If you use the Amazon app on your iPhone to shop you can use it to talk to Alexa, too, even if you don’t own an Echo or Echo Dot. The online retailer is rolling out in-app Alexa support for iPhone users over the next week which means pretty much everything you do with an Echo or Echo Dot can happen right on your smartphone.
Home virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and to a lesser extent, Apple’s Siri, are loved by some and feared by others. Here at TMO, our staff falls on both sides of that line. Most of us love Amazon’s Echo/Dot/Alexa, while I personally hold my nose at the underlying technology and fear its potential for home surveillance. I should add that most of our staff also think I’m flat out wrong. Note that I’m OK with that. Of all the virtual assistant companies, only Apple has a stated position of protecting our privacy, but the company also hasn’t released hardware like Amazon Echo or Dot. Online comic strip XKCD took a snarky, succinct— and yet oblique—look at the subject. I’d love to know what our readers think.
Our artificial intelligence agents can either be embedded in our computers and/or mobile devices. Or they can reside in a cute little colorful cylinder that sits on a table. Which is better? Which is the future? Which should you invest in? Maybe Siri knows.
A cool website called BookBub offers eBook recommendations. You can choose from a variety of book genres you’re interested in, including Mysteries, Thrillers and Action; Romance; Fiction; Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror; Teen and Young Readers; and Nonfiction. BookBub specifically suggests eBooks that are on sale. I’ve used BookBub for a couple of years, and I’ve gotten eBooks as low as US$0.99. It displays eBooks from Amazon, Google Play and iBooks. BookBub has an iOS app, but that version only shows iBooks offerings. If you sign up via the website, you’ll also see Amazon and Google offerings. After you select the genres you like, you can get a daily email with eBook deals.
Amazon filed a motion to block a search warrant demanding recordings from an Echo in its ongoing fight to protect user privacy. The warrant is part of a Bentonville, Arkansas homicide investigation, and Amazon says communication with the Echo and its Alexa voice interface are protected as free speech by the First Amendment.
Amazon thinks smart home devices shouldn’t be used for government surveillance, and is going to court to keep Echo Alexa requests out of police hands. John Martellaro and Bryan Chaffin join Jeff Gamet to look at Amazon’s argument and the impact in-home listening products are having on freedom of speech and privacy.
Amazon announced Wednesday a celebratory customer discount. The company told customers they could get $8.62 off their order of $50 or more because Amazon topped the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient with a score of 86.27. This is the second year in a row Amazon took top ranking in the annual survey—Apple was #5 in this year’s results, down from #2 in 2016 and #1 in 2012. Amazon’s score of 86.27 in the survey was a record high score. But who cares, right? The important thing is you can get $8.62 off your Amazon order using coupon code BIGTHANKS at checkout. If you order precisely $50 worth of stuff, that would be 17.24% off your order, which is significant. While you’re at it, use TMO’s affiliate link when ordering.
The Amazon Echo family of devices shouldn’t be underestimated. We talk about how it appears to be a device for casual questions, weather, music and shopping. But the underlying technology is going after something much bigger. Moreover, Amazon’s lead over Apple in AI and home automation may be unstoppable. John looks at two articles that provide insight into what Amazon is after in the long run.
In the battle of virtual personal assistants, Apple and Amazon have strong contenders. Which one is “smarter,” though, Siri or Alexa? Perhaps it’s too early to really call the race, since both personal assistants keep growing and evolving. Be that as it may, Jeff Butts has put both through their paces, and shares his thoughts.
Apple has FaceTime, Microsoft has Skype, Google has Hangouts, and now Amazon has Chime. They’re all video chat services, and now Amazon is in on the game across the Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. Chime is more business focused with features like 100-people conference call support and corporate directories. It’s free for one-on-one conversations, adds in screen sharing and the corporate directory feature for US$2.50 a month per user, and $15 a month gets you all that plus meeting scheduling along with video and audio recording. Apple doesn’t have much to worry about since FaceTime targets individual users, but Skype and Hangouts better watch out because Chime is clearly targeting their users.
Apple doesn’t love iBooks, and it shows in the way the company has largely let its ebook store languish. Bryan Chaffin argues that what we’ve seen (not) happen to iBooks is what we’ve seen every time an Apple product stopped being the focus of top executives. That needs to change.
Evidence suggests Apple stopped loving iBooks. Bryan and Jeff go over that evidence and discuss why Apple should rekindle that love and make iBooks great again. They also take a few minutes to experience some schadenfreude over Samsung’s battery factory fire, and argue that a loss of market share demonstrates Samsung’s lack of software relevance.
Star Trek taught us years ago that we get the attention of our interactive computer systems by saying, “Computer.” We’re sort of there with Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot by saying “Alexa” before issuing a command, but it would be so much cooler if we could say “computer” instead. Turns out you can. Follow along to learn how.
Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot are pretty cool, but what if you don’t have one yet—or aren’t home to use yours? That’s where Astra comes in. It’s an iPhone app that links to your Amazon account so you talk talk to Alexa just as if you’re right in front of your own Echo. The app lets you do pretty much everything your Echo or Echo Dot can handle, except for music playback or reading audio books. You can also remotely control your Echo-aware smarthome devices with your voice, which is worth the app’s US$0.99 price tag all by itself. You can get Astra at Apple’s App Store.
First Amazon wanted to be your go-to online shopping destination, and now the company wants to be your local brick-and-mortar store, too. John Martellaro and Dave Hamilton join Jeff Gamet to look at Amazon’s planned cashier-free grocery store, plus they dive into the possibility of our iPhones becoming our only computing device.
Amazon has taken a page from Apple’s book and maybe one-upped it, or at least brought it closer to home. The company announced Amazon Go, a combination retail store and app that allows you to walk in, scan a code, and walk out without doing going through any form of checkout line. Apple’s been doing something similar for years.