Thousands of people in cities across the U.S. took to the streets over the weekend to protest violent tactics used by federal agents against protesters in Portland, Oregon. In Seattle, police declared a Black Lives Matter protest to be a riot and pepper-sprayed 2,000 people. In Austin, a motorist shot protester Garrett Foster dead while he was pushing his wife’s wheelchair. Meanwhile, some protesters took it right to the top, with dozens demonstrating outside the Virginia home of acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
Police Declare Riots as More Protest Federal Tactics
It’s gotten so bad, even North Korea has acknowledged having one suspected case. Last Wednesday, global coronavirus cases topped 15 million. By Sunday it was 16 million, with 646,000 deaths. Where are the outbreaks? Nearly everywhere, the worst being America’s 4.2 million cases and nearly 147,000 deaths. It’s even surging in places where the virus seemed in check, like Hong Kong and Vietnam, which is ejecting 80,000 tourists. Elsewhere, the U.K.’s health minister has urged Britons to eat less — a quixotic attempt to cut COVID-19 risks associated with obesity.
This morning Old Glory was lowered and a container was hoisted onto a truck at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, China. Chinese authorities had given the Americans 72 hours to clear out — the same deadline imposed on Chinese diplomats in Houston, who shuttered their mission last week amid Washington’s espionage claims. While there are plenty of reasons for the world’s top economic powers to sink to their worst relationship in decades, some experts fear this could be the end of a policy of engagement that has kept the peace for a half-century.
The extra $600-per-week unemployment benefit Americans have depended upon during the pandemic downturn has effectively already expired for many due to the way states process such aid. But Congress is locked in a battle over whether to extend it, with Republicans saying it discourages people from returning to work — and instead proposing a $1 trillion relief bill that would include a new round of $1,200 checks. Negotiations are expected to take weeks, which could leave many Americans in the lurch — right as a federal moratorium on evictions also runs out.
Whether you’re a new user of the music-streaming service or a playlist pro, these tips will improve your next listening session.
Apple’s music-streaming service reportedly has more paying subscribers in the US now than Spotify does, but there’s no doubt that Spotify is still the global leader in streaming music—and Spotify has been a multiplatform service since it first launched in 2008. Which is why it’s unforgivable that Spotify’s user experience can be so confusing. Finding a specific album or playlist or mood on Spotify is about as enjoyable as doing taxes: The reward can be sweet, but the journey is onerous.
This is a guide to using Spotify. It will help you maximize the benefit of that monthly subscription fee (assuming you’ve gone ad-free), so you won’t feel, like one of my WIRED colleagues, that you’re only taking advantage of 5 percent of the features of the app. Even if you’ve been using Spotify since day one, there might be something in here that will become your new favorite streaming feature.
Note: Some, but not all, of the features described here are only available to Spotify subscribers.
How to Find Songs, Albums, and Playlists This part is pretty simple. When you open the Spotify mobile app, you’ll see three tabs at the bottom: Home, Search, and Your Library. Tapping on Search lets you search for artists, songs, or podcast titles. You can specify which of those categories you’re looking for when you punch in your initial query, but Spotify does a lot of the sorting for you. For example, if you type in “Dirty Computer,” which is both the name of an album and a song on the album, the album will pop up first. If you’re not searching for something in particular, you don’t need to enter a specific search term. Just tap on Search and select from a variety of different categories and subcategories representing your top four genres. If you scroll down to Browse All, you can find playlists determined by mood (“All the Feels”), occasion (“Workout”), even TV show and movie soundtracks (Bohemian Rhapsody). If you’re looking for playlists you’ve carefully crafted or saved, you’ll want to navigate out of Search and go to the Your Library tab on the bottom right.
