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6
May

Best roaming plans: Which is the cheapest network for EU and abroad?


As of the end of last month, April, roaming fees across Europe have dropped dramatically thanks to an EU directive. In addition, the European Commission will scrap roaming data charges in its 28 member countries entirely from June 2017.

Until then though, even with the lower blanket fees, some networks have decided to adopt their own low pricing structure or, even, ditch the fees. That means uploading your holiday snaps to Facebook or Instagram as you go is much more justifiable than it has been in the past.

If you are lucky enough to travel a lot, here is a round up of what the different networks offer in terms of roaming and which give jetsetters the best deals.

New EU roaming charges (as of 30 April 2016)

Before the complete abolishment of roaming charges in EU member states, charges that networks must meet are as follows:

  • Outgoing voice calls: domestic charge plus 3p per minute – cannot exceed 15p per minute
  • Outgoing texts, per message: domestic charge plus 1p per text – cannot exceed 5p per text
  • Data access, per MB: domestic charge plus 3p per MB – cannot exceed 16p per MB

From June 2017 all roaming charges will be scrapped. You will be able to use your existing network price plan throughout Europe without incurring any extra charges. If the UK is still in the EU by then, of course.

There are no caps on roaming fees outside of Europe.

Vodafone

Vodafone has jumped the gun when it comes to offering roaming incentives. It has pre-empted next year’s EU directive by including roaming charges in the majority of its price plans.

All customers taking new or upgrading to Pay Monthly 12 and 24 month Red and Red Value bundles get inclusive data roaming with their monthly fees.

That means they can use their voice minutes, texts and data across 40 countries around Europe, including Spain, France and Germany. Calls to landlines and mobiles in those covered countries will not be charged extra, nor will internet use or SMS messages.

Inclusive data works on all plans with allowances up to 4GB a month.

30 day SIM only or mobile broadband customers do not get inclusive roaming. They, along with customers on PAYG, can either purchase a EuroTraveller pass or pay improved roaming rates of 4p a minute for calls, 1p a text, 4p a picture message or 4p a MB of data.

Alternatively, a EuroTraveller pass covers Europe, as you might have guessed by the name, and it includes all the countries within Vodafone’s Europe Zone. In addition, Vodafone offers a WorldTraveller pass for countries a little further afield such as the US and Australia.

You’ll pay £3 a day for the EuroTraveller option and £5 a day for the WorldTraveller service, you’ll get 4G speeds if you are on a Vodafone 4G contract and visiting one of the 71 specific countries.

The daily flat rate allows you to use your phone in any of the participating countries as you would in the UK, including calling, texting and data usage and you will only be charged on the days you use your phone. The day is calculated according to the capital city of the country you are in and it runs from midnight to midnight.

To see all the countries covered by Vodafone’s EuroTraveller and WorldTraveller options, visit the Vodafone website.

Three

Three takes it one step further than Vodafone in that it gives its Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go customers additional free roaming to countries outside of the EU that are covered by its Feel At Home incentive.

It doesn’t matter what device you are using and like Vodafone, you can use your phone as you would in the UK but Three doesn’t charge you anything for the privilege when you go further afield, such as the US or Australia. What’s more, it works on PAYG plans too.

Sounds a little too good to be true right? Well as long as you are visiting one of the 19 participating countries it’s absolutely genuine. So if Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Lanzarote, Macau, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland or the USA are on your holiday list, you are covered.

There is one snag, if you have All-You-Can-Eat data, texts and minutes then only up to 25GB, 5000 texts and 3000 minutes are included in the incentive for no extra charge but that’s still quite a lot.

In countries not covered by Three’s scheme, such as Germany, normal charges will apply. That’s 4.3p a minute for voice calls, 1.8p a text and 4.3p a MB for data, as in all other EU states not covered. You can also opt for a £5 a day EU Internet Pass. Outside of the EU costs will be higher.

It’s also worth noting that to benefit from Feel At Home, you need to have been a Three customer for more than 30 days and if you are a Pay As You Go customer, you need to convert your credit into an Add-on.

