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Amazon Alexa App Gains Redesigned Interface for Controlling Devices and Groups

Amazon is currently rolling out an updated version of its companion app for Alexa-enabled devices that includes a significantly redesigned user interface. The visual changes are immediately apparent on firing up the app, and center around a new Devices and Groups tab located in the lower right of the screen. With the new menu selected, the devices are listed in a horizontal strip along the top of the interface, allowing users to control individual smart lights, audio devices, and power outlets all from the same screen. Below that, Alexa devices are also grouped by room indicated by colored cards, which have on/off buttons and can also be tapped to control and edit included devices. Elsewhere, users can add new devices by tapping a plus button in the upper right of the interface, while the original clunky sidebar menu remains available via a button in the upper right. The changes to the app come on the heels of Amazon's recent additions to its ecosystem of Alexa-powered devices, which include new Echo speakers, a subwoofer, amplifiers, a microwave, wall clock, and more. The Amazon Alexa app is a free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]

Amazon Announces Fire TV Stick 4K With Dolby Vision, Atmos, and HDR10+ for $50

Amazon today revealed its latest streaming TV device, the Fire TV Stick 4K, which includes support for Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and HDR10+. The device also comes shipped with a revamped Alexa Voice Remote, all packaged together for $49.99. Amazon says the 4K stick is over 80 percent more powerful than the previous generation, with a new quad core, 1.7GHz processor for quicker load times and enhanced picture quality. With 4K support, users can watch Amazon's catalog of thousands of 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, and HDR10+ titles. The company says this is the first time a streaming media stick has supported Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, the latter of which requires a compatible connected home audio system. The Fire TV Stick 4K also provides access to the usual array of apps and Alexa skills that users expect, like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Access, and more. There's also over 500,000 movies and tv episodes available directly on Fire TV through Amazon Prime. The company announced new apps are gaining in-app voice control on Fire TV, including A&E, AMC, Sony Crackle, Hallmark Movies Now, HBO Now, HISTORY, IFC, Lifetime, and VH1. These join Netflix, Prime Video, and others, and the feature allows users to call up Alexa to play, rewind, fast forward, and navigate through menus with just their voice. “We’ve listened to our customers and pushed to deliver the complete 4K solution they are looking for, all within a compact stick form factor,” said Marc Whitten, Vice President, Amazon Fire TV. “The team invented an entirely new

Skype Calling Features Coming to Alexa Devices Later This Year

Microsoft has revealed that Skype is coming to Alexa devices. The partnership between Microsoft and Amazon means that owners of devices in Amazon's Echo range will soon be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls, and also make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world. Announcing the upcoming feature in a blog post, Microsoft said device owners will be able to say something like "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or if Jimmy is calling you on Skype, they'll be able to say, "Alexa, answer." This isn't the first time Amazon and Microsoft has seen fit to merge existing products and services. The two companies partnered on Alexa and Cortana integration last year. "Since then, we've added Alexa integration on Xbox and are continuing to work together to bring the best of Skype and Alexa together to enable intelligent communications for our users," said Gaurav Sareen, corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We're excited to continue bringing the best of Microsoft and Amazon together."Skype calling on Alexa will begin rolling out later this

Amazon Reveals New Alexa-Compatible Echo Speakers, Subwoofer, Amplifiers, Microwave, Wall Clock, and More

Amazon held a big hardware event today at The Seattle Spheres, located at Amazon's headquarters campus in Washington state. The event was notable for Amazon, with senior vice president of Amazon Devices Dave Limp stating that it marked the largest number of devices and features that Amazon has ever debuted in one day. The first product unveiling was a new and upgraded Echo Dot, which includes a brand new mic array for better performance. The company says the driver is much larger -- increasing from 1.1" to a 1.6" driver -- resulting in more powerful sound with lower distortion, enhanced bass reproduction, and increased overall max volume. Echo Dot Through all of the upgrades, Echo Dot's footprint still hasn't increased and the price will remain at $49.99, just like previous generations. The new Echo Dot ships in October, and pre-orders go up today. There's also a new mainline Echo device, the new Echo Plus. This generation has more powerful sound with stronger bass and clearer playback. There's a new equalizer feature that lets you use your voice to adjust the bass and treble through Alexa, a built-in smart home hub so you can set up devices by stating "Alexa, discover my devices," and an integrated temperature sensor so you can trigger routines based on how cool or hot the room is. Image via The Verge Echo Plus will cost $149.99 and is up for pre-order today before its October launch.

