Tag: Amazon

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Amazon Fire TV Review

Streaming set-top boxes are no longer about media consumption. The newest entrants—from Apple, Amazon, and Google—fit into a larger lexicon of connected digital lifestyles. Think intelligent television for the information-obsessed and for visual voyeurs demanding the highest-quality video that is commercially available.

On Oct. 1, 2015, I started testing the new Amazon Fire TV, which goes on sale October 5th. I will later review the newer Google Chromecast but unlikely Apple’s device (because a review unit isn’t available and I wouldn’t buy one for personal use). There is nothing radically new about Fire TV. It’s more of the same only much better. Key benefit for some: 4K Ultra HD video support. Benefit for all: Enhanced voice-interaction capabilities that include Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant. Then there are iterative enhancements that improve overall benefits. 

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Nexus 6 Returns

Contemplation turns to action. I had been looking for Nexus 6 to test Google’s Project Fi. My sister bought my phablet two months ago, when I got iPhone 6 Plus to test iOS 9, but N6 is the only device currently supported on the cellular service.

Last night, I oogled at Nexus 6 for $499.99 on Amazon, which already was a hefty discount. This AM, I rolled out of bed to see $349.99. Both prices are for the 32GB model. Double the memory and pay $399.99. Yesterday: $549.99. Surely the price and supply can’t last. That’s helluva good deal—and for both colors: Cloud White and Midnight Blue. What the hell. I ordered the bigger capacity dark one for free same-day delivery. 

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I bought a Library on Prime Day

Well, July 15th is behind us and Amazon’s promise of deals bigger than Black Friday. If you were looking for Christmas in July, did you get it? I wasn’t that impressed with the selection of Lightning Deals and exclusives, but perhaps you were. Or not. My purchase, and call me crazy (some commenter usually does): I plunked down $143.86 for two years of Kindle Unlimited, saving 40 percent off the $9.99 for each of 24 months. The bookstore will become my personal library of sorts. There are many books I would read and reference for my professional writing but not necessarily buy.

Briefly, Amazon offered the 32GB Nexus 6 for $399 and Echo for $129—that’s $50 off. The smartphone sold out quick at that price but still remained available for $499 rest of the day. The other device built up a waitlist before finally being closed out. The 6-inch Kindle sold for $49, discounted from $79, and was still available as Midnight approached here on the West Coast (where I live; BetaNews offices are Eastern Time). 

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Amazon Warehouse Makes Me Mad

Yesterday, I made the mistake of ordering Harman/Kardon Nova speakers from Amazon Warehouse, which advertised: “Used, Like New. Item will come in original packaging. Packaging may be damaged. All accessories are present and undamaged”. Present, yes. Undamaged, no.

A cord connects the two speakers together, but the pins on one end were badly out of alignment. I did try to straighten out the damn things but failed. I’m not sure success would have been better than what happened: Demanding a refund (that will take days); writing a stinging one-star review; and reboxing and returning the Nova. 

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Amazon Brews Unexpected Coffee Deal

I best be watchful, for my wife is smarter than she pretends to be. If not, she’s the mother of all coincidence. Because by all appearances, the woman used the vendor online tracking everyone suspects to snake a great discount from Amazon. Maybe you can turn to advantage persistant invasion of your privacy.

Our story starts on Feb. 11, 2015, when following days of price comparisons she ordered a 12-pack of one pound Café Bustelo from the Internet retailer. Price: $52.90. As we consumed coffee, she returned to Amazon on March 17, when a shocker waited: Same item cost $69.31. Ah, yeah. That’s a 31 percent increase. But by apparently gaming the system, she later purchased for 19 percent less than previously paid. 

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Which Streaming Stick? Chromecast, Fire TV, or Roku?

Mea culpa. I promised this comparison for Holiday 2014, and here it’s February next. The time between allowed for valuable cord-cutting experiment that will matter to some of you reading this review. The Wilcox household now streams Encore, HBO, Starz, and Showtime—via Cox Flex Watch—and the addition affects our choice of streaming stick; perhaps yours, too.

Google opened up the category with $35 Chromecast in July 2013, and the device gets better with age. Roku Streaming Stick, at $49.99, is priciest choice, while Amazon Fire TV Stick is the $39 in-betweener. Briefly, before deep diving, Chromecast is easiest to use and offers more commercial programming support. Roku delivers broadest streaming channel selection. Fire TV fits tightly into the broader Amazon Prime ecosystem, while offering satisfying, but incomplete, content options compared to either of the other devices. 

