Do you watch a lot of YouTube? If you have a lot of subscriptions or find yourself going down a rabbit hole on a regular basis, you may be spending more time on the service than you really should. YouTube will now make it possible for you to limit yourself and take breaks from streaming videos through their service.
YouTube is now introducing their feature that will encourage watchers to “take a break,” says Android Authority. The newly updated version of YouTube is adding settings that let users customize how long they watch. In the “General” section of the YouTube app’s settings, users who have updated the app will find an option called “Remind me to take a break.” Using this setting will prompt YouTube to send out reminders after a certain length of time. These reminders can be dismissed and won’t actually lock watchers out of the app. But they will let people get an idea of how long they’ve been watching and then choose to pause for a while.
With this setting, users can decide how long they can watch before being prompted to stop streaming. There are six options to choose from, including “Never” as the shortest time and “”Every 180 minutes” as the longer time. There are also more moderate options like “Every 60 minutes.” If you’re really wanting to cut back on your watching, you can even pick “Every 15 minutes,” though I don’t know many people who can really stop themselves after just 15 minutes.
There are plenty of really great videos and channels on YouTube, and of course it’s not necessary to stop watching altogether. But some people can find it hard to stop bingeing videos, which means it can be really helpful to get some reminders to stop wasting so much time. Since they’re just reminders and they don’t actually lock the app, the main concern is that YouTube binge watchers will simply get in the habit of dismissing the notification periodically. But there are other apps that can do this if necessary, and YouTube’s approach will be a much gentler one for those who just need a little bit of a push.
The update is being rolled out now, according to Android Authority. Look for this new feature in your app’s settings after you’ve updated.
Hulu and Spotify, streaming services that have begun offering bundles of their two services, have both revealed how many subscribers they have.
Hulu, the popular video streaming service, announced on Wednesday that they had more than 20 million subscribers, according to CNN Money. These numbers aren’t as high as Netflix’s, as CNN Money notes that Netflix has about 55 million subscribers in the United States. But the numbers still suggest Hulu is a decent competitor when it comes to the video streaming game.
They could also potentially gain more subscribers, as well, as some announced changes certainly seem enticing. Hulu, like Netflix, already has some of their own original programming (like the popular Handmaid’s Tale). Until now, though, Netflix offered something Hulu didn’t: offline watching. Hulu now plans to make content available to download and watch offline, says CNN Money. The content would still play with ads, but an internet connection wouldn’t be necessary.
Spotify announced their own numbers on Thursday. Spotify is a popular music streaming service that offers paid and free accounts. According to TechSpot, Spotify now has 75 million paid subscribers to their service, and the number of people who use the service every month is also huge: 170 million. And as TechSpot also mentions, Spotify’s 75 million paid subscribers is far above Apple Music’s 40 million. This only further cements Spotify as the major competitor in the music streaming arena.
Hulu and Spotify both offer their own separate subscriptions, but over the past months they’ve begun offering bundles, as well. Last year they began offering a student plan that bundled the two services for only $4.99 a month. And just last month, a bundle was announced for everyone else that would offer both services for just $12.99, which is higher than the student price but still a significantly less expensive option.
Chrome has been making changes to how ads are displayed in the browser for some time now. In the most recent update of Google’s browser, some autoplay videos will now be blocked, while others will be allowed automatically.
In a blog post, Google outlines how the new autoplay video update works. Now Chrome will learn your preferences when it comes to videos that autoplay with sound. Using your browsing history, Chrome will start enabling or disabling autoplay videos with sound. If you typically choose to play videos on certain websites, Chrome will allow autoplay videos to run with sound. If you typically don’t watch the videos on a site, Chrome will start disabling their autoplay videos with sound.
Even if you don’t have a browsing history, the blog post says, certain sites will have their autoplay videos enabled or disabled as you start building your history. Whichever sites have the most people clicking to play videos with sound will automatically be enabled for you until the browser learns that you don’t want videos played on those sites.
