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Price of Chromecast in the UK slashed

Posted by wicked August - 22 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Chromecast_93330If you live in the UK and have been going back and forth about getting everyone’s favorite little media dongle you may want to listen up. The Chromecast is now being sold at a slashed price of £18 (just under $30) at some retailers. Amazon, Tesco and Currys have the little dongle for that price, but Amazon is offered the added caveat of free shipping. Google still has it up on the Play Store for £30 (just under $50) so this may not be a permanent price slashing for the device. 

So if you’ve been debating purchasing this little dongle, you may want to take advantage of the sales promotion while it lasts.

source: 9 to 5 Google

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Fire Phone losing ground quickly to LG G3, AT&T exclusivity to blame

Posted by wicked August - 21 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

FirePhone-navigationThe Fire phone has been having some issues lately on the market and has not been selling nearly as well as Amazon has wanted. The lack of adoption by consumers seems to be the result of the exclusive deal between Amazon and AT&T. While AT&T may be a large company, they don’t have all of the market, so all Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile customers are stuck with another device, whether they want a Fire Phone or not.

 

According to research firm Chitika Insights, out of tens of millions of ad views across 350,000 websites, only .02 percent of that traffic came from the Fire Phone within its first 20 days of existence, as opposed to .06 percent from the LG G3. Just how much traffic should come from a new, successful phone? Only 11 days after being released last year, the GS4 was responsible for .19 percent of phone traffic. Compounding on the carrier exclusivity issue is the Fire Phone’s lack of exciting features for its price point. As a whole, the device received less than positive reviews, which definitely didn’t help its sales figures.

What do you think? Does Amazon have any hope here? Are you waiting for the inevitable price drop to snag this device? Let us know in the comment section below.

Source: Cnet

Come comment on this article: Fire Phone losing ground quickly to LG G3, AT&T exclusivity to blame

Amazon Fire Phone gets update to Fire OS 3.5.1

Posted by wicked August - 19 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Amazon_Fire_Phone_Back_TA

Amazon’s iffy Fire Phone is getting a software update today, bringing it up to version 3.5.1. That incremental bump brings along a few features and fixes to some slight annoyances that the phone launched with, but it’s not a dramatic change.

There are a few new features, including double tapping the home button to bring up a quick switch page that allows users to jump back and forth between apps and close apps that they aren’t using. On the home screen, you’ll be able to pin apps to the front of Amazon’s carousel, and you can also now add folders and groups of apps directly on the app grid. You’ll be able to delete emails right from the home screen, too.

Under the hood, this update will improve battery life and will enable users to send high resolution videos through MMS or email.

Have you considered buying a Fire Phone?

source: Amazon

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Amazon Fire Phone review: The smartphone that shouldn’t exist

Posted by wicked August - 18 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

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Sometime after Amazon launched their first tablets, the rumors started circulating that they were readying a smartphone. However, it took nearly 3 years until something official was introduced. What took so long? Reports indicated that Amazon went back to the drawing board at least once, possibly more. Amazon knew this was a bold move and they wanted to “get it right.” They decided that the world needed something different, and it would take a little longer. By incorporating multiple camera lenses, the Fire Phone features a user interface with a Dynamic Perspective giving you a somewhat 3D experience. Yes it’s a gimmick, but the Amazon Fire Phone is more about selling Amazon products and services. Gimmicks aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Samsung has made a lot of money with gimmicks, so it’s possible Amazon could find that same success. However, this is no Android phone. Yes, it’s built using Android, but it feels like a completely different operating system. It doesn’t even have any of the same Google services that you will find on the majority of other Android (and Apple) phones. Buying the Fire Phone is like buying into something completely different, so it better offer something very compelling. Does the world need an Amazon phone?