What’s “Your Library”? Good question! Your Library is everything you’ve saved on Spotify—your playlists, the streaming radio stations you’ve followed, the songs you’ve downloaded, and the artists and albums that comprise your saved stuff. It’s also another avenue into songs you’ve recently played, though these will appear near the bottom of the mobile page as smallish album thumbnails. (Under the Home tab, recently played albums appear right at the top, and they’re hard to miss.) There is a very important distinction, though, between your saved items and downloaded items. Saved means that you’ve earmarked it so that it appears in Your Library, thereby making it easy to find later on. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your songs have been downloaded and can be played offline. For more on downloading content, see “Make Offline Listening Your Friend” (below).
Work Playlists Like a Pro Playlists are by far the most appealing part of using Spotify. The company pumps out dozens of genre- or mood-specific playlists. They’re both human- and algorithmically generated, and their influence over the music industry has evolved to the point where being included on a popular Spotify playlist can make or break an artist’s career. Users spend around half their time on Spotify listening to either the curated playlists or ones of their own creation. But at the same time, playlists can be the most frustrating part of the Spotify experience. Making your own playlist is straightforward: On the mobile app, go to Your Library, then Playlists, and then tap on the giant green Create Playlist tab. Once you have a playlist titled and created, you can tap on any individual song or album, look for the ellipses on the right, and quickly add that content to an existing playlist. This experience is similar on a PC; the New Playlist button lives on the bottom left-hand side of the desktop app. Likewise, adding a preexisting playlist to your favorites is dead simple: Find a playlist, hit Follow, and it will then be accessible via Playlists in Your Library.
Other playlist features aren’t so simple. For example, you can stack album after album in a playlist, but you can’t do that from within the playlist itself, where Spotify will encourage you to search for individual songs. Instead, you’ll have to search for the album you want to add, then tap on the “more options” ellipses in the upper right-hand corner, and choose to add to a playlist from there. You can also make playlists collaborative so you and your friends can all add songs, but this is at least a two-step process. On the playlist you want to invite your friends to join, first go into the options—tap that ellipsis—and choose to make it collaborative (which is somehow different from making it public). Then, open the options menu a second time, tap Share, and share the playlist with anyone you’d like. When I shared a playlist with a WIRED colleague, he had to save the playlist to his own library first, and only then could he start adding stuff—so that’s good advice to pass along to the friends you’re inviting. Also, on mobile it’s not obvious who’s contributing to a collaborative playlist; the desktop Spotify app will show you who added which songs.
Make Offline Listening Your Friend Spotify makes it easy for you to download any song in its massive library to your phone. That way, you can listen to music even without a data or Wi-Fi connection. Remember when I mentioned earlier that saving something to your library is different from downloading your content? More times than I care to admit, I’ve saved songs but failed to take advantage of Spotify’s offline listening before boarding a long flight or embarking on a remote road trip. The crucial difference is that when you save something, it bookmarks it but leaves it in the cloud. You won’t be able to listen to anything that’s saved when you go offline. This is the part where you can learn from my mistakes: Download your favorite playlists now. Right now. Go do it. Go to a playlist, look for the Download option right at the top of the playlist (you really cannot miss this), and tap the toggle. That’s it. You’re done. A green downward arrow icon will appear next to any playlist that’s available for offline listening. If you want the option to download playlists when you’re not connected to a stable Wi-Fi connection, even though that will eat up a portion of your monthly cellular data, go to Settings, then Music Quality, and navigate to Download. Opt into Download Using Cellular (it should be the last option on the page on mobile), and you’re ready to scramble to download a playlist with two bars of service just before takeoff.
Downloading works for nearly anything on Spotify—not just playlists, but also albums, podcasts, and individual songs.
Up the Streaming Quality—or Turn It Down Speaking of music quality, you can adjust the bitrate of your audio streams within Settings as well. You can also fine-tune things like volume level or the treble and bass, although these options are within the Playback tab in settings, not under Music Quality.