For more information, visit the Three website.

O2

For those with O2, you can benefit from the O2 Travel add on, available to Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go customers, but it’s for those travelling to Europe rather than further away.

For Pay Monthly customers, you’ll get unlimited data, calls and texts for £1.99 a day. The inclusive daily allowance lasts 24 hours and includes 120 minutes and 120 texts.

For Pay As You Go customers, you will also be charged £1.99 for data with a limit of 100MB a day, while calls will cost 4p per minute to make and free to receive. Texts cost 1p per message when sent to the UK or elsewhere in Europe.

If you are going further afield than Europe, O2 also offer bolt-ons but it will cost you more than Vodafone and Three’s options. You can find out more information on the O2 website.

EE

EE also offers a range of add-ons that could help you save money while you are abroad, but doesn’t currently offer inclusive roaming for the EU or other countries worldwide.

When in Europe on EE, a Euro Pass costs £4 and offers unlimited calls and texts plus some data. You get 500MB free. Extra data add-ons are also available if you use your limit, which start at £3 for 75MB.

If you have an EE Extra plan however, you get inclusive minutes and texts in over 39 countries so you’ll save on the daily charge but you’ll still need an add-on for data.

EU calls cost 4.4p a minute to make, while text messages cost 1.8p to send. Incoming calls costs a penny per minute.

If you are going further afield then you’ll need a different kind of add on. For example, if you were planning on flying to the States, you can opt for one of the Talk & Text add ons, such as ‘120 Roaming Minutes – Global’, which will allow you to make or receive 120 minutes worth of calls anywhere in the world to the UK for £20 a month rolling contract, or £6 a month for 30 minutes.

Texts will cost you £6 a month rolling contract for 100 roaming texts, or £10 a month for 250 roaming texts and data costs from £3 for 20MB to use within 24 hours, up to £40 for 500MB to use over seven days.

EE’s offers depend on which zone you are travelling in and for how long for so it is worth going on the EE website to work out your best option.

T-Mobile & Orange

Both T-Mobile and Orange offer the same service as EE when it comes to Europe, only cheaper as they are 3G services rather than 4G. It gives you inclusive minutes and texts for £2 a day, while staying online will cost you from £3 depending on the amount of data you select.

Prices outside of add-ons are the same as EE.

For worldwide travel, Orange Pay Monthly customers can add a Talk & Text bundle that will give you 30 per cent off all your calls and texts for £5.10, allowing you to make a call for 84p a minute and send a text for 35p when you’re in the USA for example. You can also add 20MB of data for £3 a day or 100MB for £10 a day.

If you’re with T-Mobile and travelling to America then there are no add ons for calls and texts but you can opt for the Zone A Internet Travel Booster 200MB or 500MB to use for seven days, which will cost you £20 or £40 respectively.

As with EE, it depends on which zone you are travelling in and how long for so visit the EE website for more information. 

iD from Carphone Warehouse

The Carphone Warehouse network, iD, aims to offer great deals to entice customers away from the traditional network offerings. 

The iD network offers a comprehensive list of roaming costs on its site here. A taster of a few:

EU states – calls to UK at 4.7p per minute, texts at 1.8p and data at 4.7p per megabyte. Incoming calls cost 1p a minute. Sending a picture message costs 50p.

USA – calls to UK at £1.40 per minute, texts at 35p and data at 25p per megabyte.

Hong Kong – calls to UK at £2 per minute, texts at 50p and data at £1.25 per megabyte.

There are also what iD calls Takeaway Plans, which allow for roaming at no extra cost. These start at £12.50 per month and cover the US, Australia and all of Europe.

Tesco Mobile

From 23 May until midnight 3 September, Tesco Mobile will scrap its EU roaming charges completely as part of its Home From Home promotion. Customers will be able to call, text and use data in EU member states without any extra cost on top of their existing price plans.

Their minutes, texts and data limits will still apply as at home. That covers both PAYG and pay monthly customers.

