Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and more: Which music streaming service is right for you?


Like CDs before it, MP3s are becoming obsolete. Today, streaming is king.

With a music streaming service, instead of purchasing a track or album, you pay a flat monthly fee to play unlimited tracks that you don’t actually own. The upside is that you don’t have shell out money every time you want to hear a new song, but the downside is if you cancel your subscription, you no longer have access to that music. You’ll also need an Internet connection to get your jams.

If you’re ready to take the plunge with streaming, or want to switch from what you use now, there are copious options. With numerous similarities between them, including price, it’s hard to tell which one is the best choice for you. This guide details the top music streaming services, plus lesser-known offerings, to help you decide which one is worth your money.

Radio silence

This guide covers on-demand music streaming services, and for that reason, I’ve purposefully left out services that only play music in a radio format. That includes Pandora, iTunes Radio, Slacker Radio,TuneIn and iHeartRadio. Those services play music stations based around a theme or artist, without you explicitly picking tracks.

Many of the services listed below do have radio features that lets you put your music on cruise control, if you want the best of both worlds.

Also, this guide does not include digital music storage lockers, like iTunes Match or Amazon Cloud Player. For a rundown of those services, check out CNET’s guide to music lockers.

Spotify Rdio Rhapsody (US only) Tidal Google Play Music Beats Music (US only)
Monthly fee $9.99, £9.99, AU$11.99 Web only: $4.99, £4.99, AU$5.99 Unlimited: $9.99, £9.99, AU$11.99 $4.99 for UnRadio, $9.99 for Premium Premium: $9.99, £9.99, AU$14.99 HiFi: $19.99, £19.99, AU$23.99 9.99, £9.99, AU$11.99 $9.99
Free option? Yes, with ads Yes, with ads No No Yes No
Free trial period 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 14 days
Advertised music library size More than 30 million 35 million More than 35 million songs 25 million 30 million More than 20 million
Maxium bitrate 320Kbps 320Kbps 320Kbps 1,411Kbps 320Kbps 320Kbps
Family sharing? Yes, $5, £5, AU$6 per month per additional user Yes, $5, £5, AU$6 per month per additional user Yes, up to three devices on one account No No No
App availabilty Windows, Mac, Playstation 3 and up, Android, iOS, Windows Phone Windows, Mac, Roku, Android, iOS, Windows Phone Windows, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Windows Phone Android and iOS Android and iOS Android, iOS and Windows Phone

Music catalogs

Though selection varies from service to service, all of the top streaming options feature both classic tunes and new releases spanning popular genres such as pop, rock, soul and country. Many source their music from the biggest record labels, including Sony, Universal and EMI, so you won’t find a huge disparity in the catalogs of each service.

However, some artists, including the Beatles and AC/DC, are missing from the services mentioned below because the labels or artists which own the rights to that music haven’t made it available for streaming. In recent years, Taylor Swift and other artists have also elected to pull some or all of their music from streaming catalogs. Before you commit to a service, sign up for a free trial to check out the selection and see if it has what you want.



Arguably the most well-known streaming service, Spotify focuses on curation and social sharing, helping you find new music and connect with your friends about it.

Every day Spotify’s homepage in the desktop and mobile apps shows off the newest releases, plus themed playlists for different genres or moods, or activities such as cardio workout or pop ballads. That page changes throughout the day, highlighting new tunes. You can also browse the top music charts for your location and other parts of the world.

There are several social features, the most prominent of which lets you follow your Facebook friends to see the music they listen to. Your friends can share playlists and you can collaborate on playlists too. Spotify also lets you follow artists to see what music they like and be alerted when they release a new album or announce an upcoming show.

Another key social feature is Spotify’s substantial community of users who build playlists that span all kinds of themes, from movie soundtracks and music festivals to party and road trip tunes. Many playlist authors update their selections frequently and you can follow a playlist to get updates.

Beyond streaming from its 30 million-plus catalog, Spotify can also play music files from your computer and add those tracks to playlists. In the desktop app, you select which sources Spotify should draw from (the Music folder on your hard drive, iTunes, etc.) and the app will automatically pull those songs into the service. Your local files will show up in Spotify, but you cannot sync them for offline listening.

Spotify is one of the few services that has a free plan, but you don’t get many features. On the desktop app, you can browse and play songs on-demand, but you’ll hear ads between tracks. With the mobile apps, not only will you hear ads, you also can only play music in Shuffle mode. You pick an artist or playlist and Spotify shuffles the music without letting you pick what comes next or queue up songs.

The $9.99, £9.99, AU$11.99 monthly Premium subscription has the most features, with zero ads, music streaming up to 320Kbps and offline listening on desktop and mobile for when you don’t have a connection. You can listen to any song, any time, with no restrictions.

Spotify also has family plans for up to five people. Each additional user saves 50 percent off the Premium monthly fee. Two people would pay $15 total, three people would pay $20 total and so on. Everyone can stream music at once and every user has their own profile to keep their recommendations and playlists to themselves.