The options for audio quality range from 24 kilobits per second up to 320 kbps. A normal rate is considered 96 kbps, and that level of quality doesn’t sound fantastic. If you’re dissatisfied with Spotify’s audio quality, bump this setting up until it sounds good to you. If sound quality isn’t that important to you, and streaming at a high bitrate just isn’t an option because of your concerns about cellular data usage, then you can instead opt into something in Settings called Data Saver. Spotify just introduced this last summer, and it streams your music at the low end, 24 kbps, when the only option is streaming over cellular. Once you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, your audio quality will be bumped up to a normal level again.
How to Let Everybody Know You’re Going Through a Breakup If you’ve never dug into Spotify’s social settings, then you might be horrified to learn that Spotify sets your music listening habits to public by default. And, while the service offers a Private Session option, that defaults back to public listening after you’ve been inactive for six hours. Unfortunately, while there are some options for keeping certain activities private, there aren’t any options for blocking people from viewing your profile. This is a serious fail on Spotify’s part at a time when privacy concerns are at the forefront of every conversation about popular tech services, and when people are literally being harassed on its platform. There are some ways to work around it, though. The first and absolutely least user-friendly approach is to turn on Private Session every single time you open the app. The second is to create “secret” playlists, and only listen to those—just know that any public playlists you’ve created or joined will still be visible unless you go in and change the playlists’ privacy settings. The third option is to refuse to use Spotify entirely, which we won’t blame you for. There are other streaming music options, even if they don’t all offer a free tier. Let Spotify Do the Work for You Assuming you’re still hooked on Spotify, you’ll want to take advantage of the playlists that Spotify assembles specifically for you, which can offer a more robust experience than putting together playlists yourself. The very top entry within Your Library is a section called Made for You, which includes a weekly playlist, a roundup of new releases Spotify thinks you should have on your radar, and a series of daily mixes that are heavily influenced by the stuff you’ve already been listening to. An annual playlist that highlights the top songs you listened to during the calendar year could serve as a pleasant trip down memory lane, the audio equivalent of “one year ago” apps—or a reminder to book your next therapy appointment. Still, these algorithmically created Spotify playlists are a great way to veer just slightly out of your comfort zone and expand your music listening. And isn’t that the point of paying $10 a month for a music service—not just to move to the sound of your own familiar drum but to discover a new kind of beat?
Yet are they worth it? These headphones are often expensive and for some people, they don’t live up to the hype.
I’ve spent the majority of the last five years traveling, taking dozens of flights and train journeys, and as someone who has reviewed noise-canceling headphones for even longer, I can definitively say “maybe.
Noise-canceling headphones, also called active noise canceling headphones, use electronic processing to analyze ambient sound and attempt to generate the “opposite” sound. The result is less noise overall.
Imagine ocean waves. There’s high part, the crest and the low part, the trough. If you combined the positive height of the crest and the negative depth of the trough, the result would be a flat sea. Or for the math inclined, if you add +1 and -1 you get 0. This is essentially what active noise-canceling headphones do. Add troughs to crests and crests to troughs. Except instead of seawater, it’s sound waves.
It’s not perfect.
these headphones don’t “create” silence, nor are they able to eliminate
noise. The crests and troughs do not perfectly cancel out. The absolute
best noise-canceling headphones merely reduce noise, and work best with
low-frequency droning sounds. So a loud hum is a quieter hum. The roar
on an airplane is a quieter roar on an airplane. They also don’t work
well for all sounds. At higher frequencies, like the human vocal range
and higher, the headphones do very little if anything at all. So if your
hope is to block out the cries of the baby in seat 15C, you’re out of
luck. Fast and transient sounds, like a door slam or a hand clap, also
aren’t blocked effectively.
perhaps even more frustrating is not all noise-canceling headphones work
the same. The best reduce a lot of noise, the worst reduce very little
or nothing at all. There’s no way to tell, looking at a headphone’s
specs, which are which.
headphone sets could claim to reduce the same amount of noise but
perform completely different. Only hands-on testing, ideally with
objective measurements, can tell the difference. Wirecutter,
the New York Times Company that reviews products, does these types of
measurements for all the noise-canceling headphones they test. (For
Wirecutter, I’ve written both the over-ear and in-ear noise-canceling headphone guides along with my colleague Brent Butterworth.)