Other than that charges for calling other EU members will cost 4p a minute, texts will be 1p a message to send. Picture messages are 25p a text. Data is charged at 4p per MB.

Tesco Mobile caps data usage to 1GB so you cannot exceed £40 of spend while abroad in the EU or 5MB when elsewhere. That’s because it charges £8 per MB if you are outside the EU so be wary of using data anywhere other than in Europe or at a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Call charges from outside the EU can also be very pricey. Calls when you are in the US, for example, cost from 89p a minute to make or receive. Sending texts costs 40p a text.

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6
May

Sesame Workshop launches an experimental new YouTube channel


The organization that’s made Sesame Street for nearly 50 years is now looking to branch out in a different way on YouTube. In addition to the existing Sesame Street channel, Sesame Workshop is now launching Sesame Studios, a channel specifically for new and experimental educational videos. It’s designed as a way to reach a new generation of kids that spend more time with smartphones and tablets than sat in front of the TV. NPR is reporting that, despite the name, the stars of Sesame Street won’t be appearing in any capacity, and will instead groom a whole new group of cute characters to win our hearts.

As Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey Dunn says, the outfit needed to “expand the intellectual property” and “figure out how different kids engage.” Working with YouTube is one such way, and the team is hoping it’ll make producers a lot more nimble than they have been in the past. After all, making one episode of television is a long and time-consuming process, but YouTube videos can be knocked out in days. It’ll also be cheaper, with Dunn saying that you can “create an unbelievable amount of content” for the cost of two 30 minute episodes of TV. It’ll also enable his team to take more risks knowing that failure will be tolerated since the stakes are lower.

Sesame Street has been in a period of transition for the last few years as it tries to maintain its place in the world. Sponsor-free, psychologist-approved kids TV is still as important as ever, but the Workshop was struggling with money woes. Producers had covered a shortfall in PBS funding with DVD sales, but the internet has eroded the team’s ability to sell discs. Eventually, the program signed a deal with HBO, which gets first-run rights to all new episodes for nine months before they air on PBS. The firm has also launched its own venture fund to help groom projects that could help with child development.

Via: NPR

Source: Sesame Studios (YouTube)

6
May

Warner Music makes most of its money from streaming


The rise of streaming services has definitely changed how we consume music. It’s also changing how record labels make money. In its earnings report for Q1 2016, Warner Music Group, one of three major labels alongside Sony and Universal, revealed that streaming is now its biggest source of revenue in terms of recorded music. It also says it’s the first “major music company” to report this transition. More specifically, Warner’s revenue from streaming rose $72 million during the quarter, putting it ahead of physical sales and digital downloads for the label. Of course, the decline of physical sales has been well-documented both globally and the US.

Warner Music Group, like other labels, aren’t settling for rising streaming revenue. If it’s going to take over records sales, companies want to be adequately compensated for all music that’s being streamed. That includes from so-called “safe harbors” that allow users to upload songs, like YouTube.

During Warner’s earnings call, CEO Stephen Cooper said it’s crucial to “ensure a fairer correlation” between royalties from paid subscriptions and those places where people can listen for free. He went on to say that Warner had made its position known to both the European Commission and the US Copyright Office. As streaming continues to grow and physical sales likely continue to decline, this battle over the “value gap” will certainly heat up.

Via: Recode

Source: Warner Music Group

6
May

The best bookshelf speakers for most stereos


By Chris Heinonen

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

To find the best bookshelf speakers for your stereo system, we considered hundreds of models, narrowed the field to 19 finalists, and then had a three-person listening panel put each through its paces with a wide variety of music. After 90 hours of work, the ELAC Debut B6 speakers came out as our top choice because they sound more like a live performance than anything in this price range.

Who these are for

We brought in 19 pairs of bookshelf speakers for testing.

Bookshelf speakers are great for anyone willing to tolerate a bit more complexity in setup to get better sound and better value than other options provide. For example, Bluetooth speakers offer an easy way to listen to music but can’t produce a real stereo effect and use a compressed signal, but whole-home audio systems can give you true CD-quality streaming but have a limited number of speaker options and often cost more.