This update comes after Google has already implemented many other ways to avoid certain ads and mute sites that autoplay ads with sound. In February, Chrome’s ad blocking system went live. Their ad blocking is meant to start automatically blocking certain ads that don’t meet their standards. And in January, Chrome introduced a way to permanently mute sites instead of just temporarily muting them while the tab was open.
All of these changes mean Chrome should soon become the browser to use if you specifically want to avoid annoying ads and autoplay videos (especially if you don’t want to deal with browser add-ons). In their blog post, Google notes that their new autoplay video blocking system will block “about half” of the autoplay videos that users want to avoid. Though not a full block of autoplay videos, it should cut down significantly on the annoyance of sound suddenly blasting from your device.
If you use Windows 10, you can now find iTunes in the Microsoft Store.
According to Ars Technica, iTunes is now available to Windows 10 users in the Microsoft Store. Ars Technica notes that bringing iTunes to the Microsoft Store was actually supposed to happen by the end of 2017, making its addition now a bit late. But it seems to be a welcome addition.
The program still works the same way as iTunes does if you download it straight from Apple, says Ars Technica, but they also note downloading from the Microsoft Store has some advantages. In particular, you won’t get prompts asking you to download other Apple products, plus it won’t install things that run in the background (which can seriously bog down a computer).
iTunes was previously available for Windows and MacOS. This means it was likely already accessible to many people who can find it in the Microsoft Store now. But there were also some people who now have access who didn’t before: those using Windows 10 S devices. Windows 10 S devices can only install programs from the Microsoft Store, so these users can now download iTunes. This is useful since iTunes is still a hugely popular service. It’s not just a music service, either; you can download music, movies, shows, podcasts, and more.
The Microsoft Store previously already offered other popular music programs. You could already find the streaming services Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, SiriusXM, TuneIn, and more. So if you’re simply interested in streaming and you have an account with any of these services, the addition of iTunes may not excite you much.
But if you specifically enjoy iTunes and like having a way to organize your media and access more than just music, this new platform may be good news for you. You can find iTunes in the Microsoft Store right now.
If you’re a Prime subscriber, take note: your yearly cost will soon go up.
Amazon’s new price jump for their Prime service isn’t particularly small, either: an annual subscription is soon going to be $119 instead of the current $99, says Variety. That’s $20 more than before, which is about a 20% increase.
Amazon Prime has a large number of subscribers. Digital Trends reported earlier this month that Amazon had revealed how many people subscribed to the service. At the time, it was reported that there were over a hundred million subscribers across the world.
Prime likely draws in so many people because it has features that appeal to many different interests. With Prime, you can get free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible offers. You can also watch a great deal of TV shows and movies for free. This includes some Prime-exclusive shows, like their popular shows Sneaky Pete and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. You can also stream music and rent e-books. Plus you have access to things like Prime Pantry (where you can have household items and groceries sent to you), Amazon Fresh (grocery delivery in select areas), and photo storage in the cloud.
It’s unclear if Prime’s price hike will cause some subscribers to skip renewing in the future. It is a significant price increase, but Prime membership can also become embedded in peoples’ lives because of how many different things are offered.
If you’re considering subscribing for the first time, you have until May 11 to sign up at the current $99 fee, says Variety. They also explain that for current subscribers, rates won’t increase until June 16. So if you’re trying to decide whether to renew your membership or create a new one, you still have a little bit of time to decide before the price jumps.
Netflix is now giving their app users a chance to preview shows before watching.
The Netflix app now has what they’re calling mobile previews, Fortune reports. These mobile previews will seem like a familiar feature if you use an app that has Stories (like Snapchat). The previews appear at the top of the app and can be clicked through one after another. You can even go straight to the content from a preview if you see something you like.
According to Fortune, most of the previews are around 30 seconds long. You also don’t have to turn your screen to watch them because they’re vertical videos instead of horizontal.
If you watch on your gaming console or laptop, you’ve likely already seen their auto-playing trailers. These trailers promote content, sometimes showing previews of shows you may not have seen, other times showing a preview of the content you currently have selected. They have also been quite an annoyance for many people. There have been consistent complaints about how the auto-playing videos can’t be disabled, meaning if you stay on one screen for too long while browsing for what to watch, you have to either click away, open content and pause it, mute your TV, or find some other creative way to stop the videos from playing.