Amazon Joins Apple as World's Second Trillion Dollar U.S. Company

Amazon has officially become the world's second trillion dollar publicly traded U.S. company, in terms of market cap, which is simply the company's number of outstanding shares multiplied by its stock price. Amazon shares briefly crossed the $2,050.27 mark in intraday trading today, giving the online retail giant a market cap of slightly over $1,000,000,000,000, based on its latest total of 487,741,189 outstanding shares. The milestone was fueled by a roughly one percent increase in Amazon's stock price today. Apple beat Amazon in the race to a trillion dollar valuation when its stock price crossed $207.05 on August 2. After those two companies, tech rivals Microsoft and Google are closest in line, with market caps around $850 billion and $840 billion respectively as of mid-day trading on Tuesday. Amazon shares have more than tripled in the past three years, as the company expands upon its dominant position in online and physical retail. Amazon competes with Apple in a number of areas, with its digital assistant Alexa rivaling Siri and its Prime Music service rivaling Apple Music. Apple is also expected to launch a Netflix-like streaming video service next year, with dozens of original series, that competes with Amazon Prime

Amazon Launches Grocery Pickup at Select Whole Food Stores Using 'Prime Now' Mobile App

After first launching direct grocery delivery from Whole Foods to its customers' doors earlier this year, Amazon today has begun a rollout of curbside grocery pickup at Whole Foods locations in Sacramento and Virginia Beach. At supported stores, grocery pickup will be available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. The company explains that Prime members can now download the "Prime Now" app for iOS and Android, shop for items like fresh produce, bakery products, dairy, meat, seafood, floral, and everyday staples, and choose the pickup option at checkout. For orders over $35, customers can choose free pickup in as little as an hour, or pay $4.99 to get it in 30 minutes. When arriving at a Whole Foods store, the supported locations will now have reserved pickup spots designated for curbside pickup customers. After parking, a Prime Now shopper will arrive and place the groceries in the customer's car "within minutes," and if customers tell the store that they are on their way in the Prime Now app, "groceries will be ready as they arrive." “Pickup from Whole Foods Market is a perfect option for customers who want to grab healthy and organic groceries at their convenience, all without leaving their car,” said Stephenie Landry, Worldwide Vice President of Prime Now, AmazonFresh and Amazon Restaurants. “A customer can order at 5:00 p.m., pick up at 5:30 p.m., and we’ll have their groceries loaded into their car just minutes after arrival. For an even faster experience, customers can tell us they are on their way using the Prime Now app and groceries will be ready as

Amazon Testing Collaborative Shopping List Feature on iOS App and Website

Amazon has begun testing a small but useful new feature across its iOS app and mobile/desktop websites, allowing users to invite friends and family members to collaborate on a shopping list together. Amazon customers have long been asking for such a feature, and it seems like a small set of them have been selected to test it out ahead of a potential wider launch in the future (via Android Police). On iOS, after you open the Amazon app and navigate to one of your wish lists, you'll see a new prompt that says "Invite others to add or remove list items." If you tap this, you'll get the usual iOS sharing sheet with options like AirDrop, Message, E-Mail, and simply copying a URL to share with someone. Once the recipient gets the list invite, Amazon will open up in a browser (both mobile and desktop appear to work), and your list will now effectively appear as one of their own in their Amazon account. They'll be able to view it, add items to it, remove items, edit quantity, and edit comments. Collaborative lists will be designated as such at the top of the list near its name with two user icons and a "Shared" banner. Once multiple members are sharing a list, a new conversation icon will appear on the right of the list's page and act as a hub for users to send messages and discuss items on the list. Above this is an ellipsis icon that lets the list's original owner manage members and remove any they don't want to be able to access the list anymore. It appears that a few of these features are missing for some users at the time of writing, likely due to the feature