Noise-canceling headphones require a battery to power their electronics. Noise-isolating headphones, which do not require electronics and therefore can be far cheaper, work by creating a seal in your ear canal to block noise. Basically they are like earplugs, but with earbuds inside. If you can get a good seal, these work reasonably well. Getting a good seal can be a challenge, however, since everyone’s ears are different and not all headphones will fit correctly. And even if you do get a good seal, noise-isolating headphones will not be able to block low-frequency sounds as well as the best noise-canceling headphones. They will reduce a wide range of frequencies, which can help.
Proposals to change recommendations and curb conspiracies were sacrificed for engagement, staff say.
A year ago, Susan Wojcicki was on stage to
defend YouTube. Her company, hammered for months for fueling falsehoods
online, was reeling from another flare-up involving a conspiracy theory
video about the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that suggested
the victims were “crisis actors.”
YouTube’s chief executive officer, is a reluctant public ambassador,
but she was in Austin at the South by Southwest conference to unveil a
solution that she hoped would help quell conspiracy theories: a tiny
text box from websites like Wikipedia that would sit below videos that
questioned well-established facts like the moon landing and link viewers to the truth.
Wojcicki’s media behemoth, bent on overtaking television, is estimated to rake in sales of more than $16 billion a year. But on that day, Wojcicki compared her video site to a different kind of institution. “We’re really more like a library,” she said, staking out a familiar position as a defender of free speech. “There have always been controversies, if you look back at libraries.”
Since Wojcicki took the stage, prominent conspiracy theories on the
platform—including one on child vaccinations; another tying Hillary
Clinton to a Satanic cult—have drawn the ire of lawmakers eager to
regulate technology companies. And YouTube is, a year later, even more
associated with the darker parts of the web.
The conundrum isn’t just that videos questioning the moon landing or the efficacy of vaccines are on YouTube. The massive “library,” generated by users with little editorial oversight, is bound to have untrue nonsense. Instead, YouTube’s problem is that it allows the nonsense to flourish. And, in some cases, through its powerful artificial intelligence system, it even provides the fuel that lets it spread.
Wojcicki and her deputies know this. In recent years, scores of people insideYouTube
and Google, its owner, raised concerns about the mass of false,
incendiary and toxic content that the world’s largest video site
surfaced and spread. One employee wanted to flag troubling videos, which
fell just short of the hate speech rules, and stop recommending them to
viewers. Another wanted to track these videos in a spreadsheet to chart
their popularity. A third, fretful of the spread of “alt-right” video
bloggers, created an internal vertical that showed just how popular they
were. Each time they got the same basic response: Don’t rock the boat.
company spent years chasing one business goal above others:
“Engagement,” a measure of the views, time spent and interactions with
online videos. Conversations with over twenty people who work at, or
recently left, YouTube reveal a corporate leadership unable or unwilling
to act on these internal alarms for fear of throttling engagement.
would “never put her fingers on the scale,” said one person who worked
for her. “Her view was, ‘My job is to run the company, not deal with
this.’” This person, like others who spoke to Bloomberg News, asked not
to be identified because of a worry of retaliation.
YouTube turned down Bloomberg News’ requests to speak to Wojcicki, other executives, management at Google and the board of Alphabet Inc., its parent company. Last week, Neal Mohan, its chief product officer, toldThe New York Times that the company has “made great strides” in addressing its issues with recommendation and radical content.