Design

One of the bright spots of the Fire Phone has to be the design. It’s not that I am in love with it, but it doesn’t feel chinsy. It sports what I am totally against, a back glass, but the rubberized edges provide a fantastic grip. In fact, this might be the most non-slippery phone I have ever held. Anyone who knows me, knows that I despise slipperiness on smartphones, and Amazon killed it in this category. Still, that glass back is an accident waiting to happen, not too mention it’s an absolute smudge magnet. If you’re someone who likes your phone looking pristine, be prepared to carry a cloth at all times.

The phone itself does look iPhone-like in that it’s rather small, but it also features an extra bezel at the top and bottom. Those extra bezels house additional camera lenses for the Dynamic Perspective (more on that later). You get one lens at each corner of the phone. It does look a little odd, but you get past it after a day or so. Amazon also took cues from Samsung by utilizing a hard oval-like home button at the bottom of the front of the phone. There are no other navigating buttons either on the device or on screen.

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The only real negative about the design is the glass back, but I know a lot of people won’t mind it. That is simply a taste preference. If everything else was great about the phone, I would gladly deal with the smudges and that accident waiting to happen. If glass is your thing, you will like the Fire Phone.

Hardware

The Fire Phone features a 4.7-inch 720p (1280 x 720) LCD display with Gorilla Glass 3 (312 ppi), a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, an Adreno 330 GPU, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage, 13 MP rear camera, 2.1 MP front-facing camera, Nano-SIM, and 2,400 mAh battery.

Radios: AT&T compatible - GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100, LTE 700/800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600

Performance

The Fire Phone sports the Snapdragon 800, which is more than enough power, but I did find the OS to be sluggish at times. The display is only 720p, but I think it’s more than adequate for the average user. I am not a display connoisseur. I know some of you can see every single pixel, but to me, this display gets the job done. Colors are bright and viewing angles are great. The Fire Phone does offer dual stereo speakers, but I found the sound to be average. I am surprised they skimped in this department considering that Amazon Instant Prime is a big selling feature of the phone.

Battery

I ran my usual battery test in which I run continuous video while the phone is connected to LTE and WiFi and Bluetooth are turned on but not connected. I also leave GPS on and set the display at about 2/3′s brightness. I was able to get a little over 9 hours out of it, which isn’t bad. However the Fire Phone is a little different in that this indicator doesn’t tell us so much. The Dynamic Perspective appears to drain the battery, but it doesn’t affect the video loop test since it’s not running at that time. If Dynamic Perspective is turned off, you will have no problem going from morning until bedtime, but if it’s turned on, you will most likely need to charge up at some point during the day.

Software

Now we get to the nitty gritty of the phone….the software. The Fire Phone utilizes Fire OS version 3.5, which is proprietary to Amazon. It’s a complete fork of Android, so don’t be mistaken that it’s similar to other skins that Samsung, LG, HTC, and other manufacturers place on top of Android with their phones. This is completely re-written and it doesn’t offer any Google services. This means no Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Drive, Docs, Chrome, or even the Play Store. Although based on Android, it’s more like Amazon created their own software from scratch. In a world where we have Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows 8, and Blackberry’s QNX, Fire OS feels more like a 5th mobile OS rather than something that is an Android offshoot.

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong impression in that you won’t be able to get your Gmail or see your Google Calendar. Amazon will import that info into their own Email and Calendar apps. It’s however, not the same experience whatsoever. You will also get Amazon’s own curated Appstore, which houses roughly 200,000 apps as compared to Google’s over 1 million in the Play Store. Still, most of the good quality and popular apps will be found in Amazon’s store, so if you’re a casual user, you probably won’t have an issue. Probably the biggest negative is that apps don’t get updated nearly as much as they do on the Google Play Store.

Getting around this phone is simply not easy. You will find a carousel at the top which is your main source of navigating. You will find your recent apps there as well as Amazon services like the Appstore, Newsstand, Music Store, and so on. You will also find a slew of recommendations below each of these main icons. It seems simple enough, but you will find yourself constantly swiping to get to what you want.