Amazon Prime Day Live Blog: The Best Deals Worth Checking Out

Today kicks off Amazon's annual Prime Day shopping event, offering customers with an Amazon Prime subscription the chance to save money on nearly countless items across the retailer's storefront. Since we routinely share great deals on Apple products and accessories being sold on Amazon, we've launched a live blog today that will track notable Prime Day discounts from Apple accessory makers like Anker and EasyAcc, as well as other interesting sales as they go live. Prime Day will officially begin this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET and continue for 36 hours afterwards. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Before that time, Amazon has debuted early access Prime Day discounts on its own range of Alexa and Echo devices, with up to 50 percent off of products like the Echo Look, Fire TV Stick, Fire HD 10 tablet, and more, which are expected to last throughout Prime Day. In contrast to deals that last for a majority of the event, there will also be limited-time lightning deals that appear at different times throughout the day and night, and only last for an hour or so. In this live blog, we'll be tracking lightning deals, longer-lasting discounts, and competitor sales as products get marked down throughout Prime Day, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back for new bargains as Amazon's mid-year shopping event continues into Wednesday morning. Prime Day is over for 2018 – check back next year!

Amazon Working to Further Lessen Reliance on Power Cords for Future Echo Speakers

In an effort that would give future Echo speakers with Alexa a new advantage over Apple's HomePod, Reuters today reports that Amazon is working with chipmakers to build Alexa speakers that would not require a constant power source. As it stands, most smart assistant devices -- Amazon's main Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home, etc -- require a constant draw of power due to their always-on microphones listening for the user's voice commands, among other reasons. Now, Amazon has partnered with chipmaker DSP Group to build a standardized chip that is "a little smaller than a U.S. 10-cent coin" and optimized for lower power consumption. Amazon and other companies will be able to use the chip to place Alexa into their own smart devices that offer greater portability to users. Amazon already has the Amazon Tap, a portable Bluetooth speaker that doesn't need to be plugged in to use all of its features. With a "hands-free mode" users can ask Alexa questions and command her to play music, which slightly affects battery life: 9 hours of continuous playback compared to 8 hours with hands-free mode activated. There are also third-party companies like Fabriq that sell portable Alexa solutions, but these devices are still a small portion of the market in comparison to AC-powered speakers. With Amazon and DSP Group's new partnership, it appears that Amazon is looking to greatly bolster the amount of cord-free Alexa devices available to buy, while also improving the user experience with internal chips that can run always-on listening features without as much of a hit to battery

Amazon Alexa App for iOS Gains Voice Controls

Amazon today updated its Alexa app for iOS to add a promised voice control feature that's designed to allow iOS users to tap the Alexa button and use voice commands to ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, check the weather, and more. As noted by TechCrunch, Amazon introduced voice control to its Alexa app for Android back in January, and at the time, said the feature would be expanded to iOS devices "soon." Soon turned out to mean six months, but starting today, iOS users can speak with Alexa in the Alexa iOS app and ask standard Alexa questions. There is no native functionality, so pushing an in-app button to activate Alexa is required rather than just saying the "Alexa" trigger phrase. The new voice control feature will be rolled out to all iOS users "in the coming days." The Amazon Alexa app can be downloaded from the iOS App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Amazon Reveals 'Fire TV Cube' With Support for 4K, HDMI CEC, Dolby Atmos, Alexa Voice Controls, and More

