Category Archives: AFTVNews

Kohl’s will now pack and ship your Amazon returns for free

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Kohl’s has announced (PDF) a partnership with Amazon where they will pack and ship your Amazon returns at no charge in select stores. The new return service will begin in October at 82 Kohl’s stores across Los Angeles and Chicago. The press release does not provide specifics on the process, but I presume customers will still need to initiate the return through Amazon first and their refund will still be given by Amazon and not by Kohl’s. Kohl’s will then accept the item, pack it in a box for you, and pay for the return postage, all at no cost to you. While Amazon offers free returns for select products they sell, where they pay for the return postage, this new program essentially makes all Amazon returns, even for items sold by 3rd-party sellers, free for customers. No word on when or if the program will be offered at Kohl’s other 1,000+ stores, so be sure to call ahead to see if your local store is offering the service before making the trip.

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Alexa on the new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet will support Echo Spacial Perception (ESP)

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The all-new Fire HD 10 tablet that was announced this morning is Amazon’s first tablet to feature hands-free Alexa capabilities. That means you’ll be able to belt out your Alexa commands without needing to first press and hold the home button, like you have to do with Amazon’s other tablets. For those of you with Amazon Echos and other Alexa devices in your home, you’ll be relieved to hear that the Fire HD 10 does come with Amazon’s Echo Spacial Perception (ESP).

ESP, which was first introduced when the 2nd-generation Echo Dot was released, allows multiple Alexa devices to determine which one is closest to you, so that only one device responds to your command. For anyone with two or more Alexa devices in their home, it is an absolutely critical feature that ensures Alexa act as a unified voice assistant.

An Amazon representative has confirmed to me that the Fire HD 10 does have ESP. So if you’re near the tablet and issue an Alexa commands to it, nearby Alexa devices that also happen to hear you will not also respond to the request.

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Amazon announces all-new Fire HD 10 Tablet with Hands-Free Alexa

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Amazon has just announced an all-new Fire HD 10 Tablet. The new model is a significant update to the previous version thanks to its 1.8 GHz quad-core CPU that offers a 30% boost in performance over the previous generation. The new Fire HD 10 also bumps the screen up from 720p to 1080p and doubles the RAM to 2 GB. Also included, which is a first for any Amazon tablet, is hands-free Alexa capabilities that let you control the tablet and access all of Alexa’s features without having to press any buttons.

For Amazon’s new flagship tablet, they’ve thankfully made improvements nearly across the board, making it a potentially great media consumption device. Applications should launch quicker and run smoother with the new MediaTek quad-core CPU that splits its cores at 1.8 and 1.4 GHz. Amazon says this results in a 30% performance improvement over the 1.5 Ghz/1.2 GHz CPU in the previous model. A bump up from 1 GB of RAM to now including 2 GB of RAM will also go a long way to make using this tablet a smooth experience.

The new Fire HD 10 finally brings a full HD 1080p screen back to Amazon’s tablet line. With a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and a 224 ppi, the IPS display should provide a great experience viewing movies, TV shows, photos, and reading. The tablet comes with 32 GB of internal storage, but there is a 64 GB model available for $40 more. The extra internal storage is likely unnecessary for most because the tablet comes with a microSD card that can take up to a 256 GB card to expand the internal storage. Amazon Video, Netflix, and Showtime all offer downloading videos onto the microSD card for offline viewing.

The tablet hardware is rounded out with a pair of stereo speakers that are capable of immersive Dolby Atmos audio. There’s also dual-band 802.11ac WiFi support as well as a VGA front-facing camera for video calls and a 2MP rear-facing camera. All of this combines for a rated 10 hours of battery life.

On the software front, the big new feature is hands-free Alexa capabilities. Amazon added support for Alexa to their tablets by holding the home button last year, but now this new Fire HD 10 is the first model to allow talking to Alexa by just saying the voice assistant’s wake word, just like with an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. This, of course, gives you access to all of Alexa’s various capabilities and skills, but it also gives you hands-free control of the tablet, much like the Echo Show’s screen. You can ask to start playing Amazon content or ask to launch apps, as well as control video playback (play, pause, rewind, and fast forward) all without needing to touch the tablet.