Unlike Android, there are no separate home screens, but you can swipe from the right edge of the screen to the left (or tilt the phone to the left) to see status info like what the weather is, recent emails, calendar events, and/or the status of your Amazon orders. If you instead, swipe from the left edge of the screen to the right (or tilt the phone to the right), you will get options  for Apps, Games, Web, Music, Videos, etc. There is no status bar (at least always on), but if you swipe down from the top, you will see your battery status, time, cell reception, and WiFi reception. You will also find icons for the main settings, search, MayDay, as well as quick toggles for airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a built-in flashlight.

You will also find an app tray at the bottom of the main home screen. It can consist of any four apps that your choose or you can even create folders of multiple apps within it. It’s really the only thing that you can customize on the device. From the main screen, you can also swipe up from the app tray to find your app drawer (the closest thing to Android) to see all your apps. They break that up into “Cloud” and “Device.” The Cloud would include apps that you have downloaded in the past, but aren’t installed on the device.  There is one physical home button on the device, but you won’t find a back button or recent button. To go back, you must swipe up from the bottom edge.

A lot of the user interface is unintuitive, but I have to give credit to Amazon for creating a decent tutorial for when you turn on the device for the first time. It walks you through just about everything so that you can feel comfortable with the Fire OS. If they hadn’t included that video, I would have been lost for a while.

On top of all this, Amazon has has a few gimmicks in store for you. The first is Dynamic Perspective. By including four extra front-facing cameras and four infrared LEDs, things can appear 3D-like. When on the main screen, the large icons in the carousel appear to have depth as you tilt the phone. You can also experience this in Amazon Maps when zooming in on detailed landmarks, they look multi-dimensional. Staying in Amazon Maps, there is also the peek feature, which is activated by tilting the phone. You will then see ratings, reviews, and photos from Yelp. The peek feature also works in Amazon Shopping as it will show you multiple enlarged images of products. Probably the most interesting use of Dynamic Perspective will be with games. Developers can create games with Dynamic Perspective giving you a chance to play in a 3D-like world. With certain games, you will even be able to move your head to look around. Dynamic Perspective is something that appears kind of cool at first, but then you realize it’s completely a gimmick that offers zero substance. If anything, it’s more annoying than anything pleasing to the eye. Hardcore gamers might like the option, but developer support would have to really take off for me to recommend this phone as a gaming device.

Another addition is Firefly, which is Amazon’s take on Google Goggles. You will find an extra button on the left side of the phone just below the volume rocker. If you press and hold it, the camera will start and you will see a bunch of little fireflies on the screen. Just hold the phone over a book, DVD, CD, or grocery item, and it will immediately figure out what it is and give you more info along with the opportunity to buy it on Amazon. You can even use it for business cards to add people to your contacts. It’s actually a very cool and powerful product, and is nice to have, but I don’t feel like I need to buy this phone for the feature.

X-Ray, which showed up on the Fire tablets last year, gives you more information about the movies you’re watching, music you’re listening to, and/or the books you’re reading. A single tap on the screen will provide the actor’s names or even the lyrics to a song. This will only work when using Amazon’s services, not other third party apps. It works very well.

Then there is Mayday, which also debuted on last year’s Fire tablets. Mayday will give you 24-hour live video support for anything you need help with. The operator can take over your device to show you how to do whatever it is that you want to do. If you find that you need Mayday, the operators are pretty helpful, and you shouldn’t need to wait longer than 15 seconds to get one.

An Amazon device isn’t an Amazon device unless it has Amazon services so you will find everything on the device. You will obviously have the Appstore as well as their main store for merchandise, but you will also find Instant Prime, Kindle Books, Cloud Storage and so on.

Camera

Amazon offers a 13 MP rear camera that surprisingly was a lot better than I was expecting. The interface is simple and easy to understand. Amazon included an onscreen shutter button, but you also use the Firefly button as well. The only problem with it is that when holding the phone properly to capture photos, the Firefly button is at the bottom. You can certainly rotate the phone, but it would move the onscreen shutter button to the left.