Amazon today unveiled its latest "Fire" branded product, called the "Fire TV Cube." The company describes the device as a hands-free box that streams 4K Ultra HD video using Alexa voice controls. The set-top box appears to have many features similar (or coming soon) to the Apple TV 4K, with 4K HDR content, smart assistant integration, HDMI CEC, Dolby Atmos support, and more. With far-field voice recognition, one difference between the two devices is that the Fire TV Cube relies on eight microphones embedded into the box to hear users across the room, whereas Apple TV 4K picks up commands solely via the handheld Siri Remote. The Fire TV Cube does ship with an Alexa Voice Remote, however, so handheld commands are also an option. The Fire TV Cube appears to be similar to HomePod in regard to far-field voice commands, with advanced beamforming technology that suppresses noise, reverberation, currently playing content, and competing voices from other people "to make sure Alexa clearly hears your request." “We believe voice makes it easier for customers to control their entertainment systems and watch the TV and movies they care about,” said Marc Whitten, Vice President of Fire TV. “And, it’s just the beginning. Amazon Fire TV Cube will only get better over time with the Alexa service always getting smarter.” Another notable difference is the Fire TV Cube's compatibility with set-top boxes from cable companies including Comcast, DISH, and DirecTV. With the integration, users can ask Alexa to "switch to channel 31" and the Fire TV Cube will speak to the cable box to

Amazon Prime Secures Rights to Show 20 Premier League Football Matches a Season in the U.K. From 2019-2022

Amazon Prime Video has secured the rights to stream live Premier League football matches for three years from 2019, at no extra cost to Prime members who live in the U.K. The exclusive deal, announced on Thursday, means that from next year Amazon Prime will show every game from the first round of midweek matches in December and all 10 games on Boxing Day, with weekly highlights of all Premier League matches throughout the season. The Premier League is the most-watched sports league in the world, and from the 2019/20 season UK Prime members will have exclusive access to watch 20 matches per season, comprising two full fixture rounds – the first December midweek round and the festive Bank Holiday round - featuring live coverage of every Premier League team.The deal marks the first time a full round of matches will be shown live in the U.K., and while it leaves out the more lucrative weekend games, it shows a big statement from the company, which already broadcasts tennis events like the U.S. Open and ATP World Tour, and NFL games on Amazon Prime Video. Previously, Sky and BT Sport have shared the rights to the EPL, following an auction in 2015 that saw the broadcasters splash £5.1 billion ($6.9 billion) between them for three seasons. Earlier this year, the Premier League announced that it had sold five out of seven of its U.K. TV packages. BT Sport bought one bundle amounting to 32 games and Sky acquired four bundles, securing 128 matches. BT Sport also secured the last other 20-game TV package, the Premier League confirmed today. The Premier League remains

Amazon's Alexa Recorded a Woman's Private Conversation and Sent it to a Contact

A woman in Portland recently had an alarming experience with her Alexa-enabled devices after a private conversation was recorded and sent to a random contact, according to a news report from Seattle's Kiro7 news. The woman, Danielle, and her family had Amazon devices situated in each room for home control, and two weeks ago, one of those devices apparently recorded a conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to a person on their contact list. There are no details on how the recording was delivered to the contact. But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. "The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'" That person was one of her husband's employees, calling from Seattle. "We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"Danielle confirmed that the recordings received by the contact were indeed conversations picked up by her Alexa device, and in no way was she informed that Alexa was sending the recording to a contact. She contacted Amazon and was told that the "device just guessed what we were saying." Amazon apologized and told her it would fix the issue. Alexa has an option to send a message to a contact name using a voice recording, but Alexa is supposed to vocally confirm such

Amazon's Alexa App Finally Gains Support for iPhone X

Amazon today updated its Alexa app for iOS devices to introduce iPhone X compatibility, allowing the app to be displayed full screen on the longer display of the iPhone X. Prior to today, the Amazon Alexa app displayed unattractive black bars at the bottom and top of the app, so this should be a welcome change for Amazon users who have an iPhone X. The addition of Alexa support comes just over a month after Amazon promised the update was in the works. The Alexa app for iOS is designed to be a companion to Alexa devices, allowing iPhone users to set up and manage Alexa-enabled equipment. While many popular apps have been updated with support for the display of the iPhone X, there are still some notable holdouts even months after the release of the new smartphone. Inbox by Gmail, for example, continues to lack iPhone X support, as do several Apple apps, including iTunes Connect, iTunes Remote, and AirPort