YouTube spokeswoman contested the notion that Wojcicki is inattentive
to these issues and that the company prioritizes engagement above all
else. Instead, the spokeswoman said the company has spent the last two
years focused squarely on finding solutions for its content
problems. Since 2017, YouTube has recommended clips based on a metric
called “responsibility,” which includes input from satisfaction surveys
it shows after videos. YouTube declined to describe it more fully, but
said it receives “millions” of survey responses each week.
primary focus has been tackling some of the platform’s toughest content
challenges,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We’ve taken a
number of significant steps, including updating our recommendations
system to prevent the spread of harmful misinformation, improving the
news experience on YouTube, bringing the number of people focused on
content issues across Google to 10,000, investing in machine learning to
be able to more quickly find and remove violative content, and
reviewing and updating our policies — we made more than 30 policy
updates in 2018 alone. And this is not the end: responsibility remains
our number one priority.”
In response to criticism about prioritizing growth over safety, Facebook Inc.
has proposed a dramatic shift in its core product. YouTube still has
struggled to explain any new corporate vision to the public
and investors – and sometimes, to its own staff. Five senior personnel
who left YouTube and Google in the last two years privately cited the
platform’s inability to tame extreme, disturbing videos as the reason
for their departure. Within Google, YouTube’s inability to fix its
problems has remained a major gripe. Google shares slipped in late
morning trading in New York on Tuesday, leaving them up 15 percent so
far this year. Facebook stock has jumped more than 30 percent in 2019,
after getting hammered last year.
YouTube’s inertia was
illuminated again after a deadly measles outbreak drew public attention
to vaccinations conspiracies on social media several weeks ago. New data
from Moonshot CVE, a London-based firm that studies extremism, found
that fewer than twenty YouTube channels that have spread these lies
reached over 170 million viewers, many who where then recommended other
videos laden with conspiracy theories.
The company’s lackluster response to explicit videos aimed at kids has drawn criticism from the tech industry itself. Patrick Copeland, a former Google director who left in 2016, recently posted a damning indictment of his old company on LinkedIn. While watching YouTube, Copeland’s daughter was recommended a clip that featured both a Snow White character drawn with exaggerated sexual features and a horse engaged in a sexual act. “Most companies would fire someone for watching this video at work,” he wrote. “Unbelievable!!” Copeland, who spent a decade at Google, decided to block the YouTube.com domain. READ MORE:https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-04-02/youtube-executives-ignored-warnings-letting-toxic-videos-run-rampant
Amazon.com informed some customers Wednesday that their names and email addresses had been “inadvertently disclosed” as a result of a “technical error” but declined to provide further details about the security incident.
The e-commerce giant confirmed it sent the messages, adding in a subsequent statement it had “fixed the issue.” It did not say how many of its users had been affected or where and how emails had been exposed. Amazon said only that its website and other systems had not been breached.
Amazon’s limited disclosure, days before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping frenzies, drew sharp criticism on social media. Among its own sellers, some took to the company’s forums to complain about Amazon’s tight-lipped handling of the matter. “Who knows what they’re not disclosing about this,” one user wrote. “Hopefully nothing …”
Others questioned Amazon after it told users there’s “no need for you to change your password or take any other action,” fearing the potential that hackers still might try to use their names and email addresses for nefarious purposes, including phishing scams.
In October, Amazon said it reportedly fired an employee who inappropriately shared customers’ emails with a third-party seller. The incident, which Amazon said it was working with law enforcement to investigate, similarly resulted in messages to customers indicating their email addresses had been exposed.
Critics have derided WeWork as overvalued and vulnerable to the next downturn. But the company holds so many leases in so many cities, it might hold more power than its landlords.
Real estate titans have long scoffed at WeWork, which in eight short years has managed to attain a $20 billion valuation by selling short-term leases for shared office space with a mixture of stylish design and free-flowing alcohol.
The naysayers argue that WeWork’s business model looks brilliant only in a rising economy that has allowed it to lock in long-term leases and then re-rent that space to other businesses at a premium. The enormous valuation it has obtained is higher than that of Boston Properties and Vornado, two of the country’s biggest office-space landlords — companies that actually own the kind of space that WeWork usually rents.