As to how the Fire Phone does at capturing pictures, this has to be one of the other highlights of the phone. I was surprised at how well it did in low light situations, and I can’t remember a phone performing better. Here are some example photos.

Outdoors

Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Outdoors_01Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Outdoors_02

Motion

Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Motion_02Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Motion_01

Low Light

Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Low_Light_01Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Low_Light_02

Extreme Low Light

Amazon_Fire_Phone_Example_Photo_Extreme_Low_Light_01

Closing

Amazon if offering you the Fire Phone so that they can attract you to their services. They want to suck you into their ecosystem similar to what Apple does with iOS. Now I don’t mean to sound negative. In fact, I am an Amazon fan. I carry around an Amazon Visa card and I buy a lot of stuff from them. I am also a Prime member. With that said, I can enjoy the majority of Amazon’s offerings without this phone. That’s not the case with Apple’s iOS. If I like any of Apple’s services, I either need to buy an iPhone or iPad to enjoy them. So why get the Fire Phone? There appears to be only one reason to buy the Fire Phone, and it’s not because you love Amazon or that you need Dynamic Perspective. It would be because of Amazon Instant Prime, something that Amazon refuses to offer on other Android devices. However, it’s available on iOS devices so I often wonder what their strategy is.

Amazon is looking to expand their ecosystem, but they are doing it the wrong way. Why spend millions on R&D to create hardware? Why not offer all of their services to all Android users? Every service is available except for Instant Prime, and I am sorry, it’s not a good enough reason for me to go out an buy this convoluted mess of a phone.

The Fire Phone appears to be built on ego. Amazon is a retailer, but for some reason they feel they need to offer you hardware. They are playing the “me too” game, which is senseless. They already have an ecosystem with a ton of customers. Instead of spending money building a phone, spend it on marketing the services. I like shopping at Walmart and Target, but do they need to offer a smartphone too? The Fire Phone should not exist. It offers nothing to you whatsoever.

Many reviewers just see the Fire Phone as overpriced indicating they would recommend it if it were appropriately priced. There’s no question that based on the specs, the Fire Phone is overpriced. However, let me be clear. If the Fire Phone was priced at $250 off contract, I still wouldn’t recommend it. I would rather see you buy a Moto G or Moto E before wasting your money on it. You would still get all Google services and all Amazon services except for Instant Prime. And seriously, who needs Instant Prime on a phone anyway unless you’re going to fling it to your TV? If it’s so important to you, then buy the Amazon TV for $99 and forget the flinging. Let’s just hope that Amazon isn’t planning a Fire Phone 2, but something tells me their ego will get in the way yet again.

 

 

 

Come comment on this article: Amazon Fire Phone review: The smartphone that shouldn’t exist

Amazon Fire Phone has improved battery life in new update

Posted by wicked August - 18 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

While Amazon’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone, may have underwhelmed those who were expecting something at par with its competitors in the market, it is considered a work in progress and may yet find its stride in later versions. An update the software of the current phone promises better battery life (a must for all devices now) as well as a slew of other new features that should please the early adaptors who already have gotten themselves the Fire Phone.

Fire OS 3.5.1 brings with it dozens of system upgrades that would enable your smartphone to have longer battery life. It also now allows you to quickly switch between apps and close running apps just by double pressing the home button, not the long press which is how other Android phones usually do it. You can also now make app grid collections, which are folders to house or group certain apps or certain content from the grid itself. If you have too many apps already, you can now pin the ones you use the most to the home carousel so that it would be easier to find them.

In terms of multi-media functions, there are also slight improvements with this update. You can now use 11 images to create lenticular photos instead of the previous 3. You can also share higher-resolution videos to your friends through MMS (may have additional charges with your carrier) or through email. In terms of email, if you receive notification of an email that you don’t want to read, you can delete it directly from the home screen so that your inbox will not be clogged with unwanted email.

