Popular grocery store chain Kroger has launched a new mobile payments service called Kroger Pay, which it will be using in lieu of Apple Pay.
According to a WCPO, a local Cincinnati news site, Kroger Pay launched in Columbus and Colorado today, but will be expanding to all Kroger stores by the end of the year.
Kroger Pay is QR-based, so to pay, users need to open up the app and generate a single-use QR code that's scanned at checkout when making a purchase.
Kroger customers can link any major debit or credit card to the Kroger Pay app, and it also includes a Kroger Rewards debit card for earning fuel points and other rewards with purchases.
"Kroger Pay is one of the few mobile wallets that pairs loyalty and payment," said Mary Ellen Adcock, group vice president of operations. "The application of this exciting technology is another step in our front-end experience transformation."
With Kroger embracing its own payment solution, it looks like the grocery store chain has no plans to introduce support for Apple Pay. Kroger did test support for Apple Pay in stores that support contactless payments, but reportedly discontinued the program "due to little interest by customers."
Kroger in 2018 told a Reddit user that it did not have plans to implement Apple Pay in any of its stores.
Kroger has been working on its payments service for more than two years, and has been accepting the Chase Pay digital wallet since 2017.
Sleep fitness company Eight Sleep today announced "The Pod," a smart bed that lets users control the temperature of their side of the bed through their iPhone. Not only that, but The Pod will dynamically warm or cool you (55 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit) as you sleep based on settings you enter in the app.
The Pod does not support HomeKit and Eight Sleep has no plans to do so as of now. When we asked about HomeKit integration, the company pointed out that The Pod does support IFTTT, which opens up many smart home connection possibilities. The Pod also integrates with Alexa devices, Google Home, Philips Hue, Wemo products, and more. With these integrations, you can say things like "Alexa, cool down my bed" to prepare for nighttime.
This "smart temperature mode" is powered by machine learning and biofeedback, and is accompanied by a thermo alarm that leverages temperature to wake you up more naturally, without disturbing a sleep partner and without the need of a noisy alarm. This mode gradually cools your side of the bed in the minutes prior to the wake-up time you set on your iPhone.
In addition, The Pod includes biometric tracking to monitor time slept, time to fall asleep, time of wake up, respiratory rate, heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature in bed, sleep breaks, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. All of this is fed into Eight Sleep's AI engine to calculate your "sleep fitness score" and rate your sleep each night.
You can then take this score to adjust your next night of sleep as needed, change settings in The Pod, and even compare scores with friends.
Sleep monitoring has become a popular market over the past few years, and even Apple has shown interest in the technology by acquiring sleep tracking company Beddit in May 2017. Beddit is a slim sensor strip that you place over your existing mattress to monitor sleep stats like sleep time and efficiency, heart rate, respiration, temperature, movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity.
You can reserve Eight Sleep's Pod for $95 beginning today, and the remaining balance will be due at the time of shipping in April 2019. The Pod is available in Full ($1,995), Queen ($2,195), King ($2,495), and Cali King ($2,495), and each mattress will have a 100 night trial period with free returns.
iPhone and iPad users running iOS 12.1.4 or iOS 12.2 beta can now simply open the App Store, tap on their profile picture in the top-right corner, and tap on Manage Subscriptions to view and edit App Store, Apple Music, and Apple News subscriptions.
We've confirmed this Manage Subscriptions shortcut is not in earlier iOS versions.
Managing subscriptions previously required an extra step of tapping on the box with your Apple ID name and email address via the App Store or Settings.
Further cementing its status as Nintendo's most successful mobile game to date, Fire Emblem Heroes has officially crossed the half-a-billion-dollar revenue mark, which it hit just after the two-year anniversary of its launch in early February 2017. The game's $500 million in player spending includes players on both iOS and Android (via Sensor Tower).
Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-play game that lets players spend real money inside the app once they download it. Most of Nintendo's apps have followed this structure, except Super Mario Run, which requires players to pay $9.99 to see the full game. In total, Fire Emblem Heroes has brought in "more than seven times the revenue" of Super Mario Run, and grossed more than twice the combined earnings of all of Nintendo's other mobile games, according to Sensor Tower.
To date these include Miitomo (now defunct), Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and Dragalia Lost. Released just last September, Dragalia Lost has already become Nintendo's second most lucrative mobile game, surpassing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Super Mario Run.
In terms of platforms for Fire Emblem Heroes, players on Google Play/Android accounted for the majority of spending at 54 percent, while the iOS App Store made up 46 percent of player spending. Most players are located in Japan, which accounted for 56 percent of the game's $500 million total, while the United States is the game's second largest market at 31 percent of player spending.