Amazon Key Expands to In-Car Deliveries in Select U.S. Cities

After first launching the "Amazon Key" service for users to allow delivery people to enter their home and drop off packages, Amazon today has revealed the expansion of the platform into "Amazon Key In-Car." Now, when Prime members in select cities checkout on Amazon, they will be able to choose an in-car delivery option. The company says that the service is available at no extra cost for Prime members, and it is limited to certain vehicle brands: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Volvo. Users can check their vehicle's eligibility on Amazon.com, and then download the Amazon Key iOS app [Direct Link] to complete setup. “Since launching Amazon Key last November, we’ve safely delivered everything from cameras to collectable coins inside the home. Customers have also told us they love features like keyless guest access and being able to monitor their front door from anywhere with the Amazon Key App,” said Peter Larsen, Vice President of Delivery Technology, Amazon. “In-car delivery gives customers that same peace of mind and allows them to take the Amazon experience with them. And, with no additional hardware or devices required, customers can start ordering in-car delivery today.” Afterwards, customers shop as normal on Amazon.com or in the Amazon mobile apps, select an eligible address, and then choose in-car delivery at checkout. The app gives customers a 4-hour time window for delivery, and requires the car to be parked within two blocks of the selected address. Then, as the delivery arrives, Amazon says that it authorizes the delivery driver prior to

Amazon Kindle App for iOS Gains New Magazine Format, Support for Returning Kindle Unlimited Books

Amazon's Kindle app for iOS was today updated to version 6.6, introducing a handful of useful new features to those who read Amazon books on their iPhones and iPads. The updated version of the app features a new mobile-friendly format that's designed for magazines, and this new option comes shortly after rumors suggesting Apple is going to debut a subscription news service that would include magazines. For background, Apple recently purchased Texture, a service that provides unlimited access to more than 200 digital magazines for $9.99 per month. Amazon says that its new magazine-reading format is available for popular titles like Food Network, Cosmopolitan, Life & Style, Us Weekly, and 15 others to start with. Today's update also allows Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited books to be returned using the Kindle for iOS app. A book can be returned by long pressing on a book cover from the bookshelf interface and choosing the "Return book" option. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that costs $9.99 per month and provides unlimited access to more than a million books, audiobooks, and magazines. Prime Reading, meanwhile, is a service that offers a smaller selection of content for free to Amazon Prime subscribers. Along with the new options for Kindle Unlimited and the magazine format, the new Kindle app update also includes a setting to allow you to enable the highlight menu so it displays whenever text is highlighted. The Kindle app for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

New Survey Says Amazon and Google Have a More 'Positive Impact on Society' Than Apple

In a new survey conducted by SurveyMonkey and shared by Recode, 11 percent of respondents said that they believe Apple has the most positive impact on society today. Apple came in third place, however, falling in line behind Google at 15 percent and Amazon in the top spot at 20 percent. Survey respondents were given the option of choosing between a number of technology companies between April 8-9, and it totaled 2,772 adults based in the United States. When asked which company they believe has the most positive impact on society, 20 percent elected to choose "none of the above." Despite the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, 10 percent of respondents chose Facebook as having the most positive impact today. Microsoft rounded out the top 5 slots at 7 percent, followed by Tesla at 6 percent, Uber at 3 percent, Netflix at 2 percent, and a list of companies at 1 percent. The survey also dived into the CEOs of the companies and asked respondents which leaders had the greatest impact on people's daily lives. Amazon came in first place again, with 22 percent saying CEO Jeff Bezos and his decisions impact them in some way each day. Google's Sundar Pichai came in second at 18 percent, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was third at 17 percent. Amazon has been a competitor for Apple in a few areas over the last couple of years, particularly in areas like AI assistants and smart home accessory support. Most recently, The Information reported that an increasing number of home builders have opted to go with Alexa-enabled smart homes, rather than install HomeKit products