Fortunately, the previews now added to the Netflix app are something quite different. They don’t auto-play, which is surely a relief to Netflix app users who don’t want to have previews blasting through their headphones as soon as the app opens. And they appear to be a genuinely useful way to find out about more content you might actually like, particularly since you can tap a preview that’s playing to skip it and move on to something more relevant.
Mobile previews are already available on iOS devices, says Fortune, and Android users can expect the feature to arrive “soon.”
Music and TV lovers, good news! You can now bundle Hulu and Spotify and save some money.
Currently only available to Spotify Premium subscribers, you can currently try Hulu for only 99 cents a month, says TechCrunch, and after this three month trial, you will be able to get both Hulu and Spotify for a combined total of only $12.99. This saves about 5 dollars a month on the popular streaming services.
The bundled Hulu subscription will be the version of Hulu with ads, but this is still a great deal and good news for people who already use one or both of the services anyway. And if you don’t currently use either one, this summer you’ll get a chance to start trying them both for quite a bit less than before.
A Spotify and Hulu bundle is certainly not a new concept. As I wrote last year, the Spotify Student Hulu Bundle became available for students. This bundle gives students both Spotify and Hulu (with ads) for only $4.99 a month and is available right now. Students simply have to follow the verification process to prove they’re currently enrolled in an institution.
Of course, $12.99 is a bit more than what students pay. But it still saves a decent amount of money. According to TechCrunch, the deal will be available to everyone in the summer. For now, if you have Spotify Premium, you can head to their page and add Hulu for an additional 99 cents during your three-month trial.
And for those of you using Hulu, there’s even more good news: for a limited time, you can add HBO to your subscription for only $5 a month. CNET reports that the add-on, which is usually $15 a month, is currently available at a huge discount. If you sign up for HBO during this promotion, you’ll get the $5 a month price for six months before it goes back to the normal $15 a month.
Podcasts may not be a new discovery or some secret section of the internet. But in past years, podcasts stopped being discussed quite as often as they had been before. This has led some to believe they’ve mostly stopped being made and that there aren’t really any worthwhile podcasts out there.
While the format certainly isn’t new, there are some new (or new-ish) podcasts in existence that are quite different from what you might expect. And there are some podcasts still going strong for a decade or more. When someone mentions podcasts these days, some people think they’re talking about podcasts made up of political discussions and news stories. But there’s much more out there to subscribe to and enjoy.
What’s so great about podcasts?
Podcasts might not be quite as widely discussed or followed as they were not too long ago. But there are a lot of reasons to download or stream some podcasts. Here are a few things that are great about podcasts:
- They can cover a wide variety of topics and be made in a number of different formats
- You can find fun, interesting, or highly knowledgable hosts
- You can listen to new content regularly (sometimes monthly, often weekly)
- You can subscribe using music platforms you probably already use (like iTunes and Spotify)
- There’s a lot to choose from because creators have so many outlets
- You can listen to your podcasts during trips and your work commute
- You can listen on many different devices, including smartphones, computers, and smart speakers
Where can you find podcasts?
There are a number of places to find new podcasts you may want to listen to. Here are just a few suggestions:
- iTunes: Podcasts have been available on iTunes for many years now.
- Spotify: Spotify listeners can stream quite a few podcasts and scroll through the podcasts they’re currently following.
- Listen Notes: This website is a search engine devoted specifically to finding podcasts.
- Stitcher: This site hosts many different podcasts (some of which you’ll see below).
Before you listen to these podcasts…
Keep in mind that the podcasts listed in this article may include some mature content. We can’t guarantee that they’ll be safe for work or that the content will always be clean or inoffensive. Always make sure to visit a podcast’s page and read its description before subscribing!
10 interesting podcasts
The following podcasts are all fairly different from one another. Take a look at each one to learn a little more about it, then click the podcast’s link to find out more!