Now, with interest rates creeping higher, residential real estate prices flattening and fears of an economic slowdown coming, real estate insiders are gleeful at the notion that a downturn could be an existential threat for the company.
But a funny thing happened as WeWork has scaled up all over the globe: It may have become too big to fail.
WeWork has gobbled up leases for so much space in so many cities, there’s a compelling case to be made that its landlords wouldn’t be able to afford for it to go under.
Because of WeWork’s size, “they have more power in a down market,” said Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the longtime real estate investor and founder of Colony Capital.
The company is scheduled to release third-quarter financial results on Tuesday. A WeWork spokesman, citing the coming report, declined to comment.
The conventional wisdom is that when the economy turns south, WeWork’s customers — many of which are start-ups and may be the most vulnerable — will simply walk away. The flexibility of WeWork’s short-term leases is part of its appeal, after all.
It’s 2018, and you’re not very familiar with technology. Where do you start?
While there are tons of gadgets and services out there vying for your attention and your dollars, there are a handful of “essential” technologies that are absolutely worth investing in, as they make your life easier in significant ways.
Here’s your guide to all the essential technologies worth your money in 2018.
A quality smartphone
A quality smartphone is one of the best investments you can make. Smartphones are the most personal computing devices we own. You can use them for just about everything: They’re phones, obviously, but they’re also cameras, calculators, and full-blown computers that can fit in your pocket or bag. They’re the Swiss Army knives of the future.
The biggest choice you’ll make is actually pretty simple: Which operating system do you prefer? Most smartphones either run iOS — which is operated by Apple — or Android, which is designed by Google and tweaked (slightly or a lot) depending on the phone you buy.
If you like iOS, that means you’re getting an iPhone. You can’t go wrong with any of the new iPhones, including the $750 iPhone XR coming this month or $1,000 iPhone XS, but the older models like the iPhone 7, which starts at $450, are still an incredible deal.
If you like Android, you have a ton of options, but popular picks are the affordable OnePlus 6, which starts at $530, and the Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones from Samsung, which start at $720 and $1,000, respectively. We’re also expecting new Pixel 3 phones from Google this month.
Streaming devices are a worthy investment for any TV owner in 2018. Streaming devices, in short, open up the possibilities for your TV. Most streaming devices support popular streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, but depending on the company that makes your device, you’ll also typically have access to an online store, like Apple’s iTunes Store or Google’s Play Store. So, if you purchased movies, TV shows, or games through any of those stores, you’ll be able to access them on your TV.
Get ready for the next generation of wifi technology: Wi-fi 6 (for so it is named) is going to be appearing on devices from next year. But will you have to throw out your old router and get a new one? And is this going to make your Netflix run faster? Here’s everything you need to know about the new standard.
A brief history of wifi
Those of you of a certain age will remember when home internet access was very much wired—only one computer could get online, a single MP3 took half an hour to download, and you couldn’t use the landline phone at the same time.
Thank goodness for wifi technology then, which gradually became cheap and compact enough to fit inside a router suitable for home use. The first wifi protocol appeared in 1997, offering 2Mbit/s link speeds, but it was only with the arrival of 802.11b and 11Mbit/s speeds in 1999 that people seriously started thinking about home wifi.
Wifi standards, as well as a whole host of other electronics standards, are managed by the IEEE: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Specifically, IEEE 802 refers to local area network standards, and 802.11 focuses on wireless LAN. In the 20 years since 802.11b arrived, we’ve seen numerous new standards pushed out, though not all of them apply to home networking kit.
The introduction of 802.11g in 2003 (54Mbit/s) and 802.11n in 2009 (a whopping 600Mbit/s) were both significant moments in the history of wifi. Another significant step forward was the introduction of dual-band routers with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, tied to the arrival of 802.11n, which could offer faster speeds at shorter ranges.