Where it excels

  • Large catalog of user-built playlists.
  • Comprehensive search for artists, albums and playlists.
  • It’s easy to build your own playlists and sync them for offline listening.
  • User-friendly apps that are updated frequently and have enough features without being overwhelming.

Where it falls flat

  • Advertisements in the free service can be intrusive.
  • Mobile apps only let you shuffle songs with a free account.

Best for: People who love to browse playlists for any scenario and want to spend time carefully crafting their own. Also, anyone who wants to stream unlimited music for free.



While Spotify is jam-packed with features, Rdio keeps it simple with a streamlined design. It has all of the new releases and popular tracks you want, but Rdio cares more about what your friends are listening to than the general public.

When you sign up, you’re encouraged to connect your social accounts and then follow your fellow Rdio friends. From there, the service builds recommendations based on what’s popular in your network of friends and the users and artists you follow.

Rdio is also big on personalization, carefully creating stations (more on that below) that match your listening tastes over time. You can also save your favorite songs and albums to your personal collection, and Rdio pulls from that to get a better sense of your musical preferences. You can have Rdio only play songs you’ve saved or let it suggest new music you may not have heard.

Instead of playlists, Rdio emphasizes stations, which play a continuous stream of songs you don’t pick, like a radio station. Rdio creates a personalized station that changes as you listen, and you can create your own stations based on songs, artists, genres and more. For each station, you can choose if you want the tracks to stay close to a theme or an artist’s catalog, or get more adventurous, pulling in more obscure choices. You can also thumbs up and thumbs down tracks to fine-tune your stations.

If you’re more into playlists, you can create those too, and search other playlists from users in the Rdio community. Playlists can be downloaded for offline listening too, while stations need an Internet connection to play.

With a free account, you get unlimited, ad-free access to play most tracks for free on the Rdio website and desktop apps, for up to 6 months. After that, you’ll only be able to listen to radio stations in the service, with a limit of six song skips per hour. On mobile if you have a free account, you can only play stations, not on-demand music.

Rdio’s Unlimited account costs $9.99, £9.99 or AU$11.99 per month, and gets you unlimited streaming access in mobile apps and offline listening. Rdio also has a family plan for $5, £5 or AU$6 per user per month, up to five people.

Where it excels

  • Minimalist design doesn’t get in the way when all you want to do is play music.
  • Simple features for organizing your favorite music.
  • Radio stations that expose you to new songs.

Where it falls flat

  • The free plan gets less enticing after 6 months, when skip limits and ads are added.
  • With just the free plan, the mobile app won’t let you play on-demand music.

Best for: Minimalists who want a no-fuss streaming experience.



Rhapsody is one of the oldest music companies on this list, and because of that, has a large crowd of fans. The company has two streaming plans as of 2015: Premium and UnRadio. Premium gets you on-demand streaming, while UnRadio simple lets you listen to Internet radio stations, like Pandora. I’ll be covering Premium here, since UnRadio is built into that subscription.

What sets Rhapsody apart is its straightforward design that highlights today’s popular music. In the mobile apps especially, the homepage offers up featured playlists, new releases and genres. In just a few taps, you can find an album or playlist and start listening, without digging around.

Rhapsody actively tries to learn your music tastes when you sign up, asking for your favorite genres and artists in the mobile apps. From there, it builds playlists around those artists and genres, and creates new ones based on your listening habits.

While Rhapsody doesn’t have a desktop app for Mac, there’s one for Windows and a Web player for any operating system. The mobile apps, available for every platform, best the desktop and Web options with a more modern, visually appealing design. The apps are also rich with recommendations and playlists, while the Web player is a bit bare. However, the Web player has one redeeming feature — for every band you look up, it shows who influenced them and their contemporaries. It’s a great way to find new artists you may have never heard.

A neat extra tool in the mobile apps is TrackMatch. Like Shazam, it listens to music to help you identify the song, and it’s accurate when it can identify the track.

Another helpful feature is The Mixer, which is essentially your play queue of all of the songs from a playlist or album you’re listening to. You can manually drag albums or tracks into the Mixer to customize it and then create a new playlist with one button. The Mixer is only available on the Web and in the Windows app. On the mobile apps, you can add songs to the Queue to play them later or create new playlists.

Rhapsody is not available in the UK, but its sister service Napster is. It costs £9.99 per month and offers similar streaming features to Rhapsody with a catalog of 30 million songs.

Where it excels

  • Available nearly everywhere, including most mobile platforms, some MP3 players, select carinfotainment systems and many home speaker systems.
  • The experience across platforms feels familiar, with a no-fuss design and straightforward features.

Where it falls flat

  • The desktop app feels disorganized and is hard to navigate.
  • The Web player is bare bones and doesn’t offer many recommendations.

Best for: Those who want simple music streaming, on-point recommendations and fewer bells and whistles than others.