Answer Me This
Answer Me This is a comedy podcast devoted to answering odd or interesting questions. Each episode description features a long list of topics discussed in the podcast (like “goldfish as gifts” and “Dothraki grammar”). Episode descriptions also feature a suggestion of how mature that specific episode’s content is (though the tone here is humorous just like everything else on the podcast). Episodes are bi-weekly.
This podcast taps into peoples’ interest in true stories about shocking and compelling crimes. It attempts to actually look deeper into an understanding of the crimes instead of simply describing what happened. It’s been going for several years and puts out two episodes each month. Episodes feature a variety of different types of crimes. Some recent episode titles include “Willie Bosket,” “Secrets and Séances,” “A Bump in the Night,” and “Vanish.”
Hello from the Magic Tavern
Hello from the Magic Tavern is a comedy podcast that features the fictional Arnie, a man from our world who accidentally fell into another world (through a portal behind a Burger King) and ended up in a place called Foon. Arnie hosts each podcast in the Vermillion Minotaur, his new land’s local tavern, and he includes co-hosts (a wizard and a talking badger). He typically brings people of interest from the land of Foon onto the show and interviews them. This podcast has been running for several years and will appeal to both comedy and fantasy fans.
How Did This Get Made?
This podcast features funny conversations about bad films. The hosts (including Paul Scheer), based on recommendations, watch bad movies with their guests and then discuss them. Some past guests have included Patton Oswalt, James Franco, Seth Rogen, John Mulaney, Anna Faris, Kevin Smith, and many more. New episodes come out every other week.
Important If True
Important If True is a somewhat new podcast (which started last year). The hosts discuss various interesting topics and do it with a sense of humor. They often talk about future technology, science, and life in general. They often go off on tangents describing funny imagined scenarios, and it’s never a boring or dry discussion. Some episode titles include “Alexa, Destroy Me,” “The Terrible Power of Knowledge,” and “Untethered From Reality.” It’s posted weekly (though at the time of writing this article, episodes may be released less frequently).
Stuff You Missed in History Class
This podcast is from How Stuff Works. It features interesting historical topics that you probably didn’t learn about and that will catch your interest. Some recent podcasts are titled “Ignaz Semmelweis and the War on Handwashing” and “Hawaii’s Legend of the Menehune.” Podcasts can be sorted and looked through by topic or by the century the information is set in.
Stuff You Should Know
This is another podcast brought to you by How Stuff Works. The concept of this podcast is that there are a lot of things you might not know about, including some basic information. Each podcast covers a different subject you could benefit from knowing more about. There are podcasts focused on topics like landmines, the evolution of language, trickle down economics, hoarding, crime scene cleanup, and much more. You can sort and look through podcasts by topic.
They Walk Among Us
This podcast is not for the faint of heart. True crime shows are highly popular entertainment these days, and this podcast fits the bill. They Walk Among Us is a true crime podcast that features real events set in the UK. They have episodes on subjects like “Wearside Jack,” Alan Turing, missing persons, and more.
Thrilling Adventure Hour
This now-ended podcast is set like an old radio program. It features fictional stories read by the cast in front of an actual audience. There’s music, humor, and some interesting tales. It ended a couple of years ago, but the good news is you can still listen to the old recordings, and they’re worth going back to listen to even knowing there’s not more to come. Since they were created to have an old-timey feel anyway, it doesn’t matter that the episodes are a few years old.
You Must Remember This
This podcast is a work of creative nonfiction that features the host (Karina Longworth) telling true stories set in Hollywood during the classic era. Each episode is carefully researched, put together, and hosted by Longworth. There have been stories about Bela Lugosi, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Charles Manson’s connections to Hollywood, and much more. It’s currently on break, and the new season is scheduled to begin this July. In the meantime, you can listen to previous episodes in the show’s archive.
Long gone are the days when people had to wait for a show to air and watch it live. For many years now, TV shows and movies have been available to stream online. There are too many streaming services to even remember them all.
Whether you have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, or any other streaming service, it’s very likely you’ve streamed an episode of your favorite show or a full movie in the not too distant past. You might have watched it by using your phone, your tablet, your computer, or perhaps something like a video game console connected to your TV.
