To great fanfare and pomp and circumstance, Apple has announced the Apple Watch. If you’ve got about $10,000 you can get one in super-hardened 18-carat gold. Of course, you can also get one with an aluminum case and a sports band starting at $349. Should you get one? The Apple Watch is the only smart watch available for your iPhone 5 or later. If you want the convenience of seeing iPhone notifications and text messages on your wrist, it’s not only your best choice, it’s the only choice. The Apple Watch is also one of the best health and fitness tracking wristbands available. Apple has assembled a fantastic array of apps that, when combined with the features of the Apple Watch, create a world-class ecosystem for digital health. You can try one on in an Apple store and reserve yours starting April 10th. The Apple Watch will ship on April 24th.
Could self-driving vehicles and robotic clerks take your job? A machine-learning algorithm from Oxford University sifted through US Bureau of Statistics data and suggests that up to 47 percent of American jobs could be replaced by technology within the next 20 years. If you drive a taxi, or a truck, or operate a forklift, you’re likely to be replaced by self-driving vehicles. The algorithm also predicts that retail salespeople are also at risk – as the data collected about your shopping preferences will be able to predict your wants and desires more efficiently than human salespeople. It’s easy to dismiss this research as too far in the future to matter, but in practice the rate of technological change is accelerating, so we may see some impact from these predictions sooner than later. Could your very human job be taken by a not-so-very-human computer or autonomous vehicle?
If you’ve ever lost an entire weekend to binge watching House of Cards on Netflix, you know how dangerous its autoplay feature can be. If you want to regain your productivity, it’s really easy to stop Netflix from automatically playing that next episode. Head to Netflix.com, and click on your name in the upper-right hand corner, then click on “Your Account.” Under the “My Profile” section, click on “Playback Settings.” Uncheck the box marked "Play next episode automatically," and you’re free from the clutches of autoplay. That Playback Settings menu can not only save you time from binge watching, but can save you money on your wireless phone bill, too. On that same menu, you can change how much data Netflix uses. It defaults to “auto,” but if you only watch Netflix on the go, you can set it to “low” to save money by streaming video in basic video quality. Got unlimited data or mostly watch Netflix at home? Crank the data usage up to high and let ‘er rip!
Are you ready for Data Doomsday? It’s the biggest, most obvious threat that could end life as we know it. Whether it’s millions of Americans waking up to find their bank accounts emptied, their hard drives erased, their credit cards canceled, or any number of other, equal frightening scenarios, Data Doomsday is something we should all prepare for. So how do you prepare? If you choose to remain part of the 21st century, you have to risk manage your data portfolio the same way you risk manage your investment portfolio. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. If you spread your data around, it’s less likely that you’ll lose all of it at once. Put important documents on physical hard drives detached from the network, CDs, or jump drives. Print and store important documents. Preserve your most important stuff: things like your financial, medical records and family records. The list is long, but it is not endless. Encrypt your data, and use every practical security tool to help keep amateur bad guys at bay.
When Pebble’s smartwatch first shipped, it was THE smartwatch to own. It’s still one of the most popular, and has sold more than one million units. Pebble recently returned to Kickstarter for its newest smartwatch, the Pebble Time. Available in May for $200, the Pebble Time is a smartwatch designed to compete with Android Wear devices and the Apple Watch. The biggest upgrade over the original Pebble is a 64-color screen that still offers good visibility in sunlight and doesn’t cut into the device’s 7-day battery life. The watch also includes a waterproof microphone for message dictation or sending audio recordings to friends. The new model is thinner than the original, but still features the same button setup: a power button on one side, and three buttons on the opposite side for navigation and making selections. The Pebble Time hit its $500,000 Kickstarter goal in just 17 minutes, and hit $5 million in just a few hours. You can pre-order your device on Kickstarter today, or wait until it launches in May for $200.