Launched by hip-hop mogul Jay Z, Tidal is a newcomer streaming service focusing on high-fidelity music and HD music videos. It cost $19.99, £19.99, AU$23.99 around $10 more than most of its competitors. The less expensive Premium subscription is just $9.99, £9.99, AU$14.99 but doesn’t include hi-fi streaming.

With both plans, you get access to 25 million tracks and 75,000 music videos from artists big and small. You’ll find playlists from Beyonce and Coldplay, behind-the-scenes videos from Madonna, and new, exclusive tracks.

Tidal differentiates itself from other services with high-fidelity streaming, which promises superior sound quality, like you would get on CDs and other physical media formats. Tidal has a maximum streamingbitrate of 1,411Kbps with lossless FLAC files. In contrast, the other services in this guide max out at a bitrate of 320Kbps.

Tidal is also big on helping you to discover new, often exclusive, music thanks to its partnerships with artists. The homepage of the Web player and mobile apps show off new and featured tracks, albums and videos, which include music videos and behind-the-scenes content. Though Tidal promises crystal-clear videos, I wasn’t impressed with the playback quality, both on the Web and on the mobile apps using a fast Wi-Fi connection. I’d rather head to YouTube or Vevo for music videos instead.

Like Spotify, you can browse playlists by genre and mood or activity. You can also save favorite songs, artists, albums and playlists to your music library. Playlists and entire albums can be downloaded for offline listening within the app, but you can’t download individual tracks. You can also control the sound quality for downloaded music, from normal to high-fidelity.

The service launched initially in October 2014, then quietly disappeared. It relaunched in April 2015 and is still working out its kinks. Most noticeably, the mobile apps have bugs and some stability problems. However, Tidal has promise as a music service for those with more discerning tastes, both in music selection and streaming quality.

Where it excels

  • High-fidelity music streams, which aren’t available on many other top services.
  • Strong ties to the music industry for exclusive songs and playlists.

Where it falls flat

  • The mobile apps and Web player are both cluttered with too much information on the screen, making them hard to use.
  • The mobile apps have bugs and stability issues.

Best for: Music purists who care deeply about sound quality over other features.


Google Play Music

Not to be left out of the streaming music world, Google built Play Music, a music service with a twist. With it, you can stream music from its 30-million strong library, which includes new releases and classic hits. And Play Music works as a music locker too, where you can store and stream your entire music library (up to 50,000 songs) you’ve accumulated over the years, imported from CDs and purchased from Google Play, iTunes and other online stores.

Play Music seamlessly blends your personal collection with the streaming catalog. You can access all of the albums you’ve uploaded, streaming them over the Internet, and download them for offline listening. You can also build playlists of uploaded songs and streaming titles, and then listen to it offline. This setup lets you add music to Play Music that you cannot stream from any other service. For instance, I have most of The Beatles discography in my account and I could stream those tracks alongside a brand-new album from Rihanna.

Well-curated radio stations are the standout feature of Play Music. Unlike playlists, which are finite and contain specific tracks, radio stations play endlessly and are updated often. What makes these stations unique from other services is that you can view the entire track list and save it as a playlist.

You can create a radio station based on a single song, an artist, an album or even an entire genre, and then thumbs up and thumbs down tracks to personalize it. Google also pays close attention to your listening history to recommend stations, and you can pick stations by mood or activities such as powering through work or relaxing. There’s even an “I’m feeling lucky” option where Google creates a station it thinks you’ll like.

Play Music also has playlists which contain a specific number of tracks. You can build a playlist on your own, selecting tracks you want, or you can pick from any of the existing options. Finally, Google creates “auto playlists” of your most recently added tracks (ones you’ve purchased or uploaded) and tracks you’ve thumbs upped.

Google music service also comes with YouTube Music Key. This feature is still in beta and lets you watch music videos for the current song playing on the Web and in the mobile apps.

Play Music offers two plans. The free Standard option lets you upload 50,000 of your own music files and stream them anywhere, with offline listening. The paid option costs $9.99, £9.99, AU$11.99 per month and lets you stream music from Google’s catalog, along with your own tunes and listen to stations.

Where it excels

  • This hybrid service seamlessly integrates your personal collection with the streaming catalog.
  • You can download songs from your personal collection to listen offline.

Where it falls flat

  • It’s not great for discovering new releases because it emphasizes stations and recommended music.
  • The design of the mobile apps for Android and iOS is a bit messy and overwhelming.

Best for: Google fans who want to blend the music they’ve purchased with streaming selections.


Beats Music

Apple purchased Beats Music in 2014, and there’s been much speculation that it will either create a new service or integrate Beats into iTunes. Expect to hear news on that front at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2015, but in the meantime, Beats Music still works just as it did when the app was released.

The service is keen on getting to know your music tastes and asks you to identify your favorite genres and artists when you sign up. It then uses those insights to recommend albums and playlists, which you’ll see on the home screen.

Beats also uses your personal tastes for its unique feature called The Sentence. With it, the service crafts a playlist for specific scenarios you input. To get started, you plug in where you are, what you’re doing and what you want to do from the pre-populated options. Beats then uses your choices and listening history to build you a playlist.