There are many different streaming services and streaming options. One option is to use a streaming device (or a streaming stick). These streaming devices are focused solely on being small, unobtrusive, quick, and easy to use. You’ve likely heard of the most popular devices on the market.
You also might be wondering what the differences are between the devices. For those looking to get a streaming device, it might be difficult to choose. Or you might be wondering why so many people want to use these devices. In this article, I’m going to cover the basics as well as some of your options!
What is a video streaming device?
The video streaming devices this article talks about are typically small devices that plug into your TV. They can be tiny plugins that work with a remote, larger sticks, or other forms. While using one of these devices, people can stream videos from different places depending on the device: from specific services (using apps) or even from absolutely any service or site (using screen mirroring).
Some devices are more limited in what you can watch. Others (that use screen mirroring to let you display your phone, computer, or tablet on your TV) are nearly unlimited in what you can decide to watch.
Keep in mind that you’ll still need to subscribe to services separately. If you buy a video streaming device, you don’t get subscription services included (for instance, you’ll still need to pay to use Netflix).
Which TVs can use these devices?
Video streaming devices use recent technology to work. They typically need to be able to plug into an HDMI port on a TV. For this reason, you’ll nearly always need to have a fairly modern TV. Some devices specifically require you have an HDTV. If you have a pretty old TV that doesn’t have HDMI ports, you’ll very likely need to upgrade to a slightly newer TV.
You can check your TV’s manual to see if you have an HDTV with HDMI ports. Or you can look on your TV to find the TV model and look up its information online.
What’s so great about them?
Video streaming devices like those in this article are fairly popular at the moment, and they have been for years. One reason they are so well-liked is that they typically offer a wide range of streaming options. With most of these devices, you can choose between just about any service you use—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Vudu, YouTube, you name it. This means your video streaming might be entirely controlled through one device.
They’re also great because they’re usually very small and portable. They’re typically small sticks that can be quickly unplugged and used in a different TV. So if you buy a new TV, there aren’t a bunch of confusing cords to figure out. Or if you’re going to watch TV with someone else, you can easily transport the device to their home and set it up there.
Another positive is that there are some pretty affordable options. You don’t have to buy a new computer or use a gaming console to stream your shows. Those can be kind of pricey (though, of course, they do a lot more than just stream shows). If your main concern, though, is to stream TV and movies, you won’t have to splurge on an expensive, larger product.
And with these devices, controlling them is easy and convenient. Some of them have small remotes for controlling what you watch. Some of them also work through apps on phones. It’s no trouble at all to use the devices.
What are the most popular options?
There are a number of streaming video devices out there. If you’ve heard people talking about them, though, you’ve most likely heard them mention one of the devices listed below. The four devices in this article are some of the most popular and well-liked choices you have. Of course, they’re not your only options. But these devices are probably your likeliest contenders.
Apple, of course, has a streaming video device. They have more than one model, in fact. They offer the current model of their regular device (the 4th generation Apple TV) as well as the new Apple TV 4K (for use with 4K televisions). The 4K version is specifically designed to work with 4K TVs. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll want this model. It’s designed to run faster and display 4K video.
With the Apple TV, you simply plug the box into your TV with an HDMI cable (not included). The Apple TV comes with the Siri Remote so you can control what you watch. Once you’ve purchased Apple TV, you also get access to tech support for 90 days, plus you can get help from the Genius Bar.
Apple TV has many different apps to choose from. The product description specifically lists Netflix and Hulu. It also works with the other apps you’d expect, like YouTube and Amazon Video. It’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of all the available apps, but if you’re wondering whether your service works with Apple TV, a quick Google search should tell you. If you have an iOS device, you can also either cast an app to your TV or even mirror your iPhone’s screen to the TV.
Apple TV is currently $149. If you want the 4K version, you have two options: 32GB for $179 or 64GB for $199.
Chromecast is a little different from the other devices. It’s focused on casting from your other devices. Instead of having a remote that lets you choose between different apps, you use your phone, tablet, or computer to pick what you want to watch. Then you press the “Cast” button on the app and it’s displayed on your TV. It works with a number of devices, including those that use iOS, Android, and Windows. And there are many different apps that work with it, including the typical ones like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play.
