs of farm fields for measurement and inspection purposes, while Trudeau will use a Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter to “enhance academic community awareness and augment real estate listing videos,” the FAA said.

Among other rules, the permits require commercial drones to have an on-the-ground “pilot” and an observer, and that the drone must not leave the operator’s line of sight.

Previously, the FAA had granted drone permits to 11 companies in filmmaking, oil and gas and landfill industries, according to the Associated Press. Congress has pressured the FAA for years to establish guidelines permitting commercial drone use, and has mandated the agency to integrate drones into U.S. airspace by September 2015.

TIME apps

These 6 Apps Will Help You Tell Amazing Stories With Just Your iPhone

iPhone Photography
Jordan Siemens—Getty Images A woman dayhiking in Arches Park.

Go beyond Facebook and Instagram this year

You’ve just come back from holiday vacation, and you’re looking for an easy way to share your incredible trip with all your friends. Sure, there’s Facebook and Instagram — but these six iPhone apps, recently highlighted by Apple, are purpose-built for the task and create beautiful-looking photo and video stories to boot.

Replay

Essentially, if you want to be able to make a multimedia Facebook album to share with your friends, Replay allows you to assemble photos, videos, music, and a variety of different fonts, and edit it into a single, sharable file. It’s about as nostalgic as you can get while using an iPhone.

Replay is free in the App Store.

Steller

A storytelling app that puts a lot of emphasis on the elegance of a final product. Steller allows users to piece together photo essays and make use of various cropping tools as well as a large number of headers and classic fonts. It makes it easy and even fun for someone else to sit through your vacation photos. Steller can make looking through an album feel a lot more like thumbing through a great coffee table book.

Steller is free in the App Store.

Storehouse

If you’re someone who likes to use a variety of photo sharing and editing clients, but prefers ease of use and simplicity, then Storehouse is a great app to download. It takes a page out of Snapchat’s story-telling function by allowing you to put together a timeline or a collage of photos with linearity in mind. Storehouse also allows you to explore content put together by other users.

Storehouse is free in the App Store.

Heyday Photo Journal

Users play a far less hands-on role with Heydey Photo Journal, and interact with it simply by using their phone as they normally would. Heyday takes the locations you visit and pairs them with the photos taken that day in order to reproduce an editable album. Instead of making you think more about how to keep track of memories, Heyday does most of the work for you.

Heyday Photo Journal is free in the App Store.

1 Second Everyday

If you’re more into the Boyhood-Richard-Linklater style of storytelling, 1 Second Everyday is probably the app you’ll want to use. Instead of having users make involved photo albums or tell stories with video clips and text banners, this app allows users to film one second of their day, which can be revisited by day or edited into a single reel. It’s a sweet way to look back on a year, if not a slightly melancholic one.

1 Second Everyday is $0.99 in the App Store.

Lightt

Lightt is everything you wish Instagram were and everything Vine and Snapchat will never be. It allows users to edit photos and video clips using a huge number of filters and settings and then share the finished product on social media (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter) or even email it. There’s something heartwarming about how simple it is to share clips of your life on Lightt.

Lightt is available for free in the App Store.

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