Used with a receiver, bookshelf speakers let you listen to your audio sources in full resolution, and because you can connect any device to your receiver’s inputs, you aren’t limited to CD resolution. Although wireless standards will certainly change a lot over the next decade, you can rest assured a pair of passive bookshelf speakers will never become antiquated or useless.

How we picked and tested

For testing, we used a Sonos CONNECT (right) playing TIDAL and lossless local files through an AURALiC VEGA DAC (top left). We also used an ATI AT6012 amplifier (center) to power multiple speakers and a custom active switcher (bottom left) to switch between speaker pairs.

Companies have been making bookshelf speakers for decades, and every year hundreds of new models arrive. Testing every speaker on the market is impossible because of the number that exist. The first thing we did was narrow the field down to two price ranges: speakers priced at $125 a pair or less, and between $250 to $400 a pair. We then looked at all of the reviews we could find (and trust), plus customer reviews, to eliminate models that might have problems in real-world use.

Once we selected our finalists, we assembled them in a listening room for evaluation. To properly compare the speakers with one another, we set them on 30-inch-tall shelves so that the tweeters all stood as close to ear height (seated) as possible, placed the shelves at least one foot away from all walls for sound-quality reasons, and borrowed an ATI AT6012 amplifier to power multiple speakers at a time (though all our picks will work with pretty much all receivers).

We compared speakers in each price range head to head, using however many tracks it took to determine which one sounded best. If the results in a single listening round were too close for us to determine a winner, we rotated other models in and came back to those speakers later until we could make a choice.

Our pick

With detail, soundstage, and bass response that would be impressive at any price point, the ELAC Debut B6 make a great stereo pair.

Out of the 18 speakers we tested, the ELAC Debut B6 won us over with impressive detail, terrific soundstaging, and tight bass. A few of its competitors surpassed the ELAC in certain aspects, but among those priced under $400, nothing else we heard offered the overall balance and performance of the ELAC Debut B6 for the same price.

During our tests, in “Just the Way You Are” from Diana Krall’s Live in Paris, her vocals sounded more natural through the ELAC pair than through most of the competition. It better distinguished small details such as the sound of her mouth opening and closing, and you get no peaked treble here. It also gives music much more depth and realism, thanks to its wide and deep soundstage. Basically, you won’t get closer to the feeling of a live performance without spending a lot more money. These speakers sounded great no matter what we played on them. The openings to “Teardrop” from Massive Attack and The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” show off the extended bass response the ELAC Debut B6 pair offers over the competition.

With optional matching center channel, tower, and Atmos modules, the ELAC speakers will work in both two-channel and multichannel systems. Plus, they’re versatile to set up; secure binding posts make them easy to install with any kind of speaker cable.

The (better-looking) runner-up

If the ELAC Debut B6 set is unavailable, the DALI Zensor 1 is a close runner-up. The sound quality of this pair is virtually the same as the ELAC, and we couldn’t pick one over the other in a direct A-to-B comparison. They’re also much more compact and come in a selection of much nicer finishes than the ELAC pair. However, you’re paying 50 percent more for what amounts to cosmetic improvements.

An upgrade in sound quality

If you want to go for an upgrade, the KEF Q100 speakers cost nearly twice the price of our main pick, but this pair was the clear favorite of our listening panel. We found the sound to be more detailed and clear than what we heard from the other speakers. Like the ELAC Debut B6, the Q100 set has an available matching center channel for home theater. It also comes in four different finishes, and you can even choose larger versions if you want more bass.

Great sound at a bargain price

Finally, the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR set is our budget pick. These speakers were part of Andrew Jones’ last series at Pioneer and sounded better than any of the other under-$200 speakers we tried. But our listening panel said they sounded less detailed compared with speakers in the $300+ range. They’re good for the money, but we recommend you upgrade if you can afford to.

Getting the most from your speakers

An ideal position for bookshelf speakers is on a pair of speaker stands.