Today, with 802.11ac in place, that 5GHz band can push speeds of 1,300Mbit/s, so we’re talking speeds that are more than 600 times faster than they were in 1997. Wi-Fi 6 takes that another step forward, but it’s not just speed that’s improving.
Explaining wifi technology can get quite technical. A lot of recent improvements, including those arriving with Wi-Fi 6, involve some clever engineering to squeeze more bandwidth out of the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz your router already employs. The end result is more capacity on the same channels, with less interference between them, as well as faster data transfer speeds.
Turning wifi up to six
One of the most important changes Wi-Fi 6 brings with it is, of course, the new naming system: Using a simple succession of numbers is going to make it a lot easier for consumers to keep track of standards and make sure they’ve got compatible kit set up. The more technical term for Wi-Fi 6 is 802.11ax, if you prefer the old naming.
Older standards are getting retroactively renamed too—the 802.11ac standard becomes Wi-Fi 5, the 802.11n standard becomes Wifi 4, and so on. Expect to see the new Wi-Fi 6 name on hardware products and inside software menus from 2019, as well as funky little logos not unlike the one Google uses for its Chromecast devices.
As always, the improvements with this latest generation of wifi are in two key areas: Raw speed and throughput (if wifi was a highway, we’d be talking about a higher maximum speed limit for vehicles, as well as more lanes to handle more vehicles at once). Wi-Fi 6 will support 8K video streaming, provided your internet supplier is going to give you access to sufficient download speeds in the first place.
In practice that means support for transfer rates of 1.1Gbit/s over the 2.4GHz band (with four streams available) and 4.8Gbit/s over the 5GHz band (with eight streams available), though the technology is still being refined ahead of its full launch next year—those speeds may, in fact, go up (it’s been hitting 10Gbit/s in the lab). Roughly speaking, you can look forward to 4x to 10x speed increases in your wifi.
Another improvement Wi-Fi 6 will bring is improved efficiency, which means a lower power draw, which means less of a strain on battery life (or lower figures on your electricity bill). It’s hard to quantify the difference exactly, especially as Wi-Fi 6 has yet to be finalized, but it’s another step in the right direction for wifi standards—it shouldn’t suck the life out of your phone or always-on laptopquite as quickly.
Refinements in Wi-Fi 6 hardware and firmware should also mean better performance in crowded environments. You might finally be able to get a strong signal at your sports bar of choice, though don’t hold your breath. As always, a host of other factors (walls, microwaves, the number of people streaming Netflix in your house) are going to have an impact on the final speeds you see.
What will you have to do?
Not a lot. As is usually the case, Wi-Fi 6 is going to be backwards compatible with all the existing wifi gear out there, so if you bring something home from the gadget shop that supports the new standard, it will work fine with your current setup—you just won’t be able to get the fastest speeds until everything is Wi-Fi 6 enabled.
You probably already know that listening to music no longer requires trips to a music store, or purchasing individual songs or albums from iTunes to download to your computer. Today’s best music streaming services have millions of songs in their catalogs, offer personalized playlists, and feature exclusive internet radio shows and podcasts. But which should you pick and pay a subscription fee for?
A good streaming music service has a straightforward user interface that makes it easy to organize a library of thousands of songs or playlists across the web, Android, and iOS apps, and in some cases, a desktop Mac or Windows app. However, while most music streaming services have these features, most of them aren’t free, and nearly all services require paid plans that grant you access to a full on-demand library of music and other features.
While testing these music streaming services, I considered factors like audio quality options, social integration, and built-in lyrics. It’s also absolutely necessary that your streaming app plays nice with more than one personal device. These are all important points when considering which music service to pick and ultimately, make for a better listening experience.