Though you can browse for music, check out new releases and get curated picks from the Beats staff, those features are less prominent. Instead, the service focuses a lot on playlists, most of which are created by Beats staff, artists and brands such as Rolling Stone, Target and SoulCycle.

There are no desktop apps, so on your computer you must use the Web player, which is bare-bones to say the least. Common features like adding songs to a playlist are hidden away in menus and you cannot control the playback quality from the Web. The mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone have many more features for finding and streaming music.

Beats Music is only available in the United States.

Where it excels

  • Hip design that’s unlike other streaming services, with lots of color and bold graphics.
  • The Sentence is a cool feature that gets you listening to music quickly, without picking out an artist or album.

Where it falls flat

  • Beats’ endless supply of playlists, recommendations and content, can get in the way if you just want to listen to your tried-and-true favorites.

Best for: Those who want to discover new music, or get served tunes they’ll probably like, without hunting for them.

Lesser-known options

Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and others might be the top music streaming options, but they are hardly the only ones. Plenty of other companies offer some form of streaming services too, so there’s an option for everyone’s needs.

From Microsoft, Xbox Music costs $9.99, £8.99, AU$$11.99 per month, lets you stream music and upload your own music files to your account. There are mobile and desktop apps, and you can also listen to music on your Xbox with the service. You can purchase tracks from Xbox Music, or listen from its catalog of 18 million songs.

Another option is Grooveshark, a streaming service with a strong community where you can share songs and have conversations with other users about them. You don’t even need to sign up for an account to use Grooveshark, but if you do and you fork over the $9 (available for £6.06 or AU$11.58) monthly fee for VIP access, you get unlimited streaming, no ads and access to the mobile and desktop apps.

Already have Amazon Prime? Then you can use Amazon Prime Music right now for free. The service works much like other streaming subscriptions — you can listen to entire albums, playlists or individual tracks on the Web, desktop and mobile apps for Android, iOS and Kindle Fire devices.

Spring cleaning: Should you use a cloud storage service to back up your PC?


I certainly hope you back up your PC more than once a year, but I won’t kid myself — people are not good at keeping backups up-to-date. One of the main reasons for this is convenience, or rather, lack thereof. Backing up your data to an external hard drive is difficult and inconvenient, because you have to do things like plug your hard drive in, and turn it on (seriously, though, I’ve used these as excuses to not back up my PC).

That’s why cloud services are so appealing — they’re always working in the background, and all you need is an Internet connection, not a piece of equipment. So here’s the question: Should you use a cloud storage service or a specially designed cloud backup service to make a cloud backup of your PC? The answer is obvious, and here’s why:

Cloud storage services

People typically use cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Copy because they’re convenient — these services let you quickly access your files from multiple devices, and are usually a better option than continuously emailing files to yourself. But you can also use cloud storage services as an easy way to back up your PC, though that doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

There are several issues that can arise if you’re using a cloud storage service to back up your PC. First, cloud storage services work by installing a sync folder on your hard drive. Any files placed inside this folder will automatically sync to the cloud, as well as to any other devices you may have the app installed on. Because these services require an extra step (e.g., you have to actually put files you want to be backed up into the correct folder), they’re not ideal for people who are looking for a hands-off backup solution.

Another issue with cloud storage services is the automatic syncing — these services sync all changes to all files in the sync folder automatically. This means that if a file is accidentally deleted, gets corrupted or ends up with a virus (worst-case scenario: a ransomware virus manages to encrypt it), this change is automatically synced to the cloud and to your other devices. While many cloud storage services do make multiple backups of your files (Dropbox allows you to access recent changes up to 30 days in the past, or 1 year for a fee), they’re not always reliable.

For these reasons, while it’s not a bad idea to have an extra copy of important files in your Dropbox folder, this should not be your primary (and especially not your only) backup.

Cloud backup services

Although cloud backup services seem similar to cloud storage services, they differ in a few key ways.

Cloud backup services start at around $5/month for unlimited backup space. Unlike storage services, backup services back up your entire PC, so you don’t have to worry about putting your important files in one folder. While most cloud backup services only back up your files and folders — not your operating system and settings, Carbonite will do a mirror-image backup for $99/year (Windows only).

Cloud backup services do not sync the same way cloud storage services do. Instead of overwriting your files when you change them, backup services archive the older version and also save the newer version. Carbonite saves the original file and around 12 archived versions (more, if the file is frequently edited), for as long as the file is part of your backup (if you delete a file from your PC, Carbonite will only retain the deleted file on its server for 30 days). CrashPlan retains an unlimited number of archived file versions, as well as the original file, and also keeps all of your deleted files forever. If you do happen to get a virus on your PC, your data won’t end up wiped out or encrypted like it will if you’re using a cloud storage service.