Even though they’re called bookshelf speakers, don’t put your speakers on an actual bookshelf—because most bookshelf speakers are rear-ported, some of the bass fires out of the back, and it won’t sound as good. A bookcase amplifies some of the bass and changes its tone.

Instead, try putting each speaker farther out into the open; placing it on top of a table or a stand eight to 12 inches from the wall will make a big improvement. Strive to get the tweeters at roughly ear level when you’re sitting, because that’s the way most speakers are designed to be used.

An ideal position for bookshelf speakers is on a pair of speaker stands. The stands will put the speakers at the correct height for most people when they’re seated—plus, they have carpet spikes to better anchor them to the floor.

It’s important to note that the front grill on a speaker is designed to keep the drivers safe from children and pets, but having it in place is not as good as leaving it off, soundwise. So if you don’t have kids or pets around to damage the grill, don’t feel you have to use it. For more tips on how to get the most from your speakers, check out our full review here.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

6
May

Apple Music’s social features are reportedly taking a backseat


Earlier this week, reports surfaced that an Apple Music redesign is in the works for WWDC in June. 9to5Mac is now reporting that the massive overhaul also includes less focus on Connect: the service’s social feature that allows artists and fans to interact. When Apple Music was first announced, the app’s tools that would allow musicians to publish updates to listeners was a key part of the reveal. Connect was meant to be a place artists could share exclusive tracks, tour photos and more behind-the-scenes content. However, it doesn’t look like the feature ever became popular among subscribers.

As part of the demotion, 9to5Mac notes that access to Connect will no longer be part of the main menu tab along the bottom of the Apple Music UI. Instead, the feature will reside in the “For You” section along with other recommendations. Artist pages will still display the content as they do now, but no new features are said to be in the works for that socially-focused tool as part of the larger redesign.

This isn’t the first time Apple tried to incorporate social features inside its music apps. Back in 2010, the company announced iTunes Ping, a social network that allowed users to follow friends (and artists), post comments, view custom song/album charts and concert listings. Ping lasted a little over two years before Apple pulled the plug on it.

Source: 9to5Mac

6
May

Twitch starts rolling out access to its ‘Friends’ feature


Last month, Twitch continued its transformation into a fully fledged social network with a feature called “Friends.” And now the streaming service is opening it up to users, albeit in limited beta form. The list, which can have up to 500 people per account, will let you see who’s online and, if need be, send private messages (aka Whispers) with a single click. Right now, Twitch says it has activated accounts for anyone who signed up at PAX East in April, as well as a few other members of the community.

But keep in mind sending a friend request does double as a beta invite, so be sure to share the love with your amigos on the platform. Unfortunately, Twitch didn’t offer a timeline for when Friends will be available to everyone, only going as far as noting that it’ll happen “soon.”

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Twitch

6
May

Sign up to play futuristic cops vs robbers in ‘LawBreakers’ now


If you can’t get enough of online brawls by way of Blizzard’s Overwatch and Gearbox Software’s Battleborn, there’s a third contender out there. It’s called LawBreakers, and it’s the brainchild of Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski. The arena-based multiplayer shooter from developer Boss Key Productions is now offering registration for alpha testing to anyone who wants to get down and start breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law.
Simply head to the official LawBreakers website to sign up, and you’ll be notified via email with further instructions on how to access the game, which is exclusive to Steam. Alternatively, you can add the game to your Steam Wishlist to be considered for the alpha test.

The competitive shooter was originally poised to take the free-to-play route, but that’s since changed as Bleszinski opted to revamp LawBreakers for a pay-to-play release instead. Players can fight on the side of the “Law” or opt to suit up as “Breakers” across the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and even the Santa Monica coastline in a “rebuilt America.” If you’re interested in adding a third competitive shooter to your PC repertoire, you might want to get in while the getting’s good.

Source: Twitter

6
May

Third Party App ‘Littlebook’ Brings Facebook to the Apple Watch for $2.99


Although a number of social networks have introduced scaled-down apps for the Apple Watch, the biggest holdout thus far has been Facebook. Thanks to a third party app called “Littlebook,” Facebook users will now be able to browse their news feeds right from Apple’s wearable device (via The Next Web).