Amazon is also bringing the ability to view your home security cameras through Alexa on the new Fire HD 10, just like you can currently do on the Echo Show and will soon be able to do on the Fire TV. There’s also a new “For You” personalized page on the home screen that shows you what you’ve been watching/reading and makes it easy to continue or quickly find what’s next. It will also make personalized recommendations based on your viewing/reading preferences.

The all-new Fire HD 10 is available to pre-order now for $149.99 and will be released on October 11. That’s a significant drop in price from the previous model’s price of $229.99, which is impressive because they’ve made improvements nearly across the board.

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Hackathon winners demonstrate what retail shopping might be like with the help of Amazon’s Alexa

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The winner of TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF 2017 Hackathon gives us a glimpse into what shopping at physical stores will be like in a future where voice assistants break out of the home. Hundreds of engineers and designers competed to create the most interesting project they could in 24 hours. The winner, Alexa Shop Assist, imagines a future where devices like the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot are scattered throughout a store to help shoppers easily navigate the space and get answers to questions without needing to hunt down an employee.

The winning team created an Alexa skill that combines Amazon’s voice assistant with their own speaker recognition algorithm to help store shoppers. The demo involved a customer in a store asking Alexa “where can I find engine oil for my Prius,” to which Alexa responded with the aisle number. While a voice-powered store directory is impressive, the demo really shined when the shopper asked Alexa “which one should I get” while in the engine oil aisle.

The Alexa skill, using the team’s custom speaker recognition algorithm, identified the shopper as the person from earlier who asked about engine oil. Already knowing the shopper was looking for engine oil for a Prius, the application responded with the correct oil grade to buy.

Amazon is already testing convenience store without any cashiers, so it’s easy to see Alexa being used to assist customers in navigating those stores, in order to further reduce the necessary staff. Having easy access to a large pool of knowledge covering all of the products in a store would be quite beneficial to shoppers as well.

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App Deal: Prison Run and Gun down from $1.99 to $0.99

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The game Prison Run and Gun has just gone on sale for $0.99. This is only the second time this game has ever been on sale and the current price matches the lowest it has ever been. This is a fast-paced retro puzzle platformer. The game has 30 levels, unlockable weapons, and no in-app purchases to get in your way. It’s compatible with all Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition television models, but it does require a game controller to play.

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Your Amazon “No Rush” credit from Prime Day expires today

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If you made any purchases on Prime Day and selected the slower “No Rush” shipping option at checkout in order to receive free credit to use on digital purchases, there’s a good chance that your credit will expire today if you haven’t used it yet. Check your No-Rush Rewards Summary to see how much credit you have and when it’s set to expire. You can use the credit on Amazon Video rentals/purchases, Amazon Appstore purchases (including in-app purchases), and several other places.

If you absolutely can’t figure out where to spend your credit before it expires, supporting the future development of my Downloader app through its in-app donation buttons would be greatly appreciated. When you make in-app purchases, there is no indication that your no-rush credit is being used, but you’ll immediately receive an email with a link to the transaction details where you’ll see a “Promotions” credit applied to the transaction.

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New Apps for the Week of September 10th thru the 16th

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This week there were 26 new apps and games released for the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. The most notable new app is MrMC Lite, which is new free version of the popular media player. If you use Kodi to play local files on external media or over the network, you should give MrMC Lite a try to see if the MrMC app is a good alternative. Continue on for the full list of new apps and games released in the last 7 days.

Games

Entertainment

Other

SourceAppstoreAudit

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MrMC update v3.1 adds an all-new Skin and a Free Lite version of the app to try

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MrMC, the media center that is created and supported by the developers who first ported Kodi to Android, just released version 3.1 of their app. The main new feature of this version is a completely new skin for the app, made from the ground up by the app’s developers. This update also adds several bug fixes, as most of their updates tend to do, with this latest set of fixes related mostly to Plex, Emby, and EDL support in the app.