Spotify is the best streaming music service for a variety of reasons, but there’s one in particular that stands out. It has the most consistent iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows experience. It’s far from perfect, of course, but features rolled out to the iOS version follow on Android not too soon after. Competing music services sometimes have issues with certain platforms, like the clunky Android version of Apple Music or the Windows app for Tidal that sometimes won’t load.
Other than having a unified app experience, Spotify has a large catalog of music (35+ million songs), the best playlist recommendations, useful, yet non-intrusive social features, and a variety of plans (including student discounts) that make it great for most music listeners with a smartphone and some headphones.
It’s also one of the streaming services (alongside Amazon Music and Apple Music) that supports offline listening for both mobile and desktop, which is useful when you’re doing work and don’t want to eat up bandwidth or using your device on a plane without internet. Spotify is also supported by most smart speakers and smart devices, so it’s almost universally available on all platforms.
However, Spotify isn’t without shortcomings. There’s no hi-fi option, the app can misbehave when you have a poor cell connection, and uploading purchased songs to your desktop Spotify library is a convoluted process. Still, Spotify’s mobile and desktop experiences are fast and easy to understand. Spotify’s pricing also set the precedent for other music streaming apps. It has a compelling free option on desktop, a $4.99 option for students (US only), the standard $9.99 premium option that lets you download and stream on all your personal devices, and finally, a $14.99 family plan (for six users total).
A GREAT ALTERNATIVE: APPLE MUSIC
Apple Music has a lot going for it that’s pegged on exclusivity. Beats 1 is home to many top-tier artists that use their respective radio shows to demo and tease new music and collaborations. If you’re a fan of certain popular artists, you might find that the first chance you’ll have to hear their new music is on Apple Music, not Spotify or Tidal. Sound quality is usually better than Spotify’s, thanks to Apple Music using a 256kbps AAC bitrate, compared to the max 320kbps Ogg Vorbis bitrate used by Spotify.
Banking on this sense of access and being “in the know,” Apple Music tops this off with artist’s music videos, adding a visual treat you can enjoy without having to go to another app. However for comparison, Tidal, YouTube Music, and Spotify are the other streaming services that offer music videos built into the app. Of those, only Spotify has short vertical videos for a few of its popular songs; Apple Music does not.
Apple Music also has a digital locker feature that subscribers can take advantage of, to the tune of 100,000 songs. Although, you should be hard-pressed not to find your purchased music in Apple Music’s library of over 50 million songs. You can also save these songs for offline listening on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and the Apple Watch.
The iOS, Android, and desktop apps are my least favorite user music streaming interfaces. The abundant use of hot pink accents and white backgrounds everywhere isn’t the most comfortable to view at night. On Android, the Apple Music app feels even more out of place and occasionally had problems staying open on my Pixel 2 XL. Using Apple Music on a desktop requires you to use iTunes, an app that’s slow, cumbersome, confusing, and long overdue for a redesign. Apple Music has definitely not been blessed with the most beautiful interfaces the designers at Cupertino have released.
Apple Music’s pricing is similar to Spotify and other services: $9.99 monthly or $14.99 for a family plan (up to six users), with student discounts varying by country.
If you’re an audiophile — someone who is enthusiastic about hi-fi reproduction — and want to use a streaming service, there are some good alternatives.
For those that have audio hardware capable of taking advantage of lossless hi-fi, then Tidal or Deezer’s $20 lossless plans might be good options. Tidal has a $9.99 on-demand plan as well, but it doesn’t get you the higher sound quality.
On the flip side, casual listeners who want a more radio-style streaming service can opt for the $5 radio-only, no ads version of Pandora; it also includes on-demand streaming, but it’s less mature than its competitors in terms of playlist recommendations and library management.
But what if you have thousands of songs you’ve already purchased the old-fashioned way? If you want the benefits of uploading your music to the cloud and a music streaming service to back that up — that is more consistent on Android and the web — then Google Play Music is the perfect option. However, next year Google is merging YouTube Music with Play Music into a new service with a music uploading feature, so it might be worth waiting.