Despite Super Mario Run performing poorly in comparison to the free-to-play games, Shigeru Miyamoto has stated that Nintendo will "continue pushing" for pay-once mobile games over freemium experiences. One senior official at Nintendo called the F2P structure of Fire Emblem Heroes as "an outlier" in the grand scheme of Nintendo's mobile strategy, claiming that Nintendo "prefers" Super Mario Run's payment model.
Despite this, Nintendo's next two mobile game releases will be free-to-play: Mario Kart Tour will launch this summer and Dr. Mario World is set to release later in 2019.
The Skyline Studio 3 Wireless Headphones come in Crystal Blue, Desert Sand, Midnight Black, and Shadow Grey. All of the colors feature gold accents with a gold beats logo and gold band.
The collection was originally launched online in October for $349.99, but Apple is currently offering them for $279.99 online and via Apple Store pickup, presumably for a limited time.
Studio 3 Wireless Headphones feature Apple's Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling technology, designed to block external noise when listening.
They're also equipped with an Apple W1 chip, designed to make it easy to switch between devices when listening. The power efficiency of the chip also means the headphones last for 22 hours on one charge.
Since debuting CarPlay in the 2017 Maxima, Nissan has been gradually expanding support for Apple's in-car platform throughout much of the carmaker's lineup, integrating with its NissanConnect infotainment system.
I've had an opportunity to spend some time testing out CarPlay and NissanConnect on a new 2019 Nissan Altima, one of the most popular midsize sedans on the market, and I've found it to be a solid combination.
For the redesigned Altima, Nissan is offering CarPlay standard across all trims, meaning that even the base model starting at $23,900 will support it. That's a welcome distinction from many other vehicles where a higher-level trim or a special package is needed in order to get CarPlay. Not all Nissans include CarPlay on the base trims, but the company tells me that it's moving in that direction and the Altima redesign for 2019 was a good opportunity to make it a priority.
My tester was an Altima SR with front-wheel drive, which represents the model's second-level trim and starts at $25,250. It includes a spacious 8-inch touchscreen display atop the center stack that's standard across the lineup. The SR trim does not include built-in navigation or more advanced NissanConnect subscription services, but it offers a good idea of what you can get at a relatively low-level trim that minimizes the hit to your pocketbook.
The Altima comes with a standard 8-inch touchscreen and an updated version of NissanConnect that is similar to versions found in other recent Altima models but includes some improvements in visual appeal and performance, although some of the screens do appear a bit busy and cluttered.
The 8-inch touchscreen is large enough that it's easy to hit most icons on the touchscreen, whether it be in CarPlay or in NissanConnect, and you can customize some of the NissanConnect screens to make it easy to jump to your favorite audio sources or other functions. Nissan has also provided some hardware buttons in a strip below the touchscreen, as well as a volume knob at the left side and a tune/scroll knob at the right side.
Those buttons offer convenient access to some features, such as a prominent Home button to take you back to the NissanConnect home screen, a Phone button to jump into the phone app (either NissanConnect or CarPlay), an Audio button to select sources or see the main audio screen, buttons for switching audio tracks or presets, and of course a Back button to get you out of whatever you're currently doing.
One of three available home screens – clock widget in particular could use an improved design
There's also a dedicated Camera button that on my tester simply allowed for adjusting picture quality for the rear camera but is more useful on higher-level trims that include features such as a front camera or a surround-view camera system.
As in many other vehicles, the Altima's touchscreen can attract some fingerprints that are most visible in direct sunlight, but there's a little bit of a matte finish to help reduce fingerprints and glare.
One of the home screens with shortcuts surrounding a central audio widget
On the software side, the Altima's implementation of NissanConnect actually includes three different home screens, all of which are customizable with various widgets and shortcuts. Widgets can share live bits of information like clock, phone, and audio apps, while shortcuts are simply icons that let you hop into a specific function or audio source.
Each home screen is based around a 4x2 grid of spaces, and you can fill up those spaces with whatever combination of widgets and shortcuts will fit in your layout. Widgets can take up larger spaces such as 2x1 or 2x2, and then you can scatter 1x1 shortcut icons in any remaining spaces.
Once you have your home screens set up, you can easily swipe between them, so it's convenient to have something like a central home screen with your most used functions and then a swipe to the left or right can access more focused home screens, but the choice is yours.
Unsurprisingly, the Altima's CarPlay implementation is a wired one, and you can use either the USB-A or USB-C port up front to connect to the system. CarPlay setup was seamless, as CarPlay popped up on the car's display the instant I plugged my phone in, without having to jump through any hoops other than granting permission on my phone to allow CarPlay to function while the phone was locked.
CarPlay appears big and bright on the large 8-inch screen with a traditional aspect ratio that includes the usual 4x2 grid of icons on the home screen. In addition to all of your Apple apps and CarPlay-compatible third-party apps, the home screen also includes a Nissan app icon that makes it easy to jump back to the NissanConnect system. You can also use the hardware home button centered under the screen if you prefer a more tactile method.