Needless to say, for backup purposes, a cloud backup service is a much better choice than a cloud storage service. That doesn’t mean that cloud storage services can’t still be a convenient way to keep your files synced across devices, they just shouldn’t be your main form of cloud backup. Oh, and it’s always a good idea to have multiple backups, including a non-cloud backup.

How to make your own emoji


After much demand from the public, Apple finally rolled out multiracial emoji symbols in its latest iOS update (but no redheads — sorry, guys). But there are still times when you can’t find the perfect emoji to express yourself. Instead of waiting for Apple’s next (likely far off) emoji update, it’s time to start making your own emoji.

With imoji, a free app for iOS and Android, you can make any picture — even one you’ve downloaded from the Web — into a custom emoji to share with your friends via MMS.

Step 1: Choose your picture

Open up the imoji app and tap the plus sign to add a new “imoji” (emoji) or “artmoji” (a picture with emoji stamps on it). Tap “imoji” and the camera will open up. If you want to use an impromptu photo as your emoji, take a picture with the camera, making sure to keep the emoji subject (e.g., your face) within the dotted oval.


If you want to use an existing photo from your camera roll as an emoji, tap Photos in the lower left corner to choose a picture. Move and resize the picture as necessary to ensure the emoji subject is entirely within the dotted oval, and then tap the arrow.

Step 2: Trace and cut out your emoji

On the next screen, Imoji will cut out everything that wasn’t inside the oval. But if you want a more precise border around your emoji, you can now use your finger to trace an outline around your emoji subject.


You don’t have to erase everything from the photo manually — once you’ve traced an outline around your subject, you can tap the scissors button to cut out the extra background noise.

Step 3: Tag it

By default, all imoji emoji are public and available to the rest of the imoji community. If you want to keep your imoji public, go ahead and give it a descriptive name so that other users will be able to find it in a search. Otherwise, tap the lock icon and name it whatever you want (only you will be able to see and share this emoji).


Step 4: Share it

To share your emoji, tap it to bring up a list of options: iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Copy to Clipboard, Set as Avatar and Delete.

You can share your new “emoji” with multiple apps.Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Tap the messaging service or social network you want to share it with to open that app.


Remember — this is not a “real” emoji, i.e., a Unicode character, it’s a picture. So if you try to share it on a social network, you will end up posting a picture — not a comment. However, if you share it on a messaging app, you’ll still get a relatively emoji-like experience, since iMessage and Facebook Messenger put picture messages in line with texts.

Apple watch:How to install them, how to delete them and how they work

Some of them show quick news headlines, some act as remotes for playing streaming music or radio, some are second screens for your iPhone apps, some show basic information like weather reports or sports scores. Think of them as tiny, multi-layered widgets, hopefully helping you use your iPhone or access features. Many of them run slowly…or, I should say, load information slowly. Or, more slowly than you might expect. They’re using your connection to your iPhone to load information back and forth.applewatchappglances.jpg

They can’t run without your iPhone on.

If they’re third-party apps, that is. Apple’s pre-installed apps — like Activity, Workout, and the Music app — can run independently, for the most part. Apple will eventually allow third-party apps to work like this too, but not right now.

They don’t use all the Apple Watch’s built-in features yet.

There will be a full-fledged “native” third-party apps on Apple Watch later this year, allowing deeper access to functions, while working away from your iPhone, too. At the moment, most third-party apps feel simplified and not nearly as complex as your average iPhone app.

They work in the background on your iPhone.

A few apps, like Maps and Runkeeper, launch apps on the iPhone. Most launch the connected iPhone apps in the background. That means you could let your iPhone do other things: you could give your phone to your kid to watch a movie and still access Apple Watch apps to get news or make a reservation.

Glances: Your handy-dandy app dock helper

Glances, a swipe-up series of card-like easy-to-read mini-apps that are basically little widgets on your Apple Watch, also act like shortcuts to apps. Tap a Glance, and it opens the full app. That makes Glances, basically, an easy-access app dock. They’re one of my go-to tools for using the Apple Watch.


You can add a Glance for most apps: in the Apple Watch iPhone app, click an app in settings and toggle “Show in Glances.” Some apps use Glances for a topical headline; others, for a quick weather report. You can add 20 Glances maximum, so choose wisely. Again, removing them just involves toggling them off in the app settings, or in the Glances section of the app.

How to download Apple Watch apps

Here’s the good news: they install automatically.

When you first set up your Apple Watch — and any time after, when you download an iPhone app that works with Apple Watch — the Apple Watch app installs them as well. Any iPhone app update that adds Apple Watch support means another installed app on your watch. That could quickly add up to dozens, or hundreds, of apps.

Apps don’t take up much space on the watch so far: I have 64 installed along with 75MB of photos and 15 songs, and have only used about 1GB of the 6.2GB of storage on the Apple Watch.


How to uninstall apps

You might want to get rid of apps on your watch, and it’s a pretty easy process to remove them, or even re-install them again.

Option 1: Press and hold an app icon

Just like the iPhone, if you press and hold an app in the grid of circles on the Apple Watch, they all start wiggling. Tap the teeny-tiny “x” in the corner, if you can see it, and you can delete the app. It’ll stay on your iPhone, but disappear from your watch.