In addition to basic browsing, Littlebook lets users interact with posts by tapping to like things, and even includes full in-line photos and videos in the news feed. An offline mode lets users save articles to read later, and the app allows for transferring over to the iPhone with Handoff support, if the small size of the Apple Watch isn’t enough for lengthy reads. There’s also a voice dictation feature that can be used to post full status updates to your friends and family.

Reto Stuber, Littlebook’s developer, does remind potential users that the app has its limitations due to the platform, including the fact that posts on the feed are limited to preview samples with no “read more” option, sharing and reactions are not yet supported, and YouTube videos won’t work since playback is only supported by embedded Facebook videos at launch. Still, the developer promised that he tried his “best to recreate the Facebook-App experience,” and Littlebook will continue to be supported with updates in the future.

Littlebook can be downloaded from the App Store for $2.99. [Direct Link]

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tag: Facebook
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
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6
May

Apple Music Connect to Be Removed From Music App Tab Bar in iOS 10


Earlier this week rumors suggested that an Apple Music overhaul is being prepared for a worldwide reveal at WWDC this June, with a launch in the fall within iOS 10. New details shared today by 9to5Mac indicate that one of the streaming music service’s least-used features — the social network-like section called Connect — will be “demoted” in the overhaul and removed from the app’s tab bar completely.

Although some users have gone through the process of removing Connect already, allowing them a dedicated Playlist tab in its place, iOS 10 will see Apple moving Connect permanently from the bottom tab and into an integrated section of the “For You” page of Apple Music. Because of this, Connect “is unlikely to see notable new features this year,” suggesting this section of Apple Music hasn’t lived up to the company’s plans laid out at WWDC last year.

Overall, the new version of Apple Music is said to focus on black and white backgrounds along with an emphasis on individual album artwork in tracklists. Other basic updates include the introduction of Apple’s San Francisco font, a new “Browse” tab, lyrics support, and new 3D Touch shortcut previews. Apple Music’s streaming radio network, Beats 1, is believed to remain largely the same as it is currently presented in the app.

Read More: Eight Months Later, Apple Music Connect Still ‘Fails Miserably’ at Social

Tags: Apple Music, Apple Music Connect
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6
May

Tim Cook Named Keynote Speaker at Startup Fest Europe in Late May


Apple CEO Tim Cook has been named as one of several tech industry executives that will speak at Startup Fest Europe, a festival geared towards helping startups grow faster, according to the event website.

Tim Cook (Apple) and Travis Kalanick (Uber) have accepted their invitation to come to the Netherlands with great enthusiasm. Neelie Kroes (special envoy StartupDelta) personally invited Cook and Kalanick during her visit to San Francisco together with Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Cook is scheduled to speak on Tuesday, May 24 at 11:10 a.m. local time for approximately 35 minutes. The topic of the discussion has not been revealed, but Cook will likely reflect on his CEO role and operational background at Apple since joining the company in 1998.

Other international keynote speakers scheduled to speak on May 24 include Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, Uber co-founder/CEO Travis Kalanick, Seedcamp co-founder Reshma Sohoni, Adyen co-founder Pieter van der Does, Elastic co-founder/CEO Steven Schuurman, Booking.com COO Gillian Tans, The Netherlands P.M. Mark Rutte, European Commission VP Andrus Ansip, and Atomico partner Mattias Ljungman.

Cook has maintained a busy agenda this month, starting with appearances on CNBC’s Mad Money and at Met Gala 2016 on Monday. He will also reportedly visit Beijing later in May to meet with high-level Chinese government officials as Apple looks to counter a series of recent setbacks in the country. Meanwhile, a recent charity auction for a one-hour lunch date with Cook raised more than $500,000 for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The lunch will take place by May 5, 2017.

Startup Fest Europe takes place between May 24-28 in Amsterdam.

(Thanks, Maarten!)

Tag: Tim Cook
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