Given how Amazon Kindle Fire has slowly grown on tablet users (especially those who use it primarily as a reading device), the Fire Phone (or at least its later versions) may still surprise the smartphone market later on. For now, users might be pleased with the continued rollout of improvements on the software side at least. You can update your phone directly through the settings or manually download the updated Fire OS from Amazon.

SOURCE: Amazon

Amazon enters the mobile payment space with Local Register

Posted by wicked August - 15 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

As more aspects of our lives become even more digital, mobile payments might just become the next step for retail shops. Square has established itself as the leader in the market, but now online retail giant Amazon is trying to make its way to this segment by launching Amazon Local Register. The program provides a card reader and an app that will help merchants and retailers accept credit and debit card payments without having to shell out for a credit card terminal.

When you create an account on Amazon Local Register, you will purchase the card reader that will fit into the headphones jack of your smartphone. You then need to download the mobile app from Amazon Appstore or Google Play Store. Once you’ve installed both the reader and the app, you can already use it to accept payments from customers with their credit or debit cards.

If merchants sign up before the end of October 2014, each transaction will only give Amazon a special rate of 1.75% until the end of December 2015. Afterwards, the percentage will rise to 2.5%. Each card reader will cost $10 but Amazon says that they will easily recoup this since the first $10 in transactions will be credited back to the account. There are also no monthly fees, refunds or chargeback fees, and international charges. You will also not be locked in to any kind of contract.

While it seems a good deal, feedback from early customers has not been so good. If you’re already an Amazon merchant, you cannot just add the Local Register to your existing account. You need to create a different one. The app is still slow at this time, causing some delays during the transactions. The compatible smartphones are still limited, with only iPhone 4 and up, iPad and iPad mini, Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and S5, and Kindle Fire HD and HDX working with the system. It’s still early days for the Local Register, so there will surely be more improvements moving forward.

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SOURCE: Amazon

VIA: SlashGear

Is Amazon trapping Fire smartphone users in their ecosystem?

Posted by wicked August - 15 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Amazon Fire Phone KomoNews

The Amazon Fire smartphone has gotten off to quite a rocky start with average reviews across the board. One reason for the reviews was due to Amazon’s insistence that the phone “tie consumers tighter to its ecosystem.”

Now, a Consumer Reports review wonders whether Amazon has ‘trapped’ customers of the Fire smartphone into the Amazon ecosystem while failing to measure up against to competitors.

On CNBC’s “Power Lunch”, Consumer Reports editor, Mike Gikas, mentioned that while the Amazon Fire phone allows people to get everything out of Amazon, users are still “trapped in Amazon’s retail world.”

“What happens with the Fire is that it’s locked out of Google’s Play app store, which prevents people from downloading very popular Google apps” like Gmail, Google Maps and the search tool Google Now. These apps work together in a very interesting and compelling way that a lot of people like.” - Mike Gikas, Consumer Reports

The idea of the Fire phone ‘trapping’ users is not exactly new. As CNET noted in their review, the “Fire Phone delivers a less extensive app store….and…(the) lack of Google services will alienate anyone who expects the flexibility of a modern Android phone.”


Source: CNBC, CNET;

Amazon Appstore introduces live app testing for developers

Posted by wicked August - 15 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

If you’re an app developer, you would always want to ensure that your product is fully tested before unleashing it into the market. Live testing is probably the best way for you to see if there are any bugs needed to be fixed or if your app is actually working properly. Amazon Appstore is now introducing Live App Testing for their developers, proof that they are indeed serious in getting through to mobile developers and the app market.

Simply put, Live App Testing is for an app to be distributed to several selected people who will be able to fully use the product as if it were already live. They will be able to use it not just on their Amazon Kindle Fire tablets and Fire Phone, but also on other Android devices. The developers have a portal wherein they need to upload their new app, but instead of directly publishing it, they can choose the live testing option and manually add the email addresses of the selected testers.