If you’ve got an Android phone, you probably know that you can say “OK Google” to search for things in Google Now. But if you’re on Android 5.0 Lollipop, you can control a lot more of your smartphone with your voice. You can say, “OK Google, turn on Bluetooth,” and your phone will do just that. You can also turn on – or off – your phone’s Wi-Fi or Flashlight in the same way. Can’t find your phone in a dark room? Use your voice to turn on its Flashlight, and you’ll find it in no time. Google also built in a quick fix if you enable something by accident. Every time you use your voice to turn something on or off, a card and a small toggle pop up to reverse the change. The controls are helpful, but limited – you can’t change things like Airplane mode, Location, Brightness, or Volume with your voice. But the included voice controls are available now in Android 5.0 Lollipop, as long as your Google Search app is up to date.
When Microsoft unveiled Windows 8, its radical new look scared a lot of potential customers off. With Windows 10 launching later this year, Microsoft is dialing things back a bit and is merging Windows 7’s look with some of Windows 8’s best features. Windows 10 has a lot of shiny new features, but some of its most exciting upgrades can be found “under the hood.” The first thing you’ll notice is a much faster boot-up time. Microsoft changed the way your OS is loaded from your hard drive, which means your computer will be ready much faster, even without changing your hardware. Another nice upgrade is a new Task Manager. Microsoft didn’t really upgraded the Task Manager any time between Windows NT and Windows 7, but the Task Manager in Windows 8 and Windows 10 better highlight apps using more resources, and which impact your computer’s boot-up time the most. These are just a couple of the best features from Windows 8 that you’ll get in Windows 10 if you upgrade from Windows 7.
Next time a friend or family member asks for your Wi-Fi password, don’t hunt for that impossible to find scrap of paper you have it written on. There’s a smarter way to do it. Did you know that OS X and Windows 8.1 store your Wi-Fi passwords? To access them on OS X, open up the program called Keychain Access. On the left-hand side of that program’s window, click “Passwords.” This lists all the networks you’ve connected to with your computer. Double-click the one you need the password for, then click the box marked “Show Password.” You’ll have to log in with your computer’s admin name and password, but once you do, you’ll see the saved password for that Wi-Fi network. The process is pretty similar on Windows 8.1. Head into Control Panel, then Network and Sharing Center. Click on the name of your home Wi-Fi, then click on the Wireless Properties button. Click on the Security tab, then the “Show Characters” box, then log in as your computer’s admin. That’s all it takes!
When you buy a Kindle book on Amazon.com, it’s automatically sent to your Kindle. If you’re getting books from anywhere else, getting them onto your Kindle takes a little more effort. A new app called Kindlebox wants to make that process easier. The app connects a folder in your Dropbox to your Kindle, then sends books and other readable files, like PDFs, to your reader automatically. To get started, you’ll first need to authorize the Kindlebox app. Head over to Kindlebox.me and click the big blue “Get” button. The site will guide you through logging into Dropbox and Amazon, and will help get your Kindle devices ready to go. Once you’re all set up, all it takes to send a book to your Kindle, or another device with a Kindle app, is to drag and drop the file into your new Dropbox folder. Another nice feature is that you can easily share your books with friends by sharing the Kindlebox folder in your Dropbox. Spend less time transferring and more time reading by grabbing Kindlebox today.
YouTube has more competition than ever before, but it’s still growing – especially on its family entertainment channels. To make sure its young viewers get an age-appropriate experience, YouTube has rolled out a brand new app called YouTube Kids. Available now on Android, the app features a simple interface that gets rid of a lot of the confusing clutter of YouTube, like comments. Instead, YouTube Kids makes it easy for kids to get to the content they want by separating its videos into a few distinct categories. Tapping a TV set icon brings up a list of popular TV shows, the radio leads to popular music videos, the light bulb launches educational programming, and the pair of binoculars leads to a list of the app’s most popular videos. YouTube Kids also includes some brand new features, like a password protected timer that parents can set to shut down the app after a set amount of time. YouTube Kids is available for Android devices now, but everyone else, including iOS users, will have to wait.