In addition to the new skin and update, MrMC is now also being made available in two flavors. The full version is still $2.99, but there is now a MrMC Lite version that is free. The Lite version has the same player functionality as the full version, except it’s missing Divx codec playback and limits library lists to 8 items. Most people are definitely going to want to use the full version long term, but the Lite version gives you a way to try the app before committing to buying it, which is always great to see.

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The two new upcoming Fire TV models are codenamed “Needle” and “Stark”

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I’ve started digging into the code of the new 5.6.2.0 Fire TV software update, as I always do with new updates, and I’ve found references to the two new Fire TV models that are expected to be released later this year. The new mid-tier Fire TV, which uses a dongle form factor is codenamed “Needle,” and the new flagship Fire TV, which incorporates the functionality of an Echo Dot, is codenamed “Stark.”

If there was ever any doubt that the unreleased “AFTN” device, which first surfaced in a leaked benchmark, or the unreleased “AFTA” device, which first surfaced in a developer’s server logs, were new Fire TV models, here’s your proof. Both devices are plainly listed in the code of the latest Fire TV software update as members of the Fire TV Device Family.

Amazon gives all of their devices codenames and they usually follow a specific theme. For Fire TV devices, that theme has always been movies and TV shows. It appears as though the new Fire TV models are named after the TV show Game of Thrones, with “Stark” being the family name of the show’s protagonists and “Needle” being the name of the thin sword wielded by the character Arya Stark.

As a quick refresher, “Bueller” and “Sloane” are the codenames for the first and second generation Fire TV boxes. Those are both referenced to the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “Montoya” and “Tank” are the codenames for the first and second generation Fire TV Sticks, with the former being a reference to the movie The Princess Bride and the latter being a reference to The Matrix. Lastly, “Margo” is the codename for Amazon’s Fire TV Edition televisions.

Before you start thinking that there is a third new Fire TV model in the works called “Knight,” that is apparently the codename of the Amazon Echo Show. The build name “AEOKN” that corresponds with the codename “Knight” is the same build name from the Echo Show’s leaked benchmark. The “Knight” device is also not listed as a member of the Fire TV Device Family.

This particular section of code, which was not present in prior Fire TV software versions, appears to be for the Fire TV’s upcoming ability to display live security camera feeds. Since the Echo Show can also display live security camera feeds, it likely shares this code with the Fire TV, which is why the Echo Show is referenced here.

The inclusion of a generic “Tablets” device in this code is a good indication that Alexa on Amazon’s Fire tablets will also be able to display camera feeds in the future. I don’t believe Amazon has said that their tablets will also be able to view camera feeds. This could be an announcement that they’re saving for the release of their next new tablet, which just passed through FCC approval earlier this week and is likely a successor to their current flagship Fire HD 10 tablet.

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App Deal: Get these three paid Fire TV games for free today

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The Fire TV game developer Realtech VR has made all three of their paid games free for a limited time. Quantum Revenge, which is normally $2.99, is a Mecha robotic armour fighting game. This is the first time it has ever been free. Brotherhood of Violence, which is normally $2.35, is a street fighting game with over 30 unique environments and 400 different opponents. It too has never been free before today. The last game that’s free is No Gravity, which is normally $2.99. It’s a space combat shooter with 31 missions and 5 different spaceships to choose from. This game was free once over 2 years ago when Amazon used to somewhat regularly give away bundles of games during special promotions. All of these games are compatible with the 1st and 2nd generation Fire TV, as well as the Fire TV Edition television. Brotherhood of Violence is the only one that is compatible with the 2nd-generation Fire TV Stick and none are compatible with the 1st-generation Fire TV Stick. You will need a game controller like the Fire TV Game Controller to play these games.

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