Option 2: Delete from the Apple Watch app on iPhone

Open that Apple Watch app, and you’ll see a big list of all the apps that are installed on the watch. Scroll down and tap any of them: you’ll see an option to “Show App on Apple Watch.” Toggle it off to delete the app. Or, toggle it back on to add an app back onto your Apple Watch.

As with the iPhone and iPad, you can’t uninstall Apple’s own pre-installed apps, so don’t spend time trying.

Turn your streamer remote into a universal remote


Everyone loves their Apple TVs, their Fire TVs, their Roku boxes. But using one inevitably means juggling two remotes: one for the streamer, one for the TV itself. You’d think that in this highly competitive product category, Apple, Amazon or Roku would offer a programmable clicker.

Maybe they will someday. In the meantime, True Bloom LLC has created the Sideclick, a universal-remote add-on for Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku.

Available in four different versions (one each for the aforementioned products, including Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV stick, which utilize slightly different controllers), the Sideclick clips onto the underbelly of the streamer remote, adding a slim row of buttons along the left side.

These buttons add TV power, volume, channel and source controls:


All six buttons are programmable; the Sideclick can learn from any remote that uses IR (which is pretty much every remote, at least for TVs). And if you don’t especially need channel up/down, you could turn one of them into, say, Mute.

First of all: Best. Name. Ever. Sidekick, side-clicker…Sideclick!

Second: This comes straight from the Wish-I’d-Thought-of-That Dept. It’s an ingenious idea that solves a very real hassle with using your favorite streaming-media gizmo. And I want one. Now. It’s the perfect product for me, because I have two TV setups that rely solely on streamers, and in both cases the TV remote is used only for power and volume. Buh-bye, extra remote!

Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait: This Kickstarter project hasn’t quite met its funding goal of $150,000 (though I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t), and even early backers won’t get theirs until October.

If you want to join their ranks, there are a few $25 and $30 early-bird options available for single Sideclicks, with other levels available for multi-Sideclick bundles.

An old film canister just fetched $13,000 at auction


What makes a nearly 50-year-old empty film canister worth over $13,000? Being among the first of canister-kind to make a trip to the moon and back, apparently.

Last week, a Hasselblad film canister that apparently once held film used on the surface of the moon was auctioned off for $13,434.58 (about £8,852, AU$17,176) as part of an auction that included a number of items from NASA’s Apollo era. Many of these goods likely wouldn’t garner a second look at a yard sale, if not for the extraterrestrial miles they put on.

A backpack strap used by astronaut Edgar Mitchellon the moon during the Apollo 14 mission fetched a remarkable $41,806.80 (about £27,545, AU$53,450). The strap is signed by Mitchell himself and includes a letter of authenticity also signed by the astronaut. The strap supported Mitchell’s life support system, which provided oxygen, cooling and radio communication, while he set the record for longest moonwalk with a cumulative time on the lunar surface of 9 hours and 23 minutes during the mission. Or, as Mitchell himself wrote in the letter of authenticity:

Apollo 14 was the first lunar landing devoted primarily to scientific exploration, and completed two periods of surface exploration, each exceeding four and one-half hours. The first was devoted to setting up and activating a telemetry station…The second period of extra-vehicular activity (EVA) was devoted to collecting documented soil and rock samples from nearby Cone Crater.

Another notable piece from the same auction was the computer display and keyboard (or DSKY) that gave astronauts access to the Apollo guidance computer. The system looked something like the panel we often use to pay at the pump for gas today. Astronauts entered two-digit codes in a verb-noun sequence for each program. The DSKY went for a winning bid of $65,189.60 (about £42,954, AU$83,346).

But one of the items that went for the highest amount may never have actually made it in to space. That didn’t stop space nuts from bidding up the price of an Apollo command module rotation hand controller to almost $75,000 (about £49,418, AU$95,890). Because who doesn’t want an actual spacecraft joystick? It kind of makes you the king of everything from Space Invaders to Star Citizen even if you suck at the games.

In fact, it’s something of a bargain when you consider that a similar joystick that actually made it into space went for over $600,000 (about £395,347, AU$767,116) last year

Stephen Hawking says One Direction could be intact in the multiverse



Stephen Hawking is taking on an unlikely new role as grief counselor to the innumerable tweens devastated by Zayn’s departure from One Direction.

During a special live event Saturday evening at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, a hologram of the famed physicist appeared onstage to answer some questions.

The final pre-submitted question of the evening was a real curveball: “What do you think is the cosmological effect of Zayn leaving One Direction and consequently breaking the hearts of millions of teenage girls across the world?”

“Finally, a question about something important,” Hawking deadpanned via his digital voice assistant before urging the heartbroken to seek solace in the quantum embrace of theoretical physics. “Because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe. And in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction.”