If you live in Manhattan and need a snack but can’t leave your office, Amazon can now deliver one within the hour. Amazon’s same-day delivery service, Amazon Prime Now, recently expanded its reach to all of Manhattan and select neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Prime Now delivers “essential daily items,” like shampoo, food, books, and more. Two hour delivery is available for free from 6am to midnight anywhere Prime Now offers service, but if you live or work in Manhattan and need your stuff in a hurry, you can pay $7.99 to get your goods within an hour. All goods are ordered through a dedicated Prime Now app, which also lets you track when your order will arrive. Prime Now is only available for Amazon Prime customers in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, but Amazon says it plans to bring the service to more locations in 2015. Want to know when Prime Now will make it to your city? Download the Prime Now app and Amazon will send you a notification when it’s available near you.
Are you in need of extra cloud storage? A new Microsoft promotion will give you 100 GB of OneDrive cloud storage for free for two years if you sign up for Bing Rewards. Bing Rewards is a program that gives you credits when you make searches on Bing or MSN, which you can then redeem for gift cards, sweepstakes entries, and more. If you’re already a member of Bing Rewards, don’t worry – you’re eligible for the free storage space, too. If you don’t want to sign up for another account that will pepper your inbox with unwanted emails, Microsoft has another tempting cloud storage offer. If you’re an existing Dropbox user, head over to preview.onedrive.com/bonus. Microsoft will prompt you to save a document to your Dropbox. Once you verify that you have a Dropbox account, Microsoft will gift you 100 GB of OneDrive space for free for a year. Both promotions are temporary, and keeping the extra cloud storage space will cost you two bucks a month after the promotions end.
What will happen to your Facebook account after you die? It may not seem important, but a new feature on Facebook lets you designate a friend as your “legacy contact” to manage your account after you die. Making someone your legacy contact gives them control of certain parts of your page after you die, and also gives them the option to delete your account altogether. This isn’t the first time Facebook has gotten involved in the subject of death. Last year, it added a feature that turned a page into a memorial after Facebook verified the person had died. Legacy contacts are the next step, as those people can maintain your page by pinning posts, responding to friend requests, and even downloading an archive of your photos and posts. Facebook says it wants to make it clear which accounts are memorials, and give friends and family a way to easily manage a loved one’s account. If you want to preserve your Facebook account forever, you can designate your legacy contact in Facebook’s security settings today.
Anyone who’s spent time scrolling through Facebook knows how annoying it can be when videos automatically begin to play. Facebook says the auto-play feature creates “an easier way to watch,” but if you want to disable the feature altogether, it’s easy enough to do. If you’re using Facebook on a computer, click the down arrow at the top right of your Facebook home page, then click on “Settings.” Click the “Video” option at the very bottom of the left hand menu, then scroll down to the “Video Settings” category. Click the dropdown box next to “Auto-play Videos,” and turn the feature off. If you’re using Facebook’s mobile app, tap on the three horizontal lines in the bottom right corner of your screen. If you’re on iOS, tap “Settings,” or if you’re on Android, tap “App Settings.” Next, select “Videos,” then “Auto-play,” then “Never Play Videos Automatically.” That’s all it takes. It’s amazing how far a few taps can go toward cutting out some of the social media noise.
If you use Gmail and Dropbox, a new Google Chrome extension will make your life a lot easier and sending emails a lot more convenient. “Dropbox for Gmail” is a free extension for Chrome that adds a Dropbox button to the compose screen every time you draft an email in Gmail. Clicking on the button generates a list of all your Dropbox files to let you easily attach one or more to your message. The extension also includes a search function to help you quickly find and share the right file. A really cool feature of Dropbox for Gmail is that the extension doesn’t attach the actual files. Instead, it inserts links to the files on Dropbox, which means the emails you send are small and manageable. The person receiving your email will still be able to see a preview of the linked files to get an idea of what you’re sharing. Dropbox for Gmail is available now for Chrome, and it works on all operating systems, including Windows, OS X and Chrome OS.