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Amazon Echo Isn’t

You just gotta love Amazon. This morning, at long last, I received my invitation for Echo, the sizzlingly voice-controled streaming speaker that I raved about just two months ago. As a Prime member, I pay half-price, just $99. What a deal! Since then, I jealously waited while reading what others blogged about how much they enjoyed their Echoes. The device fits squarely where I contend is the next iteration in user interfaces: voice. Touch is just so passé.

In retail, customer impressions are everything. My first reaction was excitement, but the second turned it to dust. This thing won’t ship until sometime between May and July? Seriously? It’s like a bad Consumer Electronics Show joke, where the hottest tech device in this solar system debuts in January, but sales don’t start until November. Don’t sell me something I can’t get for at least five fraking months

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Five Tech Products Changed My Digital Lifestyle in 2014

Looking back on this last day of the year, I wonder how my daily tech changed so much since the first. On Jan. 1, 2014, my core computing comprised Chromebook, Nexus tablet, and Nexus smartphone. Midyear, I switched out to all Microsoft—buying Surface Pro 3 and Nokia Lumia Icon. While commendable the effort, Windows poorly fit my lifestyle. Today, I’m all Apple—13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display with 512GB SSD, iPhone 6 128GB, and iPad Air 128GB. I can’t imagine using anything else.

I abandoned my Google lifestyle for numerous reasons, with my desire to create more content rather than consume it being primary. Google gives great contextual computing, with respect to information that is relevant to where you are and even what you want. But Android and Chrome OS, and their supporting apps, aren’t mature enough platforms for consistent content creation. 

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What Next? Price Negotiations at Walmart Checkout?

One Geico Insurance commercial claims that “auctioneers make bad grocery clerks“. Strange if bidding is soon the norm in big-brand retail, but one-on-one. Today, Amazon announced something surprising: “Make Me an Offer“, where buyers can negotiate prices with sellers. I do not jest. Seriously. As if Amazon prices aren’t insanely low enough.

The web retailing giant claims 150,000 items in the program, which isn’t about auctions, since all negotiations are solely between buyer and seller. From my quick review, Amazon chooses wisely. The majority of items I see are those where pricing could be, perhaps should be, considered more arbitrary, like artwork, memorabilia, and other collectibles. 

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Ho, Ho, Ho, It’s Reviews Not News This Christmas

For much of Holiday 2014, I will shift from tech news and analysis to product reviews, which will be a relaxing change. I also am prepping new ebook How I Beat Diabetes, preparing to start an investigative storytelling project, and strongly considering a Kickstarter to gauge interest in a site that calls out irresponsible news reporting (of which there is too much) and praises the best journalism, too.

On the reviews front, now would be a good time to knock on my virtual door, if you’ve got something worth my attention, whether cloud service, gear, mobile app, or software. No promises what I can get to during the holidays, when everyone wants to sell something, but, hey, we can try. Reviews will run on BetaNews,  and I will cross-post some here, despite any search penalty Google might impose for the practice. I care about readers, not pageviews. With the holidays in mind, I may shift to a shorter reviews format, focusing almost completely on benefits. Frak features. 

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Amazon Echo Is All About You

While professing not to be a geek, sometimes I act like one. This afternoon, I requested an invite to buy Amazon Echo, which promises to bring Star Trek-like responsive computing to the home. The cylindrical device, announced today, is a Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled streaming speaker that responds to users’ questions. Just say “Alexa” and ask something.  “What’s the weather?” “What is the largest dinosaur?” This is how search information should be, assuming Echo resounds as strongly as Amazon’s product information and demo video claim.

Voice response is exactly what consumers need from a personal device, and many others used every day that pack chips and operating systems. While humans are tool users, for which touch interfaces make sense, the ability to communicate with language sets us apart from all other species. What is more familiar than talking, and expecting response because of it? 

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Amazon Sale is ‘Predictably Irrational’

I can’t stop chuckling over one of Amazon’s many marketing sleight-of-hands today. I awoke to email promoting a one-day sale and “up to 60-percent off select SanDisk products”. Heck, my BetaNews colleague Wayne Williams even wrote a news story. But based on my recent experience buying a “SanDisk Ultra 64GB MicroSDXC Class 10 UHS Memory Card” I wonder about all the savings.

I purchased the card on July 2nd for $34.99. For the one-day sale, Amazon sells the same card for a dollar more, although a newer version (e.g., refreshed packaging and SKU) is available for $31.99. Amazon claims 64 percent and 51 percent savings—$64 and $33—respectively.