Ring Video Doorbell Gets New $99 Price Tag Following Amazon Acquisition

Ring today announced [PDF] that its acquisition by Amazon has been completed, and following the merger, Amazon has permanently dropped the price tag of the entry-level first-generation Ring Video Doorbell. The Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell is now available from Amazon for $99.99, $50 off of the original $149 MSRP for the accessory. The Video Doorbell, which offers 720p video, is designed to allow you to see and speak to anyone who comes to the door using a connected smartphone. While the entry-level Ring is available for $99, upgraded versions are more expensive. The Video Doorbell 2 with 1080p resolution is $199, the Video Doorbell Pro, which is hardwired, is $249, and the Video Doorbell Elite, described as a "professional-grade doorbell" is $499. Ring also makes a line of Spotlight and Floodlight Cams. Ring and Amazon are aiming to cut down on crime in neighborhoods with their partnership, and an LAPD pilot program has suggested the Ring Video Doorbell can reduce burglaries by as much as 55 percent."Our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods has been at the core of everything we do at Ring," said Jamie Siminoff, CEO and Chief Inventor of Ring. "Together with Amazon, we will accelerate our mission dramatically by connecting more neighbors globally and making our security devices and systems more affordable and accessible. The entire Ring team is excited to continue working hard to create products and services that bring real benefits to people's lives and build safer communities for all our neighbors."Ring has been promising to add HomeKit integration to

Documents Reveal 26 Million U.S. Viewers Tuned into Amazon Prime Video in Early 2017

Amazon's U.S. audience for all movie and TV show programming on Amazon Prime Video was about 26 million customers in early 2017, according to company documents seen by Reuters. Amazon Prime Video is provided as a benefit to Amazon Prime members who subscribe to Amazon's $99 per year Prime service, and features thousands of TV shows and movies, along with original content produced by Amazon. Amazon has never revealed figures for its total Prime Video audience, but the documents provide an insight into the success of Amazon's successful original programming strategy, which involves producing content to entice consumers into Prime membership and boost merchandise sales. For example, the documents cover late 2014 to early 2017 and compare metrics for 19 shows exclusive to Amazon, including cost, viewership and the number of people they helped lure to Prime. Known as Prime Originals, the shows account for around a quarter of what analysts believe to be total Prime sign-ups over the same period.Video has grown to be one of Amazon’s biggest expenditures at $5 billion per year for original and licensed content, two people familiar with the matter said. The company has never disclosed how many subscribers it won as a result, making it hard for investors to evaluate its programming decisions. The internal documents show what Amazon considers to be the financial logic of its strategy, and why the company is now making more commercial projects in addition to high-brow shows aimed at winning awards, the people said.According to the documents, season one of alternate

Amazon Recalling 260,000 'AmazonBasics' Power Banks Due to Overheating Risk

If you've purchased an Amazon-branded power bank from Amazon recently, you should be aware of a recall that Amazon issued today due to reports of overheating. Amazon has received 53 reports about defective power banks that have, in a few cases, led to chemical burns and property damage. Affected AmazonBasics models that are part of the recall are listed here: 16,100 mAh; 10,000 mAh; 5,600 mAh; 2,000 mAh with micro USB cable; 3,000 mAh and 3,000 mAh with USB micro cable. All impacted units are rubberized or metallic power banks with the AmazonBasics logo printed on the front of the unit. These Amazon-branded power banks are affordable options that many Apple customers users may have purchased to charge their iPhones and iPads. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which shared details on the recall, consumers should immediately unplug any recalled power banks and contact Amazon for details on how to return them for a full refund. Amazon is sending out emails to all customers who might have purchased one of the faulty power