CarPlay icon at left side of launch bar at bottom of main audio screen
Going in the other direction, the NissanConnect audio screens by default place an icon at the lower left that will take you to functions for a paired phone or, if an iPhone is connected via USB, into CarPlay.
My preference for infotainment systems is for there to be some way to display information from the native system alongside CarPlay, whether it be a split widescreen or portrait display or even something like FCA's Uconnect system with status and menu bars that can display a little bit of information for increased integration. The Altima doesn't offer that, but it does make it fairly easy to jump back and forth.
Fortunately, car manufacturers are also moving toward digital driver's displays that can display some additional information and be customized to suit your preferences. On the Altima, the driver's display can be set to show full audio track information, or if you choose a digital speedometer, for example, you can have audio information displayed at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, only the channel name is shown for SiriusXM, but for other sources (Bluetooth, USB, FM radio when track data is broadcast) it will display the song name.
Driver's display with digital speedometer and SiriusXM channel shown below
As is nearly universal among car manufacturers, the voice control button on the Altima's steering wheel serves dual duty, with a short press bringing up the Nissan assistant and a long press activating Siri. The hardware Tune/Scroll knob can also be used to control the CarPlay interface if you prefer a more tactile feel than the touchscreen, but its location at the far side of the display from the driver makes it a bit inconvenient, so you're pretty much going to want to use either the touchscreen or Siri to control CarPlay.
Siri/voice control at bottom center of right cluster
Ports and Connectivity
The 2019 Altima is among the growing number of vehicles offering USB-C ports for connecting devices. At the base of the center stack is a smartphone storage tray (which is a bit too small for an iPhone XS Max with a Lightning cable sticking out the bottom) and a pair of USB ports: one USB-A and one USB-C.
It's certainly nice to see USB-C starting to make its way into vehicles, as even though USB-A is still common, cars are designed to last ten years or more and it's good future-proofing to include these newer ports even though they're still just starting to gain traction with consumers.
iPhone XS Max in phone tray putting strain on Lightning cable
There is a second set of USB-A/USB-C ports on the back of the center console for rear passengers, but these are only for charging, not for connecting media devices to the NissanConnect system for playback. Nissan does not offer wireless charging or Wi-Fi hotspot functionality as options on the Altima.
Rear USB-A and USB-C ports
The Altima along with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord remain the most popular midsize models in a shrinking sedan market, with those top manufacturers seeking to maintain some momentum while others scale back or even eliminate their sedan models in favor of crossovers that are dominating sales growth. As a result, the redesigned 2019 Altima brings some nice enhancements across the board, and the in-car technology is no exception.
I appreciate the spacious 8-inch touchscreen and CarPlay support across the board on Altima trims, giving everyone easy access to the ecosystems they're already familiar with on their phones. If anything, CarPlay is even more important to have on lower-level trims where built-in navigation isn't available, so it's great to see Nissan going all-in on CarPlay with the Altima and other models as their redesign cycles allow.
The native NissanConnect infotainment system is intuitive with a customizable interface, and the display is bright with vivid colors to help the interface elements stand out. Some of the pages can get a bit cluttered, and I'd like to see a little more modernization of some of the user interface elements, particularly the home screen widgets and shortcut icons.
For a mainstream midsize sedan intended for mass market appeal, the Altima does a solid job of presenting a clean and useful experience with NissanConnect and offering convenient integration with CarPlay.
The 2019 Nissan Altima starts at $23,900 with CarPlay included standard. A new all-wheel drive option is available for a $1,350 charge on all trims other than the high-end ones equipped with the VC-Turbo engine, and you can push pricing all the way to over $37,000 if you choose to max things out with an Edition ONE VC-Turbo trim.
The Pixelmator app for iOS devices received a major update today, adding support for Apple's newest iPad Pro models.
The app's interface has been optimized for the 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, and the double tap gesture introduced with the Apple Pencil 2 can now be used in Pixelmator.
Pixelmator on 11-inch iPad Pro before update on left, after update on right
According to the release notes for the update, Pixelmator will respect the user's global settings for the double tap gesture, so if it's set to switch to the erase tool, for example, it will be set that way in Pixelmator as well.
In addition to iPad Pro optimization, the new version of Pixelmator addresses several bugs, as outlined in the full release notes:
- The Pixelmator interface has now been optimized for the newest iPad Pro.
- The double-tap gesture of the new Apple Pencil is now supported.
- Wherever possible, Pixelmator will respect your global settings for the double-tap gesture.
- The Noise, Hue, Miniaturize, and Hue effects were not working in the Photos extension. Fixed.