Would you let your credit card company track your movements if it helped prevent fraud? Visa recently announced a new service that uses your smartphone to verify your location every time your credit card gets used. Visa says the tracking is only an extra step in its fraud detection services, which means that if your phone dies or you leave it in your hotel room, your transaction won’t automatically be declined. The tracking also makes traveling easier, as legitimate transactions can be verified to show that your phone and credit card are in the same place. That means you won’t have to call your bank every time you go on vacation to make sure your credit card doesn’t mistakenly get declined. The service won’t roll out until sometime around April, but Visa is working with banks to build the feature into their mobile apps, which would be pinged to see if a transaction is genuine. If this all sounds super creepy, don’t worry – you have to opt in to enroll in the program.
You may not think your text messages eat up a lot of your phone’s storage space, but if you send a lot of pictures and emojis to your friends, your phone’s storage may be taking more of a hit than you think. Luckily, you can easily get rid of old messages automatically on both iOS and Android. The default apps on iOS and Android don’t let you make exceptions, so make sure you back up important messages before clear out your phone. All set? Here’s what to do. On iOS, head into Settings, tap Messages, then tap Keep Messages. Here, you can tell your phone how long you want to save messages: 30 days, one year, or forever. This menu is brand new to iOS 8, and a quick way to clear up storage on your phone. If you’re on Android, head into the Settings screen in Hangouts, then choose SMS. Check the box marked Delete old messages to make the app automatically clear out old texts and free up space on your phone.
Cablevision’s newly-launched Freewheel WiFi Phone Service, the country’s first all WiFi service from a cable provider, is the start of something exciting. For $99, you get a full-featured Moto G running Android 4.4. For $30 a month – or just $10 a month if you’re a Cablevision customer – you get access to unlimited voice, text and data. Because it’s an all WiFi service, signing up for Freewheel means that if you can’t connect to WiFi, you won’t have cell service. You may wonder, Who would use such a plan? Kids, people who work in offices and don't travel much, students with WiFi all around them all the time... the list goes on and on. If you live and work in a major metro market with good WiFi density, and you mostly use your phone for emails, text, and basic web browsing, with a little video and music, a service like Freewheel could save you up to $1,200 per year. This is truly the beginning of something, and with Freewheel, Cablevision is perfectly positioned to lead the way.
Locking your keys in your car is a miserable experience. Thanks to a new patent Apple was just granted, we may never have to deal with that again. Apple’s new patent describes a way for your iPhone to unlock your car through Bluetooth and a special access code. To prevent theft or unauthorized access, your iPhone would pass along the digital key to another registered device, like an Apple Watch or a partner’s iPhone, which would then unlock your car. AAA says 4 million motorists are locked out of their car each year, so a quick fix on your wrist would save everyone a lot of time. That’s not the only way the upcoming Apple Watch may let you interact with your car. A team of developers recently modded Tesla’s iPhone app to run on the Apple Watch to let you lock and unlock your car’s doors, turn on its headlights, and remind you where you parked. Self-driving cars may be our future, but existing tech is quickly closing the gap between us and our cars.
For years, digitizing your music collection has been a breeze – toss a CD into your computer and let iTunes take care of the rest. Amazon’s new software, Kindle Convert, wants to do the same thing with your book library, and let you digitize your physical books for use on your Kindle. After installing Amazon’s software, Kindle Convert will ask you to start scanning the book you want to digitize. It’ll then import the text and images, as well as handwritten notes, highlights, and any other marks you’ve made. Before you get too excited, there are a few drawbacks. First of all, the software isn’t free – it retails for $49. Also, after scanning, you have to go through to mark chapter headings, then fix and edit and issues that pop up. Once you take care of those steps, though, your content will be available on your Kindle. Kindle Convert isn’t meant for titles available as e-books on Amazon already. But if you have personalized books, documents or other keepsakes, Kindle Convert will help preserve them forever.