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.
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.
After videos surfaced online of Kanye West’s cut pro-Trump speech during his Saturday Night Live performance, followed by a Twitter rant calling for the 13th amendment to be abolished, a Care2 petition calling on Adidas to cut ties with the rapper spiked to 26,000 signatures.
The petition was initially created back in May after Ye spoke a slew of controversial comments on TMZ, noting in particular that slavery was a choice. “Kanye West continues to show disregard for the influence of his role as a public figure with his support of Donald Trump’s policies and his confused Twitter rants on slavery, while the rest of black America is continually marginalized and subject to unjust laws and treatment,” the petition reads. “West has a right to free speech, and he has the right to spout lies and misinformation and misplaced opinions — but Adidas should not stand idly by and, effectively, condone his behavior and revisionist history.”
West’s SNL speech, which did not make it to air followed the theme of racism in America as the rapper sported a “Make America Great Again” hat. “It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’” he announced. “Well if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago. We don’t just make our decisions off of racism. I’ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies.”
On the face of it, there’s nothing surprising about Instagram’s founders leaving six years after the company was sold. Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom’s tenures at Facebook were longer than that of most Facebook employees, where the average is 2.5 years. And Instagram has come a long way since Facebook bought it in April 2012 for a reported $1 billion. In the past six years, Instagram has grown from 50 million users to more than a billion users, and it currently employs more than 700 people. Today, its estimated worth is over $100 billion.
When Facebook acquired Instagram, it promised that it would not mess with the company. But the truth may be that Instagram has become far too important to Facebook’s bottom line for Mark Zuckerberg to keep that promise. With Mr. Krieger and Mr. Systrom’s departures, the future of Instagram is now completely in Mr. Zuckerberg’s hands.
Instagram’s explosive growth is a success story in its own right, and a big part of the credit is due to Instagram’s executive team, which carried out its vision of an uncluttered feed of photographs. Another part of the company’s story, however, is how much Instagram was able to leverage the technical and advertising infrastructure built by its parent company.
Brands are now racing to capture the market of young people who strive to live gender identities that fit.
They are the new beautiful people and their pronouns are they, their and them. Fashion courts them. Publishers pursue them. Corporations see in them the future of consuming, as generations come of age for whom notions of gender as traditionally constituted seem clunkier than a rotary phone.
Why settle for being a man or a woman when you can locate yourself more exactly along the arc of gender identity? And, on another axis, why limit your sexual expression to a single definition when you can glissade along the Kinsey scale?
“It’s all about letting go of gender so you can be everything in between,” said Terra Juano, a model with 100,000 Instagram followers who track the booming career and amatory antics of this androgynous Mexican-Filipino beauty with a shaved head, a mile-wide smile, an affection for cowboy hats and an uninhibited tendency to go top free.
In the evolving language of gender expression, Terra Juano, though assigned female at birth, identifies as nonbinary. And in business as in life, TJ, a native of Stockton, Calif., has lighted out for a new territory. It is one in which the conventions of both homo- and heteronormative expression are called into question daily.
Packed with interactive features and social media appeal, pop-up exhibits have taken major cities by storm, allowing visitors to step into another world.
A sunflower garden, a caviar pool and a psychedelic laundromat are among the many Instagram-ready experiences that have taken over vacant studio spaces and abandoned buildings across the country, luring in the hashtagged obsessed.
These interactive pop-up exhibits in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities charge people $18 to $45 to capture their experiences in immersive “Instagram playgrounds,” many of which lead to thousands of posts on the social media platform.
“It’s meant to feel like a dreamscape, a little oasis away from the chaos of the city,” said Michelle Price, on-site brand manager of The Egg House, a pop-up exhibit that started in New York and is currently in Shanghai, attracting over 16,330 Instagram followers.
The Egg House revolves around an egg named Ellis who, Price said, was brought to New York to attract people and take them on a journey through “his Big Apple dreams.”
While the installations’ visual appeal helps the exhibits attract visitors, abstract narratives like Ellis’ engage visitors.
“Every installation is meant to be interactive,” Price said. “Usually when you go to an art exhibit they’re more passive, you have that sense of separation.”
The answer to the question “Kiki, do you love me?” appears to be a resounding “Yes.”
The viral dance challenge started by Instagram star Shiggy for Drake’s Kiki interrogation “In My Feelings” has been adopted by everyone from Leslie Jones to Will Smith, pushing the bounce-flavored song to the forefront of the pop culture conversation, and to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Even Drizzy himself acknowledged that Shiggy’s dance challenge played a major part in making the track a hit.