- The canvas was being incorrectly centered in both the app and the Pixelmator Photos extension. Fixed.
- After making a selection and moving it, tapping a part of the selection outside the bounds of the original layer would deselect the layer. Fixed.
Google-owned mapping app Waze was today updated with support for the Siri Shortcuts feature that Apple introduced in iOS 12.
With Siri Shortcuts in Waze, you can record shortcuts for your drive home, drive to work, favorite locations, and more, all of which can be activated with a simple Siri voice command.
Waze is a popular Apple Maps alternative on iOS devices as it is known for its accurate traffic and hazard alerts, along with time-saving routing changes.
Siri Shortcuts for Waze can be set up by opening up the Settings app on the iPhone, navigating to "Siri & Search," and tapping the "Shortcuts" button. From there, either scroll down to the Waze section or search for Waze.
You will need to have your home, work, and favorite locations set up within the Waze app for those options to show up.
Amazon this week is discounting Apple's 9.7-inch iPad from early 2018 (32GB, Wi-Fi only) to just $249.00, which is $80 off its original price of $329.00. You can purchase this model in all three colorways, including Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.
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This iPad has a 9.7-inch Retina display, an A10 Fusion chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture, Touch ID, and support for the first-generation Apple Pencil. Apple refreshed the line in early 2018, making the model on sale today one of the lowest prices we've tracked for the latest iPad.
Amazon also has the 128GB model (Wi-Fi, Space Gray) available for $329.00, savings of $100 from its original $429.00 price tag. For more information on the latest sales and bargains, be sure to visit our full Deals Roundup.
Amazon today announced that it is acquiring eero, a company known for its mesh Wi-Fi systems.
eero makes a range of easy-to-use and somewhat affordable mesh Wi-Fi systems, designed to extend Wi-Fi signal across a person's entire home, putting an end to areas with weak signal.
There are no details on the purchase price, but Amazon says that it is acquiring eero to "help customers better connect smart home devices."
"We are incredibly impressed with the eero team and how quickly they invented a WiFi solution that makes connected devices just work," said Dave Limp, SVP of Amazon Devices and Services. "We have a shared vision that the smart home experience can get even easier, and we're committed to continue innovating on behalf of customers."
Mesh Wi-Fi systems like eero are ideal for smart home setups with many internet connected devices, and the acquisition fits well with Amazon's growing portfolio of smart home products such as Ring.
Original Epix Now TV shows include "Berlin Station," "Deep State," "Get Shorty," "Graves," and "Pennyworth."
The service also offers popular movies that include "Arrival," "A Quiet Place," "Mother," "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," "Iron Man 2," and more. Many classic films are also included.
Epix Now is offering some of its content in 4K, and offline viewing is an available option. The four Epix linear live channels are available to Epix Now users as well.
"2019 is poised to be an incredible year of growth for our network," said Michael Wright, President, EPIX. "Launching EPIX Now and providing consumers nationwide with access to our premium original programming and blockbuster movies is an exciting moment for our company and solidifies our commitment to bring high-level storytelling to as many people as possible. We look forward to welcoming new audiences to our network."
AT&T has kicked off a new Apple TV 4K promotion, this one tied to the company's Fiber Internet service. For the month of February, anyone who signs up for AT&T Fiber Internet 300 or Fiber Internet 1000 will have the chance to get a 32GB Apple TV 4K at no cost. Shoppers should note that the deal is contingent upon AT&T Fiber being available in your area.
AT&T Fiber Internet 300 costs $70/month and Fiber Internet 1000 costs $90/month, and both plans require customers to sign up for a twelve-month agreement. For Fiber Internet 300, customers will have a 1TB monthly data cap, and a $10 charge for each additional 50GB of data they need if they exceed their cap. Fiber Internet 1000 has no data cap.
To get the new deal, head to ATT.com, click "Check Availability," and enter your address. Those eligible for the deal and in an area supported by AT&T Fiber will then see the plans available to purchase. Choose either the 300 Mbps or 1000 Mbps tier, and during the checkout screen enter the promo code GET4KTV to add the Apple TV 4K to your order at no additional cost.
If you've been planning to switch to Fiber Internet, AT&T's new promo is a great chance to save a lot of money on a brand-new Apple TV 4K. At 32GB, these models currently sell for around $170 at places like B&H Photo.
AT&T previously offered a notable discount on the 32GB Apple TV 4K during a DirecTV Now promotion, which required customers to prepay for 3 months of DirecTV Now at $105 to get an Apple TV at no cost. The company has since ended this offer, and during a recent earnings report AT&T stated that DirecTV Now saw a large decline in subscribers after the deal ended.
Anyone interested in the new offer should visit AT&T's website to browse Fiber Internet packages, and be sure to head to our full Deals Roundup to check out more sales happening this week.
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