Well, thank goodness for that. What Hawking failed to mention, of course, is that in a different different universe, Mark Wahlberg never left his role as frontman for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to transition to an acting career. Clearly, that would be a universe to be avoided — hopefully it’s not the same one where Zayn stays in 1D

Microsoft’s top task for Windows 10: Proving it’s worth starting up



That’s the question the world’s largest software maker, its customers, its developers and its rivals hope to get answered this week when Microsoft kicks off its annual developer conference. Called Build, the three-day event starts April 29 in San Francisco.

Microsoft’s objective for Build is pretty straightforward: convincing the world that the newest version of its Windows operating system adds enough new features and technology to push the software forward and gain mainstream acceptance — not become yet another detour.

Build has typically been a place for in-the-weeds discussions about cloud computing and software architecture. But with the coming of Windows 10, due this summer, along with promised new info on Microsoft’s ambitious HoloLens headset, Microsoft followers see this year’s Build as a cornerstone event for the Redmond, Wash., company and its CEO, Satya Nadella.

Everyone seems to get that there’s a lot riding on what happens this year, with interest high in watching a show where an industry titan tries to regain its swagger. Tickets, priced as high as $2,100 in January, sold out in 45 minutes. In 2014, Build tickets didn’t sell out for a full day.

Twenty years ago, Microsoft created a marketing frenzy for its then brand-new Windows 95 operating system. Ads featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up” to help signal the company’s biggest, baddest transformation, which was epitomized by the software’s seminal “Start” button.

The company may never regain that glory, say analysts. Nadella, who took over as CEO last year, needs to prove to developers that Windows 10 can be the system software for all types of screens — desktops,tablets, smartphones and whatever screens become popular in the future.

“Windows 10 is a Hail Mary,” said longtime Microsoft analyst Roger Kay, founder of Endpoint Technologies Associates. “They need to prove that they’re still relevant.”

The promise of Windows 10

Microsoft isn’t going away anytime soon. Last year, the company reported $86 billion in sales, with Windows running on 95 percent of the world’s computers. But PC sales continue to decline as people turn instead to tablets and smartphones, according to research firm IDC. And that’s bad news for a company that makes most of its money selling work-oriented software.

It doesn’t help that businesses increasingly rely on multiple devices, most of which don’t run Windows.

Microsoft has a paltry 2.8 percent share of the mobile software market, which is dominated by Google’sAndroid OS and by Apple’s iOS software for the iPhone and iPad. That’s a massive problem considering that 2 billion people — or more than a quarter of the world’s population — will have a smartphone by the end of 2016, according to eMarketer.

It’s also a big part of the reason that, when it comes to creating new apps, mobile and otherwise, developers rarely give Microsoft a second thought.

“They’re so far behind on phones that they would really have to come up with something near an act of God even to turn it around,” said Rob Enderle, an industry analyst with the Enderle Group

Windows 10 has the potential to solve some of Microsoft’s most pressing problems. “Windows 10 will be a service across an array of devices and will usher in a new area … where the mobility of the experience, not the device, is paramount,” Nadella told investors Thursday after Microsoft announced earnings and said that its profit topped Wall Street’s expectations.

What that means is a promise to developers and consumers that Windows 10 will be a single platform to run all their apps on across all their devices. Developers will write to a single code base, allowing them to create a so-called universal app that will work across any device so long as that device runs Windows 10. Those devices can include phones, tablets, PCs, the Xbox One game console, TVs and even the new HoloLens virtual-reality headset.

“There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices,” Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems, said at the September unveiling of Windows 10.

At Build, Microsoft is expected to talk about how that will work.

Even with that promise, there’s a Catch-22. Windows 10 can’t succeed if it runs on phones almost no one buys, powers tablets only some people use and is only installed on newer PCs — most owners haven’t upgraded their operating systems in almost six years.

“It doesn’t matter how easy it is to develop for a platform if you can’t sell a product because there are no users,” Enderle said. Microsoft has “to convince these guys if they develop for the platform that they’ll get compensated.”

To give the software a push, Microsoft is making upgrades to Windows 10 easier on the wallet. For the first time, Microsoft is giving Windows away for free to users running Windows 7 or later versions. It’s also offering its Office suite of apps free of charge on competitors’ devices, like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, in the hope those apps will prompt users to return to Windows products.

Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to get consumers and businesses to subscribe to its cloud offerings, like the Office 365 subscription service. More software makers now view annual subscriptions as the gift that keeps on giving.

The company’s cloud businesses are growing fast, too. Growth in that division helped send Microsoft’s stock up more than 10 percent last Friday after its earnings report.

Avoiding a repeat of history

Windows 10 follows in the footsteps of some unpopular older siblings, prompting Nadella and Myerson to devote a lot of their time in public last year to reassuring PC users that Microsoft won’t release a software product as misguided as Windows 8.

That version, released three years ago, attempted to marry mobile device gestures and interfaces to the traditional PC. It failed. To date, only 14 percent of the world’s PC users run Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, while 58 percent run the 6-year-old Windows 7.