The selected testers will then receive an email with instructions on how to download the app. From then on, they will have the capability of using the app and all its features They can then give feedback to the developers as to the feasibility of the app or to spot several things that need fixing. What is not clear at this point is how the feedback mechanism works. Do they just reply through email or is there a link where they just upload their comments and Amazon manages all of these feedback?

Google Play Store launched a similar program last year with its live beta testing and staged rollouts. But instead of adding the names and email addresses manually, developers could simply invite their selected testers to join the G+ group and from there, they will be given access to test the app. You could say the process is much simpler this way, but it’s still early stages for Amazon’s live testing capability so we can expect improvements later on.

SOURCE: Amazon

Kindle app now has immersive mode,lockscreen audio playback

Posted by wicked August - 14 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

If you prefer the Amazon book ecosystem for your reading needs, the Kindle app is a pretty good reader to use for your Android devices. But you’ve probably wished at one point or another for bigger improvements to it, especially as compared to other reading apps like Google Books, Kobo, Aldiko, etc. The newest update to 4.6.0 now brings you some of the features you’ve always needed, particularly immersive mode and better controls on settings like brightness, orientation and audio playback.

When you’re reading an ebook, you sometimes get distracted by the other apps on your device clamouring for your attention. But with the new immersive mode, you now have the option to be unaware that there is someone mentioning you on your social networks and just concentrate on the murder-mystery story that you are reading. Controlling the orientation of your reader is also a pain at times, but this update to Kindle allows you to just tap on the bottom right corner to lock the screen’s orientation and not have you lose your concentration whenever you turn your phone or tablet.

When you’re playing an audiobook on Kindle while you’re doing other things, chances are your phone or tablet would go into lock screen mode. Now you can control the playback of the book even when your device is locked. Other changes in the updated Kindle app include easier controls for brightness through the reader settings, navigating the table of contents through the subchapters in your book and allowing it to pair with Bluetooth devices.

Amazon Kindle v6.0 is now ready to update on your devices. If you don’t have it yet on your smartphone or tablet, you can download it for free from the Google Play Store. The books of course are not for free (although some titles are available as free downloads) so you purchase the books through Amazon.

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Amazon Fire TV is on sale, celebrating a boatload of new apps

Posted by wicked August - 14 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Amazon Fire TV Boatload of apps sale

It is a good day to be shopping for a new Amazon Fire TV. For a limited time, Amazon has their new Android powered set-top box on sale for just $84. The sale is in celebration of the release of a “boatload” of new Fire TV apps.

Amazon is not giving a deadline on the deal, so you best just jump over to their website if you are ready to purchase. If not, let’s see what we have in store.

Amazon Fire TV was released earlier this year, destined to take over all of your set-top box needs in the living room. The Android powered unit packs a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and a good selection of audio/video ports all underneath Amazon’s skinned version of Android. Check out the video in our Chromecast comparison for more details.

In addition to just connecting to the TV, Fire TV has a voice activated remote control and an optional game controller.

Amazon Fire TV Boatlad of Apps list

While Amazon is not giving up exactly what new apps have been added to Fire TV compatibility, you should be pleased with the overall selection. Obviously, the choices for Fire TV apps have most of your favorite streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu, and of course, Amazon Prime streaming. Their games selection is a little more mainstream than you might find with competitor Ouya, but all the expected players are here, from Angry Birds, Flappy Birds, Grand Theft Auto and Asphalt 8.

There you have it, save $15 today to get your hands on the Amazon Fire TV with 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime. Don’t forget to pickup an HDMI cable and the optional gaming controller as well.

It’s been a while since we checked in, if you have both an Amazon Fire TV and a Google Chromecast, which one are you using more?


Source: Amazon;