Screen mirroring is also big with Chromecast. If you have an Android device or use the Chrome browser on your computer, you can display your device’s screen. This means you can watch anything with your Chromecast. If there’s a streaming website that doesn’t have an app, you can simply open it on your Chrome browser, mirror the browser using Chromecast, and watch on your TV.
A regular Chromecast 2nd Generation device is currently $35. Chromecast Ultra is $69.
The Fire TV Stick plugs into an HDMI slot and can be controlled with the included remote. The remote, called the Alexa Voice Remote, lets you control what you watch by either using the buttons or by using your voice. For instance, you can say “Alexa, open Hulu” to launch the Hulu app, or ask Alexa to play a specific show or pull up a genre of shows. And if you don’t want to use the remote for some reason, you can also use your Amazon Echo device to control your TV.
This device from Amazon doesn’t just play Amazon content (I did mention Hulu above). You can launch many different apps, including the ones you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video (of course), and HBO NOW. You can also open web browsers and find content that way.
The Fire TV has some slight differences from the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV isn’t the same kind of stick—it has a “pendant” design, so it looks a little different. It’s also designed to be faster, which is a definite plus. And, of course, it can display 4K content, so if you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV will be superior to the Fire TV Stick.
The Fire TV Stick is currently $39.99, while the Fire TV is currently $69.99 (or $74.99 if you get the bundle that includes a TV antenna).
Roku offers a number of different video streaming devices, each a little different. There’s the standard Roku Streaming Stick, the Streaming Stick+ (intended for 4K TVs), the Roku Express, the Roku Express+, (which works on older TVs!), and the Roku Ultra (intended for 4K TVs).
With a Roku device, you simply plug it in and set it up by creating a Roku account (or using an existing one). Depending on which device you choose, you’ll have some different features and options. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s different with each device:
- Roku Express is designed to be easy to set up (for those who are new to video streaming devices); it still has access to the same apps and it has a remote, but its performance may not be as high, and the remote doesn’t have voice control ($29.99)
- Roku Express+ is meant to be able to be used on older TVs; it comes with a composite cable as well as the typical HDMI cable, so if you don’t have HDMI ports, you can plug in the oldschool red, white, and yellow cords ($35)
- Roku Streaming Stick is the standard stick, with access to all the typical apps; it comes with a remote that includes voice control ($49.99)
- Roku Streaming Stick+ has the capabilities of the regular Streaming Stick, but it’s higher quality (it can stream 4K) and it can work well when further from your internet router, so it’s more easily used throughout your home ($69.99)
- Roku Ultra is meant for intense streaming and can stream 4K content; it’s designed to be faster, clearer, and it comes with some extras, like headphones, a feature for finding the remote when it’s lost, and other audio features ($99.99)
Though Roku’s devices all have some things in common, like access to typical apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, they all have some slight differences, so make sure to consider each one before deciding.
With Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu releasing so much original content, it might be a little hard to keep up. New shows and new seasons are coming out on a regular basis, ready to stream. Here’s a look at the original shows coming in the next couple months to Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu!
3/7: Hulu Hard Sun—Set in a pre-apocalyptic world, a pair of detectives must work together despite not seeing eye to eye. Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn star in this Hulu Original. Watch the trailer on YouTube.
3/8: Netflix Marvel’s Jessica Jones (new season)—Jessica Jones, private investigator and former superhero, is back for season 2 in the Netflix Original set in the Marvel universe. Watch the trailers on Netflix.
3/9: Amazon Sneaky Pete (new season)—Sneaky Pete’s first season starred Giovanni Ribisi as a con man and Bryan Cranston as the gangster he’s on the run from. Season two sees Ribisi’s character dealing with new problems. Watch the trailer on Amazon.
3/23: Netflix Alexa & Katie—Alexa & Katie follows Alexa as she deals with cancer and starts high school with her best friend. (A trailer isn’t yet available.)
3/30: Netflix A Series of Unfortunate Events (new season)—This Netflix Original based on the Lemony Snicket books and starring Neil Patrick Harris is back for a second season. Watch the teaser on YouTube.