The marketing jingle for Windows 8, Lenka’s “Everything At Once,” presaged the faults of a program that bit off more than it could chew.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has a chance to win back some of its industry influence.

“You’ve got the potential for the same kind of disruptive event with Windows 95,” Enderle said. “Google has the attention span of a 3-year-old and Apple thinks it’s invulnerable. Microsoft has an opportunity — if it can execute.”

Let’s hope they start by picking a catchier theme song this time around — perhaps Daft Punk’s “One More Time.”

Xiaomi’s plan to be No. 1 in India begins with the Mi 4i


NEW DELHI — There’s no denying that Xiaomi’s new Mi 4i looks familiar, with its cute and colorful, rounded plastic frame. But while the Chinese smartphone maker is likely to take flak for its Apple-ish emulations, Xiaomi Global Vice President Hugo Barra says he had this phone in his head when he joined the company two years ago after leaving Google.

“I came on board thinking that Xiaomi needed a flagship phone for emerging markets,” said Barra here at the launch of the Mi 4i late last week. “I’ve spent plenty of time in these markets and thinking a lot about this stuff in my previous job. I do think that price really matters and everyone should have a flagship.”

Through the 18-month journey of the Mi 4i’s production process, Barra knew he wanted to make a phone specifically for India, and getting the project approved was much easier than expected.

As Barra explains it, the Mi 4i built upon some of the concepts from Google’s Android One plan to create low-cost smartphones, which launched last year. The former Android spokesperson may have had an inkling of some aspects of the Android One initiative, but Xiaomi has gone with a slightly more expensive, premium phone instead.

It wasn’t difficult to convince Xiaomi’s co-founders Lei Jun and Bin Lin, Barra said. “We just spent a lot of time discussing what components we would use. They were very supportive from the beginning,” he added.

Given that the company barely sold phones in India at that time, the decision to create a phone specifically for that market speaks of Xiaomi’s far-reaching global ambitions. Founded in 2010, the company has already been working to expand into new markets where its low-priced smartphones andtablets are meant to appeal to budget-conscious buyers. The company is also trying to capitalize on a business model that revolves around selling products at or near cost

Get a $50 iTunes gift card for $40


Quick housekeeping item: Following last week’s Raise gift-card deal (now expired), a few readers mentioned an odd verification process after signing up. Though unusual, this process is explained on the company’s FAQ page. Frankly, I wouldn’t oblige any online store that asked me to supply a photo ID (though Raise didn’t, not for me), even in the name of security precautions, so I don’t blame you if you opted out at that point. For what it’s worth, you can still use TopCashback to save money on all manner of online purchases — even if this one didn’t pan out.

Speaking of gift cards, here’s one that would make, well, a great gift: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Giftcardmall (via Ebay) has a $50 iTunes gift card for $40, shipped.

And I do mean shipped: Unlike most iTunes deals, this one nets you a physical card that’s delivered via physical postal carrier. That gives you a somewhat more tangible item than, say, a printed sheet or a decidedly non-tangible email.

I probably don’t need to spell out that an iTunes gift card can be used for iTunes media: books, music, videos, apps, and so on.

And before you get too excited, Giftcardmall limits the cards to two per Ebay user. Shipping is listed at three to five days, so this should arrive in plenty of time for Mother’s Day. And definitely in time for Father’s Day. And why not plan ahead for International Awesome Bloggers Day? (Comes earlier every year, doesn’t it?)

At press time, these showed nearly 9,200 sold and “limited quantity available,” so I’m hoping they don’t run out before you’ve had a chance to snag one!

Bonus deal: Remember last week’s deal on the Ausdom M06 Bluetooth headphones? The ones priced at $39.99? The ones that sold out in about 10 minutes? Well, as promised, it’s back! Once again you can get the M06 for $39.99, shipped when you apply coupon code WWH46KR5 at checkout. (Make sure the listed seller is Vantrue; if you see a different one, it means they’ve sold out once again, and the code won’t work.)

Bonus deal No. 2: Game time! Leo’s Fortune earned rave reviews and tons of awards upon its debut last year, and it with good reason: It’s a gorgeous side-scrolling puzzler. The game normally sells for $4.99, but for a limited time, you can get Leo’s Fortune for Amazon, Android and iOS devices for just 99 cents. (Just head to the appropriate app store and search for it.) It’s the best buck you’ll spend this month, I guarantee.

Bonus deal No. 3: Mobile chargers are great for, um, mobile charging. UV flashlights are great for spotting pet stains, counterfeit currency and secret messages exchanged between spies. Together at last! Sunvalleytek (via Amazon) has the RAVPower Luster LED UV flashlight and mobile charger for $13.99. That’s after applying coupon code AZHOTRT5 at checkout.

Regular price: $29.99. Shipping is free for Prime subscribers. This surprisingly compact UV light also supplies 3,200mAh of backup power for your phone or whatever. (I wish it could pull regular-flashlight duty as well, but, alas, no.) I did a quick test on one and it’s a nice little accessory!